Friday, November 18, 2011

The Little Things

I think I’m going to start this off with an apology, both to myself and to whoever has the time to read this: I’ve been terrible about writing lately and for someone who usually writes too much, it’s been strange. My 10 day break was a busy one and writing about it was a bit of an overload; the weekend after a few of the girls and I took off for a night in London, filled with lots of walking and zero sleeping. After these two trips, I’ve been continuing with school and doing the usual, but was exhausted from the constant movement. Finally, with a three day weekend on my hands, I’m able to sit down and think about what is really going on around me.

I’ll start off with a quick blurb about London, as it was so much fun to skip over. After a complicated route to get to Bologna, we boarded a plane, flew to London, and immediately found some fish and chips. We walked around and did some sight-seeing, went out and danced the night away, only to return to the airport at six AM, catch a quick nap, and fly home! No, we are not all rich, but we found extremely cheap tickets through Easy Jet and thought it’d be a fun thing to do on Guy Fawkes Day, or Bonfire Day as they call it in England. Watching fireworks from Tower Bridge felt like a crazy dream, like I was living someone else’s life. Somehow, the reality that I am here and can see some of these things has still not fully settled in. I feel like a little child staring up at a fully decorated Christmas tree downtown; I’m hoping this feeling of wonderment stays until the day I leave.

The last couple of weeks have been busy ones, but more than wonderful all the same. The last two excursions were to Loreto and Tolentino, both half day trips but just as educational. We saw beautiful churches and frescos we had been learning about. For weeks in our painting class we had each worked on a different section of a fresco we finally got to witness for ourselves in Tolentino. It was exciting to spend so much time studying a painting, copying each detail, only to see the original in front of us.

In Loreto we walked around the small town and grabbed some cafés before meeting in the center piazza for a lesson in architecture, art, and history of the town. The cold wind didn’t bother me; all of my attention was focused on where we were standing, a center that has changed the world. In addition to the once game-changing architecture, the church that stood before us has been the center for catholic travels for years. Kings, Queens, Popes, Dukes, Lords, and the common man have all traveled days to visit this church. Why? Why, in a small walled town that can be missed if you blink, is this church the center of worship for many? Inside is an intricately carved marble structure, in the center of this hundred of year old church. Inside this delicately decorated marble house stands the home of Mary, mother of Jesus, which once stood in Nazareth. According to catholic beliefs, during the wars and attacks from Romans and Arabs alike, this brick home was moved to Italy, to protect it from destruction. This does not have to be something you believe in; as a Protestant, we do not hold the Madonna up as highly as Catholics, but I still found it amazing. Maybe it is the house Jesus grew up in but either way, they have believed that way for hundreds of years so it is something to stand in awe of and be grateful that I was able to witness. Around the center of the church are smaller chapels, dedicated to the Madonna by countries and rulers around the world. The last one we saw that I found particularly interesting was the one “dedicated” by the United States. In this small chapel are beautiful frescos depicting religious things of course, but also US military, priests, astronauts, and even JFK. It was the most peculiar art I have seen in Italy since I have been here: modern and showing events and people from the USA. The other reason this chapel is interesting is because the USA did not even donate money to this chapel; it just came to be. Strange, but interesting.

Last weekend was a quiet one spent here in Macerata. We celebrated Matty’s birthday and had a wonderful time cooking for him, taking him out, and showing him what birthdays are supposed to be like: all about the birthday boy! Sunday I met with my language partner and she treated me to a shopping trip at an outlet mall nearby. In light of my growing self-control (and diminishing funds) I passed up a beautiful pair of leather boots on super sale and spent the rest of the shopping trip proud of my control and questioning my intelligence at the same time. We had lots of fun though; she showed me how crazy Italians really are about their shoes here. Later that night we had a roommate dinner at one of our new favorite restaurants, Il Pozzo, and spent the night laughing, talking, and enjoying delicious Italian food, things we, here at the doll house, have become pretty good at.

