Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Italian Stereotypes

Before setting foot upon the grounds of Italy, I've heard of quite a few stereotypes about the Italians. But after living among the Italians as a member of the family and a student for 2 months, I've learnt that not all stereotypes about the Italians are true.

So here are some of the stereotypes about the Italians and weather they are true or not.

1. Italians are fashionable

Yes, its true. Italians are definitely fashionable (mostly the girls). They'd usually dress up quite nicely weather its going to school, or work, etc, etc... Plus, the girls would normally wear lots of makeup, which is why they found it strange that I especially don't wear eye makeup in particular (because at the end of the day, I'm afraid of looking like a Raccoon with eye liner and mascara on. So frustrating...).

2. Italians eat pasta everyday

That's mostly true. My host family has been having pasta for lunch almost daily, but once in a while we'd have things like risotto or boiled vegetables. And bread (personally, I think THAT should be their stereotype. There's ALWAYS bread at every meal). But we have many different varieties of pasta (big pasta, small pasta, frilly pasta, pipes pasta, weird pasta, etc, etc,...) using all kinds of recipes. More recipes than I'll ever imagine for pasta...

3. There are a lot of expensive cars on the Italian roads

SO not true. There are no Ferrari, Mercedes Benz, Lamborghini, or any big expensive cars on the road. In fact, its better that way because the roads are so tiny! There's no way you could drive around a big expensive car in the streets of Italy, because the roads are so narrow and its hard to get around. That's why most of the cars are so cute! I did, however, see quite a few mini coopers over there :D

4. Italians are romantic

Omg, YES! Italians are definitely romantic. Its normal for them to show their affections for one another, so kissing in public, holding hands, and going arm in arm is pretty normal to them. Sometimes, they like to sing along to songs like 'O Sole Mio' and other romantic Italian songs. Its just beautiful. Trust me, I've been charmed by quite a few Italian gentlemen, but I won't go into details. Hush, hush!

5. Italians are LOUD

Yes, its true. Italians would normally speak to each other in a loud tone especially in the South, which is where I stayed for the past 2 months. Sometimes I get scared whenever my host family has one of those specially loud conversations (its worst when you don't understand Italian), so I would usually go to my room whenever this happens. I'd rather not get involved in what looks like an argument. Or a discussion on where to place the furnitures.

6. Most Italian men are Mama's boys

 Hmm... that, I'm not so sure. But I can see every reason why most Italian men would wanna stay with their mommy. Like, hello? You've got a place to stay at no cost, free meals, and someone to clean your room and do you laundry for nothing! But I suppose its also because owning a house costs a lot, so they'd wanna save their cash to own one someday.

7. Italians uses a lot of hand gestures

Yeah, that's quite true. I've seen a lot of Italians use this hand gesture in particular most of the time. It means to say 'what?'. Body language in Italy is widely used which is also why most Italians can tell if there's something wrong just by looking at your facial expressions. Trust me, its like as if they could read my mind! Whenever I'm depressed or happy, they would normally ask me what's up even though I try to hide it, its almost scary...

And these are some of the stereotypes I've heard about the Italians. Heard of any others? Do share!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Arrividerci Italia!

I'm back in Malaysia! Sorry for the late update. I've been too busy... and a little depressed to write during my last week in Italy. I miss all my Italian folks so much already. But at the same time, I'm so happy to see my family and friends in Malaysia again.

I've learnt so much during my 2 months in Italy and I've met so many wonderful people there. I dunno why was I so stupid to choose such a short programme knowing very well that I could've taken a year instead. In the beginning, I wanted to go to the USA for a semester, but the interviewer saw my parent's salary and thought we can afford to pay for another programme because they wanted to give the scholarship to the poor kids. 

I agreed to choose another programme and at first I wanted a year programme, but I guess I just panicked at the interview and chose 2 months because thoughts of being away for so long, missing my loved ones and going to a strange place suddenly scared me. That's not like me.

Oh well, I guess God has other plans for me.

Anyway, my last week in Italy was rather emotional. There's just too many goodbyes and I hate goodbyes!

I've experienced so much here and there's so many things I'm gonna miss like 
going to school.

