First of all, I want to say that I am sorry. I had visions of blogging during my first week in Rome while sipping on an espresso served out of a cup the size of a thimble at a trendy local bar. I told a lot of people that I would. Needless to say, this did not happen. My brain has been bursting at the seams and I could not fathom attempting to communicate what was happening when I could hardly process it myself. Once I began to feel at home here, I realized that living in Rome is not conducive to quiet time. There is too much to do and see to even think about slowing down for a minute. However I am extremely happy to finally sit down and share some details about these past four weeks. Note: My intention was to share many short and sweet posts, but since I have waited this long to write, the length of this one might get a little out of control. So without further ado….
On Monday, June 1st, I zipped up my two (ridiculously large) suitcases and headed to the airport. Luckily both of my parents joined me for the ride, which was extremely comforting. Cheeseburgers are my kryptonite, so I could not resist indulging for my last meal in America. It was truly scrumptious and my mouth is watering thinking of it now. As I prepared to go through security, the tears began to flow. I knew that it would be difficult to say goodbye, but I assumed the excitement of my upcoming adventure would overshadow any sadness. After a long group hug, I was off. All on my own now with no turning back.
My flight from Houston to Rome had a short layover in Paris. The first flight was over eight hours, but I got incredibly lucky and had an isle to my left and an empty seat to my right. I watched a movie, ate dinner and then curled up in a ball to sleep for the remainder of the flight. After another two hour flight, I was officially in Rome! Waiting for luggage to arrive on the carousel is always more nerve-wracking than it should be, but thankfully both bags showed up without complication. I hopped on a train and headed to an easier pickup location for my host mom. The train took off and I realized that my phone was not working. It would not allow me to roam in another country. Panic ensues. I arrive at the next station and there are no pay phones in sight. I go to a coffee shop at the station and no one speaks english. Great. A man that was buying a coffee realizes that I am stressing out and fortunately knows enough english to communicate about my problem. He lets me use his phone AND buys me a coffee. I think I’m going to like this place. My host mom picks me up in a tiny car and it is no match for my massive suitcases. We craftily squeeze them in and set off for the home. Only two minutes in and I am already terrified. Driving in Rome is not a joke. I thought my life was going to end too many times to count during that 15 minute ride of chaos. Stop signs are optional here, if that helps paint the picture for you.
We live in a small apartment on the top floor of a building located in a nice area a bit north of the center of Rome. It is good to be able to escape the madness of all the summer tourists. I live upstairs in a loft with a double bed and large bathroom. After speaking with other au pairs, I realized I had hit the jackpot with my accommodation setup. A friend of mine humorously describes her room as a cupboard. Downstairs is the living room, dining room and kitchen, which is all one shared space. French doors lead to the parents room, a bathroom and the child’s room. Speaking of the child, meet Emilia! She is 3 years old and loves pinkie fingers a.k.a. “mignolos”. (Emilia is in the pink dress.)
After living in Italy for a month now, I know 10 things to be true.
1. Jet lag is real.
All I wanted to do for the first couple of days was sleep. I took many naps, but did my best to sleep during normal nighttime hours. I am one of those people that can fall asleep anytime and anywhere, which seemed to help. Seven hours of time difference made for a very confusing first few days.
2. Language barriers are real.
Before finding friends here in Rome, I was craving a conversation in english so badly. My host family has limited english (the mom is actively studying though!), so when I am talking to them I have to choose my words wisely in order for them to understand what I am trying to communicate. We all know how I love to talk, so the first few days were torturous in that regard. I never realized the amount of American slang I use until speaking to someone with a different native tongue.
3. Having a breakdown in a foreign country two days after arriving is standard.
Looking back, I’m not entirely sure what triggered it, but I had a full-blown meltdown. I was feeling extremely overwhelmed and out of place and questioning if I should even be here. I felt paralyzed and I could not bring myself to leave my room. After a couple hours of shaking and crying, I finally had a moment of clarity. I began to yell at myself in my head like a mean fitness coach for being such a big baby. This was an odd tactic, but surprisingly it worked. Out the door I went. The idea of navigating public transportation in a foreign place scared the hell out of me, so I walked 2.5 miles to the Pantheon and walked all the way back. I felt proud of myself, but my feet were unhappy and swollen for a few days. Every other au pair that I have talked to said they had the same kind of reaction upon arrival, which made me feel a lot less silly.
