Saturday, December 12, 2009

Reaching the End

Travel journal entry written for my Lit class, "Italy and the Literary Imagination."

They say that when you travel, it's time to depart as soon as you begin to feel at home.  I thought I'd skipped ahead.  I'd fallen into a Roman rhythm, a rut that was familiar and endearing, and I missed it when I left the city for ten days on Fall Break.  But another month has passed, and things have changed again.

Each day I've sunken deeper into intimacy with the ancient city.  What began as a spark has transformed into a pulsating flame, which is fueling a cavernous range of emotions.  My eyes tear up when I think of leaving, but I also miss home more desperately than ever.  Yesterday, Jade and I made French toast for lunch and went out for Chinese at night, but I'm dreading the day when I won't have access to fresh, amazing Italian food every day of the week.  6:30 am on December 22 shifted from an indefinite point in the foggy future to a week from Tuesday.  That scares and excites me in amounts that I don't have the ability to measure.

I've been asked "How's Italy?" and "How do you like Rome?"  When I'm home the questions will remain, although they'll unfortunately be shifted into the past tense.  Italy is a foreign country, foreign in so many tangible ways, with the better and worse inextricably bound together.  Who am I to delineate, itemize and judge?  It wouldn't duplicate the experience.  But no one wants to repeat the past few months of my life.  Something small, candy-coated and easy to swallow will do just as well.  In my reflections, I try to be honest.  I say that I've grown up this semester, grown more confident and independent; that Italy is beautiful; that Rome is a rich old city with endless churches, museums and monuments to explore.  I can dredge up a few anecdotes if they ask for more detail.

Soon I won't be able to end the questioning by logging off Skype or closing Facebook.  I won't walk down Via Giulia in the morning, dodging speeding motorcycles, quickening my pace every time I check my watch, certain I'll be late for class.  I won't order una piccola coppia di gelato and wince when I hear the American pronunciation, juh-law-dough (particularly when it slips from my own mouth).  I won't worry about whether the grocery store is still open when I want to make dinner.  I won't watch the news in puzzlement, trying to figure out what story is being covered.  I won't experience the bliss of a sunny winter afternoon in Rome, mercifully free of snow and gloom.  I won't wake up and fall asleep in my own room with fifteen-foot-high ceilings.  Soon I'll be home, with my memories and pictures and the building blocks of a new language.  And I'll live another life that will bear great similarity to the one I led before.  There will be differences, subtle and grand, because I've changed.  But I can't take everything home: Italian people and places will remain rooted in Italian soil, and while I'll spend months trying to articulate what I experienced abroad, I'll never make anyone understand completely.  I might not even get it myself.

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