The other day, while deciding what to write in this next blog, I decide that instead of giving you a detailed account of Florence, I will change where my blog is going. My post on Roma was long enough to cure anyone of the need to read highly detailed travel blogs, so I’m going to return to the things I’m doing in normal life here, and I might even write about how I feel about them. Hope this is ok with everyone, and don’t really care if it’s not.
One picture of Pisa. My and my lovely friend Anna, I was so confused by the whole ‘pretend you’re pushing it over!’ picture, I decided to make a ‘what the heck is this touristy fad?!’ picture. Enjoy.
So, here we go. This next bit is actually taken directly from an email I sent the lovely lady who organises my guest appearances on ABC 720. We were organising the next one, and I thought I’d fill her in on what has been going on. Then thought ‘Hey! I’ve just done a lot of work on my blog! Score!’ I may add a few things in, let’s just see how I feel:
‘I’m very settled in and am a part of this family now. My host parents are amazing people who, even though I spend way too much time on the computer, eat all the chocolate and salami [mmm.. so tasty] and sometimes miss school because I sleep through my alarm [this did happen. Ooops....], still encourage me all the time, ask about my Italian, help me learn and have helped me organise my trip to Germany, and are very willing to let me go. [A little too willing I think.. No, I jest]
They have also been great about finding a new host family. I got REALLY scared last week, because I emailed my counsellor here -each student has one person in their Rotary club whose job it is to look after us a bit, answer our questions and help deal with our problems- and asked that I have at least one other host family here. I didn’t actually tell my current family that I’d written this email, because I was scared I’d offend them even though I adore living here. [it's also hard to explain myself in another language eloquently enough to avoid making them a) confused or b) annoyed] My counsellor then directly emailed my host mother, without answering me, and said that I wanted a new family but that at the moment this wasn’t possible because they can’t find anyone else. I FREAKED OUT because I hadn’t yet spoken to them, and was worried blahblah. I cautiously brought it up the other day with my host father, saying that I’d emailed my counsellor, but that I loved living with them etc etc. He was really cool about it, agrees totally that I should have at least one other family so I can see how other Italians live etc. Phew!
I’m still going to school, which is fine, normal, boring. We start holidays very soon, the 12th of june. We are all very excited about it. [There's a chart on the wall and each day we cross off one day closer to the end. The highlight of my day, watching my friend make that cross.] Summer holidays here are 3 months long. Goodness. Apparently everyone goes to the sea and just lies in the sun. I need to tan more… I was finally asked the question that I’d been expecting since the beginning ‘why are you so white?’ Try translating “Because my mother is English, and the sun hates me…” into italian… haha.
People here are being nice, though I still miss my friends at home. Over the last week[more than a week now, as always it has taken me a while to write these blogs] there has been a huge shift in my brain, and going back to Australia no longer holds so much appeal. Australia means uni, work and, well, the real world. I’ve also recently been really anxious about coming home and finding all my friends have changed heaps and all hate me, or that I’ve changed too much that they hate me. I was told the other day that every day I’m here I mature 4 days. That’s a lot of maturity! As I have friends from America who are going home next week, we have been discussing their going home fears a lot, and so I’m prematurely scared… not pleasant, but I guess I’ll worry about that when it comes around. Right now I’ll just focus on learning this language and making friends for life.
