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How Far We’ve Come

It’s finally over. We’re all back in the states.

Life home is different than Italy, obviously. But everything that’s different is good. Living abroad for 4 months has made me realize one very important thing: America is probably the best place in the world, ever. We have things I realized I took for granted everyday: unlimited access to food from around the globe, well-equipped gyms, customer service that actually services the customer, tall skinny soy vanilla caramel macchiatos… the list goes on. I’m not even kidding when I almost cried in Shop Rite when I saw all the different variety of food that I hadn’t eaten in 4 months.

It’s surreal to think that a whole year has gone by since last summer. I could close my eyes and take myself back there like it was yesterday. We’ve had a year a part from each other, and now it’s time to start right where we left off. Graduation looms in the distance but for right now, it’s time to see how far we’ve come. I’m about to experience the best year of my life, I’m at the starting line of a time that I will always remember.

Are you ready? Because I am as I will ever be.

Thanks for sticking with me til the end. It’s been a pleasure =]

Leave It to the Germans

So I thought I would be done with all the European adventures but obviously that was not the case.
I woke up this morning at 6am with about 4 hours of sleep on my belt. Free three days of trying to fit everything in 1 suitcase and a duffel bag, I finally had everything packed away. My only big concern was transporting myself and all my luggage from Parma to Milan Malpensa airport. For those of you unfamiliar with the process, it takes a train to Milan and then a bus to the airport. My host family was kid enough to drive me to the train station, but then I faced the problem of moving my 65 lb bag, my probably 40lb duffel, my backpack, and my purse onto the right platform and onto the train. Contrary to popular thought, chivalry is not dead and I had a man offer to carry one of my bags down and up the stairs to the right platform. Then the train workers let me sit in first class because there was room to put my bags. As I arrived in Milan, another man carried my duffel from the platform to the station. Eventually, I reached the buses, where the driver thankfully stowed my stuff. As soon as I arrived at the airport, I dropped everything on the floor next to the check in to reorganize my life. I had an extra small carry on duffel which I filled because my 65 pounder looked like a bomb ready to explode. To the amusement of many Chinese tourists who I think took photos of me trying to fit everything, I finally had everything squared away and checked in. I had about 2 hours of down time with which I bought some alcohol at the duty free and slept. Finally, I boarded the flight to Munich, where then I would catch my flight to Newark. Sounds simple right? Wrong.
So as soon as we get on the plane, the captain informed us that the flight is 30 min delayed because of thunderstorms in Munich. Problem is, I had an hour between landing and getting on my next flight. So I had a mini panic attack on the plane, especially after it got delayed even more and the stewardess told me not to worry because I could get another flight tomorrow, like that was supposed to calm me down. Turns out, we arrived in Munich 10 minutes after my flight is suppose to board. I knew my gate and flight number and was ready to sprint off the runway, forget the bus, when I saw the Lufthansa had arranged a private van for me and another passenger going to Newark. I got in and we drove off, leaving everyone else behind. Eventually we stopped, got out, and went into this little room for a private passport control. I asked the blonde man with an earring who was driving/escorting us (he only spoke German) if he thought my bags will make it on the flight. He just smiled and said “Yes, yes, bags, yes. Always” which I took as a good sign. Then we got back in the van, went to another stop, went through this secret security entrance where we suddenly arrive at our gate. We cut the line to get our passports and tickets checked again, bid farewell to my German escort, and finally boarded the plane home and I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling since.
The sad thing is, if this happened in Italy, I would be royally screwed. So I want to dedicate this post to Germany, who even though are pretty insane and rigid, at least have their shit together and got me home.

