Marea Frazel
2009-10 Outbound to Italy

Hometown: St. Augustine, Florida
School: St. Joseph's Academy
Sponsor: St. Augustine Rotary Club, District 6970, Florida
Host: District 2050, Italy

Marea's Bio

Buongiorno! Despite the peppy greeting of the morn, I’m definitely a night person, regardless of the early hours of my school week. That is probably the most important thing about me, other than my name. I am Marea Frazel, and I am proud to say that this young lady is an Italian Rotary Exchange Student! Officially, I am a fourteen-year-old sophomore at St. Joseph Academy in St. Augustine, Florida. Actually, my name, Marea, is Latin for ‘of the sea’, which tells one that I have had a predestination towards the Mediterranean aqua-life. Well, even if I don’t, I love the cold just as much as sizzling heat. Anyways, let’s start with my life. I grew up in different places…the Christmas room at my grandfather’s house, our family boat the “Snooty Fox” while it was in the Bahamas, a farmhouse out in the middle of Florida, the historic and palm tree framed city of St. Augustine, a blinding hot beach on the longest day of the year and a chilly ski slope on the shortest day. I have an older brother Dirk, who is 6’5 and has made sure to keep me safe through my 14 years, a younger sister Julia, who was born with a spinal disability but is all the more beautiful through her strength, and a younger brother Keelin, who keeps me active by ‘making’ me practice surfing and soccer with him.

Without a television set in the house, I found that reading was an entertaining use of my time, which has improved my vocabulary, and more importantly, fed my desire to travel. I don’t read that much anymore, but it still has had an important impact on my life. In the summer, we take the Snooty Fox (our boat) and travel to an island in the Bahamas called Bimini, where my best friend Shannon lives. During the hottest months, I’ve lived on a mix of her boat Adventurer and the Snooty Fox; scuba and free diving, fishing in tournaments, and spearfishing. The most important things in my life other than living in, on, and around the water are debating, philosophy and religion, learning, cooking, dancing, surfing, singing, friends, music, soccer, tennis, dancing, going out, and being the ‘most spontaneous’ of my social group. Florida is unlimited in its exploration qualities, and I have tried my best to exploit at least some of them. I am always up for an adventure, and Rotary (thankfully) has added to my quest count!

I can pick up languages quickly, solve things effortlessly, I get scared easily; I’m independent, vivacious, and ready for my Vita Italiana!

Marea's Journals

August 25 Pre-Departure Journal

Basically, my life is awesome right now. So my Italian isn’t perfect, so I don’t know how I’m going to pack everything into two 50 pound bags, so I haven’t found the PERFECT GIFT for my host parents, so I’m going to miss my family and the familiarity of it all. It doesn’t matter! I’m going to Italy for a whole year in 2 weeks! To live with 3 fabulous families! Other students are saying how one can’t describe what they are feeling. I’m riding the biggest high of my life! I’m ecstatic!

I wake up every morning and see that I’m one day closer to leaving all that I have ever known behind. I leap out of bed to get things done as quickly as possible. It is said that nothing can prepare you for this, and nothing SHOULD prepare you for this. This exchange, this experience, is about finding yourself. About seeing what you are going to do in situations that you truly cannot control, nor that you are prepared for.

To me, that is ridiculously exciting. I really get to test my limits, push myself to the very edge, see what my tipping point is! There are going to be challenges that I never thought of, and that I’m glad no one has told me. It’s like finding that really cool secret spot on your block that you made into a playhouse. No one ever told you about it, or what to do with it, but you had to work to make it like your own clandestine little abode and a place you enjoyed being.

As Henry Ford (Exchange Student 08-09) said, “You’re just going to have to find out for yourself.” Thank you, Henry, that was the best exchange student advice ever. You’re not supposed to be super-prepared. Being overwhelmed is half the battle. You have to know the low to appreciate the high. Once you overcome being beleaguered, you get to enjoy being at home in a foreign country!

The most exciting thing is that this exchange is actually happening. Life is a go. I knew it. I’ve known it. I’ve felt it for the past 200 days. The exhilaration is just bubbling and bubbling as the day grows closer! I can tell you all the emotions right now—

Envy - for those who are already there

Excitement -for EVERYTHING

Aggravation - at little things because you’re starting to get stressed

Elation - because this is the biggest event in all my 15 years!

Nervousness - you’re leaving everything you’ve ever known behind, of course you’re edgy!

And a few others, but those are the significant ones. Everyone’s different, so you may feel more Exasperation than Aggravation right now, but hey, it doesn’t really matter except to you.

Also, here’s a warning. Your real friends are going to miss you. Your fake ones will say they will, but they won’t. All of the above are going to be depressing to your joyous state because they’ll be complaining about how normal their lives are. The only people that shall really understand you are your exchange student friends. But even that doesn’t matter because you’re going to be leaving them too.

