The best family in the world

Culture. Culture culture culture. Italian culture.. where to start. Haven't a clue. I guess I should start by saying that I kind of wanted to write about more than just my days in this one... So here's a little insight on italian culture. I'm just going to flat out say it, italians are very proud people. They're really self concious, proud people. . A italian friend commented on a american friend of mine saying "SOS diet" on her wall. Now any american would be like, WTF is your problem are you calling me fat I am going to kick your ass. However, this was followed by the guy who said it explaining that he didn't mean to be offensive, but that when my friend went back to the United States he wanted her to be beautiful so that people would think that Italians were beautiful. Now, I don't really know anyone who would ever derive that from that kind of statement.. but that's how italians are. Almost ALL italians!! It is so different and .... experiencing this culture is just like WOW. It's like you can't believe what some people say because it's so direct and unforgiving but they don't mean it as mean! They don't even want to hurt your feelings... they just want you to look good so that they as a country look good. I also talked to on of my friend's parents because I wanted to get opinions on what Italians think of their culture... I asked her dad what he liked most about Italy and got a really unclear answer that I didn't understand (like he said it was beautiful... and some other stuff but there was a lot of uncertainty). Then I asked him what he least liked about Italy and he only had one answer, italians. As in the people. It's like this country is full of people who 1)love their country but also 2) are ashamed of the people living here as well. I live in the north, and one of the first things that my family explained to me is that there are almost two different Italys. (Italies? No lo so :P) There's the north, which ends at about Rome, and then there is the south. Everyone says that the north and the south really don't like each other. The south says that the north is full of people who work too much and don't know how to have fun, and the north says that the south is full of people who never work because they are lazy and just sit around all day. However, the north reallllyyy doesn't like the south, but when I talk to my intercultura friends who are staying in the south they say that the south doesn't really even have a problem with the north. When I said this to my family they came down with one reason.. money (why is everything always about the money?) I guess that the north (since they work more) ends up giving money to the south in a way? And they don't like it because they don't think that the south has earned it.. it's all very complex but I think it's really sad that they believe their country is so divided. I love Italy, above ALL the italians... so I don't know. I am very lucky to be blessed with an amazing city, and amazing family, and absolutely wonderful friends. I know many people who did not get this lucky and I don't know.. every experience is different? But sometimes when I hear about my friend's family problems and such I feel terrible because I do know what that's like, I lived it for 3 months.. and just now it's like there's a fit. I think the more you love something the more you want to be... like that. Tipo, I am absolutely innamorata with Italia.. and that just makes me want to learn the language more, makes me want to have more italian fashion... want's to make me lose weight because they are... obsessed with being thin here, like that's just how it is. That is their culture. The place that believes that they have the best food in the world wants you to eat eat eat it but not gain weight.
MUSIC - Italian teens really love this thing called house music. Like, they're OBSESSED with it. House is the type of music they play at discos... so it's kind of like techno but less lame. It's just pumped up electro dance music... well that's their culture music. No joke, forget about italian swooners or whatever there is no one serenading you here... but they love house. :P
Fashion - For the most part, Milan has AMAZING fashion. However there seems to be a trend of MICHELAN MAN PUFFY JACKETS. No joke, it's basically a plague. Sometimes, you might be lucky enough to see the michelan man puffy jacket trenchcoat. It's a pretty killer sight :D Other than that... all the girls wear skinny jeans. You will see a rare person wearing flare pants. Even on the subway, which is where you see the most freaking variety of people... THEY ARE ALL slim cut jeans. Luckily, I decided to come with one pair! Hahah. Boots are common.. but unlike America only guys wear skate shoes, and guys only wear skate shoes sometimes. Girls wear low sneakers... like keds or something I dont know but they're like little shoes :P haha Unless it's the weekend or a party... then it's always heels. Other than that they dress nice for everything... not many a person wears sweatpants and things like that to school. Guys... when I was reading blogs of people in Italy when I was in America they all said that guys dressed really gay, like tight tight jeans and stuff, the same as girls. However, in Milan I have only seen a few guys wear skinny jeans.. they wear normal clothes like hoodies, t-shirts, button up shirts, pants, there's some gangster pants, there's some skinny jeans.... But no one has their boxers hanging out because they don't wear boxers... okay yea. I think that people here just tend to dress a bit nicer for normal everyday things... like in America we say oh well i'm not getting dressed up to go to the grocery store.. well they get dressed up to go to the grocery store here. Think that has to do with the whole "proud people" thing. Neeext.
