Officially, I retired on April 27, but those of you who have worked as teachers will understand that the word “retirement,” like the phrase “work-week,” needs to be understood loosely in the teaching profession. Yes, classes ended on April 26, but the grading of finals did not, nor did work-related email exchanges. I’m still working on letters of recommendation students have asked me to write. There is a sense in which I’m not sure that I’ll ever be completely retired. Still, I am getting used to this retirement thing, such as it is.
At the final gathering of students prior to the end of the program, the Study Abroad program hosted a raucous karaoke bash at a bar in Florence near the Piazza della Signoria. Underage drinking was involved, although only according to U.S. reckoning. Over the course of the semester the students became very sophisticated culturally. Accordingly, they introduced Lois to a drink called “Irish Car Bomb.” I’m fairly sure they don’t call it this in the UK or Ireland, but it consists of a shot of half Bailey’s Irish Cream and half Irish whiskey dropped into a pint of Guinness – a real Italian cultural experience. Lois received kudos all around for being able to down it in fairly short order while remaining conscious.
The organization that handles all of the students’ travel and housing, arranges cultural activities for students, supports the Study Abroad faculty, handles any emergencies and advises students about travel and Italian culture is the American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS). Naturally it is staffed in Florence mainly by folks from the UK, although there is a token American and Italian. All of them are fluent in Italian. The Florence team is headed up by Ged McAteer, who has a degree in engineering from the UK, further proof that even engineers are occasionally able to find jobs. Ged and the entire AIFS team are just wonderful, and this is universally agreed upon by students and faculty. Ged organized the going-away party and was an enthusiastic participant in the karaoke fest, belting out a number that had no discernible melody, but was delivered with a passion that precisely captures the attitude of Ged and the rest of the AIFS staff toward their work –
“But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be that man who walked a thousand miles to fall down at your door”
At the going-away party Lois surprised me with the very sweet tribute that she mentioned in her “Il Giorgio” post. What she didn’t mention was that her husband and several of the students were in tears as she was speaking. How she managed to accomplish this in the midst of loud and frenzied singing and dancing at a Florentine bar is a mystery to me. The downside of this retirement thing is that I am already missing these students and my colleagues and friends at AIFS.
The upside is that I don’t have to work 🙂
After the students left for home and after AIFS moved out of the Study Abroad classroom in the Piazza della Repubblica in the center of Florence, the weather suddenly turned beautiful. Lois and I lingered in Florence for a few days, saying arrivederci to the local shopkeepers we’ve gotten to know, walking along the Arno, and enjoying one last dinner at Il Profeta, our favorite restaurant in all of Italia – just across the street from our apartment.
We took advantage of the weather to take the short bus trip to Fiesole, a small hill town overlooking Florence.
Fiesole is a much more ancient town than Florence, well known for its Etruscan and Roman ruins. We had an outdoor lunch, visited the archaeological site and museums,
and (naturally) stopped to sample some Fiesole gelato.
The next day we said our farewells to Firenze and boarded a plane for Luton Airport north of London. We stayed with our good friends Pat and Paul at their beautiful home in the town of Hoddeston, which apparently is well accustomed to retired folks. I think I was able to fit right into the community.