Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas

I honestly have no idea where December has gone. In a few days it will be the New Year, and with it will come my time to change host families. By now I have grown attached to my current family and we have become accustomed to each other. But soon I will have to forget all the family rules and traditions and learn it all over again with a group of people I barely know. The thought is rather intimidating, not to mention I don’t know how I will transfer all my stuff to the new house across town.

Since my last post, I experienced many things for the first time. I’ll make a list and then go into detail: disco (FINALLY), Christmas away from home, Boxing Day, and Verona.

On my third attempt to enter a disco, I finally did it. I KNOW RIGHT?! It was a special Christmas party (we went about 4 days before Christmas) and the venue was PACKED with people. It was so ridiculous. The dance floor had a high ceiling with lights everywhere and I felt like I was in a movie. The wardrobe was full because there were so many people, so we had to hang on to our coats the whole night. I only went with two Italian friends, and it was a fun time but we didn’t end up dancing enough for my tastes. The next time I go to a disco, I will go with a larger group and I will make sure to dance more. J

Christmas away from home was such a strange feeling. On the one hand, I obviously missed my family and our special traditions. I missed hearing Christmas carols being played throughout the house and I missed seeing decorations all over everything. But on the other hand, on Christmas Eve we visited my host relatives, who are truly nice and caring people. They made me feel more comforted in that difficult period. On Christmas Day, the same relatives visited our house for lunch, and then I chilled the rest of the day. We opened presents on Christmas Eve after returning from the relatives’ house. I enjoyed exchanging my MSU presents with my host family and receiving the gifts they had gotten for me. On the third hand, three packages containing gifts from my real family and godparents did not arrive in time for Christmas. Indeed, the one from the godparents arrived today, and the other two are apparently lost. I traveled across town (by foot) yesterday to FIVE different post offices, only to have no luck (Italian postal system). So maybe I’ll receive those two packages eventually, but I’m certainly not holding my breath.
my host brothers and cousins on Christmas Eve

Boxing Day is the day after Christmas, for all you Americans, haha. I was invited to Celeste’s house (she’s my half-British friend) and we had a grand day celebrating Boxing Day. This consisted of lunch, video games, piano-playing, and a strange game that was similar to Dirty Santa. In the end they made me feel very welcome (speaking English certainly helped) and I enjoyed myself quite a bit.

A few days ago the Italian family I met on the plane to Paris visited Milano and invited me to aperitivo! If you have been following this blog since the beginning, then you will already know that I met an Italian family in the DC airport, and this family later saved my life in Paris by helping me make my connection to Milano. We met up for the first time since that fateful day and had an incredible night at this super chic place in a fancy district of town. The next day we ate lunch together and I saw them off as they took a train back to Venezia, where they live. They also invited me to stay with them in Venezia sometime, so I’m sure I’ll take advantage of this opportunity!
whooo airplane friends!
Today I went to Verona for the first time. Some Italian friends invited me, and we took the train early in the morning. It was quite cold and a bit foggy, but the city is charming. It has a romantic feel which I’m sure is helped by the fact that Romeo and Juliet is set there. “In fair Verona where we lay our scene…” We totally went to the house of Juliet and saw her balcony and everything. We also saw an ancient Roman arena (awesome!) and a very old castle, among other things. A fun day. J
arena

THE BALCONY

rubbing her breasts for good luck :)

the castle by night
I finished my first ever book in Italian, and now I’m exhausted. Reading Italian is actually much easier for me than speaking, but still. Now I have to read another book in Italian for school but I’m finding it difficult to get motivated. My France trip has officially died, a result of the fact that I no longer have a family that can host me there. It’s an extremely long story, but I’ll leave it at that. Oh well.

I officially change host families on January 8, the day before school starts again. I wish I had more time to settle in before school, but it is what it is. Soon I will have to say goodbye to my South African and Australian friends; since their exchange year is ending, they will return to their home countries in the next two weeks. I already said goodbye to my dear Sophia from Australia, and I already miss her. The hardest part of exchange is saying goodbye because usually it’s for an extremely long time. I don’t want to think about it, but everyone’s time will come to go home, so I may as well accept it.

Bring it on, 2012. J

Saturday, December 10, 2011

World Fair + New Hair

It is December, the time of Christmas and the last few days of autumn. Before we know it, all the leaves will have fallen from their trees and we will be opening gifts on the most anticipated day of the year. Even though Milano is decorated with lights, garlands, and an absurdly large tree in Piazza Duomo, it doesn't feel like Christmastime to me. Maybe this is because I am away from my family and the familiar cozy feeling of wintry cookies and holiday carols. I don't know, but I'm starting to realized that this Christmas will be unlike any other I have ever experienced.
l'albero di Natale in Duomo 
the Galleria by night
The Thanksgiving dinner planned by the Rotary kids ended up being the best night of my exchange so far. I can't really attribute my enjoyment of that evening to any one thing--the food, the English, the friends. Therefore it must have been a combination of all. It was a night where I could just forget about the stresses of exchange and celebrate a central American holiday.
the Rotary kids of Milano after Thanksgiving dinner 
yummy food :)
I have officially ended my piano lessons after much debate. Although I now have more time for other things, I still seem to be busy at all hours of the day. Finding time for the gym is my new goal, as my schedule now allows me to go there only about 2 or 3 times a week at best, which is better than nothing.

In school I have been assigned an Italian book to read (complete with analyses and essays) by the end of Christmas break. Now I am halfway finished and I can easily follow the plot; I only need to translate words every now and then that I do not recognize. In other news, I went to a disco for the second time, but just like on Halloween night, we could not enter because of the crowd. I asked my friends if the discos are always like this, but they simply said "No, you are just unlucky." Great.

This week has been the Feast of San Ambrogio, the patron saint of Milano. Therefore, I have been off school from Wednesday through Friday. On Wednesday I went with some exchange friends to the World Fair (L'artigiano in fiera) at the state-of-the-art exhibition center outside the city. It was unbelievable. The size of it was one thing, the buildings themselves another, but the number of countries represented blew me away. Each building was divided into countries (or in the case of Italy, provinces) and because of this you could visit each part of the world and view/buy their goods. There were crafts, jewelry, food, clothes, furniture, anything you can imagine! After a whole day of attempting to see everything (which was impossible) I bought only one thing: a scarf, from the district of Como (like the lake).
the gang

Asia!

America representtttt
Update on the France trip! We have received permission from everyone!!!! Two days ago my friend Kate and I bought train tickets, and we have already set up an itinerary for our week on the Riviera. :D We will be there from January 2-7 and are scheduled to visit Grasse, Cannes, Nice, Monaco, Saint-Raphael, and the town of Draguignan where we will be hosted by my friend Madalyn. CAN'T WAIT!!!!

In the next week I have a ton of engagements. Today I will be meeting my possible next host family, and that's a little intimidating seeing as I know literally nothing about them. Later this week I have the Christmas Concert in the Duomo, at which all the Rotary clubs will be. The night after, I have my own Rotary club's Christmas party, and I will be introduced to all the members for the first time. Life is so crazyyyy!!!! Lastly, I got a haircut yesterday, my first in Italy. Here we go:
Arrivederci! :)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Festa del Torrone!

