Scuola

I love school. Aside from that last semester of senior year of high school, I always have. It's not about the classroom or the grades its about the dynamics of learning. Few things get me more excited than: something new learned in school, seen in life, and then a situation approached differently because of the new found knowledge. Learning a language is particularly rewarding in this sense. I am so pleased to be able to comprehend more and more Italian every day. Soon, I will be able to speak more than just the simple phrases I have down now.

Each day, I walk about 2 miles from my apartment to school. Which is a great way to force me to walk off some of the gelato and pizza I am having once in a while. Here are some scenes from my walk to and from school.

The street I walk down on my way to school.

The street I walk down on my way to school.

It seems something the whole world has in common is their disdain for hipsters. here someone wrote that they should be thrown overboard.

It seems something the whole world has in common is their disdain for hipsters. here someone wrote that they should be thrown overboard.

The school building. It is located in the fashion institute here in Milan. Everyday is like a mini fashion show.

The school building. It is located in the fashion institute here in Milan. Everyday is like a mini fashion show.

Something I have found surprisingly difficult is learning a new city and culture without hearing someone say, "me too". Someone navigating their own cultural upheaval and adjustments along side me. Never underestimate the power of "me too".  I was not lacking support, help or friendship as Christopher, his sisters and parents have been all of those things and more. I was however, missing a "me too" friend.

When exploring a new place it really pays to have another person who is equally ignorant. There is freedom in looking and sounding stupid... together. There is a bond formed over not having a clue what you are doing... together. Every experience no matter how embarrassing or challenging brings you closer.

Experiences like having no idea where to put the ticket for public transportation while everyone is staring at you, or unknowingly walking into a store that is closed and then not understanding why everyone is yelling at you. Or when you are trying to say in Italian that you ate breakfast, but instead you say something completely wrong about eating parts of the male anatomy. Completely funny bonding moments when you are with a friend... a little bit more disheartening and depressing when you are alone. At least for an extrovert like myself.

Feeling rather desperate for some "me too" friends, I decided it was time I tried to spend more time with the people I am meeting in school. My school is incredibly diverse and in the last three weeks I have been in class with people from: China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Norway, Germany, Russia, Austria, Switzerland, Australia, Spain, Columbia, Brazil, Venezuela and the US. Ranging in age from 16-70. There are about 15 of us in the class. Of course it is all in Italian because there are so many other languages represented that the teacher would have to know like 20 languages to be able to explain something.

When it comes to cross cultural friendship, I thinks its quite important not to come on too strong, or seem desperate. As a general rule, people don't want to be friends with someone that no one else wants to be friends with no matter where you are from in the world. I decided to pull some kind of weird friendship dating thing, similar to what one might do when they are hinting for someone to ask me... I mean them out.

ME: "Oh man, I could really go for some pizza right about now, do you know of anywhere?"

CLASSMATE: "I heard about a great place from a friend not too far form here"

ME: "Hmm, well, I am kind of hungry. Maybe I will go check it out."

CLASSMATE: "Well, maybe we can go together, do you want to?"

ME: (acting kind of surprised) "Oh, sure that would be fun, let's go!" (Invited other person in the class)

What I realized is that everyone wants a "me too" person. We are all there trying to navigate this city, language and feelings of homesickness together. We may be from different parts of the world, but we really just want someone to go through the tough embarrassing moments with and to be able to hear, "me too".

My class has really bonded together, thanks in large part to the inviting and warm climate culture of South America.

Yes, she is wearing a shirt with a poop emoji. I know some of you want that shirt, but she is 16, so it's probably more appropriate for her not you.

Yes, she is wearing a shirt with a poop emoji. I know some of you want that shirt, but she is 16, so it's probably more appropriate for her not you.

So, there you have it. Some glimpses of school and new found friends from around the world. I hope that today, you find yourself in the presence of a "me too" friends, or that you can be one to someone else.

Zolfo

The month of May began with fury here in Italy. The first was the start of the 2015 EXPO in Milano and a national labor holiday. Some of you may have seen clips of the disruption on the news. The media made it seem as though the entire city was on fire. In actuality a couple of cars were destroyed and the Black Block set fire to a bank. Still pretty terrible things if you ask me, but again, confined to a small area of the city. The very next morning, residents banned together to clean up the streets that were vandelized by the protesters, showing that they would not let their city be tainted by a few radicals. Most of which are not from Milan by the way... It just so happened that the small area of the city affected was only a couple of blocks from where I live. I don't agree with their position on things, and I think the EXPO has the potential to bring many positive things to Milan. Thank you to those of you who reached out to check up on me! I can assure you that it looked much worse on TV than it was.

