I write to you now for the first time in my new home. I departed from Denver last Wednesday, and continued on a long (5-day) journey to Sanremo.
First, I landed in the Big Apple. I stayed here for a day and a half meeting people from all over the States. While there were differences between Californians and Minnesota-ans, there was a common energy of buzzing excitement. Although there were varied destinations represented, I mostly met people going to Italy because we really understood each other. I hadn't felt understood by my friends for a while since deciding to go abroad but here we all knew the situation. The activites were somewhat boring, but the experience was great.
After 2 days of staying awake for 28+ hours, we arrived in Rome. It was disappointing not to be able to see/tour the city, but understandable with 501 exchange students at this orientation. Instead we stayed at an ex-convent that covered acres of land. It became like a village for us international students. I can only say it one way: this camp was amazing. I got to meet people from every continent but Antarctica, eat five courses for each lunch and dinner, and meet some of my first Italian people (the volunteers). Even when language built a barrier among the students, we shared similar sentiments in our hearts. Once again, the socializing and games were more exciting than the orientation material, but it was so great to see so many nations come together when there is such violence and chaos in the world. I have managed to stay in touch with many students, and I hope to visit their various regions throughout the year.
I toughed out a five hour train ride from Roma to Genova where I held my first conversation completely in Italian. A lovely couple from Calabria told me about the family members they were going to visit, and I told them about the experience I was having. Afterward, like any proper Italians, they gave me their contact information and told me to come stay with them in Calabria whenever I ventured south. I was proud of my adequate Italian skills, but completely exhausted when I got to my family!
The scene when I arrived in Genova is straight from a movie. A cunning Italian guy helped me with my over-sized bags as I shook with excitement and nervousness. When I saw my host family, I left my bags (a dangerous idea) and ran through the other people. I cried tears of sweet joy and tried to manage something in Italian. My experience with them since has been tremendous.
My family is just wonderful. We laugh all the time, and we are all very open and honest. I really love spending time with everyone. Their family here has been very welcoming along with their family abroad. I have received warm wishes from aunts, uncles and grandparents in Miami, Spain, Genova and Bordighera. Everyone has helped my transition infinitely.
I love our flat that has a view of the sea from every window. The flat is beautiful and I have plenty of space to myself as well. During the days I have hung out with my 11 year old host brother, explored the town, and spent time with my host grandparents that live downstairs. I have already fallen into somewhat of a routine that consists of eating, practicing Italian, an activity, more eating, a nap, more eating, and quality time with my family. I'm living the life right!?
The food is exactly how everyone thinks it is: PASTA AT EVERY MEAL. I love it, but my waistline and clothes are not in agreement. I was surprised at the lack of seafood so far (seeing as I walked to the sea in five minutes yesterday), but the food is incredible. Everything I have eaten has been homemade. The quality of ingredients and love put into cooking are the true secrets.
The people are equally beautiful, though they have lighter features than the stereotypical Italian. Blonde hair and blue eyes is truly not uncommon. Or to my delightful surprise, neither is dark hair paired with light eyes! ;) Though the food is rich, the whole town can be walked by foot, and thus the lifestyle is healthy.
I feel as though I am in the place that I belong, with the people I belong with, living the life that I belong in. I miss home, but the European (or Italian) lifestyle and way of thinking suits me better than that of America. It is a thing of beauty.
I cannot put everything into words from the last week, but I did manage to put a lot. If you have any burning questions or comments, you can leave them here, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you're on my Facebook, you are welcome to communicate with me there as well.
I hope all is well in the States with my friends and family, and also in the rest of the world. I am praying for peace!