venerdì 16 ottobre 2009

1 month!

Ahh yeah so time is definitely passing way too quickly now, it's already been over a month?

WELL okay, things have kind of fallen into routine now. I've gotten over the whole shock of being in a foreign country and now I just feel more comfortable with everything. My Italian is getting a lot better, and it's a little awkward writing in English, so I think that's a good thing!

This week I started my new timetable for school, so instead of staying in 3F all day, I get to switch around a litle. I have 6 different subjects now: Inglese (English), Storia (History), Educazione Fisica (PE), Italiano, Matematica, and Francese (French). Some of them I have with prima classes which is the first year, but I have others with the fifth (last) year classes, and everything in between.

All of my classes are so nice and welcoming and I'm really happy with my new timetable. Except I hate French with the passion of a thousand burning suns. I have forgotten everything I learned in the past two years, but my teacher loves to make me present every class period. It's also apparently a good idea to switch between Italian, French and English when talking to me (mid-sentence) because I'm not confused enough already. End whining.

I have Italian lessons after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays now, with four other AFSers in my chapter (United States, Costa Rica, Denmark, Chile!). I'm pretty positive this is when I'm speaking the most english, but they're actually really fun! And Lecce is gorgeous so we go out afterwards and stuff ourselves with gelato or coffee. (Absolutely nothing compares to the gelato and coffee here, ahhhh!)

Oh okay and the weather is so indecisive, I don't even know what to do. Some days, it will just rain constantly, or it will rain for maybe twenty minutes and then be really sunny (I actually saw a rainbow over a vineyard, that is SO corny but kind of cool). At night and in the morning, it's freezing, but later in the day it's sweltering hot. So I was very wrong to assume that it'd just be beautiful warm weather because while that is sometimes the case, it feels like December at times. I love it, but at the same time, I don't have a winter jacket... I'll buy one Sunday (marketplace!)

Anddd an apology for complete lack of pictures. It takes forever to put them on and I don't have the patience! But a few that I have hijacked from Facebook:


Casa casa casa.

And then more later, promise.

A few more updates: I rode on a vespa!, got completely lost trying to find the train station, witnessed Tagada Salice Salentino style (think giant spinning amusement park rides, subtract all safety restraints, add some dancing guys in the middle and two large speakers and strobe lights), watched Pokemon in Italian, etc. etc.

And my math teacher asked me a question in class. I had no idea what the answer was. How to respond exchange student style:
1.) Ask yourself if the teacher understands English. If not, proceed to step 2.
2.) Explain to the teacher that you don't know how to answer in Italian, so your friend will translate for you.
3.) Start talking nonsense while throwing in a few vocabulary words from the topic, some head nods, or short thoughtful pauses.
4.) Tell your friend to just give him the right answers.

It works.

venerdì 25 settembre 2009

La Scuola

So school here is so different! My school isn't in Salice but in Lecce, so even though it starts at 8:15, we leave for the bus before 7. And there's no yellow school busses, we take a charter/tour bus (the kind with luggage racks and carpeted seats) that you have to pay for. And most of the time, theres not enough seats, so some people have to sit on the floor or on other people. (So when the bus pulls up at the stop, everyone like sprints towards the door and climbs on top of each other to get a seat. I need to take a video of it one day!) Love the busrides, though, because I get to see all of the vineyards and countryside between towns!

In Italy, you just stay in the same class all day with the same people and the teachers move around. Luckily I LOVE my class, and if anyone from 3F is reading/can understand this, it's true! :D The classrooms are just a chalkboard and desks, which is really weird when you compare it to an American classroom. No posters, no computer, etc. Right now, I really don't do much in class because I don't understand most of what is being said except in math and English (and even then, not really, because they're both still taught in Italian). Apparently the point right now is to get a feel for "the system" (which may or may not involve throwing sleeping bags out the window before the teacher comes?) so it's all good.

