Friday, February 27, 2009

Terralba, Carnivale, Half Way through

I'm a little behind in this blog so i guess i should start again with apologizing because i know that i should have done this a couple of days ago i just simply did not have the time to do it because i just got back home on Wednesday and Ive been a little sick since then but anyways.... As you can all see from the title of this blog i have a lot to tell you but I'm going to try to keep it at a reasonable length because my last few posts have been very long. These last weeks have been very busy for me which is just CRAZINESS. Ill tell you about my mid stay orientation, my experience with the Italian carnival and about the fact that ....... (keep reading)

I guess that i first off have to sadly admit to myself (although I'm still secretly denying it to myself because living in denial is easier then accepting what I'm about to tell you all...Ignorance is Bliss (just kidding..only for somethings)) that my time here in Italy is sadly half way over. I reached my half way mark on February 5, 2009. It was both a very sad and happy day for me. Honestly for me personally it was a VERY VERY sad day because it means that i am half way over in my experience and that it has gone by WAY to fast for my liking. these five months seem to be going by faster then five months in my life have ever gone by. Then there is the fact that Intercultura says that the last five months goes by twenty times faster then the first five do and honestly this scares the M*RDA out of me (i love speaking a new language ;) ) I thought that i would give you all a little recap on my life here because well i am half way through my experience here in Italy and well yeah soooo recap time..

With my family everything is simply amazing. I could not have possibly gotten a better match for a family then i actually did in Italy. I got soooooo lucky with my family. I found something out while i was here. In Italy things with host students work a little different then they do in the USA. When you want to host a student in the USA you get to read there applications and pick the ones that best "fit" with your family. You get to read about there likes and about there dislikes and about what they do when there not in school and all of that good stuff and in the end you decide who you are going to be going with. but in Italy the system works a little bit different. here the volunteers read all of the applications and they choose who they want to be in there local chapter and then as the host family applications come in THEY (the volunteers) match the family's and the kids up. The family's do not know who they are getting before intercultura tells them that they are taking in an American girl for instance. I did not know this before. So i guess that my good fortune was really good fortune. I have thanked the volunteer who matched me with my family extensively already because honestly its all up to him that i got to be with my amazing family. I LOVE my family. Me and my host sister are closer then i could have ever possibly imagined being with a host sister. Its the best thing that I've ever experienced. I was never really that close to my real siblings in the states (although that is now changing, me and my sister Shannon have been getting ALOT closer lately because of our letters.. love you sis!) and then when i came here to Italy me and Eleonora are like the exact same person. its so amazing. we have one of the best relationships that i have ever had in my whole life. she is a VERY good friend of mine here in Italy and i could not have possibly asked for a better host sister. my host parents are also absolutely AMAZING. they treat me like i am there real daughter which makes me really feel like I'm part of there family not just some girl who is living with them for a year. I'm so glad that i feel like part of the family because i was afraid that i wouldn't actually feel like part of the family in my experience but now that I'm here i could not have possibly asked for a better host family then i do have this year. i know that they will be my family for life. i know that we will not lose contact with each other because honestly i feel like family when I'm with them. I love that and i LOVE my family here :D

School is still School. Ive come to the conclusion that school in the whole world is pretty much boring (sorry to all the teachers reading this you all know that verrrrrrrry deeeeeeeep down in side i secretly love school....but(shhhhhhh) don't tell anyone). Although I must admit Italian school is more boring then most. My schedule is still going good although i have made some more minor changes to my schedule since the last time that i have told you all. I have decided to drop my Spanish class (yes i know i just cant seem to make my mind up about Spanish) because it just got to be WAY to hard to keep Spanish and Italian straight. Heck even the NATIVE Spanish people learning Italian have hard time or the NATIVE Italians have a hard time learning Spanish and not mixing them up so imagine me trying to learn them both at the same time... yes basically its IMPOSSIBLE so i decided that i would drop Spanish. I've already learned more Spanish here in Italy then i ever did in the states WITHOUT even studying Spanish. when i read Spanish or when i listen to it i can pretty much understand most of whats being said or whats written because i can understand Italian. its really cool actually. but i must say its really weird to have your brain thinking in 2 foreign languages at the same time. like now when i learn Spanish i just don't think in English at all i think directly in Italian which is a really really strange thing to happen. like I'm not using my English at all just Italian and Spanish. trust me the first time that it happened i was really shocked. with other classes in school there pretty much boring too. i still cant seem to understand my math class in Italian. i know they say that math is the same everywhere that its numbers and it cant change but i just cant seem to make any connections to my "English math" and my "Italian math" maybe its my brain right now or i don't know.. its something but i still cant seem to do it in Italian. physics is impossible. I've never studied it before and its just way to hard to start something that's difficult to begin with in a new language. plus the fact that the first 2/3 months i understood NOTHING so i lost all of the base of the subject and when i did start to understand the explanation i had no clue what was going on in the math because i didn't understand the first 2 months.. its kind of a catch 22. Also school is starting to get better because I'm starting to make more friends in school. I'm starting to get closer to the friends that i do have in my class. while i still don't go out with them much i can tell that we are getting closer which is really nice. its nice to feel like i have friends again. it really sucked in the beginning of the year when i didn't have like any friends..

