I'd like to say happy holidays and happy new year! I am aware that this post is going up a little later than the one month mark, however I wanted to wait until after the holidays so I'd have more to report on!
Hair Dye Gone Right/Wrong:This month started with a bang when two other exchange students (Claire from Michigan, USA) and Gabby (Belgium) both decided that they would dye their hair fun colors because it was something that they always wanted to try, and me, being the wonderful supportive friend I was decided to go and document it on Snapchat, but keep my natural brunette. None of us had ever really dealt with in depth hair terms in Italian, but we somehow were able to get everything sorted out. Gabby's hair turned out an amazing blue green, but poor Claire (who wanted purple) ended up with white bleached blonde with hot pink and green streaks.. oops.. on the plus side, it made for a fun story in school!
Santa Lucia: In many cities all throughout Italy, there are Patron Saints, or Saints that have significance to that city and who help protect that city. Just about everyday in some part of Italy there is a celebration for a city's Patron Saint. The Patron Saint of Siracusa is Santa Lucia (Saint Lucy). Santa Lucia was a young Christian martyr who was killed during the Diocletianic Persecution. She was born and raised in Siracusa, and later killed in Siracusa as well. A form a torture that was used on her was the removal of her eyes, this is significant because portrayed in statues of her, she is holding a dish that carries her eyes. After her death, Santa Lucia's body was taken to Venice, where it stays to this day. The citizens of Siracusa believe that the body of Santa Lucia rightfully belongs to them, therefore every year on the day of the Patron Saint (December 13) a parade is held for her. Thousands of people gather in the duomo where massive statues of her are taken from the church and carried by about 40 men through the city followed by a marching band, and many citizens walking barefoot. The citizens walk barefoot to honor her pilgrimage that she took barefoot from Siracusa to Catania (about 50 miles). The president of my Rotary club has a house that overlooks the duomo (he actually planned the event). Me and a few other exchange students we invited to his house to watch from the balcony. There were so many people standing in the duomo, it was amazing. We later went ground level to get some close up pictures of the statue as it was paraded through Ortigia.
Rome: The day after Santa Lucia, I was fortunate enough to be able to go, with my host parents and a friend, to ROME!! We would only be there for two days, however my host mother had a written itinerary so that we would be able to see all the things we wanted to before returning home. We left our house at 4:00 am and were leaving Sicily at 6:30 am. The flight was about an hour long and we were soon landing at the Rome airport. The first place we went was the Vatican (no we unfortunatly didn't see the Pope). However it was all decorated for Christmas and there were people singing Christmas carols being sung, it was very pretty! Next we had lunch (pasta alla cabonara, a Roman speciality) and walked to the Pantheon. The Pantheon was huge and amazing, outside were huge marble columns, like soooo big, and inside the ceiling rounded into a large dome. On the floor there was a golden box that marked the exact center of the room and if you looked up you would see out a hole in the ceiling that was used to star gaze. We next saw Trevi Fountain, which was amazing and beautiful and I felt like I was in a movie just being there (Lizzy McGuire to be exact because a scene was shot there). My friend Claire and I both made a wish and tossed a coin into the fountain. We ended the day by visiting an ancient palace decorated with lights for Christmas. The next day we began our day with the place I was most excited to see, the Colosseum. It was so much bigger than I thought it would be. The Colosseum had so much history, being built in Imperial Rome from 72 AD. to 80 AD, it could hold 55,000 spectators who would've watched gladiator matches, circuses, and free games. It was truely amazing to walk where people thousands of years ago walked. We next went to the Arch of Constantine which was right next to the Colosseum. The arch was built to celebrate the victory of Constatine over Emperor Maxentius. Next was the Roman Reform. The Roman Reform is one of the most impostant archaeological sites in the world. The area which had once been marshland was drained using a canal system, and by 7th century BC, it was home to many markets and a hive of social activity. Next to Piazza Venezia! Piazza Venezia is located at almost the exact center of Rome. We were able to go to the top balcony and overlook the sunset and bustling people below. The last place we went was Campo de' Fiori, which means "field of flowers". Campo de' Fiori is a cute duomo that is known for quaint shops and worry free resturants, but mainly for its beautiful year long selling of flowers. All different colors and kinds of flowers outlined the perimeter of the duomo. This ended our Roman excursian as we went to the airport almost directly from Campo de' Fiori. I am so blessed and grateful to my host parents who made this trip possible for Claire and I.
Christmas: Christmas is celebrated here much differently than in the US. It is common to spend the beginging part Christmas Eve with the family, I had dinner with my mothers side, and at 12:00 am, we went to a party on my fathers side. Gifts are exchanged in the evening, and it is only common for each person to receive one or two gifts total from direct family, and maybe one from the grandparents, however it is not gifts that define this holiday, which differs greatly from a US Christmas. We stayed at the other party until 3:00 am when I was invited to a friends house to play poker and some other card games. I was a little uncomfortable to ask my parents to leave a family party to go to a friends house, so I didn't ask and decided not to go. That is until, my host parents and brother asked me to which friend's house I'd be going to that evening. I was so confused, but apparently it's normal to spend time with friends as well, so I went! I didn't get home until 6:00 am!! Christmas morning was spent by everyone sleeping in until around 2:00, then after everyone was awake, we went to another party to eat a buuuunch of food (43 very large trays of homemade pasta, fish, chicken, potatoes, desserts) and spend the day with family. We got home late again, and the next day we repeated the process as the day before, to finish the food that hadn't been eaten the day before.
New Years: The last main event of December was New Years. In the evening it is common to spend until 11:00 with family, eating a large dinner, and visiting. Then after 11:00, you meet up with friends to celebrate. I met friends in Piazza Duomo, where a large festival with a stage, live music, lights, and thousands of people dancing and having fun with a big countdown to midnight. We all stayed and danced until 12:00 when fireworks and confetti and streamers were let off to signify the new year. My friends and I ordered a pizza, french fries, and soda to go, and brought the food as well as sweatshirts, blankets, hats, and gloves down to the beach where we stayed eating and talking until 5:00 am. At that time Ortigia was still very lively with festivities, but I was so tired, so my friend and I walked home and slept all day. It really was a lot of fun!!
My Italian: My Italian is improving very very quickly now. I speak only in Italian with friends from school as well as the other exchange students and my host family. I am able to not only follow but partake in conversations between friends and adults (as long as it's in Italian, not Sicilian). My vocabulary knowledge has been rapidly increasing. I am able to hear words and remember them and their meanings. It really is such an exciting feeling!!
I hope you had an amazing December! I hope you have an amazing January, too! I hope to post more than once this month so my posts are more frequent!
Love from Italy,
Looks purple here, but I assure you it didn't finish like that. Unfortunately I didn't have the heart to take a final shot of Claire, you can use your imagination
But Gabby's turned out cool!
You can see the dish with her eyes in this one
This picture shows Mt. Etna with the rising sun
This is white mistletoe... like in Harry Potter 5!