August 14 Pre-departure Journal
Alright well I’m really not sure how to start off my first journal, so I guess I’ll just start from the very beginning. I had been wanting to be an exchange student for two years now. Unfortunately I didn’t have the opportunity to be on the first year I wanted to, but as soon as Rotary talked at my school the next year I jumped at the opportunity. Obviously I was interviewed just like everyone else and I became 1/4 of all of the Outbound student in District 6950. After the interview I waited in anticipation (and very impatiently) for the news of my host country. When I checked my email and I had a message from Rotary in it I seriously felt like my heart would explode out of my chest. From that point on I was officially going to ITALY!!
Now most people when I told them would say something along the lines of “Wow, you’re so lucky”, but would you believe that Italy was in fact my 3rd choice? Now I’m not saying that I’m any less excited, in fact now that I know so much about Italy I’m ecstatic that they are sending me there instead. However there were some downer points about going to Italy. The most major one being that the outbounds to Italy always leave SOO late, but who really cares. I mean, come on, it’s Italy!
After I had known what my host country was for quite some time I was getting very annoyed that I hadn’t found out anything else. So when the “boot camp” finally came around and I was one of the few who didn’t know ANYTHING else, you can imagine my disappointment. Then I was told that the night before the “boot camp” they had apparently posted my district on the RYE web site. What’s up with that?!? That was when I found out I was going to Cagliari, on the island of Sardegna (Sardinia). Which for those of you who don’t know, it is the island across from Rome and above Sicily.
So of course as soon as the “boot camp” ended and I was at home again I immediately got on the computer, typed Cagliari into Google, and pulled up the Wikipedia page (sorry Al). I believe a week passed by before my next tidbit of information came in. I was checking my email like I always do and I had an email from a really weird address. When I opened up the email it was COMPLETELY in Italian! Turns out my first host mom decided to email me. She is seriously amazing, and the rest of the family seems awesome too. In my host family I have a Mom (Aurelia), Dad (Franco), older brother (Marco), and younger brother (Luca). Unfortunately I probably won’t get to meet the older brother because he is already in Coral Springs, FL on an exchange of his own.
Last thing I have to write about is the visa .... dilemma. My host family was kind enough to invite me to come to Italy early (yet another reason why I love them); unfortunately I had to have my documents from Italy before I could apply for my visa. Those documents came on Thursday, last week. However I couldn’t take off work so I had to wait to apply. Then I had trouble getting one of the documents from the bank, who had apparently “thought they sent it”. So hoping that the bank would finally send it to us we headed to Miami and called the bank personally to get them to send it overnight to our hotel. And can you believe that they DID IT?! Yeah, I was as surprised as you are. So I finally got to drive to the Italian consulate to apply for my visa. My mom and I got to the building, put 30 minutes worth of coins into the meter, and went inside. Pretty much we just got sent upstairs and a nice worker told me that I would get my visa on SATURDAY!!! (or early the next week). The weirdest thing was that after we had finished everything in the consulate and had gone back outside we still had 21 minutes left on the meter. The ENTIRE process took 9 minutes, 2 of which were spent going up and down in the elevator.
Well I guess that's a short story long. Sorry for rambling. The next journal I write will most definitely be sent from Cagliari, Sardegna, in the beautiful country of Italy.
August 28 Journal
OK so I'll start with when I was still in Tampa, me, my mother, a close family friend, and one of my friends from school all went to the airport. So we go inside and we put my bag on the scale and it was 4 pounds too heavy!! I weighed it at home so I really have no idea what I did wrong. Either way I had to take some stuff out and put it in my carry on. Finally after I got that bag light enough and checked in, we all started walking to the first gate. Yeah well guess what, after we say all the teary goodbyes and hug and kiss and etc., my second bag was too fat. So then we repositioned everything in it and put a few things in the other carry on, until it just barely passed the width requirement. So a few more goodbyes and I was off to security, where I got stopped yet again, for my third and final bag, because the gift I had for my host mother apparently looks suspicious under x-ray. In the end it all worked out OK, through all of the other airports I had only had trouble with the one in Italy, which was quite confusing, but I got here so it wasn't too bad. The rest of the airport and airplane story is pretty boring, I pretty much sat on the plane for 10 hours sleeping, watching movies, and listening to music.
