29 October 2009

Apologies for the delay... Weeks No. 6 & 7

First things first. I would like to apologize for not updating last week; I got sick with the flu or food poisoning or something on Monday, and stayed home from school all week. I didn't leave the house until Saturday night, therefore, I didn't have anything interesting to share (I slept for at least sixteen hours every day and watched a lot of Youtube videos during that week of being stuck at home).

The Friday before I got sick, Giorgio and his friends Massimo, Claudio, and Dario took me to that Italian rap concert, which was actually surprisingly good. We had a lot of fun; Claudio attempted to speak in English all night, but he just sounded like Borat and I kept laughing hysterically and then they would all start laughing too.

(If you're interested, here is a link to a video of Inoki, the Italian rapper we saw: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00nGkMVFxcA)

Sunday morning, my host mom Miriam and I went to Kylie's host mom Conci's photo exhibit. The theme of the exhibit was "Acqua Aria (Water & Air)"; gorgeous photos of aqueous settings, i.e. pools and puddles and the Mediterranean and glasses of water, etc.

Sunday night, Ambra, my host dad's niece, had a birthday party; she would turn eighteen at midnight. I met almost all of my host dad's extended family, including Carlo, my host dad's nephew, who I will mention later. It was very fun and of course, there was lots of really good food; my favorite dish was the couscous. However, we didn't get home until about 1:30am and I was very, very tired... I went to school the next morning, but felt really ill after about two hours, so I had my host dad come pick me up. I ended up being sick for the rest of the week. No fun at all.

However. Saturday finally rolled around, and after starting to take some medication a few days before, the bug seemed to go away and I started feeling a lot better. Giorgio insisted that I should go out that night, to get out of the house and have some fun, and after much convincing, my host mom finally gave in. He and his cousin, Carlo, who is eighteen and has a car, picked me up at 12:30am and we went over to Carlo's for a small get-together. It felt like the first day of school again; everyone there stopped what they were doing and stared at me as I walked in, and then rushed over to introduce themselves and ask me a million questions about America. I actually met a lot of really cool and really nice people. They almost had me make them pancakes, but decided to make me Nutella crepes instead! We sat outside and talked and joked and I watched them play a Sicilian card game. It was a grand ol' time. Giorgio and I didn't get home until 5:00am, but because our time zone was set back an hour due to Daylight Savings Time, we were technically out until 6:00am... Whoa!

I only got a few hours of sleep that night because we were going to Calabria in the morning for Giorgio's friend's eighteenth birthday. Calabria is the "toe" of the "boot" of Italy, so we had to take a ferry boat across the strait to get there! It was my first time off the island since I first arrived on September 7th. I felt really strange at the party; no one, except Giorgio and his friend Mattia, talked to me. They all just stared and whispered to each other. The police came at some point, though I'm not sure what for; a noise violation, I assumed, because the music was playing very loud and the party was in an apartment building and it was very late on a Sunday night. We didn't get home from Calabria until 4:30am... After two nights of being out very late, I was nearly dead from exhaustion. Luckily, there was no school on Monday, due to yet another protest, so I got to sleep it off.

Unfortunately, I was not able to be a part of the university choir because I am a minor; the director listened to my audition, and told me to come back in March, when I turned eighteen. Conci talked to a friend of hers, who is the director of a church choir; I am now a part of that choir. I went to rehearsal on Tuesday; we are working on Christmas music, and a lot of the songs we're doing are traditional Sicilian songs. I am by far the youngest in the choir, and the others' voices are very mature and good. Our next rehearsal is tomorrow.

Saturday is Halloween and I am experiencing a bit of nostalgia for Halloween in America; people in Italy, and probably the rest of Europe, don't really dress up or make a big deal out of Halloween. We'll see how it goes...

Ciao for now!


14 October 2009

Taormina & Militello... Week No. 5

So when I said that Monday, October 5 marked my month... I was lying. I forgot that months are not measured by the passing of four weeks, as they should be. Wednesday, October 7 was the real anniversary of my first month here in Sicily. Sorry about the mixup.

The orientation wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Kylie and I finally met Lena, the other exchange student on the island. She is staying in Palermo, and it turns out that she is from Colorado! Obviously, the two of us bonded immediately; partly because our states are neighbors, and partly because we have a lot in common. Since meeting, we've kept in touch via Facebook. She's great and she's getting along really well on her own in Palermo! I'm impressed. I think I would've felt lost and alone without Kylie... But you never know, huh?

We changed classrooms and switched to full school days on Wednesday... It was a strange transition. Nobody told me which class I was supposed to go to so I kind of just wandered the halls, looking for a familiar face, for about an hour on Wednesday. I tried to find my tutor (counselor) on Wednesday and Thursday so we could choose my new classes, but she was nowhere to be found. I finally found her on Friday and we picked out the classes I will switch into, hopefully this week.

I went to Taormina with Kylie and her host mom, Conci, on Saturday... And oh my god, I absolutely fell in love. Everyone had boasted that it was the most beautiful city on the entire island, but I never could've imagined... Words cannot even begin to describe the magnificence that is Taormina; you honestly just have to see it for yourself (though I will post some pictures that Kylie took so you can at least get an idea; I broke my camera a few weeks ago). And because it is the most beautiful city on the island, it is a tourist destination if I ever saw one... I think I heard more English spoken that day than I did Italian, which was strange and kind of a relief. But being around so many tourists who would only be there for a few weeks at most and knew only a few Italian words made me feel more like a native... It was awesome! It really put this whole exchange in perspective for me.