So I’ve been living my awesome life right now, looking around at that scintillating Florida sky, picking wildflowers and skipping when no one’s looking. I’ve been enjoying every day I am in Florida, and I can’t wait to spend a year in Italy. Grazie Rotary!!

XOXO Marea

October 9 Journal

Oh Rotary. What can I say... let's see. I've been in Italy for 4 weeks now. And it still is pretty surreal. This is quite the adventure. People ask, “Are you having an amazing time in Italy,” and I truly am, but I have an amazing time wherever I go. So what I'm trying to say is, you will have an amazing time if you think you will have an amazing time. I've gotten lost, messed up words, taken a bus by myself, broken things, gotten love letters, cried, TRIED, lied (on accident), eaten raw things on purpose (and oh how good it was), and missed the one and only America. That's the main thing: I love Italia dearly, its customs and its people and its language and everything! But as of right now, my heart belongs to America. Living out of the country (I know it's only been 4 weeks, but still) makes you realize how beautiful your “patria” really is. But enough of this pining.

So nothing terribly interesting happened on the plane flight. Of course I had the Exchange-Student-Crossing-The-Atlantic-Mental-Freak-Out where I doubted everything, saw the Italian Alps (really quite stunning), realized that America was everywhere (Thank you Jonas Brothers), did the whole awkward family meeting, and had them only talk to me in Italian! Actually, as I started talking to them (Anali and Aldo, my parents, and Luca, their son), I was so pleasantly surprised as to how much Italian I knew and understood! (How many people can say that!) It was an awesome start.

I'll give you one story too.

So....this was my first mistake in Italy. It started with breakfast in Amsterdam. I practically had straight hot, dark chocolate. Then I land in Italy, at lunch I have my first Italian espresso, a dark, thick, bitter substance that tastes oohhh too good. I go home, my mother asks “Time for a café?” to which I reply a little-too-enthusiastic “Yes!” Then, after a delicious dinner, another “Vuoi un café?”....with another WIDE-EYED “Si, Grazie!” as a response. That was my first sleepless night. Following morning café for breakfast, café after lunch, café for a snack, and café after dinner - I was being Italian, what's so wrong about that? Only the fact that the caffeine overload made me as jittery as a...jitterbug? And I literally didn't sleep that night either. The next morning, looking frazzled (Get it?? Frazel-ed?), was the first (with many following) time I said “Please, no café!”. Anali replies to me, “Why, are you okay?” to which I explain that after 7 cafés in the past two days I was a little “agitata”, which she proceeds to find hilarious and tells everyone the story whenever we have café. So note; you really don't have to totally immerse yourself in any said lifestyle immediately.

So, sure Italy is a beautiful country etc., etc. But to me, it's the little things that make me really happy every day, not just “Oh my gosh I'm in Italy!” that had me esctatic at first. Now, it's when the Duomo Vecchio is open, or I can help some lost Americans, or when I finally figure out that one word that everyone has been using. It's not just what makes me happy, but it's the little things that basically make my life. So that's what this journal is about, the little parts of my life.

Marea's Guide to Italy!

1. FOOD. Let's start with food, because Italy really is all about the food.

I miss sweet tea!!!!!!!!! Those in the South, enjoy your sweet tea! (PS. I tried buying it, it was terrible, but now I make it and it's excellent!)

ITALIANS HATE ICE and think that Americans are crazy for having ice with everything

They love coffee all the time.

Bread and cheese both cost a dollar, and they are exquisite.

You eat like this: Pasta dish, vegetable dish, meat dish, bread dish whenever you want, fruit dish, dessert dish, café!

The Gelato and The Pasta really are awesome.

POLENTA. POLENTA. POLENTA CON FORMAGGIO! (It's a Bresciano thing).

Bubbly everything. Wayyy too bubbly. Water, Coke, etc.

They put olive oil on everything. But never pepper...

Things are not cold.

The gum isn't very good.

2. CULTURE. The next thing is the little quirks that I've noticed and I've taken to calling them Culture.

They appreciate beauty. I think it’s interesting, not chauvinistic or anything, because the women in Italy appreciate beauty too. On the same note, there is an unspoken law that men must always dress nicely and look good for the ladies; and the ladies must always dress nicely and look good for the men. Isn't that lovely?

They want to know immediately if you like the Italian pizza and the Italian boys.

They judge your age based on what year you were born in. It's like in America, asking what's your zip code instead of where you live.

Teenagers are teenagers are teenagers are teenagers.

Cigarettes are not the taboo that they are in America.

The guys are very charming and NICE. So everyone in America stop saying “Watch out for those Italian boys”. You're wrong.

They LOVE Ikea.

You kiss left cheek to left cheek, then right cheek to right cheek. Always.

They love Raybans and Abercrombie.

They are really serious about finding mushrooms in the mountains and playing card games. Really serious.

They really do chop off the ends of words when they speak in dialect.

They LOVE Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. I thought they were dead. Not in the hearts of Italians.

