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!