I am nearing the one week mark living in Villanova Mondovì, Italy with a family I met on a website called Workway. They are too sweet for words. To say that I am culture shocked would be an understatement and to say that I am loving it would also be an understatement. I am not sure exactly what I was expecting to experience or find here, I just knew it would be different. I didn’t realize how different it really would be.
Just to get here I took three planes. It was much less expensive than a direct flight and I figured if I am young and able, I might as well save the money. Boarding the flight to LAX felt normal- like many other trips I have been on and even boarding the flight to Toronto, Canada from LAX felt normal. When I got off the plane in Toronto, I was in a new world. The airport was huge and basically had a shopping mall in it (huh?!). I went off to the bathroom to freshen up: brush my teeth and change my clothes for the next eight hour flight (the longest flight I have ever been on), and I’m glad I did at least that. When I got onto the flight to Milan, I was immediately greeted with my first bought of culture shock: everyone was dressed so nice. Women wore beautiful blouses with ruffles, and men wore dress pants and sport coats. Then there was me, the American, wearing leggings and a t-shirt.
After eight long hours, we touched down in Milan and as I walked through the airport I was pleased to find a lot of English throughout – it made everything easy to navigate. The family I am staying with told me they would hold up a sign with my name on it and sure enough, I rounded a corner and there is my name “BECCA” printed on a piece of paper held by the father. He was accompanied by his mother and we all kissed cheeks (oh yikes, they really do do that…thank you Hollywood for preparing me for that moment). We had a two hour car ride from Milan to Villanova Mondovì and the entire time I was just starstruck. It doesn’t look like much, but here was the view directly out of the airport:
Everything here is so green and so lush, if you have ever been to Portland, OR it is similar on the green scale. I am from a place where brown is a staple and the only natural green we have is cactus, so this was truly shocking to me. I spent the entire two hours gawking out the window at all of the new sights: the little farms with vegetable gardens and chickens, the open green fields, the lush bunches of trees, and the fact that you have to pay to drive on certain roads!
Immediately after arriving at home, I was offered food. I think this was mostly because the father did not know what to do with me, but I enjoyed getting to try some of the wonderful food so quickly. First he offered me sliced ham wrapped up and covered in gelatin. It looked very weird and different, but it turned out to be wonderful. Next, he made pasta with meat inside of it (I would say ravioli, but it was much better than that and slightly different) and poured me a glass of beer from the tap they have in their house. In the states I usually hate beer and never order or buy it, but this beer was quite manageable and I enjoyed it. For dessert he brought out cherries and told me they were from his mother’s tree:
Mark my words when I say that I have never had cherries this good. From time to time I would have an amazing cherry among a bunch of gross ones at home, but from this bowl here… every single one was delicious. The pit separated from the fruit nicely and they were all the perfect amount of sweetness. My face probably gave away how happy I was about this so we walked over to his mother’s house and picked more (!!!).
The days from this first week have sort of ran together with the time change, jet lag, language difference, and all of the things they took me to–I didn’t know what day it was until Friday. I have three meals a day, which is about two more than I normally have so I am feeling rather plump trying to get used to all of the food. Here, lunch and dinner are the biggest meals, which feels opposite of the States. Everyone comes home for lunch and it is sometimes even bigger than dinner. At every meal, I leave no item untasted — it helps that everything is amazing, but I really want to get to know the culture in more ways than just the language.
This is the set up for just about every dinner. We have the table set the same way for lunch, except we usually sit inside. Because we have dinner at around 9 pm, it has usually cooled down a lot and outside is very nice. That is something I truly was not expecting: everything happens later. It is acceptable to wake up around 9 or 10am, dinner is at 9pm, everyone stays up until midnight or later, and even more surprising: the disco (clubs) OPEN at midnight and close around 4-5am. Italy is a night owl’s paradise. I hope that in time I will adjust to the elevation/not be jet lagged anymore so I can enjoy the late nights, as I am a total night owl.
The other day, the son took me up to the mountains on his “moto” (motorcycle) and what was a completely casual ride up the mountains for him was a completely new and exhilarating experience for me. The trees on the mountain were so lush and green. I actually started to cry at how beautiful it was and forgot to take a photo. Just my luck, as soon as the tears started to stream down my face, it was time to pull over to walk around for a bit (laughs).
Here is the view from the top of the mountain. Apparently when the clouds are not there, you can see the next biggest town (Turin) very clearly in the horizon. Even with the clouds there, I was again starstruck by the view. A view like this is only something I would see if I looked up “green meadow” or something of the sort on google images. Never did I think that this would be something I see with my own eyes (hence, the tears). The amount of green is just normal here and I am still getting used to it, trying not to gasp every time we turn a corner and see a vast field of nothing but green– I think it freaks the family out a bit.
There is so much more that is entirely different than my life in the States, but I feel that it would bore you (or me, if I choose to reread) to list all of them. The reason I am here is to teach or tutor English to the family that is hosting me and at the end of the day I find myself very tired from teaching something new just about every time I speak. Don’t misunderstand, it is so cool to teach this way and I really wouldn’t want it any other way, but sometimes it is hard and I wish that I could just say exactly what I want/feel/think without having to explain slowly in simple English. I could also really use a burrito right about now. Homesickness has hit me a little bit, but with only 1 out of 5 weeks under my belt here I am not letting myself feel it entirely. Here is a picture of some pizza we made the other night, and mind you, it was the best pizza I’ve ever had:
On that note, I am off to bed to prepare for another fun adventure tomorrow. Ciao!