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.