Then we get to the thing that is probably one of the most important parts of my exchange. Italian. i am already to the point where i can understand 100% everything and i can for the most part express myself whenever i need to get my point across. i still don't have all of the vocabulary that i would like to have and some times the grammar still kicks my butt because honestly not even the Italians can keep Italian grammar straight sometimes. they're sooooo many exceptions to every rule and there are things that only exist for one little job that you might use like once a year. its such a pain in the butt. everyone says that around half way your Italian (or other language) just "clicks" i don't know if mine has "clicked" yet. I'm hoping that it will soon because i have less then half of my time left here and i want to be able to write without the whole sheet coming back red from corrections and be able to talk and actually say sentences perfect and to have people stop looking at me like I'm stupid when i make dumb mistakes that I know are mistakes but that i stupidly make. I know that it will happen soon. everyone just says that one day it just happens. I'm hoping that my day comes soon. i really do because i want to be able to speak more like a native then i actually do now. Italian is a very easy language to pick up but after the base the grammar is KILLER i mean even in high school the kids take grammar classes because they still make mistakes with the grammar because its so complicated.

And then there's the thing that inevitably happens to all exchange students.. Maturity. I know that i have become ALOT more mature then i was when i left for exchange. I feel so much more independent now then i did when i left the USA i know that i CAN do things on my own. i trust myself enough. i freak out way less then when i got here. I've learned to go with the flow more then i did when i was still in the USA.. I've learned that i am capable of solving my own problems and that if i think about it and work it out that i can do it on my own but then again i also know that there are times when i really do need to get help from someone and after this year i am no longer afraid to ask anyone for help. I've asked more people for help in these 5 months then i ever have in my whole life combined. I've asked EVERYONE from help from how to say something to how to get somewhere to how to put minutes on my phone to EVERYTHING. honestly when i was in the states i was sometimes embarrassed to ask for help but now that I'm here I've learned that there is nothing embarrassing about asking for help when you actually do need someones help. (i don't care what guys say when your lost ASK for help!!!! you get there faster!!!) Ive learned so many things while I've been here in Italy. I've learned that i can be alot less wound up about little things and have alot more fun. I've learned that i CAN read a map and find my way around a strange city by my self (and the help from people i ask) and eventually get to where i want to go. Ive learned that i am capable of going up to random people and start up a conversation and they will not laugh in your face when you do it. I've learned to be less shy around people and to try to express myself more. I've grown up so much this year...i mean in these 5 months that its more then even i expected of myself. i know that I'm more mature even the AFS here has said that I'm more mature then i was when i got here. then there are the little things that have changed of course. like my style of clothes here (I'm a little more preppy now because that's how things go in Italy) my taste in music has slowly been changing as well.. i listen to less rap now and i listen to more house music.. its weird all of these changes happen slowly and then when you think about them (like i am now) there really are alot of the 5 months but when they are happening you do not really notice them. I'm glad of all of things that I've learned and how that i have changed while I'm here in Italy.

Over all I'm very happy with my first 5 months of my experience but I'm not going to lie when i say that i wouldn't be at all sad if the next 5 were even better. i know that they will be because i will only get closer to my friends and family and my Italian will get better but i would not change a thing with my first 5 months honestly i have had the picture perfect exchange so far this year. I'm hoping that it doesn't change. I'm LOVING my life here. yes I've had problems but I've learned how to work them out and I've concentrated on the things that were good and happy.


Now that I'm done with the recap of my life that I'm sure was not that interesting to you guys (sorry) I will now tell you about my Mid-Stay Orientation that i had this last week in Terralba. We had to be in Terralba on February 18-25th. We were told that this week was set up for us to talk to AFS about how our life has been these last 5 months since we got to Sardegna but in all honesty we all knew that it was also partly so that we could get together all together (all 50 of us on Sardegna) and so that we could experience the real Italian Carnival. So I'll start with what we did while we were there in Terralba, it ended up being very different then the orientation that we had in October. but different in a MUCH better way because it was SOOOOOOO much more fun then the orientation that we had in Sassari in October. I honestly did not think that that was possible but then we got to Carnival and honestly it is now a goal in my life to come back to Carnival in Italy and experience it again in my life. it was SOO much fun!!

Feb 18
We had to be at the train station in Cagliari by 11 Am so that we could all catch the 12 o'clock train to Terralba. Well because I do not live in Cagliari I had to get to Cagliari when there was a train from Carbonia. that means that I left Carbonia at 830 am and arrived in Cagliari at 930 and we (me and Nicolàs) had to sit in the train station for an hour and a half until all of the others started to arrive. let me tell you its really really boring waiting for everyone to get there especially for 2 reasons. me and Nicolas were both so tired that we did not talk at all and so the time seemed to go by even slower, then there's the fact that I'm in Italy so there 11 o clock is ALOT different then the 11o'clock in the states. Their 11 really means about 11:20 so we were sitting there waiting for what seemed to be like the LONGEST time EVER. then the others started to arrive which was nice and finally our president arrived and we started buying our tickets. we all bought our tickets together because if you buy more then 13 tickets together then you get a discount which is nice. i was put in charge of collecting the money and getting the ticket (why idk...they told me to do it) We all got on the train but there was only one problem. the train was VERY full and so we couldn't sit together. not normally a problem but we only had one ticket and the fact that not everyone knew where they had to get off was a little bit of a problem. the train went by really fast and on the second to last stop a whole bunch of other kids got on that we had not seen in a long time so it was really really nice to see them. We got off at the right station and all of the other kids were there (we were the last to arrive) and we all had amazing hello's because we had not seen each other in such a long time. it was SOOOOO amazingly nice to see everyone that i hadn't seen in a long time again. i missed these kids more then i ever thought that i ever would. i love them all. exchangers are the BEST! we then all took a bus in to Terralba so that our families could pick us up. that's right we were staying in family's for this orientation and not at a hotel. no one knew anything about there families yet but when i got on the bus the president of AFS Sardegna told me my family couldn't make it to pick me up so they were sending someone else. so i got my bag and there was this 20 or so year old guy named Nicola there to pick me up and take me to my house. It turns out that i had a Mom, a dad, and 2 little sisters. One of them was Ilaria and she was 10 and the other one was Laura and she was 8. We hung out all together for a while and the girls showed me around the house and told me who all the people in the pictures were which was nice of them. they are soooooo cute. then with AFS we had to go listen to the government of Terrable welcome us. so we all went there and honestly it was really boring. plus another thing they KNOW there are 50 of us and they still only gave us 30 chairs.. oh well.. we listened to them welcoming us for about 30 minutes and then we were told we had to be at orientation at 930 the next morning. So i went back to my house and they told me how to walk to orientation the next morning then we all went to bed.

