Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Missing from Me

A note for the Americans(or English speakers) (Gli italiani possono saltare questo e andare alla parte in italiano ;) :
If you've read a few of my posts, this one will probably seem different to you...maybe a little less wordy, a little less eloquent, a bit more elementary...a bit different. This post was originally written in Italian, and in translating it, I seriously considered doing a "loose translation" and writing the same material but in my usual English style, complete with all of the flourishes that I so love to use in the English language. However, after much thought, I have decided to keep the English translation as direct as possible, for the original Italian version is also written from the heart...simply in a different style than my English style. Some things don't translate well, sometimes there simply isn't a way to directly transfer from Italian to English, and I have done my best to work around this, but I wanted to pay a bit of homage to my Italian readers who have thus far faithfully tried to plug my English into google translate, warranting far less beautiful results than the original (if you want to see what I mean, go ahead and use the translate button on the web version to translate the Italian part to English, and try reading it...). Hope you enjoy this post in spite of this!

     In questi giorni, tutti mi chiedono, "cosa ti manca di più di Italia"? E onestamente, non so come rispondere. Mi manca la luce sul canale, mi mancano i minuti da sola nel treno o bus o tram con la mia musica, mi mancano i non posso dire queste gente vuole una risposta facile, completa. Ma non ho una risposta facile, perché onestamente mi manca l'esperienza, mi manca l'Italia...soprattutto mi manca la mia vita, il mio mondo, italiano. Però quando devo assolutamente rispondere, dico che mi manca il cibo, e tutti ridono, o dico che mi manca la bellezza, e tutti cominciano a raccontare le storie che cominciano sempre con "ah, sì, una volta anch'io sono andato in Italia, ed era bellissima..... 

     Ma se devo veramente scegliere una cosa che "mi manca di più", devo dire che mi manca la gente. Mi mancano i miei compagni che, nonostante del fatto che non mi hanno parlato tantissimo per i primi mesi, diventavano una ragione per cui ero veramente felice di venire a scuola ogni giorno...chi mi hanno aiutato con tutto, chi mi hanno fatto sorridere e ridere ogni giorno. Mi mancano i miei altri amici chi non erano compagni di classe...chi hanno scelto di passare tempo con me fuori di scuola, chi avevano il coraggio di parlare in inglese con me anche se c'era il rischio di fare una brutta figura, chi mi hanno portato in posti nuovi, negozi nuovi, ristoranti nuovi. Mi mancano le mie famiglie ospitante, che erano sempre là per me, che avevano la pazienza ogni giorno con me, anche quando sapevo solo un paio di parole nella loro lingua, che hanno parlato con me ogni giorno anche quando le mie risposte erano di due o tre parole sbagliate.....e questa è una cosa difficilissima. Mi mancano anche di morire gli altri studenti stranieri, chi erano una famiglia per tutto l'anno in cui non avevo la mia famiglia californiana. Mi hanno aiutato con le cose più difficile, hanno parlato con me nei giorni in cui sono tornata a casa e mi sono reso conto di avevo parlato solo quattordici parole nel giorno, i giorni i cui ero intrappolata in un mondo che, causa del fatto che non sapevo italiano, erano silente e isolante e da cui non potevo scappare. Forse questa lista sembra un po' tragica, con tutte le cose triste, però la vita è così...con le cose belle ci sono anche cose brutte. Questa gente mi ha aiutato con le cose brutte, ma anche le cose belle, e questa è la gente che ha cambiato la mia vita. 

     Spesso quando qualcuno mi chiede "cosa ti manca di più"  non dico "la gente" perché anche come non posso dire "i minuti nel treno" o "la luce sul canale", non posso dire "la gente". Non è abbastanza concreta, e quando dico che mi manca la gente, tutti ridono un po', e poi dicono, "ma sicuramente sei contenta di vedere la tua famiglia" o "ma hai gente anche qua in California". E se provo a spiegare, forse, che veramente mi mancano i miei compagni di classe, o che mi mancano gli altri studenti stranieri, loro sono un po' confusi, e dicono che ho compagni di classe anche in California, o che ci sono nuovi studenti stranieri adesso in California. E queste sono tutte cose vere....ho gente, compagni di classe, studenti stranieri in California. Ma non mi manca questa gente solo perché è gente. Mi mancano queste persone perché sono amici, sono famiglie, sono persone che hanno cambiato la mia vita. Non è che non apprezzo la gente in California, è solo che non posso dimenticare persone che hanno cambiato la mia vita, e non credo che riuscirò mai a dimenticarle. Tutte queste persone hanno un posto nel mio cuore, e causa di questo, adesso ho un cuore molto più grande del mio cuore un anno fa. E questa è una cosa bellissima, è solo che non avevo nessun'idea di quanto è difficile dividere un cuore tra due mondi. 

