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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 ..so 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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. firstname.lastname@example.org.