Sunday, June 12, 2011

The 5 Real Phases of Homesickness

Milan has a nice airport. And they had good hot dogs… that is, until I realized that was not what I was eating at all--- rather, it was a very soggy croissant.

Really, there’s nothing more I can say nice about the city. It’s stinky and looks like Gary Larsen got pissed off and decided to draw a really bad caricature of New York City.

It didn’t help that on my own I was a totally helpless cause. I trailed backwards and forwards in my attempt to find my way to the luggage carrier and get directions. I walked in circles. I walked in more circles. I walked in more circles. I passed a crazy old lady with purple hair who was also walking in circles in the opposite direction. Something wasn’t working.

I asked for directions from an airport lady who seemed to speak English. It took me several seconds to comprehend where they had directed me to. At first I thought it was very peculiar for Italy to have a cult of crazy half-naked men waiting for their luggage. I actually wanted to take a picture just to show my parents how weird my host country was. Then I realized that instead of the luggage rack…. the lady had directed me INSIDE the men’s bathroom. I was potentially scarred for life.

The chain of events that led me out of Milan sent me into a two week period with a debilitating, spiraling illness inaptly named “Homesickness”.  I’d rather called it “un-home-sickness”.

I started scheming ways to escape from the country, evening going so far as to calculate their success probability.
My algebra teacher would be so proud. :-)

I determined the only way to keep my sanity by returning home was to take a boat with my belongings. I called my parents and told them not to worry any more—they could expect me home in a week. Only…

Thus, my escape plans were crushed. I was stuck in Italy with an over-zealous mouse, and a madre et padre who seemed dead set on shoving spaghetti down my esophagus every time I walked by.
According to exchange student programs my symptoms of distress (aka homesickness) should have included "nausea, sleep disturbances, mood swings (including crying and irritability), feelings of isolation, lethargy, lack of motivation, inability to concentrate on homework, and feelings of loss."

Guido and I think I would like to restate this in a diagram like this, in 5 phases:
Homesickness: Phase 1: Ecstatacy! One may thing they have developed wings and start attempting to fly.

Phase 2: Confusion. Who am I? Where am I? What am I doing?

Phase 3: Maniacal Depression. One may attempt dangerous escape attempts.

Phase 4: Hallucinations. These can vary from talking mice to invisioning a bunch of Michael Jackson zombies approaching.

Phase 5: Haven’t actually reached this stage yet… Does it exist?

Oh, and Guido doesn’t want to be forgotten while I spend all day talking about myself. I owe him Gelato big time. Here is Guido Antonio’s advice for the day:
 “Rendere le zampe la tua casa” [Make your paws your home]

P.P.S. The Italian guys really do exist.... even if they all wear weird hats and drive Gondolas. Papparazzi!


Saturday, June 11, 2011

In all reality...

...Guido and I did not get along very well when we first met. In fact, one could say that we were complete polar opposites.

 By this time Guido and I have now known each other for 1 month. Which is the same as...

So I think by now I can give an adequate, unbiased description on how Guido and I met in the first place.

When I first arrived in Italy my expectations were maybe a little too high.
I imagined going to school with a bunch of guys with flowing black hair, being served spaghetti sauce fresh from the garden (okay, I was gullible, I admit it), and travelling through Rome in a horse drawn carriage.

 As I got off the plane and was met by my host family I walked through the airport on the delicate illusion that I was about to be swept into a whole different time period. In fact, I'm fairly certain people who watched me thought I was in some kind of stupor. Not only did I vaguely recall skipping in circles around my host family while emitting high pitched giggles, but I also remember flapping my arms, as if I were some strange sort of psychotic penguin that was trying to get air.

In reality, Italy is a bit different.

And I quickly realized that all the “Italian” that I’d been studying before my trip had only taught me three usable words—ciao, salve, bon giorno-- all of which meant the same thing: HELLO.

Needless to say, as my host family was babbling off to me in Italian, I could do nothing but smile and nod my head, at the same time searching for some sort of escape route in which I could take a plane back to the United States.

