Mariah C.

Imprint of Italy

Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a mew world is born.
-Anais Nin, author

Tears prickled my eyes as I was telling Maria Sole, my 17-year-old exchange student, goodbye. I couldn’t believe that ten days had passed so fast. I met these twenty-nine amazing people, who have changed my life tremendously, and now we were leaving Siena. I just couldn’t grasp this, and the familiar phrase “life is so unfair!” was running through my head.


“Come on, say your last good-byes, it’s time to go,” Ms. Lowe, the ceramics teacher and one of our chaperones, said, sort of shouting, over all the farewells. A few tears escaped, and fell down my face, as I finished saying good-bye to Maria Sole, and did another round of good-byes quickly, before I had to board the bus.


The bus was silent as we drove out of the parking lot. We were waving furiously at them. Suddenly, Sarah Quatrano called out, “Don’t worry! We will see them soon, in about a month and a week!” The bus suddenly became a lot cheerier.


While we were driving to Venice, my happiest moments, favorite memories, and funniest recollections were replaying in my mind.


It is the second night, all the Italian students and all the American students are going out to dinner. I am sitting with Sarah Bennett, another American student, Duccio, Sophia, Ariana, Francesco, and Simone. Sarah had gone to talk to someone. I am feeling shy, because I am naturally painfully shy, and on top of that, I don’t really know any of them, and therefore I just clammed right up.


All of a sudden, I feel someone poke my arm. I turn, and it’s Simone. He smiles and says apologetically, “I’m sorry, I don’t remember your name.”

I interject, “It’s Mariah.”

“Sorry,” he apologizes again, “I have a question.”

I nod for him to continue.

“Do you know the band Greenday?”

“Yes,” I reply, “Why?”

“Francesco and I are disagreeing over a line in the song, ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’.”

They proceed to tell me the version they each respectively think is correct. I smirk at Simone’s all knowing grin, and told them, “Sorry Simone, Francesco’s right.”

“What?!” he cries in disbelief. I start laughing at him, and then Simone, Francesco, and I start talking about a completely different topic.


I smiled at this memory. I had never felt so comfortable and so welcomed that quickly before. It warmed my heart. Following my happiest moment was my favorite memory. My favorite memory is closely linked to my happiest moment.


It’s the last night. We’re all going out to dinner, to celebrate all the time we had spent together, to enjoy being with our new and incredible friends. “I can’t imagine my life without having met them,” I think before walking into the restaurant.


Everyone’s sitting together, no longer Italian students and American students, but people who are great friends, who taught each other new and different ideas and perspectives. I sit, thinking about how lucky I am to have experienced being thrust into a whole new culture, and learning so much. I begin snapping pictures, trying to preserve every moment possible, while everyone was laughing at me, calling me an Asian tourist. Well, actually, Eugenio wasn’t, he was too busy trying to steal my camera.


I start laughing, and Sarah Bennett looks at me funny, “Eugenio…camera…” was all I could manage to say, but she seems to catch the drift. Eugenio is the perfect link to my funniest recollections, because he’s in all of them.


We’re at a Spizzico (fast-food type of place, though nothing like Burger King or Wendy’s), and I was sitting talking with Eugenio and Niccolo Alescio, my camera sitting on the table. Out of the blue, Eugenio picks up my camera, and starts taking pictures of his face with different expressions, one smiling, and the next frowning. He takes about ten to twelve pictures, then turns off the camera, and sets it down.


Later on today, I’m showing Maria Sole what pictures I’ve taken so far, and then after a picture of Duccio and Irene (two Italian students), there are about ten or so ‘artista’ (pictures he took himself), of Eugenio.


Sarah Bennett shook me out of my thoughts, to show me her pictures, and to talk about her memories, and Italy’s imprint on her. I smiled as the first few shots showed the happiness, a common emotion in all the faces. I sat back, soaking up the different perspective of her experience.



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