Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Tutto con calma

So I've been in Italy for a while now and SO much has happened... I honestly don't think I've ever been so busy in my entire life! Every single moment we're doing something fun, it's been crazy! Today is the first time that we're just relaxing at home for a couple hours because it's raining so we can't go to the beach :( but that's perfectly okay with me because I finally have the opportunity to write a post! Hmmm so where do I start... ?

Oh how I missed genuine Italian pizza <3
Well the last time I wrote, I was on my flight to Rome so I'll start there! I had a 10 hour layover in Rome but that ended up turning into a 12 hours because I missed my flight :( Everyone asks how I managed to miss my flight after having so much time, so let me explain. Basically, on my ticket, my gate was listed so I went there with a couple hours to spare. The gate started boarding people for a flight to Milan and I was confused because my flight to Bari was supposed to be boarding. So I went to look at the departure board and saw a different gate listed for Bari, I sprinted there because I only had 15 minutes. However, once I got there, it turned out being the wrong gate again... The lady said she had no clue which gate my flight was taking off from. I went to the information desk and finally discovered that my flight was at a completely different gate that was neither listed on my ticket nor on the departure board. I had 5 minutes until the flight was supposed to take off so I darted across the airport all sweaty, knocking into people, dragging my huge carry-on suitcase, and dropping my passport. I arrived at the correct gate just as the flight took off. I started freaking out. I was so exhausted... I had barely slept at all in the past 24 hours, I was beyond sick of sitting at the Rome airport and all I wanted was to get to San Vito :( I went to the information desk again and thankfully the woman working took pity on me (probably because I was crying) and gave me a free new ticket for the same flight but at a later time. Well I guess I learned my lesson from this experience, from now on I'm always going to go to the information desk and double check to make sure I have the correct gate!! I told a lot of Italians this story and they all say the same thing, that the Rome airport is a crazy, unorganized mess! So if anyone ever travels through the Fiumicino airport, be extra cautious ;)

First night with Sabrina and Leo!
Only 3.50 euros!

Besides the little mishap in Rome, everything else has been great! The moment I stepped out into the Bari airport, my host sister Sabrina ran up to me and hugged me! It was so nice to see everyone after 2 years! It seems like nothing has changed at all. We talked the whole hour long car ride home to San Vito dei Normanni. Just to clear things up though, Sabrina and her family weren't my actual host family during my year in Italy. I stayed in a different city called Torino in northern Italy with another host family but I did a weeklong exchange in the south and that's how I met Sabrina and her family! I loved them so much I went back to visit again that summer for 10 days! We just fit together so well, I feel like part of their family :) Anyway as soon as we got home, as I was expecting, Sabrina asked me if I was too tired to go out with her and her friends that night. The exact same thing happened two years ago when I arrived at her house late at night! Sabrina said all of her friends had been waiting for me at this bar down the street and were so sad when my flight was delayed. So obviously we went out that night to the bar where Sabrina's boyfriend, Leonardo, works. I love Sabrina, she's always so fun and full of energy!

Ready for Torr
The next day, I slept until 5:30! I woke up and talked to my host mom, Gabriella and Sabrina for a while. Even though I was in Italy for a year in Torino, there's still so much to learn about the country and culture. Especially because the north and south are so extremely different. Anyway, I never knew this but there's apparently no strongly enforced minimum wage in Italy. Sabrina's mom, Gabriella, works at a sandwich shop at night and they pay her 25 euros for "one night" of work (which equals out to 8 hours of work; so 3 euros an hour). Gabriella explained to me that there's very little work in Italy so people are desperate and have the option of working for 3 euros an hour or not working at all. Due to the extremely small pay, to save for college, Sabrina's boyfriend, Leonardo, works 2 jobs, totaling over 100 hours of work a week. However, I noticed that there's also not as many regulations in the workplace. For example, Leo works as a bartender but he can sit and relax with us for a bit while he's at work without any problems.

