Rome, Pizza and Strikes

As I mentioned in a previous post the British Council organized a 2 day induction course for all the British Language Assistants that had been placed all over Italy to meet up and learn more about what our roles as English Language assistants actually entailed. So taking advantage of this opportunity to visit Rome, a few of us decided to arrive a few days earlier to do a little sightseeing and exploring, and I’m so glad we did! Having been in Italy for only 4 days, I was definitely feeling homesick and I was glad I had the trip to Rome as something to look forward to. The long weekend really cheered me up and being surrounded by people who were also going through the same things as me made me feel like I wasn’t in this completely alone.

I decided to get the train from Bari to Rome…a lovely 5 hour trip, not including the hour and half trip from Martina to Bari Centrale. It was a tiring day but I couldn’t wait to see everyone.What made it even better was when I found out that I didn’t have to change trains after all and I could spend the next 5 hours sleeping/reading without worrying which train I was getting on next. I arrived in Rome at 20 past 5 and I was met by the girls outside the station (they had to come and find me as I came out of the wrong exit – no surprise there!). Our hostel was in a great location, just around the corner from Termini station. I must admit I was a little worried about staying in this hostel, as after booking we decided to read some reviews (probs should have done it the other way round!) and anyway, most of the reviews seemed pretty negative. I’m talking about things such as: bed bugs, creepy owners and everything being very dirty. However, I’m glad to say that it wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be. Okay, so it wasn’t exactly 5* accommodation but that’s not what I was expecting anyway. The room seemed quite cosy and the owners seemed friendly enough. (Maybe too friendly when he tried to teach us Salsa dancing, but they were harmless)

The first night we decided to go out for pizza of course, since I’d arrived in Italy I had been living off pasta and food that I’d brought from England, so eating an amazing pizza was definitely a treat!

Amazing pizza

After pizza, we did a little walking around for a few hours and returned back to our hostel most us being pretty tired from travelling. The following day we decided to spend the day trying to fit in as much sightseeing as possible. Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side and it rained most of the day. We didn’t let it ruin our day though; in fact we took this opportunity to make a fashion statement. We bought some ponchos from the many men walking around Rome trying to sell them. Not only were they cute but they actually kept us dry! By the end of the day the whole of Rome was wearing them, we are such trend setters! 😉

Our wonderful ponchos

With the help of a sightseeing open-top bus we actually managed to see a lot more of Rome than we would have by foot from the beautiful Coliseum to the Trevi fountain. There was something to look at everywhere I turned. It was all so beautiful. There was so much to see and do that I wish we had more time. The bus journey around Rome was possibly one of the most entertaining bus journeys that I’ve ever been on. The rain was continuing to fall and being on an open top bus, you can imagine how wet we got. They did put a cover which sheltered us from some of the rain – however, poor Becca got soaked whenever the bus turned a corner and all the water would come rushing through. One of the funniest things I’ve seen – ever.

As evening came around we were pretty fed up of being cold and wet so we decided to be lazy and get a Chinese takeaway and take it back to our hostel. I know what you’re thinking…

You’re in Rome surrounded by amazing pizza and pasta and you choose to have a Chinese?

Yes, I regret it too! The takeaway was really disappointing and was definitely not as good as one from home.

The next two days in Rome were spent near the Spanish Steps, at the British Council induction course. I found the course really help and it gave me quite a few tips and ideas on lesson plans, class management and games that I could play with the classes. It was also a really good way to meet other assistants from other universities, and the best bit was the amazing free food and drink. (At one point I went up to the buffet 4 times and got various pastries, they were amazing). Our last night in Rome we decided to again have pizza, you can never have too much! (We learnt from our Chinese takeaway mistake!) and we did a bit more sight seeing, Rome is so different at night than it is in the day, but still so beautiful.

One of the coffees we got. So pretty.

On the last day of our Rome adventure, we had to go in for our last bit of our induction course, and some more free food and drink. I was so sad that this trip was coming to an end that and I was anxious about my year abroad finally beginning. I was wishing that I could stay for longer, I wasn’t ready to leave just yet.

Be careful for what you wish for.

So on the day when we were all meant to make our ways to our towns and schools Italy decides to have a transport strike. There couldn’t have been a worse time to strike. However, I was told not all transport links were effected, only some regional ones. My train to Martina was a regional one and yes, it would have to be one of the only ones affected. I phoned the school telling them my problems and they assured me that they hadn’t heard about any strikes, although I had told them that I phoned the train company and they’d clearly said they were on strike. My train to Bari from Termini was thankfully not affected by the strike and I decided to travel back to Bari and then decide what to do when I got there. Regardless of what my school had said, of course the trains to Martina were on strike. So the only options were to stay in Bari the night or take a very expensive taxi back to Martina. Seeing as I was starting school the following day, and the fact that the school did not believe that there was a strike that day I thought my best bet was to take the taxi back to Martina. I couldn’t have been more upset to return to my empty house, but what made it worse was when I got in the electric had been cut off. It really was a definition of a nightmare day. All my food in the fridge had gone off, and I was forced to take an ice cold shower in the pitch black.