Another week in Italia has passed, and I am now relaxing after a full day of school, Christmas shopping, and an Italian lesson. This past Saturday, I visited an open-air market for the first time, and let me just say that it was quite sketch. That area of town was full of........"unique" people and I do not plan on returning soon. However, I found several nice items there that will surely be used as gifts for the holidays. Yesterday, Sunday, three good exchange friends and I took a train to the city of Cremona, about an hour southeast of Milano. Our reason for traveling there: the Festa del Torrone. Torrone is a type of dessert, and I can only describe it as similar to nougat, and usually with sliced almonds inside. There are many different flavors, and you can buy the firm or soft kind. I would recommend the soft; otherwise you'll break your teeth trying to bite down.


Throughout the day we hit up all the main attractions in Cremona, including climbing the Torrazzo, apparently the tallest building in Italia. We met up with other exchangers from different districts and had a lovely time exploring the windy little streets. Booths selling torrone were set up EVERYWHERE and delicious aromas were wafting through the air all day. Needless to say, we sampled plenty of sweets and treats. 

torrone everywhere!!! 
Torrazzo
our awesome group at the top of the Torrazzo 
a somewhat awkward view of the city center (and torrone violin!)
It was really a great day. It was freezing cold, but at least I got to make good use of my new scarf and gloves! I bought several nice things for Christmas gifts and I am immensely satisfied with our trip. Cremona is known as the Fiddlers’ City because of its famous violins, but we didn’t go to the violin-maker because we are supposed to go when we “officially” visit Cremona with Rotary in March. Speaking of Rotary, I am supposedly going to be introduced to my host club in the next few weeks, around the time we have the big Rotary Christmas Party. We shall see!

My busy schedule (now including Choir every Wednesday) has prevented me from finding time to practice piano. The few times a week I am free to practice, I am not able to find a piano. Therefore, I may be dropping my piano lessons soon. Maybe a solution will present itself, but I don’t know. Again, we will see.

I am starting to formulate a plan for a trip over Christmas Break, maybe to France to see my lovely amica, Madalyn. Details will have to be arranged super soon if I want to make it happen though, so I’ll be looking into it. The Milano kids are planning a Thanksgiving dinner this week, and this will be our only celebration since Italians obviously don’t practice this holiday. Oh well. For all you North Americans, Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Nave Italia

Here we are, almost halfway through November already. Life finds me relaxing at home on a Sunday after returning from a three-day cruise with my District 2040 family. We took a train to the seaside town of La Spezia, from which we embarked on an Italian naval ship for several days of teamwork, fun, and learning. The program was called "Nave Italia" and we were accompanied on our voyage by about twenty sailors. Originally, the plan was to sail south to the island of Elba, but recent bad weather on the island prevented us from going. So in the end we just sailed up and down the coast without making port anywhere. A bit disappointing, but the whole experience was still a lot of fun.

me climbing the rigging

the dining area 

the sails

incredible sunset 

hoisting a sail
We played team-building games, climbed up in the rigging, swabbed the deck, danced the night away, hoisted the sails, learned the history of sailing, and practiced our Italian with a crew of almost all Sicilian men (whose accents were pretty thick). After three days of such living, we made port back at La Spezia. There, we visited the Naval Museum and then walked to lunch at a pizzeria. My host family is originally from La Spezia, so I especially enjoyed seeing their beloved town. Later that afternoon we hopped on a train back to Milano and said our goodbyes until next time.

This week I will most likely begin choir and I hope that goes well. I FINALLY received a package of delicious American food from my family in the US, after seven weeks of waiting (apparently it made a detour to Israel before arriving here......I don't understand). Thanksgiving is approaching soon and I really want to cook at least one dish for my host family, but we'll see how that works out. Look at that--I finally made a concise blog post! And with that, I will end. :)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Neutrality

Life since my last post has been interesting. I honestly can't say if it's been good or bad, so I'll just say that it has been neutral. School continues to drag along, and this week the music classes begin. My new schedule has normal classes on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and music classes are on Tuesday and Friday. No Saturday school--ever!!!!! So that's pretty amazingly awesome (the other exchangers here are so envious, mwahaha). Last week, I had my first two real interrogations. The first was in Art History, and I believe that went well; the second was in English and even though I was forced by my classmates to do it only 10 minutes beforehand, I came out with a 9 out of 10. So I'd say success.

This week I have been on a sort of Fall Break, since we have not had school this Monday (Halloween), Tuesday (All Saint's Day), and Wednesday. I am so glad the break arrived when it did, because I desperately needed some rest time. Some strange health issues have left me feeling confused, annoyed, and exhausted recently. I won't give details, but the first included an invalid nose, and the second included a nasty neck infection. I think both are healing now so hopefully I won't have to deal with them anymore soon.

Last Friday night I visited a suburb of Milano (Cernusco sul Naviglio) for a school friend's birthday party. We went to a pizzeria and then went over to a bowling alley. Unfortunately, my bowling skills were a lot better when I was little (I will refrain from saying my final score). But it was a nice glimpse into another part of the city and I had fun with my school friends!

On Monday night some of my school friends and exchange friends planned a night at the disco. However, at the last minute, some people cancelled and then it turns out that we couldn't even get into the disco for some reason (the line didn't move an inch after waiting over an hour). So we sold our tickets and left. It was still a fun evening, but my dream of finally going to a disco was once again dashed.

Yesterday my friend Sam, an exchanger in Cremona, visited me and Milano for the first time. We saw 99.9% of the city in order to see all the famous sights. We even got to see an exhibit of the painter Artemesia Gentileschi and later we went on the roof of the Duomo to see the city by night! By the end of the day both of us were dead tired, but it was a lot of fun all the same. Today I slept until noon. :)

And so, October has left us and November has arrived. November and early December are supposed to be the darkest times of an exchanger's year, when the enthusiasm for the host country is at its lowest point. This is because although the student can understand the language well, he/she still cannot speak completely fluently; this frustration combined with the colder weather makes for a bad attitude towards the exchange. I hope that my attitude does not follow this pattern so dramatically, but I can already feel it starting to happen a little. I just have to remind myself how lucky I am to be here and that I should appreciate everything I get to do. For example, next week District 2040 is going on a cruise from La Spezia to the island of Elba, which I only recognize because it was where Napoleon was exiled back in the day. I will be sure to update the old bloggedy blog after that trip. Until then, a presto!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hot Chocolate

It's starting to become more and more difficult to remember specifically what I've done since each blog post, but I'll take that as a good thing. Life is finally settling into a routine now that I have my Italian lesson, theatre class, and piano lesson every week. However, in a few weeks my school schedule will change completely once music classes begin (at that point I'll also be going on Saturday, like the rest of the schools in Italy). My life can't seem to stay sedentary!! Whoa that was a big word...annnd I don't even know if I used it correctly. Oh English. In the past week I have forgotten English words and expressions on a number of occasions, and I'm not gonna lie, it's pretty funny when it happens. But I think I'm finally at the point of speaking Italian all the time (except when friends at school want to speak English, which is way too often for my fledgling Italian skills!).

