Friday, June 15, 2012

Readjustment: Or, Italy 4eva

You know what's crazy? I've been back in the ol' US of A for nearly five weeks. It boggles my mind to think that I've been home so long, especially since Italy still invades my thoughts every, oh, five minutes. I became that annoying girl that won't shut up about her study abroad experience before I'd been on the ground five minutes, and my constant stream of Italy stories doesn't show any signs of letting up anytime soon.

Leaving Italy was extremely hard, as I'm sure you all could tell from the dramatic tone of my last few blog posts. In fact, I experienced what I call "the 24 hours of tears." Oh yes. I began crying during my last dinner with Stella, cried the entire walk to the bus stop, cried half the trip to Florence, cried myself to sleep, and cried for the first 30 minutes of my flight to my Paris layover. Then I think I ran out of tears for a while... that is, until I saw my family at the gate of IAH, and I started crying again. OH MY GOODNESS, who even knew a person could cry so many tears?!

But you know what? I had a perfect goodbye, in spite of the copious amounts of tears I shed. Francesco and Natascia gave me many hugs and told me that I had a true Italian family for the rest of my life, and then Natascia and Cosimo waved goodbye to me from the upstairs window, while Francesco stood in front of the tunnel and blew kisses until I was out of sight. Postcard, much? At the bus stop, Stella kept telling me, "Non piangere perchè è finito; ridere perchè ha successo!" (Rachel's translation of, "Don't cry because it's over; smile because it happened!") She and Rachel then blew kisses at me as I boarded the bus, blinded by tears. On the flight to Paris, I felt really terrible for the poor Italian man sitting next to me, because as much as I tried to be discreet, I was sobbing too hard to even pretend like I wasn't crying. I'm sure he thought my mother had died or something. On the flight to America, I wrote in my diary, "I know how cliche this sounds, but I literally feel as though I left a piece of my heart in Italy." Ok, that is super cheesy and overdramatic and cliche, but it did feel like that. Even now, at the 5 week mark, I still feel that part of me is across the ocean - I guess Italy just stole part of me forever.

I got nervous as my plane neared Houston, because I had expected to get more excited about going home by the time I got near the end of the flight, but alas, I was still stuck in Italia mode. This apathy about getting home lasted through customs (UGH America, your customs sucks so much!), but quickly melted away when I saw my family and realized how much I had missed them. Aww, family love.

Adjusting back to America has been less of a struggle than I thought it would - I definitely had a bit of reverse culture shock (Whoa, look at these enormous buildings and highways! Riding in a car that is not a taxi?! Crazy!), but it was much easier to for me to ease back into American culture than I thought it would be. I'm very happy to be able to eat queso and guacamole again, and I went to Target the second day I was home. The heat was a bit of a shock for me (Why is it 95 degrees outside?!), and I constantly marvel at the sheer amount of space we have in America as compared to Europe, but other than that, the actual culture shock hasn't been bad. I have become particularly adept at recognizing a shot of Italy in TV commercials or shows (one time an Olive Garden commercial showed a brief glimpse of Siena and I almost fell off the couch shouting about it), and I confess that I am an utter snob about Italian food - what if there is butter in there? Gross! - and Chianti and coffee now, so if you around me and I go on a long, pretentious spiel about any of the above, I apologize in advance.

Funnily enough, one of the things I miss the most is Italian itself. I miss hearing the rhythm and flow of Italian, and I miss being forced to speak and think in a language that is not my own. I've become utterly convinced that Italian is the best and prettiest language in the world, and will listen to no arguments to the contrary. I think my brain is really confused about the abrupt switch from being in Italian class 8 hours a week and speaking all Italian at home to speaking and thinking entirely in English, with only occasional dips into Italian Harry Potter or random musings in Italian. As a result, I've been dreaming in Italian fairly regularly; about once or twice a week. I'm not complaining - I've always thought it was really cool to dream in another language, and every single one of these dreams has taken place in Siena, and I'm always happy to see Siena, even in a dream.

So, in conclusion, America's not such a bad place to be. My family is here, my friends are here, and I really, really like guacamole. Most of the time I go along perfectly fine, content to think about Siena multiple times a day and talk about it whenever I possibly can. However, I do have occasional days where I am overwhelmed by homesickness for Siena (does it even count as homesickness if I only lived there for four months?) for a couple of hours, and that's a little difficult. Those are the times that I really miss my Italian family and the Italian culture in general. That is when all I want to do is walk down the steps to chat with Stella as she cooks dinner, or snuggle with Cosimo after dinner and watch Italian Thomas the Train with him, or eat a pesto sandwich in the Campo after Italian class.

But, as much as missing Italy sucks, I think it's a good sign. I think it shows that I really loved my time there, and that I dove in as much as possible. Or at least I hope it shows that. And if that means that I have to be really sad occasionally because I had such a wonderful experience, that's ok with me. I'm just happy that I did it.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Arrivederci, Italia

Well, this is it. My last blog post in Italy. My bus to Florence leaves in less than 6 hours, and I will be seeing my family in less than 36 hours. I am so incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity, and I will cherish my memories of it forever. 