Right now, my subjects are:
Math - (Think Algebra 2 but harder. I get what's going on and how to do everything because we learned it last year!)
Italian - (Where I'm completely lost, its literature.)
English - (Taught as a second language... hehe. Not as easy as it sounds though because my teacher makes me do everything in Italian...)
Philosophy - (...)
History - (Again, ...)
Latin - (I think advanced, I don't know Latin, so whatever!)
"Designo Tecnico" - (Which is fun but only 3F knows why xD)
Pys. Ed - (No dressing out, we just stand in a circle and hit/kick a volleyball around.)
Biology - (The Halteh would triple slam me right now because I don't remember anything at all.)
Physics - (...)
Religion - (Which I had yesterday for the first time. Our teacher is a priest and he was ranting about America and Obama and our healthcare system. So I don't know what's going on there.)

And there might be more but I can't remember them right now. So we have all these classes spread out over the week and they're about one hour each, sometimes twice in a row, and some of them have the same teacher. We get homework but so far, none of my teachers have actually checked it. I'm dropping all but five classes (as instructed by AFS) so I don't know how it will work after that!

School is crazy, though. Theres no cafeteria or lunch but theres a break in the middle of the day and a snack bar thing in the hallway. Sometimes it just randomly ends ten minutes early, or if a teacher isn't there, you just don't have that class (no subs!) Today we got out at 12 so that wasn't even four hours of school. Some kids in my class are a litle insane (see the aforementioned sleeping bag) and there's a lot of yelling. And the toilets upstairs are just like this hole in the ground.. haha. That's about all I can think of right now.

But like I said, for the most part, everyone is really nice and friendly! My Italian still sucks of course (it hasn't even been two weeks) but I think it's gotten better! I can understand a lot more now, especially when people are talking about me. Which gets kind of awkward because they'll be discussing whether or not I'm German or how I don't understand any Italian as if I'm not sitting one foot away. But I don't know how to correct them so whatever.

ALSO, a breakthrough: I ordered something in Italian! This is a big deal. I was out with my host sister at this bar-type thing (not a pub) and I went in to get some water when I remembered, oh wait, I won't understand them. But I went up there and I must've looked really scared because before I even said anything the bartenders knew I was foreign. So I asked for "due l'acqui, per favore!" (I think I spelled that wrong) and somehow managed to tell them where I was from and that I was here for a year. Then was actually understood on my first try. It was a complete victory. And I danced. (But not in front of them.)

And finally, a random snippet of why I completely love it here: on the bus today, I was looking out the window when a clown walked by. Just kind of chilling on the street.


mercoledì 16 settembre 2009

"Non capisco!"

AH so Im in Italy! (This post will contain no apostrophes because I dont know where it is on the keyboard yet). I love it here! So far everyone has been so nice and Im really happy with everything! My host sister is at school right now (I start on Friday?) so I have a chance to use the computer... normally I am tagging along with her around Salice or Lecce.

Okay so the orientations in NY and Rome were pretty cool! Mindnumbingly boring, but we all got to meet each other! We had an 8 hour flight to Zurich, another 1 hour flight to Rome, a 2 hour busride, and a five and a half hour train ride. So lots of traveling. Italy is gorgeous though, and Id put up pictures but the internet is really slow! And Im skipping a lot of details because I dont want to be on the computer too much. Okay, also, the train ride to Lecce was nice because I got to talk to the other people in my chapter but I was also so nervous to meet my family! I was actually shaking because I had no idea what to expect. When I got off I found them on the station almost right away and we were all hugging and kissing after like months of waiting!

My host family is so great. My parents dont speak English... at all. Except I taught them "grape" today. My host sister knows a little, but for the most part, its really hard to communicate! They are so understanding though when I make mistakes and I feel really, really welcome here. The actual highlight of this whole experience so far is when my host dad introduced me as his daughter. Not "that weird exchange student who lives with us" or "Susanna" but daughter! I guess that wouldnt have seemed like a big deal to me a few weeks ago, but now every little thing counts. Like, I get really excited when I understand what someones saying.