Last Wednesday I took the train with some guys up to Lecco (on Lake Como) for my second visit. There were a lot of exchangers there and we spent a short afternoon of lakeside strolling and gelato. It was too short of a visit for my tastes though so hopefully we can plan better next time. I finished the school week with a successful second piano lesson, during which my maestro gave me a decidedly more difficult piece to practice for this week. I spent a lot of time today trying to master it but it's definitely going to take some time. Piano lessons here are also with other students, so it's more intimidating than if I was just playing for the maestro. Oh well.
a better view of Lake Como than last time
the gang :)
On Saturday night I went out for dinner with my lovely friend Katie who I met at outbound camp all the way back in June. It's SO weird to think that it's halfway through October already! Where did the summer go? Anyways, I'll get into the deep philosophical stuff later. :P So, Katie and I met at the Duomo and decided to explore the surrounding downtown area for a good restaurant. The result was a cafe near the Navigli (canals) where we each ordered a margherita pizza and hot chocolate. Not just any hot chocolate, but cioccolata calda. The Italian version. Which is basically solid chocolate that has been melted and then poured into a cup. We were sitting outside on the sidewalk so the warmth of the melted chocolate was absolutely divine!!!! Needless to say my first Italian hot chocolate was perfection. :)

Today I had another Italian lesson (sigh) and afterwards some of the exchange girls and I went to Decathlon, a sports megastore near downtown. That place has everything, and it's all so cheap!!!! I will definitely be going there for any basic clothing needs or for anything in general because it's alllllll there. BUT on the way there, we stopped at a cafe in Via Dante for the girls' first cioccolata calda even though it wasn't as good as the cafe Katie and I visited. Since it's now too cold for gelato, this is my new treat of choice!

Now for the deep stuff. I really love Milano. I had this epiphany while I was taking the bus home from Decathlon today. My house was only 3 stops away, but I was so lost in thought about my love of the city that I actually missed my stop...Therefore, I had to walk forever to go back. In a way it's kind of poetically beautiful (or not). But back to the point! I realized that I don't want to leave. Even if I am always slightly worried about school and piano, and always really worried about if my Italian is progressing enough, I can't see myself leaving this city for good. There is just so much to discover and so many friendships to deepen and I can't wait to have some real adventures! Also, I am so proud of myself because today was a nightmare trying to get to my Italian lesson. My first trolley was on time, but my second (and final) one never showed up. Soo, I had to walk all the way to the nearest metro stop, take the red line to Duomo, switch to the yellow line, and then get off about a km away from my Italian lesson location. And I had to pee the entire time. I left over an hour early for my lesson and I was still 20 minutes late, which is SO ridiculous. But. I found my way by myself, and for that reason I am glad. And you should be too. ;)

Some days I feel like my Italian has really progressed, but on others I feel so lost. Tomorrow will probably be a lost day because I'm going to theatre, and the teacher always talks so fast that I can't catch anything he says. It's pretty discouraging actually. And I want to chat to my friends at school more but it's just so difficult to jump in a conversation because then they have to stop and explain to me what has already been said and what is being said, etc. etc. I am working on hanging out with them more though, because they're really cool kids. I wanted to organize a Halloween event (they don't generally celebrate it here) but most of them are too embarrassed to dress up and go out in public, so maybe I'll do something with the other exchangers, who are beyond excited. It's in 2 weeks though so I need to make up my mind quickly. Okay. Enough rambling. This post wasn't supposed to be long. Thank you for reading if you've read this far! A piĆ¹ tardi.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Teatro, Piano, Aperitivo, Duomo

This past week since Cinque Terre has been full of firsts! Before everything else, I must say that summer has finally ended. Although that technically happened three weeks ago, we had our first legitimately cold day last Saturday. I have officially forgotten about wearing shorts and have started to contemplate wintry outfits/accessories. Anyways. On Tuesday, I went to my first theatre class, which turned out to be more PE than theatre. But I think it was just because the class had just started, and we are beginning with the basics. I return this Tuesday for the next class. In total there are 20 lessons, one a week for the next five months (ending in February/early March I'm guessing). At the end we will produce a show of some sort, although it's not clear which type at this point. Speaking of theatre, the musical Sister Act is opening soon in Milano, and it will run through the end of November. Judging from my love of the movies, I'll most likely be going to the musical. Actually, on the way home from school the other day, I noticed some nuns in convertibles. All of a sudden they started singing and driving through the streets! Then I saw the "Sister Act" logo on the cars and realized they were only actresses. haha. But it was still a funny sight. I never have my camera when I need it. -.-

Anywho. On Friday only half of my class showed up to school, and the teacher was nowhere to be found. Then we realized that a "manifestazione" was happening that day. This is a type of intense political rally that happens every month or so, depending on how angry the public is at the government (and by the government I mean Berlusconi). Soooo, we got to go home early and that was a nice surprise. But in the afternoon I had to return to school for a meeting with my new piano teacher. Turns out that it was my first lesson, not just a meeting, and I felt extremely unprepared after 4 years of no lessons. It's only "complementary" piano, which all students have to take, but it's still intimidating. I'm in for a fun year. And since there isn't a piano in my host home, I now have to stay after school every day to practice, which means I won't get lunch until 3/3:30ish, which means I'll have to go to the gym at 5ish when there are tons of people there (and I hate the gym when it's crowded). But I am learning that a fundamental part of exchange is sacrifice. There is rarely a time when everything is going to work out perfectly; for example, if I'm faced with three things I want to do, usually I'll have to choose the least important one to throw out. But as I adjust to this way of life, I like to think that such sacrifices become a little bit easier to handle.

On Friday night I was invited to my friend Francesca's house for an aperitivo, along with Milly and Marco. Francesca lived in Starkville for her exchange 2 years ago, and she lives very close to me in Milano. Small world, right? This was the second time for me to visit her house, and it was a fun time. On Saturday afternoon I headed up to school to practice piano, and afterwards some school friends joined me at Arco della Pace (down the street from my house) for an aperitivo at this cool Indian restaurant. (The manifestazione was winding down nearby, so I saw my first one of those as well!) We spoke in almost all Italian and walked around the Arco area after, which is a very popular spot for nightlife. We didn't even do anything in particular after eating, but it was a wonderful night since I got to spend time with school friends and laugh with them about anything and everything. :D
school friends :)
Today is Sunday and some exchange kids in Milano met up at the Duomo for an afternoon downtown. We each had something in mind to pick up at a store (for me, a scarf; for others, gloves and jeans) but none of us was successful in our search. Regardless, it was nice to see everyone. Also, we entered Il Duomo for the first time, and the inside of the cathedral is INDESCRIBABLY beautiful. The outside is ornate and intricate, but the inside is sooooo much better!!!!! I think my jaw must have dropped to the floor the entire time we were there. Of course, I didn't have my camera, but next time I will take so many pictures (not that they will do it justice). The vaulted ceiling was so impossibly high, and the artwork and statuary everywhere were incredible.

