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.