Sunday, March 29, 2009

Baby Steps

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! 


Stereotype Confirmed

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

Buon Giorno, Milano!!

I made it safely to my new home! Will write more later and post lots of pictures! 

Monday, March 23, 2009

Best Birthday Ever!

A bunch of the crowd semi-surprised me with a big birthday celebration at The Cheesecake Factory. I got a big "Happy Birthday" song that filled the whole restaurant and managed to make my face turn as red as my skirt. They all made me feel like a princess and did a great job getting me to let loose and have fun amidst all the packing and craziness. 

These are seriously some incredible women. 

Jonathan and Amy take 3. 

The incredible Andy being influenced by our resident frat boy. 
The newly hair-cut Robby. 

Great guys who have been so much fun. 

I love my Austrian friend! She is such a blessing and I can't wait to have all sorts of adventures together. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I'm Coming, I'm Coming!

Last week, I received the sweetest package from the Greenwiches with pictures from the kids, and an AC Milan hat amongst other fun stuff. I jumped up and down when Amy brought it to me. For the first time since being on the farm, I was able to "taste" how close I was to having this dream become a reality. The others here laugh at me because they know they can ask me at any time for the exact calculation of how many days and hours before our departure. 

Let's Go to D.C.!

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!


Monday, March 2, 2009

Movie Review: Water

I always love ethnic movies and jumped at the chance to watch "Water," an Indian movie set in the time of Ghandi. 

The first aspect of the movie that immediately caught my attention is the brilliant cinematography. The use of visual themes and colors is ingenious, causing the strong literary themes in the story to be all the more poignant. It is well-worth watching for artistic enjoyment alone. 

From what I have been told, the story was written by an Indian feminist writer who is exiled in Canada. The movie is intended to speak against the oppression of women in the Indian culture, pre-Ghandi especially. The story begins with the background knowledge that the Holy Books require a widow to be chaste and pure. If not, she will be reborn in the womb of a jackal. Thus, the theme of purity begins from the opening lines. Chuyia, a little girl who is widowed at the age of 7,  did not even remember getting married and had never met her husband. Her head was shaved, she was clothed in white cloth, and sent to a house for widows where they live as outcasts for the rest of their lives. The viewer watches her adapt to her new environment and develop relationships with the other women, many of whom have been there since they were little girls as well. 

While the widows beg for money to support themselves, the house is also somewhat of a brothel. One woman in particular is forced into prostitution though she feels despicably dirty and is constantly washing herself with holy water,  highlighting the theme of purity. Every day and the others wash themselves with water in the desperate attempt to purify themselves. When one woman dies, the fear in the hearts of the women is evident as they perform ritual upon ritual with grieving and hopeless hearts. 

As the movie progresses and this theme is woven throughout in many creative, artistic ways, there comes and event in which the violation was so deep that the women knew the holy water was not enough. Word came that Ghandi had been released from jail and was passing through and they knew he was the only one who could heal and save. 

Though the writer believed women's liberation and the message of Ghandi was the answer, I watched the movie with a heart burdened for these women who knew they were dirty and their holy water, no matter how faithfully they bathed themselves in it, was not able to purify them. I was touched to see how they knew they needed a Savior to cleanse them, though my heart hurt to see that Ghandi was their only answer. They did not know the living water that heals, restores, and makes them white as snow.