They love cheesy American music. And the song “I've got a feelin'”. Why, I do not know, because they have some incredible music.

They wear the same clothes for 2 days in a row. It's always a weird case of Déjà vu for me.

They don't understand political positions, like Right or Left. It's only “Communist” or “Republican”.

Everyone wears watches.

Shoes ON in the house.

I don't know why they think that The Mullet is still an acceptable haircut.

3. ITALY. This is about Italy, the country, not the people and the customs.

There is graffiti EVERYWHERE. I think it's because I live in a city, and that being so civilized has made kids want to break out and express themselves. Everyone in Italy hates it, but I think it has a painful beauty.

There are niches everywhere. Like little shrines for Mary or Jesus or saints. Everywhere.

You know you're in Italy when you see 3 red Ferraris, a Maserati, and 2 Lamborghinis in less than 5 minutes. True story.

They don't use paper towels.

They don't have microwaves.

They don't have measuring cups or teaspoons, etc.

They have little shops for everything, no Target or Walmart or Publix.

Bathrooms. Bathrooms. All are so so so strange.

MOUNTAINS! Are sooo beautiful.

Their “Loggia” (a building in centro) was erected before America was discovered.

There are medieval castles. Legitimate ones.

America is everywhere! Music, movies, TV. Everything.

Going 100 MILES per hour, in a tunnel, while passing someone, with cars heading towards you, honking, is totally okay.

I've found Waldo 3 times now... (red and white striped sweatshirt, jeans). They don’t always find it amusing when I say I FOUND YOU!

The Pope is coming to Brescia! I really hope I get to see him!

Italy is ridiculously, breathtakingly beautiful and I love it!

4. SCHOOL. This is about the schooling, which is a majority of my week.

Of course, we stay in the same class and the teachers switch classes. We also have a break every 2 hours for a snack.

Everyone in my class goes to sleep sharply at 9 pm.

The school doesn't care if you chew gum in class.

They learn the “Passive Form” in English class. I'm sorry, I don't even know the passive form. The SAT doesn't even know the passive form. I'm pretty sure the passive form hasn't been used since... Shakespeare?

You are allowed to have beards in school.

You don’t graduate high school till you are 20.

There's not a clock, not even a pencil sharpener in the classroom.

They still use blackboards. Like with chalk. And a blackboard.

They think that Americans only teach American History in History class.

Girls like to wear 2 different earrings, or only one earring.

They are very interested about the death penalty and why Americans have it.

There is a receiving line for kissing and hugging when you get to school.

The guys are not afraid to express themselves through music choices, fashion choices, hair choices. And boy, do they make them.

They only want to know what you did on Saturday. Not the weekend, just Saturday. RIP Friday night and Sunday.

Girls love cute things like Barbie, Hello Kitty and Pooh for their notebooks and book covers. I felt like I was in kindergarten again?

5. MAREA LESSONS. These are all about the things that I have learned and noticed.

For the first few days, listening to Italian, translating the language in your head, and then translating what you want to say back IS ABSOLUTELY EXHAUSTING.

Exchange students are the most amazing people in the world, and there is no such thing as too much love between us.

I really miss my comfy, lounging clothing. Bring your favorite old sweatshirts.

It's the little things that irk you, but you have to realize that and get over them, or try and fix them.

I am forgetting American terms for things or doing something, so I just refer to it in Italian (in centro, fare un giro...).

On my 5th day in Italy, I got mistaken for an Italian. That was cool.

Everything anyone has ever said about the beauty of Italy was right.

Don't watch public Italian television at 1 in the morning when you can't sleep. Just. Don't.

Cicha, Cioccolato e Carte; e tutti vogliano essere il tuo amico. (Gum, Chocolate, and Cards, and everyone wants to be your friend).

I miss Southern accents, PopTarts, 5 gum, sweet tea, rap music, And Chick-fil-a. NOT McDonalds, peanut butter, OR macaroni and cheese.

No I don't live near Miami; no I don't go to McDonalds and to Abercrombie everyday; Yes I have tried the pizza and of course it is delicious; Yes, Italy is the best and I haven't visited Rome, Florence, Venice, or Milan yet because I've been here for a week; and NO I do not want café.

This is the first time that everyone that I have ever met pronounces my name right.

It is perfectly normal for an exchange student to walk into a store, buy 37 postcards and stamps for 10 different countries, and then walk out. I don't understand why Italians don't get that.

I haven't heard a face to face American voice in 3 weeks. When I finally did (while talking to an Italian who spent a year in Oregon, and he slipped into perfectly accented American English), I almost cried. It's definitely something you miss.

I'm really proud of how well I understand and know Italian! It's not perfect but it gets better and better every day!

I miss the noise of a household of 6.

I can understand songs in Italian!!!!!! And I always have these moments where I FINALLY realize what that one person has been saying every day and I say “OH!!” aloud and everyone stares.

