Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Cultural Differences and an Update

Today I have officially been gone from Minneapolis for 2 weeks. It's weird... I feel like I've been gone only a second, but at the same time like I've been gone for years already. Anyways, in my first week in Italy I've noticed a ton of cultural differences and I thought I'd share with all of you (and afterwards an update on my life)!

When people say the driving in Italy is crazy, they're not joking. I mean honestly everyone here is a terrible driver. It's like the Hunger Games: Italian Road Rage Edition. If I were to write down the rules for driving I'd write these: 

  1. Disobey any signs you see. No, those stop signs don't actually mean stop silly!
  2. Honk at anyone who's even remotely close to driving out in front of you. In fact, just honk at everyone... It's fun!
  3. Don't wear your seatbelt! Why would you need it?
  4. Drive as fast as you can.. ESPECIALLY when driving on very small two way streets and cliff-side roads. 
  5. Since we're all being so safe here, you might as well text while driving.
  6. Oh and you know round-abouts and intersections? Just go whenever you feel like it and hope for the best. 
  7. Also if someone's driving too slow for you, pass them- just remember to accelerate to at least 100 mph while doing so.

School is booooooring in Italy. I really thought it couldn't get worse than my high school at home but oh it can. Try sitting in the same classroom waiting for teachers to come in and only talk for 5 hours a day, 6 days a week. Then try it in a language you don't understand. I've already fallen asleep once (oops). Basically this year it seems like I'll be teaching myself math through Khan Academy and just hoping for the best in the other classes. Luckily school only goes until 1, that's the only +.

I love Minneapolis. One of my favorite things about it is that everyone says hi when they see each other on the street. Even if you don't know someone it's customary to say "hey!" when walking around Lake Harriet. Luckily for me, Italy is basically one giant Minneapolis in that respect. I've gotten a lot of "ciao"s and "buongiorno"s since I've arrived and it makes my day!

Going Out
When my friends and I go out at home, we usually go to someone's house or maybe to the movie theater, but usually we end up at a house. Here it's completely different. Since Saturday is the only non-school night, the town center in Modica Bassa (I live in Modica Alta aka Upper Modica. Most shops and food and stuff are in Modica Bassa aka Lower Modica- named this because it's literally lower than Modica Alta) is packed. I went out last Saturday with some friends and we got pizza and then walked around the town. It was so cool. There were barely any cars, just a couple thousand (seriously!) kids, teens, and adults walking around and talking and laughing and mingling. I really love the atmosphere. Everyone's just out enjoying friends and the weather.

Meals & Food
Not only is the food amazing here, the time taken to socialize during a meal is too! Meals are more of a big deal here. Everyone sits together and talks or watches tv (but always at the table) and just generally soaks up the Italian-ness. When you go out to get pizza, instead of ordering one or two for everyone to share, you each other one yourself (omg so good). Speaking of so good, the gelato is AMAZING. I CANNOT EMPHASIZE HOW AMAZING THE GELATO IS. I love Italian food.

So yeah, that's just what I've noticed so far!

Well, the first week was hard. I won't lie. I was exhausted ALL THE TIME. I had a headache from trying to understand, and I felt so lonely. I was extremely homesick. I can't describe how hard that week was. But I'm so so much better now, really. I found that (surprise, surprise) being alone when you're lonely and homesick doesn't help! So instead I've been hanging out with my host family, limiting time on Facebook and Skype, and generally feeling happier. 

My host family and I will be getting a dog on Monday or Tuesday- a wiener dog. I couldn't be more excited to take care of a new puppy. I have 2 at home and will love the distraction and exercise I'll get and really, who wouldn't love a little puppy to cuddle with?
I joined a volleyball team on Monday, then promptly quit after the first practice because I'm too tired and busy to do it every single day. But don't fear! I'll be swimming 3 times a week with my host sister, walking my new dog everyday, and also doing yoga in a studio by my house.. Hopefully I won't be a billion pounds by the time I get home ;)

I miss my friends and family but I'm also having an awesome time. I love it here and am learning more and more everyday!

