Friday, January 7, 2011

What It's Really Like

I was recently asked to answer some questions for my school newspaper back in America.

1) What are details about your town/Italy?
2) Is it hard to master the language, seeing as there isn't a language class at SLOHS for the country you're in?
3) What are the people there like?
4) Do you miss SLO?
5) optional: any additional details

These were my responses:

1. I am in Martina Franca, which is a small town of 50000 in Puglia, which is the heel of the boot. Most of the people who live in town live in these creepy communist looking apartment buildings, but there is a nice historical center with all of the old houses (what you would picture as Italy, like narrow alleys with all white little apartments with balconies and flowers and stuff). Everyone drives like maniacs, because there are police but I don’t think they do anything. For example, you can drive a small car (like a smart car) here at 14 years old so there are little children driving around in smart cars hitting poles and stuff. And people park in the middle of the road, on the sidewalks, on either side of the road facing either direction, etc. And stop signs and stoplights are meaningless. There is no drainage system in the streets, so every time it rains the streets are flooded and people see no issue in hydroplaning at 140 kilometers per hour. Also we don’t use dryers (my host family has a dryer, but we aren’t allowed to use it) so all of my clothes smell like mold.
2. When I got here I couldn’t understand anything, and now I understand almost everything, but it is still really difficult. Also, there is a very strange dialect in my town (it doesn’t sound like a real language, more like a lot of ‘shhh’ noises and gurgling) so I can’t understand any of the old people who only speak dialect and I am learning some words in dialect that anyone outside of my region won’t be able to understand. Here is an example of Martinesi (the dialect): Ch n'ama sc sciaman'n. Ch n'g n'ama sc na'n scem scenn. That means If we should go, let’s go, but if we shouldn’t go, then let’s not go. And in proper Italian it’s something along the lines of Se dovremo andare, dai, ma se non dovremo andare, non andiamo. 
3. You really won’t be able to understand what the people here are like without seeing it yourself. All of the girls my age wear a lot of Disney clothes and these weird tennis shoes with big 2 inch rubber wedges. So basically the fashion is horrible. And extremely expensive. The guys wear really tight pants a lot of scarves, and sweaters. Everyone likes to yell and talk all at once, and they eat huge portions of pasta, meat, and cheese but call the food “the Mediterranean diet.” And they get very upset when I tell them that not all Americans are fat and that they actually eat much more unhealthy food here than most people I know. At school, the girls are all really serious and cry when the do bad on tests, while the guys don’t pay any attention and like to light things on fire and make chaos. The teachers scream constantly and love banging on the walls, desks, and the floor, and all of the kids smoke cigarettes in the bathrooms. On Saturday nights the teens dress up in really flashy, trashy outfits and then walk around town in the cold, sit on benches to chain smoke, or the sketchy kids go hook up in the shadows. Oh and barely anyone speaks English.
4. I’m having a good time here but I miss SLO so much. Of course I miss my friends and my family tons, and my dogs, my bed, having my own room, etc. But I also miss the California weather, and here it’s cold and windy and rainy most of the time. I miss being able to walk around barefoot, because if you step outside without shoes here they freak out and tell you that you are going to get sick. I miss Mexican food and Taco Bell, and I really miss having a car. Also here they like to stay inside in the afternoons and then go outside at night, so I miss being warm at night and getting sunlight in the day. And girls don’t play sports here, so I miss soccer and exercising. Lastly, I miss not feeling like I’m going to explode or maybe even die after every single meal because we eat SO MUCH.
5. This may have come across as a bit negative, but really I’m having a really good time here. It’s a lot harder than I ever expected, but it’s getting easier as I learn more Italian and I love my friends here. Southern Italy is just a totally different world and being here has given me a whole new perspective on my life at home.