I am so proud of The United States of America, more than I've never experienced before.

As you can see, this is ONE WHOLE amazing experience. But it's the little things that absolutely amaze you. That literally stop you in your tracks or make you spin in circles. Literally. All the Little Parts of this amazing Whole: The Little Parts of my Whole exchange, in the Little Part of Brescia of the Whole of Italy, thanks to all the Little Parts of Rotary Florida in the Whole Rotary International. Thanks for showing me how to appreciate the world, one little piece at a time.

October 31 Haiku Journal

Ciao!! Well another month has passed, and I have learned quite a lot. I was reading another travel journal the other day and it said that when you're bored, try to write a haiku.  It's a nice way to organize your thoughts into neat little 3 line poems, and you look pretty cool sitting there with pen in hand trying to capture all your rampant thoughts into 17 syllables.  I rather enjoy it, and think that my work over the past month has summed up what October meant to me. Sorry that they are kind of vague and dreamlike, but this month I spent a bit of time in my head thinking. Also I was going through culture shock, so that was pretty thought-filled.  I'm pretty sure I'm over it now. I would like to give a big thanks to Rotary Florida and Italia for everything; adesso, ciao ed a presto.

I'll start with my most traumatic experience this month, eating Spiedo, a typical Bresciano dish...

            The little heads crunch

            Bones and eyes and all the meat

            Did I eat Tweety?

(P.S. Spiedo consists of little birds, as in little baby chicks, that have been skewered by the hundreds and roasted in little bird-ovens. It's a big deal here. Needless to say, it was also very interesting and different than what I am used to eating, but I enjoyed the overall experience.)

Venice...it had a great impact on me.

            Rotting yet living

            Memories and old secrets

            Movements in alleys.

            The light emerald water

            Salty, woody smells about

            Sunlight in the square.

            Gondolas swishing

            The slow and fast of people

            Everything balanced.

Milano...

            Cold and chaotic

            Smells like perfume and mad style

            Baroque yet holy.

Brescia...

            Honey golden yellow

            Brisk, humid, chilly outside

            That burnt smell of smog.

            All the trees the same

            Greenish yellow slowly fall

            They make not a sound.

My autumnal days...

            Walking in the cold

            Talking about boys and such

            We part at the school.

Oh how they speak fast

Sitting on the noisy bus

We all share iPods.

Compito, Testo,

Interrogazione

Non piac' liceo.

Haikus are no help

Profe's voice is too soothing

I might fall asleep!

Eating panini

Stealing Goleadors and pens

Hands on the heater.

Turtlenecks and scarves

Have to have designer belt

So vain with their hair.

A full five course meal

Watching the show Beautiful

Ciao, Carla's leaving.

I sit at a bar

With a coffee and a book

Don't pay for the drink...

Ciao Ciao Ciao Ciao Ciao

Come va? Come stai? Boh.

Ci vediamo!

Bellisima Bell'

Bellisima Bella Bell'

Bellisima Bell'

Always do shopping

See stylish people you know

Drink coffee and coke.

I quit facebook once

Life; different: I wrote post cards

Now I'm back online.

Writing and writing

Postcards to those that I love

I hope they treasure.

Gossip Girl and House

MTV that plays music

All in Italian.

My thoughts this month (in more or less chronological order...do you see my culture shocking and then change?)

Sometimes it's better

After you cry, but sometimes

You want to cry more.

Ethnocentrism

I must open my blocked mind

I love Italia?

I have my bad days

The days where I cry and cry

But then there is sun.

The bad will be there

But it's only to balance

How great it will be.

I smile and laugh

These people are so crazy

Happy I chose this.

I learn and I learn

Something awesome everyday

This is why I came.

Now I have to do

Translations from It. to Eng.

All in my new brain.

“Sei Ital'ana?”

“No...”  “Ma parli la lingua!”

“Si...” “E sei brava!”

This is hard at times

But it's not really that hard

I find it easy.

 November 23 Journal

This is so weird. Still. In 2 weeks I will have been here for 3 months. You know what I want? Well I want to dream in my host language. That's all I want. Not peanut butter, not even PopTarts. Can I just dream in Italian? I can discuss Obama out the ying-yang, talk about how long I've been here like a pro, even go over the past weekend AND the coming weekend all in Italian---But I can't dream a little bit in Italian? It kinda makes me feel like a failure. Come on subconscious!

Anyway, this has been an interesting 3 months. You will hear this a million times but it is so true: It feels like I've been here for so long, but it seems like I just arrived yesterday. I still don't understand this little thing called “socially appropriate” or at least “school appropriate” and I'm always surprised at my class's actions and reactions. But I can understand when people are talking about me (in good ways and bad; I guess the frequency evens out). So I'm progressing nicely. My only dream is to...well, to dream in Italian. I really want that knowledge that I'm fluent in the language.