Feb 19
I woke up in the morning so that i could have breakfast with my family before the little girls went off to school and the dad went off to work. then i finished getting ready and at about 900 am i started walking (only 10 min walk but i wasn't totally sure how to get there) and i got there really early but i found it ok which was nice. i found out something. the people in Carbonia are used to seeing me with red hair because no one turns around like I'm an alien anymore. but people in Terralba aren't used to it so i got a lot of stares when i walked through town because everyone turns to look at the "red hair" its such an oddity here.. its really quite funny actually. Well in the morning we had "orientation" which turned out to be pretty boring. we got to know all of the new kids that came on Jan 31st. there are 6 new ones in my chapter and 4 others in Sardegna so they all stood up and introduced themselves in Italian (they are all really good) and we had some time to talk to them for a while which was nice while the volunteers got all organized and what not. then we started to have orientation which consisted of talking to the volunteers about all of our problems that we have been having so far. we talked about families and about school just like we did in Sassari 4 months ago but we had way better answers now because we have actually have time to get used to everything and learn more about Italy. then we had an "Italian lunch" which basically means that we had about 2 hours to have lunch. We all ate our sack lunch and walked around Terralba for a while we found this really really cute little cafè that has everything. it has ice cream, cafè stuff as well as homemade pastas and stuff. there was room for all of us so we all basically went in there and hung out drank and ate and had an amazing time (this ended up being our hang out of the orientation) we eventually had to go back to orientation where we sang happy birthday to Nicolas who turned 18 today. he got happy birthday sang to him in about a million different languages which was really cool. its so fun to hear it in so many different languages. then we went back to our orientation but we were all making plans to have a party afterward for his birthday. so we all went home to dinner and then everyone re-met up at the bar (which means cafè in Italian) at about 830. Nicola's family had bought him a cake and then the bar bought us some traditional carnival pastas which are REALLY amazing..Zeppole... we all just hung out and ate there for a couple hours. it was alot of fun. I'm sure for him it was a little bit of a boring birthday but it was pretty fun considering the circumstances. we all left the bar at midnight because that was are curfew from AFS for the week. i had to walk home (i walked home with some other girls) and then went RIGHT to sleep because we had another day of orientation to do tomorrow.

Feb 20
I again woke up today so that i could eat breakfast with the little ones before they went off to school and then i continued to get ready but today i knew how long it took me to get to the orientation spot so i didn't leave quite so early today. well today orientation was a lot less structured and we did a lot less. First we had to fill out this survey about our time in Italy so far. i wrote SOO much. i wrote about 2 pages full of only 10 questions worth of stuff.. yeah I've found that i like to write a lot (although I'm sure you have all noticed you read this book every time i update ...LOVE you all) and that when i get started i really cant stop. then we started the "personal interviews" i didn't really need one so when Andrea asked me i said no i don't really need one and he said if there was time that we would do it. then we all started to make our little personal posters. which we had to write our name, Italy 0809 and then draw our flag. i always dread when someone says.. oh DRAW your country's flag.. the USA had to go and make a really complicated flag with 50 STARS and 13 STRIPES its horrible. and takes FOREVER to draw.. while everyone was working on there little posters we also had to make this HUGE banner for our year.. this girl named Mia started writing "AFS Intercultura" on the top of it because she draws really really well so she started writing that and then we had to get everyone to go over there and draw there country's flag on the big banner. well no one else stepped up to organize anything so eventually i stepped up and started telling people they needed to do it.. and reminding them and showing them where and repeating 10 million times what exactly they had to do because they don't seem to listen the first time you tell them, damn teenagers. I've come to find out I'm pretty good at organizing things :D. eventually we got all of the people over to the banner to start drawing their flags on the paper.. everyone naturally wanted to make there flag really really big (but the you could only do the size of a sheet of paper). we didn't quite finish it but it looked SOO pretty!! then we all went home so that we could have some dinner. then guess what we did.. that's right we all went back to the bar-cafè place again so that we could all hang out another time ( all together we spent a TON of money there)

