Sunday, September 29, 2013

Phase III: Settling In

     It's about time for that weekly blog post, and there couldn't be a better day -- today is cloudy, cool and rainy. I guess autumn really has begun. The turning of leaves has also corresponded with the turning of pages in the novel of my life. My life here is starting to form a routine and I feel like a real resident here as opposed to just a visitor.
     As I had mentioned in my last post, I tried out softball this week in an attempt to do something after school to take my mind off things and also to meet new people. I have good news -- it's really fun!!! I have never played softball in my life and don't particularly enjoy watching baseball (despite most Italians I have met thinking all Americans come out of the womb swing a baseball bat), but I had so much fun learning a new sport and meeting a really nice and welcoming group of girls. The environment is relaxed and focused at the same time and it is perfect after the headache of listening to world history and biology in Italian all day. The exercise also allows me to not feel guilty for eating the piece of foccacia or trying Nonna's torta di mela.
    Speaking of Nonna's baking, I have a word of advice. Never tell a nonna that you are [even a little] hungry unless you haven't eaten for a week prior. I made that mistake Friday afternoon after a long day of school and feeling a cold coming on. What followed was a wave of proscitto crudo, torta di fagiolini, pasta arrabbiata, fichi and torta di mela. You can't say no without breaking their heart/offending them because cooking is pride. I don't think I was hungry again for 24 hours. Don't get me wrong, her cooking is absolutely delicious, but it is more hearty and pesante. 
    I continue to have Italian lessons which make me realize how much I don't know. Overall I cannot judge the rate of my improvement in the language but I think my Italian is getting better.  I appreciate everyone being understanding of the fact that I am learning and their efforts to help me learn are really helpful. After a few months I should be pretty proficient, and after 10 months I would say fluency is guaranteed. Immersion is the way to go when learning a language -- just look at toddlers!
    In terms of meeting people and deepening relationships, my efforts have not been for nothing (yay)! People in my class are slowly opening up to me more, and I have been introduced to many people, and I am becoming closer with my family here. This weekend so far has been a great example of that. Friday afternoon/evening I hung out with Ghila (an Italian returnee who went to Wisconsin) and her friend Silvia walking around town, watching the sea by the port and sharing a Chinese dinner. It was so great to get to know them better and I am sure I will spend more time with them. Yesterday I went to the mercato with my host mom Regi for a little shopping (everything from shoes and scarves to prosciutto, anchovies and zucchini). It was a very beautiful European experience that included the Vespa and all! After that, we went on a family bike ride on the beautiful bike path that starts here in Sanremo and follows the coast through a few smaller towns. The air was fresh, the fig trees were full and I saw many people I have met while we were on the path. We enjoyed lunch at a bar owned my some great family friends who we plan to go skiing with this winter. (And they want to come visit Colorado!) The fun wasn't over! I met up with my good friend Alessia and we took the bus to Bordighera (a neighboring town) for a stroll and a gelato. We talked and laughed like old friends and then I came home to cook a lovely dinner of acchiuge fritte (fried anchovies), cozze (mussels) and prosciutto with melon with our purchases from that morning.
    To finish off this weekend, I helped my host mom prepare minestrone (which happens to be my favorite soup ever), torta con prosciutto e formaggio (yes, I am addicted to prosciutto) and tiramisu. More fish and baked goods are on our to-do list on this rainy day! We also have a good lineup of romantic movies waiting to be watched!
    While the last time I wrote I had had a challenging battle with homesickness, I am really starting to enjoy the life that I live here. I am settling in by doing things I enjoy (sports, exploring by foot, cooking, eating, etc.) and forming strong relationships with the people that have opened their hearts up to me. AFS' diagram of the phases of exchange (1. Arrival Fatigue/Excitement, 2. Homesickness, 3. Settling In) is completely on cue, but I am lucky to be starting the third phase. I feel more Italian every day. (And a little bit Spanish thanks to my host mom and her brother -- they're Madridistas!)
    I think about and pray for my loved ones around the world every day. I have even lit candles in churches around the area for you all. Sending my baci e abracci (kisses and hugs)! I hope all is well. <3

P.S.   I have decided to start taking more pictures and it was a grand idea until I realized I haven't charged my camera since I got here. I promise more pictures to come!

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