As my fourth week of class ends here in Sorrento, my final examinations are just around the corner. It’s incredible how quickly these past weeks have passed, and how integrated I feel in the daily life of Sorrento. Just the other day I was complaining about the rather sudden arrival of mostly British tourists in Sorrento to some Italian friends of mine, and how the sudden spike in tourism has affected my time spent around town, and they had to remind me that I am technically a tourist despite having lived here for a month. It was a playful reminder of how much I feel a part of the community here, and yet how much room I still have for growth.
This week I traveled much less so I would have some quality time with my friends and host family in preparation for final exams and really hunkering down on my schoolwork. I’ve noticed that there is very little stress in Italy, a very different feeling than in the States. If I’m a few minutes late for my early class of the day, I receive a pat on the back for sleeping in and we continue with the lessons. There is no such thing as a set schedule for anything here. Buses, trains, and appointments all tend to run late and there is no pressure to do much of anything on a tight schedule. Time should be spent with those who make you happy doing what makes you happy, and for this reason I am already dreading my return to the hustle and bustle of life in America.
My friends and I went to Positano over the weekend to visit the beaches and the incredible views of the Amalfi coast. I was taken aback by the sheer beauty of the city, but my sense of awe was quickly muffled by the long and winding walk down to the beach on such a hot and humid day. Positano is a well-known tourist destination for the rich and famous of America, and for that reason it was difficult to communicate in Italian with any of the store owners. It seemed that every tourist was from America, and I found it a little troubling to be in such a beautiful Italian city that seemed to be overrun by American tourists. After some time at the beach, my friends and I were eager to return to Sorrento and to our friends.
My host family held a birthday party for the young girl upstairs who had just turned nine yesterday. I walked in the kitchen to find five pizzas, a chocolate mousse cake, and homemade tiramisu. Needless to say, I was elated. My roommate was in Florence for the weekend, so the party consisted of myself and five Neapolitan women ranging in age from 9 to 70. It was so interesting to see the family dynamic of neighbors, and how age has created very few barriers for these women. They were so comfortable with each other and immediately adopted me into the group, taking photos with me and making fun of my “american appetite”. Hands were flying in every direction as they were so fond of the hand gestures Italians are famous for. Sometimes I find myself using them as well, and it will be interesting to see if my family picks up on it when I see them in two weeks. My friends from home had jokingly given me a book of swear words and slang in Italian claiming that it held “everything I really needed to know”, and I was so glad they did. That nine year old girl had the mouth of a sailor, and it was funny to know precisely what she felt comfortable saying around her mother and elders. I was surprised at how much I understood at the dinner table, and how much I was willing to participate in conversation. Carla, the birthday girl, was eager to get to know me as her interest in American culture could be validated by my knowledge of pop culture.
As final tests approach I feel bittersweet about leaving Sorrento. I have forged so many great bonds here with people from all over the world. I am sincerely going to miss being able to speak Italian with virtually anyone I meet and the carefree nature of summer life on the Amalfi coast.