    In the last few weeks, everyone has been asking me "what do you miss most about Italy?". And honestly, I don't know how to respond. I miss the light on the canal, I miss the precious minutes of alone time with my headphones and my music in the train, bus, and tram, I miss spritzes...but I can't say these things...people want an easy response, a complete one. But I don't have an easy response, because honestly I miss the experience, I miss italy...more than anything I miss my italian life, my italian world. But when I absolutely must respond to this question, I say that I miss the food, and everyone laughs, or I say that I miss the beauty, and everyone starts to tell stories which always start with "Ah, yes, one time I went to Italy, and it was absolutely gorgeous...".

    But if I really have to choose one thing that I "miss the most", I have to say that I miss the people. I miss my classmates who, despite the fact that they didn't talk to me much at all during the first few months of school, became a reason for which I was truly happy to come to school every day....who helped me with everything, who made me smile and laugh every day. I miss my other friends who weren't classmates...who chose to spend time with me outside of school, who had the courage to talk to me in English even though they risked a "brutta figura"(an Italian idea of social embarrassment), who brought me to new places, new shops, new restaurants. I miss my host families, who were always there for me, who were patient with me very day, even when I know only a few words of their language, who talked with me very day even when my responses were composed of two or three words....and this is a very difficult feat. I also miss terribly the other exchange students, who were a family for a year in which I didn't have my Californian family. They helped me with the difficult things, they talked to me in the days in which I returned home and realized that I had spoken only fourteen words that day, the days in which I was trapped in a world which, because of my lack of knowledge of the Italian language, was silent and isolating and impossible to escape from. Maybe this list seems a bit tragic, with all of the sad things, but this is life...with the beautiful things there are also ugly things. These people helped me with the hard things, but also with the beautiful things, and these are the people who have changed my life.

     Often when someone asks me "what do you miss the most", I don't say "the people", because just as I can't say "the minutes in the train" or "the light on the canal", I can't say "the people". It isn't concrete enough, and when I say that I miss the people, everyone laughs a bit, and then says, "but surely you are happy to see your family" or "but you also have people in California". And if I try to explain, maybe, that really I miss my classmates, or that I miss the other exchange students, they are a bit confused, and they tell me that I have classmates in California too, or that there are new exchange students in California now. But I don't miss these people just because they are people. I miss these people because these are friends, these are family, these are people who have changed my life. It's not that I don't appreciate the people in California, it is just that I can't forget the people who have changed my life, and I don't believe that I will every be able to forget them. All of these people have a place in my heart, and because of this, I now have a heart much bigger than one year ago. And this is a beautiful thing, it's just that I didn't have any idea how difficult it would be to divide one heart between two worlds.

Monday, April 18, 2016

On Language

An Open Letter to my Italians...
On the things I haven't said

I'm Trula, and I'm seventeen years old. But you've probably never heard a seventeen year old Trula speak. If you've known me from the beginning, then you probably first heard the voice of a two year old Trula....but not a two year old who babbles endlessly about the newness of the world...more like a seventeen year old's mind...knowledge and awareness, fears and anxieties, somehow trying to express itself through the vocabulary of a two year old. I hope that today my speech could maybe pass as that of a five or six year old, but I know that I still by no means speak my age.

Is it funny to watch the voice of a toddler come out of a teenager? Is it difficult not to snicker as I use the wrong verb tense, flail in a sea of prepositions, and use ten hastily gathered words in a last-chance attempt to express one word that I don't know? I know that it must be tiring, wading through my swamp of ill pronounced, or even nonexistent words and terribly constructed phrases, and I wonder how many times I have spoken, believing that I am communicating one thing when in reality, I have said something completely different. I wonder how many absolutely bizarre things you think about me as a result of these misunderstandings.

To those of you who still try, for some reason, to talk to and treat me like the seventeen year old that I am, I wish you could know just how much it means to me. I wish you could know how important your willingness to grab lunch, coffee, or gelato, or even just converse with me,'s not effort free by any stretch of the imagination for me, and I know that it's not effort free for you either, but your decision to try anyway has truly changed this year, and my life. I wish you could know how much you are appreciated, and I wish that I could tell you all of the things that I want to be able to say to you...

