Italy You Gave Me…(2 Year Anniversary)

Italia Lifestyle My Life Travel Beyond

It’s was 2 years ago I left home to study in Siena, Italy. My year abroad studying the Italian language gave to me so much more than I could give to it. February 19th will always be the day that to remind me of when I started to live & not just survive. In “Italy You Gave Me…” I try to capture how it Revolutionized my entire life. I hope you get to live it a bit through my words because honesty, words can never do it justive. Italia, you were, are & will forever be…Revolutionary.


Italy you gave me... - Okizia Beyond: I share how Italy revolutionized all aspects of my life, especially the lessons Italy taught me during my year abroad studying. I hope this inspires you to travel to know the land, its people, culture, cuisine & more.

Italy You Gave Me… 

Cold long nights, short sunny winter days

3 kids who stood by Gramsci & offered to call me a taxi & help with my overweight bags

2 African males who held open the door to XXIV Maggio & returned to help me with check-in

Of these 2 Africans, 1 who would make this new life transition “effortless”

My first taste of African cuisine on my first night in Siena to which I must admit was way too spicy.

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You gave me…

A shock of seeing dogs EVERYWHERE. It sometimes became annoying.

A terribly cold & lonely first night sleeping in my dorm. I had no clue what a heater was & that also my dorm, though the biggest, could pass for a cellar because as high as the heater was, it would still be cold.

My first winter coat & leather jacket which I absolutely adore.

A room-mate from Prague who invited me to dine with her & introduced me to females from Suriname & Mexico with whom I keep in contact.

An Italian who shared his dates with us.

And that very same Italian who I thought maybe didn’t like my skin color so would only just say hi & bye to me. However, that wasn’t the case.

 

You gave me…

An awareness of my skin tone; of how much I stand out in a crowd. Not only because of my skin but my beauty. No conceitedness here, but I really am a gorgeous being.

An awareness of not belonging yet belonging.

An Italian girlfriend who is obsessed with black natural hair & would grab the opportunity to touch mine.

Friends who constantly checked up on, fed me- sometimes by force, shared their dorms, their culture & family with me

 

You gave me…

Independence.

I didn’t know what that really looked like because I was always surrounded by family. You showed me that I had already possessed these qualities but was never able to put them into practice. I was now “solo-traveling”. Who knew there was such a thing? Appointments, reservations, ordering, declining, making small talk was all done by me in ITALIANO!

I learned to budget, sacrifice, be happy for those who were more able to do & go on adventures that I wanted to but couldn’t.

I prioritized my times, energies, monies.

 

You gave me…

A wonderful 24th birthday put together by my friend who I’d barely known for 3 months!

Italy you gave me... - Okizia Beyond: I share how Italy revolutionized all aspects of my life, especially the lessons Italy taught me during my year abroad studying. I hope this inspires you to travel to know the land, its people, culture, cuisine & more.

Fa Lu, from Suriname who arranged my 24th B-Day party

 

You gave me…

A canvas painted with history; took me in & showed me your secrets, your lineage, your connections to the rest of the world; had me walk on streets by men of the past who I had only read of from Casanova to Brunelleschi to Galileo.

Placed my body in front of monuments, buildings & shows that I didn’t even know exist; had me walk in centuries-old gardens of which my favorite is the Boboli Gardens; left me in awe as I turned the corner into Piazza del Duomo & saw with my OWN TWO EYES their famous Cathedral. Can I say that I had never been so captivated by anything in my life before?

It incited in me the most unexplainable feeling. In that moment my soul cried & reality hit me that I am in Italy-the land of the Romans.

Italy you gave me... - Okizia Beyond: I share how Italy revolutionized all aspects of my life, especially the lessons Italy taught me during my year abroad studying. I hope this inspires you to travel to know the land, its people, culture, cuisine & more.

Il Duomo, Piazza del Duomo in Florence

 

You gave me…

A boat ride to one of the islands in Venice with a Venetian! There we searched for mussels in the sand, fried a bistecca & ate it on the beach.

The opportunity to make real lasagna, pasta, coffee, pizza with pear & other strange ingredients & what ice-cream should really taste like.

 

You gave me…

Highly educated professors. Damn! Who knew?

These very same professors who taught you the language would then come share with you the art of drinking wine, cheese, olive oil; write books; take you on a historical tour.

You pushed me to my limit in my knowledge of my own island, St. Lucia. Forced me to research, become familiar with and share my findings.

A platform for showcasing my island on at least 4 public occasions & every day of course, in small ways.

Italy you gave me... - Okizia Beyond: I share how Italy revolutionized all aspects of my life, especially the lessons Italy taught me during my year abroad studying. I hope this inspires you to travel to know the land, its people, culture, cuisine & more.

