So yesterday I got to play hooky and go to my friends Fernanda and Marte's school. They are two of the other exchange students. We (all of the exchange students) had to prepare a presentation on our countries. We were all really dreading it, but we did it anyway because we had to. The whole presentation had to be in Italian. So we go there to use the internet lab and our Italian lesson teacher was there and she helped us a lot. We all ended up just putting all 5 countries on one poster, and each having small separate speeches. On the poster we wrote the words to our national anthem, and glued a map of our country and its flag on. All of our speeches basically started out the same, and we just filled in the blanks with different words. For example, my name is ____ and I am ___ years old. I am _____ (American). This is the _______, and then you say the name of your country in both Italian and your native language, and point at it on the poster. Then you describe your flag, and then you play your national anthem on the cd player. Then the speeches got more personal. We told our Italian tutor what we wanted to say and told her the words that we knew and she helped us with the ones that we didn't. Then today we had to present them. We went to each one of our schools, but at Hanbo's school and at Fernanda/Marte's school we had to do it in a big room and a bunch of classes came. But at my school and Kylie's school we just presented in our classrooms. And tomorrow I don't have school either because if the weather cooperates we are going to the thermal pools here to go swimming which will be really fun, as a reward for doing the presentations. On sunday I am going somewhere, but we aren't sure if we are going to Pisa, Roma, or the sea. I will update when I know where I am going, but any of the three sound amazing.
So I've been here in Viterbo for about two weeks now and I have plenty to update on. I would like to put pictures up, but I forgot my cord from camera to computer at home, and I don't know where at home it is. So I will be ordering a new one, but that could be a while. So for now, I am taking pictures with my computer.
Here is the view from my bedroom window:
And here are some from my bathroom window..yeah, even the view from the bathroom is pretty.
So my first week was very interesting and everything was new. There is no curtain on my shower!! And I am used to using the kind of shower-head that attaches to the wall, but this one is the kind that you hold in your hand. So every time "faccio doccia" (I take a shower) I get water all over the floor! It's sort of a problem, but I am getting better and better everyday... it's all about adapting. Another bathroom difference is the bidet. I have no idea how to use it! So I just steer clear and "wipe myself" the American way. It broke the other day and they were like telling me over and over again to make sure I didn't use it for the next two days, and I was just like "...I don't think that that will be to big an inconvenience" haha. They also don't know what lotion is. I looked it up in my Italian-English dictionary because the soap here makes my hands so dry that they are practically going to flake off, and then I asked my dad to by me some and he was just like "what is"? So then I had to write it down for him and show him what you do with it (I demonstrated rubbing your hands together and then said the word "soft") and then he went to the store and looked for it. It was sort of funny.
Breakfast is a small meal when you wake up..I usually have a bowl of cereal or a piece of pastry, whatever we have in the house. But don't think you can come here and get away with skipping breakfast... oh no way. Same with drying your hair. There is no walking around with wet hair in Italy... you could catch a cold, mamma mia! They are the same way about shoes actually... you must have either shoes or socks on at all times, for fear that you will get sick. They are very funny.
Speaking of being worriers, they are very different than the Americans are about little kids. Four and five year old kids are still being rolled around in strollers. Kids who's feet drag along the ground as their mommies and daddies roll them around! And if they are not in strollers then they are being carried. Everywhere. I mean, come on, your kid is five years old he/she knows how to walk. Give me a break. And they act like they are still babies. Anything that that small child wants, that small child gets. And if not, oh boy do they ever cry. I have witnessed this on several occasions. In the supermarket, at my aunt's dance class, walking to and from school, everywhere.
Lunch and dinner are both very later than in America. Lunch is from about 1:30 to 2:30, unless it's a school day in which case it's more like 2:30-3:30. And dinner can start anywhere between 7:30 to 9:30 at night! For example, all of the AFSers in my area are going out to dinner tonight for a meeting thing, and my friends and I were talking about how we hope that it starts at 8 because we want to be in bed early. As if 8 were an early time to have dinner. And lunch and dinner, every day, if you are eating at home or in a restaurant, have two courses. The first course is almost always pasta but one time we had rice. And the second course is vegetables and meat. And then you also usually have dessert after both meals - a pastry or some ice cream and, if it is a meal with a lot of people, some sort of dessert liquor. You atleast have fruit at the end of the meal, if nothing else. And the pasta course is like a full on heavy duty plate of pasta. And then you are expected to eat a whole other meal! They are crazy haha. We have dinner at my "nonna"'s (grandma's) house atleast 3 times a week, and she literally drowns her food in oil. Each second course is like a soup with olive oil as the broth! So we were having beef one time, and I took a piece off of the top that wasn't quite so covered in oil, and my "nonno" (grandpa) takes the spoon and starts literally dishing me out oil to cover my meat. And of course I don't know how to say "That's enough, thank you" so I had to sit there helplessly as he did so. In the end my beef was literally swimming in it. He seemed satisfied.