I wish I could better show you my sense of humor, my sarcasm, my snide remarks, my witty responses. I wish I could talk to you using the perfect words, implying subtle meanings, twisting grammar and structure, metaphor and meaning, playing with delicately placed words until they work together to say exactly what I mean......It's an art form that I never realized the existence of, let alone the importance of.....until I was suddenly left with that crappy dollar store kiddie art kit, instead of the beautiful colors and brushes and techniques that I have curated over the span of seventeen years.

There are days when I'm ready to give up....when I simply cannot bring myself to try to sharpen that stupid colored pencil that is so cheap that it breaks every time it's almost sharp, and then to try to use it to color on paper so thin that it tears if I mess up and try to erase my mistakes. There are days when it seems impossible to express how I feel in a language that I cannot yet call my own, when I am ashamed of every sound that comes off of my tongue, when my embarrassment at the inadequacy of my own words brings me to tears, and I turn away from my feeble attempts at communication, giving into the humiliation stinging my eyes. Enough. Basta.

Many adults that I’ve talked to, especially in the world of exchange, have a tendency to sing the praises of intercultural relationships.....they smother our fears about language-related difficulties with some sort of "small world" rhetoric. "Despite the different cultures and languages of the world, we're all fundamentally the same....we're all humans", they say. "The relationships that you can form with people despite a language barrier can be absolutely incredible", they like to tell us. I'm not saying that there isn't some truth to this, as I am unbelievably impressed and grateful for some of my strictly Italian-speaking relationships. However, the truth is, it is no coincidence that the two Italians that I am by far the closest with, are two girls that I have the ability to speak fluent English with. It's not that I don't ever speak Italian with them, but the unfortunate reality is that it is very, very difficult to get past a certain point in a friendship without certain language constructions. I'm sure that this sounds cold, but the next time you get together with a friend and have a multiple hour conversation, try having that conversation with words that are always used 100% literally.....a conversation without sarcasm, a conversation in which at least a third of your responses, topics, or remarks(anything that goes beyond the everyday scope of casual conversation) are cancelled in your head before they ever come off of your tongue, and you have to scramble to find suitable replacements before their absence becomes evident. A conversation in this fashion not only is exhausting, but also gets very boring very quickly.

It's the difference between a good teacher and a bad teacher.....the subject matter is fundamentally the same, but one makes you like the material, the other makes you hate it. One you request for the next year of study, the other you pray that you will never have again. The native language conversation is at-ease, fun, enjoyable.....and makes you want to see that person again, to get to know them better. The conversation with the language barrier can become, all too quickly, a discourse riddled with awkward pauses and mishaps, a tiring affair which, if stretched any longer than the normal time limits of casual conversation, makes you suddenly remember that "really important appointment" that you suddenly need to get to, and you put that person on a mental list of "casually be busy next time in order to avoid her" people.

But that's where you come in.....because despite all of this, you're still there. You are there to remind me that, after several weeks of not seeing each other, you think that my Italian has gotten a little bit better. You are there, backing me up when I slowly try a word that I'm not sure if I've heard somewhere or just made up, when I mistakenly use a verb that sounds very similar to my intended one, but has a very different meaning. Most importantly, you're simply there as a friend, and I'm truly sorry that in exchange for your extraordinary patience and kindness, you hear only a shadow of the things that I want to tell you. I don't know if the Trula that you've gotten to know is a compromised one, or just a different one altogether......and although my criticizing mind tells me that it's definitely the former, I have to hope that maybe it's a bit of both.

But I know that those of you who I truly want to tell this to won't read this. Or maybe you'll try, but you won't fully understand. Because the terrible irony is that the very people who this is written for likely cannot understand this level of English, and it is precisely this level of English that I simply cannot translate into Italian. So I'm sorry. I'm so sorry that I might not ever be able to tell you, and you might not ever know. But I hope someday, somehow, we'll talk without the barriers.


Saturday, March 19, 2016

101 Days

I have 101 days

I have 101 days to use that random free hour on Friday to find a new bakery, or maybe an old favorite (although the concentration of bakeries in Trieste means that I never run out of new ones), and bask in the delightful simplicity of a €1 brioche.

