Sunday, March 29, 2009
Wow, life has been a whirlwind in the last few days! We successfully carried all of my bags up 5 flights of stairs (85 total one way, to be exact) and then celebrated both my arrival and Jason't birthday at PastaritO. I had some delicious risotto with a pumpkin sauce and pine nuts. Wow. Jason and I spent the afternoon getting my cell phone among other things. I spent that evening at their house and loved being able to play with the kids again. The big "victory" for that day was getting myself from my apartment to theirs on the tram. I was so nervous when I got on the first time! I just knew I was going to get myself lost even though it is a straight shot. But I didn't.
The next day was spent in my apartment unpacking all 5 of my suitcases. I checked 4 bags and had 1 carry-on suitcase in which I stuffed my electronics, camera equipment and other fragile items. It was quite heavy and I was blessed on every flight to have some nice gentleman offer to lift it up into the overhead compartment. (I didn't have that luxury on my last trip over!) It felt like Christmas to unpack all my suitcases, some of which had been packed since December! My "nesting bug" came out as I made this apartment my home. Jason and Allyson completely amazed me by how thoughtfully and thoroughly they prepared this place for me. It is fully stocked and everything looked beautiful! My jaw dropped when I walked in for the first time and still hasn't closed back again! After I get everything finished, I'll take pictures and post them!
That night, Allyson came over with lots of misc. information. (phone numbers, important dates, language plans, etc.) She also helped me figure out my oven, stove, and washing machine. The "victory" of yesterday was conquering my appliances! She then took me to the local supermarket and showed me around. Finally, we bought more minutes for my cell phone. Over here, you pay as you go. It's kind of a pain but you are never surprised by a big bill. Cell phone calls, however, are extremely expensive! It usually costs something like 1 or 2 euros for a 3-4 minute conversation! We are doing a lot of sms-ing since it is much cheaper.
Finally, I ended the night by getting to talk to Taylor and Heidi! Heidi, the jerk, had been passing through Milan 2 hours before on her way from Torino back to Rome. I hate I didn't get to see her but the plans are for me to go down to Rome sometime the week of the 13th!
Today was a HUGE day! I got on the tram and headed to Jason and Allyson's house to ride with them to the Church they go to. I had been there once before when I visited in November and was excited to go back! I was able to see several people I met before and meet new people too. This Church has quite a few english speakers, which is unusual, so I was able to talk with people. There were also many who did not speak English and I was forced to pull out my Italian that had gotten quite rusty since training. There was a super sweet older lady who could not speak any english but was so gracious to me as I tried to talk with her. One thing I have noticed is body gesture is hugely important to communicate to someone who doesn't speak your language: and the Italians are good at that! Even though I couldn't understand everything she said and I couldn't communicate everything I wanted to say, she showed so much warmth and kindness just by her smile, the cock of her head, her arm touching mine, etc. The hardest part of the language barrier for me is feeling like I cannot connect with those around me. She, and others, blessed me by the way they reached out!
Okay, for the big victory of the day! After Church, I crashed for about an hour. Then, I forced myself to get up to try the subway system. I am supposed to meet Jason in Lotto tomorrow for my codice fiscale and I wanted to make sure I could get there since I had yet to use the subway. He gave me directions, I recited them back to him and left. (see the next post for the account of the subway:) I arrived at the place I was supposed to meet him and got back on to return to Corso Vercelli. I then decided I had to visit the bakery beneath me to see the product of the garlic smell that wakes me up every morning. This has to be the nicest bakery ever! I have passed by many and I think this one is seriously the best! They have tons of fresh bread, pastries, pizza (hence the garlic:) and a coffee bar! This is like one-stop-shopping for me! I walked in so happy to see the crowd just leave and I had the place to myself. After our "Buona Sera's," I started the conversation off by telling them I only speak a little Italian and I just moved next door this past thursday. I was met with huge smiles, friendly faces, and many "Benvenuta!"'s. The owner was there and was super nice. She was so encouraging as I began to order for the first time in an Italian bakery! The problem is she was so thrilled to have me attempting to speak her language that she wouldn't correct my mistakes! I felt really connected with all 4 of the workers there as they were so welcoming and friendly. Neighborhoods are a big thing for the Italians and they are always very close-knit. There was one worker in their from Spain who spoke just as much Italian as I did. Though that was a very boring conversation, the mutual feeling was certainly, "I feel your pain, man!" I left the bakery with pane (bread), an unbelievable nutella-filled cannoli, and something else that looks like a chocolate cigar that I haven't tried yet. Oh, I also got an espresso from the bar that was fantastico!
When I got back to my apartment, I sat down on the couch feeling so happy that I had been able to really connect with people today. Obviously, the Italian practice was great, but seeing the gestures, body language, kind faces, and encouraging words really helped me to emotionally feel a sense of belonging and start the first of my ties to the Italian people. Though these are baby steps, they feel giant to me!
While I was on the packed subway, there was man and woman beside me who looked around my age. They were clearly "together" based on their overt physical contact. To my surprise, they were speaking broken English with different accents. He was clearly Italian and I gathered she was Polish. I laughed as they asked basic questions like "have you ever been married?" while they were all over each other! The Italian guy said no but the Polish girl said she had been and was now divorced. (she could not have been any older than 25 or 26) The girl then asked him what he thinks about marriage. The suave Italian, who had clearly just managed to catch a tourist says, "You know, I don't think that I have to be married to someone to be in a relationship with them. I hear some people say that and I think that is so shallow. I want to truly love the person I am with, not just stay with them because I am married to them." I don't know how he did it, but this slick talking Italian stallion, in that moment, gained commitment by being completely non-committal. Sheesh. Then, as they are still all over each other and just talked about marriage, she starts asking him how easy it is to get a divorce in Italy. She then explained it was very difficult in Poland because you have to go before 3 judges to show 1) that there is no love, 2) that there is no sex, 3) that there is not financial relationship. She said it was difficult and cost a lot of money. Our slick Italian assured her that it was very easy in Italy and the couple kept right along with their subway passion. Thankfully, I arrived at my stop and walked out trying my hardest to hold back the laughter! I can now say that I not only am well versed in Polish divorce policy, but I have also seen my first example of an Italian stallion in action. Bravo.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
My Old Roomie, Amanda, and Roomie-in-Law, Derek, drove all the way up to the farm last weekend to spend the day with me. I was so excited to see both of them and experience a whole day of "old times." When they arrived, Derek said, "So, wanna go to D.C.?" It is about a 2 hour drive and neither had ever been. We all piled into the "Stang" just like we used to and hit the road with good music and tons of "Derek-isms." In a 4 hour time period, we completely scaled D.C. visiting the White House, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and the Capitol. Exhausted, we stuffed our face with a burger and fries and traveled back after a whirlwind of a day!