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Monday, 9 September 2013

La Dolce Vita

Almost ten years ago at the age of 18, I took a trip to Italy. I fell in love and knew I had to live in this beautiful country one day. Fast forward five years of Uni, four years of living abroad and working in various International Schools...and here I am, living in Italy!!

The past two weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind with jam packed days, a few obstacles, a case of bed bugs and a bit of homesickness for the first real time in four years.

 After an over night flight from Toronto-Frankfurt-Milan, myself and three other new teachers from Ontario arrived in our new city. It was great to have others to travel with. I’ve gotten so used to traveling alone, that I forgot how much more fun it is when you’re with others! We were greeted at the airport and had a mini bus waiting to bring us and all of our luggage to our apartments. The following evening our school director brought all of the new teachers out for a lovely Italian meal (lots of pizza and wine!). There are a fair number of new teachers -mostly Canadian, but also teachers from the US and Scotland. It is great to have instant friends and we are conveniently all living within walking distance of one another and our school.

The next day our school brought us on a walking tour of Milan, treated us to gelato and showed us the main attractions like the Duomo. The staff at the school have been amazing. So many friendly and welcoming faces. The teachers seem like a really fun group of people who love to socialize. After our tour the owners of the school arranged a cocktail night at a bar downtown (which happens to be one of the biggest bars in the world). Here we met the whole staff, were treated to drinks and a lot of REALLY good food. Italians definitely know how to enjoy themselves!

The next day we traveled to Lago Maggiore which is North of Milan and close to the Swiss border. We spent the next three days doing workshops, taking walks along the water and through the village, singing karaoke and indulging in more wine and food! What a beautiful setting to kick off the school year. 
Sadly, during our time at the lake I received news that my Grandmother had passed away. It was definitely one of the first times I felt extreme homesickness and wished I could hop on a flight to be with my parents. Thankfully, I had just been in Newfoundland the week prior to leaving for Italy and saw my Grandmother for one last time. This and the fact that my Grandmother lived a long and incredible life brought me a lot of comfort and made it easier to accept being so far away at this time. 

Our time at the lake came to an end and we headed back to Milan. I had only slept in my apartment two nights prior to the lake and both mornings woke up with weird bites. While at the lake it was confirmed that my apartment was infested with bedbugs (one of my biggest fears). So upon returning to Milan, my roommate and I were put up in a hotel while our place was fumigated. Thankfully, our beautiful apartment is now bug free and after several nights of waking up at 3am in a panic and checking my mattress for bugs, I can now sleep much sounder! 

This past week at school we have been busy with more workshops, meetings and classroom/lesson planning preparation as the children will start school this Thursday. I will be teaching Grade 2 again (my favourite) and I am SO excited to meet my little Italian kiddies! The school is a PYP IB school which has been a career goal of mine for some time. I am looking forward to learning a new curriculum and approach to teaching!

The first two weeks have flown by and I feel like I haven’t stopped once. On the weekend a group of teachers and myself participated in the Colour Fun Run. It was a 5k run/walk through Milan (known as the happiest 5k in the world). After each kilometer you enter a fun zone where you get doused in a different colour of powder paint. It was definitely a great way to spend a sunny (and extremely hot) Saturday. The following night we had a pizza party at our apartment with our teacher friends and then went to a concert/party in a forest.

 After a busy first two weeks I am really looking forward to some quiet and relaxing time. A few of us are planning a trip to the sea side in a few weekends so we can explore, relax and soak in this beautiful Mediterranean sunshine. The travel opportunities here are endless. Those who know me well, know my love for travel and maps! I have strategically placed a world map next to my bed. Any early morning I wake up grumpy and not wanting to get out of bed, I plan to look at my map and remind myself of where I am and the opportunities that surround me! Looking forward to the adventures to come in the next two years of my Italy chapter and living my European dream. Stay tuned for updates!

Random Facts:

1. There are many transvestite prostitutes in my neighbourhood...and it is pretty entertaining to see what outfit they have on each night.

2. Italians eat supper around 8:00 or later. Restaurants don’t even open until 7pm.

3. Most stores/restaurants close for a few hours in the afternoon.

4. The bartender at the pub near our place already knows mine and my roommate’s names!

5. Not as many people speak English in Milan as I expected.

6. People here assume I speak Italian - unlike Jakarta where I stuck out like a sore thumb and nobody expected me to speak Bahasa. 

7. I will be starting Italian lessons soon!

8. Wine IS cheaper than water in many places.

9. The phrase “Welcome to Italy” is used extremely often when referring to how slow things are here. However, when I lived in the Bahamas I often heard “Welcome to the Island Life” and when I lived in Indonesia I often heard “Welcome to Indonesia”. I am beginning to think it isn’t the rest of the world that is “slow”, it is North America that is “fast”. 

10. Living without internet is REALLY hard!!! (Hoping to get it installed in the apartment soon)

11. Aperitivos are very common. This is when you go to a bar in the afternoon and pay for a cocktail or glass of wine and food is served with your drink. It’s like the Italian version of afternoon tea..except with booze! We’ve already had a few and I see many more in my future.

12. It seems like everyone in Milan has a dog. Wishing I could get a puppy!!!
13. It is way hotter than I expected. The temperatures mixed with the humidity and the lack of a/c everywhere (because apparently Italians think a/c makes you sick) is just like being back in the Bahamas...without the beach!

14. My new favourite snack is melon wrapped in proscuitto. If you have never had it, TRY IT!
15. Living in Italy seems like it will be a fairly easy transition since there aren't really any cultural shocks here.

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