Bus Lover

I have been called strange many times in my 20 years, usually for different reasons, however since moving to Rome I have found that the number one reason now is that I like riding the buses. When I have to go somewhere I go early enough so that I can still make it to my destination if I have to ride two or more buses; and while all of my friends loathe taking the bus, I will take one even if they decide they want to use the metro or a taxi. There are many reasons that I prefer the buses over the other forms of transportation here in Rome, and today I’m going to list them for you. Maybe you too will become a bus lover ;).

Reason #1- I like seeing the city.

standard-bus-ext        Yes, you can always just take a tour bus around and see all the cool tourist places, like the Vatican and the Colosseum. That’s not what I’m referring to though. I love being able to hop on an ordinary public transport bus and let it show me streets and places I didn’t know were there. For example, I found that if I take a certain bus near my house and ride it for about twenty minutes, there is a little dress shop that is hidden away in a tangle of ivy, that I only noticed as the bus passed by it. I pass by churches and make mental notes to come back and go in them, because I love seeing old churches.

Reason #2- It helps my mental map.

        One thing I miss about driving a car around my old hometown is how easy it was for me to remember where everything was and how to get there. Now that I can’t drive (I mean I can, but I won’t on these crazy roman streets!) So riding the bus has replaced that. Once I’ve ridden the bus three or four times both ways I can usually tell where I am, and more importantly, I know how to find my way home, or to a friend’s house. This is especially important if you are lost at 2:00 in the morning in the middle of Rome and your phone is dying. If that happens to me I know the entire route, stop-to-stop so I can find my way home.  It also helps me avoid the sketchy parts of town because I can remember where they were on the bus route and take a different route home (using another bus route).

Reason #3- It gives me time to myself

        I know it’s a bit ironic, going somewhere full of people to get away from people, however for me, it’s a bit similar to sitting down and reading a book in a secluded place. Yes, there are people all around me, but I ignore them to the point where I sometimes forget they are there because I’m so focused on the story in my head, or what I will be writing for my next article. My music up loud, I sit there and I don’t even think about the people around me, I’m too lost in my own thoughts. I still get texts, but I don’t have to answer them right away. I can wait until I’m ready to come down from my world, and I’m ready to face reality again.

Reason #4- I can practice Italian, and see the real culture.

roman-bus        Some of the time, I like to take off my headphones and listen to the conversations around me. It allows me to hear the language as it is meant to sound, natural. The people on the bus have no idea that I don’t speak Italian, and they aren’t going to pay me any mind; the small woman looking out the window, leaning her head on the glass. I’ve also had the privilege to see the people of Rome up close and personal after witnessing two different fights on the bus, one between a bus driver who wasn’t going to take crap from some dude yelling in the back, another between a pregnant lady, her husband, and some guy on the phone. Only one of them ended in a fist fight though, but man… did that pregnant lady know how to swing.  

Now I know that many of you will still dislike the bus for various reasons, like how they never seem to come on time, how they take forever to get anywhere, how you can never get a seat, how close everyone is to you. I get it, and I can understand all those things because they frustrate me too at times. But every experience has pros and cons, and in my humble opinion, the pros of the bus outweigh the cons by more than just a few points. Do you like the bus, or have I missed another con? Please comment below, I would love to hear from you!

Read the original article on Kappa Language School’s website.

A meal in a Roman square

474411420Sitting down at an outside table, I set my cappuccino on the table and dig into my beat up purse to find my notebook. The sun is relentless today and sitting under the large crimson umbrella that blooms over the middle of my table is the only reason my skin isn’t lobster red. I put my purse under my seat and open my notebook, then turn my head to look out into the square. In the middle rests a large fountain, with steps leading up to see into its waters. Art students are perched all over it and look around the square as I do, reminding me of a flock of pigeons, their heads bobbing up and down as they draw. Speaking of pigeons, they of course are all over the place. I remind myself not to drop any of my sandwich when they bring it to me, because otherwise death-by-pigeon will be on my coroner’s report.