A class in Olive Oil done by a Professor & my South Korean friend, Serafina assisting

 

Oh man, you gave me Opera!

Here I was back home singing to tunes that came from this magnificent land, Italy. You know Figaro right? Where do you think it came from? And stories about Cinderella & others, where do you think they really originated from?

 

You gave me…

European History. Nazi, genocide, fascism, WW1, WW11, the unification of Italy, French revolution, the Romans, migration & illegal immigration.

 

You gave me…

Diversity. You showed me the importance of simplicity in cuisine; how poor man food is now a delicacy; how each region has their own type of food, dialect, mannerisms, look etc

Language. There’s something about speaking & knowing Italian. I felt closer to history because it wasn’t only theirs portrayed through it but mine as well. I’d come across words I knew in English & would then start to connect with them because I became exposed to where they came from & how they came about. In the Italian language, I see so many cultures- it’s like a kaleidoscope.

 

You gave me…

Endless picnics, lunches & dinners with friends & classmates

Bonds that can never be broken.

A closeness to other parts of the world. If something is going wrong in my friend’s country, I now feel part of it.

A Nicaraguan roommate who is now my sister for life. I prayed for her long before I left home. God is good.

Italy you gave me... - Okizia Beyond: I share how Italy revolutionized all aspects of my life, especially the lessons Italy taught me during my year abroad studying. I hope this inspires you to travel to know the land, its people, culture, cuisine & more.

Daniella (from Nicaragua) & I at Ponte Vecchio in Florence

You gave me…

Family. It was there that I realized how much I have a strong foundation even away from home. I met family members from Europe who I had never met before; spent my vacations with my aunt & uncle who adore me as if I am their own. I wanted for nothing because I knew they were just a call or 3 hours away by plane.

Italy you gave me... - Okizia Beyond: I share how Italy revolutionized all aspects of my life, especially the lessons Italy taught me during my year abroad studying. I hope this inspires you to travel to know the land, its people, culture, cuisine & more.

My aunt, uncle & cousin. Bless their souls

You gave me…

So much!

But most importantly, you gave me, me.

I always knew I’d reach Europe. How? No idea but I knew that my God already had a plan.

My love & purpose for travel & discovery was fueled. I began to understand why I always felt that deep desire to leave my own & become part of another.

I learned that sometimes you have to be intentionally kind.

That it’s important to know exactly where your friends are from even though they all come from Asia.

That saying you want it isn’t enough. You need to be disciplined about it even on days when you don’t feel motivated.

I realized that I am both brave & a coward; stronger than I ever thought; I know how to adapt-my uncle always says to me I walk around like I own the place even though I have no clue where I’m going; that sunsets are better from my apartment; I love to entertain & share;  fearless because I do many things that my friends & family only dream of; I can and I am an inspiration; that my only sustenance is my God & had I not been grounded in Him, I would not have seen His supernatural work.

I discovered part of my purpose; religion, spirituality; how my own culture shaped my thoughts & behaviors; that even though I am shaped by them, I am still a blank canvas. You showed me opportunity, growth, potential.

But most importantly, in Italy having given me, me, I came to the conclusion that I could no longer keep all what I have been through & all where I travelled & what I’ve learned & skills that I have gained to myself.

Understand that Italy gave me all this & more but other parts of the world are waiting to write their stories on both your hearts & mine. My desire is that you don’t just take a plane & visit only the “popular places” but that you get to know the people, their history, culture, language, cuisine, struggles. Don’t ever take your impact & what you have to gain from traveling for granted.

Italy you gave me... - Okizia Beyond: I share how Italy revolutionized all aspects of my life, especially the lessons Italy taught me during my year abroad studying. I hope this inspires you to travel to know the land, its people, culture, cuisine & more.

Have you spent some time somewhere that left such an impression on you that it changed your outlook on life? Please tell me.

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6 Comments

  1. brittney gonzague February 21, 2018 3:18 pm

    makes me want to visit italy

    • Okie23 February 26, 2018 2:33 pm

      I hope that you do one day…with me of course!

  2. Gaby February 21, 2018 11:14 pm

    Beautifully written! I enjoyed reading this blog. I too now live out of my birth country.
    My yearning was the same. I am living my best life.
    Thank you for sharing.

    • Okie23 February 26, 2018 2:33 pm

      Thanks so much for sharing Gaby. Where do you live now?

  3. Maria February 23, 2018 12:34 am

    Beautiful!!!! Thanks for sharing
    Im Danielas’s mom.
    María

    • Okie23 February 26, 2018 2:34 pm

      Thanks so much for reading Maria. And mostly, thank you for having birthed an amazing soul!

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