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!!