sabato 10 giugno 2017

May and June 9, 2017

Hello, Everyone!

I'm not really sure how the blogs got weirdly dated, but that's ok, I'll just write it with May and June here.

I can't believe that there is only about one month left of exchange! The time is seriously flying by and I don't like it. I am so excited to see my friends and family and eat Cheetos, but I feel like I am leaving an amazing life that I have made for myself here in Italy. I have friends and family and I have a place I feel comfortable being in. I know that when I leave Italy, it will be much more difficult than it was when I was leaving New York because I don't know when I will be able to return. It really is a stomach wrenching feeling, however, I am so grateful for the me that I have become here in exchange. I have felt myself grow and experience a life that I never would have known if I hadn't have come here. My friend (from Italy) was talking to me the other day about after I go and he said, "don't worry, the world is so small!" and that's when I realized that he was right. The world is so small, but so many think the opposite. The more you expose yourself to new places, people, and things that are different than the bubble of comfort you have been in your whole life, the more you will realize that the world isn't vast or unknown, in fact, it's quite the opposite. The only thing that separates us, is separation. The only thing that is holding us back is ourselves. People that live on the other side of the world from my comfort bubble have forever changed my life.

During this month, I was lucky enough to go with my class to Barcelona, Spain! We took a plane to Spain and spent the week there. It was absolutely amazing! The architecture in Barcelona is like nothing I have ever seen before. The buildings were so unique and the city old yet modern at the same time with so many hidden gems! It was absolutely an experience that I won't forget with a group of people that are very special to me.

For mother's day, I went to my host grandparent's house for an amazing lunch. And because all of my host families are related, I was able to spend the day with all three of my host mothers!

The last day of school also came and went. And I am very grateful to the school for the support and understanding that they gave to me above all during my first few months. They really are a very special group of people.

During this month I have also done lots of exploring and beach finding. Near my house there is a beautiful area that over looks the sea, and my friends and I went on an amazing walk, and found a (safe, don't worry) place to cliff jump and swim!

The last, district wide, meeting also occurred this month. At this meeting we were able to meet the other outbounds. I even found a boy that will be doing a brief exchange in Syracuse, his name is Eugenio!

Next, this month, my friend Francesco invited me and a few other people to his house and we made pasta! Then we also made sauce of pistachio and then after we went out for gelato! It was a very fun evening!

The day after, there was an even that is held every year that is hosted by the art school as a type of fund raiser. There is a big lot of open land, and everyone goes there and there is music and when you're there you buy bottles of (body) paint. The you basically get the paint everywhere and dance, and all of the money spent on the paint goes to the school!

The week after that, a few exchange students and I went to a small island off the coast of Sicily, however still in Sicily, called Lipari because there is a girl doing exchange there that wanted to show us her exchange life. It was absolutely AMAZING! We went to pumice stone beaches and explored the island, went to a rotary dinner on the roof of a hotel on top of the mountain that overlooks the island, and we also went to an island right next to Lapari that is very famous because it is a volcano. We hiked to the top of the volcano and overlooked what felt like the whole world. Then we went to a natural spa that is hot and has sulfur deposits in it from the volcano....... it was great, but I STILL smell like eggs....The day after though, was very difficult because it was the last day we will be able to see the other exchange students from other cities, but I know that we will meet again. We also went for a swim at a black sand beach!!

This past weekend, I also had the honor of graduating with my class!! I got a certificate and everything! It was such a surprise!!!

Then, just last night, I had my play that I was in! I didn't have a big part, but I had a part nonetheless. The play was "Mamma Mia!" and it was a blast!! A lot of my friends came to support me, and after we all went out for pizza. I was very grateful for the experience of theater in a different country!

These were all from Barcelona!

A pic of my class on the last day of school!

Near the cliff jumping place, not here though... toooo shallowww

Color art day!

The pasta squad!

One of my best friends here, Simone. This was from our graduation, he mentioned me in his speech.

Last orientation!

My best friend and I in Lipari

Black sand beach


All from the play

From the top of the Volcano!!

venerdì 12 maggio 2017

April 8, 2017

Hey Everyone!

Well, I'm officially in my last third of the exchange. I can't get over how quickly my time here is going. I feel like I write monthly reports so much less than a month apart!! My last few months should fly here (as the others have as well). I change host families tomorrow after school, then on the 20th of this month, I go on a Rotary trip for 5 days touring Italy, THEN I go to Barcelona, Spain with my class at school. I can't for all of the adventures that are coming my way!

During April, because of Easter, so many shops had beautiful art and sweets that reflected the holiday. My favorite store was one with beautiful chocolate eggs painted with different designs. My favorite was one with "Starry Night" painted on it.

Right before Easter, I changed houses to my third host family. The house is a villa just outside of the city, away from the hustle bustle, but close enough that I can walk. I love my host parents, they are so sweet and fun and I really feel apart of the family. I have two host sisters, but they live outside of Sicily and are older than me. In the zone that I am living, I live very close to many of my friends, and am able to walk to them to study or play cards very easily!

My first host family went to visit their daughter who is doing an exchange in Phelps, NY. While they were visiting, they set time aside to drive to Albany and met my grandparents, my aunt, and my mother. It was so crazy to me to see the pictures of both of my moms hugging!! I am so happy and excited that they got to meet each other!!

Two days before Easter, my host family and I along with many from the city did a walk around of all of the churches in the city. We stayed for about 10-15 minutes at each church, and at each church, there was something special. For example, one of the churches held the Weeping Madonna Statue, and I was able to see it up close, and another church was at the Catacombs of Siracusa. All of the churches were very beautiful.