Around Rome (8 of 49)-LSipping my cappuccino, an elderly couple walks by with a fat dachshund, who is merrily waddling along in front of them. A lady passes them going the opposite way and honestly I’m impressed at how well she is walking on the old cobblestones, which are riddled with cracks and holes. I can barely manage to walk on them in flat shoes. Brava, lady, brava. An elderly woman stands in front of the church across the street begs for money from anyone who walks in or out; and I have to look away, because its painful to watch. I try to give money when I can, but I can barely afford to feed myself as it is.

The birds’ chirping is a sweet melody that twines together with the smell of the lavender plants that blanket many of the buildings in the square, and its calming qualities make me lean my head back and just listen. With my eyes closed I can hear the clicks of someone’s shoes pass my table to go into the bar, and a deep voice bellows out a cheerful greeting that is reciprocated wholeheartedly from the female bartender. I imagine they are old friends, who see each other everyday and yet never run out of things to talk about. And as they begin to chat loudly among the tinks of the china and the bubbling of steamed milk, my mind wanders to a different sound. I assume one of the street musicians has set up shop somewhere near the fountain because now there is some lovely violin music drifting steadily to my ears. Oh, he is playing Ave Maria I realize, and find a newfound love for whoever this street performer is, because that is one of my favorites.

2929081691_1a89901780_bI hear footsteps approaching and slowly open my eyes to the crimson umbrella above me. I can see little dots of sunshine peaking through, which dance and sparkle when I move my head. Wow people probably think I’m high right now I think to myself and crack a smile.

Signorina, il tuo panino.” Says a handsome bartender who is hold a plate with my sandwich. I smile and take it from him with a Grazie. Setting it down, I take the last sip of my cappuccino and once again have to remind myself not to feed the birds, even if a little brown one just happened to land near me and chirp with an otherworldly cuteness. As I breathe in the hot Italian air filled with lavender (and now salami from my sandwich), and I hear the birds and violin sing in a natural harmony, I set my cup down and sigh with content. I am the luckiest girl in the world if I can call this beautiful place my home, even if only for a short while.

Read the original article on Kappa Language School’s website.

An Expat’s Thoughts On Italy

I have lived in Rome for almost nine months now, and this is a beautiful place with quite a different culture. One of my friends recently asked me what I think of Italy as an expat living in Italy and I couldn’t answer him right away. I decided to write it out considering that this is the best way to express what I am thinking. So I am sharing it here so that everyone can see. What I think is not representative of what all expats think, these are just my observances and opinions. I hope you enjoy!

Attitude

italian2So anyone who knows Italians knows that they have a very unique outlook on life. Living among them for almost nine months, I have to admit that when I first arrived here, this attitude surprised me, but now I almost seem to be adopting it. Their cultural attitude seems to be a juxtaposition between easy going and extremely passionate. They get passionate about the most random things, and you have to be careful not to step on those landmines. I think that I’m scared to because what looks like anger is often just passion. For example, as a student, I have a limited amount of time to come in to work, and so in the first few weeks I would always tell my boss when my work was done, and schedule when I was coming in next week. When I first started working there he told me that I was always welcome. And so after a few times of me trying to schedule when to come in next he abruptly cut me off and said “Andrea, you are ALWAYS welcome. To keep trying to schedule is insulting in my culture because I have already told you the door is already open whenever, to keep checking that its still open is an insult to my hospitality.” I had no idea that I was insulting him, and maybe this was just an example of me not knowing certain cultural differences, but I have never seen anyone that passionate about being hospitable.

