Thursday, August 19, 2010

Over-The-Humpday Challenge: An Unintentional Two

I had to work the opening shift at the coffee house, 6 am - noon. Because of this, I had to wake up at the unconscionable hour of 5:30. I've always secretly wanted to be one of those people who wakes up at insane hours to exercise, so I decided that today OTHd Challenge would be to actually do that.

And I did. Alarm went off at 5 and 5:30, I popped up & got dressed, had a temper tantrum when I couldn't find my iPod, and rushed out the door for a calming walk to work. (I don't always trust myself to drive that early. Telephone poles tend to move to the middle of the street. I swear.)

It was a great walk, and I worked off some frustration, but it also gave me some serious thinking time. Remember the marathon-running thoughts? Well, today they all crossed the finish line at the same time in a big, tangled, confused mass. But, if there's anything I'm good at, it's sorting. Yeah, I was the kid whose favorite game was to sort and re-sort her Beanie Babies into various different categories....hey, it kept me happy. Sshhh.

Lately, I have been feeling a bit out of sorts. I had a GREAT time in Austin at the API Office (don't worry - that post is coming tomorrow!), and it was SO much fun to hear about everyone's study abroad experiences and exchange stories. But it also reminded me about every wonderful minute of my spring in Florence, and it seemed to have trigger something I thought maybe I had escaped. Reverse culture shock.

We were all warned about culture shock - you get to a new country, it scares the crap out of you at first, then you love every single inch of it...but eventually, it starts going sour, and you just want to go home. I'll will be completely, totally, 100% honest - I didn't experience it. I definitely had "I wanna go home" moments, but they had nothing to do with Italian culture. In fact, the biggest shock was how quickly Florence became my home & how comfortable I was! But I expected reverse culture shock. I knew it would be hard to go from living this incredible life in my favorite place in the world to right back home in a small town where the only Italian people know is latte. It didn't really ever hit me hard, though - I definitely slept a LOT when I got home, but I felt like I slipped back into home-for-the-summer life pretty easily. 

Until now. It is all of a sudden SO hard to be here. And at home, there really isn't anyone to talk to about who seems to 'get it'. That was what was so great about meeting all the Peer Mentors - our experiences were different, but we all had the experience itself in common!

What is hard is the reaction I know I will get. I'm sure there are plenty who say, "Oh please. You didn't live like an Italian, almost broke and trying to find an apartment in one of the most unorganized countries in the world. You lived like an American in Italy - spoiled." Ok, yes, I was spoiled. I know that, and I'm offended by people who think I live in a dreamworld where every Italian owns a prepaid apartment in the middle of Florence and the hardest decision of the day is what kind of bread to buy. (There are over 250 kinds; it's not an easy decision. ;)

No, I am perfectly realistic about that. What I miss is the way of life. People just seem more content with life, naturally happy. Life is hard, but that's life - roll with it. Here, it feels like everyone refuses to be happy until they lose another 10 pounds or make another 10 thousand dollars. We have Starbucks with drive-thru lines tossing out massive paper cups filled with nonfat cappuccinos. In Italy, you go to a bar, you sip your 4 oz or so cup of cappuccino - made with whole milk, thankyouverymuch - and *god forbid* talk to the person who made it and the people around you. What?? Stopping for coffee? No no, that's why I bought the SUV with extra cupholders! ....Oy. 

Now please don't get me wrong - American culture is just as beautiful & interesting as any other in its own unique ways - another post for another time, I promise. But I'm not sure I've ever felt more comfortable in a place before Florence. It just felt right, and perhaps it's because all of a sudden I'm understanding that I'm not going back tomorrow and I have to readjust to a place I love just a little less that these feelings are coming up.  

And of course, all this thinking has lead to yet another very painful realization - I'm ready to leave my house. The only one I've ever known. And it feels like one of my limbs is longer than its opposite. Off balance. I think this is what they call growing up?

So, today's OTHd Challenge was two-fold. Get up early to exercise before work? Check. Deal with reverse culture shock?....This one might be a work in progress. But, I am a work in progress. And that's okay with me.


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