As shocking as it sounds, on Thursday night I sat in the JFK airport, holding back tears and almost dreading my trip to Italy. The plane took off right on time and I turned off my phone knowing that it would not be receiving any more phone calls for the next three months. My stress level was pretty low considering it only took me 20 minutes to check my bags and get through security and I was given a window seat. As it turns out, no one sat in the two seats next to me, so I was able to just lay down, listen to music, and sleep through most of the flight. The food was surprisingly decent and I was thrilled because a TV monitor displayed the exact altitude, number of miles, and time until we arrived in Rome. One of my least favorite things about flying is not knowing exactly how much longer I will have to be on the plane!
My friend Jacob waited for me at the baggage claim along with another girl in our group – Kelli. Seeing familiar faces and hearing my own language being spoken instantly put me in a better mood and after I had claimed my baggage, we walked out and quickly ran into an Italian man who offered to shuttle us directly to our hotel. Since it was the same price of the train and 50% less expensive than a cab, we agreed, making the transition pleasantly easy.
I wont bore you with the details of the orientation, because just remembering it makes me sleepy, however it was like most other orientations. After flying and traveling, the only thing I wanted was a nap, but instead we sat in discussions for a few hours and most of us were practically delusional from being so tired by time it was announced we are going on a two hour walking tour. Thank God I took pictures because I remember nothing from the tour:
After the walking tour, we went to dinner at a large outdoor restaurant. Here are some tips about eating in Italy:
1. No true Italian eats butter or olive oil on their bread. Also it is considered rude to dip your bread in sauce in public.
2. Dinner is served in several small courses – ours included about 8 different ones.
3. In Italy it is very rude to NOT keep your hands on the table at all times during dinner. However it is rude to put your elbows on the table.
4. Never ask the chef to alter your dish (ie “hold the mayo”)
5. Eat all of the food on your plate (if it is physically possible), if you do not, the chef is insulted.
6. Only water and wine are served with dinner. However you may order a coffee (espresso) during desert. It is acceptable to drink Coke only when eating pizza. Wine is never drank when eating pizza, soup, or ice cream.
7. Never tip in Italy because the waiters are paid by the hour. If you do tip them, only a few cents or a euro if the service was excellent.
At one point at dinner, I definitely feel asleep at the table!
Yesterday I was pretty homesick in the morning. I went to the internet cafe a couple blocks from my school to check my email and cried the entire time I was there. But after I left, I felt much better and was able to pull myself together for the rest of the day. We had another walking tour and then we were free to do whatever we wished for the rest of the night.
And finally, this afternoon, I moved in with my family! I was nervous because Maria Pia was one of the last people to show up. Maria is tiny and very pretty and she brought me back to her house (inside an apartment building) which was nothing like I expected. The interior looks very much like a hip New York loft, with high ceilings, tall bookcases on all the walls, art hanging in all of the rooms, and woven rugs on the floors. Agnese and Livia, her daughters are very sweet and helpful. They speak a little English which came in very helpful during dinner while we were making conversation. I am trying my best to speak Italian, however it is broken and I frequently find myself inserting English words into my sentences.