1455024216This is a culture of very warm and friendly people, and they are the first to jump into a car and rescue you if you are stranded somewhere. Honestly the friends I have made in Rome are some of the sweetest and most caring people. And for some reason they are always trying to get me to eat something, or checking to see if I’ve eaten a meal recently. Its endearing. But that is only after they know you. Now, these people are quite easy to get to know, but before they do, they are quite similar to cats, and all the expats I’ve met seem to agree with me. If you walk past them on the street, they wont move for you, and will bump into you without a second thought, which is kind of irritating when you aren’t a very big person. Also, they don’t hesitate to get right into your personal space, which may be just be a cultural thing. Americans like a bigger bubble of personal space then Italians I guess. My mother told me once when she was shopping in the super market, she was in the freezer section looking down at some frozen peas or something, when all of a sudden a lady got right up next to her. Like shoulder to shoulder close. Maybe because my mom is American, but she got extremely uncomfortable.  (And some of you might be thinking, oh she needs to be more careful, that woman might have been a pickpocket, but be calm my birdies, she had her hand on her purse through out this strange encounter.) Honestly if I had the time, I’d be here talking about this part of their culture till next Tuesday, but since you probably don’t have that kind of time to kill, lets just move on to the next category.

Dress

xkadriaroma859Ok this one is a stranger one. So I’m going to start off by saying that I am by noooo means into fashion, or even very good at putting together cute outfits. I grew up dressing in whatever t-shirt and jeans I grabbed first, and I lived in a place where fashion wasn’t the biggest thing that I had to worry about. So moving here and realizing that everyone takes what he or she wears extremely seriously definitely made me feel like a fish out of water. I do have to thank them for making me a bit more aware of the clothes I wear, however, I don’t know if I will ever make it as high of a priority. Also, they rarely wear shorts. The picture to the right is very unusual to see. It will be at least 90 degrees out and there is still a crap ton of people wearing pants.
Another thing is that they seem to try and copy American street fashion, and yet Americans try to copy Italian fashion? I will forever be confused by this exchange. I can’t really talk about fashion for a lengthy period because its just not something I pay much attention to. However, I will tell you that I have met very few Italians who will go outside without making sure they look absolutely perfect. Their hat has to match their shirt or shoes, yada yada yada.

Culture

8396842_origThis is a bit different than an actual attitude toward life in general, the things I’m going to talk about are just general differences I noticed from both cultures. One nice thing about Italian culture is that they don’t shut away their older population. I like seeing a meet-up of a bunch of elderly people who are just chatting away, gossiping- about someone’s grandchild or making witty remarks about another’s spouse. I don’t eavesdrop for very long because my mama taught me better, however its always nice to see a big group of them sitting in some piazza, drinking coffee and chuckling together. You don’t see that in America, or at least where I am from. In America there are retirement homes, and retirement communities, where the elderly live and rarely leave. Of course there are many who do not conform to this general stereotype of the American elderly, such as those who stay in the north for the summer and go to the south for winter. I believe they call them “snowbirds”. However, growing up, if you asked a peer “oh where do your grandparents live?” at least ninety percent of them would respond with “so and so retirement homes/communities.” In America, the elderly are more shut away and thought of as a thing to protect and care for.

IMG_3456Another great thing that I love about the Italian culture is that they make fresh food a priority. There is always a place to buy fresh vegetables and fruit on every street, and they are soo cheap! The food you can make here tastes so much better because the ingredients are so fresh. They pick them in the morning and you get them a few hours later. On my way to class I can stop by this little shop that is so filled with vegetables and fruits that there is only a very narrow pathway down the middle and you have to flatten yourself against the wall of fragrant apples if anyone needs to get past you. I stop there and buy a few apples to snack on during the day and they cost me no more then fifty cents all together. While this isn’t to say that they don’t have frozen food, they definitely don’t use it as much as Americans do.
Ok but I have to say that I really miss dryers. If America is doing anything right it’s having dryers. And I know that America and Italy are very different in terms of culture and that Italian are very conscious of the amount of energy they use, but oh my god, what I wouldn’t give to not have to think about how long its going to take my jeans to dry and play out what day to do laundry according to that. All of my Italian friends laugh and say that I’m spoiled, but whatever. I really miss having a dryer.