4. The men that try to give you roses and put bracelets on you in Piazza del Popolo are without a doubt the spawn of satan.
I walked through the glorious archway for the first time, stars in my eyes, giddy as could be and before I knew it a man had a bracelet tied around my wrist. Of course he immediately asked me for money and I told him “No, I don’t want the bracelet. Take it off me.” He cursed me and told me that I am black inside and will have a terrible life. Look buddy, the only one with a terrible life is you. You scam people for money. Get a real job. *Drops mic*
5. Grey’s Anatomy in Italian is just as sad.
I have not watched much television since I got here, probably because it is all in Italian and my host family does not care for it much. Thankfully there is a plug in for Google Chrome called Hola and I am up to date on The Bachelorette and binge watched Orange is the New Black. I’m a little ashamed to admit that I did not spend that time blogging, but I realized that no matter what country you’re in, you still need downtime. P.S. Piper is now a full-blown certified prison badass. Or she’s about to walk off the psychotic deep end. Can’t wait for season 4.
6. Becoming friends with people from completely different backgrounds is one of the neatest sensations.
It is really amazing how quickly you can click with someone from another part of the world. If you feel like you don’t have friends where you live, get up and move around a bit. There are so many friends to be made that you just haven’t met yet! When you do not have mutual friends, you can spend more time talking about things that matter and less time gossiping about others. It’s super refreshing.
7. Tinder in Rome > Tinder everywhere else
If you aren’t familiar with Tinder, it is a dating app where people in your vicinity will pop up on your screen. You have the option to swipe their photo to the right if you like them or to the left if you do not. Superficial, you ask? Yes. Of course. If you both swipe right for each other, you are considered a ‘match’ and you can now message with one another. Simple enough. Everyone can post a few photos of themselves and a short bio. When I use this app in Houston, it’s pretty much frat central. Button down shirts, Sperrys, and nice smiles. BUT HERE… oh my goodness. There are so many photos of men in speedos posing with their face to the sun on beautiful beaches. Waxed eyebrows paired with complete and utter narcissism constitute an immediate left swipe. If I need a good laugh, Tinder is a great remedy.
8. Italian parenting (in general) is comically different than American parenting (in general).
I have noticed that American parents use the word “no” much more than Italian parents. The Italian parents will explain to their child not to do something, usually without using the word “no”. Not sure if one tactic is better than the other, but I found that interesting. When I first got here, the host mom told me not to hover over her when she is playing (I have heard it called Helicopter Parenting in the states). I think this has made Emilia an extremely independent little girl, which I admire. She reminds me of the spirited Eloise cartoon character.
9. Saying “when in Rome” while doing something stupid feels cooler than not saying it.
This can go without explanation.
10. Video chatting is the greatest gift of all from the technology gods.
Being able to see my parent’s and friend’s faces when I’m over 5000 miles away is truly amazing. When I am having a tough day, knowing they are just a wifi signal away brings me so much comfort. Moving to a new place can be lonely at times, so having them to talk to has made my transition here a million times easier.
In this first month, I have managed to chip my front tooth, get said tooth fixed, develop an obsession with prosciutto, understand the difference between good gelato and bad gelato (in some circles I might be considered a connoisseur), mosey around markets and find incredible deals (€5 pants HECK YES), hunt down a curling iron because they are almost impossible to find, picnic in Villa Borghese, exercise in Villa Borghese (not as fun as the picnic), pick up on many Italian words and phrases, and explore many different neighborhoods of this expansive city.
One of my favorite things that has happened this past month is booking my mom's flight to visit me in August. That's right! She is going to see Italy for the very first time!!!!!
Here are some photos from the past month:
Stay Tuned: Last weekend I traveled to Florence and Pisa, which I will write about and share photos in my next post. Thanks for following my adventure! Ciao! :-)
…or, as Emilia would say, Collina