This week will see me attending another Italian lesson with exchangers (Monday), my second theatre class (Tuesday), a possible trip to Lecco (Wednesday), and my second piano lesson (Friday). With each day infused with gym workouts and piano practice as well. I realize that my English skills are weakening with each blog post....when I read back through a post, it seems all over the place, with no organization. I apologize for this and hope that it doesn't bother you too much because I don't think it's going to change anytime soon. :) Okay it's time for bed here in Milano. Just took our dog out for a walk and now I'm ready for a full day tomorrow! Buonanotte.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Cinque Terre

So I just had my best weekend EVER. And it was all thanks to Rotary, of course. My district went to the seaside villages of Cinque Terre for our orientation weekend, and we had SO much fun!! We took the train from Milano to the first village, Monterosso, where we stayed in a mountaintop monastery hotel thing. On Friday after we arrived, we settled into our rooms, had dinner at the monastery, and then had an orientation meeting, followed by a talent show. I was forced to go first, and so I sang for everyone. It was great to see the random talents everyone had which included singing, Irish step dancing, magic tricks, and intense push-ups. Afterwards, the students stayed up talking in a big group until late.
arrival at Monterosso
On Saturday we took a long hike from Monterosso to the next village of Vernazza. The hike was hot and tiring but the scenery was beautiful! Mountains, vineyards, olive trees.......so completely Italian. And Vernazza was totally worth the sweat it took to get there. The buildings are brightly colored and the streets are tiny and winding. We made our way through the maze of passageways up to an ancient castle that overlooks the city from the ocean side. From there we had a view of the town as well as Monterosso and other villages part of Cinque Terre. We took a gelato (and the guy working there complimented our Italian; there were so many American tourists in Vernazza), but before the gelato, we heard cheering from around the corner so we investigated, and candy started falling from the sky. From the sky!!! But it turns out that a couple had just gotten married and were throwing candy out of these baskets from a balcony to the crowd below. Let me just say that you should never underestimate the agility of old ladies. They were like mowing down the little kids (and me) to get the pieces of candy, but I beat a few of them to several pieces, and the results were delicious! But it was just such a random moment filled with so much joy that made me so happy to be in Italia. :)
Vernazza
the hike from Monterosso to Vernazza
We eventually left Vernazza and caught the train back to Monterosso. We had intended to hike to the next village as well but we were too tired by then. In Monterosso we ate a simple lunch of focaccia, a type of bread for which the beach region of Liguria is famous, and then we went to the beach! Unfortunately, the beaches there are composed of evil little rocks that constantly try to murder your feet, but it was pretty fun (kind of ruined for me by several terrible leg cramps while swimming). Later we returned to the monastery and had dinner and another orientation meeting. After the meeting we set out on our mission to produce a scary movie. This idea was formed on Friday night soon after we arrived because the monastery was simply so creepy at night. The plot line for the movie was pretty good but by the time we started making it, everyone was delirious and giggly. Thus, the first part of the film is pretty good but after the first death, everything became super rushed and the end result will be ridiculously funny (at least to the people who helped make it).
Monterosso beach round 1
On Sunday we basically walked around random parts of Monterosso and saw things ranging from an old hilltop cemetery to a vineyard/lemon orchard/beekeeping place to a company that harvests anchovies locally. After lunch we ended up at a different beach, which was so much better than the first. This is due to the fact that there was a huge rock emerging from the water about fifty yards into the water. We swam to it and jumped off it at least 5 times each. SO. MUCH. FUN. It was a perfect end to the weekend. At about 17:00 we caught the train back to Milano and went our separate ways.
view of Monterosso from the monastery
Tomorrow is Tuesday and apparently there is a theatre class starting at the school across the street from mine. I am going to go and check it out, but I'm not sure if I'll be into it since my Italian is still improving and therefore acting in Italian would be incredibly awkward. But I want to grasp every opportunity that appears, and since this is pretty much the only extracurricular activity that has appeared, I am going to at least try it out. Yesterday (Sunday) marked exactly 4 weeks in Italia, and tomorrow will technically mark the official one-month mark. It has flown by so far and I am realizing that I really need to take advantage of every day that I'm here. So this week I'm kicking English to the curb as much as possible. I had been trying before but after our orientation weekend, I know that I should try harder than ever.

Alsoooo, last Tuesday night I went to La Scala for the second time and saw an opera by Strauss, and it was incredibly better than the first opera I saw (by Monteverdi). The music, actors/singers, and technical aspects were just a lot better. But anyways. I don't know what else will be happening soon, but I will try to keep up with the blogging! Arrivederci!!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Varenna / Lecco

It is now Sunday morning and I am awaiting the arrival of my host family's relatives for a brunch. Yesterday, however, I traveled to the mountains with some Rotary friends for a day of natural beauty and small-town charm. Nicolai and I took the train to Varenna (my first train ride) and met the other kids who actually live in the northern towns of Lecco and Bellano (all on the coast of the beautiful Lake Como). In Varenna we got a late lunch/early dinner and walked around the small streets. Eventually Nicolai decided to take a swim in Lake Como which turned out to be a bad idea because the water was freezing. I took tons of pictures and it was just a grand time with the other exchange students.      
Varenna
 
       I love the lake!!!
Lake Como
After Varenna we took the train back to Lecco, a town where several exchangers live. I loved it even more than Varenna. Lecco was more of a town, whereas Varenna was kind of just a few pretty buildings on the lake with the sole purpose of attracting tourists. In Lecco we had a light little aperitivo thing and after walking around a bit, Nicolai and I jumped on the train (which was late) and arrived back in Milano at about 22:00.  

   Lecco
On Friday night my Rotary tutor (counselor) invited me to a piano concert, so I went with him and saw Ludovico Einaudi play his own compositions for about 1.5 hours. The music was beautiful but it was late at night and by the end I was so sleepy. Like I said, today is a family brunch and then tomorrow starts another week of school. I now own all the textbooks I need, so maybe I can kind of follow along during class? Or maybe not. Oh well. However, although school this week will be boring as ever, I can at least look forward to next weekend which is District 2040 orientation at Cinque Terre!!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

La Scala and Rotary Trips

Although my first day of school was rather terrible, school in general has improved significantly. I still don't understand most of what the teachers are saying, so in classes such as History, Philosophy, and Italian, I just sit there and look up new words that I am hearing. My English class is actually an English literature class, so I am now being forced to read Macbeth by next week and then take a test comparing it to Hamlet, which I read last year. Needless to say, I no longer look forward to that class. As in the rest of Italy, you stay with the same group of kids all day in the same classroom, and the different teachers rotate from class to class. This is convenient for the kids, but sitting for virtually 6 hours straight with only one 10 minute break gets pretty boring.


