(This was written on Tuesday. I was just too lazy until now to revise it.)
I read a book once in which one of the characters commented on how when on your back all skies look the same. By ‘”being on your back”, he did not mean when times got tough. But simply that. Everywhere skies look all exactly alike. What changes them is what lies on the ground and the people underneath. And while Texas may be known for its wide open blue skies, the skies in Italy are just as blue. But there still not Texas…
Last time I updated I had just regaled about the homesick blues, getting the start of the paperwork for my temporary residence license. Well the residence license is now scheduled for a meeting in Massa (that town that is beaucratically the same as Carrara) later in September. Seems weird to think that it’s already September and getting into the later part at that. I’ve never truly thought about how short a month actually is despite the length that it feels at times. Any who... since the government run-around (fitting name I believe) I have gone many places. The first day it rained in Italy my host sister walked into our room and informed me that we were going to Lucca.
The rain was beautiful and we waited for it to abate (SAT word right there) a bit before going to Lucca but it stilled stormed and yes we only brought one umbrella. But for a Texas girl whose been living in one of the worst Texas a drought in a while, rain was a blessing to feel upon my skin and the mist hanging in the air. So like the tourist I was. I ran from the cover of the umbrella with my camera snapping photos of anything and everything. It was all so beautiful. Now Lucca is obviously a town in Italy, but it is one of the few towns in Europe that still has its walls. Downtown Lucca is within the walls and the newer part is outside them. The whole place was beautiful and the whole way around the wall is about 8 km. I would love to walk all the around it one day. As the day went on the skies brightened and we one of the most memorable moments is when we stopped to rest on a bench.
I was still fooling with my camera and taking picks from the bench of the mountains in the distance when a beautiful pigeon came strutting towards us. It passed closed by and I raised my camera to take a picture of it. Not two seconds after I lowered my camera Toni bluntly and dead-panned. “Paige kill it?” and looked like she was going to hand me the handle end of the umbrella. I gave her a wide eyed look and once I figured out she was joking a second later I laughed.
So Lucca was beautiful and one of the prettiest thing of the downtown that I saw, well it was all beautiful but this definitely stood out was the Duomo (the name for the main cathedral of a town or city). It had three stories of just pillars sitting onto the actually church like a crown. Each pillar was different in carving, as well texture, and color. It was absolutely beautiful but add in the painting and carving into the stone around the door and the room it was a breath taking sight.
We headed home around three in the afternoon. (P.S. nobody warned me that Europe runs on a 24 hour clock. For someone who is dyslexic with math it’s the most tripped up thing I the world. The first time I saw the clock in the kitchen I thought maybe it was a giant timer to match the giant calculator Toni has in the house). The car ride to Lucca was fun.
Before I explain why I want all of you to either get something that records your voice or go get someone to listen to you very carefully. I want you to say the word “water”. Go ahead do it….
Okay. Well I don’t know about the rest of my fellow English Americans but I do know I tested this on my mother and nanny just a few days ago when they Skyped me and I definitely think it’s for sure all true Texans. But we don’t say “water” with a‘t’ we put a‘d’ there. So it sounds like “wader”. My host sister feel in love with this on the car ride she will randomly just say come to me know and say “dice acqua”. The first time she said that in front of her friends I scrunched my eyebrows and said “acqua”, confused as to why she wanted me to say water. But now when she smiles at me and says it I roll my eyes and say “water”. We usually both end up laughing. And if anything she’ll never be able to hear the water again after I leave without hopefully thinking of me. Atleast it will be a happy and funny thing to be remembered for.
So we returned from Lucca and we had to go down these winding roads to get to Carrara. I thought we were literally about to drive off the edge the only thing I could compare it to. Would be when I was younger and my family took one of those jeep rides in the Colorado mountains. And my dad was driving. For those of you who either know my dad or have done the jeep thing you know that, that is really all that needs to be said.
A few days later we went to go get my national I.D. number. It’s not like social security because you could go screaming it down the street and it wouldn’t hurt you. It’s just like you are such and such. And if you were to be hit by one of these scooters and got to the hospital you wouldn’t have to pay anything because Italian healthcare is practically free. You pay about 150 Euros a year and all hospital visits, most prescribed medicines and I believe doctor visits are all paid for by the government.
Afterwards we went back by near the house and picked up Ludo and Dodi and we went to what I could only call a Sam’s Club squished together with a mall. I believe Toni might have called it an outlet but I couldn’t be sure as it was several days ago. But what I did learn is that when it comes to shoes my host brother takes twice as long as a girl to decide and I’m talking nearly an hour. I was ready to cry.