Love always,

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Journey Begins

Well. Here I am in Italy, at the beginning of the adventure of a lifetime.
The last few days have been insane. I've never been more exhausted or confused in my entire life hahaha. Here's a recap of the week:
Wednesday morning I woke up bright and early, and by bright and early I mean the ungodly time of 4:30 am. I had finished packing the night before, so all I had to do was get dressed. My dad & step mom came over to my mom's, along with my 4 closest friends who wanted to come along to say goodbye (thank you again Max, James, Fiona, and Ellie-- you're amazing amazing friends and I love you so much). Then we went to the airport and had to say goodbye.
I'm not gonna lie,  that was probably one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in my life. In fact I feel sick thinking about it because I miss my parents soooo much :(
Gahh.. Anyways then I flew to New York, red eyed and nervous, and met up with three other girls from Minnesota. Two were going to Spain and one to France. We waited several hours at the airport as other kids started to arrive, and then eventually took a bus to our hotel.
There were only a couple of orientation things that day, the most important one being each group was meeting with a returnee from their country. That part was really fun and made everyone super excited.
Thursday we woke up and headed down for breakfast and several more orientation activities. After lunch, we waited until our respective countries were supposed to go to the airport. The Italy group left at 2:15. We then spent an hour or so checking in and going through security.
  The plane we took was giant, but filled with about 150 AFS kids. Add all felt bad for the other passengers hahaha.
After about 7 hours of movies, crappy plane food, and attempted sleeping, we landed in Zürich, where everyone realized just how tired we were. We spent 4 confused and disoriented hours there, and then flew an hour to Rome. Most of us (me included) fell dead asleep during that plane ride.
By the time we got onto a bus headed to our orientation site in Rome, it was 3:15 pm on Friday. We were all confused and desperately wanting to shower. We arrived at our orientation site, which is a huge villa-like thing with a bunch of different little buildings where we stayed. It actually used to be an abbey. We struggled through the first night, tired and hungry, meeting a million different people from a million different countries.
I sat with a few friends during dinner and we talked a lot about how we'd rather just go straight to our host families. I felt a little lonely because I though I was the only one who was homesick, but I think there were others who didn't say it.
I struggled a bit with sleeping the first night because my body and brain were so confused, but after a phone conversation in the afternoon with my dad and stepmom, I felt tons better and ended up having a lot of fun on Saturday!
Sunday morning I got up and basically said goodbye to friends and stuff, and then at 12 all 30 or 40 of us headed to Sicily got on a bus to go to the airport. The flight to Sicily was only an hour long and then all of a sudden we were there. We were all so so nervous but as we walked through the airport to the baggage claim we could hear all of our host families cheering and stuff. We got our bags and then went out to the area where we could meet our host families. It was insane! People were screaming and holding up signs and cheering. I saw my host family right away and ran over for hugs and kisses and ciao's. It was such an amazing experience. 
After tons of pictures, we drove home, communicating mostly through google translate on their iPad. Then, after getting home and putting my bags in my room, we ordered pizza (because they knew I was tired) and talked for awhile. I then called my dad on skype and we talked for a long time. After that I hung out with my host sisters a bit then hit the hay.
After a much needed 11 hour sleep, I woke up confused and wondering where I was. After I realized that I was in my new home I got up and got ready. We ate breakfast (cereal for me) then headed to Modica Bassa (Lower Modica) to see my school (which starts Wednesday ahhhhhhhh) and go to the police station to get my residence permit. 
Then we went back home and I talked to my mom for a loooong time and then my host sisters showed me their favorite artists. It's so funny- they love Macklemore, Robin Thicke, Nirvana, Ozzy Osbourne, P!nk, and a bunch of other American singers. Then I painted my nails and also painted Beatrice's (my littlest host sister).

Now I'm writing this barely able to keep my eyes open, so I'm gonna take a quick nap, then we're going out for dinner and meeting their grandparents. Since I speak little to no Italian, wish me luck :P