Two nights ago there was a Rotary gathering for all the inbound students and the old outbounds from last year. It was at this chill little bar (Bar Bianco) in the middle of Parco Sempione, which is the huge (and beautiful) park right next to our flat. It was so much fun! I got to meet a ton of people and exchange business cards properly for the first time, haha. I was sad when we had to go home.

Bar Bianco
We also received a schedule of Rotary trips/events throughout the year. In chronological order: Cinque Terre (end of Sep. and orientation will happen there); cruise from La Spezia to Elba (Nov.); Christmas Party; Venezia for CARNIVALE!!! (Feb.); Cremona (March); and then the amazing week-long tour of Napoli, Sorrento, and Roma (April); and finally a mountain retreat in May near the Swiss border. I think it goes without saying that I am pretty darn excited for these events. :D

Last night my class got free tickets to see an opera at La Scala. As in, THE La Scala of world-renowned fame. CRAZY RIGHT? In my second week!!!!!!! The opera was Il ritorno di Ulisse in patria, and it was more than 3 hours long. So. Incredibly. Boring. But some friends and I had a box so at least I got to spend time with them outside of school! Unfortunately many kids in my class live outside Milano so it's more difficult to coordinate with them on the weekends or whenever. But hopefully it'll be okay throughout the year.

This afternoon there was the first official Rotary meeting of the district. All host families, current and future, were invited to learn more about technical details of exchange. It wasn't the most interesting thing in the world but thankfully it didn't last very long. Tonight I originally had plans to go for aperitivi with friends and then the disco, but a storm rolled in recently and cancelled all plans because the kids outside of Milano couldn't make it. So now I'm staying home on a Saturday, which isn't terrible but I wanted to take advantage of a non-school night. Oh well. I have the rest of the year I suppose. :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

School

front of school
So today was the first day of school, and I believe I will have a hard time preventing myself from turning this post into a never-ending rant. Of course my school forgot that I was coming, so that was a nice welcome. The language barrier was awkward as usual, but I knew that would happen. It was the fact that my school had not contacted me about summer work and required materials that rather infuriated me. Over the summer my class read Macbeth as well as several other pieces of literature, but of course I was not informed so now I am far behind. Also, I am not guaranteed a music teacher in school because as a temporary student, I do not have priority. However I believe I will be at least having private piano lessons somehow. The teachers at school did not speak to me today, so I don't really know what's happening at all in my situation. An English/Italian girl named Celeste saved my life in school because she was the only one who was fluent in English, so she translated for me and explained the supplies I needed and everything.

I am not as agitated as I was directly after school because now I've had a chance to calm down, haha. But I just have to remember that every exchange kid goes through this period of awkwardness at the start of school. I just feel so uncertain about what's going to happen as far as my class's summer work and my music classes, which start in November. Until November I have school only Monday-Friday, but when music lessons start then I'll have M-W-F normal classes and T-T-S music classes. Each day has a different schedule, so it's pretty complicated (even more than SHS).

The normal classes I'm taking are as follows:

courtyard of school 
  • Italian
  • Art History (whooo!!!)
  • English (favorite class I'm sure)
  • History / Philosophy
  • Math / Physics
  • General Science (thankfully only once a week)
  • PE
  • Religion (optional, not sure if I'll take it)
The music classes which start in November are:
  • Music History
  • Harmony (a level up from Theory)
  • and then instrument-specific classes (don't understand how these work yet)
My class, 4B, has about 25 kids and let me just say that my school is the most hipster place EVER. I rolled in with my American Eagle threads and I could feel vision beams of death from every side. Okay just kidding. But really, I was not prepared for the specific fashion of my school. In addition, school usually starts at 8:15 (except Thursday) and ends at 13:15 (except Tuesday, but later in the year it will end closer to 14 every day). 

So there you have it. I have officially been here for longer than a week, and I have officially survived completed my first day of school. Ciao ciao. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

First Few Days

I have been here in Milano for only five days but it feels like it's been a month. Already I can find my way around the northwest sector of the city and I am no longer as terrified of riding a bike through the crazy Italian traffic (and it is about 20 times crazier than anything you can imagine......Roma is even worse but anyways).

Last night there was a party for Nicolai (the guy from Sweden) and I, and it was good. It was at Nicolai's host home and we were introduced to a number of random people, the grand majority of whose names I can't remember (is that correct grammar? My English is slowly dying). I did meet my next host mom though, so that was nice, mainly because I now know that I actually HAVE another host family, haha. Annnywaysssss.

Il Duomo!!!!!
Today Nicolai and I met up with a bunch of exchange kids and toured the city, including Il Duomo, a creepy bone church, and the amazing shopping district next to Il Duomo. We eventually went north by metro (my first metro ride in Milano) to see Harry Potter in English, but after much searching we discovered that it was not showing today. So we got aperitifs in a random cafe instead. Then we headed back to Duomo for shopping, but we didn't have much time before some girls had to catch a train back to Lecco (a smaller town in the north, almost in Switzerland). I bought a vest and a shirt, but I just realized that the vest is the wrong size so I'll have to exchange it. This simple act of exchanging clothes is magnified since I am still nervous to speak Italian to random people in public. Speaking with my host family is fine because I am comfortable with them, but in public I rarely understand a response to my question. Oh well. OH and earlier in the day we went to Abercrombie, the only store in Italy apparently. It's HUGE. And apparently on the inside it's like a club--everything is dark and there are half-naked go-go dancing models. When you enter, you can take pictures with shirtless models, but when we arrived today, the line was like 100 yards long. Ridiculous. So I'll have to go in another time. Abercrombie and Hollister are both very popular here, which is weird for me since I usually consider both to be snobby and obnox. But here it's common to see teenagers wearing stuff from those stores. Ah well.

I learned today that my school starts on Tuesday, so that'll be a whole new adventure. Also, I am joining my brother Andrea's gym. Since schools don't have sports and sports aren't really my thing anyway, the gym is an easy and very convenient way to stay in shape (curse you Italian food!.....okay not really) and maybe even tone up some muscles here and there if I'm lucky. If I'm very, very lucky. Okay. I dunno what's going to happen in the next few days before school, so I'll blog again when I have a story worthy of telling. Until then, a presto!