I still believe in paradise, but now at least I know it’s not someplace you can look for. Because it’s not where you go. It’s how you feel for a moment in your life. You’re a part of something. And if you find that moment, it lasts forever.
The Beach
Closing Time

"Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end"

Well, ladies and gents, we’ve come to that time finally where I must bid Italia farewell. I have less than two days to go, but figured I’d write this now since I’m probably going to be losing my mind tomorrow wondering if I packed everything (one suitcase already weighs 65 lbs… can’t wait to lug that one on the train/bus). But I digress, where was I? Oh yeah, final abroad thoughts.

Graham and I went to Amsterdam over the weekend for our last trip abroad. Red light district, coffeeshops, museums, Heineken factory, parks… we basically saw it all. We also went out to this greenhouse-converted restaurant in a park that served us only organic and homegrown dishes. But probably the best thing was renting out an apartment for the weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I love touring around and seeing the sights, but it’s the alone time that I really cherish. We were at liberty to do anything we wanted, and that’s exactly what we did. We relaxed, watched Lord of the Rings (I still don’t know why), and cooked our own meal (salmon and veggies). It felt like real life, like we were living on our own. After an amazing weekend, we parted ways at the airport, realizing the next time we were going to see each other was back home in the states. Which now brings me back to my current thoughts on leaving.

I hate to say this, but the ending is a bit anti-climatic. The Thursday before I left for Amsterdam, we had our final dinner together, which was really nice to have something that we all got dressed up for and were enjoying together. But after that, it’s been pretty low-key. People have already left for home these past few days, like Liana. Some I wasn’t able to say goodbye to, some I was. Frankly, I’m not that upset. I know this is the end of a period of my life and that I will never be in Italy with these people again, but that really doesn’t bother me. I know we will see each other over the summer and at school. I mean, I’m going to see Caroline this weekend down the shore. So I’m really not that emotional for once in my life. I’m usually very anti-change and anti-endings, and my history certainly proves that. But this time I’m very content with what I’ve experienced and am ready to return home. Actually, now that I think about it, it still boils down to the whole anti-change thing. This whole time here has been sorta chaotic with no real schedule or any routine. In a way, I’ve never really settled because I’ve been on the go since January. So returning home in a way allows me to stop the madness and return to some form of normalcy.

Home. Ah, I cannot wait to get home. Absolutely positively CANNOT wait. I cannot wait for sushi, soy milk, green tea, nature valley bars, TiVo, cable, driving, and a million other things. Oh yeah, and my family and friends ;] Everything I’ve said before in this blog still remains true, so I don’t have much more to add to that. I love Italy and it’ll always remain a very important part of my identity, but I’ll be back here in August. Right now, I need me some America.

You wanna know one of the things I’m looking forward to the most when I return? Getting called up by the customs officer, having him look at my passport, smile at me, and say “Welcome home.”

Wow, so that’s it. I’m just about done. Maybe I’ll keep this up, maybe I won’t. But I sincerely thank you for following me on this journey. Hopefully there are more to come. As always, Faithful Readers, I bid you farewell and will see you stateside =]

Luck

I had a moment this morning on the train to Milan on my way to Amsterdam for the weekend. I started thinking about life and came to grips with just how absurdly lucky I am. Yes, there’s the obvious. I’ve been living in Italy for the past four months. I’ve traveled all over Europe (and Africa) with my friends. I’ve experienced things most people only dream about. But I’m lucky in many other ways, some not so obvious. I have a family that would do anything for me, and I mean anything. I have a mom who leaves post its scattered throughout my bag saying she misses me. I have a dad who sends me letters in the mail that he draws himself. I have a grandma who missed the baptism of her great grandchild to come and see me. I have an incredible group of friends at home who have already planned a huge party once we’re all home for good. I have a boyfriend of over a year who still takes me on surprise dates. I go to one of the best schools in the country and have met some of the most important people in my life there. And most importantly, I’m happy. Not just whatever happy, but sincerely happy and content with everything in my life. It’s all pretty unbelievable if you really think about it, just how good I have it.
This is why I want to go home. Because even though I’ve been heard to bitch and complain about some things, my life is just about as perfect as you can get. This I what I’m thinking about with less than a week left abroad. I’m pretty lucky.