I leave you with a quote, and a picture of me contemplating my wonderful semester with a view. 

"Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the Sea comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-Earth. Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil."
-- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

Friday, May 11, 2012

Feelings: I Have Lots of Them

On this, my penultimate day in Siena, I'm sitting here packing and trying not to cry every time I think about what I'm doing. I leave for Florence tomorrow evening, since my plane leaves at the unholy hour of 7:20 am on Sunday morning, meaning I need to spend the night in Florence. Thus, this is my last full day in Siena. Sadness abounds, with Rachel and I each occasionally shedding a few covert tears as we realize just how little time we have left. 

However, I thought I would post a picture of what packing for home looks like, versus packing for Siena.

Alas and alack!

Remember my very first post, when I was freaking out over how I was going to fit everything in my suitcase? Yeah... it's the same this time, except now I know exactly what needs to go in the suitcase. I just need to figure out how to make it fit, seeing as, whoops, I bought some stuff while I was here.

It's interesting to compare how I felt packing 4 months ago to how I feel packing now. 4 months ago, I had no idea what Italy would be like - I hoped very much that I would love it, but I was scared and stressed, as well as excited beyond anything I'd ever felt. I couldn't believe that I was going to live in Italy for 4 whole months.

Now, on the other side, as I pack for America, I feel some of those same emotions, but I also feel some very different ones. I have, in fact, loved Italy, and so I am incredibly sad to be leaving it. I've fallen in love with Italy and with the Italian people, and I can't believe that I'm most likely never going to see any of the people I've met here again. I don't want that at all! So, I'm telling myself that it's not an option for me not to come back to Italy - I *have* to come back. I'd be too heartbroken if I didn't tell myself that.

But it's not all bad feelings; I'm also very happy to go home and see my family. I miss them, and it's been weird not to be able to talk to them as much as I do when I'm at school. Plus I miss Trinity horribly - it's been harder than I thought it would be to see my friends have their lives at Trinity (facebook: the creeper's helper since 2004), while I've been away. Granted, I've been in Italy so I can't really complain, but I do still miss my friends greatly, and I cannot wait to see them again!

Finally, I am once again feeling some of those same scared emotions that I felt coming over here, this time because I've been in a completely different environment, doing completely different things since January, and I'm sure I've changed a lot during this semester. But I live with myself, so I can't actually tell how much I've changed - I have to wait until I go home until I discover how I've changed. As a result, I'm a little worried about reverse culture shock. I was expecting Italy to be very different than America, so my culture shock upon coming to Italy was very minimal. However, I am now returning home, to a place that should be familiar and comforting, but my perception of the world has changed, and I am both worried and excited to see what that will be like.

And now, it is a beautiful, perfect, gorgeous day here in Siena, and I plan to go outside and spend some quality time on the Campo, soaking up that Tuscan sun - packing be damned!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Where Has The Time Gone?

Ciao ragazzi! Ti sono mancato? It turns out that the last few weeks have been a little busy for me, what with going to Sicily and Amsterdam and just generally having fun, and now I have finals. WHAT. When did that happen? How can I be having finals? Where did the past four months go? Is it really May? Do I really leave in a week?

Hold the phone, y'all. I leave in a week. In fact, in one week at this very moment, my plane will be landing in Houston. I have many conflicting feelings about this. On the one hand, I am ecstatic to see my family again - 4 months is the longest I've gone without seeing them! I also miss America - Target, chocolate chip cookies, Tex Mex, English... all of these things (and let's not forget Trinity! I had no idea I would miss my beloved university this much). However, on the other hand, ASDLFASF PLEASE DON'T MAKE ME LEAVE ITALY! I DON'T WANT TO! Beside the gorgeous, peculiarly Tuscan sunlight, the fields of lushly green, rolling countryside streaked with yellow and dotted with red, the crooked stone paved streets, and the architecture so medieval it's almost unbelievable, I will miss the Italian people - particularly my Italian family. 

My family! (L-R bottom: me, Natascia, Cosimo, Marta, Francesco. Top: Rachel, Stella)

In fact, I would go so far as to say that my Italian family has been my favourite part of my experience in Siena. I adore the way that they have taken me into their lives, putting up with me as I struggled my way into knowing a semblance of Italian, letting me love on their darling baby, Cosimo, and just generally making me feel loved. Italians have a unique ability to make one feel part of their joyously raucous family life, and I'm incredibly grateful that I was able to experience this. I hope that our relationship lasts after I leave Siena - I know that I at least will be sending Stella all the tacky souvenirs I can find in Texas, to add to her collection of tacky souvenirs from all over the world.

Picnicking with the best homestay mother I could have asked for

Here's to one week left in Italy! Let's hope I can soak up as much Siena as possible in these final 7 days.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Learning to Cook, Tuscan Style

GUYS TOMORROW I GO TO SICILY FOR THE WEEKEND! I am ridiculously excited about this. The food! The sea! Mt. Etna! The Mafia!

However, Sicily is not the only cool thing happening to me this week - my program took us on a cooking lesson at a local restaurant on Monday, where we learned how to make lots of delicious Italian food!