Feb 21
In the morning I first went to the carnival with my little sisters at there school.. the whole school dressed up as scare crows and they did a circle around Terralba.. it was a lot of fun. then in the morning with AFS we had to go around and sell raffle tickets for AFS. We all split up in to 4 groups and we had to go around Terralba (which is the size of Monroe) and sell them to the shop owners and the people in the street. well because there were 50 of us in this really tiny town we went around the whole town very very quickly so it didn't even take the whole 2 hours to sell out all the tickets to raise money for AFS. Then we all went home for lunch then back out to the bar again.. haha we spent like ALL of our time at this bar while we were there. it was actually a really cute little place. there are these tables that are all glass and have money from all over the world in them.. its really really really cool i loved those tables.. its inspired me to save money from every place that i go so that i can save the money it seems like such a cool thing to save. well we had an AFS party that night. We all had to go to this place that was outside of Terralba (I saw my first cows in Sardegna lol) so that we could have the party. It was for all of the kids, volunteers, family's of Terralbe and then if your real family wanted to come them too.. so when we got there we were obviously there before the party started so we were all practicing our ... TALENT SHOW ACTS.. yes AFS seems to think that we are all very talented which is wrong. we are not talented and we weren't in October I don't know why they think that we are now.. i think they just like a good laugh with the talent show to be honest with you. we also had to finish our banner which was WAY better then all of the ones from the other years.. i was proud of us!! when all of the people started to arrive we started talking to all of the families and we listened to all of these people talk which turned out to be pretty boring and they just kept talking and we were all STARVING! so at about 930 they finally let us eat. we were all starving.. i just walked around and talked to all of the people that were there.. the family of Mateo was there so i talked to his brothers for a while because i knew them before hand i talked to the family of another boy in my chapter then of course the other students.. we then did our talent show.. all of the people did a pretty good job. there were a whole bunch of songs (in a TON of languages) there were some kids who danced some who did a little skit and then my group who sung the chorus of Hakuna Matata in like 6 different languages: German, English, Hungarian, Spanish, Russian and Italian.. it was alot of fun.. after the talent show most of the families left and all the kids started dancing around for a while which was fun then we all went home at around 1 am..


Well today we had the morning free but my family decided that we were going to go to Oristano (another city) to see these horses. i had no clue why these horses were so special in Oristano for a while ( i figured it out later on Tuesday when we went and saw them in action) when we got there the horses were soo beautiful and sooooo fast.. they are trained to run REALLY fast. like the day before some stupid man had walked in front of where they were running and he almost died because of getting run over by these horses. well it turns out that the riders have to wear these special costumes and that they have to wear masks.and apparently when they ride the horses they are not allowed to touch the mask.. i'll explain why and what they do a little later when i actually figured out what they did lol.. well when we got back we went to lunch with my family (of Terralba) we had to do lunch quick because I had to be at the orientation place so i could get ready for the parade of carnivale. it was a good lunch.. we had baby pig again.. soo yummy.. idk i personally think the meat of it is too soft i don't really like it that much i prefer pig or cow..the grown up ones.. but maybe that's just me. anyway we had to all dress up like pirates for the parade. (Italians have carnival to scare away winter and the bad stuff of the year past and to bring in good things and the warmth of the new year.. and only good things.. that's why they wear masks.) well when i got there i was one of the only ones that was there yet (cause i went by my time and actually arrived on time lol) When everyone finally arrived ,some as late as 2 hours, well we eventually all got dressed to be pirates and took a bunch of pictures of course because when AFS kids are together that's basically all we do, we take pictures and more pictures and more pictures (i have about 600 from that week) then we went outside and there weren't that many people yet so we were all a little confused as to where the "thousands" of people they were talking about were. then they told us that the "Sfilata" started at 500. which made me wonder why we all had to be there at 2 oh well that's Italian organization.. we went near our float , which was a big boat that had our big banner that we had made the night before and then all the banners from the years past, there are some really funny ones but ours is definitely better then the other ones, there is one on there that the Americans drew the American flag wrong. they had the blue square on the right and side and not on the left. i was embarrassed for them.. how sad is that i mean i know its complicated but its not THAT complicated. We started walking with our float.. well for this night our float didn't have any music so they let us go in front of our float so that we could dance along with the music of the other floats.. because when you are in the "Sfilata" that's what you do. you go in your group and you dance around to some really really loud music and you throw confetti and spray that fake foam all over the place, its actually really fun. but they wouldn't let us mingle with the other groups because it was dangerous for us because basically everyone was REALLY REALLY drunk there.. they were sooooo drunk.. we weren't but all of the other people were.. the "Sfilata" ended at about 930 and we all had to go back to the place that we changed so we could pick up all of our stuff. we were then told to be careful and be smart but that we were allowed to go out until midnight. well basically we all went to our bar for a little while but then we decided that we were hungry so we went to find a pizza place were we could buy pizza.. it was really nasty but that's ok. we then pretty much went and danced and had a good time till about midnight and then we all went home.

Feb 23
During the day we had nothing to do because AFS had not organized anything for us because they assumed that we would all be a sleep.. that's pretty much was true.. but some of us got up at a reasonable hour and we all met at the bar at round 1130 for some coffee and some snacks and to talk and look at the pictures from the night before. we then had to go home for lunch and we all met back up at the bar after lunch .. yes i know we seemed to spend ALL of our time at this bar but what can i say it was really nice and the people were really nice and it holds all of us so that's where we spent most of our time.. later in the day we had to go to another town that is close to Terralbe "Marrubiu" so we could listen to there town council talk to us and thank us for being there and basically it was really really boring just like all of the other days that we were there at that town council.. after the town council we all decided to go get pizza together in Terrallba.. we all rode the bus back to Terralba and one of the people from Terralba knew where there was a pizzeria that would hold us all so we all went there and they were like shocked when we told them we were in 30 so that we needed more places. we waited outside for a while while they got it ready then we went in and we all ordered our pizza.. it was really really yummy..when we were done we all walked back home to go to bed because we had an incredibly long day tomorrow

