Brooke, outbound to Italy

As I continue along my time here in Sicily, things begin to slow down. When I first arrived in Sicily it was like a gun shot went off. Everything was happening at once. There were so many new things. People were taking me places. I was doing new things and tasting different foods, but now it's slowed down. I've fallen in to a pattern. Get up, go to school, come home, eat, wait till you eat next, sleep and then repeat. That basically sums it up. This lulling pattern has become mundane to me. That's when I realized it's up to me to make my exchange truly extraordinary.

Yes, Rotary will take you on trips, you will meet new people, and see new things, but it's the times in between that count. The parts when your home alone to fend for yourself, is where your true exchange colors come out. I could sit home and sleep all day if I wanted. Naps are perfectly acceptable here. I chose a more colorful route. Nearby I found a music shop. Low and behold I found th e most glorious green uakele there. I bought the instrument. Now, besides Italian, have something new and challenging to learn. I've always wanted a little tropical instrument, but for some reason, I put it off. Going on exchange is the perfect opportunity to do things you've always wanted to, like learn how to play the ukulele.

On the same day I purchased my ukulele, I received my box from my parents. I've anticipated this box ever since my mom told me she sent it. I don't know what it is about getting things in the mail that's so exciting. It could be the familiarity of the contents inside. To me it was like getting a piece of home in a place that is still new to me. In a way it brought comfort, and reminded me of things back home.

You must know, exchange students are the ultimate snackers. I have to admit I am gulity of the occasional Nutella hoarding. It didn't help that my mom sent me candy corn, and Nilla-wafers. You wouldn't believe how sweet Nilla wafers are compared to the typical Italian biscotti. It was like a sugar over load. But Nilla wafers with Nutella, and you have the ultimate exchange student snack. Something old and something new. They kind of came together in a mysterious way that made me miss home.

I've realized how sweet American sweets are compared to the rest of the world. Even with my travels to China, Taiwan, and now Italy, I have to say America takes the cake when it comes to sweets. I blame the sugarcane, and corn syrup we use. The closest thing I've had to an American sweet here was a cupcake. However, the name of the shop was "The American Bakery". This bakery uses American recipes which tickled my taste buds. I got an Oreo cupcake. It had an Oreo at the bottom, and in the icing. Besides that, they used cream cheese in their icing. I didn't know how much I could miss something that tastes familiar. It was very American.

The holidays are approaching and the days are getting colder. I have always liked how this world changes for the holidays. Even the food does, and in Sicily, I've said before, food dominates. It's one of the main differences I've realized. I went to a wedding a few weeks ago and even at a wedding, food dominates everything. The event was under the shadow of the volcanic glory that is Mount Etna. The church and afternoon eating was in Catania. A 45 to 50 minute drive from Siracusa. The ceremony was beautiful, despite the fact I had no clue what was going on. It's ok, having no idea what's going on half the time. This is part of being an exchange student.

After the ceremony we got into cars to go to what I assumed would be the after party. My car got lost. It was just more confusion to me. Driving around streets having no idea where I was being taken to, or what we were doing, but knowing somehow at some point food would be involved. When the party finally found where we were going, I was right. There was food everywhere.

There is only one way I can describe it: an afternoon eating. We started off with appetizers, or what they call an aperitif----. It was mini versions of Classic Sicilian food. Next was a buffet. Cuscuses, cheese, pilla, hams, meats, rice and some foods I didn't recognize, were all served. I thought it was strange that the buffet was being eaten while standing up, but assumed it was some Italian thing people did at weddings. I thought it was the final meal so I filled myself up. I was so wrong to think that. I should have known better. Italians love to eat. To my horror, the whole wedding party moved to the dining room, where there were several more courses served. I was completely full. However, being an exchange student I wanted to try everything. I asked for just a taste, and ate what I could. I had to remember there was still desert to come and I needed room for that. After the sit down dinner, there was dancing. I guess everyone burned off what they ate, because after that deserts were in the garden. It was amazing. A whole pavilion filled with three huge tables of desserts. My desert stomach opened up and I went crazy. Needless to say I slept very well on the car ride home.

I could not be happier now than in Siracusa. I am though, starting to push to go to the art high school. My current school, Corbino, is a scientific high school. They rotate through math, chemistry, physics, philosophy, religion, and art history. It's a good school, but for me, as an artist, it's not a perfect fit. I am often bored, thanks to the language barrier. Sometimes I opt for my sketch book, or I write my experiences down. I mainly listen and to try to learn the language, and try not to disrupt the class from learning. However, art is my passion.

My third host mom works at Liceo Artistico A Gagini art high school. It offers painting, sculpture, restoration, drawing, and jewelry. My host mom wants me to come to her school. To go there would be an incredible experience. I've dipped my toes into the world of jewelry making before. I would love to try it again. I already draw so much in my sketch book. Why not train that skill a little more? I've had art classes all my life. Not having them here in Sicily is a little strange. I really miss it. I miss getting in to the flow of the work and creating. I am in the land of art. I'm surrounded by old architecture, and sculptures. All I want to do here is create. It's hard to do that going to a scientific school. But I know, whatever the outcome with the schools is, I’m privileged to have this amazing experience with Rotary.

I was once given the advice, "you learn better through something you love." My language learning needs more practice. I could practice through art, and maybe I would learn quicker. Not to mention, next year I will go to an art college. To get in, I need a well rounded portfolio of art work. At the art school, I could create more pieces. The current work I have is from my high school years. All I can think of is what I would create if I was set loose in this art school. It's an all around win for me, this art experience in Italian.

The time line of what has happened is starting to blur. Everything that has happened has distilled itself into a blob of memories that is my life here. This adventure is becoming more of a life, and seeming less like a trip. They are right when they say "it's not a year of your life; it's a life in a year." This time here just seems more precious knowing it has a time limit. Experiences and invitations are not to be taken lightly. I'm trying to get as many experiences as I can, see as much as I can see, because all and all, I will have to return. As of now, I'm excited to still leave time to be here. I'm going to live this experience to its full potential, because that's just what exchange students do. Till my next post.

~Ciao
Brooke