The group, in our stylish aprons

Our chef, Pino, started out by teaching to make the dessert, a biscotti type of deal called cantucci, made with lots of almonds and honey and other delicious things. We got to mix it by hand, and had great fun squishing the eggs, like the 5 year olds we are.

hand mixing!

Wonderful cantucci, all baked

Then it was time for pasta making! We once again reveled in hand mixing (aka squishing eggs), and then ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the pasta making machine - you put a bunch of dough in at one end, turn a crank, and lovely long strips of pasta come out that you can then cut and shape into your desired form of pasta.


pasta strip!

First we made gnocchi (YUM, favorite), which did not require the pasta maker, obviously, as it is just little pillow blobs of potato dough. Then we made tortellini and ravioli and something called caramelle, which looked like little pieces of candy, all of which were stuffed with ricotta and either spinach or eggplant.

forming the pasta

We watched Pino cook some of the pasta and learned that when pasta is freshly made, you just wait for it to bob to the surface for it to be cooked - it takes all of 2 minutes. Delicious. When the pasta was done, he cooked up some to-die-for pumpkin cream sauce and plated up a plate for us.

Crazy deliciousness, with Pino!

Did I mention that this entire lesson was in Italian? I was proud of myself for understanding so much.

After the lesson, we retired to the dining room, where we ate a mind-blowing amount of food. We had 7 different types of pasta. That's right. Seven. I had the biggest food baby in existence. But it was so worth it. How often do you get to have a cooking lesson in Tuscany? You guys. My life.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My Roman Holiday (aka the longest blog post ever)

Now that I've successfully turned in my monster-sized paper for Cinema, I can finally put up Rome pictures/stories! They're only a month late, don't worry about it. :P

Story number 1 for Rome, and probably the most hectic story that I have from SB12, is the story of that time Kyle and I almost missed our flight from Paris to Rome. Our flight left from the Beauvais airport at 9:30, and Beauvais is 1 1/2 hours away from Paris proper by bus, so Kyle and I were supposed to take the bus at 6:30. This meant that we needed to meet at the subway by 5:30, since we only had an elementary knowledge of the metro system, and we wanted ample time for mistakes. That is hella early. I went out the night before, because I'm dumb, so I got an hour of sleep, and got myself to the metro about 15 mins late.

However, there was no Kyle to be found! I waited for her for about 15 mins, in a groggy stupor, looking at all the business people taking the metro that early in the morning, wondering what kind of horrible job you have to have that requires getting up that early. I finally snapped out of it and realized that our bus left in half an hour, so I needed to find out what was up with Kyle. Of course, my phone decided to break as soon as I got to France, so I had no phone. This meant that I had to go back to Sarah's apartment and call Kyle using Sarah's phone. By the time I woke Sarah up enough to let me in and called Kyle, it was 6:30. My phone call woke her up -she had set her phone for PM instead of AM.

We had obviously missed the bus we were supposed to take, but I found another bus at 7:30,and we decided to go for that one. We tried quite valiantly, but alas, we ran from the metro up to the bus stop in time to see our bus drive away. ASLDJFDS. At this point, I refused to miss our flight, even though we were a mere 2 hours away from lift-off, and still 90 mins from the airport. Kyle found a taxi and we hopped in, and told the man that our flight left at 9:30. He sped us to the airport and figured out which terminal we needed to go to, which was very nice of him, except that he then charged us 145 euro. Yes. 145 euro for a cab ride. It was ridiculous.

We arrived at the airport at 9, when the plane started boarding. When we ran up to the checking desk to get our boarding tickets stamped, there was no line for the Rome flight - it was all shut down, because we were supposed to be, you know, boarding the plane. The nice man at the deskgot all concerned about us and took us to the front of the security line, so that we whizzed through and successfully made it to the plane at about 9:20. Exhausted, we collapsed on the first seats we saw and slept our way to Rome.

This beginning did not augur well for the rest of our stay in Rome, but thankfully the rest of our stay was wonderfully tranquil, and I got to dork out over the ruins and the Vatican! :)

Rome's cityscape

View from a park we found

Trevi Fountain! We saw it at night and threw coins, like good tourists.

Spanish Steps

Roman ruins - I think this is Titus' arch?

ohmygoodnesss it's the Colosseum


More ruins!

Roman Forum

A street performer in Piazza Navona

Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II


Raphael's "School Of Athens"

Outside St. Peter's Basilica! :)

Pieta, what alsdfkjlsadkjfadklfjs

Inside St. Peter's - the rays of light were *perfect*

Bernini's Chair of St. Peter

Tiber! So much Roman murder happened here! ...The classics can be gory.

I could not go to the Borghese to see most of Bernini's works, but at least I saw St. Theresa :)

I know that I just put everyone's brain in picture overload, and I apologize for that. There was just so much to see in Rome! As an art lover and a classicist, I almost died of happiness in Rome. It was pure bliss.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


I would love to post Rome pictures, but as you can see, this lion is extremely disappointed in me for even thinking about further procrastinating on the mountains of homework that are waiting for me, so Rome will just have to wait for another day or two, my chickens!

I leave for Sicily on Thursday (SO EXCITED), so never fear, I will have Rome pictures up before then.