Feb 24
Well today we had to wake up early so that we could all get on the bus to go to Oristano. This is where i will tell you what those horses and riders do. OK basically once a year during carnival Oristano holds this festival.. There are about 40 horsemen (who they call knights) who where these really extravagant costumes and masks (with really tiny eye wholes) and they ride on these really really fast horses (who are also elaborately decorated) and they have a sword that's really really thin. they start at one end of this long path they they ride REALLY REALLY fast and there is this star with a small whole in the middle of it hanging from the air.. they have to try to stick their sword through the hole in the star while they are running SUPER fast..(their like a blur) in these masks they can barely see out of.. basically its really really really hard to do because you are going so fast and you have to aim just right.. there are only about 40 in all of Sardenga who are good enough to do this. well basically we went to Oristano so that we could watch this. we got there a little early so we first went around a little bit but there were a ton of people.. then when it started we all started to watch.. first all of the horsemen went by why they read off the names and the costumes were sooo pretty..then when they actually started it i could not believe how fast the horses ran.. they went soooo fast.. we watched it for about an hour and a half.. about 6 guys got the star while we were there.. Nicola (a volunteer) told me that when these guys returned to their towns they will be treated like kings .. we then all got back on the bus to go to Terralba to do the Sfilata again. we had all brought our costumes with us. we went back and quickly changed (we did it really quick) and we went out.. we were a little late this time so we were the last group in the parade.. this time our thing was a truck so we had music this time.. they hooked up the ipod of the Colombian boy and we danced to his music.. tonight AFS was alot more lax about people coming into our group and us going into other groups which was nice.. we were all sooo tired at the end of the night that we all met up at the bar and drank some coffee and then we went home and slept.

25 Feb

I woke up today a little late around 10 because i was really really exhausted from this week.. i got all of my stuff together and made sure that my room that i was in was all nice and clean and everything and that i remembered everything that i needed to bring with me and that i didn't leave anything behind.. at 130 my family got home and we ate lunch together and then my little sisters and my host mom took me to Marrubiu where the train station was at 2 pm.. all of the exchange students said our good byes which was 35,468,465,416,846,354 times harder this time then it was back in October.. we were soooooooo sad to leave.. tears were a sure thing and we just hated saying good bye.. we are all so close that at the end of this experience its going to be so hard to leave the Sardegna kids but most of all for me the Cagliari-Iglesais kids.. well the Cagliari Iglesais kids were the first ones to leave so we had to get on our train.. then about 10 minutes later 4 kids from Guspuini got off and so we had to say good bye to them which was really really sad too.. then it was just us Cagliari Iglesais kids left on the train.. we were all talking about how hard it is going to be to say good bye to everyone at the end of the year.. because we know we wont all ever be together again.. not like this.. it was one of the saddest.. no it was the saddest moment of the week... on the good side.. i got back to my real family who i was sooo happy to be with again. i had missed them all soo much!!

So this is my experience with Orientation, Carnival and being half way through.. I'm sorry that its so long but i had so much to say.. then in just a matter of days i will be re-departing for a week in Trento and i will be living with yet another family for a week. I'm looking forward to this SOOO much for multiple reasons.. 1.. i get to see Venice 2... I get to see my best AFS friend Kayla from the states who just happens to be going to Trento too 3.. my best friend from Cagliari is also going to Trento with me 4... i get to see the alps and the snow.... basically I'm super excited.. that will be my next blog post.. love and miss you all!!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I'm Proud to be an American

Its time that I write a serious blog. While I'm still having a very good time here in Italy I have recently had a bad experience here. I am American and I am very proud to be an American. but i would be lying if I told you that me being American has not affected my exchange this year. While in a perfect world me being American would not have any affect at all on my exchange but unfortunately we do not live in a perfect world. We live in a world where it has become popular or "fashionable" to hate/bash Americans and America.

I have found out that being in Italy has made me alot more proud to be an American and alot more ready to defend my country. I have now lived outside of the United States and I realize that we have so many good things that the bad things seem like nothing. That we actually do have alot more then other countries do. that we have alot more opportunities then alot of people in the world. I've realized that I love my country and I really am proud to be an American and that i was really lucky to be born here. before i came to Italy and saw that what people said about how lucky we were i never really believed it was like that but now i see how much i am proud of the United States of America and I'm proud to be an American. But I have also found out that people don't always like the USA/Americans. that they don't think that we should be proud of our country because of how our government is right now. But what would they like Americans to do? live in continual shame and apology for Bush's Actions in Iraq? Be embarrassed and humiliated when ever someone asks us where we are from? is that what everyone wants? and if we were to start doing that then "those Americans have no pride in their country how can they even call themselves Americans?" I am proud of my country! I may not like what is going on with the war right now but i am proud of my country and what it was founded on. I'm proud that all of the founding fathers respected man and acknowledged that we are capable of and have the right to look after ourselves and are not the children of a governmental machine. That our government helps us increase our dignity not take it away from us. I'M proud that my country started on these morals and that they still exist today. I would rather have people disgusted that I was proud to be an American then being ashamed every day of being American because i am NOT ashamed of being American. I guess its time that I tell you why I decided to write this blog.

