Brooke, outbound to Italy

It doesn't feel like the holidays were just last month. It seems like more time has passed than one, small month. A lot has happened since my last journal.

It's hard to remember everything that happened in a blur. With out the school day to split up the weeks, the whole holiday season become a mesh. But with it was a fun, cold, food and family filled mesh. At the beginning of December, I switched families. I don't know how, but all my things doubled. I came with a big suitcase, a small one, and a backpack. Switching houses I had filled my suitcases, two bags, and six boxes. I don't even want to imagine what my third move will be like. My new house is in Ortigia, the ancient, historical part of the city. Just a few blocks from the Duomo. It is an island, so now I'm living on an island, on an island.

The house is not only new to me, but also the family. They had just moved in a month earlier. There are still lights that need fixtures, and a room with no furniture. When I arrived there was nothing on the walls. My host mom loves art and artists (lucky me!) She invited a group of her three artist friends to set up all of her painting and photos. Now the house looks like a gallery. Even with the new decor, there are still things that need fixing. It took two weeks to finish my bathroom. Don't worry. I was clean for those two weeks. I shared with my host sister’s bathroom.

New Years was my favorite. All the family from Christmas, and then some came to my host family’s house. There were so any people that there had to be two tables. The kids at one and the adults at another table. I lost count of the dinner courses. After a while my table, the kids and "young adults", stopped eating. We were absorbed by the New Year's Eve show. At midnight they had a count down just like in Time Square. We were all so excited. Shouting "auguri" and toasting champagne. After that one of the aunts produced floating lanterns. We tried lighting, and releasing them to the sky. It didn't exactly work. One got ripped, and it was raining. Lanterns and rain don't exactly mix. But it was joyous, happy start to the New Year.

The magical part of the whole experience was the snow. Sicily's weather is just like Florida. It never ever snows. Well, I shouldn't say that. It snowed on New Years. Just like a Miracle, or a very welcomed omen. The snow was white and floating, softly bringing in the New Year.

No one talks about the mundane everyday part of exchange. All exchange student’s talk about traveling, meeting interesting people, having unique adventures, and learning the host language. However, you do fall into a routine. Your life becomes exactly that, a life. Get up, go to school, return home, afternoon activities, dinner, bed, and repeat. You become accustomed to your surroundings, and what you do every day.

This is the problem. You forget to see the incredible things, because you see them every day. After Skyping with my parents, this was when my mother said, "it can be boring in paradise?” Those words have been raining in my ears ever since. I was able to re-see everything after that. The incredible city I live in, the amazing people I live with, the different culture I have adapted to. Wow. That’s it. I’ve succeeded. I’ve adapted to the differences that exist between the cultures. I’m no longer the new student, the different student. I’m just another student in an Italian High School. It's like I have to sometimes remember my younger self. The four months younger, wide-eyed and fresh off the plane self. I wish I had those young eyes with me all the time. When you adapt and get used to something, it becomes normal to you. You can forget to see.

It's hard to remember that this exchange experience is totally unique, exciting, interesting, and different to each exchange student. These past few months have been just a normal life to me. The every day mundane, and that's because it was. Hopefully I'll be able to travel more soon. A pause in the everyday routine. I have switched to the art school. I'm drawing, painting and sculpting 24/7 now. My mind becomes numb after drawing, painting, and sculpting for six hours straight. I just want to go home, eat pasta, and curl up for an afternoon nap. Oh, in Sicily it's perfectly normal to take afternoon naps. I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I'm I love with this laid-back lifestyle.

I don't want to talk about the language too much. I still feel as though I’m fumbling over what words to say, and it seems most people have no idea what I'm trying to convey. I can understand most things. I’ve come a long way since I first arrived here. Everyone says my pronunciation is very good. Some say my Sicilian is better than my Italian. I probably need to give myself more credit, but I don't think I study as much as I should. Too many naps after lunch I guess.

My favorite advice, that I want to share, is not to have expectations. This probably prepared me the most. Every exchange is different and you don't know what your experience will be. Even if it gets hard, an exchange student has to stick with it and continue on through. You may not get to do some of the things you want to do, but you will get to do things you can't even imagine. There is always light at the end of the tunnel. That's how to look at it. (I'm talking to you future out bounds).

~ciao
Brooke