This is the last time I'll ever go to a high school again. I'm gonna miss it terribly.

Looking at the snow

I felt like the luckiest girl in the world to see snow on such a rare occasion in Southern Italy.

Eating a whole pizza to myself

I've never eaten so much pizza within 2 months my entire life. I've never felt so ALIVE being able to finish a pizza to myself! I guess its back to lousy ol' Malaysian pizza for me :(

Playing Tombola or Sinco

I've lost A LOT of money just playing that game because I was struggling with the rules and the language, but I eventually managed to win back some cash. It was all good fun anyways.

My Italian friends

*sigh* I wished I'd been able to go to school more often. Gonna miss them so much.

Lia's friends are so awesome! We had the time of our lives hanging out after school.

Eating Italian food

I'm so hungry right now...

My little Valentine

His name his Chesere (not sure how to spell his name). But he's so ADORABLE!! I was the only one besides his mom who carried him all night, playing superman and hide and seek.

On Valentines day, he took off his little pacifier and gave me a kiss on the cheeks! I fell in love with him instantly (and I don't care if I sound like a pedophile)!

Playing in the Snow

Looking at the snow for the first time was a dream come true. I never imagined I would ever see snow when I found out that my host family lives in the South (which by the way, never snows there). But it did! It was the first time in nearly 30 years, and I was THAT lucky to see it!

Watching movies in Italian

OK, maybe I won't miss it that much, but it was a pretty good experience nonetheless.

Speaking Italian

I've picked up quite a bit of Italian during my stay in Italy for 2 months. Its a shame I won't be using it that often in Malaysia anymore...

But most of all, I'm going to miss...

My host family

I'm going to miss my host family SO MUCH!! They've been so kind to me the whole time. There was never a time when they were ever being unkind to me even once. I'm so touched and I will never forget them.

I'm gonna miss my host brother and sister too. They were the only ones in the family who could communicate with me because they knew a little bit of English. We keep in contact now through Facebook. I do wish Lia hadn't deleted her Facebook account though. I try to talk to her on Skype, but the connection is so bad, we could hardly hear each other. What a nuisance...

And then there's my host parents. Although we couldn't communicate with each other that well because of the language barrier, I really felt we had a connection. 

My host mom has been so nice to me by taking me out to places, showing me her knitted works (she actually does a wonderful job at it), and occasionally giving me things like a four leaved clover or chocolates. My host mom tries to speak to me using what little English she knows, but I appreciate that at least she tried to talk unlike some host families who never talks to the students at all!

As for my host dad, I think he's wonderful. He couldn't speak a word of English, yet he always tries to talk to me at the dinner table. In the beginning, talking to him felt like playing a game of charades with him using hand gestures or pointing out things while I try to guess what he's been trying to tell me. But eventually, I began to understand him better after a few weeks without him acting it out or Lia translating his words. In fact, I actually replied in Italian once in a while so we've had those occasional short conversations together. 

He's also been very generous when it comes to food. Always giving me an extra helping even though I'm already stuffed to the brim. I'm positive he gives me more food than his own kids! One time, he gave me a packet of biscuits to bring to school and when I was about to eat it in class, I found out that he didn't give one to Lia (but he loves his kids anyway)!

So yeah, after saying goodbye to my host family at the train station, I was silently sobbing on the train. I didn't care if I looked like a crazy girl in the cabin, I just didn't want my family to see me cry in front of them. I held my tears until then.

My 2 months experience in Italy was the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to me. I've learnt so much and I think it has also changed my views about the world. I feel so lucky to be able to participate in this Student Exchange Programme and I have no regrets.

Thanks AFS! You have changed my life. Forever...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Winter Wonderland

Omg, omg, omg, OMGEEEEE!!!!!! Its SNOWING!! 

This is the HAPPIEST day of my life! I can't believe its snowing here in Southern Italy. Before we left Malaysia, we were told to expect the unexpected, but sh*t! I never expected SNOW where I am because I've read that the winters in Italy is mild, especially in the south. So its unlikely that its gonna snow, BUT IT DID!

