Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bourne Identity: Italian Edition

I know for those of you who follow this blog it seems as though things could not be better for me. For crying out loud, I live in Italy, have wonderful friends, visitors, amazing food, and I get to travel to some of the most beautiful places on earth. 

I am truly blessed. 

However, as you also have seen from reading this blog, there have been rough times amidst this vast blessing. I have been uprooted from everything that was familiar and every worldly thing or person in which I found security. I found myself in a new place with a new language, new people and new culture. While it has proved to be a delightful challenge, there are some days when I just wish I was a little more bored! 

In our cultural acquisition classes, we learned that the "real" culture shock usually sets between months 4 and 6. They also told us it would look differently for everyone...and sometimes manifests itself in ways you don't expect. I think I might have just hit that time. I think it is ironic that it has hit me at the point when I am able to have friendships with people who only speak Italian, feel comfortable getting around, feel like I can "do life" here, and am surrounded by such wonderful friends. I don't walk around feeling completely lost anymore and, though I do occasionally experience the same "loneliness" I felt in the beginning, those times are fewer and father between. So why now? Why when life is so good?

I don't know.

My culture shock has managed to combine itself with the major "living piece of flesh" in my life at the moment: fear. Fear of the future (even though my life is not my own), fear of living alone (even though there is nothing to be afraid of), fear of not discerning correctly (even though I know I am equipped for everything I need for life in godliness), fear of waking up one morning and forgetting ALL my Italian (hey, it's come close a few times!), fear of man (even though I am told to ONLY fear God), fear of leaving Italy in 1.5 yrs. knowing I will go through MAJOR reverse culture shock when I get back and will feel like a huge part of me is gone (even though I know God will equip me for where he calls me...even if it is back home), fear name it. It has been something I have had to daily come to the Lord about in repentance. 

As a result, of that struggle mixed with a bit of unexpected culture shock, I feel I have had my "guard up" in many ways. I have occasionally been afraid to get too emotionally involved let this place and these people take my heart because I know that in two years I will find myself back in the States and perhaps God will never lead me back. Though I am crazy about everything in this culture and there are honestly very few American things I just can't live without, I do find myself holding onto the "familiar" lately. This has just started in the last few weeks. I find myself longing for the familiar and craving the security of being in a place where I am not an outsider. I almost can't even imagine anymore what it would feel like to just walk up to someone and speak to them in my heart language or walk the streets and actually "be" a part of the culture and not just pretend to be. I also had a couple situations this week in which I was very offended by things certain people said about America. I know it is not glamorous to be an American in Europe and, though I love my country, I don't beat my American chest. However, I was very upset by some of the things that were said about my "familiarity." I felt like that big sister who was defending her little brother from the bully. It made me mad...and for a split second I wanted to go home. 

My problem? I am learning what it means to have my identity ONLY in Christ. And I'm having some growing pains. How amazing it is to think that he has removed EVERYTHING from me....including my culture, the most basically-human thing about me. The only familiar thing I have is a couple pairs of shoes, a few books, a jar of peanut butter, and HIM. 

The theme of everything the Lord has and is continuing to teach me is that He is enough. He is enough to meet those basic human needs of interacting with others. He is enough to meet that deep need for companionship. He is enough to meet my physical needs in an insanely expensive place. He is enough to meet my emotional needs as I have just gone through the biggest adjustment of my life. He is enough to meet my need for a new brain...because there isn't a day I don't sit in language school humming the tin-man song, "if I only had a brain...". He is enough to give me joy in my salvation rather than joy contingent upon my circumstances. And now, I am learning that He is enough to give me an identity that is completely separate from the culture I am from. 

I am not a misplaced American. I am not a pretending Italian. I am His daughter. 

Psalm 90 very much spoke to me this morning. It speaks of God being from everlasting to everlasting and I was able to apply it more personally to "culture." It says in verse 1: 
"Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God."

It is wonderful to think that before my culture or the Italian culture ever existed, my Father existed. It later speaks of man's years being like dust and how a thousand years (which seems like such a long, important time to us) is but as yesterday when it has passed to Him. Verse 12 says:
"So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom." 

This truth that our days and culture are like dust compared to the everlastingness of God has given me a different perspective as I walk down the streets not as a foreigner who will never fit in or be in the realm of the familiar, but as a daughter of the King who has been given all of her worth and security in an everlasting God who loves her, holds her right hand, and guides her steps with his counsel. 

I desperately covet your prayers as this truth makes it through the deep crevasses of my heart. I am praising the Lord for the chance to meet up with a huge group of Americans for a week-long vacation in Germany next week. I will get to have a little break from the culture shock and also be able to talk with my friends who have gone through the same thing. I am then going to England to find my english skills again since they are quite scary at the moment. I am looking forward to the break very much and know it could not have come at a better time.   

