I’ve officially been in Italy for one week and four days. What a crazy 11 days it’s been.
At times, it’s been hard, tiring, overwhelming and stressful, but in the midst of all of that it’s been really, really good. I am not sure how good and difficult can coexist simultaneously, but it’s a part of this messy thing we call life. It just is. The hard things are sometimes the best things.
Last time I wrote was right before my big voyage, my flight from New York City to Istanbul to Milan. (Yes, this flight schedule is slightly backward since Istanbul is past Italy, but that’s the flight Turkish airlines selected for me!) In 36 hours, I got two hours of sleep, but when we landed in Milan, we had a two hour bus ride into Turin, and then, we went straight into the teachers’ assistant orientation. So basically, it was all go-go as soon as we touched down in Italy. We literally hit the ground running!
The teaching program I am a part of is under two organizations- the World Education Program (WEP) and Greenheart Travel. There are about 25 teacher assistants in my program from all over the world, mostly America but also from Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France and South Africa. The group was only together for a few days, but we quickly bonded over our similarities as Americans, as English speakers and as twenty-somethings. Our differences (between states, countries and ethnicities) sparked conversation and a lot of laughter. (The New Zealand teacher assistant asked a few of the Americans if Boston was in New York, and you would have thought he said a bad word. All the Americans gave him an adamant NO!)
The joy and excitement of being in Italy with new friends experiencing this adventure together was briefly put on halt. On my second day in Turin, Italy, as the group of teachers assistant and I were headed back to our hostel, I was pickpocketed on the city bus. Frustration quickly turned into panic when I couldn’t get in touch with my parents in America for more than an hour to suspend my phone. (I was nervous my phone- which has my bank app on it- would be hacked into.)
If you have ever been robbed, then you know the feeling of helplessness and violation that overtakes you. One of the teacher’s assistants (Anna) stayed with me as I struggled to contact anyone back home in the states. It was comforting to have someone stand with me and help me figure out what to do.
All in all, getting your phone stolen in a foreign country really sucks, but it could have been worse. I wasn’t hurt, and my passport, money and credit cards were safe! My Italian host family was so concerned I’d think badly of Italy because of the experience. I smiled and told them I have lived in Los Angeles and New York City. Hence, I have seen it all, and I know that bad and good people exist everywhere, not just in Italy.
After orientation, on Friday afternoon our host families came to pick us up in Torino. All the teachers assistants nervously and excitedly parted ways to spread across the Piemonte region to our new temporary homes. My first full day in Bra (where I am living and working) was plagued by jetlag, but I managed to stay awake long enough for mealtime and to run a few errands around town.
Sunday and Monday, I spent my time in the Alps with my host family and their friends. I have never skied or snowboarded before. So instead I hiked with the parents. My host sister and her friends skied. Boy was that a workout. It was so hard climbing the mountain with all the layers and gear, but the view from the top? It was probably the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. All the sweating and shortness of breath was worth the destination.
Overall, the Italian people I have encountered so far are loving, welcoming and caring. Everyone instantly becomes like a mom or a brother or sister to you. There’s always someone looking out for your or ready to lend a helping hand or plate of pasta!
All in all, my time so far has been sweet and salty. Good and hard. It’s been fun and eye-opening meeting new people and learning about a different culture. It’s also been difficult being at a dinner table or in a room where you don’t understand the language everyone around you is speaking. Good and hard. Sweet and salty.
Isn’t that such a metaphor for life though? There will always be another mountain to climb, an obstacle to overcome, but the view on the other side is marvelous. I think what’s most important is how we choose to handle each mountain. We get to decide if and how we will face the hard things in life. We get to choose whether we will have the courage to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Here’s to three months in Italy and a lot of putting one foot in front of the other!