So when I got to my last airport and I was all ready to meet my host family, I found out that my bag had been lost, which really wasn't that big a deal because I had enough clothes in my carry on to last me a few days, and they said that my bag shouldn't take too long to get to the house. Of course I didn't know any of this because I'm American, not Italian, therefore I speak English not Italian. So I didn't know any of this until after some nice people I met guided me to where I could find my host family. They came in with me and got everything sorted out, and I didn't have to worry at all.
I went with my host family and we all went to their house/apartment which they will be in for about another 3 months. Definitely not a big deal because as apartments go, this one was pretty nice, and I had Snoopy sheets on my bed. =) Definitely one of the highlights of my day. I then found out that we weren't going to be spending much time there for the next two weeks, in fact we were going to be leaving that house about an hour after we got there. Which was fine because that meant I got to see even more of this beautiful country on the way to Porto Corallo, which definitely has to be one of the prettiest beach cities I've ever seen. It's quaint, so the beaches are never too crowded, but it has just enough people so that it isn't hick or anything like that. We had to drive through the 'Sette Fratellis', or the seven brothers to get to my host family's summer home. (They are mountains by the way.)
We didn't do to much else that day, but we did of course have the Sardegnan meal (not pizza) - FISH!! The evening that I got here we had a big get together with a whole bunch of people that I didn't know (which was amazing because everyone was so happy and fun) and ate a HUGE dinner. When I say huge I really mean it. To list a few of the foods there were: Tuna, fried potatoes, squash, wild boar, octopus, a few other things that used to live in the ocean, melons, peaches, goat, and many other things. All of which I tried a little bit of each, because even if I absolutely adored one thing, there was no way that I was gonna be able to eat all of it while still being polite and trying everything else. Oh and one great discovery, the Coke here in Italy, is just as good as the Coke in America!
Not to much else to say, I've been here a little more than a week, and I could bore you with all the little details but I'll resist. Here are some of the highlights and a few other key points:
- The gelato really is AMAZING! You really won't know until you try it.
- The beaches in Italy are better than the beaches in Florida (sorry America).
- It's always a good idea to apply sunscreen evenly, I found out I missed a few spots so I now have four different colors on my back (pale, slightly less pale, tan, and burned to a crisp).
- The pizza is AWESOME, but they have some weird toppings, like hot dogs, and french fries.
- Apparently air conditioning is not very popular in Sardegna, which turns out isn't as bad as you would think it would be, there is almost always a nice breeze.
- Euros look cooler than dollars.
- The banks here a crazy (you have to go through an enclosed metal detector one by one before you can enter the building).
- Turns out here, even if you have a problem (such as with documents or something) you should never worry, because everyone is nice and they will all try to help you through it.
- There are quite a lot of crazy drivers in Italy, thank you Rotary for not allowing me to drive, because I would almost definitely die.
- Horse is really really delicious, don't be a sissy, try it!
And last of all
September 21 Journal
I've been in Italy for just about a month now, and I am still loving it! I'm lucky that I haven't gotten homesick yet, because I've talked to some of the other exchange students who have had it pretty bad. Though I'm sure I'll get to have that lovely experience eventually (hope not). Either way for right now everything is just settling into place. Before school started I did a lot of things and visited a lot of places, some examples would be Il Bastione, Il Poetto, tons and tons of shops, I've seen two movies in Italian, etc. etc. They have been definitely keeping me busy.
I have to say that one of the definite highlights of my time here so far (before school) was when my host mom and I went to a theater near one of the historical monuments. The theater itself was open, as in it had no roof!! We saw a performance of three pianos, which were all replicas of pianos that were hundreds and hundreds of years old. I was definitely lucky that night, and I have no idea why, but I'm not gonna question it. The two people that were doing all the speaking could only speak in English, so I might have been the only person in the theater that understood them fluently. I had to translate what they said for my host mom, but it was still an amazing performance. After the performance was over my host mom and I got to go talk to the speakers (one of them being the pianist and the other being the piano maker). The pianist was an esteemed Russian pianist that came from a very prestigious musical family in Russia. The piano builder turned out to be really cool, and also turned out to be the husband of the pianist. I talked to him a lot and in the end he ended up asking me for my email address so that he could send me information on some of the newer pianos he was building. I, of course, pulled out my handy dandy Rotary cards and gave one to him, and then had to leave before my host family left me.