But I found out later maybe crying would have been for another reason. I suddenly seemed to hit a depression that day and I think it might have started the night before. But when we got home I had to hold of bursting out in tears several times. I wasn’t homesick, Italy was great, but it was like I just had a mood swing that ran me straight into a hole of the worst kind of depression ever. Trying to calm myself down and for some normalcy, hoping maybe to get my mind off something I downloaded a movie off of ITunes and watched it. But it still didn’t help so I sent my Rotex a message. (Thank God for Rotex’s). Soon after I was called to dinner and we had this pasta with pesto but it wasn’t pasta per se. More like a thinly rolled crepe pasta that was cut into squares. It’s amazing by itself to just as I alter discovered. But sitting at the table I choking back tears and at one point I raised my head and put my hand on my stomach thinking I was about to get sick when Ludo looked up and said. “mama”. Toni whipped around and on the spot I said I was fine and just had a stomach ache. To cover the tears I sneezed a few seconds later, so they thought my allergies might be the cause. That day had been cooler and I had still went out in a tank top and in shorts, so Toni thought I might be getting a cold. I finished eating and she sent me to bed and I was elated and horrible guilty about lying to her but I just needed to be away. But when you share a room and live in an apartment that’s pretty open you can’t really openly cry anywhere. But then I remembered at outbound camp on of the Rotarians said if you feel like you need to cry wait until you’re the shower and just bawl. (Thank you Jaci). So that’s what I did and it helped some to just cry. Like it was cleansing. So crawling into bed very early that night I pulled the covers over my head and messages my mom on Facebook hoping talking to her would help. It did. I also got a message back from my Rotex who helped a lot too and gave me confidence and a bunch to consider. That night I fell asleep with red rimmed eyes, memories of my erased ultimatum, doubts and a prayer for God to grant me strength.
A few days passed and I pulled out of my depression it seemed and during that time I went with my host sister and two of her friends to a towns name I could not remember for the life of me. But a bunch of artist live there and it was my first train ride. I saved the ticket to put on my jacket. J.
And then greatest thing happened. I went to Pisa….
It was an adventure from the start. That night Ludo looked up the train time and I bought my first ticket. And got slightly annoyed when no body understood that I just got my exchange the door before from the small amount of Euros I got at the currency exchange in New York. So I didn’t have any change and yes that meant 1 value Euros. (I’m convinced everywhere has traded in there in their one dollar bills for coins. Because Dodi found one in his room while cleaning it and Toni asked me if they still had them in circulation, she thought they had gotten rid of them. I was really tempted to drag her into my room and show the twenty one dollar bills I forgot I had in my wallet from home to show just how much they still are in circulation.) So we bought the ticket get to the platform one train comes and then they realized that they missed the train. But luckily in Italy there are Trains all the time so catched the next one. Except this one had first class and second class and first class is like the little areas you see on Harry Potter with the six seats three facing each other with the sliding glass door to close you off. Minus the candy cart of course. We weren’t supposed to be there but we rose the whole way to Pisa and it was awesome to watch everything out the window.
So we arrived in Pisa and quickly walked to the main street, we into some shops and I couldn’t wait until I knew weather my weight was going to go up or down (it’s still deciding because I put my skinny jeans on for school this morning and they weren’t so skinny anymore. I had to dig out my belt and even that didn’t seem to help.) Because the second it decided for sure I was going on a shopping spree. If Italian fashion is any indication of American fashion right now I do believe for once in history everyone just might be dressed adorably. J
So we shopped around some and the cool thing about being with natives is that instead of eating at the touristy places on the street like I was expecting they lead me down an alley to this literally hole in the wall little shop that smelled amazing. I had no clue what I was given to me but it was some type of egg hash brown patty (maybe?) between two foccia buns (that’s what making me gain weight, the bread is only in the Tuscan area and is to die for). I ate it and as always thought about how much self control these people had when it came to great food because even with how much they walk they could literally be like America and the “Obese country.”
After that we walked to the leaning tower of Pisa. It was amazing to see up close and it was really the driving stake that “oh my god I’m in Italy”. I mean sure I had the language around and had been here for two weeks now and just a little under then but it was just… amazing. Of course like all Americans (The Italain's words not mine) I had to take a picture leaning against the tower.
