At long last, here I am. Oh life, always being so tricky and getting quite, quite ahead of me.
I can’t believe I’m actually going home soon. I mean, I still have almost two months left, but considering how much I would love to do in that time (return to Rome for a weekend, go to Siena, see Massimo and Cinzia again, etc. forever), it feels like hardly any time at all. Recently a friend from back home wrote to me with questions about taking a gap year, because she’s writing an article for our high school newspaper. One of her questions – probably the most difficult one – asked what I’ve learned about myself on thi year off. Of course, I had no idea where to start. I’m not sure if I’ve leanred things about myself, or actually just morphed and grown into this fuller version of myself. Whatever it is, I certainly feel different than when I began this trip six (can you believe that?!) months ago. It’s hard to articulate, but I just feel a lot older. I think I trace this feeling back to the month and a half I spent traveling solo around Europe, more than anything. Don’t get me wrong, it was hard not going home. But at the same time, that feeling of independence, slight discomfort, freedom and control all mixed together left me feeling more empowered than I would’ve deemed possible. I have always enjoyed time by myself, but now I have this strange internal sense of self that I just never knew I had. This all sounds a bit sappy and emotional in writing, but the crazy thing is that it feels quite true.
Anyway, now that I’ve settled into my most recent home – Firenze! – I suppose I should do a little recap. After the program in Rome ended, three of my American friends and I went to Lisbon, Portugal for a week. It was just divine, and pretty much exactly what I needed (you know, because it’s just soooo difficult living in Italy). On our very first day, we went to the park near our hostel and just laid down, sun hitting our warmth-deprived faces like a sheet. I closed my eyes and just drifted, listening to the pitter-patter of children’s feet, the whirring of bicycle spokes nearby, and the distant clap of water against the shore. I immediately felt comfortable in Lisbon, probably because it felt so strangely similar to home. It even looked like San Francisco: a red bridge (sound familiar?), cable cars, relaxed/vaguely-hippyish fashion.
We also accidentally discovered an apparently very typical Portuguese treat: this little custard pastry called “pastel de Belem”. We coincidentally lived next to the most famous bakery for these pastries – good for our ever-expanding palates, less good for our ever-diminishing wallets. One time, when I was looking for a bathroom in this bakery, I noticed that it went on forever. White tiles with intricate Dutch-esque blue designs covered wall after wall, expanding the space into a sort of moderately sized food court. I looked at the Portuguese people sitting in the never-ending bakery, expecting to realize that this bakery actually sold a variety of food, perhaps including artsy sandwiches or kebabs. But no, everyone in this universe of a bakery was merely eating a pastel de Belem, occasionally accompanied by a coffee. One huge food court of little custard pastries. Welcome to Lisbon.
More about life here in Firenze soon! Ciao ciao