P.S. Tonight is also Vogue's Fashion Night Out in the city, so all the stores were open until 11 instead of the usual 8, and I'm guessing that all the attractive people with attractive clothes will be strutting their stuff all over downtown. I wanted to go but after the gym tonight I was too tired. Maybe I'll have another chance. :)

Monday, September 5, 2011

MILANOOOOOOOOO

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flight from Paris to Milano
This should let you know that I am FINALLY in Milano. In Italia. In Europe. Where do I begin??? The visit with Luca's host family was great before my flight to Paris. I had a lot of fun meeting Luca and reviewing Italian, haha. Then came the DC airport. Saying goodbye was not as difficult as I thought, and indeed no tears were shed by me, my mom, or Wheeler and McKay. The flight to Paris was fine--I slept for the first part of the flight, but then a crazy baby started losing it during the second half, and so I watched Pirates of the Caribbean 4 on my little in-flight TV. Before the flight left for Paris, I actually heard a family next to me in the terminal speaking Italian, so I eventually got up the courage to speak to them! They didn't speak much English, so I really had to exercise my Italian skills. We got along very well and we visited each other a few times on the plane. They live in Venezia (Venice) and want to visit me again. :)

Anyways. Yesterday was the longest day of my life. Paris was an absolute nightmare. I hated every moment I was there. My 1.75 hour layover was not even one third the amount of time that it would take to get to my next terminal. I only made my next flight to Milano because of my newfound Italian friends. They helped me get through the ridiculous lines and crowds in order to barely catch my flight before it left. I have never experienced such hell on earth. But enough sadness, on to the beauty of Italia!!

fancy Italian phone :P
I arrived at about 9:30 in the morning and I was met by Milly and my Rotary counselor. We came home and left my bags before heading to the store (by bike) to get me a new SIM card for my phone. It rained the entire way back home. The short story is that my old American phone won't work here, so I had to get a new Italian one which was very cheap and extremely simple. I took a nap after unpacking yesterday, and I woke up in time for dinner (la pasta con pesto) and then slept until 7:00 this morning.

Today was a day of bureaucracy. Milly and I rode bikes all over Milano to various government offices to complete paperwork for me. We went to so many places and I felt like I had seen the entire city, when in reality I probably saw only like 1/50th of it. haha. But now I am home. I met Andrea (oldest brother) this morning, and I just met Marco (middle brother) about an hour ago.

my room
The food here is excellent, if very simple. Milly told me that I must speak Italian all the time, except maybe an hour a day for English with Marco o Andrea--Marco is fluent in English but Andrea is still learning, and he needs to know it for college. Our flat is lovely; it has 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, and my room is small but has a high ceiling and big windows. The fashion here is much different than I imagined, and I think I'll have to get many new clothes, especially jeans, which I just learned do not truly fit anymore.

That's all I can think of now, and I apologize for my choppy English throughout the post--speaking Italian for even only 2 days has made English more difficult. Tonight I will see my friend Francesca, who lived in Starkville for a year through Rotary. On Wednesday night there will be a welcome party for me and a boy from Sweden. On Thursday many exchange kids in the area will see the sights in Milano and then see Harry Potter (in English). This week is going to be tiring, and school doesn't even start until next Monday!! I will try to blog regularly. Ciaoooo!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

TOMORROW

"So what are you doing this weekend?" "Oh not much, just MOVING TO ITALY FOR A YEAR." This is pretty much my life. Actually I still haven't grasped the fact that I am about to leave the US tomorrow afternoon. A year's worth of planning and waiting and more planning has led to this time of departure, and now it's finally happening. I am truly at a loss to describe how I feel right now.....in fact this is becoming the most difficult blog post to date. Maybe I should give a quick recap of today's events before I start getting all philosophical.

I visited the University of Richmond today after picking my sister Wheeler up from the airport, who is staying with my mom and McKay for Labor Day weekend. I immediately fell in love with the school. Everything was perfect, and the day kept getting better and better as we toured the campus and learned more about the academics. Richmond is definitely my top choice now and I can't wait to send in my application. It's funny that the last college I visited (about the 14th one) turned out to be my favorite one, but I'm just glad I discovered it before I left for Italia!

My carry-on bag is officially closed and waiting by the door. The other two checked bags are basically finished but I am washing a few last minute clothes right now. McKay is writing her goodbye note to me in my now-emotional journal book thingy. We are leaving at about 8:30 tomorrow morning to make it to my youngest host bro Luca's house in NOVA (Northern Virginia) by 10:00 for brunch. I am excited to meet him as this may be the only time our paths will cross, since he'll be in the US all this year for his own exchange.

Then, depending on how hungry we are afterward (if at all) we will grab some lunch and leave me at the airport by 2:30, since international flights require your presence earlier than usual. My flight to Paris leaves at 4:30 and I'll get there at 6:00 AM Paris time, which is midnight Virginia time. Then I'll leave Paris at 7:45 and arrive in Milano at 9:15. I will be met there by both host parents and my Rotary counselor, Edoardo Costa. Beyond that.....I have no idea. haha. We will soon see!!!!

My last blog post in the US. Last night in the US. And soon I will have my last midnight snack in the US. Italia, here I come!!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

One Week

Whoo! As I write this blog post, Hurricane Irene is bearing down on the East Coast, about to strike Virginia. In fact I may not have electricity for much longer. This whole earthquake-and-hurricane-in-the-same-week thing is quite annoying, and I wish I could just live my last week in the US in peace. But no. Mother Nature has other plans in store for me. =P

This past week was pretty boring (besides the hurri-quake), but I did get some things done. First was making copies of all my vital paperwork, as I recently learned that I must carry these copies on me when I enter Italy because the Border Authority can ask to see them at any time. Next I tried to figure out my packing situation. My friends who are now in France warned me against taking too many bags, and at the time I was planning on bringing two checked bags and one carry-on. So then I planned to take only one checked bag, but my mom just convinced me to take the second checked bag so I'll be able to take more host family gifts with me. Eeek. I just don't want to take three bags when I could really get by with only two. We shall have to see how this plays out.

On Tuesday there was a 5.9 earthquake which was felt from Georgia all the way up the East Coast to Canada. The epicenter was 20 miles away from where we live. haha. It was fun as I've never experienced an earthquake before, and thankfully no one was hurt. There were several aftershocks as well.

Today my mom, McKay, and I drove to Charlottesville to visit the University of Virginia, aka UVA. It's my next-to-last college visit, and I was anxious to see if I would fall in love with this school. Unfortunately the pre-hurricane weather dampened our visit (literally) but we got to visit two friends also from Starkville, Ida and Stevie! After the tour we all had lunch and it was grand. The school itself is fabulous (#2 in the country for public universities) but I don't know if it's right for me. I just didn't feel right while there. But again, who knows what will happen with the college situation. This week I have also been writing college essays to avoid doing them while in Italy. But back to today: We got back home only about an hour ago, and we're preparing for the intense weather which will hit in a few hours and last all night. I may not have electricity for awhile, but I guess we'll survive.

I also made a list of things I still need to buy before departure, many of which I did not know I needed until this week. This list includes toiletries and snacks as well as a few more clothes that my sister Wheeler will bring me when she visits on Friday before I leave.

Did I mention that I have ONE WEEK?! I woke up this morning and I was like one week? One week....OMG ONE WEEK!!! It's almost here. This week I will be going around saying "Last Monday.....Last Thursday......Last meal....." haha it sounds like I'm dying. But as my friend Austin put it, our date of departure is like the death of one huge chapter of our lives, and the birth of another greater and yet unknown chapter. It's rather scary to think about, but I can't help but get excited at the thought of starting over. However, this week I have been trying to comprehend that I'll be gone.....for a year.....but I've pretty much resigned myself to the fact that it won't hit me until I'm in Europe, maybe not even until a few weeks after I'm there. No use dwelling on that now.

