Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mia Familia (Roman Style)

It’s been a few days since my last update, so I’m just going to ramble on without structure and hope you enjoy. On Tuesday, my cousin, her boyfriend, and her best friend Liz who is also currently living in Italy were waiting for me at the Bed and Breakfast on my street. They came all the way from Canada baring gifts! Well, kind of. My mom gave them a huge bag of things for me including my high school yearbook, candy, chocolate, a letter, heat taming spray so I can finally straighten my hair on a more regular basis without damaging my luscious locks, some bed t-shirts (I was an idiot and didn’t pack anything to wear to bed except pj bottoms), some magazines, and other cute little surprises. I didn’t have to start work until 5:30 that night so we had a few hours to go downtown which we weren’t expecting, since I thought I would only have a few hours to spare. I took them to all the usual places – the Spanish Steps, Via Condotti, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon. Derrell  is obsessed with Ferrari so we spent some time in one of the stores. I know a lot of men in this world have to spend their time shopping with their girlfriends, sisters, and wives and the favour is generally not returned in the women accompanying men into ‘fun men’ shopping. ‘Fun men’ shopping consists of going into stores where they sell porn, food, or anything with cars (another theory of mine). So we let Derrell do his thing, while Liz and I pretended to not be shocked at the prices. “Do you want this 20 Euro pencil, Liz? I’ll buy it as an early Christmas present if you kind of like it…” 
Oh, happy day!
We of course ate at my favourite gelato shop, Fridgidarium. I share this place with everyone I can, and when I came the lady who works there recognized me right away. I didn’t even need to tell her what I wanted, when I walked into the shop she got out a large cup (not ashamed to share what size of gelato I get online) and filled it with armerena and dipped it in hot nutella. I have a warm, fuzzy feeling in my heart just thinking about it. We also ate lunch at this incredible outdoor restaurant where I got spaghetti. Roman food is very simple, but in my opinion, is the best cuisine in the entire world. Let me give you a detailed account of what this lunch was actually like… I bought a bottle of red wine and drank the whole thing. If you think I'm an alcoholic, I'm not. But once you taste Italian red wine, mmmm… It was rich and velvety, and slid down my throat with no effort what so ever. It had notes of raspberry and paired perfectly with my spaghetti. I get so excited when I talk about food, but fortunately I haven’t put on much weight (maybe 5 pounds. Or 10. Who cares?) because I am constantly walking everywhere and have gotten better with my jogs. I also avoid the cookies, cakes and pies for breakfast and opt for some fruit, cereal, and tea. 
Really, it would be impossible for me to “cut out” carbs which I could never do even if I had an allergy to gluten. I love fresh bread pulled from the baker’s oven on my street and the ooey-gooey-doughy but somehow still floppy pizza that is handmade and blanketed with fresh mozzarella and rich tomato sauce that was probably jarred from the owner's nona's tomato garden. At least that’s what I like to imagine, but let’s get back to my spaghetti. I get so sidetracked when it comes to food, I can go on and on and on. My spaghetti was long, skinny, and even when I had to much on my fork, I shoved it in my mouth anyway because it’s just. That. Good. It was smothered in that delicious smooth tomato sauce from nona’s garden and had lettuce leaf sitting proudly in the centre of it, as if to contrast the red of the spaghetti and say, “I am in the middle of the best thing you are ever going to eat in your entire life.”
Throughout the day, Liz was giving me tips on places to go in Salzburg because I mentioned I’d be there over Christmas Break. She lived there for 3 months and gave me the names of a couple places I should check out. Before I get to ahead of myself, let me tell you that my cousin’s boyfriend, Derrell, is a chef. I think she’s very intelligent for dating him for this reason alone, although he is also very intelligent and looks identical to Chris Martin from Coldplay, one of my all time favourite bands. Throughout the lunch he kept making comments on what he thought about his meal, and about Italian food, and hearing him talk about it while eating it was one of the most fulfilling moments of my life. I remember back home in Canada when my sister and I were talking about how much we love food, a conversation we have had on numerous occasions. It sounds like a ridiculous thing to say, but whoever thought about making food taste DELICIOUS was a GENIUS. My sister and I send our sincere thanks to this person. I love food.
We had plenty of free time to roam around the city on Wednesday because I had the day off, and so we decided to go to the Vatican. The weather was surprisingly beautiful and when we got there, the line up was a disaster. I mean a COMPLETE zig zag of people from all over the world waiting to get their prayer on. This little American woman with the most adorable cream coloured jacket I have ever seen came up to us and invited us to join her tour, and so we paid the extra money to cut the line and get a little history lesson during our time inside. It was totally worth it because we didn’t wait long and we learned all the important details about the history of the Vatican, the art inside, dirty little secrets about previous Popes… It was interesting and I really enjoyed it. My favourite part was of course the Sistine Chapel, but there were so many sculptures, fresco's and tapestry’s to admire that the entire day was just wonderful. But more than the history and the appreciation of Catholic tradition (which I don’t follow but again, I can appreciate it) was being with people from home. 
I got to spend time with my family, people who are currently living over 4,000 miles away from me. They all kept flattering me by how well I know the city and how brave I am for doing this at 18 years old. I don’t realize myself how crazy this is because it would be even crazier for me to be sitting in University right now. Coming to Rome and living the Italian lifestyle is exactly what the doctor ordered. I love it, and I know that I would’ve deeply regretted not doing this if I hadn’t taken this risk. It’s also amazing to me to see how much I’ve changed since I first arrived 
The test results are in, and you
need to go to Italy.