About 2 days ago I was in school and me and one of my "friends" were talking and she started about how the USA is so horrible for being on Israels side in the war in Gaza and she was saying how we were so wrong to be for them and all of this stuff. I was so surprised because before she was always really nice to me and never had a problem with me being American. then she started saying that we have never done anything good in all of our existence at which this point i was really mad. I told her that i would like to see how the world would be without all of the Americans and America and without all of the things that we have done for the world and have contributed to the world. after this she goes on to tell me that she would rather live in a world where America didn't exist and neither did the Americans. that she believes the world would be better off without us. At this point I asked her "who would you rather be your WORLD leader? Hitler or Stalin? do you want to be in communist Russia or in Hitlers Germany? because without the USA there is a good chance that one of them would have done ALOT more damage to the world then they did do in there respective times" she didn't respond to me about this but she went on to say that we were horrible people. that we were hungry for war all the time. who thinks its ok to just go to war with other countries because we want to. that we only want to kill people that we think we are the worlds police force. but we have no right to be and the people shouldn't even be proud to be Americans that we should be ashamed of our country and our government. Well after this happened i was obviously very hurt. These are MY people MY country and MY home that she was insulting. I have thought alot about why people think this and give Americans such a hard time . these are the reasons that i have come up with along with alot of other exchange students/ volunteers from around the world.

We should get the first and most obvious reason out of the way first. Bush and the Iraq war. NO one better then Americans know how unpopular Bush was and how some of his actions were very unpopular. yes we know that. Yes we are a government of the people, for the people and by the people so that makes some people think that when they think of Americans they only think "Bush, i hate Bush so i hate all Americans!" that's not right. not all Americans voted for Bush, not all Americans like Bush, and not all Americans agree with his actions! A quote from Pedro Rodrigues (a host dad in Portugal) " A second line of defense of anti-Americanism comes from "the actions of Bush and America..." Well it may not look that way, but before I have heard this one I heard the ones about Clinton, Bush Sr. or going back in time Reagan... and I am sure that the same people who are now hailing Mr. Obama, will soon be justifying there anti-Americanism on the "actions of Mr. Obama". " I completely agree with him. Bush was just something to justify there actions. Then there is the fact of the Iraq war. and about that i have another quote from Pedro Rodrigues "Yes the Iraq war was a mistake.. but life is full of mistakes and one mistake does not justify tons of others... I am always appalled as to what people want to believe... I still get shocked at the supposedly intelligent people who believe some of the most ridiculous conspiracy theories, who blame 9/11 on "American arrogance" (and I suppose it was also probably the fault of the English, German, French, Italian and Portuguese,... victims at the world trade center)" So while yes I do believe that in the last 8 years the USA has made some bad choices and has made some mistakes in its policies i do not believe that these mistakes justify all of the world hating us and bashing us because one mistake does not justify others.

There is no denying the power that the United States has in the worlds politics/business/money and in almost every aspect of the world together. we do have alot of power in this world. we are one of the first countries in need turn to when they need help and we are one of the first countries to help when a country really needs it. but because of all of this power has come alot of eyes watching our every move. in every country in the world if you watch the news you will more then likely hear something about the USA. We have countries all over the world watching our every move, our every decision but all of these eyes that are watching us seem to be blind when ever we do something good. or just chalk it up to "well they just did what they had to do. what anyone would have done" but when heaven forbid we do something that is unpopular, make a decision that is not good for everyone involved, or our country does something that is bad for someone else all of these little eyes are all wide open. They do not seem to register the things that we do do that are good. And what's even worse then that they seem to forget all the good that we have done in the past. We have done alot for the world in the past (and even now). They forget that their history (not every country but a fair few) would be alot different for the worse if the USA had not existed. They only think about the bad stuff that they are hearing about now and forget that even just as much as a generation before they were relying on us to keep them safe. Pedro Rodrigues " Unfortunately we Europeans owe America and the Americans a great deal. they have fought and spilled their blood for us, against Nazi oppression, Soviet oppression and now Muslim fundamentalism, because we ourselves were (and are) too weak, too lazy or too cozy to do it ourselves... many felt more comfortable ranting for peace, forgetting history teaches us that peace has to be won, looking the other way at the evidence the peace movement was infiltrated by the KGB for its own purposes.. Were it not for Mr. Reagan's vision and determination, they would have preferred to be blackmailed by the Soviets and the SS-20's" This is true. there are graveyards all over Europe with more American bodies in them then there are the people native to that country because Americans have spilled there blood to save their country, their people. we were NOT doing that for ourselves we were doing it for the better of the world!

With all of this news that we do get and have gotten we have become the worlds scapegoat for almost everything that is bad or wrong in the world. everyone always wants someone to blame for problems and right now in this world people are blaming the USA for there problems, whether its because of our government, because of the war in Iraq, because of the economy, or because we didn't do something that they wanted us to do or didn't help them in exactly the way that they wanted us to help them in. When the whole world is watching you and wants something from you it is impossible to please everyone at the same time!