Other than that, I've been doing well. I've got an awesome tutor at school who helps me a lot and really cares about me learning Italian. And I took an interogazzione!! For those of you who don't know, interogazzioni are Italian tests in school....but it is an oral test, and the whole class is listening. To you. Speak. Only. You. Luckily it was in an easy subject- Physics! (Better than philosophy! Considering I can't even understand it in English...). Anyway, so that day I knew I had my Physics interogazzione. I had studied all night, memorizing all the definitions and information in English AND Italian (just in case I forgot the Italian). The professor called on me, and the whole class got silent. The whole class. Thus starting my interoga (for short). Other than being ridiculously nervous, stumbling over every word, and getting a few giggles at my pronunciation, I fared pretty well and got an 8 (out of 10). And I have no idea what the equivalent is in American. I've also had to write at least 4 or 5 papers in Italian, which wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, and my tutor is satisfied. But I still have those moments where I am totally lost, so I put a smile on, laugh and say “Non ho capito NIENTE!”

I'm making friends, and I go out on the weekends so I have something to talk about with my classmates. However, it is kinda hard to connect with my classmates; I don't watch the Simpsons that often, when they speak in dialect I can barely make out the words, and I don't know a lot of the people or places we talk about. Plus, while they want to know every single aspect of my personal life, they are really close-lipped about theirs, which makes for an uncomfortable imbalance.

I find myself counting the time (distance back to America and that darned army time they are fond of)... but not the days. I barely knew it was November. This will be my first time without a Thanksgiving...and it feels strange, but I'm not sad. I judge the passage of time by what it looks like outside, and how it feels. It's getting colder, times moving on. The leaves on the walk on my way to school have changed from a dark green to a golden yellow, darkening to orange like a Marathon sunset, then red as the dangerous sun at morning, falling and falling, turning into mush from the rain...and rain...but to see those jewel colors even when the sky is nebulous and milky, always puts a little swagger in my step and makes my toes feel a little less cold. I still stay up too late and sleep in on Saturday mornings. I still daydream in class. I still study way too hard and think I haven't done enough. I'm still Marea.

But hey you know what was really nice? The other day my host parents had to go out to a benefit dinner, but my mom asks me “Hey Marea, how does prosciutto crudo, not cotto, salad and goat cheese sound for your dinner?” with a little look in her eye. Then she said “Or would you like carpaccio?” Why was that nice? Because those are my favorite dishes and she knows it and remembered it. That's really cool. It meant a lot more than I think she knew. I've come to really appreciate when people do stuff like that, like remember my favorite food, or today in class the teacher referred to me as “Freezer” and a bunch of kids piped up and said “Si dice Mahrrrreah Frahzil!”. It's nice to be known. (Or to be recognized as “So YOU'RE the famous American accent everyone hears around school!”...just kidding that was kind of awkward.)

But this has become my home. And this is the funny thing...I don't miss America right now, but I KNOW that I am SO going to miss Italia when I have to return. Are yah happy Rotary?! But thanks anyways, this is still awesome. :)

Marea

February 26 Journal

For a while I was having troubling trying to find something to write about. Sure, I could talk and brag about the places I've been and the places I'll go, the people I've met and the one's I'd like to, but that has been done before. This journal's theme is family. For many of you future exchangers, this will be your first time living in a different family. It was such an enigma for me last year. What will it be like? Will I miss my old real family? Will my new host parents be too strict, cold, distant, unloving? Those thoughts all disappeared when I moved into the Guardo household.

My first thoughts were - it's just like at home. Slowly, my thoughts became that this IS my home. What makes one at home? Love, first of all. There is love in the Guardo family and they have included me in it. But it's not that happy all the time perfect family love. It's a tough love at times, in essence, a family love. Yeah, so you're in a family Marea, big deal. What does that have to do with me? I'm scared just about the language. Well, I don't know what it means to you. Maybe it's an assurance that, there will be someone - in that scary, fascinating foreign country that you will be in - that will be there for you. That you're not going to be alone.

So Marea, you're in a family....What does family mean? For me, a family doesn't speak in the morning because you know that you are all too sleepy to talk. A family doesn't eat together because we all have our own lives. A family makes fun of each other, pinches and pokes and hugs and kisses and laughs and cries. A family does each other's laundry, and takes turns with the dishes. A family goes on vacation together, and laughs when one of them falls on the ski slope... but then goes on an easier slope for said fallen one. In a family there are a million nicknames for everyone, and you rarely hear your Christian name. A family steals food from each other's plates and helps each other with homework. A family knows each other's weights and shoe sizes, judges aloud each other's clothing choices, knows what food everyone likes, everyone's zodiac signs and what they are most sore about (so you can make fun of them). A family knows each other's voices on the phone, and there's no hesitance in calling at any hour. And in a family, there are a million ways to say shut up, and none of them are mean. To your family is where you come home and cry or discuss or complain or ameliorate or brag...but your family keeps you in check. Family is where you learn the language...even if it is Russian instead of Italian while you're in Italy. Family is with whom you discuss and form new ideas that have been brought about by happenings that you don't fully understand, yet you try and you learn and you grow.

