“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” –Bill Bryson
It feels like we’ve been here so much longer than a mere three days. Each day is jam-packed with sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and a multitude of other new senses. As our director put it, we as Americans in our digital world tend to focus so much on the visuals provided in a new location that we miss out on all of the other experiences. But a new country should be embraced with more than just looking and digital cameras. More than the senses though, the combination of all of these bring about a certain feel that accompanies each country. The more I travel, the more I think that I will continue to find similarities between my new country and Taiwan, rather than my new country and America.
It is also impossible to fully experience a new country without knowing any background to the country. My value of a place’s background is probably related to my passion as a history major. But this became especially true when we started class today. It was a privilege on the very first day of class to be taken to the Duomo and given a glimpse of the culture that created it. Even looking at pictures in Italy and knowing that I am going to see these places brings a new meaning to them. And we only went into a small side chapel in the Duomo. Every in of it is covered in paintings—from the painted architectural pillars, to the iconic saints and the chorus of the disciples, to the illustrations of classical literature surrounding their respective authors, to the Christ glorified at the head. There is a certain depth that these illustrations provide to the worship that takes place in those rooms—a depth that I think American tend to be afraid of, though they are not exactly sure why.
My personal highlight of the day was the first taste of Italian gelato. The stuff is more than ice cream—it’s a heavenly creamy cold chocolatey concoction. And it’s only 2 and half euros. The downside to ordering was that when I couldn’t come up with the word in Italian I wanted to say it in Chinese…that won’t get me too far.
Italian class also began today. Again, my main challenge is going to be trying to stop myself from speaking Chinese or Spanish. The class is taught by Alessandro, our local contact for the program who has been working with Gordon for years. It’s a privilege to be able to learn the language from someone who is familiar with the nuances of the vernacular. But the Italian language itself is gorgeous. I think it’s even more beautiful than Spanish. So far the extent of my Italian is hello, my name is, how are you, nice to meet you, what’s you’re name, where are you from…that type of thing. But it is definitely easier to learn a language when you are living in the place that it is being spoken in, rather than trying to learn it as a hobby. We’ll see how many Italian friends I make.
It actually got sunny today for a little while. By the end of the week the weather is supposed to clear for our trips to Assisi and other places.
Also, happy 2/28 Peace Memorial Day to my Taiwanese friends.