Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mi Mancherai, Italia

"How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart, you begin to understand, there is no going back?" - The Return of the King

In 2 days I will be on my way home to the states, and this quote pretty much sums everything I am feeling.

Some of my friends just left this morning for the US, and it is taking every ounce of me not to sink into a stupor and complete heartbreak over leaving a place filled with so many amazing experiences. In the past few weeks I have traveled to Rome, Montesilvano (south of Italy) for a completely Italian Christian conference, and I just got back from Munich, Germany a few days ago.

It's difficult trying to balance the flood of emotions I am feeling right now in the midst of juggling packing, finals, saying last goodbyes etc. The closer I am to returning home, the more I am beginning to realize how much I have changed since coming here. I see the world in a different light. I have gained a broader sense of the world, experienced different cultures, picked up a different language, and developed a better understanding of myself and people in general.

For one of the first times in many years, I needed time alone to explore and figure myself out. I loved meeting friends but realized an ever greater need for self-discovery and refocus. In a society that is so defined by (and at times overly-dependent on) relationships and community, I have learned in Italy the beauty and enriching experience of simply being alone with my thoughts. Me, myself, and I. And I do believe that time I spent alone has made me a better person- more confident, more independent, more aware, more passionate, more understanding, and more loving.

Looking back I realized that my posts have grown increasingly more reflective, but perhaps that is appropriate. I have finally learned to see Italy beyond the tourist bubble. It is more than simply breathtaking landscapes, incredible food, the renaissance culture, castles, cave jumping and postcard-worthy paradises. Italy is a unique culture comprised of a people so rooted in their history. Florence is like any culture; flawed and ugly in areas but also heartwarming and so captivating in others. The prowling men, poop on the streets, expensive water, and chaotic traffic I won't mind leaving. However, it is becoming increasingly more difficult coming to terms with the fact that I am leaving a culture so rich with art, history, and tradition. I will miss the ability to walk everywhere in the city past ancient buildings, delicious pastries and cappuccinos in the morning/gelato in the evening, I will miss the ability to travel around Europe and experience different cultures. I will miss the opportunity to practice speaking in a language that is not my own, and most of all, I will miss all the local Italian friends that I have made here.

The generosity with which many Italians have welcomed myself and my American friends has been astounding. Despite our broken Italian, I have made many Italian friends with whom I can happily exchange cultural differences and similarities over a cup of coffee or a plate of risotto. The beautiful truth I have learned from Italians here is the fact that even though we may have language and cultural barriers, the universal language of love, laughter, friendship, and kindness is almost never misunderstood. We are all human, capable of being loved, being hurt. We all have similarities and stories to tell. Che bella verità ho trovato! 

Love love love these girls

My Italian fellowship

And more people!

Ruth and I braving the wind in Montesilvano Beach

Miss this girl Laura already!

This will probably be my last post in Florence, given the amount of things I have to do before I leave. I have so much to say about my travels for Rome, Germany, Montesilvano etc, but at this time I don't think I can bring myself to reflect on so much just yet. My heart is torn between my love for this city/people and my excitement to see familiar friends and faces back in the States.

In some ways I am nervous about coming back a changed person, but at the same time I am excited to pick up a new chapter of my life. I am glad to say that in retrospect I have no regrets whatsoever about Italy. I have traveled to 5 different countries, adapted to a different culture, learned to speak conversational Italian, discovered a local Italian community/fellowship, dramatically improved my cooking (one of my proudest achievements :3 ), became a better artist, eaten tons of good food; the list goes on and on. I'm at a loss for words for my experience here, so I guess I'll end this last post in Florence with a few pictures from the past four weeks.

Pretending to Renaissance classy at the coliseum in Roma

Visiting a good friend Jakob in Munich!

Drinking amazinggg hot chocolate in La Cite- a local hipster coffeeshop
Going to miss wandering around olive groves and the rolling hills of Florence

Grazie, Firenze per tutti

Con tanto amore,

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