Wednesday, September 29


 29. Settembre. 2010
I love to calculate time.  My family knows that I like to leave for school at exactly 7:23. My friends know that when I say I’ll pick them up at 6, I’ll really be there at 5:50.  And I know that I always will know how many days or months until the next birthday, holiday or vacation.  I love to calculate time.  I’ve realized that that’s how I’ve been dealing with my homesickness.  Right know I would be able to tell anyone that it’s about 69 days until I switch host families, 76 days until my sister returns to Northfield from her term abroad and 87 days until Christmas. I also know that as this week comes to a close I’ll have completed over 1/10th of my exchange year.  I think that it’s fascinating how people are able to view the same amount of time in different ways.  Sometimes I fee like I’ve been here forever, but then it seems like yesterday that I was eating a poppy-seed muffin in the airport not knowing hoe much my life was about to change.  When I’m feeling lonely or homesick it’s comforting to think, okay…I can do this ten more times, but then again ten more times seems absolutely impossible… BASTA! ENOUGH! Enough countdowns! Enough fractions! Just…enough! While making countdowns might make a physics lecture go by faster…it’s not going to change anything.  Time happens and you can’t change it.  All you can do is keep breathing and time will keep passing.  So me and time are going to take a little break.  I need to focus on what’s going on right now, and how I can make the present as enjoyable as possible.  Right here. Right now. 

Tuesday, September 14


School is now in session! Even though I'm going to school and starting to lead a more normal life, I still get caught up in the luxurious beauty of this country and this culture. I know this might sound terrible...but I remember thinking, when I got off of the plane and saw a Janitor in the airport: "What are you doing? You know you're in Italy right? Go drink some wine in the Italian country side and relax!"
I too get wrapped up in this wonderful stereotype that infiltrated peoples' minds as soon as I say I'm living in Italy.  While I'm loving the fact that most of these wonderful things are true, it's even more interesting to discover the things that make life in Italy normal and real. So in this blog I want to share my observations about two things. School & FOOD. 
1. School on Saturday...not cool Italy.
2. It starts at 8 and ends at 12 or 1...which is nice
3. There's nothing on the walls, no decorations, just 2 blackboards
4. There is no lunch break so everyone brings snacks to school to eat during the breaks
5. I can always hear them talking about me during class because I hear phrases like "blah blah cristina blah blah american" but it always has to do with trying to get me to understand something, so I don't really mind
6. Even though I say now..."SOLO stina" when people ask my name...everyone calls me Cristina anyways so I'm just gonna give up :)
7.  Almost every subject is lecture based, and the students never talk and they always take notes very diligently.
8. Like most schools in other countries we don't move throughout the school except for physical education class.
1. Pasta pasta pasta pasta. Usually eaten with fresh vegetables or some meat.  You think that this great big bowl of pasta was the dinner..but no there is always another course. 
2. We hardly ever have dessert, which is difficult for me, especially with my chocolate addiction. However when you go out..the gelato is to die for.
3. Most of the bread we eat is hard. It's still good, but I do miss my mommas "melt in your mouth" French bread.
4. I have to say "no ho fame, no ho fame" (I'm not hungry) at least 5 times a day.  No matter how much I eat it's never enough! They're trying to fatten me up I just know they are :)
5. It's interesting to hear what kind of food they think is "typical american". Most of the time it's McDonalds :/ 
6. I really really miss ethnic food. I usually love to eat Chinese, Indian and Mexican food but here it's only Italian cuisine. I know that it is amazing but I really do miss the diversity. 

I'm still trying to line up some extra curricular activities because the school doesn't offer anything besides the lessons. Otherwise, life is good here in Italy.