So Rome began on a high and ended on a low. My first encounter with Italian strikes couldn’t have gotten much worse and I’m sure it will be the first many. On the whole though, it was one of the most amazing weekends, I had such a good time. So many memories, definitely a trip to remember!

I can’t wait for another trip to Italy somewhere, just hopefully this time I will be able to get home!

Ivy x

Ciao Italia!

So somehow I managed to get to Italy in one piece – proud moment! I’ve been in Italy for 12 days now and there has been a lot to get used to. I was convinced that because I had lived in Italy when I was born for a short while when I was born that I wouldn’t experience any culture shock – I couldn’t have been more wrong. Being 6 years old and living with your family is completely different from being 20 and living alone. As soon as I left my mum at the airport, the enormity of this whole year abroad business finally hit me. Whilst waiting for my flight all I was thinking was “what the hell have I gotten myself into?!” Even 12 days later I find myself thinking the exact same thing!

My plane to Bari!

6 hours since I left Manchester (due to a changing of plane and a delayed flight) I finally arrived at Bari airport. The journey wasn’t as bad as I expected. I was quite surprised that I managed to find my way to my connecting flight in Gatwick and arrive in Bari safely. I was greeted at the airport by Francesco my taxi driver to my town. Good old Francesco was really friendly (probably not what you need when all you want to do is sleep) but as soon as we got into the car he started talking away speaking very fast Italian and using Italian dialect (I think!). So as you can imagine I hardly understood a word. Not to be rude though I just nodded and replied with a few uncertain ‘si si’ when there was a pause in conversation. (I can imagine this being the case for many more conversations to come). After an hour and a half we arrived at Martina and I met my landlord that led me to my apartment. So it was a bit different from the photos. Let’s just say photos can be very misleading and it was much smaller than I had anticipated! All the same I was happy to finally see a bed in front of me and that’s all I cared about at the time.

My little house for the next 8 months!

In the daylight my house doesn’t look as bad as I thought in my post-travel state, I could go even as far as saying it’s quite cute!

The historic centre where I live

The following day was a bit surreal, it took me a few seconds to remember where I was and once I was up the thought of going out to explore was very daunting. All I could hear was Italian men and women talking and going about their daily lives. I hung around the house for literally hours before even thinking of going near the door. If anything, this experience has already made me do things I would be too scared to do in England and this might affect me positively when I go back. When I finally plucked the courage to leave my house I was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful the town was, no wonder it’s a tourist destination in Puglia. I wondered around for a few hours being careful not to get lost, every street literally looks the same I’m quite surprised that I managed to find my way back to my little house! The next few days were spent pretty much the same, and slowly the fear of leaving my house lessened as I learned my way around the town. Oh, one thing I’d definitely recommend is buying a detailed map before you arrive, I know it seems really obvious but it managed to slip my mind which meant finding things such as a supermarket and the train station proved to be more difficult!

You’ll be happy to know that after 4 days I did manage to find both, although it would have taken far less time and effort if I’d bought a map beforehand! It’s a good job because I was starting to get sick of eating chocolate I’d brought from England breakfast, lunch and dinner! Something else I’d definitely recommend before jetting off is downloading whatsapp on your smart phone, this has defiantly saved me some hard work  a few times with family and friends texting me important details, and also to keep in touch with family and friends from home which will definitely put a smile on your face.

I still haven’t got my head around every aspect of living and working abroad alone but each day I’m learning something new – for example during my first few days in Martina I learned that zebra crossings in Italy do not serve a purpose and are merely placed on the road for decoration and the same goes for pedestrian traffic lights.

Hopefully I will soon get my head around it all and actually begin to enjoy my year abroad!

A presto,

Ivy x

3 Days

3 days. 3 days. 3 DAYS?!!

The nerves are definitely kicking in now!

Having ticked off most of the important things on my ‘to do’ list I do feel more reassured than I did few weeks ago, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling massively nervous about going. I feel that September has come around a bit too quickly for my liking. I’m a bit apprehensive about how I’m going to deal with living alone in a place I don’t know, and it doesn’t help being used to having a house full of people at home as well as at uni. Hopefully the (ridiculous) amount of paperwork I have to do in the first few days in order to get an Italian sim card, internet and open a bank account will keep me busy – leaving me with less time to think about home.

So these last few days here in England are going to be filled with last-minute shopping, and lots of goodbyes (and hopefully very few tears!). I think goodbyes are going to be the worst thing. Meeting up with my friends for the last time before I go seems scary and sad. This is when things get real. I keep telling myself that it will be as if I was going away to uni, and that time will soon fly by – and that does make me feel lots better. But I knew if that didn’t cheer me up it’s just as well that me and a friend went out for lunch, as this selection of desserts at Red Hot World Buffet would definitely/ and did cheer me up!

Another task which I am dreading is the packing. Being used to packing everything I needed for uni in the car to having just one suitcase is a shock to the system. These are the times when I actually go from ‘having no clothes’ to ‘having too many’. I don’t know where to start! I have been contemplating packing all day but I’ve made little/no progress. I think it’s going to be one of those…”Oh I’ll do it tomorrow”…which undoubtedly means I’ll do it at the last possible minute.

