Monday, February 8, 2010

Milano and the Alps

Leaving Rome at 3AM for a 630 flight has its downside, but in reward, I arrived in Milan an hour later. My friend Marta was ready and waiting to pick me up and bring me to her house north of Milan about an hour. I was not ready for the weather in Milan though. It was snowing and foggy...much different than my temperate Rome I left behind. I was excited though for a new city and the new experiences that were to come. To my utter joy, the whole car ride was in italian. I was thrilled at the thought of spending three days at her house where only italian is spoken! What exercise for my vocabulary and grammar!! I quickly found out that they don't get many Americans up north of Milan who speak italian because everytime I met someone and said literally "ciao" they shout enthusiastically, "O my God, great Italian!" This was odd to me coming from Rome where every once in a while someone comments on it...but here, it was incredible, talk about an ego booste--geese. I was some kind of king up there! It made me sad though at the same time because it really shows that Americans feed into the stereotype and just speak english...I will change this, and I am.

I met the family of Marta and they were so generous and nice to me. They loved that I could speak with them in Italian too, although in the beginning I struggled with the speed and the form of speaking. Marta and I then went to tour the town and we ran into one of her friends and we got a coffee. Italian english...I just about died of exuberant joy. And little did I know this was just the beginning! That night for dinner, we went to a chinese restaurant with about 10 of her friends! Wow...Lots of Italian, really really fast, and lots of confusion. But I loved it. It is what I live for. I loved trying to figure everyones accent and method of speaking. It was a game to me, to understand and respond in turn changing my roman to Milanese. After listening for hours, I could understand more and more while mimicking their accents. It didn't matter what they were talking about or what was happening, only that my brain was whirring and computing speeds, pitches and accents, unkown words and comfortable phrases, putting them together and forming complete sentences and logical conversations. I was in heaven. This was what I longed for in Rome, a group of Italians like this. Within two hours, I spoke and heard more than three weeks in Rome. My crutch of 5 american roomates was starting to irk me. Honestly the transformation of my italian in such a short amount of time shocked me. I never stopped asking Marta questions, and I never hesitated to talk, even when it was wrong. Just speaking italian made me so content I was not ready for the beautiful grandiose alps.

The alps rose up in the distance, gigantic, enormous, and blanketed with powdery white snow. As we passed Lake Como on the left, the mountains began closing in around us, shutting out the sun, and drawing long shadows on the ground. Making our way up to a skiing mountain we twisted and veered with the road ascending the monster that was one of the mighty alps. Little rustic mountain houses snuck into cracks and crevices where they could, taking advantage of the protection of rock on either side. I could not stop staring, fixated by the power of these mountains. The village we pulled into was small but warm. Snow covered rooves and terraced yards. It is amazing how they can bend nature to their will, but yet at the same time, it looks weak and fragile next to the enormity of the surroundings. The brief glimpses of the sun beyond the peaks was the only reminder we were not swallowed by the range. Those breif glimpses though reflected off the snow sending a brilliant light in all directions, illuminating the colors and rocks to reveal a beauty pictures could never capture. Then, we arrived at the top of the mountain after a brief ride on the lift. I could see for miles and miles in every direction. Snow capped mountains and valleys with streams of clean crisp water layed before me. It was so surreal that I just stood there in shock. The whole day for me was spent in awe of the immensity and power of the Alps. I loved my time there and learing of the "mountain food" which is very heavy and full of carbs. The elevation made me tired, and so on the return trip I slept in the car.

That night, went out with all of Marta's friends. Yet another night of Italian, but this night I was noticably better at comprhension and speaking, already massive imporvements filled me with pride and accomplishment! One of her friends bought me an Absinth shot...that is what is in the shot glasses in the picture. Then they lit them on fire, followed by the three of us drinking them and feeling the green acid burn our throats and simmer in our stomachs...check that one off the bucket list...

The next day we went to Milan by train. Exiting the train I was ready to feel the differences that every city holds, and Milan was no exception. The first thing that hit me other than the sun rising in the east, was the cleanliness of the streets. Milan was aboslutely spotless in comparison to Rome. It was actually an oddly discomforting feeling. I love the character the graffiti holds, and how it is perceived. Milan though seemed very businesslike and to the point. This did not detract form the architecture though, which I find in all of Italy amazing and almost impossible. The streets were full of shops of fashion and art. Tourists flocked around the Duomo which I approached in silence, marveling at its gothic design and noting the differences of the Florence Duomo. Such diversity in every aspect! Just amazing! I reached the top and snapped photos which don't capture the heavy age and gothic chill. I loved Milan, but Rome still captures me and will not let go.

I arrived back here in Rome at 730AM after leaving Marta's house at 3AM. I navigated the transportation to a T, and was more fluent in Italian by miles than before. I feel like I have accomplished so much, yet there is still so much more! Rome now is so comforting because of its familiarity. I am able to use every form of transportation with ease, and I at times, I almost feel the city was made just for me.

Now it is back to the grind of planning the next trip and as usual discovering Rome. I can't believe I am here still. I am so comfortable its scary. I feel bad for the others because they have no idea that the language barrier blocks so much more than language. There is a complete disconnect they don't feel like I do. The language is a living thing that reveals everything about a culture and can carry with it thoughts and emotions not able to be expressed in the rigid english words we have grown up speaking. I am trying to teach the guys the importance of it all in order to fully be immersed in this life. We have much time still, and I await the future advances of our knowledge and experience. Ciao for now everyone! (Shoutout to Elyise and Cara!!! HEY!)


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