Anyway, later that night we went out to a discoteca (Italian nightclub) called Torre Regina Giovanna. Teen nightlife in Italy is so different to the U.S. Since the drinking age is 16 for beer and wine and 18 for liquor, it's common to go out to a bar and relax with your friends and smoke a cigarette and drink a beer. Also clubbing until the sun comes out is very normal. We stay out almost every night until at least 3 in the morning.

The jam-packed beach
Amiche :)
Saturday, we went to the beach all day with a group of friends. Puglia, in general, is extremely crowded in August because of Ferragosto. Ferragosto occurs in mid-August when many Italians take a week or two of vacation from work. Puglia is like the Florida of Italy so the beaches are packed! Even though there's a lot of people, I like being in Puglia for Ferragosto because there's lots of festivals, concerts and special events going on! I feel like a true Italian on vacation :)

That night, we went to a city called Ostuni, which is also known as la citta bianca (the white city) because all of the buildings are white. The streets were filled even at 1am. Ostuni is a really pretty, cool city! If you're in the Brindisi area of Puglia, I would definitely recommend spending an night in Ostuni. That day, Leonardo and his friend asked me and Sabrina if we'd want to talk a quick little trip to Naples for one night! It was so last-minute, I've never been to Naples and I was so excited! But I'm not going to talk about Naples just yet because that's what my next post will be about!

Mia sorella :)
The white city
Anyway, Sunday night, everyone slept on the beach (it's a tradition in San Vito every weekend in August). Except since we were leaving for Naples at 5 am (when Leonardo finished working), we didn't actually sleep on the beach, we just stayed the entire night. It was so much fun!! Definitely one of my favorites nights in Italy so far. The beach was filled with tents and almost everyone from Sabrina's school was there. We spent the night talking, drinking, laughing and joking around. It was so nice because everyone is so fun and I truly feel accepted into Sabrina's friend group! There was also a huge meteor shower that night so we spent a lot of time laying on the sand watching the sky for shooting stars. The sun also rose right when we had to leave, it was so gorgeous!

L'alba (the sunrise)
One last thing before I finish, I just want to explain the title of this blog post! Like I said before, southern and northern Italian culture is vastly different. Northern Italy is more industrialized whereas southern is more agricultural, thus causing differences in personalities. I don't want to generalize anyone, but typically, Northern Italians are known to be more reserved and hard-working whereas southerners are more open and relaxed. In a way, the cultural differences resemble those in the United States. Sometimes northerners will criticize southern lifestyle and vice versa. Northerners consider southerners lazy and southerners consider northerners cold-hearted. Anyway, back to the title, "tutto con calma". Sabrina always says this phrase, which means everything with calmness. I can't think of a better way to describe southern Italy; no one is ever in a rush to do anything. Lunch may take up to 4 hours sometimes because everyone is simply just enjoying each other's company with no hurry. Sabrina and I may not end up leaving the house to go out until midnight because we were taking our time getting ready. The southern Italian lifestyle is extremely stress-free and I honestly love it! In this way, Southern Italy reminds me a lot of my time living in Australia. I feel like both southern Italians and Australians just know how to enjoy the simple things in life without any worries or rush :)

Well that's all for now, my next post will be all about our spontaneous week-long vacation to Napoli, otherwise known as Naples! Ciao tutti! :)

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Is this real life!?

So I’m sitting on the plane en route to Rome (thankfully I got a window seat with no one next to me so I’m free to stretch out and sleep comfortably)! Everything just seems so surreal… it still hasn’t hit me that I’m literally living my dream. Ever since I was a little kid I fantasized of travelling the world. I read the entire book A Thousand Places to See Before You Die and marked all of the places I wanted to see with sticky notes (basically every page). It’s truly insane to me that I’m actually accomplishing the dreams I’ve held onto since elementary school. Even a month ago, I never imagined myself going to Japan and Ghana. I’ve been talking about my gap year and changing the plans for months and now it’s finally beginning. Last night I had a bonfire and I kept talking about my travel plans for “next year”, then one of my friends pointed out that “next year” was actually tomorrow… I’ve always imagined my gap year so far ahead in the future; it’s crazy that it’s starting now.