Do you think I’ll get away with taking her with me?

Something which I am really looking forward to is the British Council induction course which is being held in Rome. I recently booked my train tickets to Rome which ended up being a lot cheaper than flying which was my initial choice. It’s probably because it takes 4 hours and I have to change trains 4/5 times which is quite daunting. I’m not very good with trains and I have manged to get on the wrong trains here in England, nevermind abroad! Just hope everything is straight forward!  I’ve heard that trains in Italy are good though so that’s comforting! A few of us have booked at the same hostel, which is right in the city centre and near the train station (so hopefully I won’t get lost!) and we’re arriving 2 days before the induction in order to explore Rome which I am very excited about! It’ll be a nice opportunity to meet the other assistants as well as catch up with the assistants from my course at uni.

So a lot will be happening in the next few weeks including moving to Martina Franca, visiting Rome and starting work early October. Hopefully I will have a lot to write about in the next few blog posts! This is probably going to be  my last blog post from England as scary as that sounds! Scary and exciting at the same time.

There are so many people and things that I am going to miss back in England, however there is one thing I am not going to miss at all – the English weather. Goodbye rain, Hello sun!

Ivy x

Ups and downs

I had been warned that my year abroad would include a lot of ups and some downs. However, I didn’t realise I would be experiencing the few downs of moving abroad before even having left England!  As I mentioned in my previous post, after a good 2 months of searching I finally found somewhere to live in Martina Franca – a cute little flat in the centre of my town and only a short drive from the school where I’m teaching. I was so happy to have finally found somewhere to live! I thought I would be going without any accommodation and having to find somewhere once I’m there (which a few assistants do) but I really didn’t want to do that so having found a flat before arriving to Italy was really reassuring. The flat was recommended to me by the headteacher at the school I am working at (the landlord is a relative of hers) therefore I knew I could trust him. The flat is a monolocale which basically means everything is in one room the kitchen, bedroom and living space, with the bathroom boxed off in one corner.

I originally wanted to share a house or apartment with some Italian students but I learned that this would very difficult as the town I had been placed is quite small and is an hour and twenty minutes drive from the nearest University (where I’d have more chance of finding a student flat to rent). However, I am starting to feel like living alone might be more beneficial for me as I will be forced to go out and find people to talk to (which is something I find quite intimidating) and this will do lots for my confidence instead of having everything handed to me on a plate.

Everything was not so perfect when I first started sorting this whole accommodation business. I first got in contact with the landlord a couple of weeks ago to inquire about the flat. After a couple of days I heard back from him, he told me that he had the perfect place for me but if I was interested in renting it I had to tell him immediately as there was quite a lot of people interested in it also. After looking at the photos and details of the flat, I was satisfied this was the place for me and I emailed him immediately telling him I was definitely interested in renting it. A couple of days passed without any reply. I started to worry that maybe he had already given the flat to someone else when he emailed me again, asking me to tell him if I wanted to rent his flat or he’d rent it to someone else that day. What?! I’d already replied to him and told him I wanted to the flat! Had he not received my emails? I emailed him a few more times, but there was no answer. Panicking I would lose the flat, I decided to do the most dreaded thing I could think of doing…phoning him. It wasn’t as scary as I thought and I was surprised that I could actually understand him. This way I managed to secure my apartment, I was soo proud!

So in order to officially secure my flat before arriving to Italy I also had to pay my landlord a deposit of 3 months rent in advance – ouch to my bank balance! Having worked for some time whilst at uni I had saved enough money to pay him the deposit. After about 2 weeks of making the payment I heard back from my landlord, and he informed me that my deposit for the flat had not been received. WHAT?! How can this happen, after having paid it nearly 2 weeks ago and being assured by my bank that it would arrive within 2-4 working days of course I started worrying. Where could the money have gone? I left it a couple of days when I finally decided to go to the bank to see what had happened. The night before going however I received the email I had been waiting for almost 2 weeks… “tutto ok per il bonifico…arrivato!”…the payment had finally reached my landlord. SO MUCH RELIEF! Things seemed to finally be going my way! I could finally stop worrying about my year abroad and start to become excited!

So the whole process of organising and preparing myself for my year abroad has had some downs, as well as ups! (especially being able to phone my landlord and realising that I could understand him!)

I can’t wait to see what this year will bring.

Ivy x

Leavin’ on a jet plane (2 weeks to go)

So, my flights have been booked and I have finally found some accommodation. I can’t believe that 2 weeks from now my Italian adventure will begin, where has the time gone?  This 3 month summer has absolutely flown by and I still feel unprepared. I am so excited about this adventure, but I am nervous at the same time. I can’t help but worry about things such as: how can I fit my whole life in a suitcase? How will I cope living away from my family and friends for a year? but I am hoping that my mind will be put at ease when I arrive in Italia!

So this will be my home for the next year: Puglia, Italy here I come!

Image

A presto,

Ivy x