Monday, 31 December 2007

Il pericolo di Australia

You know what's really fun? When you come fom a country that's home to some of the most poisonous animals in the world (which you come in little contact with, but that that's beside the issue) and you can impress all the Italians who think they're so macho.
One of the boys in my class here asked me a little while ago if we had jellyfish in Australia and had I been bitten by one. When I said 'no' I could see a smirk forming on his lips, he was going to tell me about how many times he'd been bitten and how excruciating it was, etc, etc. Standard male behaviour. So it was with great joy I could tell him 'In Australia, if you're bitten by a jellyfish, you die." quite matter-of-factly.

This sort of answer always makes people stop and think. I just love it! They asked about sharks too, they wanted to know if any sharks came close to the beach and was it dangerous. I said "Well, yes. But it's not really dangerous." Oh the shock on their faces! "But we learn shark safety in school, it's OK."

But what's funny is it makes me realise just how much danger we ignore. There are safety precautions there like the flags the lifesafers put up and we do learn about these things in school. (Bushfire safety, beach safety, what to do for a snake bite, the list goes on) But the odds really are stacked against us Down Under. I remember thinking once how crazy the Japanese were to not think about earthquakes when the country is on such a huge fault line, but it's what we all do, isn't it? The danger isn't affecting you now so you don't think about it.

The Italians probably think I'm crazy for being so scared to cross the road here but I'm more likely to be hit by a car than bitten by a shark and, given the way Italians drive, I think the statistic is doubled here.

Saturday, 29 December 2007

I thought I was in Italy, not England

I do not understand Italian frozen food. I do not understand because it is terrible, absolutely horrible. Why anyone would choose to sustain themselves with it is beyond me and it’s even harder to understand because, as a general rule, Italian food is fantastic. Every food product I have tasted here outdoes itself in deliciousness but the frozen food is crap. Spam would turn its proverbial nose up at Italian frozen food.

The other day we had a meal of frozen food and, my cold still in full swing, I couldn’t really taste it. I didn’t realise just how bad my sense of taste had been struck until today when we ate the same food again for lunch and I almost gagged. No kidding, I think it was shock as much as anything but I felt betrayed. How could Italians do this to their own people? More importantly, how could they do this to unsuspecting visitors of the country?
For shame.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

I am trying so hard to be the perfect exchange student. I really am. Because I know from experience how bad it can be from the host family’s perspective with... imperfect excahnge students.
So, I have not been using their phone at all, I have not asked them to buy me things or take me places, I’ve tried not to turf people off the telly or the computer (I use these things only when they’re free), I don’t play music too loudly, I’m polite, I help with setting the table and cleaning up and other odd jobs, I have not yelled at the dog and I did not even say anything when it bit me.
BUT this has not worked it seems. I am far from the perfect excahnge student because I am not intergrating into the Italian culture. Despite the fact I go to Italian school, talk to the students and teachers here, have made friends and gone out with them a few times.

I haven’t been doing enough with the family. I found this out on Christmas Eve when I said I didn’t really want to go with them to a party because I was not feeling well. (I have a cold and I can’t breathe and eat at the same time. My bones feel tired and I fall asleep as soon as my body becomes vertical. I thought it would be fair enough.) No. What I thought of as being polite and not being a burden on people when they want to go out with friends was actually me living in my own world and not absorbing the Italian culture.

I am trying so hard here. But the fact is, I found social situations difficult at the best of times when I don’t know anyone. When I also don’t speak the same language as the rest of the people at these social places it makes me a little nauseous.

When I was little and I’d go to parties with my family I used to get a plastic cup of chips or pretzels and one of lemonade and hide under the stairs until my supplies ran out. I had the best time under those stairs, I was never once unhappy. What did make me unhappy was being forced to talk to all the grownups at these parties who would ask “So what year are you in at school?” to start the conversation. After answering this you can’t really ask the same question in return since they’re obviously not in school, it’s rather difficult to find a question to relate to this for the same reason.

As I’ve grown, it’s become a little easier meeting new people but I still don’t really enjoy it. I know also, that what would happen is that I would end up clinging to my host sister and she would just want to be with her friends. So, I have been to a couple of parties with her but I thought it would be nicer for all concerned if I did my own thing and let her do hers.
My host mother apparently doesn’t agree and thinks I have a very negative attitude to it all. So I went to the Christmas Eve party, in spite of my cold, and spent most of it with my host sister.
While it’s never tortuous to got to these parties where I feel to embarressed about my Italian to start a conversation with anyone, it’s uncomfortable and I tend to just sit there for most of the night and I find it a relief when it’s time to go.

It hurt a bit to find out I’m not doing things right and I tried to explain why I am this way but I don’t think they quite understood. It was hard also because I heard my host mother talking on the phone to my real mother in Australia the day before and saying waht a wonderful student I’ve been and how nice, etc, etc. So am I doing other things wrong too and they just haven’t told me? I don’t know if I want to ask because I might cry, which I loathe to do in front of people I’m not close to, and it would probably be just thought of as homesickness.

Sorry about the bitching session ladies and gents, I just needed a bit of a vent. Thanks for reading.

PS: Sorry for any typos, I’m still getting used to this keyboard.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

How TV has changed my life.

Back in the old country I was not much of a TV watcher. (brother and sisters, please refrain from commenting on my childhood years, I'm only talking about recently). On Wednesdays my mother I would sit down to Spicks&Specks, The Chaser, Summer Heights High and (if we weren't too exhausted) David&Margeret At The Movies. That was about it for the week and I felt rather superiour knowing that I wasn't wasting my life watching sitcoms, soaps, reality shows or anything else that might rot my brain.