On Easter, we went to an EXTREMELY small town called Ferla, where my host grandmother lives. Usually, the streets are weirdly quiet, and there is only older people that live there. However, for Easter, Ferla is famous for its "Fire Run", so there were hundreds gathered to watch. My friend Claire also had the opportunity to sing outside of the church at Ferla. The fire run basically is when hundreds of people run through the street with a large gold statue of Jesus and bushes of fire. I recommend that you youtube it or google image search it because it was CRAZY!

The day after Easter is another holiday called "Pasquetta" (little Easter). Nobody has school or works, everyone goes to a house on the beach and eats and swims all day long. Claire's host family has a house on a beach so we went there for half of the day, and the other half I went to my friend's house on the beach. It was such a nice day, and Claire's host uncle made homemade pizza in an outdoor pizza oven.

Next was the Italy tour. All of the exchange students in Sicily were invited on a Rotary-funded trip of Italy. It was soooo beyond beautiful!! I got to go to Rome for two days, Napoli for a day and ate pizza in the city where pizza was invented, Caserta, Pompeii, and Palermo. Every city had so much history and culture I loved every minute of it. Pompeii was like nothing that I have ever seen before in my life. An entire civilization almost frozen in time, it was so sad and beautiful at the same time. Rome was amazing as well, I had more time to explore the city with my friends and really get to see some many interesting quirks that Rome has. Napoli was amazing, we went on a weekend, however, and the streets were so crowded, but the food was AMAZING. Caserta was very unique, and we got a tour of the Caserta Palace which was absolutely beautiful. Then we returned to Sicily and ended with a tour of Palermo. On our tour, we met the mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando, who is an extraordinary man with such a passion for Palermo. He helped take down the mafia, and rid them of governmental positions, and now is running for reelection, wanting to take on the project of refugees arriving in Sicily.

This past month has been absolutely amazing!!!! I am still having such an amazing experience here in Italy!!

I got a little seasick on the overnight boat we took to get to Napoli, and this is me at the scene of the incident, post incident.

mercoledì 22 marzo 2017

March 8, 2017

Hey Everyone!

This past month, I have been really realizing that my exchange is in the final stretch. The time has been going by so fast, and thinking about leaving this beautiful country, and the friends and family that I will always have, makes me really think about how lucky I am. A year ago, I had no idea that I would have best friends from all over the world, friends that I will have for the rest of my life, friends that I will visit, and will visit me. I truly feel so blessed to have been granted this opportunity from my family and friends, but especially to Rotary; so for all of the Rotary volunteers reading this, I truly thank you from the bottom of my heart. It is because of all of you that I am the person I am today. I have grown so much as a person during these months that I have been here. I have learned patience, in myself and those around me, especially while learning a new language. I have learned that I have so many other facets in my personality than I knew before I came. I have learned that most people are kind, everyone that I have met here has gone out of their way to ensure that I feel comfortable and a part of a community. I have learned that unless you appreciate every second, the seconds will escape from you, however at the same time, life goes on; at home with family and friends as well as here with bumps in the road, life goes on. I have learned that if you open up to people, you truly can have a home anywhere in the world, no matter how temporary the stay is. I have also learned graciousness. I have learned to be grateful for my host parents and host family who literally gained someone they knew virtually nothing about, and made them a part of their everyday lives. I also feel grateful for my family back in New York. They have supported me every step of the way, saying that as long as I was happy, they were happy. In fact, my mom has repeatedly told me, "I would rather you be happy and be 5,000 miles away from me than be sad and in the room next door." And for their love and support, I am eternally grateful. Most of all, I have learned that the world is so much bigger than I had ever known. The people living here are not "Italians" they are people! It took me so long to realize that people are too often glorified by their country when in reality, the only thing that separates everyone else, is a few thousand miles and a few thousand languages, people are people with lives and feelings, no matter where you are.
I would again like to show my greatest gratitude to everyone who has helped me along my journey to Italy this far.

As for my Italian speaking and understanding skills. I took an evaluation through my school to analyze my Italian reading, writing, speaking, and understanding. My reading I scored 85%, my writing I scored 79%, my speaking I scored 90%, and my understanding I scored 93%! I was pretty happy with how I scored especially considering that I knew little to no Italian when I arrived here. In the next few months, I hope to increase my writing skills, which I will do simply by writing more and having teachers or friends check my Italian grammar and spelling.

This past month, I did some pretty awesome stuff! The first cool thing that I did, was when I went to Mt. Etna in Catania on a bus with friends from school. When we got to the mountain, we all took to sledding, but without sleds. The mountain was so steep that you could slide down the side of it so fast, I have never gone sledding at that pace in my life, it was FANTASTIC. And for those that maybe don't know, Mt. Etna is not just a mountain, it is the second largest volcano in all of Europe, and I was actually able to sled INTO the volcano!! At one point, a cloud was passing, and I was above where the cloud was and all of the people below me disappeared and I felt like I was alone sitting on a cloud. Everything was white and so quiet, it was one of the most breathtaking and beautiful things that I have ever experienced in my life.

Next was Carnivale!! I was able to go to Aceriale, a city in between Catania and Siracusa for the festival. Aceriale has one of the biggest parade and celebration in all of Sicily! There were floats, and zeppole (a kind of fried dough), candy, music, marching bands, and so much more! The day was beautiful and we were right next to the sea for Carnivale.

Next, I got invited to go with my friend and his father on his yacht, and go sailing all around Ortigia!! It was SO beautiful!!! I even got to steer the boat at one point! It was such a beautiful day with sun amazing views!

I am so sorry this is going up late, I wrote it on March 8th, but it was brought to my attention that it never posted.

Talk to you soon!