I don’t think that there are any limits to how excellent we could make life seem.
Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything is Illuminated (via bookmania)

Rome and Paris

So Here We Are

This is gonna be more of a feeling post rather than what I actually did these past 3 weeks. I know my last post was about being homesick, and if you think I’m stuck up and ungrateful for being in Italy and complaining about how I want to go home, then it’s probably best to stop reading this now. But for those of you who can somehow understand that I’m not a selfish brat but really a lonely someone who loves her family and friends so much that I actually get pains in my chest when I think of reuniting with them, then maybe you can understand why I’m writing this.

As of getting back from spring break until now, I’ve had a pretty big dose of home. My mom and nonni came to visit the week after I got back from Prague. I then went to Rome for 6 days with Graham to see Bianca for her 21st. Then two days later I flew to Paris with Graham again to see Divya who I haven’t seen since December. I see myself acting as a different person when I’m with people from here and when I’m reunited with people from home. Here I’m more reserved (a word I would have never attributed to myself EVER). I’m still snarky, brutally honest, and completely full of myself, but I’ve stopped drinking. Now you may be saying that’s a good thing, especially for my pleading liver, because I think we all know the borderline alcoholism we all display in Boston. But when I drink, I let loose. In Boston, I’m with my best friends, and when we all drink together we let go and have very simply good old fashioned fun. It’s not about getting drunk, but sharing those moments together when you can laugh or do things and not care about what others think because in the end they’re your friends and will love you no matter what. I cant do that here. I’m not saying that I’m not comfortable or that I don’t like anyone. It’s just not the same. Here, if I drink, I get sad. I’m reminded of the times I’ve shared with my friends at home. But in Rome we went out to a gay karokee bar and drank and I had a ball. In Paris we went to a bar and a club under a bridge next to the Seine and we drank and danced and acted stupid and I was happier than I had been in a while.

Drinking is just one example of many. I love Italy, even though it has its quirks. But it’s not home. I don’t know how else to say it. My friends, my family, my life, everything that has any meaning is back in the states, in Boston, in New Jersey. I feel like I’ve lost part of my identity because everything I am is centered on the people that mean something to me, who I haven’t seen since January. It hurts.

I know I’m lucky. God, I’ve been to over 7 countries in 4 months. I’ve paraglided in Switzerland, drank Guinness in Ireland, casually gazed upon the David and the Sistine Chapel, rode camels and watched the sunrise on a sand dune in the Sahara dessert, celebrated my 21st in Madrid, tanned on the beaches of Ischia, watched the USA v. Italy soccer game in Genova, strolled through the Roman Forum, ate macaroons and escargot in Paris, had drinks in one of the most exclusive bars in Prague, and have eaten like a queen here in Parma. In 10 days I’m going to Amsterdam for my last excursion in Europe. This experience has been once in a lifetime. But a very big thing I’ve learned is it’s not where you are, it’s who’s there to share it with you. So I hope you can see that I’m not complaining about anything. I just miss home. I miss the familiar. I miss feeling completely and utterly at ease. I miss the faces and interactions of my friends and family. I miss my life.

My friend Alec said something very insightful to me recently. All of us are like a machine of sorts, and when we’re not all together the pieces don’t operate properly. How amazing is it that I have people in my life that can only live fully once we are all together? For this to be true shows just how lucky I am. I’m lucky for this abroad experience. But I’m even luckier to have the family and friends that I’ll be coming home to because i realize they are absolutely essential for my happiness. Without those that mean so much to me, I have nothing. So that’s it. Those are my thoughts at the moment. If you’ve reached this point, I hope I’ve explained myself well enough. Only 18 more days, America. I hope you’re ready for me, because I’ll be greeting you with open arms and probably tears in my eyes. Because there’s nothing like seeing that old friend after so much time apart. That’s all for now, Faithful Readers.