This morning when I woke up, I pulled up my super-heavy bedroom shade, opened the double doors, stepped out on the balcony, and let the sunshine flood into my soul. Spring has swept Siena, from the first whiff of dandelion that brings me back to Michigan, to the chirping birds as I walk to class, to the Italians working their gardens across the valley behind our house, to the sunshine that warms the bricks of il campo each afternoon. I love that windows have no screens. That I can open my door and let the sunshine and warm breeze and sounds of spring enter my room. I love that in Italy there is a blurred line between the indoors and the outdoors…it feels so natural and right. The breeze awakens my soul and the warmth excites my spirit. I feel rejuvenated and refreshed and I am again reminded of the beauty that surrounds me with each new day.
The other day I had lunch at a local bar with a couple of my friends. We were approached by an adorable elderly Italian man (aren’t they all), who heard us speaking English and came over to talk to us. He spent 5 years working in the United States and speaks decent English. He explained that he is 88 (and repeated this fact frequently throughout the conversation) and told us all about his life and kids. Most importantly, he said to us, after struggling to remember the English vocabulary, rusty in his mind, “You know what I love about Americans? You love to laugh!” His heart-felt and joyous comment got me thinking about the reactions I have gotten as an American. Italy has welcomed me, loved me, willingly heard my story, in the friendly shop-keepers and elderly bench-sitters, the generous host families and inquisitive professors.
The man we were speaking with made a comment about how lucky we are that we know English. As someone who has long been in love with the romantic languages of French and Italian, I had never really though of myself as “privileged” to be fluent in English. I am surrounded by doors wide open because I know this global language. In Siena, many people don’t know English and I must speak in Italian to buy my groceries or ask for directions–for this I am grateful and appreciative (as are they when I try, although butcher, their lovely language). I don’t want to get political, but I have gained huge respect for people who come to American without knowing English and make a life. Italy welcomes the English-speakers, creating a vastly different global atmosphere than the U.S. Learning a new language isn’t easy.
The other day I scarfed down a chocolate croissant and cappuccino before going to school. In my first class we toured a Palace in the city center and saw the most beautiful private concert hall ever with a gorgeous piano. My fingers and soul could not sit still as my professor lectured…I longed to touch those ivory keys. In my next class we went to the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena’s art gallery. After grabbing a warm zucchini sandwich at our favorite bar, I ate and napped in il campo (if I sit in il campo for more than 10 minutes and the sun is out, I fall asleep). In the afternoon, I sat outside in IES’s “garden” and discussed a book with my literature class, surrounded by the beautiful scent of blooming flowers. What a life!
More Blogs From This Author
<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Ciao! I’m Mary and I’m blessed to spend the semester in Siena, Italy. I’m a junior double major in Psychology and English at Hope College in the charming West Michigan town of Holland. I grew up in the woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and love to go on adventures, have deep conversations, drink unnecessary amounts of chai tea, play the piano, become totally engrossed in books, and most of all—learn. I am very excited to be immersed in the Italian culture and beautiful language, learn to cook, and have the experience of a lifetime! I can’t wait to share my journey with you!</span></p>