Of course now school has started, and I am busy with school work and crazy Italian parties (joking on that last part). I have a lot of different classes including philosophy, math, English, Italian, art history, physics, biology, chemistry, a computer class, and a few others. Now I can't say that my school is beautiful, but all of my teachers seem to be pretty sympathetic, and I've even had one tell me that if I don't understand something or need him to slow down to just interrupt him and ask him to help. Now if you take the coolness of the teachers and multiply it by a bajillion you will have the coolness of my class. EVERYONE is so funny and they keep me and the other American in my class feeling very much like part of the class. On my first day of school four of the boys in class left for about 2 minutes and came back with these more comfortable chairs, I had no idea where they got them. However when two teacher came in 5 minutes later it became pretty apparent that they had taken the teachers chairs out of the nearby classrooms (the teachers weren't even mad, they just wanted their chairs back).
Now school is starting to get boring, but luckily before it did I was invited to go to one of the coolest things ever, a DISCOTECA! Which is pretty much equivalent to a club in America except that anyone that’s over 12 can get into one in Italy. It was really really fun, there was deafeningly loud music blasting out of the speakers, blindingly bright lights flashing across the floor, people suffocatingly close, and yet it still managed to be tied with the piano performance as one of the best nights I've had in Italy so far. I can't wait to go again, though it might be while, because at the moment the teachers are starting to increase the workload, since it’s officially school time now.
I definitely can't wait for the next amazing thing to happen, and I'm sure that they will keep on coming!
I'll have photos next time.
November 16 Journal
So it's been a while since I wrote my last journal. Which I didn't even realize until my parents reminded me that I needed to write a new one. Time when you are on an exchange really does get confusing. For some reason I still feel like I was still in Florida just a few weeks ago, but when I actually stop and think about all the things I've done here, it feels more like few years. Oh well, I still have a lot of time left in Italy, so I figure I shouldn't start worrying about that yet.
Well, after all that fun with the Discoteca (sooo long ago) I did tons of other things. One thing that I love about Italy is that you really don't even have to look for things to do, they will just come to you. Almost every weekend I'm asked by someone in my class, or one of my friends from the other classes, or even the other exchange students, to go somewhere. Those places usually vary from going to the mall, the movies, going to dinner (Chinese food was wonderful here), going shopping on the big shopping street in Cagliari, and even just walking around. Now I have to say that just walking around in my city back in the U.S. would not have been very fun, but here it is ALWAYS fun. I have walked the same streets over 10 times within just the last month, and if someone asked me right now, I would go walk them again. Alright enough about that, on to specific events.
Caitlynne (Rotary exchange student from Hawaii) and I tried to get lost in Cagliari. I believe we were walking for 2 or 3 hours just around the city going nowhere specific. However for some reason neither of us could get completely lost. There were just too many things that we thought were cool and wanted to remember, or we would hit one of the streets that connects with ALL of the other ones. Either way in the end we decided that we were in fact "lost" because we didn't think that we could find our way back exactly, even if we knew where we were. One thing that sticks out in my mind about this "adventure" was the massive amount of hills that we have in Cagliari. Hills do NOT exist in Florida, and here they are EVERYWHERE, so we definitely got a workout trying to get lost.
We also had a Rotary youth exchange outing, which was pretty cool. The six Rotary kids in and around Cagliari all got together and went out for pizza. It was definitely interesting when we walked in the pizzeria and were bombarded by the noise of 20 little kids who were apparently having a Halloween party (this was the day before Halloween). That came to me as a complete surprise, because as far as I can tell Italians really don't celebrate Halloween, they know it's there, and they may go out and do something small, but they don't have trick-or-treaters, or tons of candy. Either way our pizza outing was still lots of fun (I had pizza with gorgonzola if anyone wanted to know), after we all finished we just walked around a bit and then all headed home.
One of the highlights definitely had to be going clothes shopping with Italians. Even better was that it was clothes shopping with a time limit because one of them had to be home really soon. I had decided that I really wanted some new jeans, so that when I get back to America I will have "Italian" jeans. =) So I got three of my friends (girls) to come with me to go get these amazing Italian jeans. All I have to say, is that when you put them on a time limit, they really get it done. They were zooming through all of the jean racks, picking out ones that they thought might look nice, then deciding amongst themselves which one was best. I ended up trying on two pairs of jeans, and I bought the second one for 40 euros (80% of my monthly allowance). I do have to say that I love those jeans, they have this cool little zipper thing that they put on the pocket, which is a style that I had never seen in America, so I'm really hoping that the fad makes it overseas.