Food

AA2027Okay, I mentioned food a littler earlier, but here I am going to dedicate an entire section. Let me start off by saying “Oh LORDIE yes. Italian food is just a yes, all around.” They have perfected pasta and pizza and while I don’t exactly like fish, I am told by many people that they really know how to prepare it. Italians are some of the best cooks in the world, and through all of the downsides of moving to Rome, I have to say that the food makes all of those cons sting just a little less. Of course I occasionally miss Chipotle or Americanized-Chinese food, but you know I can’t exactly complain. My favorite dish is definitely pasta with arrabbiata (means angry, because it’s spicy!) sauce. My only warning to everyone out there is don’t eat pasta all the time. No one told me this when I first got here and I’ve been trying to loose the extra pounds ever since. While pasta and pizza are what Italy is mainly known for, they actually have very healthy choices and their style of cooking with olive oil instead of butter may seem small, but a great change to one’s diet.

Well folks, if you agree or disagree with what I wrote please feel free to comment below, but remember to be kind! I hope all of you have a lovely day, ciao!

Read the original article on Kappa Language School’s website.

What to look for in a language school

Hello again! This weeks article is about what to look for in a language school. As someone who went to a language school to learning Italian, I can say that I have some experience with this. I’m talking about going to a different country and learning through immersion as well as taking a class. There are multiple benefits to this, because you aren’t learning just the language, you are learning the culture, which is very important. So for those of you who may be looking for a language school but aren’t sure which one to pick, here you go! This is what to look for in a language school.

Small classrooms

lezione02.jpgSmall classrooms are great, because not only does that mean smaller class sizes and less people, it also means that you can really get to know the people around you. If you make friends with your classmates you can go out and practice the language together. And for those of you who are shy at first, getting to know you classmates can help you not feel as scared to answer a question the teacher poses at the class. It’s also better for one-on-one questions with your professor before and after class because there won’t be a huge crowd waiting to talk to them.

Native speaker teachers

If you are in a classroom with a teacher that speaks the language as a mother tongue, you are golden. Not only will they make sure that you are pronouncing words correctly, they also know the language in a way that you can’t. They are the key that unlocks your ability to speak like a native, so this bullet is an important one. Also you can get special help, for example, when I went to the Kappa Language School here in Rome, my teacher and I would meet in the classroom about an hour before class, and I would read out loud in Italian. Not only did this help my pronunciation, it also gave me new vocabulary to study and reinforced the things that I was learning.

Teachers that actually care about your progress

DSC_0509.jpegI can even use the example from the bullet before for this one. My teacher spent and hour everyday, of his own time, to listen to me butcher his language while I read The Lightning Thief in Italian. He didn’t have to do that, but he put in the extra effort because he wanted me to succeed. You want to find a school with teachers like that. He became a good friend, and that’s another benefit, you can make friends with your teachers. In addition to that, if you have a teacher who is excited to teach, then you will be excited to learn. And on those cloudy days, when everything seems grey and you don’t want to come in to learn, because you feel like you aren’t getting any better, they are more then willing to help you cheer up and show you how far you have come.

The School organizes outings and events

Bohemien2Okay, now this one is pretty important too. If the school organizes events and trips, it really shows that they are trying to get you immersed in the language. They want to show you their culture and to practice not only with the natives, but also the other students who are in more advanced classes. You can see your progress when you talk to the people who are in less advanced classes, and that is encouraging, because it really shows you the progress you’ve made and how far you have come from the beginning. It’s usually a good environment and you make friends with people you didn’t know before and have a great time with people who have the same goal as you.

Alright, that’s the tips that I have. You want to make sure you find a school that fits you, and for me, these are the things that I looked for. If you have anything else you think I’ve missed or have a suggestion, please comment below!

Read the original article on Kappa Language School’s website.