Essentially, my new family is the most important part of my exchange. No, we don't even eat dinner together. We don't go mountain biking together (we prefer skiing) and we don't sing “Sweet Child O Mine” in the Range Rover (The Italian Anthem is much more preferred). But they have helped me when I was sad or sick, they have educated me on things I would never be educated on, they've reprimanded me, applauded me, given me a curfew, forgiven me, shared their life experiences with me, guided me in my decisions, opened up their lives to me and in general completely changed my life. I will never be the same after having been part of the Guardo family. They are more than just friends or people that I live with, Nicola has been as a father to me and Gale as a mother, Michele, Giulia and Alessandra are my brother and sisters. Everything has changed because of them, my language skills, my adapting skills, my grades, my thoughts, my future!

This is what shall happen on exchange-your life will change in a million ways. Mine changed largely because of my incredible family - yours may change drastically because of a teacher, a best friend, another exchange student, a city, a sunset, anything - but your life will change. Well, at least it did for me. I cannot in a million years repay the kindness of Nicola, Gallina, Giulia, Michele, and Alessandra for including me in their family, nor thank them enough for their hospitality and being part of my life. Thank you Rotary, for connecting me with this family, it never would have happened without you.

April 22 Journal

Going on Spring Break in Europe brings lots of imagery to mind, that of MTV or National Lampoon...but take all that out of your head now. Instead I celebrated the Easter holidays in Montebello, a fraction of the city of Perugia in Umbria (middle Italy). Now, this wasn't your normal Spring Break, but what in the world is “normal” when you are on exchange?! This is what went down...

I made a pilgrimage to Assisi and meditated at Francesco di Assisi's tomb during Holy Week

I got to know the aerospace engineer acting as Missions Director of the Italian Space Agency (might be helpful if I pursue my dream career of aerospace engineering...)

I had my mother's name being called after me by a man I didn't know in a town she hasn't been to in 30 years.

I formed the 4th generation and the 80th year of friendships between the city of Perugia and the state of Florida.

I learned, wrote and photographically documented how to make the BEST Torta di Pasqua (which is rather cheesy..), Ciaramicola, Pizza, Tiramisu, ragù and lasagna.

I ate lamb intestine...Not. Emptied.

I opened a giant chocolate egg while I wasn't in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. GIANT.

Became officially mad once I received my Crazy License; shortly thereafter I was released on the streets with a medieval crossbow.

After 15 years of knowing her, I finally had a conversation with an old friend where we actually understood each other.

I saw the beach for the first time in 7 months and literally screamed. Loudly.

I learned Perugino, which makes for my dialect knowledge count to be 3 and my real language learning count to be 0. (I don't consider that my sputterings in “real” Italian to mean that I know the language yet!)

So, Assisi's tomb? Was it covered in gold? Was the Pope chilling next to you? Who was the man calling after you and why? What KIND of friendships, Marea?? What exactly is Torta di Pasqua if it's so cheesy?? And what kind of cheese? How was the intestine? Is there ANY good food in Italy (you only talk about the weird things you eat!)?? WHAT IS A CRAZY LICENSE and where and WHY did someone equip you with a crossbow? Who is that old friend? What did you talk about? Who did you frighten when you screamed? Come on, details!!!

No!

I'm not going to explain to you every detail of my exchange. It's what keeps exchanges enigmatic and intriguing and exciting. You gotta go on one to find it all out. To find out how Perugini speak, where and how you procure a Crazy License, and what it's like to meditate at one of the most sought after pilgrimage sites ever. These vague fragments of my actions are just little tidbits to get you curious. Now go get out there and go on exchange!!!

However, I will explain one of my points...

Wait a minute...Marea, you don't know the language yet?! What have you been doing in Italy?? I've been learning. And learning and learning and learning and learning...but that doesn't mean that I've learned the language. Do you know English?? Of course you do. Okay, what's the definition of arbitrary? No...how about obderate? Edacious? Yeah, you're really fluent. Sorry to bust your bubble, Rotary, but one never becomes fluent on their exchange. You don't just wake up and you realize you're fluent...you may wake up and realize you stutter a little bit less, or that the 2nd person plural conjugation of the remote past tense of the verb andare comes a little bit quicker to mind, you remember the word for grasshopper (or more likely, you don't remember the word in English or in Italian), or you forget which language you are talking in. That's Rotary's definition of “being fluent”. But the reality is, you don't become Dante while on exchange, nor do you completely understand him (neither do Italians though...so...). So, no, I am so very, very far from being fluent in Italian. I'm far from being fluent in English though. But am I proud of how far I've come in both languages? I'd say. But I've still got a lot to work, and thus I continue with my Rotary Smile, up and onward, harder and stronger.