My host dad told me (yes, believe it or not, I actually understood what he said. Finally!) its because of the strong winds from Russia that brought such cold weather all over Europe. Its even snowing in Rome, which apparently is the first time in 27 years!

The weather is so cold, even my school in Avellino is closed because its snowing heavily over there, so nobody could travel about there as its quite dangerous. Honestly, I really wanna go to school because obviously, I wanna see the snow, and also because I wanna spend as much time with my classmates and teachers before I leave for Malaysia.

This is Avellino. The English teacher was there and took a picture for me to check it out. 

Whatever, its snowing here in Sperone too. But only up the mountains which is just about a 5 minute drive from the house. I was so excited the moment I saw the white snow as we got higher, I was literally jumping about in the car. I couldn't wait to get out and run in the snow!

Check it out! I was speechless. I've always wanted to see snow and now my dreams finally came true! I felt like a child again.

Naturally, I HAVE to lay on the snow, take off my gloves and feel the snow. It feels like shaved ice. 

LOOKIE!! My first snowman! I'm so proud :D

The first thing I did in the snow was to build a snowman. I've always wanted to do that. Its easier than I thought because the snow can easily stick to each other quickly. If you press it real hard together, it'll turn into a big ball of ice! Much easier than building a sandcastle.

Meet my new boyfriend. He's gonna be my Valentine this year. 

Love you, handsome. Muah <3 <3

Wanna know why I'm so attracted to my man?

Because my boyfriend has a PHD (Pretty Huge D*ck)! 

Even Lia and her friend, Daniella is having the time of their lives in the snow.

I tried to make a snow angel, but as you can see, I failed miserably. Its harder than I thought. No matter how much I move my arms and legs, I couldn't go any deeper because the snow is already compressed. You can see, however, that I managed to stain the snow blue in color because of my jeans. LOL.

What an adorable snowman! I spotted him on top of somebody's car.

Meet Ilenya. Another of Lia's friends. Honestly, among all of her friends, I personally think Ilenya is my favorite. She's so jolly and cheerful, I couldn't help but like her. But at the same time, I really think I should have a warning before she comes over because she ALWAYS eats my chocolates!

I have a packet of chocolates and another sack of it hidden in my cupboard. I planned to bring it home to Malaysia... assuming she doesn't find it. One time, she actually found my stash when I wasn't around. By the time I came back, I found a pile of wrappers on the table and another half eaten chocolate about to enter her mouth! o.O

I was only gone for minute. I know Italians eat quickly, but damn....

After wrestling for the packet of chocolates, I had to run with it and find a place to hide them!

Despite all that, I still think Ilenya is such a lovable person. Probably because of all that chocolate in her :P

But seriously, I hear that the whole of Europe is going through extreme weather. It so cold, it snowing in Southern Italy and it had already claimed 7 lives in Italy. My Polish pen pal told me that its VERY cold in Poland. If I recall, she said the temperature is between -25C to -15C.

That's cold. VERY cold. A lot of people died because of the cold. I read the news and apparently, even North Africa is affected. Must be bad...

Nonetheless, I actually feel quite lucky to come to Italy at this time because come on! How often does it actually snow in South Italy?? Practically never.

Lia said that in 100 years, this is the 3rd time it snowed here. How good is my luck??

But I do wish I could go to school soon. Its been a while and I'm beginning to get bored of the snow because it restricts people from going to places.

Oh well, might as well enjoy every moment in Italy before I leave, eh?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Things I've learnt in Italy (so far)

How time flies! In exactly 2 weeks, I'll be off to Rome to fly back to Malaysia the next day. The past 6 weeks in Italy had taught me a lot of things, and I'm pretty sure there's more to discover within the next 2 weeks to come.

So off the top of my head, here are some of the things I've learnt in Italy (so far). I've learnt...

1. How to eat a whole pizza to myself

Yes! I did it!! Never before have I ever imagined that I, Anne Cassandra Wong Synpuhn, the girl who hated pizza and never liked cheese, could possibly eat an entire freakin pizza to myself. Never! I felt so happy the first time I took the last bite and see that its gone. 