Friday, September 10

Week 1

Ciao ciao ciao!
I have almost completed week 1 of my Rotary experience in Italy. It feels like I’ve been gone forever.  This week for me has been a great mixture of feelings for me. Most of the time I feel pretty brilliant and lucky to be in such a beautiful place but I do find myself feeling a little homesick sometimes. Like I said in my previous blog it happens when I’m not preoccupied with something else. Tomorrow is our first Rotary Club of Cremona meeting and I am so excited. It’ll be so nice to connect with the other exchange students that’ll be going to school with me, and actually have some FRIENDS. I love being around Italian people, even when I don’t know what is going on.  I can’t wait to post a video of what it feels like to be in my shoes. Everyone talks so fast and then talk constantly and then all of a sudden they stop, look at me, and ask me a question that I have NO idea how to answer.  I’ve been carrying my iPod and I’ve been jotting down things that I find interesting or funny and things that are similar or different to society back home. While I love learning new things about the beautiful Italian culture it is very comforting to observe similarities in a world that feels so far away from my home. So today for my blog I’m going to write down a list of some of the similarities and differences that I’ve observed so far! Enjoy
* In downtown Milan I saw a man wearing a University of Minnesota sweatshirt! It was great but I wasn’t able to get a picture. L
 Parents fight about the same things with their children. My host mom and brother have the same fight everyday about him wanted to take the car when he really should walk. Hahaha mom, I think of you every time that happens.
* Girls talk about the same things; boys, clothes, boys, gossip, boys and boys.
* There have been a couple of nights that we’ve had thunderstorms here and for some reason it’s comforting to know that it storms here just the same. J
* They mainly listen to American music. It’s comforting because when we’re yelling out the lyrics I’m the only one that actually knows the lyrics. It’s the one time I don’t feel incompetent!
* They have frozen pizza here too! It’s just a little different.
* Yesterday morning I watched Zach and Cody on tv in Italian. I  had no idea what was going out but it was funny to watch.

* They, at least my host mom, puts a ton of salt on lettuce for salad. This is one Italian food custom I will not get used to. I could not finish it. :/
* I’ve only seen 1 stop sign in Cremona or Castelvetro. It was huge and had flashing lights. Otherwise it’s all yielding and there are a couple stop signs in the city.
* The lovely people I’ve been hanging out with smoke so much but they all also have beautiful teeth..I do not understand
* Another mystery is a common one I’m sure…HOW CAN THEY EAT SO MUCH AND STAY SO SKINNY?! I am determined to figure this out before I leave here because I really do not get it. I used to think it was because they would walk or bike everywhere, but at least in the village where I live no one does, and they are all so skinny. Ayyya?
* Everyone is very tan here, I think it’s partially just their genes but they also like to “take sun” (as my host brother would say) a lot. I’m pale for Minnesota. I’m SUPER pale for Italy.
* In Italy I’m TALL! Or at least above average. It’s great J

These are my observations so far. 
A few pictures :) 

(left): The main Piazza in Cremona.

(below): La casa mia

I’m looking forward to school starting and joining a choir of some sorts. Once I get into a routine I know that I’ll start to feel more at home here. However, I am already having a brilliant experience so knowing that it will get even better is extremely exciting! I’ve been kind of slow on responding to emails but always feel free to message me. Ciao ciao!