My Italian is getting kind of better. I definitely know a lot more than I did before I came but thats not saying much! I can understand what people are saying when theyre talking to me... very slowly... and I know the context. It takes forever to explain something though, and we usually need two dictionaries and a few minutes to really get the point across. Im not really frustrated with it (yet) but there have been a lot of misunderstandings that lead to really awkward moments. BUT a breakthrough: Im not so awkward anymore, especially in these situations! At home I definitely was but here Ive already gotten used to it. Since I cant really carry a conversation anymore, I have to prove I have a personality in like fifteen words or less. So Ill teach them English swear words... Im pretty sure half of my Italian vocabulary is inappropriate. :D My host sisters friends (who I follow around everywhere) are really helpful and either try to speak English with me, or teach me Italian.

But the language barrier does suck a little sometimes. For example: The food here is AMAZING, right? That is no stereotype. It it awesome. But, they eat so ridiculously much! On one of my first nights it was like pasta soup, followed by two pieces of meat and french fries, then chocolate crepes with Nutella, then my host dads peaches. I cant keep up! (Daniella, if you are reading this, I totally think of you every time Im at a meal here. My host sister could give you a run for your money in eating.) So the first few meals I could not even finish the first course. I would get halfway through then just feel like I was going to throw up. This is probably because I didnt eat much on the way here, but oh well. I didnt know it was possible to be full for an entire week but it is. Anyway, I eat like a fifth of what my family does. This of course went noticed so they thought I was annorexic and when I figured this out I had to explain in butchered Italian that Im not.

I really do appreciate them, though, even though we dont understand what each other are saying most of the time. Well be sitting at dinner and my host dad will break out the wine and ask if I want some. Ill say "No, no, grazie!" (because Im about to explode) and he replies "Sì, sì!" and proceeds to pour me some anyway. (It tastes amazing, by the way!)

Okay and here are some cultural differences which have contributed to my intense culture shock of the past week (and I mean Salento or my town, because I think its different here than the north):
- In the U.S., if its a schoolnight, the latest I am EVER out is maybe nine, and thats not often at all. In my Italian family, my host sister and I are walking out the door at ten, like every night.
- They dress up for EVERYTHING except for school. I am always underdressed but its okay. I actually went out in heels my first night here (yeah) when my sister took me out to Lecce (which was one of the funnest nights Ive ever had!)
- Italian teenagers here have so much more freedom!
- French fries on pizza. Yup.
- When you first meet someone, you shake hands and introduce yourself. Then when you know them well enough (I think) you do the cheek kissing thing when you say hello or goodbye. Which is like 3 people for me so far.
- The driving is INSANE. I dont want to concern any adults at home but ohmygod.
- Their bathrooms are really nice and they have bidets, but no actual showers? Just a bathtub. Still gotta figure that out.
- You dont go barefoot. It just doesnt happen, even in the house.

I think Ive been on the computer for way too long now though but to sum it all up: I never understand whats going on, and almost every single thing is at least slightly different. I pretty much just go with whats going on and hope that Ill agree with it. Its not unusual to be woken up at 9am by my host sisters friend in our room all dressed up and rambling to me in Italian, or to wear the same shirt three days in a row, or to get applause for finishing one course of the meal. But overall, I love it here so so much and I cant imagine what I would be doing right now besides this.

I miss everyone at home a whole lot!

martedì 8 settembre 2009


So, this will be my last post as an outbound. In 24 hours, I'll be at the airport! This summer went by so quickly. It seemed like the other day that I was counting down months, and now I leave tomorrow!! You'd expect time to drag on when something so great is coming up, but I hardly realized it was September. I'm almost done packing (10 months of my life in a 44lb check-in and a carry-on) and everything is ready to go.

I have no idea what to expect, but I think that's a good thing! I am so anxious and excited to leave right now. I'm going to miss my friends (who are all having their first day of school right now, weird!) and my family, but I know it's only for ten months. Saying goodbye is definitely easier than I thought it was. I am just so ready to leave and I'm glad that the day is almost here!