101 days to force Meg to take photos with her full face(if we can stop laughing long enough for a photo), 101 days to finish "The List" with Gaia even though we are absolutely terrible at crossing any of the items on our "Bucket List" off, 101 days to make the most of the fact that only a €4.75 train ticket separates Quinn and I from being crazy foreigners exploring Italy together.

101 days to don the classic Italian all-black "night out" garb ("I look like I'm going to a funeral, but for some reason in a leather jacket", I declared the first time), and get swept away in music and experience that I know all too well is not particularly cohesive to small-town-USA life.

101 days to walk into school excited, because while the lessons may be terribly boring, every day I get to see the people who, 6 short months ago were people that I was afraid to talk to, who 6 months ago watched a strange new girl walk into their class and attempt to introduce herself with nonexistent language skills, who know that to this day, each conversation with me will be a bit broken and require a bit more effort, but who choose to talk to me anyway. A family which I have come to appreciate to no end.

I have a countdown calendar on my phone set to "July 5". That date is the single thing in the near future that I am most looking forward to, and the single thing that I dread the most. Every particle of my being wants to see the people in my Californian life that I've learned to appreciate so much, to sprawl on the couch in a way that one can only do when they are truly at home. But at the same time, every particle of me wants to stay here and be the person that I've become in the life that I've created with these people that I love in a place that I've internalized............forever.

I left California with my heart more or less in one piece, but I have since allowed it be ripped into pieces that have been scattered among people and places on the other side of the world. I have ripped my heart with only the fragile hope that the pieces have not, in fact, been torn beyond repair, but instead will slowly heal---never to be one complete organ ever be always longing for the other pieces, but for each resilient piece to be beating, to be alive. They say home is where the heart is, but if the heart is scattered, do you have multiple homes, or are you never truly home?

The first sentence of this post is "I have 101 days." That, and nothing more. When I say, "I have 101 days until I go home", my soul constricts because it knows that I have tangled it too tightly in the life that I have built here to truly call just one place home. It knows that when I go, it, like my heart, won't have the comfortable liberty of leaving in one piece.

And this is the price that I have paid, am paying, will pay, for this opportunity. I have gained so much beauty, so much experience, so much vitality in these short months, and I will undoubtably take a piece of this home with me....but I cannot take a piece of this life with me without leaving a piece of myself in this life. And this is a thing of wonder, a thing that terrifies me, a thing that makes me want to run away from it all, but always, always, makes me want to return, to explore, to be alive in the truest sense of the word.

I have 101 days.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Buon Natale! (Just a bit late)

I have been in Italy for over 4 and a half months, and that's not really something I like to think about too much. It's all too easy to start worrying about the day when I will be wrenched out of this little world that has been created in a far away land, an adventure that seems to have just begun. But that's for another day, another time, another post.

I have had the privilege to spend the Christmas holidays in Italy, an experience that I will never forget, both for its joys and sorrows. The winter holidays are considered by many to be one of the hardest time periods for exchange students for several reasons. The most obvious reason is that in many countries in the world, the winter holidays are associated with unique celebrations that very often center around family and togetherness. All you have to do is plug into social media for a day somewhere around Christmas time to be flooded with a never-ending stream of "SO happy to be home again!" "It's great to finally have the family together again", and "Nothing like a Christmas surrounded by family!". We even have the iconic phrase "Home for the Holidays", to drive home the importance of family and being home around Christmas time. So clearly when you happen to be just a little far from your family and loved ones during this time period, not only is it personally difficult to be away, but it is also difficult to accept a season of new traditions, new celebrations, and an absence of the special little things that have made the holidays the holidays ever since you were a young child.

Many of the exchange students found ourselves sitting at home just a few days from Christmas, realizing that we had never felt so un-christmassy in our lives. None of us could put a finger on it, but there's something about the compilation of little things we barely notice.......the bustle of baking, an annual holiday open house, picking out a tree, christmas fairs, seeing the stockings hung on the fireplace, dress up days at school, packages coming in the mail...........
And this is not to say that Italy does have its own celebratory traditions for Christmas....if anything, I might argue that it is an even bigger deal in Italy than in the United States, but I still found myself uncharacteristically somber on December 23rd , wondering if it was possible that Christmas Eve was the next day.

But enough slightly dreary reflective stuff for now, because Christmas in Italy is a great celebration that deserves a blog post for its amazingness.