I'd usually eat up to 3/4 of the pizza, but I've learnt the Italian's technique: just take a quarter of the pizza, fold it in half and eat it quickly. That's how you finish the pizza. I'm so pleased with myself :)

2. Some useful Italian phrases

When you're staying in Italy for a few weeks, knowing a little Italian can take you a long way. Here are some Italian phrases I use often:

Ciao! Come stai? = Hello! How are you?
Parla inglese? = Do you speak English?
Scusa, non parlo bene l'italiano. Parlo inglese. = Sorry, I don't speak Italian very well.  I speak English.
Sono di Malesia = I'm from Malaysia.
Basta = Enough (Its useful especially when your host family is trying to stuff you with food)

and my favorite phrase....

Scusi, posso usare il bagno? = Excuse me, may I use the toilet. 

There are quite a few more Italian words I know, but I speak broken Italian, so the above phrases are definitely the ones I can say perfectly. Not to mention the fact that I've picked up quite a few bad words on the way. Did you know that there are about 10 Italian words for the word 'pussy' alone?

But I'm not teaching any bad words here. Because I'm a good polite well-mannered  OK girl.

So far, I've also learnt how to count up to a hundred, the days of the week, months of the year, and the colors in Italian. Lia has also taught me how to use 'have', 'had', and what not for the grammar in Italian. So I'm slowly but surely learning Italian.

3. How to play Italian 'Bingo'

'Sinco' is my favorite game here. Rules are simple, finish  the pictures on your card when its called out first, and you win! Just like bingo. Except, you need money to play. Unlike Bingo. I've lost quite a few times, but I've won too. At the end of the day, I think I lost more than I won, but for the spirit of the game, I found it quite entertaining.

4. Italian boys pierce their ears to show their masculinity (or gayness)

During my stay in Italy, I noticed that a lot of Italian boys had pierced their ears. Its usually on their left ear. I asked Lia why they do this and she said its because they do that to show that they are a man.

Why the left ear? Because if you pierce your left ear, it shows that you are a straight man. Pierce the right ear, and that means you are gay. It explains a lot because whenever people talk about gay men, they would tug their right ear as a gesture that he's gay.

But if you pierce both ears, its not important. It doesn't show if you're gay or straight. Maybe its to show you're bi?

LOL. I pity the guy who talked himself into piercing his ears and accidentally pierced the wrong one XD

5. Most Italians don't sing their National Anthem

This is something I find quite sad. When I asked my classmates how do they sing their national anthem, they weren't sure about the lyrics and melody of the song! I was quite shocked because in every Malaysian school, we have to sing the National anthem, our state song, and the school song as we watch the flags being raised up the flagpole.

Here, there's no assembly every Monday, or any day of the week. We just go straight for classes. And even if there was a time when the entire school meet up (which is about once a month), they just get together and talk instead of getting in line and sing the national anthem. Plus, I don't even see the Italian flag on a flagpole in front of the schools. 

Not much patriotism here, but I can see that the Italians are also very proud of their country from the way they talk about all the good things they have in Italy. From their rich culture and history, down to their food and language. 

Hmm... I guess Italians are patriotic in their own way after all. I've changed my mind. Italians are patriotic after all.

6. When it seems like just enough, there's more!

OK, its lunch time. And I've been served a simple dish of pasta. By the time I've finished it, I'm neither hungry nor full. Perfect. THEN a mountain of salad plonked on my plate, along with a large steak and slices of bread. I feel stuffed just looking at it already.

That's usually what happens during meal time. There's never a meal that's 'just nice', its always 'too much'. Unlike Malaysia, Italians have a few courses of food, mainly the appetizers and the main course while we'd usually have one course in Malaysia and that's it!

Man am I stuffed o.O

7. How to write in Italian

Hell yeah that's my handwritten essay in Italian! Writing like a pro with the help of a dictionary.

8. How to build a snowman

I built a snowman!! Its snowing here in Italy. Never in my life have I imagined that I could have the opportunity of seeing snow because I'm in the south. But the weather is so cold, its snowing here too! I didn't even feel cold because I was too happy to notice it.

My childhood dream of playing in the snow has finally been fulfilled.
The happiest day of my life :)

I'll write another post about my first winter wonderland soon.

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