More on my holiday season here as well as recent events, maybe coming soon. But I don't have time to write now because I am translating my chemistry book into English.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

2 months later

I've been in Italy 2 months now. Pretty exciting yeah? School has become somewhat of a routine, a miserable one but still a routine. My class, 4E, is excellent, and are definitely nothing like the other classes at my school. Nobody studies, and we mostly spend the day throwing things and messing around and pissing people off. But unfortunately I have to rotate classes and I don't spend the whole day in my classroom. My school assistant is a bit dumb, and with the schedule she put together every week I have 7 hours of math, 6 of chemistry, and 6 of Italian with the freshman. Kill me. This assistant is also my English teacher and she has decided that I need to learn Italian English because it's different that American English. Crazy.... My Italian is coming along pretty well, I can understand most of what people say to me or at least the idea, and even if I don't understand I usually just smile and nod. But luckily all of my teachers think I'm stupid so I don't have to do any work. Sometimes they will be teaching a lesson in Italian and after talking for 5 minutes straight they will translate one sentence for me and then ask me if I understood. They are quite intelligent and helpful.
I have also realized that most of the things I read about Martina Franca before coming here turned out to be lies. The weather is NOT nice, you can't see the ocean from the top of this 'hill', and although it may be an important town for its clothing industry, the fashion here is one of the ugliest things I have ever seen. Unless you like tennis shoes with rubber wedges and a lot of hello kitty and Minnie Mouse....
This isn't to say that it's not beautiful here, just not like they say it is. The historical center, which is the old area of town, is really really cool, but the rest of Martina is like any other town. Except dirtier because everyone throws their trash on the ground.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Finalmente, sono qui.

The orientations were horrible. Complete and utter misery. We spent five days in hotel rooms, classrooms, airports, airplanes, and more being lectured on things we've all heard a million times... Finally on Sunday I woke up and took a 6 hour bus ride (pleasant compared to the orientation days) to Taranto with the other 10 or so exchange students in my town, Martina Franca. When the bus arrived at the station in Taranto all of our host families were happily waiting for us. My host family picked me up and we had a short car ride to Martina and arrived there around 3:00. Then we ate a huge lunch of pasta, sausage, bread, cheese,  fruit, pastries, and more in the Fumarola's beautiful summer house. After lunch I went straight to bed and slept until 11:00 the next morning. We had another big lunch together at two o'clock, the usual in southern Italy, and then I unpacked all of my things. After lunch Daniela's two best friends, Sara and Anna Maria, came over and we made crepes with nutella and watched a movie together. Then we had dinner at ten o'clock and I went to bed. The next day Daniela and I woke up early to get a ride into town where we met Sara and Anna to have breakfast, walk around the town, and take pictures. That evening we all went out to a pizzeria with Daniela's classmates because it was the last day of summer. The pizza was delicious and Daniela's friends were all really fun and tried their best to speak english to me. So not much exciting has happened since I've been here but Italy is beautiful and my Italian is coming along little by little. I start school Monday, so I will probably have more to talk about then.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

What I Know So Far

In November, I applied to be an exchange student to Italy through AFS. I was accepted shortly after, and then I began what I expected to be the long wait to find out where I would be going and who would be my host family. Then, one day in February I came home from school and my mom said she had something to tell me. She had received an email from AFS that had my host family's name, location, and basic info! Stoked. The email told me that I would have 2 host sisters, one my age and one older, and a host mother and father, and that I would be living in Martina Franca, Italy. Martina Franca is is in the south of Italy, on the heel of the boot, and it is a town of about 50,000 people. The weather is really nice year round(EDIT: this is not true. the internet says it is but now that i am here i have realized that is complete crap.) and there are a lot of beaches around(also not exactly true, i've been to the beach once), which I'm looking forward to so much. My school is called Tito Liveo. Also, my host family has a swimming pool (it's been empty since i arrived)! So I was so excited to find all of this out and I found my host sister, Daniela, on Facebook and I have talked to her as best I can with my minimal Italian! Then, about a week ago, my Visa application packet came in the mail, and it had my departure and return dates in it! I will be leaving New York on September 9th, 2010, and leaving Italy on July 10th, 2011! I can barely wait to leave, but I guess 87 days isn't too much, and summer will make it go by faster!
Until I find out something new, Ciao!