It doesn’t only rain in Spain!

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Ciao tutti!

So it’s been about 10 days since I last wrote and things are still going swimmingly! Literally. It has been raining so much the past couple of days that I come home soaked from head to toe and being as it is the middle of October I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love the rain so much, and especially in Europe because it just makes everything more beautiful! The smell, the look, everything about this time of year makes me feel so happy and alive. I was almost sad about missing a Canadian autumn this year until I experienced an Italian one. I was surprised by how similar it is to home. There are a few differences (one being that it always smells like sausages), but I am in awe of how beautiful it is. Italy is just a gorgeous country and I feel like autumn is actually making it more beautiful. Every time I pass through a street lined with golden and red trees, I am reminded of how lucky I am to be able to experience a whole year in another country and every day reveals a little bit more as to what that really means.

Despite the downpour, I have still had school, which is going very well I think! My teachers and peers have noticed the improvements I have made and being able to speak a little bit makes it easier. I can understand so much more than I can say, but the fact that these people really talk with their hands also makes it easier! And yes, I talk with my hands a lot now. As far as the language, I have definitely been improving. I even helped some nice men from Kuwait make their way to Milan the other day when I was going to my lesson so that boosted my self esteem! I even had my first thought process in Italian today, which I didn’t even notice until after! I also love how my lessons are in a gorgeous part of the city. Today I had some extra time before my lesson, so I just wandered around in the rain and it was really nice. I love exploring a bit and seeing new things every day, it’s one of my favourite parts of traveling.

This past week, I did a whole load of things, but some of my highlights were going to Lecco for the second time, seeing my second movie in theatres in Italian (Insidious 2, let’s just say I’m not too great with scary movies so it gave my host sister a good laugh), going shopping with my family and eating some incredibly scrumptious risotto. Last night I went for a run and forgot my keys which was stupid of me, but was able to get a hold of my awesome host mom who called a friend to let me in. Thank goodness for amazingly kind Italians! I’ve been pretty busy so far in my exchange, but at the same time usually have a bit of time each night to relax too, or do some homework (yes, I do homework!). Speaking of homework, I wrote a test today in English and I will be writing a test on Philosophy in I-don’t-know-what-language because my prof doesn’t speak English so she speaks a broken version of French and Italian. Fritalian! It was a bit hard to understand her sometimes but I really appreciated the effort she and all my other profs have been putting in to help me understand. Really makes me feel welcome and at home! 🙂

The next few weeks will be full of exciting things, so I am excited to experience those! On a different note, today is a very special day as well! It is the birthday of my beautiful mamma, so tanti auguri mamma! I hope you have an absolutely amazing day!

Until next time, ciao ciao

L

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadians! I hope you are all in the company of family, enjoying the season, the weather, the food, and each other. Please savor that turkey for me, as my Thanksgiving dinner consisted of a kebab wrap. It was delicious, don’t get me wrong, but no turkey dinner! Oh, and cranberry sauce. Please eat all the cranberry sauce. I hope you all had wonderful weekends, whatever you’re doing and whoever you’re with!

It’s almost been six weeks since I got here and I can hardly believe it. I’ve started Italian lessons twice a week in Milan, which seem to be helping! They are organized through Rotary, so I go with four other exchange  students. Our lessons are in the house of this adorable little Italian woman who is really sweet and actually quite hilarious! Time seems to fly by, which means I must be enjoying myself, so that’s good! I’m not sure exactly when, but over the past couple of days something has changed in the sense that I am finding myself speaking and hearing only Italian, except when things are really difficult and translation is needed. Sometimes, when talking to people I don’t know very well, I end up speaking what I like to call “Fritalglish”, a mixture of French, English, and Italian, but it seems to work just as well! Anyway, the Italian is improving in spades and I am really proud of what I have accomplished so far in terms of language.  I know I’ve got a heck of a long way to go but when I think of how much I knew six weeks ago, I realize how much I’ve learned! i’ve gone from deer-in-the-headlights to slightly-confused-at-times, so I’d say that’s pretty good! I hope to speak quite well by three months, maximum. Vediamo!

Other than that, things have been business as usual. I enjoy having a daily routine, as it makes settling into regular life much easier. Last Sunday I traveled with my host family and host sister’s softball team to a city far away for a softball tournament. It was a pretty long day and it ended up pouring rain all day (as it has for the past week, and anyone who really knows me will know how happy this made me), so I spent most of the day in the cafe with my host mom and friend, drinking cappuccino, eating chocolate, and playing cards. It’s safe to say it was a really nice day, and also a great time for me to just spend time with my host family and friends. I also got to know a few people on the softball team, so talking to them was great. I made one friend who went on exchange to Ohio, so it was nice to be able to just talk without thinking about it for a while.

This past week was probably the most normal and casual I’ve had, which was nice and relaxing! I got to go shopping a bit for some warmer clothes in Milan (let’s just say I was successful), hung out with my family, went running a few times, and just lived regular life with my family. I went on errands with them, helped them with dinner, and really got to spend time with them.

Yesterday, while my host family went to a softball tournament, I was invited to go to MIlan for a 10k run! I went with a friend of mine who is a competitive runner and we took the metro to Castello Sforzesco, which is Milan’s castle. It is absolutely beautiful and is surrounded by a huge park, which is also gorgeous! Yesterday, there was an added sea of orange tee-shirts, blasting music, confetti, sign-up stations, and spandex. It was my first time being at the castle itself. and it was amazing. I found out as I was walking through that, y’know, Leonardo Da Vinci lived there for ten years. No big deal. Italians, man. And although I have been to my fair share of historic European landmarks, this was the first moment where history really hit me like a slap in the face. I just could not believe that this man, who crafted so much of what we treasure today, walked in the very same place I was walking, saw the same things in the sense of the castle, and thought up some of his most famous works in a place where, 500 or so years later, I would be running a 10k with 40, 000 other people. It just amazed me. This world is a crazy, fantastic place. I had no idea what I was getting myself into because I was casually asked about this on Friday and decided to do it on Saturday, and it turned out to be a fantastic day! The run was like a 10km tour of Milan, through some really beautiful areas, so it didn’t really feel like work. It was hard and tiring, but the scenery combined with the atmosphere and adrenaline made it a lot easier. It was my very first 10k and I finished in an hour exactly, so I figured that wasn’t too bad! What a great day.