The Alpini, the branch of the military that guard the Alps, had their annual get together a few weeks ago, and this year it was in my city, Bergamo. Once a year they converge, the young and the old, on one city to drink, dance and party. My friends and I went into the center on Friday of their stay, when not all of them had arrived. My good lord. I have never seen so many people at one time. These guys were drinking, singing, grabbing-good naturedly – at attractive passers by. We made the huge mistake of walking down a back street to escape the crowds. Because there were so many of them, they all had to camp where ever they could. A group had parked their van on the side of this road, and were very determined that we should come drink with them. My friend Julia, who’s tall, thin and blonde, had to dodge and escape from one of them, while myself and a friend were taken by the arm and a [i'd say 65 year old] man tried to pull us towards their table to celebrate with them. You must understand, these guys mean no harm, their jokes are just that and they would never seriously physically force someone to drink with them, they’re just out to have fun and would rather do it in the company of young attractive women… We were cat called, complimented and remarked upon all day, more frequently as morning turned into afternoon and more alcohol was consumed… To get to the train station and from there to home, I had to walk, alone, down the long main road of my city. I put on my fiercest face and strode along, not allowing myself to be detained by anyone. It’s things like this that enable me to grow, to know how to deal with all types of people, to look after myself in all situations. After this trip, getting into Midland station at 12am will not bother me, though it may still scare both mum and dad… :p
A nice Alpino man, who put his hat on my head and spoke with an insanly strong accent. Right before this I ate red wine gelato, there was also polenta and grappa, Alpini flavours. Amazing.
Here is one quote, out of the many, I wrote down about that weekend. It was said by my English teacher the Monday after, to one of the girls in my class:
‘Half million people in town, and you make friends with the guy running around half-naked with a monkey around his neck?!’ Needless to say, everyone had some stories.
I’m now going to lie outside on our hammock in the sun. Summer is here at last, and people everywhere are smiling and stripping off their winter layers. It’s nice to see so many people happy. Sitting at a bus stop after my Italian class yesterday I watched a man walking with his arms spread wide, just enjoying the breeze. I knew exactly how he felt.’
Seriously, the Alpini were amazing, sleeping everywhere and anywhere, harassing everyone, drinking and eating everything… How to tell an Alpino from a normal italian: He will be wearing a hat with a feather in it, holding some sort of beverage and yelling at you, in a suggestive way.
Now to more recent news. I went to the French island of Corsica a few weeks ago for four days. Genius, going to a french island four days before my italian exam, trying to remember my extremely limited french. I’m in idiot, I know, but it was so incredibly worth it. Corsica, at least Isle Rossa where I stayed, is the perfect relaxed seaside town, with beautiful beaches and fun places, with food from Italy and France and a confusing mix of Italian and French architecture.
Corsica was italian for years, and some of the older people still speak it, but not official italiano, but a Tuscan dialect. Just as I get a hold on one language, I’m thrown right back into the turmoil of not knowing anything. The buying of a pair of [very lovely] pants included enormous gestures and general French noises. The weirdest thing was that, even though people are more likely to speak english, especially in touristy places like this one, when I wanted something or didn’t understand I’d instantly speak italian. I’d say ‘ho voglio’ or ‘non ho capito’ instead of ‘I want’ and ‘I don’t understand’. I think my brain decided that italian and french are both weird foreign languages and they are all the same, right? I had one brilliant conversation which began with ‘Sa va?’ ‘Oui, sa va bien, merci, e toi?’ had ‘ so, do you live in Corsica?’ in the middle and ended with ‘ma, è Corsica come Venezia?’ It was nice that even though they see thousands of tourists everyday, these two waiters remembered me the next time I got a coffee at their bar. Corsica has many wonders, not just lovely french waiters, though they are a tourist attraction. The beaches are lovely, though the sand isn’t quite as white, or as squeaky, as South Beach.
I had one unsettling moment when I was followed for a few minutes by a man who, it turned out, thought I was a friend of his. I was alone, it was past midnight, and I was walking towards the beach, away from people, so got a bit scared. But all’s ok. I just spoke italian ath im and he was all ‘oh, sorry…’ I’ve got into this really great habit where I make funny faces, just to deter people who may think I’m attractive. You should try it sometime, it’s awfully fun walking down the street, and watching peoples confused, instead of suggestive, faces as I puff air in and out of my cheeks, while bopping along to some noise issuing from my headphones. [ Other strange new habits include shouting 'aiuto!' [help!] when I do something stupid, flailing my arms in an italian fashion and saying ‘ma, dai’ pronounced ‘die’, which basically equates to ‘oh, come on’] It was weird how strongly some parts of Corsica reminded me of W.A. The smell mostly. I think that some coastal plants were the same, as sometimes I could close my eyes and breathe in and be in freo again. Then I’d open my eyes, remember I was in FRANCE and mentally tell freo to shove it. All in all, Corsica was amazing, I loved it and will defiantly have to go back some day.