Now when you someone comes back from Pisa and they see the picture it looks so cool and you want one. Well what you don’t realize is that to that photo you’re literally standing hundred yards away with your hands in the air surrounded by a million other tourists doing the same thing. You like a bunch of dorks that don’t the difference between “left or right” (“Which right your or mine?”). Of course I was a cool idiot because I had Italian natives directing. Legit right? And we got the picture taken. But what most people fail to forget is that the Leaning tower of Pisa is not just some random leaning tower in the middle of a grassy field. It’s a bell tower to an equally beautiful and grand church and this other dome thing that nobody could tell me what it was.
The most uncanny part though was as we working our way to the shade given off by the walls they had near the church, tower and dome thing an American Family spoke nearby with a young child. The sound of American English (because Brits are walking around everywhere and I still can’t understand what they say. I’d rather converse with my religions teacher who thinks I’m stupid and can’t even speak English so she speaks it slowly. But more on her later). Anyways the sound of American English actually made me jump and turn around shocked. It was a bit uncanny.
So we made it to the shade by the wall and sat down. We had been sitting there for a few minutes when these two guys walked out into the middle of the grass in the sun whipped of their shirts laid down towels and sat back and suntanned. And they were not ugly, yet I still don’t know what nationality they were.
Now I knew why so many more women were enthuastic about the Leaning tower of Pisa than mean. I snapped a picture because I knew someone body wouldn’t believe me and I needed proof. Okay maybe it was just for me… but still it’s proof.
We worked our way back to the main street we walked earlier that morning after they took me by a school that is for the prestigious geniuses of Italy. It was a beautiful school and I saw my first Rotary sign. The English translation underneath talked about how the Rotary group of Pisa made this handicap assessable which is really nice because there are so many stairs and thing in Italy. And you see the old people working there up them, it breaks my heart. So thank you Rotary of Pisa.
We sat on the wall that bordered the river and stayed there for a bit enjoying the view. I didn’t turn all the way around with my back to the street because I didn’t trust anybody not to come and push me into the river.
As we headed back to Carrara on the train I saw nun in their black outfits with their habbits, hobbits? Whatever their called. That was on Saturday.
Sunday was a day of relaxation and I talked to my mother and nanny.
Monday was school. Because it was the first day school started at nine and ended at twelve. Usually it goes eight to one. I dressed up cut and curled my hair. My bangs were immaculately straight and I was ready for my first day of Italian school. Armed with my Italian to English dictionary and a picture to keep traditions my mother started for the first day of school, me and Toni headed off to school.
As we walked she instructed me to always go straight because that leads straight to the school. Halfway there I was sweating from the humidity I could hear my hair frizzing and I suddenly wondering why I didn’t picked some more northern country where it was always cloudy, rainy and cold. I would rather be drenched and have my hair curl naturally than be sweating and frizzing from humidity. And as we continue to walk I was about to tell Toni that this twenty (she swears by that time but it definitely longer) minute walk to school is more of a hike. As we reached the school my once straight bangs were curled and looked horrible my eye-make up was gone if not running and my face was red. Great first impressions right?
Toni had me introduced to the principal and then the principal introduced me to some teacher. I got to meet my school counselor which wasn’t really a counselor but more of the guy in charge of exchange students. He was very nice.
I was lead into my class after everyone was already in their seats and if I hadn’t been sweating, red-faced and frizzy hair I probably would have hammed it up a bit when they applauded. Instead I slowly walked into the class room as the teacher directed me to a seat right in the freaking front and center. Of course. But he turned out to be very nice and he was my Philosophy and History teacher. He even stopped a few times and translated a few of the notes he had written on the board. (They still use chalk boards, it’s legit). Then after his hour was up my Religion teacher came in. She has absolutely no control of the class and said a few things before walking over to me and asking me where I was from. I don’t even say America because I learned in Italy if you are from Texas you claim that first. It’s internationally known so take that you states that didn’t want us in the Union so long ago. (Okay not really but it’s a very proud thing when people automatically know that Texas is an America and there is no further explanation. I will admit I am a Texan by birth and therefore first and then an American. Sad but true. Southern pride right there. ) After she publically announced to the class that I was from Texas a boy from the back yelled “Yeeehaww” that made me laugh. Then she asked me why I was in Italy. Actually she asked me why is “Descended in Italy”. It made me feel like an Alien and I seriously thought about telling her I came here for the marble as it was rare on my planet. But I figured since her English seemed to be basic it wouldn’t be funny and only continue to confuse her more. So I answered Rotary Youth exchange. I had to eventually right it down and then she shook her head huffed and said why I was in Italy again. I stared at her for a minute and then got it. Why did I pick Italy out of all the other million places in the world I could have gone? Well let’s think about this. Thiers the food which hands down smashes Olive Garden to dirt and Starbucks as well. And the coffee and food is so much simpler. Then there’s the beauty, which attracts from all over the world. And finally to a history buff like me there’s all the History. I mean in Carrara you have buildings from the renaissance if not earlier right next to building built after World War 2 when Carrara was one of the cities bombed (a sad fact my host mother told me about when we on the government run around adventure). So finally I decided the easier thing to say would be. “I love Italy” And you know earn brownie points in the process.
