Monday, February 13, 2012

Italian Improvements

So these days I’m way less homesick, thanks mainly to the beautiful friends I’ve made here. I know it’s been forever since I’ve posted, but so much has happened. To be honest, I just haven’t had time to sit down and adjust to it all. There’s too much to digest—both good and bad—to really realize what my experience has wholly been. Now, though, sitting down and taking a moment to really reflect, I realize these past two weeks have been so very necessary to…like, I dunno… the whole formation of my being.
I’ve discovered so many things about myself in the past few days that I can’t even articulate them all: I know now that I love true intellectuality—I’m so freaking tired of explaining, “Oh hey, I’m American; I study here in Padova through the BU program and the Universita’ degli Studi di Padova, blah blah blah blah blah.” I know even more that I’m meant to challenge myself, day in and day out. Every day I come home tired, frustrated, stressed, and actually furious at the Italian language itself. But every day, I also come home knowing I’ve lived in Italy another day; I know I’ve talked to another Italian; I know I’ve connected with another being in a language utterly unnatural to my own self. I know so many things about myself. I know what I can do.
But to be honest, it’s wearying. Every single night, I don’t know if I can do this for another day, let alone another four months. But every single morning, I also know I’m ready to face the day that I know will end in total collapse; every morning, I’m excited to see who I’ll meet, who I’ll talk to, what I’ll realize that I really can say. The hopeful mornings utterly overwhelm the uncertain evenings. And that’s what matters.

As to practical matters: I’ve made two out-of-town trips since being here, one to Monselice, the walled medieval city, and another to Venice for Carnivale. Monselice was beautiful, overwhelming, amazing, beautiful, and cold. Venice was beautiful, confusing, and cold. Hey, guys, did you know it’s freaking cold here right now? It’s freaking cold.
Monselice was an amazing experience that showed me a “small-town” side of Italy I’ve never seen before: ancient noble families, famous rooks (What the fuck is a rook, guys, besides a chess piece? Don’t answer, I know, I just thought I’d point out the hilarity of actually using such a word), skeleton-lined churches, and hidden bus stations. It was an incredible, beautiful, frigid morning with two women and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. 
So there are gondolas here?

Casual palaces.

Dwarves chilling on the walls of defensively fortified cities. Makes sense.

Some lovely ladies strolling to antique mansions.

Oh look! A mansion.

Hi, Italy. You jelly?

Some bop struggling with stairs.

Venice, on the other hand, was another thing entirely: overwhelming in its sheer narrow bigness (I know that seems like it makes no sense, but trust me), overwhelming in its beauty, overwhelming in the number of tourists that pour in every day to get trashed during Carnevale. My trip to Venice—without a doubt—was the most American experience I’ve had abroad. Every person I spoke to was American, from Pittsburgh or New York or whatever, and I have never before in Italy felt so touristic, or hated, or stared at. In Padova, Americans are a rarity, and further a rarity widely known to be attending university—Americans, in short, who care. In Venice, however, there was no such consideration. I was disrespected as an American who was in Italy to party, to get drunk, to get laid, to get whatevered. I wasn’t expected to know Italian, and was talked to in English, and sneered at in Italian. I was degraded, really.
But this very degradation, I think, has led to me to a greater understanding of what it really means to be an American abroad: there is a prejudice, and it is fair. It is rightful. Every American I met or saw from a distance was, in fact, totally intoxicated or grinding shamelessly or eyeing trashy Italian men. We fit our stereotype so shamelessly; how can I expect Italians to respect me and my heritage if my fellow Americans won’t do the same? I was disappointed in America this weekend, and I don’t care how pretentious and fake-Euro that sounds. I really, truly was embarrassed to be an American in Venice.
All right, guys, I’m writing this after two glasses of wine, a beer, and a spritz (Campari and prosecco), so forgive me my errors. I just needed to really share a few quick bullet points:
  • Italy is wonderful—just avoid other Americans.
  • The bond I’ve made with my friends is kind of ridiculous and creepy.
  • Don’t follow random Italian men to discotechs, because they’ll abandon in you the city of Venice, which, guess what, is impossible to navigate. 
  • Every day in Italy reminds me how very stupid I really am, and how very badly I want to be smart.
My next post—I promise—will both be more coherent, sober, and timely. By the way, American friends and sisters, I can't even articulate what your support means to me. Thank you so much to all of you; I couldn't love you more.
I wrote this blog post with a cat on my chest. #getonmylevel

1 comment:

  1. Truly happy that you are less overwhelmed and that you are starting to find your footing in Italy. Happy Valentine's Day <3, you got this Mary!

    PS you're such a drunkard