School started a week ago. It is going pretty well, but it is very confusing because, obviously, it is all in Italian. Therefore, I don't really understand anything except the language classes, but in those I get all of my languages mixed up and start speaking Engtalfrenchman. (English, Italian, French, German). It is very hard to keep them straight. It is sort of boring to sit through the ones where they only dictate and don't write anything on the board (Italian, History, Philosophy, Art History, Religion) because I can't take notes and I can't understand so it is just sitting there spacing out for 4 hours. So that gets pretty boring but it's okay.
I am also taking an Italian course that is going pretty well. I am beginning to understand more when people talk "piano piano" (very slowly) but it is still very very hard for me to respond to anything. But I keep reminding myself, baby steps. It will get easier once I know Italian, and for now I just have to stick it out.
On the friend front, I really really like the other exchange students in my area. Schoolwise, everyone is very very friendly and easy to get along with. They all speak English to varying degrees, but enough to communicate. Today, I was talking to this one girl during break and then she moved up to sit with me (both of my desk mates were absent today). We were passing notes about how I am going to help her with English and she is going to help me with my Italian. And another girl and I are going to lunch after school tomorrow, which will be fun. And then this girl named Veronica and I were talking today during gym a lot because we both forgot our clothes. She met Jake Gyllenhall! So we were talking about how lucky she was and about Johnny Depp haha. They are very into American music and cinema here, it is sort of nice because when we turn on the radio I get to hear familiar music and familiar languages. The movies are all dubbed, of course, but that's okay I will get used to it. School itself is very hard, but I have people who help me. The girl who normally sits next to me is named Elisa, and she is very nice. Whenever I ask her what is going on in class she explains it to me in English, consulting my Italian-English dictionary when necessary. And in math class there is a guy who spent 3 years in Washington DC so he speaks English so he helps me with math because I don't understand when the teacher explains. For German there is a girl who has family in Germany who speaks it very well and she is also really good at English, so she helps me a lot there. All of my teachers are very understanding and helpful - my math teacher comes over and writes numbers and arrows and stuff like that in my notebook to try to explain if I look really confused, my Italian/History (they are the same person) after every class tells me what we talked about so that when I get home I can look it up on the internet and read about it in English, my German teacher tries to help me with German by allowing me to translate from German to English rather than from German to Italian. "As long as you understand the German, that's all that's important" she always says.
I have to go now, I have to shower and then go to dinner with all of the exchange students in my area and their families. I will try to update more often.
So after all of my orientations, I am finally here in my apartment. (Mom, they recently moved, so the address you sent my school papers to is no longer my address I think maybe. I will check.)
My father, Frederico, is very very nice. His English is sort of funny, and he and I are getting along well. I asked him what my responsibilities around the house were other than keeping my room clean and he said "Vorrei" (meaning I'd like) and then he pointed to the word "have a good time" in my Italian - English dictionary. It was cute. He also says he wants me to be a sister to Filippo, which will be very easy - he is so so cute. Alessandra speaks no English, so it is hard to communicate with her right now, but she is very nice. She is also sort of stressed because of Filippo, obviously.
School starts at the end of this week. I will be in a Liceo Linguistico, which specializes in language. It is a very hard school. They started out with a class of 28 but now there are only 19 because so many people failed/dropped out because it was too hard. All of the boys in my class have left for an easier school, so now there are only girls. I will be studying French, German, and English, along with all of the normal classes (Italian, History, Math, Science, Gym, etc.)
I have to get off of the computer now - internet is very expensive and I have a 10 minute limit.
So yesterday I woke up early, picked up Tommy, and left for the airport. My flight left at 10:30, and it was fine, I had a window seat and no one was next to me so I had a lot of room. But then when I got there I was so confused and the JFK airport was so enormous. And then I thought my baggage was lost but it turned out it wasn't (it's a long story). I got on the AirTrain after that to get to the place in the airport where there is a courtesy phone where I can call the hotel where the orientation is to come pick me up, and on my AirTrain was another AFSer who was going to Spain. So that was cool and then on our shuttle to our hotel there was a boy going to South Africa, a girl going to Turkey, the same boy going to Spain from the AirTrain, and two girls who were going to Italy with me.
And guess what? One of them ended up being the girl who got my old family in Belluno (isn't that funny? she was the first person I met that was going to Italy...what a coincidence) but she is really really nice and I really like my own family, so whatever it doesn't matter at all, I just thought it was funny.
The orientation is pretty frustrating. They just drill the same things into our head like all the time and everything is long and takes forever, and it is only made longer because I really want to be in Italy. I don't think I'll mind my Rome orientation as much - at least I will be there.