Alright one of the last things that I'm going to talk about is the Halloween party that I had with all my Italian friends and my friend from Intercultura. It was absolutely AMAZING!!! We watched two horror movies, and I stayed the entire night (and morning) at the party. I do have to say that horror movies are not my thing, and they are even less my thing when I don't understand the language they are in. All I have to say, if anyone asks you to watch the movie "Denti" which means "Teeth", DO NOT watch it. Definitely one of the worst movies I have seen in my life. The second one was Saw II, which I had never seen before, and still haven't seen, because we started that one at 4:00 in the morning, and I fell asleep when they were cutting open the person at the very beginning. So although the horror movies weren't tons of fun, the overall party was tons of fun. Also I attempted to make chocolate cookies, which although they didn't look like American chocolate chip cookies, they were packed full of chocolate and everyone loved them. Definitely a success!
Now I know that I didn't talk about a ton of things that I've done, but really I think you guys would get bored if I just keep babbling on like this. I also blew all my money shopping on the big shopping street, went to a bday party for Caitlynne, saw a few school strikes, tried more new food, etc. etc. If I remember something absolutely amazing that I missed I promise I will put it in my next journal.
February 8 Journal
Alright well I know that this journal is INSANELY late, but you just have to realize how much fun it is over here. It’s pretty hard to tear myself away from friends, food, movies, travelling a little, and even TV to do a journal. However I’ve made you guys suffer enough, so I am going to write this journal from the last time I wrote to New Years. Then I will post another journal next week about all of January, because if I put both of them together it would be way too long.
Ok, so from the time I left off I celebrated several holidays. First of all Thanksgiving, and I have to say it was definitely one of the most interesting Thanksgiving’s that I have ever had. Like Austin Carroll mentioned in her journal we were the ones that did all the cooking (Caitlynne, Austin, and myself). Really though I didn’t do much, I was in charge of the music that we were playing while “cooking”. So when I get there Caitlynne and Austin had already made a cake, mashed potatoes, green beans, and several other things, so they really didn’t leave much for me to do. Or at least that’s what I thought until I saw the turkey. That bird must have been MASSIVE when it was still alive, as it was we were afraid it was too big to cook in the small Italian oven. So I at least got to help make the turkey, and by help I mean I gave it a very professional oil massage =). In the end everything turned out wonderful, I don’t really know whether the Italians liked our food, but at least they weren’t spitting it out. I think that the weirdest thing that happened that day was that we somehow got lectured by an Italian on how to make American gravy, the sad thing is that he was right.
After Thanksgiving there was still so much to do, and since here they don’t have a school vacation for Thanksgiving I had to do everything after school or on the weekends. I would say that 80% of everything I had to do was finding Christmas gifts for the people in my family. I won’t bore you with all the details about that, but I will say that I walked up and down the shop street so many times in December I don’t understand why my legs aren’t as hard as steel. Plus after the main shop street I had to go to the mall, city market, etc. etc. In the end I did end up finding all the gifts that I wanted to buy for everyone, plus a few things for myself (which is always a good thing). Unfortunately the day before Christmas eve I had my wallet stolen when I was going to buy the last few gifts. Now normally I would have been annoyed but at least kept my cool, however my wallet happened to have my license, bus card, debit card, contact cards for Rotary, and most importantly my permission of stay! So needless to say I was freaking out, I went up and down the street where it was stolen a bajillion times talking to EVERYONE! I knew who stole it, but it’s not like I had any proof or anything so it didn’t really do much good. I did eventually get some pity from the people and they helped me out, I told them ‘I really don’t care whether the money in the wallet comes back, but my permission of stay is in there and I can get in really big trouble if I don’t get that back’. Long story short: I ended up getting called by the police and they told me that my wallet had somehow miraculously returned, unfortunately it returned without the money inside. Oh well, I was just happy that the money was the only thing I lost, and I do realize how lucky I was that I got it back. Lesson here, when you are walking by all the people that are selling fakes on the street, keep track of your wallet a little better.
Now on to some of the best times that I’ve had here, the time from Christmas to New Year’s was absolutely amazing. On Christmas eve I went over to my aunt’s and uncle’s house, which was really cool because I’m really close with all of them, including both of their kids (Giulia 17 and Simone 13 almost 14). They are some of the best host cousins I could ever ask for, and they have been since I got here in August. Though I was really shy at first we are now pretty much like family, we all tease each other, and play around a lot, and it's like that with just about everyone in my family now.
