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! :)