Thankfully Christopher planned ahead for us to travel to Tuscany knowing that things may get a bit interesting in down town Milan. I was quite far from the chaos. In fact I was almost in another world completely.

We ventured to the hills of Tuscany to experience one of the many natural sulfur spas Italy has to offer. For more information on sulfur spas, or the Terme we enjoyed for the weekend, visit the Saturnia post in the travel section. 

Christopher and I are not strangers to road trips. We have driven something like 5,000 miles together. Basically Italy from north to south, and the US from north to south. The drive to Tuscany is about 5-6 hours but it goes buy pretty quickly when you are sitting next to this...

Saturnia is beautiful, as you can see in the other post... but there is one thing... It looks like you are swimming with little pieces of poop. Like some serious code brown. When we first walked out to the sulfur spring I actually said out loud to Chris, "oh my gosh, someone pooped in the pool!" I can only hope that the people around me did not understand english.

The poop-esk chunks are actually just pieces of sulfur algae that have great health benefits and are particularly good for the skin. So, if you can get over the look of it, by all means, rub it all over yourself. 

Here are some chunks of sulfur swimming around waiting for you to rub them on your face. None of these really look like poop, but trust me when I say, others really did. 

Here are some chunks of sulfur swimming around waiting for you to rub them on your face. None of these really look like poop, but trust me when I say, others really did. 

After making a big deal about how gross I thought it looked, it was only natural that Christopher made me promise to rub the algae on my face before we left. I agreed because... well, why not? If all of the old people and Russians at the spa were doing it, why shouldn't I? I am adventurous and stuff. I mean, just look at how much I "enjoyed" the experience... 

Honestly, I think it made my skin softer.. 

Honestly, I think it made my skin softer.. 

So, I did it. Now I think there is potential for me to be as glamorous as these terme babes one day. 

#lifegoals

#lifegoals

A Casa

The last 4 days have been unlike anything I have experienced before. The sorrow of saying goodbye mixed with the joy and excitement of a grand adventure. As most of the richest experiences in life are, things have been great but hard. Incredible and incredibly difficult.

Saying goodbye was calm. Which is exactly what it needed to be. In any case, it was more of a see you later, rather than a goodbye. More of a goodbye to life as we have known it to be. A new way is here and the old way came to an end with a calm goodbye. Transition to my new home has been a bit less tranquil.

When I arrived in Italy a few things became clear. 1. My new home is in the perfect location for me. 2. Instead of living with a girl I had been in contact with on Air bnb I'm living in her room at the apartment with two guys. And finally, 3. I know nothing about living in Milan Italy.

1. First of all, my house is situated about a 30 min walk from the Art School where I attend language classes every day. More on that in a later post. The apartment is in a lovely part of the city with plenty of trees, cafes and stores. It is near the Navigli (rivers) which make for pleasant scenery. Along side the rivers are plenty of delicious restaurants to try. My house has a traditional Milanese garden, marble staircases and statues, stained glass windows, an old timey elevator, french doors and a tiny little kitchen.

I just realized that there is a red carpet rolled out. I literally have a red carpet welcome every time I come home.

I just realized that there is a red carpet rolled out. I literally have a red carpet welcome every time I come home.

Traditional Milanese Garden in the center of my building. The marble staircase and elevator are just beyond the door to the left.

Traditional Milanese Garden in the center of my building. The marble staircase and elevator are just beyond the door to the left.

2. Aside from growing up with brothers, I have never lived with guys before. I don't think it will make much of a difference. In fact, I think I have won some sort of roommate jackpot. They are hospitable, inviting, clean (clean enough anyway) and fun. Here is to hoping I am not jinxing this whole thing, and they end up being the worst human beings on earth, or that they somehow read this blog and think I am a total creep for writing about them. Our interactions have thus far included early morning/late night 'hellos' and 'goodbyes' and a glass of wine with friends. I can tell you the important things about them like, the first cartoons they ever had crushes on as kids... Please tell me you agree with me on Demetri from Anastasia.

                                         Yes. Thank you Demetri. Everything will be fine, now that you are here.

                                         Yes. Thank you Demetri. Everything will be fine, now that you are here.