The rest of the world not only gets our news about serious things such as the government and the economy but about our movies and our pop culture as well. In Italy 95% of the movies are from the USA. they have our movies and our music. they have the news about our stars and think they are like a normal American. they watch our movies and the shows on MTV and think that all of the Americans are like this. Europeans and the rest of the world have so many stereotypes for Americans and about Americans because of what they have seen on TV, heard from a friend of a friend, or had an experience of meeting one American. most if not all of these stereotypes are 100% wrong. people in Europe tend to think that Americans are all dumb, fat, over religious/conservative rude people that don't speak the local language or have respect for the local traditions. here is yet another quote from Pedro Rodrigues " First of all let me say I find it disgusting that anyone can excuse anti-American sentiment on some " fat loud American who misbehaves and cannot speak the local language or has no respect for the local tradition", because for any one of those i have encountered, living in a holiday destination, i have also in countered more of the " fat loud English, German, French, Spaniard who misbehaves and cannot speak the local language or has no respect for local tradition", and believe me even more of the "fat loud Portuguese who misbehaves and CAN speak the local language and still has no respect for local tradition"... In fact, how many of you can speak most of the other languages and would not get by in English when visiting another country? why is it that it is ok for us to do that, but not if the person is English or American?" and another one from him " Yes, many Americans speak only one language, but really living in a continental country, for most people there will never be the need to speak other languages as others have put it. Other big continental countries, like Brazil, China or Russia do not fare better. Yet contrary to popular belief, Europeans do not fare that much better... the Spanish are the worst linguists (I had a company in Spain, and we initially required our staff to speak English, as we did in Portugal... well we soon faced a choice: hire people who could speak English or hire people with technical training, both was impossible!...) and yes most of my foreign customers were always impressed with the fact that we had English speaking technicians in Portugal because in Spain they never could.. as for the French, ditto, almost as bad.. and the English, even worse. the Germans have improved alot in recent years but at governmental level, they do not speak anything other then German... Italians ... let me tell you I learned Italian because i simply could not understand when my Italian friends spoke English; it was that bad!!!" and another " The idea Europeans speak several languages is a myth..other then the Scandinavians and Dutch (and you need to add a generation factor in here.. under 45 maybe) not that many Europeans speak a foreign language. ie English. Those that speak several languages are from countries with several official languages, such as the Swiss... English, French, Spanish, Italians and even Germans above a certain age are really poor linguists...I speak from experience having worked in the field of simultaneous interpretation for several years..." Well i agree alot with him but now i will give you my take on the matter. First I will share a joke i have heard that they have in Switzerland "A person who speaks 3 languages is trilingual, a person who speaks 2 languages is bilingual and a person who only speaks 1 language is American!"

They are all convinced that we think our language is so much better then other people's because we don't bother to learn anyone else's language. while in the USA yes our languages do need to improve in our schools. the average American will probably never encounter a situation when they will need to speak another language. Learning a language in school is completely different from speaking it on the street. Probably 90% of my high school gets a passing grade in school for there foreign language...but none of them actually speak the language. Because honestly how are they going to? once you leave your classroom what are you going to do with that language? In the United States it would be a big waste of time and money for all of our students to learn another language to fluency. in 2006 only 12,333,428 Americans had passports (there are over 300,000,000 Americans) and that's just do to the need for passports to go into Canada and Mexico Why should you teach someone something they are never going to have a need for? America is ALOT different then Europe we don't have 23 official languages like Europe does. in all of north America we have 3 official languages (English, French and Spanish) with a MUCH bigger land mass! There is almost no use for normal Americans to learn other languages when they will more then likely never need it. From where I live in the United States i have to drive more then 30 hours to get to a non-English speaking country (Mexico). Our states are the size (and some even bigger then) a European country. If in the states the languages were something like, Illinoisan, Minnesotan, Ohioan then yes i would probably speak them because i would need to to communicate but they are not. IN the united states we speak English. every state speaks English. I do not need to know how to use another language to exist outside of the United States. Most Americans wont be involved in international affairs (and most of them wont even travel out side of the country during there lives becuase for us it costs so much to travel to a place that speaks another language). When I look around my high school ... how practical would it be that we all learned Chinese? most ordinary people will be nurses or teachers, work in offices or as electricians and mechanics, etc etc. how is it practical that these people become proficient or fluent in a foreign tongue if they'll never step foot outside of the country? even though English isn't the only language in the world, it's the only language in most Americans' worlds. But when we do go over seas and use English just like ALOT of other tourists from all over the world because in case you haven't realized by now it is the most studied (second) language in the world. There is a good chance where every you go people will speak English but Italian? German? not as big of a chance. but yet if an American only speaks English it's because they're ignorant and don't want to learn but if [ insert nationality here] only speaks [insert language here] its becuase they haven't had the opportunity/reason to learn...why is that fair? why is it fair that we get all of the gruff because we are Americans? Even among exchange students I got looked down upon for only being able to speak English (and they are some of the most acccepting people in the world) but the Chinese who could only speak Chinese were ok, the Japanese who could only speak Japanese were does that work???

(****Disclaimer**** I am in NO way saying that learning a language isn't important because I'm an exchange student i obviously think that it is. but I'm simply stating the fact why the average American does not have the NEED to be fluent in say Swedish. That English is the only language in most average Americans lives)

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­There also seems to be a HUGE generalizatoin when it comes to Americans. "Americans are all from America and they are all the same with exactly the same culture" We are a country the size of Europe and i know that all Europeans would get mad at me if i said "yes all Europeans live in Europe so they are all the same and all have the same culture" They would be pissed. the Italians would be pissed if i called them the same as the French the French would be mad if i said they were the same as the Germans just like the Germans would be mad if i said they were the same as the Finns. yet they don't seem to get the difference when they say that all the Americans are the same. The East is VERY different from the West. the South is VERY different from the North. you can't group that many people and make generalizations about them and have to be right about everyone. They don't seem to grasp just how big the USA is. That it IS in fact as big as Europe.