Last Wednesday was a pretty busy one, in addition to the usual full day of classes, we finally were able to return to the immigration office and receive our permits of stay, permission to live in Italy until December 18th. An exciting day to say the least since I am officially legal here! That night Marc, one of the professors here, taught a group of us how to make tagliatelle, delicious pasta we made from scratch. I am so excited to come home and attempt to make this for everyone! It may turn out to be a disaster but that’ll be the fun in trying I suppose!

Last night, Thursday night, my roommates and I went to another apartment and we all cooked gnocchi (I watched and manned the music playlist). We have become quite the chefs here and I know that I’m not the only one excited to be able to make real Italian food now. We went out for the night, although it was chilly, and mingled around town. Thursdays are college night and it seemed like everywhere you went there were crowds of Italian students. Our Italian language teacher took us out, walked around with us for awhile, and we practiced our Italian with her and others around us. Going out here is not something we do to avoid studying; we go out TO study! We’ve discovered that going out around town is a constant lesson in Italian language and culture, making our nights twice as exhausting but twice as worth it.

So far today it has been a bit of a lazy day. I walked down to Coal, our little grocery store, since our fridge was looking pretty empty, and bought some of the necessities: bread, eggs, milk, soup, and jam. After I came home and put the groceries away, Mary and I walked down to our fruit and veggie guy, Giovanni, in the lot below our apartment. Giovanni is an older man that sets up his produce truck almost every day of the week, with the exception of Tuesdays and Sundays. On Fridays, we also have a guy down in the lot selling all sorts of delicious Italian cheeses. We like to go down, practice our Italian on them, and stock up on the healthy foods. Giovanni, the sweet man he is, is also a mumbler, loves to laugh at his own jokes, and always gives us more than enough food. After we pay, he throws in fresh herbs, a few onions and carrots (for cooking he says), and ALWAYS a bag of clementines that make your mouth water. After a few trips to his little setup shop, we can finally understand most of what he says, although some sentences fly over our heads regardless of how hard we try. We do know that if he’s laughing, it’s because he said something funny, and he loves when we laugh with him.

Now I’m sitting in my bed, with the determination to finish a full blog, listening to the Christmas music I have been avoiding. I know that is strange, me avoiding Christmas anything, considering how obsessed I get with this holiday. There is something about looking forward to Christmas this year though that is hard for me. Christmas means I come home. Christmas means that I will no longer be here. It also means I get to see my family, my friends, and be in my home once again. It is the epitome of bittersweet this year. I am beyond excited to see my family and my friends; I have missed everyone back home so much and I have learned to fully appreciate every single one of you. At the same time, this place is my home. Every day is a new adventure: last week I went to a new pizza place by myself and used some Italian words I had not used yet on my own. I was so excited! This life here is simple. It revolves around family and the quality of life, not the quantity of things. Of course it has its flaws, but where will you find a group of people that don’t? Living here is simple and straight forward and it is a lifestyle I grown to love.

People have been asking me if I am excited to come home, if I am ready to leave yet. It is such a hard question and all I ever give is the same answer: yes and no. I don’t want to sound un-excited to come home; I have been day-dreaming about seeing my family at the airport for weeks. At the same time, the thought of waking up somewhere other than here causes my stomach to sink.

I guess we will see where the next few weeks go! Next week our program is going to Florence, Rome the week after. Then we have a 4 day weekend and Dom, a friend from home, will be here to visit! Hopefully we will be able to get up to Bolzano and see the Christmas market. With only a month left I am taking each and every moment and fully enjoying it. I will be eating too much, sleeping too little, and appreciating it all! Besides, I have a 20 hour trip home where I can catch up with sleep and Ball States new gym is sure to get me back in shape J

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and a family filled Thanksgiving! No matter where you are in the world, there will always be someone who wishes you were with them, and that is the great thing about friends and families.

Love always,

(more pictures are on their way...)

Fireworks from standing on Tower Bridge <3 

                      The marble structure that house's Mary and Jesus's home. 

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