Why would you not go out? There’s so much to see.
I went to Italy this past weekend. Somehow, one of the biggest American holidays rolled around without me paying any attention to it: I turned around suddenly and the Black Friday e-mails had swamped my inbox, my mother was sending me pictures of one of my Thanksgiving favorites (squash rolls, for those of a curious nature), Hanna accompanied me to Thanksgiving dinner with some friends in Maynooth, and next thing I knew I was stepping off a plane in Italy.
It was a pleasant sort of holiday, really, this European Thanksgiving. Thursday night was friends and fun and laughter: Hanna and me pulling apart proper Christmas crackers at the table, mince pies (although I suppose that’s not very American), then wandering over to Peaches for a proper, more-Thanksgiving-ly-traditional dessert after the train ride back to the city. I told her about my family, how whomever happens to be over on Thanksgiving has to go around and say something for which they are thankful from the past year.
She asked if I wanted to play the Thankful game. We sat there, two Americans in a sea of Irish, eating maple-pecan and chocolate-hazelnut tarts, listing things for which we were (and are) thankful.
Family, of course; and friends, old and new — the whole opportunity to study abroad, and delicious food and American holidays, certainly. Penn’s anthro department, which took us both in when we were more than a bit lost, and books, and Trinity despite its many absurd oddities, and good television and films and oh, Lord of the Rings! That reminds me, that Harry Potter studio tour! And London, and general dorkiness… and did we mention food, or maybe our ridiculous siblings and parents already? Ah well, throw them on the list again. They deserve it.
We left the restaurant dripping thanks for everything. Irish weather. Driving on the right side of the road… or the wrong one. Backwards cars. Double-decker buses, public transport, London, ferries across the Irish Sea, train rides — even a missed flight — and oh, Dublin.
Ireland, this country that has stolen our hearts, and Dublin — this foreign city that feels like home, with its creaking train tracks by my dorm and streets that hold so many talented musicians, its Christmas lights so bright and everywhere and goodness, the food, the culture, the people!
That was all on Thanksgiving day. The actual celebration came a day after my flight landed in Italy. Why Italy for Thanksgiving, you ask? Simple! My lovely friend Giulia’s family is there, and they are kind enough to put up with random American friends of their children popping by while they’re on the continent. And oh, a lovely time it was!
Granted, the amount of Italian I heard was a bit overwhelming. Let me tell you, you really haven’t lived until you’ve tried playing Cranium in a language you don’t know at all. Well, to be fair, I can say grazie and ciao. That, I’m afraid, is the extent of my Italian. Still, these people welcomed me into their home. I basted a turkey! I ate homemade pizza! I walked through the countryside and flew over the Alps!
It really was quite remarkable. I even watched It’s a Wonderful Life for the first time. I know. I hadn’t seen it before. Disgraceful. Still, there you have it! It even snowed. Really, it did. For the whole of Saturday morning! Lovely, lovely, lovely. Thanksgiving dinner and listing things we are thankful for — mostly in a language I don’t know at all, with three lovely ladies taking turns translating things for me — delicious food, lovely company, quiet evenings and lots of tea. As with every day as the end of this four-month-long adventure draws to a close, I spent a good bit of time thinking about studying abroad, travel, and the consequences this has all had on my own self.
My last night in Rosate rolled around quiet and calm, full of books, talking, a long walk around the countryside, a surprise party for Sandra (that’s Giulia’s mom), and, finally, homemade pizza and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Might I say that Dame Judi Dench and Dame Maggie Smith — solid. gold. Every time I see them in a film I’m completely flabbergasted at their brilliance.
In any case, I highly recommend The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel if you haven’t had the chance to see it yet. There’s a moment in the film that I particularly loved. Tom Wilkinson’s character, a man named Graham Dashwood who spent his childhood in India, walks into the hotel courtyard to find Penelope Wilton’s character, Jean Ainslie, staring aimlessly at her book. She pounces on the opportunity for conversation: having refused to leave the hotel due to dislike of India, she has spent the day between her room and the garden, longing to go home, and completely ignoring everything outside of the hotel walls.
After she explains the events of her day, which included naming the cockroaches in her room and sitting in the courtyard waiting for someone to come along, Dashwood looks at her sadly. Why would you not go out? he asks. There’s so much to see. All life is here, Mrs. Ainslie, I tell you.
That, I thought, that is what this adventure is all about. The travel, the staying in, the friends, the exhaustion, the fun times and the not-so-fun times — that is what I think about this.
I don’t understand why you would go to a country and not try to see it, live it, experience it. What’s the point in doing otherwise? I certainly don’t think I’ve finished figuring it all out, but I know there’s been an awful lot of knowledge absorbed and processed and experienced. These pictures — they aren’t even full representations of all that I’ve seen. They’re just that: pictures. Snapshots. Moments that I recorded for later thoughts and memories that I hope to give justice to when I’m telling stories or laughing with my friends about that one time when — Even with these moments saved for future memory — well.
There is always more to see, more to learn.
All life is here, Mrs. Ainslie, I tell you.