Anyway, for Christmas eve we went over to their house and hung out, ate, played videogames, ate, talked, ate, etc. You might think I’m joking about eating that much, but you guys just need to meet my family. I swear we had so much food that we had it on all three of the tables (two of which had no people at them, and the one with people is really really big). The funny thing is that this was only the first day of the Christmas celebrations, which start on Christmas eve and end the day after Christmas. Also everyday we made more food, plus we had to eat the food that was left over from the other days. Either way, although though food was amazing, I do have to say that the most exciting thing on Christmas Eve was the PRESENTS! In Italy they open presents at midnight, so I guess it's technically Christmas morning, but it’s not like we went to sleep at all on Christmas eve, so I consider it still Christmas eve. I’m not going to list all my presents, but I will mention that I got a Sardegnan knife, Andrea Bocelli cd, clothes, money, a sardo dictionary, and a few other things. It was really fun, I especially love the knife, which is hand made and uses goat horn for the handle.
So after all the excitement from the gifts was over we ate a little bit more, they toasted for Christmas, then we went home, because we were dead tired even if we were happy. Though we my as well have just spent the night at their house because we came back the next day (Christmas Day) before 10:00 and had some more fun, it was kind of like a repeat of the previous day, except we had more people that came to eat with us. I went around with Giulia and our friend Eleonora. We just walked around a little bit, then came back to celebrate some more with family. Some of you may be thinking that it might be kinda boring to just do the same thing over, but you couldn’t be more wrong. It doesn’t matter how many times we did the things, my family made it so much fun, and there was always something new to talk about. I got to hear stories of the years that I wasn’t here, I got to meet even more of my relatives that I had never met, and I got to eat amazing food =).
We also played Tombola! Which I can’t say that I was very good at and I usually didn’t play because you had to bet some money, but I do believe that I won something like 5 or 6 euros, and I only paid 2. So I was pretty happy. Oh but I didn’t really explain what Tombola is, it’s kind of like Bingo except you have a lot more numbers that you have to deal with, and you have to get three in a row, then one row entirely, then you have to have your entire board filled. If you win the one with your entire board filled you win the most money (the one with only three you only win 1 to 2 euros depending on how many people are playing ). Either way in conclusion to the Christmas season, it was something that I would never give up, and I’m so happy that I was able to talk well enough that I didn’t have any problems staying in the conversations and chatting with the relatives that I had never met.
Alright, well I’m going to have to skip all of the things that I did after Christmas, long story short I hung out with friends, and I went on a whole bunch of fair rides that were in the port, so it was still fun. Now for New Years, I got invited to a party with Giulia and Eleonora. So on New Years eve we went over to the house where the party was. I’m not gonna go into detail, but it was definitely a really fun party, we were having so much fun talking, eating, playing guitar hero, dancing, listening to music, etc. that we didn’t realize that it was New years until 5 minutes after. Then we all started yelling, cheering, toasting, hugging, kissing, wishing people a happy new year, and setting off fireworks. The fireworks were so much fun, they had bought a ton of different ones, so some of us went outside and set all of them off. I feel kinda bad, because if there was anyone that was sleeping on our street they definitely weren’t sleeping when we were finished. I think we set off 5 car alarms (we didn’t damage the cars, or even touch them), and we had so many firecrackers it sounded like a constant machine gun fire for about 3 minutes straight. Plus it was New Years so we were all really giddy and happy, whenever one of the fireworks got close to someone we would all start screaming, yelling, and then laughing when the person freaked out and would run away. I really can’t describe just how much fun I had at this party, we stayed up all night, so I didn’t sleep for two entire days (that’s a big deal for me).
Needless to say New Years day, after the party, I was pretty dead. I went back to my family’s house and played some videogames, watched Maid of Honor, and several other movies, and of course ate yet another feast. That night I seriously fell asleep before I hit the bed, but I was happy. I would say that was not only one of my best days in Italy, but also one of the best days I have ever had in my life.
Sorry that this journal was so long, but I will stop it here. In my next journal I’ll talk about the month of January and my change in families, among other things. I hope that everyone had a great time in for Christmas, New Years and everything else. O
Ciao ciao, bacione.