Allora... enough of that and now on to Natale!!!
Natale is Christmas... and they're big on Christmas. However.. I have to say I was expecting very different. I think we all were... Christmas here is super different! At home, christmas is a big family day that you would be reaaaaalllly lucky to get out of and go play with your friends but it is most likely not going to happen because it is FAMILY TIME. Alllora for christmas here, we all woke up at about 10 or so and opened presents... or presented each other presents because we had gone shopping for them the day before (my brothers don't like suprises? I guess... so what they do is their parents take them shopping and they get to pick out what they want, pretty sweet deal). For christmas i got a really cute dress from my brothers, a book in italian (yeaaaaahhh) a journal, and a Swarvoski crystal necklace from my host parents. They are pretty much my favorite people ever. I gave my host parents wine, and then also joined in with my brothers and we all bought them a new keyboard for the computer and a really nice pair of motorcycle gloves for the dad. I wanted to get my brothers something cool and suprising, but shopping for guys is FREAKING HARD. Too hard. So I got them soccer balls haha. After we opened presents we had lunch... which also wasn't as big as deal as I thought it would be... I know that other exchange students had different meal experiences haha. First we had these appetizer things that were like puff pastry.. shrimp with lots of goo that were really pretty but I declined eating because my family knows I don't like mayonaise .. and I am open to new experiences I mean I ate pate (liver) before I knew what it was haha... allora after that we had raviolinni.. which are really little ravioli in broth and they were good.. then everyone had meat like there must have been 3 pounds of pate. I politely declined. There was a lot of prosciutto and stuff like that.. and then we had Pandoro and Panettone for dessert. Pandoro is like the delicious, free of disgusting dried fruit version of panettone. Panettone is fruitcake. Fruitcake is the same all around the world. Fruit cakey and non appealing. After lunch (which was just my family and my dad's grandma), my brothers went out to hang out with their friends... I was kind of unaware that this was allowed aha so I pretty much sat around all day.. I also went on a walk from Duomo to my house... which was cool because it is actually not that far and it was a really pretty day with lots of sun. I felt kind of homesick on this day, but I'm guessing thats normal. That night, I thought that we (Lorenzo, Riccardo and I) were going out for drinks with their cousins.. turns out everyone goes out for drinks on christmas night! There was about 40 people... then they played soccer until 3 in the morning when we went home. It was cool. I enjoy these new traditions.. ha. The rest of break was fun... my friend Mollie from Monza slept over... I don't really remember doing anything too amazing but yea it was fun. Then... BUON CAPODANNO! Today is New Years... which means BIGGGG party here. Last night I went to a place in the mountains called Binago with my friends from school... my friend Federica has a house there and her parents let us use it for our new years party whooo!!!! Popping champagne.... setting off fireworks.. going to bed at 5 am... it was quite a fun night :) I'm just saying, when the italians say they are going to do the shopping for alcohol.. they really do it, something like 200 dollars worth. Haha first my friend's dad came to get all of us (there was like 20 of us) from the train station... and there was a BUNCH of wine in these plastic bags and we were walking to Fede's house when two bottles accidentally dropped and broke... her dad started laughing at us. Why is this country so chill. Just describing the festivities too... not trying to endorse underage drinking or anything but that is what they do here. Except when we did the shake up champagne and spray it on all your friends thing my hair got a big shower and now it is really sticky and stuff from champagne STILL. When we got to the house Fede's mom cooked dinner for us all... they eat lentils on new years for good luck? Ok :) haha also red underwear. Red underwear is a must have. It is so much of a must have that when I said I wasn't wearing any because I didn't know about the traditions, a friend from school pulled out a red pair of underwear and threw them at me saying I knew extra's would come in handy! Carinissimaaa hahah. Anyway, I am soooo tired.. I slept 3 hours today, and tomorrow I will be going to France with my family for a week to ski, and then I will come back and write about it. However, I hope everyone had a fantastic new year and that this year will be the best yet.. it already has been for me and we've still got 6 months to go! By the way, I'm never coming home. Sorry mom and dad. :)

AUGURI, HAPPY 2010!!!!
