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!!