She translated it to the class because I “like” Italy. There goes my brownie points. But one of the boys from the back (I believed the one that yelled yee-haw) replied “I like America”. After her hour was up the first teacher came back in and I learned when It came to history many words were the same or nearly identical and if not I could figure it out in a second. School was dismissed and I worked my way out of the building to the bus stop my host mother told me my host brother would wait for me at.
He left me. I was leaning against the back wall when all of a sudden I saw him and was walking towards him when a huge crowd surged in front of me and then they cleared and I saw the bus door closing with him behind them. I scowled after the bus for a second and then pulled out my cell phone navigated my way through the Italian to “last called” (Thank you Toni for making sure my phone worked that morning you’re an amazing host mother) and called Toni. I informed her that I ‘lost Dodi” and that I wouldn’t mind walking home.
It was a really nice walk and it was the first time I had honestly had just any alone time since being here. I even found a quaint little creek hidden under a bridge that nobody but the old men I passed by and me took notice in. (a side note I love the way the old men in Italy walk. With their hands behind their back slightly forward and a leisurely pace like they have all the time in the world left and are taking the time to just see everything. It’s such a contrast to the traffic speeding by just meters away).
I made it to the house and saw Dodi setting the table. Toni turned to look at him and then me and said. “I’m sorry for my son”. I just laughed and said it was fine. Because really it was I enjoyed it. She asked me about school and I answered her questions. Then I went into the room dropped my backpack and pulled out an Italian verb workbook to fan myself with. It was a hot hike uphill.
I went to bed early that night (yesterday) and had already planned on wearing my “Keep Austin Weird” t-shirt. I set my alarm for six since school started at eight and we had to leave the house by 7:30.
I woke up this morning to the alarm on my IPod (since the guy down at the electronics shop is still trying to unlock it so I can use it with an Italian sims card. The Phone Toni is letting me borrow now terrorizes me and I swear does it on purpose. I have threatened it a few times to chunk it in the ocean and I’m sure my host family thinks I’m completely technologically illiterate as well as a bull in a China shop. Because I feel like I’m always bumping into and dropping things here. I broke a shelf in the shower the other day and I was so frustrated that I walked out of the bathroom after getting dressed to Toni carrying the shelf and near tears telling Toni how sorry I was. Thankfully the shelf was already broken and had just been glued before. Otherwise I might had just sat on the floor and bawled. These mood swings at times kill me. I don’t know whether their self induced or part of culture shock or whatever but they need to leave). Anyways I woke up to my IPod alarm and it was church bells. I had no clue how it got set to that and when you live in a place where you can’t throw a stick without hitting a church or something slightly holy, I think I muttered to my host sister to close the window because of the bells. But when no response came I looked up and saw Ludo’s bed empty I thought maybe I had just fallen asleep for a little bit but upon finding my phone and realizing it was my alarm I realized it was in fact the next morning and that Ludo had most likely bunked with Toni that night.
I got up and got ready and then remember my cow print bandana I had. I rolled it up so I looked like a head band and thought I could wear under my bangs on my forehead to keep them curling from the sweat. It kind of worked but I’m sure I looked like some weird biker, gang chick.
Any who I was ready a lot faster than I expected to be and that was with me moving a bit sluggishly. I sat in the living room waiting for Dodi as we were walking to school together that morning. 7:35 rolled around and I was worried we would be late remembering how long the walk seemed but when Toni said we had enough time and that an Italian student was never early I chilled.
So I and my host brother set out for our walk to school. It was a quiet but not awkward walk. We kept a fast paced and sometimes with me leading, sometimes him and other times us side by side. I hoped it would give us bonding time alter on because it feels like sometimes he doesn’t really want to be around me, or for better just doesn’t care. I’ve been determined to break that.