May 18 Journal

These are something that I wrote for my Italian class to make up for the school I skipped when I went to Rome...the pressure was definitely on when my Roman Italian professor asked me to write about my experience in Rome. Anyways, this how Rome presented itself to me.

There are many different types of silences. There's the silence when everything is turned off or when there is no electricity. There is the silence of a person when angry, but that one is completely different from that from a person that is sad. There is the silence of breathlessness, but that could be related to awe or to a person holding their breath waiting. At the church of San Pietro, there was a silence of awe, sometimes broken by whispers of “Wow” and “what a marvel”. A terrified silence, one was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the church. However, in the Catacombes there was that silence of a thousand persons holding their breath, waiting for their time to breathe again. At least, it seemed silent, but at the same time you could hear the echoes of the nasconded masses repeated, plainheartedly praising their Christian God even while those persons were being prosecuted. You could hear the echoes in San Pietro also, but they were the swish of rich religious robes over the marble floor, the stroke of gold paint on the ceiling and the imperious voices of vescoves. A church is a spiritual, holy place to connect with God. A catacomb is a place to lay one's dead. However, I felt the spiritualness of a godly connection in the catacombs...and in San Pietro, just the solemnity and respectfulness in which one comports themselves at a funeral.

Ci sono tanti diversi tipi di silenzi. C'è quel silenzio quando tutto è spento, o quando non c'è l'eletricità. Esiste un silenzio di una persona arrabiata, ma quel è completamente diverso da una persona triste. C'è il silenzio mozzafiato, ma quel potrebbe riferire ad un silenzio di soggezione, o una silenzio di una persona che tratte il respiro, che aspetta. Alla chiesa di San Pietro, c'era una silenzio di soggezione, a volte rotto dai sussuri di “Wow” e “Che meraviglia”. Un silenzio terrorizzato; si è sopraffatti dalla magnitudine della chiesa. Mentre, nelle Catacombe c'era quel silenzio di un mille persone che trattengono i respiri, ma che aspettano di respirare di nuovo. Almeno, sembrava silenzio, ma allo stesso tempo si avrebbe potuto sentire gli echi delle messe nascoste, lodando il loro dio con tutto il cuore mentre erano perseguitati. Si avrebbe potuto sentire gli echi anche alla chiesa di San Pietro, però erano gli echi del fruscio dei ricci abiti religiosi sopra il pavimento di marmo, il tocco di un pennello con vernice di oro sul soffitto, ed i voci imperiosi dei sacerdoti. Una chiesa è un posto spirituale e sacro dove si può unire con Dio. Una catacomba è un posto di lasciare i morti. Allora, perchè sentivo la spiritualità di una connezione tangibile con Dio nelle catacombe...ed a San Pietro, solo la solennità e la deferenza in cui mi comporto ad una funerale?

Walking down a side street with my trusty gelato in hand, I stumble upon the sidewalk artwork gallery of Fausto delle Chiaie, which makes me laugh, make a quizzical face, and then do a surprised double take to see the artist standing right beside me, enjoying my facial expressions. I introduce myself to him, compliment him on his works and he gives me a piece of his art as a parting gift. Stumbling after being hit by a car, I'm confronted by thousands of children screaming, marching, playing drums and holding banners who are all lead by a clown on stilts with a boombox in hand. A revolt of workers I've seen, but schoolchildren? Strolling into the 4 Colonne in Piazza Navona, my door was held open by Minister Zaia who was exiting after a heated discussion with the three other heads of the Lega Nord. When in Rome. Rome is innovative, young, powerful. But when you are standing next to Julius Cesare's tomb, or under the arch of triumph next to the oratorio, you can't help but feel like it's a decaying graveyard. Yet it's not. Rome continues to play, throwing discotecas in the middle of squares that last till all hours of the night; to work, discovering, maintaining and learning from our past to make our future even brighter: at the end, Rome is very much alive.

Mentre camminando su una stradina con il mio gelato nella mano, inciampo su una galleria di arte fatta da Fausto delle Chiaie sul marciapiede. L'esebizione mi fa ridere, poi sono contemplativa, faccio una faccia canzonatoria e poi mi giro, sorpresa, di vedere l'artista che sonride e gode le mie espressioni. Mi presento, lo faccio i complimenti per le sue opere e lui mi da un piccolo disegno come un regalo d'addio.

Mi giro dopo esser stata colpita da una macchina, e sono affrontata da un milliaia di bambini che stanno urlando, marciando, suonando i bongo e tenendo i bandieri che sono tutti condotti da un pagliaccio sui trampoli con un radio nelle mani. Un sciopero di lavoratori l'ho visto, ma di bambini di nove anni??