One last quote by Pedro Rodriguez "If you look at all these stereotypes and if you were to substitute American for Jew or black or Asian or Muslim, its suddenly no longer acceptable for those same people who promote these stereotypes"

I was really hurt by what my "friend" said to me two days ago but it did help me realize how much i loved my country and how much i would defend it. but over all it hurt to hear these things about my country about the people in my country. the USA is my birth place. it is my home.


ps. sorry this was so long and ranty!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Not all italian food is amazing (but most of it is)

While I know the sterotype in Italy is that all of the food is pasta and all of it is to die for and in all honesty i thought this too before i actually got to Italy and LIVED here. The Italian food was one of the reasons that i chose Italy. I knew that i liked pasta and that i would be able to find things to eat that i would like. because if any of you knew me before i came to Italy you will know that i was a very picky eater before i got here to Italy. That it was hard just to get me to try new things so i figured that if i came to Italy that i would only eat pasta and that it wouldn't be a problem..right? I mean if i went to Russia one of the main dishes there is cabbage soup how on earth would i survive on that? so i chose Italy thinking "oh god i love italian food i'll be JUST fine. i bet i wont even find anything i don't like" While if you were to just come here for vacation you could probably only have pasta and have it be some of the most amazing pasta that you have ever eaten in your whole life. I'm also not saying that the "gross" food tastes all that bad either but Italians have a different view on what is ok to eat and what looks or seems to gross to eat then the i have in the usa.

I dont really know how to explain this and it might turn out that i have just lead a really sheltered food life in the USA but here I go. Before I came to Italy I had never eaten (or really even seen) the meat that i was about to eat with the head/feet still attached. When we go and buy meat at the grocery store they kindly cut off the head for you so you can take it home and pretend that it wasnt really a living thing just something that tastes good. I was quite fine with this technique to be completely 100% honest with you. I liked not having to stare my food in the eyes when i went to cut in to it. Well in Italy that is not really the case. In Italy, well not really in Italy but in SARDEGNA, a very traditional meal is baby pig. I have personally before I came to Italy never really eaten baby ANYTHING. but in Sardegna it is completely normal and almost all of the families on Sardegna have baby pig for Christmas dinner and then at random times in the year.

Let me explain. They do not just cook the meat of this pig. they cook the WHOLE thing over the open the fire.. they buy the baby pig whole and they slice right up the stomach through the bottom of the chin (so the head is in two pieces) so that the pig is completely open. They then stick a big pole up through the bottom of the pig and out of the neck so that they can slowly roast this pig over the open fire usually in the kitchen. I have honestly never seen this in my whole life in the USA (apparently there are pig roasts but i have never been to one or honestly never even heard of cooking the entire animal)

When you go to eat this pig you would think that you would normally cut of the head and throw it away right? well no. They cut off the head but then 2 "lucky" people get to eat the head. What is on the head to eat you may ask? well they find things to eat. Like for example: The meat of the cheek is said to be the best meat on the pig, they eat the brain, the tounge, the eyes!!! I didnt even know you could eat eyes before I came to Italy!! They do eat the eyes. That is one thing that grosses me out even more then anything else. I mean how can you eat the eyes of something. its not meat. and i just have these nasty flashbacks to when i dissected a cows eye in biology class and it gushed and was really nasty. i could not imagine putting that in my mouth and actually chewing and swallowing. I still gag when i get a piece of meat fat in my mouth. Needless to say they did not get me to eat eyeball.

While i didnt eat the eyeball they did eventually get me to try the baby pig head. I did end up trying the cheek meat (which to me tasted just like all of the rest of the meat) and i tried the BRAIN!! you are all probably thinking "kendra? eat brain? NO way i dont believe it" but believe it people. your kendra ate pig brain. and i even have pictures to prove it!! i have pictures of me eating brain. i never thought that i would say that!!! but YUP YUP YUP i did it i tried the brain!!

They also have these things called "little birds" I have only eaten 2 kinds of bird in the USA: chicken and turkey. well in italy they also have these "little birds" when i first saw my papà cooking them i was like "OMD CHE COS'E' perchè tu stai cucinando uccellini?" (OMG WHAT IS THAT? why are you cooking little birds?) the reason that i knew that they were little birds is that they still had there little heads and their beaks and wings and feet and EVERYTHING they were still compleetly intact. he told me that these were italian favorites. that if you bought them in a store it was like 100€ for just 10 of these TINEY little birds. meaning you would need at least 20 to make a meal for one person!! but that he saves them from when he shoots them when he goes hunting. I told him that i had never even seen them before that but i would try it when it got time to come to dinner. well i found out that you actually have to pull off the head off of these little birds and crack the skull open with your teeth. I was in aww because this is something i would have never in my life thought that i would do but i was determined to try it. so i did. i know you probably dont believe me but i have pictures!!

They also eat ALOT of vegetables here in italy. I have lived in Italy for 5 months and i can still not bring myself to eat a green olive or a tomato. i know. two very typical Italian things but i can just not eat them. they are just SOO gross. i just dont like them. Also. My family LOVES artichoke! I had never eaten an artichoke before i got to italy. I have been very good at trying everything here in italy but i have tried artichokes: cooked, raw, baked on a fire, in lasagna, and in the oven. and i still dont like them. they well to put it simply they still taste like artichokes.

Over all I LOVE the food in italy it is sooo amazing. although i think i have had more pasta in these 5 months then i have in my whole life times 5. I have a feeling when i get back im not gonna eat it for a while lol. Italian food is really good just some if it is VERY different then it is in the USA. And you all have to promise me. if you do ever come to Italy try something a little more exotic then pasta every day! there are really good Italian dishes that are not pasta!

Vi Voglio TANTO Bene!!!