What? How did that happen?
I’m halfway finished with lessons in Italy, getting ready for my first slew of exams and already starting to think about my second year abroad essay (while sorely needing to work on the first). It seems as if time, which was crawling during that first month, has all of a sudden sped up and is getting ready to move forward at record-setting speeds
I guess that’s both good and bad. Italy, Italy, Italy, how much you enchant me with your beauty only to annoy me mere moments afterwards! While Italy was the only country I had truly traveled in extensively before this year, I really knew nothing about the culture before I arrived in September. For better or for worse, I know more than my fair share now. I have to admit: I would appreciate Italy a lot more without the Italians sometimes. I would especially appreciate not having everything shut down for two and a half hours in the middle of the day, but at least classes mean I don’t have to deal with that every day.
When friends I haven’t talked to in a while ask me how Italy has been I have a simple one word answer: crazy. Italy has brought me some crazy amazing moments, some crazy horrible moments and some crazy normal moments. I have learnt so much more about myself, about the world around me and how I want to fit into that world. I know so much more about people, regardless of nationality. There have been so many experiences in such a short period of time; I feel like I’ve been running a marathon and I need a break.
As I’ve written before, I chose to live in a family this year and, although it has been the opposite of easy, it was one of the best choices I’ve made. Not only is it considerably cheaper than university or private-sector accommodation, I have also been able to improve my Italian more than I would have without the constant exposure to the language. That, however, has meant that I’ve been exposed to Italian culture more than I would have otherwise, which has been extraordinarily difficult for me. One of my favorite quotes from Lunch in Paris is “sometimes you just need to wake up in the morning and talk with an American.” I have never felt that to be more true than I did during these past three months. Fortunately, I’m always able to call my parents and I’ve met some Americans here who are also eager to have a break from a constant innundation of Italians and Italian culture.
Classes have been everything, good, bad, confusing, fun and mind-numbingly dull. Where I struggled to understand during the first month, I’ve grown increasingly confident as the hours have gone on. Hearing Italian has become nearly second nature to me and I’m shocked that I won’t be hearing it on a daily basis for the next few weeks. When I first arrived in Italy, I had to rehearse what I was going to say before talking with someone. Now, when I go into a shop, I can just speak. If I get tongue-tied, it’s just Emilia being Emilia. When I arrived in Italy I felt I had an understanding of Italian that was on-par with the highest points in my understanding of Spanish, now I am 100% that I understand Italian better than I ever did Spanish. Am I fluent? No. Will I become fluent? Probably not, but I’ll be pretty gosh darn close. I just need to keep doing the work.
If I had a turning point in my attitude toward Italy, it came when I was talking with some friends over dinner at the incredibly classy Infernot. I was drinking a DOC Amalfi white wine (why do I remember this? it was one of the best wines I’ve ever drank. yes, I prefer white wine), eating some pecorino cheese that had been infused with truffles and a bit of crusty bread. I was talking with two awesomely interesting people about where we want to travel in Italy. We talked agriturismo, wine touring and coffee. In that moment it hit me: I can either choose to be in Italy this year or be excited to be in Italy this year.
I’m not doing everything the Italian way. I’d go nut-so if I did. I still eat disturbing amount of peanut butter and raisins. I still make my own coffee and more or less shun lavazza (ignore the fact that I’m on the lavazza website). I still can’t really get behind the idea of having a primo and secondo at every meal and I will probably never love pasta that much. What I am doing, however, is getting excited about standing up to eat a brioche. I’m getting excited to figure out how the library works and getting excited to visit new Italian cities. No, I don’t wake up every day bounding off the walls with excitement that I’m in Italy. Instead, I wake up every day, excited to be myself in this space and open to seeing what the country has to teach me that day.
How has this fall treated you? Did you make any big changes or have any changes you want to make?