So we got to school and the first class of the day was Italian. The teacher upon hearing that I didn’t speak any Italian and didn’t understand much either looked straight at me and went into a lecture about how she doesn’t speak English and so on in ITALIAN! After I just told her I didn’t understand nor speak it. Which made a lot of sense! Not. And the only reason I caught what she said was because the girl that sits right beside me is so sweet and told me kindly that “She doesn’t speak English” when I looked over at her for translation.
The second hour was my English teacher. She was excited to have me in her class and asked if when they let me make my own time table if I wanted to be moved out. I shook my head no and told her I would very much like to stay, if not just for something to look forward to in the week. She was crazy and bangs books on desk scaring me half to death to get people to listen. She made me get up and try to explain the American high school system, which I never thought was complicated but to Italian it must be so mind boggling because they looked like me when I’m math class. Confused as all get out and nowhere near the light of comprehension. Then they asked me about if I ever ridden a bull. And if Lucrezia (my host sister in Lubbock, TX) would get to ride one. I said no, because of safety reasons. And then I ruined the illusion that we “cowboys” ride wild bulls by telling them that most of the bulls are actually fairly tamed and that what makes them buck and kick is the saddle that’s used.
The third class of the day was chemistry and after asking how to say my name she didn’t say anything else. I don’t even think she knew I was an exchange student and didn’t speak any Italian.
The day before they had informed school me was out at eleven the next day so today and even this morning talking to my friend the minute I showed up before the bell rang they informed me the days were shorts because school was just starting. So I went down stairs to leave and saw that no one was leaving like yesterday and that some kids were walking around with sandwiches. But everyone had their bags on like they were leaving. So I went back upstairs and found a group of my friend from class and asked them if school was over. It was passed 11 when the bell actually rang, so people should have been leaving. The girl that spoke the best English nodded and said. “Yes school is over for today and that tomorrow school was from 8 to 1.” I was going to go back down the stairs when one of the guys told me I could go out the front. I saw a group of girls head that way with their helmets for their scooters and said thanks and followed after them. I turned to go home and noticed no one else was leaving and almost turned back when I saw kids hanging around the school talking. So I figured they were talking a bit before going home since during the schooldays you didn’t really do anything because they have so much homework. (If my class had any I wasn’t informed so I just translate my notes from class. Actually if I do any this year it might be mind boggling.)
So I walked home and noticed nobody else was out. I made it home and told Toni that I didn’t know where Dodi was and kind of what happened at school. Her and her sister-in-law looks at each other and Toni seemed to get upset that Dodi wasn’t home and called him. After no answer she got real frustrated and I felt bad that I may have gotten him in trouble. Well after she finally gotten a hold of him he informed her he had school until one (he’s in the grade below me, but the same school). Toni looked at me and I told her I was just going by what they told me at school and that I was sorry.
So we still don’t know if my class got out early or if the second day of school I just accidently ditched school for the first time in my life. I’m still laughing to myself. At least tomorrow I know that school last until one. So worst case scenario I’ll just sit in the classroom (since the teachers come to us) and work on Italian.
And that has been a brief description of my time since I last posted but I am sad to say that even thought I love Italy and my host family and always keep my head high. I don’t honestly know if I can do this (but I refuse to give up!). Because I have learned several things so far. One is if you didn’t profusely sweat and your cloths don’t smell you can hang them back up and not have to wash them. To relish air conditioning because it really is something we take for granted. (I found one in a store in Carrara the other day and stood there for ten minute pretending to translate a bottle of shampoo just to relish it.) Hairy legs won’t kill you (Actually the jury is still out on this one). That as much as you say you want to get up and leave your hometown and never come back you don’t mean it. Family and friends once suffocating are prayed for so that way they can suffocate you some more when you get back. The only Christmas gift I want this year is a hug from my mom and dad and bad of pretezel m&m’s. Leaving without talking with my sister and not ending this stupid fight was one regret I’ll always carry. My room door will never again be closed unless necessary. I will always cherish hug and kisses from my parents and family and not take them for granted. I will never take my friend for granted or complain about them again. I know that while the grass maybe greener on the other side it’s not worth being jealous over and to cherish what you have. A small town is not bad town. Simplicity is an amazing thing. And that you can take the girl out Texas , but she’s not home and she’s not happy without it.
Any who off the dark notes….
I love all of you! And I hope you are all taking care. Sorry what took so long to update but sometimes It takes me a while to filter enough to write it down.
Again as my dad would say.
Also. (Regarding the bidet I mentioned to him in the bathroom.) “That’s a funny place to put a water fountain.”…. My dad’s joke. Like I said, I won’t ever take my family for granted again. J
Sorry I just had to share that.