six weeks ago. I was so scared, lost, and seemed hopelessly confused about the traffic and bus systems. Well, here I am, 6 weeks later, walking across the streets with bravery like a real Roman and dodging the annoying street vendors with ease. I could make my way around this city blind, drunk, sleeping and backwards. I understand the buses and basically, I know what I’m doing now. And let me tell you, it is the best feeling in the world to be in control of my own life and be independent. I’ve learned to be my own best friend here, and I’m not saying I haven’t made incredible new friends here or that I’ve forgotten about the ones back home. But I am learning so much about myself that I don’t think I would’ve discovered had I stayed home where I’m ‘comfortable.’
Here I go again, losing my train of thought. So today was my family’s last day in Rome before they moved on to tour other Italian cities, and so of course we went to the Colosseum. I’ve been waiting forever to do this and decided to wait until my family got here. I’m so happy I did because I got to enjoy it with people I know and love. We joined another tour, but really just because we wanted to skip the hour long line. Erica and I weren't too interested in our
tour guide, though. His facts weren't that interesting and he wasn't that exciting, so while he was talking,
we had a little photo shoot. After I
took a sad picture of Erica sitting on a rock with a sad expression, she says, "Awe... I look unappreciative." Well, what I was unappreciative of was how this unenthusiastic man answered his blackberry while we were sitting around him on rocks, looking like kids at a campfire who's counselor was in the middle of telling a not-so-scary 
ghost story and then stopped to answer his phone. Really,
though? He did give us some interesting facts on the history of toilet paper, though, I'll give him that. Also, we became quite amused by this domestic dispute between two Eastern Europeans. Only the one woman was actually crazy, which wasn't hard to tell from her over dramatic cries, her hopeless up do, and her bright purple fur coat. I guess it was a combination of them all that gave it away. She kept yelling at her sister/love/friend/enemy (who knows), and the other one kept walking away. 
The Colosseum itself was amazing and we had a really nice last day together. At the end of it, they walked me to Piazza Venezia so I could catch my bus, and that's when the waterworks started. Not a Niagara Falls amount of water pouring from my eyes, just a few tears. I had a really wonderful time seeing my family, familiar faces from Canada, and I loved being able to show them around my new 'home'. But it made me sad because I won't see them until June, and that's a whole seven months away. They're going back on the other side of the world to be with the rest of mia familia. Which means that I am left halfway across the world to be in solitude, and alone. Not exactly though, because my au pair friends and I are planning to go to this art-café-bar club thing tomorrow, so I am definitely not alone. But it was nice to have some people who understand the place I call home, and that hasn't happened since I was... Well, since the day I left, really. But once May hits, my sister and parents are coming as well, and a woman from the United States sent me a personal e-mail saying that she stumbled upon my blog accidentally and is now in the midst of planning a trip to Italy because I inspired her to. I am louring so many people into Italy, that I personally believe the government should hire me to increase the tourism business, which I have booming for the next year. I believe (as well as Italians, of course) that you should enjoy, enjoy, and enjoy. In my opinion, this word is never used enough in one's vocabulary. Basically, do something that makes you happy. Whether it be giving into that sugary piece of cake (hey, why not?) or spending 9 months traveling and living in the country that invented the meaning of 'pleasure', why not? Nobody has ever once told me that by spending this time away from home, I'm being selfish or irresponsible. In fact, responsible is exactly so. I needed to get out and experience new things and try new foods and meet new people that I could never meet while biking through my little town. I have to say... Life isn't too shabby for MichElle.

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