First and foremost, I want to let everyone know that I am okay! Many of you have emailed me to make sure I wasn’t traveling or something, but I assure you all that I am safe, well, and happy in Florence. We did feel one of the earthquakes here, but it was around 10:30 in the evening. I was on my way home from dinner with some friends, and felt like I hit a big pot hole with my bike (yes, I have a bike now, will explain that one later). Luckily I was on a deserted street late in the evening, so I just corrected myself, thought, “well, I only had ONE beer!” and didn’t think too much more about it. The next morning I woke up and went into the kitchen for breakfast like normal. Fiorella was there, but she was not her usual happy, chirpy self. She said she had not slept a wink because around 10:30, after she had gone to bed, she felt the entire apartment shaking, and was so terrified that she couldn’t go back to sleep. With a yawn, she turned on the television and we were shocked to death at what we saw. I was straining to understand the rapid speech of the grave-looking news reporter, who was trying to get as much news out in a single breath as possible. Of course since then a lot more news has come out and it seems that it just keeps getting worse. There is a Greek girl in my class who has a friend who lives in the student house that collapsed, but she had gone home to visit her family for Easter. It was just absolutely not her time, but so many of the other students still have not yet been found. What I have learned most from this disaster is how much we take for granted in the United States. Yes, California sits on 3 faults, but every building is constructed with the worst case scenario in mind. Also, if you live in California you know that there will be an earthquake sooner or later, and you have insurance for it. The people here, however, cannot even buy dental insurance if they wanted to, so when you hear on the news that someone has lost everything, they really have lost everything. For many people, there’s no hope of re-building immediately, and I suspect that, with all the disorganization and corruption in Italy, it will be twice as hard and twice as expensive once they begin to pick up the pieces. Every time I live abroad, I am reminded of why, when push comes to shove, I am so grateful to be an American citizen. For this reason I think it is a good exercise for the mind, heart, and conscience to live abroad once in one’s life; no matter how much you love the place, nothing in the world makes you more nationalistic. Anyway, thank you all for your love and concern, and let’s just hope that this ancient earth settles down a bit.