Monday, September 6


Cioa Ciao Ciao io sono arrivata finalmente in Italia. I have finally arrived in Italy! Because I have been only listening and speaking in Italian, my English is getting worse and worse so I’m going to do this thing bullet point style! …Also because I am too lazy. J  This is long but it’s interesting so READ IT!
  1. Saying Goodbyes: Anyone who knows me will tell you this: I am not a very adventurous person. I do not like; driving over the speed limit, jumping off bridges, or eating raw cookie dough because it might give me food poisoning. Let’s just say I would certainly NOT be in Griffendor. However going to a country where; I don’t know the language, I don’t know anyone and living with one woman who does not speak any English, is pretty darn adventurous. This past week was very difficult for me. I was very nervous, excited, scared, sad, and just stressed out. Being the last Rotary student to leave Northfield was definitely not a good thing, the initial excitement of Rotary had kind of passed because everyone had already been in their country for so long, and it didn’t even really feel like I was going to go anymore.  However, I said my goodbyes, which were really difficult, and come Saturday morning I was off to Italy.
  2. Traveling: Overall my traveling was very smooth. In Minneapolis they had to empty out my entire backpack because there was so much stuff inside of it that they couldn’t tell what things were. The flight to Newark went smoothly I didn’t sit by anyone because it was such a small plane, but I slept most of the time so that was not a problem.  The 6 hour layover in the Newark airport was NOT fun.  Besides watching a pigeon walk around inside the terminal for awhile, I was bored out of my mind. Eventually I met up with Lindsi, another Rotary student from Texas going to Cremona, and we chatted for awhile and noticed that they had changed the gate.  When we got to our actual gate I got the first hit of reality. The flight to Milan was going to be about 90% Italians and 10% Americans. People gave Lindsi and I weird looks as we chatted away in English. We were still in America and we were already the minority. The flight to Milan was fine, it was a little overwhelming because they spoke in Italian as well as in English and they talked so fast that it frightened me. I sat next to an Italian gentlemen that said one word to me the whole flight, “Piacere”. Which means nice to meet you and he said this when I introduced myself.  When we arrived in Milan things went very fast. At “customs” all they did was check our passport and then they sent us on our way, so that was nice. We found our luggage and then Mama Teresa was there to pick me up outside of the gate.
  3. Mama Teresa: My host mother’s name is Teresa Tedesco. She is recently divorced and has two children. Gabriele and Giulia. However Gabriele is attending a University in Switzerland and Giulia is on a Rotary Exchange year as well in Texas.  She does not speak any English but we’ve been able to communicate alright. I feel bad though because sometimes I can see her getting frustrated when I can’t understand her and, because unfortunately I am who I am, I sometimes take it personally. I just wish I were able to communicate better with her. However, I am surprised I can say and understand as much as I am. It was only one day and I already feel like I’ve improved so much.  In the long run I think it’s going to be great that she doesn’t speak any English. Our house is very European. It is kind of small and narrow but it has three floors and my room is the top floor, which is nice but it doesn’t have a door and the house echoes a lot so you can hear everything everywhere.  I’ll put up pictures later.
  4. Cremona: After arriving at the house, and taking a nap. Teresa took me to Cremona. Teresa lives in a small town named Castelvetro Piacentino and it’s about a 10 minute drive away from Cremona. Cremona is beautiful it’s not a terribly big city and there are, of course, no sky scrapers or anything. One thing I love about Italy is that all of their buildings are different colors. Seeing all the yellow buildings everywhere really makes me miss my lovely yellow home back in Northfield. Cremona is known for it’s violins and piazzi (plazas). I can’t wait to put up some pictures of the piazzi, they are so ancient and beautiful.  Teresa, myself and one of her friends hiked up about 300 stairs of this tower in the middle of Cremona and I was able to look out over all of Cremona, the neighboring towns and into the Italian countryside. It was beautiful but I had forgotten my camera. Darn.
  5. Downtime: When we got back from Cremona I had a couple hours of downtime, and I learned my first lesson about Rotary. You need to stay busy. When I finally had time to think, and I wasn’t sleeping my mind immediately went to. “Wait this is my actual LIFE now?”, “I’m supposed to stay here for HOW LONG?” “I’m so far away from the people I love and it’ll be so long until I see them again!” Anyways my first wave of panic started to set over me. I felt bad because I thought is this normal to already be feeling homesick the first day I’m here?! I think that when you don’t have any friends or any siblings you feel a lot lonelier. Wise words huh Dan? J Obvious I know but I have to keep reminding myself of that, and the fact that that’s normal.
  6. Nightlife & Italian TEENAGERS: Luckily Teresa had invited over two of her daughter Giulia’s friends over for dinner. These parts of Rotary are so funny because it’s pretty much like being set up on a blind date, except for that you don’t speak the same language as the person. Dinner was fine, a little embarrassing, but then they invited me to go out with them after dinner. Even though I hadn’t slept for almost 48 hours I agreed. So then I got into a car with two strange girls and sped off to somewhere without a phone or a clue of what was going on. Ah Rotary J We ended up going to a pub, where we sipped on caffe. It reminded me of the benches downtown because friends would just come and go. I met so many different people and I have NO clue what most of their names are anymore. I could only understand what was going on part of the time but I could understand when something was funny. A lot of the time they would laugh about how I didn’t understand but I thought that was funny too! Most of the people I met were boys. For some reason there seems to be so many more boys in Italy than girls. The stereotype of Italian boys are very true, however the two girls I was with were very protective of me and most of the time they just joked around with  me like they would with each other. One thing that I'm going to have to get used to is smoke. Italian teenagers smoke SO much. First of all everyone does it and then they smoke about a pack in 3 hours or so. I feel bad for my lungs but I'm aware that for the year, I'm just going to have to get used to it. I was nervous before I left if it would be hard to say my name there. “Stina”. At one point when I was introducing myself I had a conversation like this: “Come ti chiami?” “Stina” “Cristina?” “Non just Stina” However I forgot to say “solo stina” which is only stina in Italian so now everyone calls me Justina J They know it’s a joke but they call me it anyways!
  7. Driving: Quick note on driving. It is crazy. No no it doesn’t matter if you’re in the lane for oncoming traffic, if the person is going slowly you pass them no matter what. There are no speed limit signs and no police on the roads. However, because everyone is driving so crazily so far it seems pretty safe.
  8. Finally I’ll talk about Faith: For me this experience requires an enormous amount of faith. I need to have faith in the people I meet, that they’ll take care of me and not get me into bad situations. I need to have faith in Rotary that they’ll take care of me and tell me what I need to do in terms of school and activities. I need to have faith in my relationships back home. That my friends and family that I love so dearly will still be there when I return. And finally I need to have faith in myself. I need to believe that I can not only make it through this year but enjoy it thoroughly.
I will post a piu tarde, later, but email me if you have any questions or anything.

A presto!