I can also tell you one roommate is in an Italian Indie Pop band. I am sure they are great. But it doesn't really matter because what I am about to show/tell you is everything.

L'orso (The Bear) wanted to write a song about growing up in the 90s. The subject of said song? Their desire to be none other than James Van Der Beek. What?! I am sorry. This is one of the best things I have ever heard. The song is basically a list of who James was to them in the 90s and then them saying they want to be like him. Rough translation "I wish I dressed out of style, just like James Van Der Beek." The phrase "como James Van Der Beek" (AKA 'just like JVB') has become my favorite Italian phrase. Hence forth anytime someone uses an adjective I add, "como James Van Der Beek" in my very best Italian accent. Please take one moment to imagine Italians saying James Van Der Beek. It is kind of like this... Jayems ahvandare Beekah... It's amazing. You know what else is amazing? The James Van Der Beek mask hanging in my house and the music video from the James Van Der Beek song. Please, do yourself a favor and watch it...

Jayems AhVanDare Beekah

Como James Van Der Beek

Como James Van Der Beek

3. The third and final thing. I basically know nothing about living in Italy. While it is true I have been visiting often and getting to know Milan, I haven't had to really live here. The first day was completely overwhelming. I was lost in the rain for an hour and half with no phone or internet... Who does that anymore!? I was a completely soaking wet, fish out of water. I felt myself transform from a brave independent woman to a damsel in distress in moments.

Besides the obvious things one learns in a new city, there are both big and small differences to living in Milan that can add up to a major first day break down. The usual city nuances to learn include things like, public transportation and the good/bad areas to go. Then there are things about living in Milan, like not understanding what anyone is saying and trying to navigate a city that on the map looks like a big bowl full of Spaghetti. Finally, we have the seemingly little things. Lots of them. Things that can add up to a major first day meltdown. For instance, Italians separate their trash into three bins Every time I throw something in the trash, it is a little life pop quiz.

Having melt downs in grocery stores seems to be becoming my 'thing'. The first happened when I returned from living in Bolivia. Disgusted by the number of cheese options in the grocery store lead to The Grocery Meltdown of 2007. I knew that that much cheese would never sell before it went bad and was likely to be thrown away, while not so far away, babies were starving. Melt. Down. This time I was overwhelmed by my inability to do anything familiar... from pick out the right olive oil to buy my produce. No familiar brands, no familiar process, lots of dumb questions. Christopher took me isle by isle helping me decipher what I wanted. 

I tried pretty hard to keep my tears bottled up, but jet lag, a lack of sleep and an overwhelming day can made my resolve rather weak. Christopher's presence gave me a safe place and so… enter my tears. Imagine his surprise when the grocery store brought on my silent water works. Crying in your finance's car in the middle of a parking garage really is the perfect way to say, “Thank you for driving in traffic to buy me groceries and take me to dinner!”

Someone get this man a beer... a giant beer. Chris took me to an all you can eat Italian pizza restaurant, and talked about wanting to take my brother and cousin there... start stretching your stomachs now guys.

Someone get this man a beer... a giant beer. Chris took me to an all you can eat Italian pizza restaurant, and talked about wanting to take my brother and cousin there... start stretching your stomachs now guys.

Christopher is kind and patient and tells me it is good to cry because it is a healthy stress reliever. I agree, but the tears and the snot… not a good look. I once read an article that said men are actually biologically repelled by a woman’s tears. I think that there is a strong possibility Christopher is immune to this because… I cry… like a lot. Like when I am sad, or happy or angry or frustrated or when I see a cute commercial with puppies. I am grateful for someone who allows me to mourn with them and not feel embarrassed or silly, but instead be validated and encouraged. Which in turn makes me grateful for his mother and three sisters who have paved the way for me.

I realize that moving to Italy and having a bad day because you were lost in the rain and didn’t recognize anything in a grocery store full of food are total #firstworldproblems. So, I am sorry about that, but of course the feelings are deeper than the triggers on the surface. Now, I have a bit more understanding and compassion for others who will be in similar situations. People in new unfamiliar places, away from those they love who know them best. People learning a new normal, trying to figure out the little things. That is where I am at in these first few days, trying to figure out the little things.

The little things make a big difference, like dinners with soon to be family, a glass of wine with new roommates, James Van Der Beek, cuddling puppies, making a new friend, and finding things that seem to have been made just for me… like these little guys.

BALSAMIC Vinegar

BALSAMIC Vinegar