On Saturday morning I will drop by my youngest host bro Luca's house in northern VA (located conveniently on the way to the DC airport), as he is now there on his exchange year in the US. It will be a fun little brunch before we continue on to the airport and I finally depart. Alright, this post needs to end. 6 days, 22 hours, 27 minutes, 50 seconds!


Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Longest Two Weeks of My Life

It has been two weeks since my last post, and not much has happened since then. As of this moment, I have a little less than exactly two weeks left in the US. And these final two weeks will surely be the LONGEST TWO WEEKS OF MY LIFE hence the title of this post. Enough redundancy though. Today I ran some vital errands for my exchange.

The first errand was to buy an international power adaptor which we found at Staples (that was easy!). I will most likely use this adaptor only for my laptop Fabrizio so that he doesn't explode when I plug him into an Italian wall outlet. The second errand (also at Staples) was to laminate my health insurance card thing so I'll be able to keep it with me at all times. The dude who worked at Staples kind of chopped off part of the card so we got it for free.....haha.....

Also on the agenda of things to do before I depart are: buy an int'l calling card (in case I need it unexpectedly during my trip to Milano), get some Euros to use on the trip there, make copies of my visa and immunization record, and make sure I have contact info for the Giorgis and my host district YEO (Youth Exchange Officer) written down in case I need to contact them en route. Most of this stuff is simply precautionary, but I want to be as prepared as possible in case something happens between DC, Paris, and finally Milano.

My mom found a super inexpensive yet nice Samsonite suitcase at a local store, so I now have an extra bag! This is AWESOME because my stuff barely fit in my bags on the trip to Virginia a few weeks ago. Plus my backpack weighed wayyyy too much on the trip and I almost broke my back trying to carry it around the Atlanta airport. SO PAINFUL. Completely unrelated, but today I bought a lovely new watch. I never wear watches (mostly because my wrist is so small) but this one is great and I hope it will be able to serve me well in Italia and beyond. Enough rambling though--I will probably only blog one or two more times before I depart because I foresee nothing of consequence happening until then. 13 days, 18 hours, 52 minutes, and 25 seconds!

P.S. I just found out that I got A's in both summer classes at MSU. Not that I was worried or anything. :)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Virginia

I am finally in my new home in Fredericksburg, Virginia. It feels like it's taken forever to get here (a sign that doesn't bode well for my upcoming trans-Atlantic flight) but I'm finally here. I arrived in Richmond last night at about 22:15 (I have totally made the change to military time) and we stayed the night in a hotel. This morning my mom, McKay, and I drove to Williamsburg to tour the College of William & Mary, an awesome school. It's one of my top choices, but the experience was rather tainted by the ridiculous heat and humidity and the fact that dorms don't have A/C. We visited one and I almost died. Not really but still. We ate at a lovely colonial Williamsburg restaurant and then drove through the awful I-95 traffic to Fredericksburg.

Settling in was weird, mostly because I don't have my own room in the apartment my mom and sister have for this year. I kept my few winter clothes I own in my bags, and took everything else out. My mom picked up a NatGeo Explorer magazine for me with the cover story entitled "Milan's Big Heart" and I devoured the story. It made me about 20 times more excited for exchange. :D

Now that I'm here, it's time to really hit the Italian harder than ever. I also plan to hit the gym and pool though I know deep inside they will produce neither muscle nor tan, just exhaustion and sunburn. Oh well. It's something to do. Tomorrow is church and a visit to my mom's friend who apparently lives on the Chesapeake Bay. Should be an interesting visit. 27 days!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Maps

Just kidding about not blogging again until this weekend. I realized that I can add pictures and videos to these posts! (Which should have been blatantly obvious much earlier.) So I figured I would show you exactly where I will be, so you can get a good picture of Milano's location with regard to the rest of Italia and Europe.

Here is Italy in relation to Europe. 

And this is Italia itself. Milano is in the northwest corner, near the Swiss border.
And my first host family lives just west of Parco Sempione (in the upper left corner). Downtown!!!!

That's it for now, but I promise to post plenty of pictures in the future once I actually have photos to share! Exactly 30 days from today I will be on a plane out of DC. :)


Transition

It's been several weeks since my last post, but that's only because nothing much has happened.............until now. Yesterday I finally finished my two classes at MSU, and I never have to go to school in Starkville again! WHOO!!! Happy day. So yeah. This Friday (two days away) I will drive to Jackson with my dad and sister Wheeler for her volleyball tourney, but at 4:00 I will fly to ATL and then Richmond, VA. After meeting my mom and other sister McKay, we will spend the night there before attending William and Mary's preview day on Saturday. THEN we'll drive to Fredericksburg and I'll settle in for the rest of the month until Italia.

Milly requested a few weeks ago that I send a passport sized photo to be used in getting me a Milano bus pass. She wants to get the pass now so that we don't have to face the long lines in September when everyone else is getting theirs. I had completely forgotten about mailing the photo until today, so I ran to Walgreens, got the photo, and mailed it to Milano.

I also said goodbye to Keith Remy, my sponsor counselor. We chatted for a bit, and he became the first person to sign my journal. I got this idea from my Rotex at outbound camp. She had her friends in the US sign notes in a journal before she left for Italia, and before returning to the US at the end of her exchange year, she had her Italian friends write notes to her in it as well. Sooo I decided this was a great idea, and I will have my friends write in mine before I leave on Friday. It will be yet another way of keeping a record of my year abroad since I want to remember as much as I can!

I'll blog again once I've flown to VA and been to William and Mary. August in VA will be mostly uneventful, as I'll pretty much just sit around with McKay and try to motivate myself to read books and practice italiano. haha. 31 DAYS!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Midsummer Exchange Student's Dream

I've only just now realized that it's the middle of the summer....I mean, today is July 16, which is pretty much the middle of the summer in my mind. Where did June and the first half of July go??? Kinda surreal. Already, I am so much closer to leaving for my exchange. It still seems so far away, but I'm trying to consciously comprehend that right now, it's only 7 weeks away!!!! I titled this post "A Midsummer Exchange Student's Dream" because I have been experiencing a severe lack of emotion about my exchange lately, so much so that I feel like I'm in this weird dream state. Last month, I was very excited because I kept receiving new information every week, but now I just have to idly wait until my departure before anything of consequence happens again (at least in relation to the exchange).

Part of my family is moving to Fredericksburg, Virginia in a few days, but since I'm still taking classes, I'll stay here for 2 weeks and join them at the beginning of August (somewhere around the 5th). Classes are officially halfway over, and I have only 1 more test and a paper due for Religion, and 2 more tests for Pysch. I'm doing well so far and I don't anticipate any major obstacles for the rest of the summer term. College is ridiculously easy, at least at Mississippi State. ;)

Milly has requested a small picture of me to be submitted for my bus pass application, but the consulate kept my passport photo when I mailed my visa info, so I'll have to go get another passport-sized photo made next week. Then I have to physically mail it to her in Milano. She said we could wait until I'm in Italy, but lines for bus passes are super long in September, so she wants to get mine now. Also, she told me the cost of enrollment at my school, Liceo Musicale, and I'll have to bring that amount with me once I arrive.

