I have been fortunate enough to do a lot of travel. I have spent the past four weeks in different parts of Italy (Cinque Terre, Tivoli and Ischia) as well as Munich and Berlin in Germany. Being away from Siena has certainly added perspective, and helped me understand the city a little better. I was in Berlin this last weekend and it is about as opposite to Siena as I could find. The city never sleeps and there is a significant youth to the city. There’s graffiti everywhere and everyone parties. I enjoyed my weekend, I had the chance to meet up with a very good friend of mine from college, but coming back to Siena has been a huge relief. My experience has been similar with all of my trips outside of the city. There is a hectic element to travel, regardless of how well it goes, and it is such a relief to be able to return “home” to Siena. And that’s what I have here. I have a place that’s mine, I have a family in Siena and I have a schedule. As soon as I leave my house and travel elsewhere, all the certainties that I have here in Siena are gone. I even missed the Italian language while I was in Munich and Berlin. I am by no means fluent but I easily understand street signs, names, and other public announcements. While in Germany, everything is so foreign, it’s like starting this whole ingratiation process over again without the structure.
Another thing that I’ve been struck by is my sense of time. My friends back home have finished midterms and are returning from fall break, signaling the middle of the semester. We have just started our third week of class. My academic clock is completely out of whack because of the schedule that we have because of this, it only occurred to me recently that the halfway point of my semester here is rapidly approaching. As I was getting my visa, as part of the paperwork that I had to fill out the number of days I would be in Italy was required. I found that I would be staying here for 109 days. I had no idea how long or short that would last. So far the days have been long but the weeks have been short if that makes any sense. Looking back, I don’t know where the time goes but in the moment things feel like they take forever.
A little off topic but I was struck by this fact as I was getting “Donner Kabob” in Berlin this weekend. Going home, back to the States, is going to be an adjustment in a lot of ways but one of the most devastating, I think, will be adjusting to the food. More specifically, the lack of high quality cheap food. I got one of the best sandwiches I will probably ever eat for 3 euro and unfortunately I think that is an experience that I will have to let go once I return to the states. It’s funny; here when I see a Burger King or a McDonalds I laugh and say “well I can find something cheaper and way better than that.” Those restaurants are afterthoughts but when I go home, I’ll be eating there wishing I could get just one more Donner Kabob, or thousands.
Peter is a student at College of William and Mary studying at Siena Italian Studies during the Fall 2013 term.