Friday, August 28, 2009

Two days...

...twenty-one hours, and fifty-three minutes until my flight departs for Rome.

I saw my sister and father off at the airport early this morning. They're going to Seattle, to go to our cousin's funeral, visit family and spend time with friends. Nathan was 26 and now that the shock is fading, I'm still racked with grief at his death. I'm glad that they get to go and represent our family, even if I can't be there.

That said, the last twenty-four hours I've only slept an hour or two here and there, so I'm exhausted and not getting much done. I'm upset with the financial aid office, frustrated with packing, putting off doing the laundry, and generally grumpy. I did find a great way to entertain myself the other day, using an automated simplified Chinese translator. You put in a sentence in English, then translate it back and forth until it morphs into something unrecognizable but hysterical. For instance, the first sentence in this paragraph became: "My each rank dormancy 1:00 number or counts two before 24:00, therefore I exhaust with obtaining the execution." Here's another: "I'm leaving for Rome so soon that I'm afraid my head will explode if I think about it too much" became "Which I forgot that my situation concerns me to be afraid generates Rome rapidly, if I also considered." It's like computer Telephone, and it's immensely fun. Give it a try.

I took this photo at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden the other day (full album here), and it was published on Amherst's intranet today, which also made me happy.

But I don't feel like packing, or cleaning, or doing laundry, or even reading or practicing Italian vocabulary, so I'm feeling like a useless blob, and extremely tired at that. And the clock just keeps ticking.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Meet Jade

Today I received an e-mail informing me that I have a roommate, Jade Ang. I was a little surprised, since I'd been assuming I'd be on my own in the homestay. That was the plan, but when she called her host mother yesterday, the woman said that she'd changed her mind and could no longer host a student! So last-minute scrambling landed her with me. We're on the same flight to Rome, she speaks some Italian, and I'm psyched to have a roommate!

Jade called our host mom and she apparently speaks pretty good English, which definitely makes me more comfortable, even though I'm planning to take every opportunity to practice Italian. Okay, okay...not every opportunity, just, you know, quite a few.

Forget about worrying. Looks like this semester is going to work out!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Santa patata, a cosa stai pensando?!

(Or, Holy potato, what are you thinking?!)

I've changed my facebook language to Italian.

This is not a big deal. I can figure out that 'Gio' is Thursday and 22.20 is 10:20 pm. I know that 'oggi' means 'today' and, shit, I can translate almost anything when it's in exactly the same place as it's always been, even if the words aren't familiar. But it's reminding me that there will be a lot of little things that are going to be different over the next few months. It's the first of many changes to come.

I actually made a lot of progress today: filling out forms, acquiring property insurance mostly so that if anything happens to my laptop I won't have to live long in a state of Internet deprivation (it's questionable that I would live for long, really), making a detailed packing list that's forced me to start making painful decisions about which books to bring along, and trying to hold off the freaking-out point that I'm dangerously close to. I'm not sure what level of freaking out this one's going to be, but I've had a few already, and I think I'm due for a big one.

There are lots of reasons to freak out. There's also a pretty good reason not to: it doesn't help in the slightest. However, this rationale does not fully eclipse the crazy situations I'm concerned about: what if I can't communicate with my host family? What if I hate Italian food, or it makes me sick? What if I get lost between the airport and my homestay? What if all of my stuff gets lost? What if I get there and find that I've packed way too much? What if I leave something very, very important behind? What if I'm going to a foreign country where I don't speak the language and don't know anybody? OH, WAIT. Yeah...I signed up for this.

Okay, those are some of the things that could go wrong the first day.

I'll spend a couple more days relaxing. Maybe I'll schedule the freak-out for Friday. That seems pretty reasonable, right? So, on Friday, you should call me up and calm me down, or send me a really funny e-mail. Or just fix all the paperwork and take my place on my flight to Rome and get me settled in at Amherst; that works too.

Arrivederci, amici. I'm in for quite a ride.

Monday, August 24, 2009

One week to takeoff!

This is the apartment building I'll be living in this semester: Piazza San Cosimato, 40, in Trastevere, Rome, Italy. I leave in just one week!

Today I finished reading "An Italian Education," by Tim Parks. I was very proud of myself for translating these lines, graffiti that Parks' daughter came across:

Quello che tu vedi non รจ il mare
Ma il mio amore per te, Amalia.

I haven't learned a great deal of Italian yet, but these words are all simple enough that I've come across them (with the exception of "Amalia," which I correctly guessed is a name). The translation:

That which you see is not the sea
But my love for you, Amalia.

I have one more week to pack, cram in some more Italian language learning, historical and travel reading, and finish approximately four million things that I still haven't made into a to-do list.

At home this week, my sister Brigitta dyed my hair. I was going for dark brown, and she convinced me to go with the darkest brown that we could find. It shouldn't have been a big surprise that, with blond hair dyed blonder for the summer, it ended up turning almost black with the dye. Well, okay, straight-up black that over three days has begun to fade to a very dark brown. I've had light hair for quite a while, and I was ready for something new. And since being blond in Italy might ask for a little more trouble than I want, I figured now was as good a time as any. I'm getting used to it. I don't have enough of a tan to pull it off really well, and I'll go crazy when my roots start growing in, but I definitely like it. It's too bad that I haven't miraculously increased my IQ. At least, I don't think that I have...

Ma, vado in Italia prossimo settimana!