Though college is easy, it's endlessly mind-numbing, so I can't wait for August when I can get a change of scenery in Virginia. Even though once I'm there, I will have literally nothing to do all day except sit around and study Italian.....which I should do more of anyways. Actually, today I learned 4 new verbs and their conjugations! Now the trick is to remember them all. ha...haha....ugh. 48 days. Only 48 days.

Friday, July 8, 2011

VISA!

As the title of this post implies, I now have my visa!!!!!! Which means I have pretty much all paperwork completed for my exchange!! The Miami consulate people were super fast in getting my original documents along with my stamped passport back to me. It only took about a week from the day we mailed out all the paperwork. Very impressed. Plus the visa sticker in my passport is a beautiful green color. I love looking at it. :)

Other than that, I recently found out that my host family will be out of Milano on the day I arrive (September 4). Host parents wanted to know if I could change my departure date, but it would cost WAY too much money to change it. Soooo, I asked if I could just stay with a Rotarian in Milano until they get back. We've done this for inbound students in Starkville, so I figured it wouldn't be a big deal. However, my host mom insisted that they'd just change their plans since it was still so far away in time. Whatever works I suppose.

Not much else exchange-related has happened since my last post. I did start classes at MSU this week, and they have been interesting to say the least (one professor didn't show up on the first day.....he thought classes started later in the week). I have my first college test today and it should be pretty easy. I'm not sure what will happen next that will be blog-worthy, but I will definitely keeping posting throughout the summer! Ciao for now. :)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Plane Tickets and Such

So much has happened in the past few days!! I don't even remember it all. Hmm. I suppose I'll start with my eye appointment. I had a regular eye check up and also received a copy of my eye prescription along with a year supply of contacts for my exchange. That was important, so I'm glad it's done now.

Then........the VISA. My mom and I printed out tons of forms and copied them numerous times and got them notarized and finally compiled everything to mail to the Miami consulate. Thankfully, the consulate people were cool enough to let us apply by mail instead of making an appearance in Miami, which would've been inconvenient to say the least. We sent it two days ago by overnight mail so it should have arrived by noon yesterday. Assuming we have no problems with them approving me, my visa should take only about a week to arrive. :D

Next important thing was enabling my checking account to be used in Europe. It was a lot easier than I thought actually.....the woman at the bank just had to "flag" my debit card so the bank would know I was in Europe from September to June. Super easy.

Next thing I did was make my plane reservation. This was the most anticipated thing of all (besides the visa), as I'm sure you can imagine. Sooooo, we got a ticket for me round trip, but the farthest date for return that we could set was only in May, so in a few months we'll have to extend the return flight. But it's all good cause we got tickets with Delta that are SUPER cheap compared to the rest of the flights. Anyways. I will officially leave the US from Washington, D.C. at 4:40 pm on Saturday, September 3. I will fly into Paris, have a 1.75 hour layover, and then I'll be on a short flight directly into Milano, which will arrive at 9:15 am Milano time on Sunday, September 4. Let me just say AHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I finally have a set date for my departure!!!!!!!! I totally created a countdown widget for Fabrizio, my computer, which tells me exactly how much time I have left in the US. Right now it's at 63 days, 22 hours, 26 minutes, and 40 seconds. :) :) :) :)

THEN I went to the Mississippi State bookstore and racked up on gifts for my host family, host counselor and/or YEO, and host club president. It was way more expensive than I thought. And I just realized I have to get gifts for my other host families too, but since I don't know them yet, I'll just wait until I get to Italy and have my real parents send me some MSU items. haha. Yayyyyyyy. 

Annnnnd my mom just got documentation from my doctor that I don't have TB. Apparently I have to carry this documentation with me to Italy. At least that's what they said at outbound camp. Even though to apply for exchange in the first place, you had to be TB negative, so I took the test last fall when I applied and was obviously negative, so I don't really know why I need extra paperwork........oh well.

Today I also visited Keith, my sponsor counselor, to pick up my set of 200 business cards that were just printed. They look pretty nice, and I'm excited about giving them to the awesome people I'm going to meet. :) Speaking of awesome people, I had to say goodbye to our inbound student from Taiwan, Jessie Hsu, who left Starkville today. She gave me a Taiwan pin for my blazer (the first pin another exchange kid has given me) and a business card, and in turn I gave her my card and some MSU pins. We didn't get very close this year, but she was still great to be around and I enjoyed meeting her. It was sad to see her go. =/

My to-do list is growing quickly smaller, and I am so excited about that. I have only a few minor things left to do, a major one being that I need to order a set of luggage. That should be done within the next week or two. Once I get my visa, I'll be practically ready to go. But first I have to take my 2 classes at MSU, which start this Tuesday, the 5th. They'll last all of July and then in early August I'm moving to Virginia with the family for a few weeks before I fly out of DC. Bring it on, MSU. You're the last thing standing in my way. :)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Guarantee Forms

At last. The anticipated day has arrived. I know it's hard to take in, especially considering the trials and tribulations I endured to get this far (aka waiting since October). But the all-too-vital Guarantee Forms have finally arrived in my hands from Italy!!!!!!!! I have never seen more beautiful paperwork in my life. They were mailed on Tuesday, so I wasn't expecting them until Saturday, but somehow they got here this morning! When Keith Remy, my Rotary counselor, called me a few hours ago with the good news, I hung up and screamed and started running around my house like crazy. It was about 10 times worse than when I got the news I was going to Italy all those months ago. Even though I've been planning this for a year, now I realize that it's actually happening!

The GF's were signed by me, my parents, my sponsor club officials, my host parents, my school in Italy, and my host club officials. And I now know that my first day of Italian school is 12 settembre. Which means I have to make a flight reservation soon for sometime between 2 and 6 settembre. Hopefully I can get that done tonight so I have a set day of departure when people ask, "So when are you leaving?" :)

Along with the blessed GF's, I also received documentation from my school, my host club, and some government things. I couldn't read most of it because they used BIG Italian words that are far beyond me. But it's all important because I have to mail it to the Italian consulate in Miami to get my VISA! The visa is the next step on the road to Italy. I was waiting to start my visa application until the GF's arrived, but now that they're here, I will eagerly begin filling out (more!) paperwork so that I will legally be able to live in Italy.

Besides all the papers from Italy, Keith also gave me 6 banners from my sponsor Rotary club here in Starkville. I will give these banners to my host club and Rotarians in Milano if they want them. Apparently some clubs don't care about collecting other clubs' banners. But oh well. In addition to all of the above, Keith showed me the layout for my business cards, and we printed about 20 of them for me to start with. The rest will be professionally done at some copying place here in town. I feel so legit with my business cards, ambassador nameplate, and paperwork!! I expect my next post will be about flight arrangements and/or visa application. Ciao :)