In Italy, Christmas Eve is arguably as celebrated just as much, if not more, than Christmas Day. On Christmas eve, it is traditional to have a large dinner composed entirely of seafood. Of course, I know that every family has their own way of doing things, and I had no idea if my family would celebrate traditionally or not, but they truly came through with a fantastic Christmas Eve feast. Christmas Eve was celebrated with family, including aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, and food. Lots of food. We barely ate lunch on Christmas Eve in preparation for the dinner feast, and this turned out to be a good thing, because for dinner we ate no less that 7 different seafood themed dishes: smoked salmon, shrimp, roe pate, scallops, lobster, seafood risotto, and sea bass. The meal was amazing, and truly unforgettable. Gifts were also opened on Christmas Eve....apparently it is traditional to wait until midnight, but since we were graced with the presence of a toddler, that wasn't exactly realistic.

On Christmas Day, I traveled with my family to Padova (Padua) in order to eat a Christmas lunch with a different side of the family. This lunch was also unbelievable huge, and consisted not only of some seafood leftovers from the night before, but various different dishes containing meat as well. 

Christmas Eve dinner preparations
Christmas Eve dinner
A tiny portion of the seafood that we ate that night
Gift-opening time!

Christmas in Italy is without doubt a celebration which embodies two of the most important cornerstones of Italian culture: family and food, and I am so grateful that I got to partake in it.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

"Ciao! Non parlo Italiano...wanna be friends?"

If you read my October post about school, you would know that when I first started school, one of the biggest challenges for me was making friends. It has been two months since that post, and things have changed quite considerably, to the point where I wanted to write another post about the social situation here. I will be doing quite a bit of name dropping throughout this post because I want to give these people a little shoutout, but also because I always find it interesting to hear typical names in other countries, and I think it makes the whole thing a bit more credible. So here we go.

Exchange students tend to lean on each other for support as we are the only ones who truly understand what each other are going through, and so back in October when the social aspect of things was much more rocky, I was telling my wonderful exchange friend Alida about how it was much more difficult to make friends than expected. She responded with the perfect wisdom that has stuck with me and proven very true. When I told her that people just did not seem to want to open up to me, she asked "Trula, is it just you that they don't talk to, or do they not talk to each other in general?" It certainly didn't make me feel any better to answer "'s just me....they are all nice to each other", but she replied "but Trula, right now you are a new kid, an outsider. If they are nice to each other, then it's only a matter of time before you are one of them, and they are nice to you too". This has stuck with me, and although I still don't completely feel like "one of them", it is much more so, and it is certainly proving to be a "matter of time".

So why has this magical transformation of friendliness begun to take place?

As I have gotten to know a few of the students in my class better, I have begun to ask them about the beginning, about how they saw me, and about our mutual inhibitions. Through this, I have learned that while there was certainly a degree of shyness involved in the relative coldness of my class at the beginning, there was also, to a large degree, the issue of the collision of the language barrier and "bella figura", the idea that one should only put forth and promote their best self at all times, while avoiding activities/things that might ruin or muddle their image. For my Italian classmates, even though at first I didn't know enough Italian even to basically communicate, speaking to me in their less-than-perfect English put their "bella figura" in danger, and thus was something to be avoided. These days, I can often communicate more or less what I want to say in Italian, and a few of my friends have let their guard down enough to help me out with words that I don't know, but there are still a large number of classmates who do not want to potentially embarrass themselves by using English (never mind the fact that I am publicly embarrassing myself every time an Italian phrase comes off my tongue). On the upside, this means that there are a good number of my classmates who would prefer to speak to me slowly and simply in Italian rather than attempt English, which is good for my Italian learning endeavors. On the downside, I think that this was one of the reasons that it was more difficult to make friends before I had the Italian basics down, because when you can't talk to someone, friendship is a whole lot harder.

In my opinion though, the main reason, which I think is deceptively simple but incredibly important, is that by the time we reach high school, most of us have accumulated a reasonable group of friends through various means, including family, school, and extracurriculars.

Having this comfortable network can cause us to forget how hard life might be if you were suddenly stripped of that network and had no one to call when you had a boring weekend coming up, had no one to make standing in the bathroom line less awkward with, had no one to default to when fragile plans fell through and you suddenly needed someone else to go to an event with.