On Sunday, my host family and I headed to a small town called Militello, where there was a huge mostarda festival; apparently, people from all over Sicily and Europe and the world come for this festival! It was very cool... Oh, by the way, mostarda is an Italian specialty, made of candied fruit and a sort of mustard flavored syrup... I don't really like it, but it's very popular here. Fichi d'India (prickly pear) is the most common type here in Sicily. There was a Native American band playing traditional Indian music; I couldn't believe it! I automatically assumed there were from North America, but upon asking, it turns out they are from Bolivia... Either way, the music was good and they were very friendly. After a very long day and an even longer weekend, we went home and ate dinner, but were constantly startled by the sound of fireworks... There was apparently a celebration of the Madonna in a nearby neighborhood. After dinner, we watched through the window... An incredible weekend, no doubt!

My homesickness has subsided, for the most part. I feel a lot more at home here than I did a few weeks ago; I think it was just a matter of time and adjustment. I am having a wonderful time, meeting incredible people and seeing unbelievable things... I have a feeling this exchange will go by really fast, once the ball gets rolling!

More later,


03 October 2009

Lei piace la lingua italiana... Week No. 4

Monday, October 5th will mark my first month of being abroad. Granted, it has been a rocky first month, in terms of homesickness and such; about once a week, I would get really homesick and bawl my eyes out for three or four hours... But other than that, things have been great. I am still adjusting to the city life, but I think I'm finally getting a hang of it. I've ridden the bus several times, have begun to navigate my way around the city on my own, and am proud to say I am gaining proficiency with the language more and more every day. My grammar is far from perfect, but I can piece sentences together well enough to be understood by almost anyone I come in contact with. I've received praise from many natives on my Italian, and I am attributing it entirely to the fact that my host family speaks hardly any English, which has forced me to pick up the language. I admit, their inability to speak much English was incredibly overwhelming and often frustrating for the first couple of weeks, but I'm finally realizing that it has benefitted me immensely.

That being said, I must also admit that, despite my ever-growing vocabulary and understanding of the language, I still don't understand the lessons in school. But that will come eventually, I've been told. My classmates are great; they are very friendly and helpful and they look out for me. From my experience, I've noticed that for the most part, students treat each other differently here than they do in the States. Everyone in my class gets along, regardless of cliques and different social circles and such; unfortunately, the same cannot necessarily be said about high schools in America. It's a really great atmosphere, because from what I have seen, there's a pretty evident feeling of acceptance.

In the past week, I have spent a significant amount of money... But I think such is justified because I hadn't spent more than fifty euros during my first three weeks here. And since the one-month anniversary of my stay here is coming up, I felt it only right to treat myself! I bought the Hobbit and read it all in about five days... I also bought the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy on DVD in Italian (it's called "Signore degli Anelli" here); is it even necessary to say that I'm ecstatic? I also found my new favorite store, INTI, where there is plethora of one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry (my favorite!); I bought a few necklaces from there, as well as some rather comical pins for my Rotary jacket. And then, of course, I finally bought shoes... Two pairs of boots, to be exact. I am determined to save up a few months of Rotary allowance to buy a really incredible pair of genuine Italian leather boots... Perhaps I'll treat myself at Christmas or on my birthday. I suppose we shall see. And while we're on the subject of boots, I have a story. Kylie and I went into a very expensive shoe store, knowing we couldn't afford even a shoelace from there, but just wanting to take a peak around... I started to pick up this gorgeous pair of suede ankle boots, when suddenly, this sales lady runs up to me and starts waving her arms and saying something I didn't understand... Finally, she pointed to a little sign, which I then noticed sat above every pair of shoes in the store. I had thought it was a price tag or something upon first glance, so I didn't bother reading it. Turns out it said "Please, do not touch" in at least four different languages. You know you're out of your league when the shoes have their own "do not touch" signs... So we booked it outta there pretty quick.

Today is Saturday, and normally, I would have school today... But there's a student-teacher protest today. Apparently, the head of education in Italy wants to cut the three-month summer vacation down to one month. So while I could not attend the protest, I did get to reap the benefits and sleep in. Awesome much? I sure think so. Kylie's host parents are out of the town for the weekend, so she is staying with me. I can already tell this will be a very fun weekend. Our orientation is tomorrow- unfortunately, this consists solely of the students in Sicily (that is Kylie, myself, and one other girl in Palermo) and our host parents, having lunch with some Rotary people. We're pretty disappointed because everyone in other countries got a really fun orientation, with at least twenty other students and a weekend of fun. We island-dwellers are certainly getting the short-end of the stick in terms of Rotary events, but I guess we are lucky to be on an island for the next ten months... You win some, you lose some! We'll make the best of it, regardless. And we're really excited to meet the girl from Palermo; I can't imagine how lonely and homesick she must be. Kylie and I were really lucky to end up in the same town, because we have become a sort of safe haven for one another, when we get homesick or whatever.

Lovin' life on an island in the Mediterranean! Will be writing more updates soon.

Ciao ciao!