Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Where did it all go?

Vietri- Amalfi Coast

Sunrise over Tuscania

Wow. Here it is May 5th and semester ends this week with finals next week. It’s surreal, really. I remember being so stressed out about making this dream happen; financial aid, paperwork, passport, visa, essays….Now it’s over and I’ll be returning to the States just in time to jump into summer classes, back to work and what we all call “real life.” These past few weeks we’ve been doing everything we can to see the most of what Italy has to offer, even considering jumping on a bus and hopping off in some random little town just to explore one more place.

A couple of weekends ago we travelled south to Pompeii, Salerno and Vietri. Pompeii was utterly amazing in every possible sense of the word. I remember- we all remembered- studying this place and tragedy in our history classes way back in elementary school. Seeing the pictures in our books and learning about the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius so many years ago. Now seeing it and walking down those streets in real life was an experience I’m sure we’ll never ever forget. For one of my history classes here, I had to do a presentation on Pompeian culture in the year 79 A.D. I actually used the pictures I had taken myself just the week before! How amazing is that? How many students can say they’ve actually had the opportunity to do that? I still can’t believe some of the things that we’ve gotten to see. To learn about ancient Etruscan history and then take a field trip into the town that we live in to see these things with our own eyes. Not in a museum, but in the walls that surround the city, or the preserved remnants of the ancient Roman road on the edge of town. Or to learn about Roman gladiators and ancient politics then taking a field trip to Rome and seeing the coliseum and Roman Forum for ourselves. We actually had lecture in the Roman Forum yesterday. I still can’t believe it.

This coming weekend will be our last weekend here, together so we chose to stay here in town and really take in everything that Tuscania is. In between classes, we’ve taken to grabbing a blanket, bottle of wine and fruits then heading to the park and enjoying a picnic then lying in the grass soaking up the sunshine. On weekdays when we have no classes, we hike around the outskirts of town, exploring, talking and joking about what we’ll be doing “2 wks. from now.” A couple of days ago, 2 friends and I stayed up all night long just to walk to the park and watch the sunrise over the San Pietro valley. We sat perched on the wall of the city, just the 3 of us, enjoying the silence of the still sleeping town and watching the first inklings of pink stretch across the sky.

This weekend will be spent studying for finals and organizing what gets thrown away to make room for treasures we’ve bought at markets and gifts for family and friends. We will be cleaning, saying goodbyes to friends we’ve made here in town and gearing up for the trip back home in the coming days and trying to get as many pictures in as we possibly can. This has been such a surreal, amazing experience for me. I’ve made so many good friends who plan on visiting me in Kansas City and I them in Chicago…NYC…SC…and ME. A summer of road trips has been laid out, where we will, I’m sure, reminisce about our semester in Tuscania. None of us want to leave this adorable little town with the inhabitants who speak Italian and only Italian. We don’t want to leave this place that smells of baking bread and pastries every morning (especially for those of us who live above a bakery… J ) and where the owner of our favorite pizza place now knows to bring me an extra plate for my pizza crusts so Samantha can have them, before we even ask. A place where our favorite gelato place knows exactly which 3 flavors Josh wants and what size cup (the biggest) he will order before he even gets to the counter. A place where our sweet landlord Natalina and her husband Pepe cannot pronounce my name but still honestly love us like we are their grandchildren. And a place where, regardless of the fact that we have been living here for 4 months, we still get gawked at and have finally come to terms with that. From all of the Italian cities we could have chosen to call home for an entire semester, Tuscania is truly the right decision for those of us who chose it. If you want to truly learn Italian language and culture, try to visit the smaller towns and get to know the people who live there, instead of the more tourist (though still beautiful) cities such as Rome and Florence. You won’t regret it, I promise.