2006-07 Outbound to Italy
Hometown: Middleburgh, FL
School: Middleburgh High School
Sponsor: Orange Park Rotary Club
Host: Castiglione Delle Stiviere Rotary Club
District 2050, Italy
Ciao! My name is Anastasia, but everyone calls me Stacy. I am 16 years old. I was born in Hawaii and until I was about three, we moved back and forth between Hawaii, Japan, and Florida. Finally, we settled in Clay County, Florida, where I have spent the rest of my life so far. I live with my two brothers (17 and 15), and my parents.
I am half Japanese and half American; which means that half of my family lives in Japan and the other half lives in Florida. So every year my family and I go to Japan to visit our family and friends. I suppose this is one of the main reasons why I wanted to become a foreign exchange student. I know what it’s like to be bi-cultural and bi-lingual, and I love it! I love Japan so much and I know I will grow to love Italy as well. Thank you Rotary for this opportunity!!
November 4 Journal
Wow, I’ve been here for almost two months now and it feels like two weeks. I’ve done so much already it’s crazy! I am staying with a family of four in a small town called Volta Mantovana. It is a very beautiful place. I have two sisters; Chiara who’s 17, and Giulia who’s 21.
Okay, let’s start from the beginning. I arrived here on September the 8th. On my second day here, I went to some type of medieval festival. It was really cool!! There were many streets that were all decorated in medieval time and there many people dressed up as well. And with the already old houses and stone streets, it was perfect! There were places where you could play medieval games and eat weird food. But my favorite stand was the stand in which they made candles in the old fashion way. I had never seen anything like it. It was totally awesome!!
Then on the 11th, school started. Most all of my friends here are from my class in school. I remember nervously walking in, wondering what I will have to face in the upcoming months for six days in the week. (yes, that's right, SIX full days every week!!!). Then there was a blur of faces as everyone in the room (at that time about 10-15) came to shake my hand and introduce themselves. I couldn’t remember a single face or name for days. But everyone was really nice.
Later that month I had my 17th birthday. since I had only been here for a couple of weeks and I hadn’t made that many good friends, I expected that nobody would remember it. Boy, was I wrong. The night before my birthday, my friends at school took me out to eat pizza and play pool. They even bought me a gift (a cute cap with the Italian flag on it). I had the time of my life. Then on the day of my birthday, my host family prepared a very special lunch for me. Complete with one of the best cakes I had ever had! And at night another friend of mine from the Rotaract club here took my host sisters and me to Hard Rock Café “to make you feel at home.” That night alone would have made my year. Not only did I get to listen to American rock songs and eat a huge cheeseburger, but they had put a message for me on the big screen that was in front of the restaurant. It said something like “Happy Birthday, Stasy. Welcome to Italy. We hope you enjoy your stay.” And though they had spelled my name in the weirdest way possible, it was the sweetest thing ever!! After the meal, the lights in the whole restaurant went down low and some of the waiters came out bringing a cake with a single candle, and instead of rock songs on the speaker, the Happy Birthday song came on. I think that I could honestly say that that weekend was one of the best weekends of my entire life.
Well, other than that I have been to many small cities such as Mantova and Padova. Everywhere I go, I am surrounded by beauty. Either the beauty of nature, such as the mountains and Garda Lake, or the beauty created by man long ago, such as old cathedrals all painted with beautiful scenes of angels.
Thank you so much, Rotary for giving me this opportunity.
December 20 Journal
Oh my gosh!! I cant believe that Christmas is already pretty much here! Time is going by too fast!
OK, there are a few things that I forgot to mention in my last journal. Let's start with school. I forgot to say that I joined the tamburello and the volleyball teams at my school. Tamburello is a type of funky tennis that you play on teams, a weird racket and without a net. but it's a lot of fun. Unfortunately that only takes up two of my afternoons a week (unfortunate, because I really enjoy them). I have one main class in the third year. I was very fortunate, because I have a really good class, as in everyone in it is really awesome! I love to hang out with them. Then I have three new classes in the first year. In those classes I take German, economy, and law. Okay, so I realize that for me, taking Italian law and economy classes is pretty much pointless, but I'm actually learning a lot, and I'm enjoying them.
Anyways, about two weeks ago, I changed families. now I have two siblings. Tommaso, my host brother is 24 and Chiara my host sister is 20. They're both really cool and extremely nice. I feel really at home with this family. I switched at the time I did because my second family was going to go the their apartment in the mountains for that weekend, and they wanted me to come with them. And that weekend turned out to be the highlight of.....maybe my whole exchange so far....
We arrived on Friday, and found that there was only artificial snow on the ski slopes. But my host dad took me to one anyway so that I could see it. I've seen snow before, but I didn't remember anything about it. It was really strange, I thought that it would be a bit different, I don't know how to explain it. One thing for sure, it was REALLY cold and wet! ^_^ I was so happy and excited!! But, I was a bit disappointed because I hoping that the whole place would be covered in snow. Well, the rest of that day, nothing of real interest happened. I went to bed and woke up with calm the next morning, then I looked out of my window to find the world WHITE!!! I was soo excited. I ran outside immediately with my jacket to take pics. And not only was there snow covering the ground, but it was snowing, and it snowed almost all day! it was so much fun!
