by Mayah El-Dehaibi
on May 12, 2016 on 5/12/16
By now, on the 12th day of my travels, I feel like a professional tourist in Italy. I’ve been to enough churches, cathedrals, basilicas, American tourist-geared nostalgia restaurants, and gelaterias to have a perpetual spiritual awakening simmering on the back burner. I paid 11 euros for supermarket generic sunscreen and 15 for a leather wallet the salesman had held the flame of his lighter against. I wouldn’t say that the newness of the environment is necessarily wearing off, but I do feel more comfortable and very, very grateful.
Tonight, after an unbelievably successful home-cooked meal and obligatory gelato, my two undergrad roommates and I walked to a public library, Il Biblioteca delle Oblate, which is open until midnight, as all public libraries should be, and which has a cafe and bar on the roof, as all public libraries should have. I flipped through a glossy coffee table book on the Pantone colors of the 20th century and we settled on a terrace facing the courtyard that happened to face the Duomo against the night sky tinged indigo with stormclouds. I felt obliged to respect the view by trying to recreate it in my journal. As I was finishing, a waiter asked me in Italian to move so he could take the table inside, and then it started to drizzle, smearing my dollar store ink. I’m proud of it, even though I know too many visual artists to be very proud.
After finishing the sketch, I was journaling and came up with a few bullet points of things I’ve “learned about myself” in addition to the points about sincerity that I had mentioned in my last post.
- I can read a map, and well, if given ample time. My less spatially-aware friend and I had been following around our third roommate for this entire trip, relying on her for directions and following single file from her memory. Last night, the two of us set out to find a supermarket and we found not one, but two. It’s important to celebrate a person’s talents but it’s more important not to let convenience stand in the way of learning.
- I cannot force my body to do things so that it won’t embarrass me. On more than one occasion I’ve had to cope with the fact that the collective study abroad group is much more prepared to do things like hike up a mountain or climb 500 steps twice than I am right now. It’s simultaneously encouraging and discouraging.
- It is very possible for me to live with my peers and get along well, under these optimal circumstances. This is my first experience living for an extended period of time with my peers instead of with my family, and I’m impressed at how easy the social aspect of that can be, especially since our apartment allows for so much privacy. I had been nervous about functioning in this kind of environment, but it feels so natural.
- I can survive without constant access to a cell phone. I’m just as surprised as you are. I only use it to take quickdraw photos and at night when I have an internet connection to send said photos to my family. I feel like I did a simultaneous cultural immersion and media deprivation therapy and it is so freeing. In my spare time, I read.