And upon arriving here, stripped of that network physically, I honestly think that most people just had no idea. Had no idea that when the play finished early, I didn't have a group to join to go grab a coffee with. Had no idea that when everyone was making plans to go see the concert, that I didn't have "my people" to default to that I knew wanted to go with me. Had no idea that in gym class, choosing partners or forming groups was suddenly stressful, not fun, because I didn't have those friends that you could make eye contact with across the room before the teacher had finished speaking, automatically forming your group.

In the same vein, then, I honestly think people had no idea that when Milena wrote "ti voglio bene" on my hand and invited me to go out for lunch, it was the first time, after a full month of school, that I thought I might one day actually fit in with my class. That when Fabiana invited me to go for a walk in Trieste, it was the first time that I had hung out with a classmate and had it just feel like maybe we could be two friends, not the just the weird american girl with an Italian,...the first time that there were conversation topics that didn't start with "so, in California.....", the first time that I thought that I might actually become real friends with people in my class, not just be "that American girl". That when Federica actually responded to my text and agreed to meet me for lunch, it meant the world to me because for that day I had texted 5 different people, and she was the only one who said yes when most of the others didn't even bother to answer me. That when Gaia invited me to her house to attempt a cooking adventure, it was the first time I had been to a classmate's house, the first time that I had been able to reasonably carry most of a conversation in Italian, the first time that I thought I might actually be able to be real friends with someone who I didn't speak in English with.

And just because it's gotten better doesn't mean that my excitement about people reaching out has will never stop making me feel accepted and unbelievably excited and when someone says hi, shares a joke with me, invites me to do something, or says in some other way, "Hey there, I know that your Italian isn't great, and neither is my English, but I don't really care and we can be friends anyway".

I have recently switched my schedule such that I now visit different classes throughout the week, and this has given me the opportunity to meet even more people that bring a smile to my face every day. I am so thankful to Ilaria, Diana, and Claudia from one of my new classes, 5H for showing me that not everyone is too worried about their bella figura to open up to a new person right away by creating a group message with me that makes me laugh every day. I love that Debora and Giulia from another new class were willing to bring me to try a special holiday street food, fritelle, even though they don't really know enough english to have a conversation, and I don't know enough Italian to have a non-awkward conversation.

Though Thanksgiving has come and gone, I feel like it is always a good time to be thankful. I am thankful for how much better its gotten with my friends, and on the other side of the coin, I am thankful that it is still difficult, because every time that someone reaches out to me, I am filled again with an indescribable joy, a small child's giddiness that just makes you want to jump up and down for the sheer fun of it. And if it weren't for the hard times, I wouldn't be able to appreciate the good times nearly as fully....I wouldn't be over the moon with excitement every time I was invited to do something. And I'm sure that some people think I'm crazy for getting this excited about things that are just a regular part of everyday life for everyone else, but honesty I don't care, because I've always said that the best people in life are a little crazy. Plus, if you could live every day with soaring excitement over little things, why on earth wouldn't you? 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

5 Things that No Longer Surprise Me about Italy

So I have been here for two months now....some days it feels as though I have been here forever, and some days it feels as though I just got here. Almost every day, though, there is some little moment that makes me just step back for a moment and realized "whoa....I'm actually LIVING in ITALY for a whole YEAR!".

Since I have been here for two months, I am slowly starting to adapt to the Italian way of life, and things that seemed strange when I first got here are now things that I barely notice are different. Because of this, I wanted to share a few of these things because a) I don't want to forget how amazed I initially was at them and b) because I love reading lists and maybe you do too.

Here we go, in no particular order:

1) Phone Plans: In Italy, I have a fairly normal phone plan that gives me 3 Gigabytes of data, 3000 texts, and 300 minutes of call time. What is so strange about this, you may ask? Well, this phone package costs me just 12 euros a month. 12 euros. 12. I'm pretty sure I'll be spending less on my phone plan for the whole year than some people in the USA spend for one month.

2)Sweets: Maybe its just me, but in the US, its just not really socially acceptable to eat sweets for breakfast. Yes, the occasional doughnut or breakfast pastry, but not really cookies or cake. Enter Italy, where cookies and cake are a totally normal part of breakfast, and its not uncommon for me to come downstairs in the morning to find the family snacking on a pack of chocolate cookies. Also if it's breakfast time(or really anytime) you should definitely cover that bread/cake/cookie in jam or Nutella.