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cinque Terre

I joined Taylor, Heidi, and Steph, who are my Intercambio colleagues from Rome for a much needed weekend away. We had been planning this trip for over a year and I used it as insentive to get through language school. At the completion of my second-to-last week of school, we said, "Va bene, " and made the trip. It was so nice to be with them, to encourage each other, to chat about what has been going on in our cities, and to have a chance to cut the strings, relax and have fun. What a blessing. 

On a VERY crowded train for 3 hours. 
In Riomaggiore, the town we stayed in. 
My new hat that Heidi passed on because it was too small. She found it in a hostel in Napoli. How schifo is that? But I liked it!
Ha. And I laughed...while I was hyperventilating. The hike wasn't easy, people. 9 km of boulders and old rock stairs. 
This is what we hiked. 

YUM. They are known for their pesto. 
Love these girls. 
They're pretty cute. I've missed them. And we love calling each other names in Italian. 
Yes, it really did look like this. I left without my camera battery and was depressed the entire time. But, as it turns out, you can't take a bad picture of Cinque Terre....even with a point and shoot. 
The road got small at one point. Cliff on one side. 

Next morning. 
Ready for a day at the beach! 
That was SO much fun!
Crowded beach. 

Saying goodbye. 

Un bel giorno con il mio ragazzo, Jake.

We started the day off with a bike ride in Parco Treno. This kid is good. Didn't have to slow down for him in the least. 

I know, we are so cute together.
This is Jake's interpretive dance to Rascal Flatts "Me and My Gang." He said, "Hey, I tink I hearded this kind of song before in Texas."
Tram rides are so much more fun when you can listen to music and make crazy faces. They are also not so much fun when Jake says in Italian, "Amber, you can't speak to me in English on the tram, REMEMBER??" He's a slave-driver. 
Then we got gelato. 

Then we came back home to pick up Julia to go to the pool. Joshee had just woken up. This is what he looks like when he wants me to hold him and chain kiss him. 
Soaking in the pool.

The pool is indoor and I would hear "EMMMMAAAA" (Amber) echoing off the walls whenever I got more than 10 feet away from her. She was amazing though! 


Dad's Last Day in Milan

Started the day off with a good Italian Breakfast which is generally a Brioche (a crossant stuffed with either chocolate, jam, or cream) but this morning we had a pastry. Yum but death by sugar at 8:00 am. Dad the sugar nazi really liked them believe it or not. The Italians think eggs and toast for breakfast is the most schifo thing they have ever heard of. They have to have something small and sweet. 
And no complains about the Italian coffee! I think he tried just about every different types of drinks and I think either the caffé normale or the caffé freddo were his favorites.
What you are looking at is the secret to getting myself through life here. (well, not THE secret...but it's up there...)
My bakery that is not just my coffee and carb heaven but also where many of my dear friends work. Such a blessing. 
Then we stopped by the market close to my house. This stand is also one of my favorite finds because they only sell produce with the minimum amount of pesticides and everything is grown in Italy. The lady who is in charge really seems to know what she is talking about and takes pride in what she sells. The cantaloupes are about 3-4 euros (and when Taylor and Heidi told me they pay a little over a euro for them in Rome, I about cried) but they are WONDERFUL.  
Had so much fun with my dad and miss him so much! 

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Lot has Happened!

No, I haven't run away to Africa. I've just been crazy busy with school and life....and I did get a chance to play quite a bit this past weekend! Here's a preview shot of where I went. More to come soon! 

Friday, July 17, 2009

Un Giro Turistico

The Galleria. 

La Scala Opera House

On top of the Duomo

View from the Duomo

Lots of fun!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Maschile, Feminile...e poi?

In school today, my teacher took a small rabbit trail to write a list of the gender of some words. She explained that words are just like people. There are 4 types:

1. Male
2. Female
3. Homosexual
4. Bisexual

In the same way, there are masculine and feminine words, but also words that are bisexual. For example, the word "ginocchio" means knee and it is masculine in the singular form and feminine in the plural form. ("il ginocchio" and "le ginocchie.") Also, "le lenzuola," which means sheets, is "il lenzuolo" in the singular form. 

Therefore, she says, it is perfectly natural for humanity to be in these 4 categories and thinks it is beautiful how the language portrays all of these equally good options. 

Then she took another rabbit trail and explained how the Catholic Church tries to make people believe there is really only 2 categories (male and female) and how they just control people. She used the examples of birth control and abortion. 

I didn't even want to tackle this one...I had my head steeped in conditional verbs and just let it be. Plus, I knew this one wouldn't be an easy "1 sentence" response in a classroom setting and required a discussion. Nonetheless, it's amazing what you learn in school! 

Sunday, July 12, 2009


This photo has at least made my favorite top 10 list. I love how he is walking towards the ladies!
Una Chiesa
Many of the streets looked like this. So cute. 
Love it. 

A private castle. It's for sale, actually. Any takers?
Can there be more than one paradise??
Friends chatting. 

The Church I attend has a children's camp every summer in this town. This was the last night of the youth camp and a bunch of us went up for the final concert.