Our first conversation:
And then...

To placate my culture shock my host family decided that the best thing they could do was stuff spaghetti in my mouth every time I tried to speak. Whenever I tried to protest “mia madre” would smile and shove another forkful at my face. What’s worst, I made a discovery that was almost a deal-breaker for my exchange trip… my host mom didn’t actually know how to cook. Instead all the spaghetti was from the supermarket on the corner of the street. She cooked it in the microwave!

 In desperation, I finally fled, feeling like my stomach was going to spontaneously combust. I called up my parents begging to come home and they gave me their best advice:  “Drink some warm milk and you’ll feel better in the morning.”
Obviously my blubbering did not get much sympathy.

I stayed in my room with a terrible stomach ache for the next two days.  Finally the growling of my stomach forced me to face the harsh Italian outdoors again (at which point Guido would like to add that on that day it was a record 94 degrees outside).

I bought a panini at the shop down the street. If you’ve ever tried to order from an Italian you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say that I had no choice in the matter. I pointed at one sandwich, he pointed at another, I said “I WANT A CHEESE PANINI” and he only shrugged and shook his head. Finally I gave up and handed him five euros and waited for him to make me a sandwich.

And then came the pivotal moment where I met Guido, who until that point had simply been another mouse on the street who enjoy mooching off of tourists’ food.
And this happened (I have circled the crime in question):

And my distress:

And then the chef (who I have aptly nicknamed the “Pillsbury Doughboy”) got us both kicked out as if it were my fault for bringing the mouse in:

Eventually I just sat on a street corner staring at my hands while a bunch of Japanese tourists took my picture (I was a “genuine Italian”, so they thought). It was at this point that I became dead certain that I was never going to survive my sophomore year of high school, or even one week for that matter. Soon I was blubbering and waving my hands spilling out my life story to a mouse and what’s more… he listened.

In a process of what may have been hallucination I became certain that Guido was talking to me. He told me his name was Guido. I was certain of it. He told me he liked art. When I walked home the mouse followed me all the way into the house (about a quarter mile’s walk, I might add).

By that time I was so grateful for the company of a creature that understood me and did not speak Italian that I swore that we would stick together no matter what and that we would pull through. I would be his interpretor (and protector from rogue cats) and he would help me out in exchange.

I’m not sure what my host family thought when they saw me talking to a mouse in my room, or when I began typing while he either a) sat on my shoulder or b) sat on the edge of the desk. But thus, Guido and I became a team.

This is a photograph I have found similar to the "closet nest" that Guido has made in my host family's house. Cozy...

Guido’s Quote of the Day: Tenere su la coda quando si arriva ad una pozza [Hold up your tail when you come to a puddle

Friday, June 10, 2011

Blog of the Homo Mus Musculus

So here it goes. Our first ever blog post.

Who are "we" exactly? Contrary to popular belief we are not just one person-- or a "Homo Mus Musculus" (a wikipedia scientific name for mouse human). I guess I'll have to explain.

First of all, only one of us is human. That would be me, the typist. Christine.

Second of all, the other one of us is a mouse... Guido Antonio (or just Guido).

Guido has enslaved me (ha ha) as his typist of thoughts. Here he is.

Guido and I met when I first moved to Italy for my sophomore year of high school. I started out in a strange country with a strange host family unable to speak the language and suffering from a terrible case of homesickness. That's when I found Guido in my closet. He's a brown mouse (not sure what type exactly) and he immediately stole half of the delicious panini I was eating for lunch. After my initial reaction, we got along quite nicely.

Initial Reaction:

Now it is my duty to use my great skills of mousey interpretation and to tell you the stories of Guido's and my life as we both struggle in our surroundings. Guido has promised to help me in Italy if I promise to be his interpretor and buy him a gelato every other night. It works out great. With Guido's help I can maybe survive my sophomore year of high school. Dita incrociate [fingers crossed]!

Guido's Advice for the Day: hanno sempre la minestra [Always have your soup]