The next day I went ice skating for the first time in my life, and I didn't even fall once. I was actually really proud of myself for that, as it was a bit more difficult than I thought I would be. lol. I didn't get the chance to go skiing yet, but my host brother promised to teach me during the winter vacation which started today. In fact, we are heading for the mountains again tomorrow!! ^_^ cant wait! The part of the mountains that we stay in used to be part of Austria, and so many people still speak German there. Well, it's actually like a German mixed with Italian. It's really interesting. Everything is like part German, part Italian, and part English (as they get a lot of tourists).
Anywhos, so today I just came back from watching Eragon with some of my school friends, and I found that I could actually understand a lot of things that were said! ^_^ I was soooo happy! I'm definitely going to try and watch more movies now.
Okay, well, I have to go and pack for tomorrow. I hope that everyone has a Buon Natale e felice anno nuovo!!!!!
February 20 Journal
Oh my gosh!!!! Winter Vacation was AWESOME!! I don't know where to start. My family and I went to the mountains again, and we stayed there for the most part of it. Well, at least Tommy, Chiara, and I did. One of the coolest things was that I learned how to ski!!! I got a private teacher to teach me for three days!!! It was so much fun...it makes me really sad to think that I might not be able to do it again for a really long time. I fell so many times, but I eventually got the hang of it. And I absolutely love it!!!
Then there was another day in particular. It was like a birthday party of some friend of Chiara and Tommy. The parents of this friend apparently own like a mountain or something (like the ski lifts, etc) and so at night like at least 30 people went up to the top of the mountain (even though, of course it was closed for everyone else). Then went sledding to about a third way down where the dinner-part of the party was held in this restaurant (which is either theirs as well, or pretty much rented for the night!!!). Although the restaurant part was cool, and the food was really good, the coolest part was the way there and the way down. From the top to the restaurant, I went with Chiara. She was on the front and I was in the back. And as I have never been sledding before, I had no idea what I was supposed to do. So, Chiara just told me that when she says slow down, dig my heels into the snow and try and use one of my hands to help as well. haha...well, let's just say we had a little adventure. First off, we couldn't see anything because it was night and really dark, and Chiara wasn't so confident to start off with. The slope was pretty steep. I was in the back, so I had Chiara in front of me to shelter me, but she had no one, so as we started to go faster and faster and started to lose control, she kept screaming at me to help her slow down, but when I tried putting my hands down (and they were gloved) they turned to ice, and when we put our feet down, waves of snow kept hitting our faces!! So I picked up my feet because, if you don't know, snow is really cold, and oceans of snow hitting your face while you're going really fast down a mountain on a freezing cold night is a little bit different than oceans of water hitting your facing while knee-boarding on a hot summer afternoon in Florida. When we finally got to decently flat land and finally came to a stop, Chiara and I both had a layer of ice covering our face and hair!! ...let's just say that after dinner, I went the other two thirds of the way with Tommy, while Chiara went down with some other girls on this machine made for snow.
For New Years, Chiara and her friends took me to their friends' house in Venice! We stayed in their small apartment that had four rooms, one really short and small hallway (wide enough for only one person at a time unless you want to walk sideways), and another room for the dining and kitchen. Sure, that's enough room, except that there were about 13 of us in total, if not more! That was my first time in Venice, and I absolutely loved it. We were there for about 3 days. It was really weird living in a world without cars. If you wanted to do a lot of grocery shopping, you either did it a little at a time, or you had these little cart things to hold your stuff in. Or else you had no choice but to carry it all back to your house on foot. I've always known that there were no cars in Venice, but I never realized how strange and different that could actually be. A little before midnight, we started walking to one of the main piazzas, but we never reached it. We got as close as we could, all of us, except me, in there 20s holding hands like in kindergarten so as not to get lost. But there was so many people, we couldn't even get close to it!! It reminded me of a Japanese train during rush hour. People packed in shoulder to shoulder. It's crazy because the area was huge! But we ended up going to a smaller less important one! There was lots of people on the streets dancing and singing! It was a lot of fun!!
Soon after, school started again. But every once in a while we go to the mountains for the weekend. Nothing new there though. Chiara and Tommaso usually come home for the weekend, so most Friday nights I go out with Chiara and her friends. And on Saturday nights I'm either at the mountains or I go out with my school friends.
The only other thing interesting is the foods that I've tried. One day I came home from school and it was just me and my host dad. There was a pile of meat on the table. I had never eaten anything strange in this family then, so i just nonchalantly put some on my plate and took a bite. I was like "hmm...not bad." Turns out he was feeding me RAW HORSE!!!! I just couldn't get myself to eat any more after he told me. Then, about a week ago, my host brother and I were in the kitchen when I decided that I was hungry. So, he made me a toast and smothered something that I thought was some type of jam on it...but of course, it wasn't. It was duck liver.
Well, that's about it for now. Until next time!! Love everyone!
April 26 Journal
How much time is left until I have to go home?? I have no idea because I'm too scared to count. All I know is that it's less than two months away!!