I also went to the Alps with my Rotary district for a night. We stayed in this little ‘rifugio’ where hikers stay. We each had one blanket, exceptionally squeaky beds and about 4 million bugs. It was a lot of fun though. I managed to fulfil one life goal and went hiking in a floral skirt that used to be my grandmothers… We spent the afternoon discussing our experiences [as almost everyone is returning home soon] and the evening watching the Champions game [GO INTER!] and sitting around the campfire and singing songs. I must say, we did an epic version of Bohemian Rhapsody. That night showed me once and for all that music is really able to link everyone. I managed to completely make an arse of myself while doing all the guitar solos vocally…. Too much fun. There is video footage of it somewhere. The next day as we strolled around the huge mounds of earth that are named the Alps, we, after so many months of coldcold winter and a weirdly rain-y spring, were assaulted by so much GREEN.
Getting blown away, green, green and me.
It was very pretty. Though we had to walk a LOT, and one hill was extremely vertical. Extremely. And we all got a but frumpy as we were tired and hot.
In case you’ve forgotten, I am appearing on ABC 720 radio every six or so weeks. By appearing I mean I talk at Gillian O’Shaughnessy for a while, and she has to listen. Doing radio is fun, even though I get so scared about a week leading up to every interview, and am practically paralysed with fear waiting for the phone to ring, then it takes all my will power to press the talk button. I’m really not sure how the interviews sound, I get positive feedback from people like my parents and Gillian and Rosie [the lovely lady who organised the interviews], but they all have to say nice things. Usually what happens is Gillian will ask my a perfectly acceptable question like ‘How are things different in your house now after four months of living there?’. Then I will ramble on about how great my host parents are because they buy me whatever tea bags I want, and now I know where the forks are. But I hope I get my point across, and they are ever so good at editing me so I sound like I make sense. I should always do that, pre-record what I’m going to say, then play it to people.
I now want to say something about my return, just so you are all prepared. I don’t want to come home. Right now because I still have eight months to go, but I know from talking to other students that the feeling of not wanting to go home just increases. It’s not that I don’t love you guys, I do, kinda, but everything is awesome here. Of course, everything here is also super hard, everything is strange and terrifying… But when I return to Australia, I won’t be able to buy amazing pastries for the small change I have in my pocket, I won’t be able to fly to Germany for three weeks for 66 euro [$95.50] and I won’t have conversations with my host mum that go ‘So, when you return from Germany, I think you should go to Paris, just for a few days, it’s a nice city. ‘ ‘umm..ok!’ See?! As much as I cried and whinged at the beginning, things are now much easier as I have a handle on the language, and have insane friends that do things like sit in class and imitate the Jokers laugh… They are all mad here, I swear. I still miss you guys, but as I’m only human, my brain can take only so much sadness and missing, til it gets distracted by, I don’t know, a birdy on a twig, and gets happy again.
To finish this blog, I’d like to show you two pictures I took in Corsica. The first is a dog I saw, which I swear is my cousin Jills old dog, Rupert. Look! It really is him! The second is a dog related, but is, in fact, a cow. But! One with stripes like my lovely dog Dolly [aka, the Lamb] has! She has come back as a cow! Be joyful family. The Lamb’s just chillin’ at the beach, instead of that specific cupboard that you really need to get into.
This has been ridiculous,
Ps: I was invited to a Rotaract do on Tuesday, the day I leave for Germany, so have to say thanks but sorry can’t. Was worried my counsellor would get annoyed, but got an email back that just said ‘ok, have a good trip, don’t drink too much beer’ Oh, and I’m going to Germany for three weeks. HELLYEAH. ahem.