One of my goals was to blog more. Yet, here I am, eight months since my last blog. I have attempted to write several drafts, trying to put this experience into words, but have come out empty. I honestly have no idea how to put the last six months into cohesive sentences. (First of all, I cannot believe I have been here for six months already. Where has the time gone?) So much has happened and I am still trying to process it all.
Six months ago I moved to Rome, Italy. I moved over 4,000 miles away from the familiarity of home to follow my dreams. I packed my life into two 49.5lb bags (still proud of that feat), and boarded American Airlines flight 110 from Chicago to Rome. I was lucky enough to sleep for most of that flight, as sleep has been treasured and scarce ever since. I moved into a dorm room on the fourth floor of the same building I had been a student in three years prior. I decorated my walls with my postcard collection and photos of my family and friends. I sweat more than I have ever sweat in my life those first few weeks--morning, day and night. I (somehow) assimilated to the crazy roman humidity and heat as my hair turned into an afro, and I survived without air-conditioning on 100 degree days.
My favorite heat related moment was one evening that my coworkers and I were going out for dinner. We were getting ready to leave for our favorite restaurant, La Villetta, and I briefly stepped outside to decide what I should wear. The air felt chilly that October evening, so I decided to don jeans, a t-shirt, and grabbed my leather jacket for good measure. I was sure it was around 55 degrees. As we waited at the bus stop I checked the weather app on my phone and was shocked to read that it was actually, 72 degrees. That was one of the first moments I felt Italian--Italians dress for the season, not for the weather.
I have been challenged in ways I did not expect. Learned that it is very hard to live in the same building that I work in, to live with my five other coworkers as well as 220 college students that I am essentially responsible for. I have made exploring the city a priority. I have adapted to living on little sleep. I have survived an Italian emergency room experience with a student, twice. I realized how awful my Italian was last August, but have also realized how much it has improved since. I can understand exponentially more now than I could six months ago. I led a group of 18 students to a rural town in Campania where there was no cell service/internet and no one spoke English. (All 18 students survived and had a blast) I talk more with my hands. I run an intramural soccer league for 150 people. I cut nine inches of my hair off and loved it. Dyed my hair the wrong color and hated it. I am planning a school sponsored trip to take students to Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia. My coworkers and I have gone from being six strangers to six friends. I took my first solo trip, and I liked it so much, I took another. I have eaten more pasta, pizza, gelato, and pane than I ever would have thought possible. I have made local friends. I tutor an Italian family in English. I walk everywhere.
I have had the opportunity to travel to places I had only previously dreamed of. I hiked all cinque of the Cinque Terre. Gazed at more stars than I ever knew existed in the mountains of Cusano Mutri. My best friend came to visit and we took a five day trip to Croatia. I booked a flight to Berlin, by myself. I traveled to London to visit my cousin before Christmas. My dad and sister came to Rome for a week and we had the time of our lives. I flew to Munich, Germany for a weekend alone, fell in love, pretended to be a princess, and saw the town that my ancestors came from.
Here I am now, sixth months into this crazy journey, and I still have to remind myself constantly that I live in Rome. Every time I get on a 990 bus that rattles so loudly I can't hear my thoughts, I tell myself to laugh. Even though that awful ATAC bus sounds like it is going to fall apart into pieces the next cobblestone pothole that it slams into; I am riding a bus in Rome. I don't know how I got so lucky, but I promise, I am living with purpose. I am living in the moment, I am not taking this experience for granted, and I am ready to see where the next six months will take me.