Mentre passando dentro le 4 Colonne a Piazza Navona, la porta è stata aperta per me da Ministro Zaia, che stava uscendo dopo un discussione con le altre 3 capi della Lega Nord. Quando a Roma. Roma sembra che sia innovativa, giovane, potente. Comunque, quando si sta sui piedi affianco la tomba di Giulio Cesare, o sotto l'arco di Costantino, si sembra che Roma sia sole le rovine in decomposizione. Però, non è. Roma continua a giocare, ad avere le discoteche nella mezza della piazza del Popolo che non finiscono mai; a lavorare per scopere, mantenere ed impare dal proprio passato per creare un futuro luminoso: Roma è viva.

June 5 Journal

Just a quick note to news and to potentials...

Top fears of exchange students before they leave: Gaining weight, losing a scholastic year.

Significance of such fears at the end of 9 months: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING

Take that into account news and potentials. Think long and think hard of what those mean to you right now, and what they will mean because I tell you the truth they mean ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to any exchange student at the end of 9 months. Don't make excuses.

Ah....but....

What's my biggest fear as I’m preparing myself to go to America? My relationship with my parents, and detaching myself from my parents in Italia.

Especially, especially over these past 6 months that I spent with my host family, more than partially induced by the input of my host father Nicola, I have grown and developed so very very much. One of the first things he told me was, “If any single question comes to your mind, say it out loud, whether it be offensive, ignorant or seemingly stupid. Because my mission is to have you absorb as much Italian culture as possible, and how will you do that if you do not ask the 'why' behind everything that we do and who we are?” Do you realize what that meant for me? It took away all my fear of being considered THAT ignorant American, and gave me the chance to become the curious American who wants to learn as much as she possibly can in 6 months. Thus, in January my mentality changed based on those 2 sentences spoken by a man who most definitely was a stranger to me, and very quickly became one of my fathers.

Now, the questions that I have raised over these past 6 months weren't just “How late can I stay out tonight” or “How did you make this pasta”...but slightly more profound; questions like “Who am I, what am I doing here and am I doing it right??”, to make it so very blunt. (Note: Italian Philosophy class doesn't help!)

Every year is a formative year, this year of all years I would say. My Italian parents have formed me during this year. They have been able to guide me because I have a trust and respect for their opinions and lessons. Now, it is not that I have lost such concepts for the views of my American parents, but a fear that their life experiences and background that form their education wanted for me are limited in the confront of those of my Italian parents. (More to be discussed later on, I still have an incredible respect for my Americans).

Let's be very blunt. It's that, you trust your Italian parents so very much here, and the views of your American parents honestly DON'T apply in your Italian life. Remember, everything, from morals to religion to value to the concept of beauty, IS RELATIVE, thus such American views really don't have weight in an Italian life. Try as they might, your Americans don't understand the life in which you live and which has formed you spiritually, physically and mentally for this year; thus, how can they try to recommend ideology in your new situation that is completely alien to them?!?

It is for that reason that I am so reluctant to release my trust attachment to my Italian parents who have guided me and understood me so well in my new life (obviously, your Italians understand such a life). It is now that I must return to trust the opinions of my American parents, who may not be as suited to guide me in my newly developed mentality because they, for 6 months, have not seen it grow IN A DIFFERENT WORLD, nor understand such world as my Italian parents have and do.

But then, one must think that one's American parents have guided you for now 15 years, and as formative as 6 months may be, those Americans still are the ones that have watched you grow for the 15 years and such years count a lot more than 6 months. If they have paid attention, they will have realized that you have been guided in ways that they do not know but will find out, oh, how will they find out, in some manifestation or another. But they still have some grasp of you, 15 years does mean something, and 9 months can be explained...let’s hope. Plus, it's not that they are boulders that have sat around all their life and don't have any worldly experience or understanding. They have a lot more experience than we know, and that deserves some respect. Hey, they were open-minded enough as to let you leave and be guided away from their watch for a year, right? Thus, they should be open-minded enough to understand that you comprehend life in a different manner. That taken into account, they should be able to respect your new mentality and continue to guide you, ALL THE WHILE recognizing your new comprehension, but continue to lead you to adulthood and beyond. Sure, it will be harder for them, but they will just have to draw more upon their more worldly and complex experiences and less upon the easy morals that they learned in Sunday School, but such use of deeper materials can only lead to a more profound relationship with your parents.

To sum it up, I am afraid that my American parents' guidance will not work in my new American/Italian (majorly Italian) mentality and ideology. My Italian parents have guided me for 6 months in my Italian life which has very much overtaken my American mind, making me Italian. Now that I have a mentality Italio-American, and I must return to the American guidance which doesn't comprise the Italian part, I see difficulties in trusting a lacking guidance. But seeing as though such American parents have formed me for 15 years, and they are not hermits but deserve a lot of respect for their own life experiences, such facts mustn’t be rendered unaccounted and they shall be able to continue to lead me into adulthood and respectfully acknowledge my new mentality. Let's hope for the best.

Cheers,

Marea

PS. Sorry I'm missing stories about mayhem and mishaps. Hope you enjoy anyways.