Also, thanks to everyone who is reading this so far! I know having a blog is kind of lame but it's all good. Next time I write, I'll be in Italy!

martedì 18 agosto 2009

Visas and Predeparture Jitters

So, I leave DC three weeks from tomorrow! The time felt kind of ripe for a blog post. I finally got my information from Intercultura, which were really just the papers that let me apply for my visa. I was stressing out about it because I've heard plenty of visa horror stories.

Luckily, it was painless! I was definitely WAY too excited just to be there, even though we just sat and waited for an hour. I'm really glad the consulate is close to me because some people have to fly to places like LA just to hand someone papers. Our "appointment" was under five minutes, and everything seemed to be in order. Also, I didn't realize this before, but being at the consulate was my first time hearing spoken Italian in real life, not just in a movie or something. I tried to listen in on the conversations a little and I only caught a few words that I understood. And these were things like buongiorno, grazie, sì, etc. I know this probably should've freaked me out (a lot) but the language is so beautiful and it re-motivated me to keep up with my Italian lessons. It's still my main worry right now, though. I'm too shy about my Italian to even greet the people in the consulate in it.

Which leads to these predeparture jitters. I just went to the beach for the weekend, came back, and realized I leave in 21 days. I'm absolutely excited to go, but I still have so much to do! It felt like a long time before but now it's like wow, I only have 3 weekends left? And I didn't think finding host family gifts would be so difficult, but it is. I have a few ideas for my host parents, but I don't know about my siblings. AND, il mio italiano non è bene. (And that was probably incorrect).

But really, the excitement is canceling all of that out right now. I'm trying to keep an open mind and arrive with zero expectations, which is so much harder than it sounds! For now, I'm just going to work on my Italian, finish up the last of my paperwork, and enjoy the next three weeks with everyone at home.

(P.S. There's a lot of cheesy things I could say this close to departure, but I'm avoiding all of it.)

lunedì 3 agosto 2009


Exchange related news: I'm waiting for my Visa papers from Intercultura so I can shimmy on down to the consulate. I'm a bit nervous because my mom and I tried to make an appointment and they said, nope, it's open for Visas 3 days a week between 10am and 12:30pm. (?!) So we will see how that works out! (Luckily the consulate is a short Metro trip away and the Visa will be free!)

Non-exchange related news: I made cupcakes today!

Cute, right?

I don't know, I felt like posting something... 36 days to go! :DD

sabato 1 agosto 2009

1 month 1 week!

Or, 38 more days until I leave for New York! x) And 39 until we're off to Italy!

(I also had to change my layout thinger because it wouldn't let me post pictures.)

SO, according to AFS, I am officially enrolled in a school! I'm attending a liceo scientifico in Lecce! I'm pretty sure my host sister goes to the same school. And yes, "scientifico" means it's a science oriented school. I'm way too excited to complain about the fact that science is my worst subject. xD I think it looks amazing!

After checking the school's website, I found out that classes start September 14th. So, in the course of 5 days, I am going to... fly to New York city by myself, meet about a million people, go on my first Transatlantic flight, spend a few hours in Switzerland, stay in Rome, meet about two million more people, take a train to my town, meet my host family, and have my first day at my new school!

I AM SO EXCITED!!! (Three planes and a train!)

My summer school final is on Monday, so after that, I'm going to work on my Italian. All of my dreams for the past few nights have been exchange-related. (Last night, I got to my host family's house and unpacked my suitcase to find that I'd forgotten to pack clothes. Instead, it was filled with boxes of chocolate and a map of the world.) I'm basically at the point where it's all I think about, and it's hard for me to go out and not see something Italy-related and get overly excited about it.

I've also become VERY biased: Kobe Masahiko is officially my favorite Iron Chef.

I'm stealing a few pictures from my host sister's Facebook. Hopefully she doesn't mind me putting them up. (:

Host dad + Elisabetta + dogo argentino!