Allora, I have much to say
1st of all, I hate writing. ALRIGHT, now into the good stuff.

Yesterday me and my friend Tonje went tanning for the first time here in Italy. Tonje tans a lot (she's from Norway) and I went a little back home too. We were both lookin' very similar to dead fish so we decided it was time to hit up a solarium. When we got there, the lady said "Viso?" and we assumed this was a tanning bed so we said yes, 2. Apparently Viso is when you sit in a chair and just have your face tanned. Nice. These were some odd looking contraptions that we had never seen before. After that failure, the lady asked us again what we wanted, and we said tipo letto? Like a bed? Well apparently here they don't have beds. They have these things literally translated into "showers" which is were you stand up in this like little box and have to raise your arms above your head for however long you go. It's TIRING. That was new. I also think I got sunburnt. Wonderful.
This was the END of yesterday. This blog post is going to be in rewinnnddd!!!!!

So earlier that day (Friday), my school had a manifestazione again. This time, I WENT for the FIRST TIME! And now I can officially say that manifestazione are the best things ever. First they set off all these smoke bombs outside my school, but other kids still went in (like my class, because they had a history test. Good thing I don't understand history). Then, what seemed like a small amount of people followed this big banner that these guys were holding and we walked to the metro stop and then more and more people joined, and we were crowding the streets and stopping traffic and all, pretty awesome. Every once in a while they'd set off these big sparklers. When we reached the metro, about like 200 or so of us now idk probably more like 400 or something, we all jumped over the metro things. It was so coool because there was like hundreds of kids jumping over the metro. Then we all got on a train and went to this place called Cairoli... where I met my friend MOLLY from America :) For about two hours we walked around in the streets following this big truck that had all this badass music, like a moving truck or something, and alll these people like TONS of people were walking and protesting. They also have some lovely, positive cheers, like - There is a disease in my city that can't be cleaned out, its called the police BASTARDI. Then they yell at everyone who is looking out their windows at the manifestazione and yell come down with us stop being lazy come down with us. It was a magical very fun day, which ended in Duomo. Mollie and I went to get some deeliciouss italian hot chocolate pudding like buisness :)
Before friday was thursday, the only day i was in school this week besides saturday. Nothing happened on thursday. Obviously it was terrible because I actually had to LEARN. (Just kidding it was allright).
Allora, the 4th of december (Friday) to the 9th (wednesday)
There was a holiday in Italy from the 4th - the 8th of December, called Sant Ambrogio. This meant nooo school for 4 whole days! Enrico, a friend of my old family (explained a little down) invited me to go to Bormio (a town near the border of Switzerland) with him and his aunt/uncle and their wonderfully YOUNG four children. Did you know that young children frequently love to scream and express their joy as loudly as they can at 7 am? I sure didn't... However Bormio was beautiful, snowboarding (which I haven't done in forever) was a looot of fun but I'm also ridiculously sore from falling on my ass. It snowed on the second day I was there but they don't groom the slopes? This was cool because I really like fresh snow that's not groomed but it is also more difficult.. alloraaaa
In Bormio I discovered a new found passion for WINE. Legit.