I can’t help but to think back to two years ago when I left for Italy as an eager 15-year-old exchange student. I feel like I was so young back then, still an amateur traveler and immature teenager with no clue what a life-changing experience I was about to have! I can’t believe that I’m doing it all over again: saying good-bye to my friends, family and home for another school year. Except this time, it’s different because I’m more independent. There’s no AFS chaperones herding me and a bunch of other exchange students around the airport, no one holding my passport so I don’t lose it by accident, no friends (Sergio!) to talk to during the flight. I’m travelling all alone this time and everything is my responsibility. A lot of people have asked me if I’m nervous or scared and the answer is no. I’m confident in my ability to take care of myself. I learned so much from my year in Italy and even my last two years in high school that I’m not worried. I’m much more mature and experienced than the last time I left for Italy. After all, practice makes perfect and I have plenty of practice travelling, taking care of myself and being independent. I’m so ready to begin (hopefully) one of the best years of my life!

I’m really going to miss everyone back home in Ohio so let’s all keep in touch! You can sign up for e-mail notifications for my blog so that every time I write a new post, you’ll get an e-mail! (It’s on the right hand side of my blog) Also I’m going to have unlimited international texting and 2G data everywhere so feel free to text, Skype, Facebook message, e-mail, Whatsapp, Snapchat, Tweet, FaceTime or even snail mail me anytime! It’s so weird that me and all of my friends’ lives are about to completely change; we’re all going our separate ways. Although it’s sad, I think it’s more exciting than anything because we’re all growing up and pursuing our life goals. It’s going to be awesome to hear about everyone’s differing lives and fun times at college!

It’s been a week and a half since I last saw Mihai. He went on vacation to Las Vegas and California with his family and isn’t coming home until Friday so we had to say our good-byes early :( Our last day together was bittersweet. He got me a promise ring that has hearts with our birthstones intertwined with an infinity symbol and our names engraved on it! He stole rings from my bedroom to find out what size finger I am hahaha and he made me a bunch of letters to open at different times throughout the year, for example one envelope says to open when I feel like reminiscing :) Being in a long distance relationship hasn’t been too bad so far because we’ve been texting and FaceTiming a lot (seriously thank goodness we live in the age of technology) but I still miss Mihai so much. Everything reminds me of him. I wish that he could share all these new experiences with me. It’s okay though; our time to travel the world together will come one day :) I just keep reminding myself how lucky I am to have even met him at all and how I’ll get to see him in just 2 months! Plus, it’s kind of cool to see our relationship grow and our bond get stronger while we’re apart. He still hasn’t gotten his host family information yet even though he leaves at the end of August, which is a little bit annoying because I’m waiting to pick a Workaway that’s close to where he lives… but oh well nothing much we can do besides wait.

One last thing, if anyone ever wants any advice about travelling please don’t hesitate to contact me! Besides updating friends and family on my life, I also hope that this blog will inspire people to get up and experience the world. It doesn’t matter if I don’t know you, if you have any thoughts or questions just talk to me! A lot of people (especially young ones) think that they don’t have the finances to travel. But in reality, there are so many affordable options out there for students! From study abroad scholarships to discounted flight rates for students to Workaways and Couchsurfing, travelling doesn’t HAVE to cost a fortune. All you need is to be smart with your money and determined! Don’t think that exploring the world is out of your reach because it’s not at all. And I’m here to help you discover and chase your wanderlust! :)

Well I’m going to go try and get some sleep so that this flight will fly by (haha get it?!). Next time I post I’ll be coming at ya live from ITALIA!! Bye! :)

P.S. I managed to pack the necessities for next year in one 45-pound suitcase, another 35-pound carry-on suitcase and a backpack! It took almost an entire day but I did it (I’m very proud of myself because last time I went to Italy I had to pay a bunch extra since my suitcase was almost 80 pounds)!! And my Obachan is going to bring me some winter clothes for Japan so that’s good too. I’ll still probably be wearing a lot of the same clothes in my pictures but whatever!