So, to finish things off, as I sip a warm cup of tea, I am reminded of everything I am thankful for. I am so incredibly thankful for the fact that I get to wake up here every day for the next ten months and experience something new every day. I am thankful for the people who have taken me in and cared so much for me in such a short time. I am thankful for the friends I have made and the copious amounts of knowledge I have acquired. I am thankful for every opportunity I’ve been given. And, obviously, for the food I get to eat every day. I honestly miss Canadian food so much sometimes, especially at this time of year, but then I have a cappuccino and I feel so much better! Anyone who knows me will know I am crazy about this time of year and am incredibly festive, and here in Italy the atmosphere is quite different. There is no thanksgiving here, so enjoy yours! Enjoy your turkey, your talkative grandmas, your copious amounts of gravy, pumpkin patches, colourful maple leaves, farmer’s markets, and crisp autumn air. And for those of you who are university students and are complaining about missing your family even though they flew you back for Thanksgiving and you’ll see them in eight weeks, just try to be grateful that you understand everything that is said to you, you know exactly what you’re eating, you know how to use the toilet, and most of all, you got to see your family. Whoever you are, no matter how much your family might bicker or annoy you, just try to appreciate the fact that you get to spend the holidays with them and hug them a little tighter for me. Sending my love and hugs to my family and everyone else at home! Happy Thanksgiving. Have a great one! 🙂

Ciao

L

La Bella Vita :)

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So I know this post is late, don’t hate me I got a lot on my plate! (See what I did there?!) these past two weeks have been full of adventures and I can’t believe it but as of today I have been here for a month. A month!! That’s just insane to me! On one hand it feels like its been longer because of everything I’ve done and accomplished, but at the same time it feels like I just arrived! It’s been one of the craziest months of my life and I wouldn’t change it for the world! And I can’t wait for what’s to come. 🙂

On a more serious note, I did want to mention the tragedy in Sicily on Thursday. In case you didn’t know, a ship carrying immigrants to southern Italy caught fire in Lampedusa. 150 people were saved but there were 500 on the ship, the majority of whom are unaccounted for. Yesterday in school we had a minute of silence for the victims and the people of Lampedusa. Many people cried. One thing that amazes me about this country is the comradery between everyone, and the attachment of Italians to their country. No matter where I am, when people tell me stories of this country they brim with pride and warmth. It is nice to see a people with such a love for their country and its people, and especially to see them come together at a time like this.

On a brighter note, lots of great stuff happened this week! This past weekend I got to skip school for two days and travel to the beautiful region of Emilia-Romagna, specifically a small town called Fognano. I swear, everywhere I go in this country I feel like I’ve entered a postcard. Emilia-Romagna is known for its’ agriculture, so there was vineyard after vineyard among the rolling hills, and laying in the midst of all of that was a giant convent which we stayed in! We were in Fognano for an Italy-wide inbound Rotary conference so there were over 100 kids there, plus adults! So a hotel just wouldn’t cut it ;). It was a beautiful building, albeit a bit creepy at night, with giant hallways that stretched on forever, Madeline-esque rooms lined with beds, and stunning courtyards tucked in the middle, though slightly inaccessible (don’t worry we managed). It was such a great opportunity to meet everyone in Italy, from literally all over the world. India, Finland, France, Brazil, Mexico, Germany, Canada, Thailand, US, Taiwan, you name it! It was so amazing to get a taste of every country and be in an environment where we can all come together like that. The weekend was jam-packed, with some hiking, gawking at the views of the town and castle, information sessions, impromptu singing, purposeful singing, cheesy photos, exploring, and socializing. Oh yeah, and EATING. It was an absolutely amazing three days and I had a blast. When I got back I was so used to speaking English that I couldn’t remember any Italian! Luckily it came back quickly and I am improving still! I start a course in Milan on Monday so we’ll see how that goes. I am able to have simple conversations so that’s good!

Other than that, school’s been pretty much the same. I am learning so much in my art classes, it is crazy. All of my teachers are so passionate and it really makes school interesting. I prefer the school system here, so for me it’s great! The last week has been pretty relaxed with not a whole lot going on. I went to Milan a week ago with friends to show them around, I’ve been going to the last of the softball games, running a lot, and hanging out with my family and host sister. Last night I went to Milan for a big event where the Inbounds (that’s people who are here on exchange) meet the rebounds (people who have come back from exchange). It was at this swanky lounge where we ate appetizers and drank funky alcohol-free cocktails. 🙂 Italy is starting to really feel like home now. Although last night I received some devastating family news which is very hard to deal with when you are on the other side of the world and you can’t be with your family, and on top of that I think I have the flu, I am keeping my head up and hopefully can take it easy for the next few days and then return to normal. Exchange is full of ups and downs and so many things you don’t know how to deal with, but my host family is amazing and they are letting me grieve in peace. Every day makes me a stronger person and I enjoy every minute, even if it is really hard sometimes. Make no mistake, I am enjoying myself more than I ever have, but not every moment is bound to be an “up”. That’s just life. Accepting that and moving forward with a strong and positive attitude is what makes people successful. I know I’ve got so many adventures ahead of me, and I can’t wait for them. So until next time, have a great weekend and smile.

Ciao

L