One day, instead of skiing we went to a place REALLY near Switzerland called Livigno. Livigno is basically my dream town, because of one reason. The whole town is like a HUGE DUTY FREE STORE! Meaning it has no tax (the whole town). Meaning perfume, make up, clothes, designer sunglasses, vodka, cigarettes, and chocolate are VERY CHEAPPP. I bought the family I was staying with a bottle of wine as a thank you and procceded to throw away the rest of my money on a ridiculous amount of perfume. Successful. Tolberone bars were 1 euro too. Stocked up on chocolate. Just to give you an idea. The rest of Bormio was really fun, I met up with a couple of classmates who I found out were staying there and we walked around the (tiny) town for a little, got lunch, and then I had to leave... it was reallly realllly small. Like one of those cute cobblestone towns that you see in the 1800's or whatever. I liked it very much :)
On Tuesday night we drove to Lecco, where we stayed at Enrico's grandfathers house, which is HUGE and has the nicest view of Lake Como ever... it was sooo beautiful. I liked it there because you could see the stars, and I was always wondering why I can't see the stars in Milan. Then someone told me there was too much pollution. That's fantastic. Anyway it was nice to see the stars for once because I really missed them. From stars... to the beginning of the vacation, Sant' Ambrogio... to switching families.
Yep, I thought I might be one of the few NOT switching families, but it actually happened.
Hard to believe, huh?
Even harder to believe is the fact that I did not choose to switch families, the family chose that they couldn't host anymore.
I appreciate the old family I was with, because I know it is hard to have an exchange student (hello, we've had two). However, I also think that when you sign up for something as big as having someone from a different country live in your house for a year, there are a few important things you need to do
1) Make sure your whole family actually WANTS an exchange student. Or at least doesn't mind having one. If you have a son or daughter that actually didn't/doesn't want an exchange student... LISTEN TO THEM. YOU ARE DOING THE EXCHANGE STUDENT A BIG. BIG. FAVOR.
2) Flexibility is VERY important
4) Don't give up. Either have one for a year, or don't have one at all.

This being said, there were some unsolvable difficulties in the other family that resulted in me staying with the AFS housing advisor now, Claudia and her family. However I loveeee my new family which is good as well :) They have hosted two times before, and that makes me feel a lot more comfortable because they aren't suprised by a lot of stuff and know what the very different life of an exchange student is like. In a way I feel luckier than some exchange students. Im sure that if I had gotten put with a successful family the first time then I would feel different, but still, switching families is not something that everyone gets to do and its a completely new, more rare exchange experience. OH WELLLLL because the main thing now is that this family is completely freaking awesome and I basically love them. I still go to the same school, but now live in a bigger house and have my own room :D This is really, realllllly nice. My mom works for intercultura, my dad has a job that he wears a suit to, and I have two brothers. One actually just came back from studying in australia today (its tuesday the 15th... these posts take a long time to write) and he's 21, the other is 18 and studies in a school called Bottoni or something. The schools that all start with B are so easy to get mixed up because there is literally like a hundred of them... Everyone loves to talk and they all really love each other too which is kind of ridiculously adorable.
Alloraaaaa..... new other things. I went to Brescia this sunday for Santa Lucia festival.... it was fun.. I was an angel, we also had reindeers/bears, elves, santa clauses, and like... farmers. I don't know what they were exactly but it was legit. The only not legit part was that we walked around singing christmas carols... for 6 hours straight in the FREEZING COLD. Brescia is very pretty. We got hot chocolate. The end.

- I'm going skiing in France. Excellent family switching timing if I do say so myself.
- Everyone here thinks Amanda Knox is really, really, really guilty.
- Berluscconi got punched in the face.. with a statue... they really don't like him here
- Finals suck. All over the world, finals suck.
- I actually don't know anyone with a real tree.. they are all made out of plastic.. hahah I was so excited like "We're getting a tree? Really?!" - Yea, help me come unpack it from this box! haha
- Christmas = Natale
- I forgot my first english word today and I still can't remember it. It's irritating me.
- I hate italian mail. One of the very few things I hate. Because even when you expedite something, it will still take a month to arrive.
- It snowed for ten minutes. Best ten minutes EVER.
baci baci baci :) Kisses for all!
A dopo, Katie