My new home for the next few months

Trip Start Apr 26, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Italy  , Emilia-Romagna,
Thursday, May 8, 2008

Ok, so after spending a few days in Rome, we met up with Dad's friend who came over from Australia to tour round Italy, France and Spain with Dad for the next few months. We spent two days driving to Rimini and on the way we stopped at Assisi, the birthplace of St Francis. Yet another beautiful small Italian town. The streets are a bit like in Harry Potter, but they are on a very steep hill. It was a long weekend so there were people everywhere which was kind of annoying - imagine what it must be like for the locals though having thousands of people file through their town all time! There we visited the Basilica di San Francesco (St. Frances) and visited the tomb of St Francis which is a fair way under the Basilica and had hundreds of people filing through it. It was like a dark cavern which was really warm and stuffy because of all the people down there. I joined the procession of people walking around the tomb and saw that people had left pictures of friends and family there (perhaps so St Francis will protect them?). It was quite eerie and I could feel the intense passion for St Francis and catholocism of many of the other visitors. It was a very unusual experience to say the least.

After visiting Assisi, we finally arrived in Rimini, which is where I am now (a week later). I am staying here with my second cousin and his girlfriend who both visited Australia for about 8 months a few years back. Dad and Yvonne stayed the night and left the next day - and that was the end of my speaking with native English speakers! So there I was in my new home in a small apartment opposite the local market which is fantastic for getting fresh food. I am currently speaking about 60 - 70 % of the time in Italian and the rest in English. Needless to say I don't say as much as I do at home! However, I am learning new words rapidly - particularly the most useful ones as I need to use them everyday. You know, words like this, that, atleast, I don't know, I don't understand, how do you say ... in Italian etc...

I make quite a few mistakes, and we have a laugh when I make really silly ones like the other night when we went out for dinner with some of my second cousin's friends I called a "cup" a "steak". Often I also hear things incorrectly, like the first night when we went out for dinner (we do that alot!) I thought that one of my second cousin's friends (Antonio) said "I love you" to the waiter but he actually said "we're ready". This happens all the time and is hilarious. Because I'm not speaking English very much I'm already starting to forget English words and grammar because I spend so much time trying to convert things into Italian in my head. It often takes me awhile to work out what to say, and I often end up saying it half in English and half in Italian. It's pretty tiring, but it's fantastic and fast way to learn. When you need to learn something to get by everyday, you rememer it much better than if it isn't essential.

So we've been out a few times for pizza, drinks etc. I can speak to everyone well enough to say a few things and I think they find me rather entertaining because I use words that I know rather than the words that I would like to use and that I think are more appropriate. What has struck me the most about their friends is that they are so full of enthusiasm all the time, it's great to be around. They are always bounding around the place joking and laughing. They have a tougher life because the average wage is much lower than in Australia and the cost of living is about them same, yet they still go out and enjoy themselves. Here it is normal to go and play beach tennis or soccer outdoors, and drop by at a friends place without ringing first.

Anyway, I've been at Italian school for nearly a week now and I'm enjoying it alot. There are only four of us in the class. Two nuns (one from Mexico and one from Korea), and also a woman from Columbia who has married an Italian. So it's interesting in class to hear about their experiences.

My average day involves getting up and having an espresso and a pastry with custard. Walking five minutes to school and doing 2 hours of grammar, followed by 2 hours of conversational practice. Then walking home (all the shops in Rimini close at 1pm and reopen at 3pm) and having a big lunch like pasta, soup or rice. Afterwards I have another espresso. Do my homework, then go to the shops again and have a gelato (they're open 'til 8pm here) and relax. Then at 8 or 9pm we have a light dinner watch a movie or go out. Not bad eh?

Rimini is next to the sea, so we have gone there a few times. The last time I went I nearly got hit by a motorbike because I looked the wrong way thought there was no traffic and started walking. I heard a crash to my left and saw a guy had fallen off his motorbike. I didn't understand why until I remembered that traffic comes from the left first, not the right and that he'd missed me by half a meter. So I think I've learnt my lesson. The word left in Italian originated from "sinister" so I remember now to look left because otherwise something "sinister" might happen! Mind you in Rimini people drive all over the place, and there are bikes and people everywhere so you can't let yourself get too distracted in the street. People walk all over the roads, as to people ride and it looks like chaos but it usually works - except when there are stupid tourists about like me!

This weekend we are going to Bologna AKA "the fat" which is where there are many rich and delicious foods. We are going to visit one of my second cousins friend's restaurants which I'm looking forward to.

By the way, the cost of living here is pretty similar as in Australia, even after you convert AUD to EURO. A coffee costs about $1.50 to $2.00. Groceries cost about the same. Public transport is cheaper and more frequent. Cars are cheaper to buy, the rent is about the same as in Melbourne and clothes are about the same. The main problem is that the coffee, food and clothes are all amazing and it is very hard not to spend too much shopping all the time. I've been very good though!
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