But now, oh how my life has changed. I disliked Italian TV at first because it frustrated me to watch show that should be in English but had been badly dubbed and was without subtitles. Then... I discovered that Italians get the BBC! I was in love (and still am) and, not only this, but there are some shows that haven't been dubbed (or can having the dubbing taken off). I am now addicted to these: the Simposons, Family Guy, Will&Grace, My Hero, My Family, Desperate Housewives and Gilmore Girls (I love hearing English, even if it's mostly American).

Thursday, 13 December 2007

School in Italy

Just so you know what angle I will be coming from with this post; I prefer school in Australia.
I like changing classrooms; you get to move around between lessons, you can talk to people in the corridor, you can breathe some fresh air, if you're really desperate you can buy food from the school vending machines and eat it in your next lesson, if you don't like the person you're sitting with you can sit with someone else and not appear rude. I could go on but, in short, I like changing rooms and I like being in different classes with different people. Italian schools don't work like that.

I like the Australian classrooms; they have carpet on the floors, not tiles, so chairs and tables don't scrape and echo, because one teacher stays in the same in classroom it becomes more personalised (they put up pictures, have the desks arranged a certain way, etc.) and it's not graffitied. I feel so much better about being in those rooms, you learn better I'm sure. Not having carpets also means that sound is amplified and the Italians (who are not exactly quiet to begin with) are even louder in these rooms.

Those are the main reasons, I know they sound silly and inconsiquential but they matter to me and, no doubt, if you were in a strange school it would be the little things that get to you too.

Oh, and in Australian schools the students don't smoke all the time. But smoking is all over Italy, you can't expect the schools to be any different.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

I'm in Italy... why aren't I shopping?

This thought struck me about 5 minutes ago when i caught sight of myself in the bathroom mirror, looking ab fab in the new jumper my host mother bought me. It's the only item of clothing I have at the moment that's from Italy because, for the past 2 weeks, I've been wearing my Australian clothes (some of which, I'll admit, were bought for this trip but that was a warmth thing rather than a fashion thing).

I am in the country where the greatest sin you can commit is to make "una brutta figura" (a bad impression). If the Italians could lock people up for not being beautiful enough, they would. Why, oh why, aren't in these beautiful shops buying beautiful clothes?
This jumper isn't even that great, it's a simple pullover with stripes but it looks fan-bloody-tastic! How is that possible? Because it's Italian.
Tomorrow, I'm going shopping. I don't care that it's Sunday or that it might rain all day (like today) I want pretty clothes!

PS: I never used to be fashion obsessed, I visited op-shops and Jayjays fir my wardrobe or Target when I wanted something swanky. But now, I'm actually really excited by the idea of buying new outfits. Yesterday I even thought about painting my nails... I think something's taking me over. Oh well, it'll be fun.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

First blog in another country

Hi ho to my readers! (both of you)
Though i've been in Italy for almost 2 weeks now it has been absolutely impossible to get to a computer and when I finally did I couldn't sign in. i felt really bad too, leaving the blog with such a depressing entry as my latest contribution to world media.
Things are much better now, my grandpa is out of hospital and, apprently, walking on sunshine now that Labor are in government. I was so excited when I heard that news but, just my luck, I heard it when I was half asleep, in another country and surrounded by Liberal voters (darn exchange programme arranging flights on Election Day) so celebration was limited to a short dance in a Malaysian toilet cubicle.

Now, a lot has happened since I've been here and I'm a lazy blogger so I'm going to copy and paste bits of my emails for the rest of the post:
(sorry for lack of punctuation, etc)

8 hour flight to KL in which i watched a couple of movies and old episodes of simpsons

spent 2 or 3 hours in the airport feeling really tired. sampled the malaysian burger king fries and found that they're no different but the packet is blue (talk about a shock to the system)

12 hour flight to rome. watched more movies and malcom in the middle eps. slept on my tray table for a few hours and woke up really stiff and sore. plane food was really good and they served juice every 10 minutes.

arrived in rome (now a day later) 5am local time. it was cold! we saw the trevi fountain and i threw in an aussie coin. wandered around for a while until we could go back to the hotel and sleep.
i was in bed sick for the next 2 days with some weird cold/flu/throwing up thing. but the others had a good time

took the train to venice and OMG THAT PLACE IS BEAUTIFUL! our hotel was lovely too. spent the next 2 and a half days walking around venice, taking photos and buying presents and stuff.

took another train to florence. there wasn't as much to do there and the hotel was not as nice. saw the Duomo (the view from the top was breathtaking, David and the Ponte Vecchio.

Then I arrived in Messina (by plane this time) and I've started school here

italian school, what i've noticed:
.you have the same class all day, you stay in the same seat in the same room with the same people and the teachers move to different rooms.
.no one has lockers, they carry their bags to the lesson
.there isn't very much writing, the teacher talks most of the lesson and students make notes. even in maths we didn't do any exercises, i think it's all for homework.
.the classroom is very bare, the front wall has a blackboard and a calendar and that's it
.the italians speak english much better than we speak italian, they even have textbooks in english. (but only for that subject, the others are in italian)
.everyone brings little tissue packets to school because there is no toilet paper in the toilets
.school finishes at 1 or 1.30 and, literally, as soon as they are out of the door the students start smoking (i asked and it's very normal, they don't get into trouble for it)

That's about it so far. I'll be more informative next time but at least this blog is cheerful.