3)Which brings me to Nutella, and on a related track, hazelnuts: First of all, if you find something in Italy and looks like it is chocolate flavored, there is a very good chance that either the chocolate you see is actually Nutella, or there are also hazelnuts in the chocolate dessert, and chocolate+hazelnuts=Nutella. I'm not complaining. Don't get me wrong, regular chocolate exists, but it is quite overshadowed. Also, I guess hazelnuts just aren't a very big thing in the USA, but in Italy, you can find anything in hazelnut flavor. Some hazelnut things that I've tried so far include gelato, cake, and yogurt. Hazelnut yogurt? Mehhh.....but hazelnut gelato is nothing short of heavenly(but isn't all gelato?).

4)Hand gestures: I'm sure that you have all seen some sort of video or such that makes fun of Italians and their hand gestures by depicting someone who looks like they may or may not have completely lost track of their arms. While the whole hand-gesture thing is absolutely a stereotype, it is an absolutely true stereotype. When an Italian gets worked up about something, the results, hand-gesture-wise, are nothing short of hilarious, in my opinion. Someday I will get a video of this amazing spectacle, and you too will be able to understand the hilarity(I'm looking at you, Sara). On the upside, it generally makes it much easier for me to understand conversations that I otherwise would not understand when someone is practically half-miming the conversation, and it also makes it much more socially acceptable for me to communicate through gestures when I can't use words.

5)Dinner time/the general concept of the afternoon: In the US, 2 or 3 PM was "mid-afternoon", getting into 4 or 5 PM was "evening", and 6 PM was getting into "dinner time". When I first got here, I tried to hold on to that concept of time, but it was quickly uprooted for a new and improved afternoon timetable. On a normal weekday: 3 PM is "lunchtime", 4 or 5 PM is "mid-afternoon", 6 or 7 PM is getting into "evening", and around 8 or 9 PM is "dinner time".

Was this surprising to you? Or maybe not? Is there something else in particular that you would like to know about? Let me know...I would love to hear from you!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

First month (and a half?) in Review

So I'm trying to stick mostly to themed posts or posts of specific function because I think it gets a bit boring if every post is just a chronicle of my daily happenings....then it becomes more of a diary, which I don't really intend this to be.
But for the sake of documentation, I do want to do a little review with some fun pictures of my time in Italy thus far. I know that some of you have asked me copiously for more of a general overview of what I've been doing, so here ya go. This is obviously quite abbreviated, and I know that I've forgotten a lot or simply omitted things for lack of time, space, and attention span, but you can sit back with some popcorn since the words will be few, and the pictures will be many(hopefully). I'll try to go semi-chonological here, but..........

Inbound Orientation in Bassano del Grappa...all of the exchange students from my district in Italy(about 20 of us) gathered for a few days of bonding and instruction at a historical war site...we got to visit trenches, caves, and other interesting reminders of the past.

We go to raise flags of all of our countries!

The whole best friends in Italy!

 Grocery shopping... the stores are much smaller than the "supermarkets" that we have in the USA, but they are packed to the brim and I love it!

This was a small store, and THIS IS JUST THE DAIRY SECTION.

The meat counter.

Castello San Giusto in Trieste

Piazza Unita at is the largest seaside piazza in Italy, and it just happens to be in my city!

We went to a  Slovenian castle(yes, another took about 15-20 minutes) for the gorgeous view of Trieste! 

Hiking with family friends!

The second inbound orientation was with almost all of the exchange students in Italy, over 80 of us, and it was in NAPLES for 4 days!! The bus ride was almost 14 hours, but it was with the other exchanges students, and it was absolutely worth it. Needless to say, it was gorgeous.
The view from our hotel...hello Mt. Vesuvius!

A fountain in Naples

Streets with the flags of the world!

More Naples!

This is in Pompeii...the famous ancient city destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. We visited on  our Naples trip.

Ruins of Pompeii.
This ancient resident of Pompeii is pretty famous, so it was amazing to see in real might have seen pictures of him before.

We also visited the royal palace in Caserta, which was also beautiful.

The royal palace.

Another quick trip to Slovenia! This time to meet the wonderful and enchanting white horses of  Lipica and to go to a dog show.
Well hello there!

Judging of St. Bernards!

 Trieste is host to one of the largest sailboat regattas in the world, so several other exchange students came to Trieste to witness it. 
It's hard to see, but every single one of those dots is a sailboat, and there are many that are too small to see.

There has been so much more that I haven't written about here...I have taken over 1000 photos so far, so it is impossible to share them all. As always, thanks for reading, and if there is something that you want to know more about let me know!!