Anywhos, lots of things happened since the last time I wrote, and I don't know where to begin, as always. I have done a lot of traveling these days, all but one here in Italy. I would start with the highlight of this month or two, but there's a couple of them.....so I guess I'll start from the beginning. Towards the end of February, I went on a four day vacation to my now most favorite city, LONDON!!! It was so awesome! Every little detail was amusing to me, such as the double-decker busses, the cute little houses, and the amazing English accent. We were pretty much running from place to place, but in this way I got to see everything!! Big Ben, the London Tower, the British museum, the Science and History museum, and tons of other famous places that you always see on TV. And it was especially awesome because the food was very similar to American food. I got a Starbucks with Krispy Kreme doughnuts everyday we were there (and for all the other exchange students that are Starbucks addicts and don't have a Starbucks in their city, understand my joy).
The second most awesome thing that happened was my school field trip to Florence! We went for three days, and it was soooo much fun!!! The bus trip there and back was pretty long, but the time went by fast as I spent the whole time playing and talking with my friends. We didn't get to see all that much of the city, but we saw the basic things. My favorite was the cupola (and I don't know how to say that in English). It's the little round part of the dome where you can climb to the top (which I don't remember the exact number, but it's about 400 steps up a steep winding staircase). And from there you can see EVERYTHING. It was amazing! Especially because that was one of the last things we saw, and so I was able to point out all the things that we had already seen from the ground. Then there is the Uffizi, a gallery filled with famous and gorgeous paintings....paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Raffaello, Mantegna, and hundreds of others.
Another city that I got to visit was Milan! Technically, I've already been there three times before, but I have never had the chance to actually see the city. Both of my host siblings here live in Milan because they go to college there, so I stayed the night at their apartment. And spent the day in the city. We had sushi for lunch, which I really appreciated as I haven't eaten sushi in too long, then we went to the dome, the really old castle, and a couple of churches. It's a gorgeous city!
One day my host mother came to me and told me that she has a best friend in Verona (a small city between here and Venice) that wanted to host me for a day or two in their house. I went willingly, of course, as it seemed a lot of fun. And I am sooo glad that I decided to go. The family has three children (one about my age the other two in their early twenties) and everyone is EXTREMELY nice. The night I arrived we ate an excellent dinner, then their daughter took me on her motorcycle to see "Verona by night." We first went to a church that was located on a large hill, and we could see the lights stretch for miles and miles. It was beautiful! Then we took a ride between the hills before meeting up with a friend of hers in the city where we went for a walk around the city. I fell in love. Verona is not really big, but is one of the most beautiful cities that I have ever seen. I spent the next entire day walking in the city, seeing the balcony of Juliet (as in Romeo and Juliet), the Arena, and a couple of gorgeous churches. From then, I've returned one or two times, each time staying at least one night. Even though I am not living with this family, I feel as if they are my third family (which I won't have, if I didn't mention that already).
Other than that, my life these days has been full of parties and fun. I don't remember everything from the top of my head, but two parties stand out in particular. One of them is the one that I held for my friends' birthdays a couple of weeks ago, as it was the first party that I organized here in Italy. And it was interesting because I brought some American traditions into the party (e.g., party decorations and real cake with candles and starting before 8 at night). The other party was last Saturday. A friend of my host sister threw it, and it was an 80's / 70s party held at a small disco place. It was really cute, and we were all really crazily dressed up. It was definitely a night to remember ^_^ ....And since this year is apparently unusually hot here, we were able to open the pool, which I have been using constantly as I haven't been swimming since before I left the states (which for me, a Floridian whose favorite pastime is to swim in Florida's natural springs with her best friends, is something absurd). Oh, and I don't think I've ever mentioned, but I also started to take dance lessons. I take it here in my town, and the studio is really small, so it's only me and this other girl. Which means if she doesn't come, I have private dance lessons...hehe. I'm definitely not very good, but it's a lot of fun. Another thing that's been driving me crazy these past couple of months is the fact that the ice cream shops are open again!! I think that since they have opened, there's only been two or three days when I didn't eat a gelato or two (thank God I have the pool and dance to keep me in shape...lol).
Anywhos that's about it for the events that have taken place. So now I'll tell you about how I feel. And don't be shocked, but I'm finally understanding everything! I have no problems watching movies or having conversations with my friends and family. And it's AMAZING how much more fun life can be when you feel at home and comfortable and you know everything that's going on without having to strain or to have things repeated a thousand times! (unless of course some Italians decide it's funny to start speaking to you in dialect). I remember that before I came here I already knew that I would end up loving my country and my family. It happens to every foreign-exchange student, right? But it's weird. It's as if before now, I didn't even know what loving a country was like. I see now how much I was taking my country for granted and I feel as if now I truly understand what it means to love a country. And I'm not talking only of America, but this country, this place, this home. I miss my real family in America, and I can't wait to see them again, but I have no idea what I will do on June 19th when I will have to get on the plane and head back to America. Every moment of every day of this year will stay in my heart. And it's a thing I can't express in words, but I just wanted to thank you, Rotary, and my parents for giving me this chance and to let you know that it comes from the bottom of my heart.