Yesterday wasn’t a typical day by any means, but I believe it well represents the development I’ve undergone from a first semester student to full-academic year student. The first I noticed of this development occurred during breakfast. I had plans to explore a new pasticcheria (pastry shop). My breakfast food supply was very limited due to my upcoming trip. I buckled, however, to the familiarity of my usual café, Fram. I was pleased to see there were still chocolate cornetti (like a croissant), which I had with the usual café macchiato. I gulped down my breakfast in a hurry because I was headed to the BSCP office to catch a word with the director, who is often busy during the afternoon. My favorite barista was working and although I see her nearly everyday I didn’t know her name. As I waited in line at the register I worked up the courage to ask her. “Benni,” she said, “and yours?”
I stopped by the Pam grocery store on my way to the office to pick up some honey flavored lozenges for my sore throat. Antonio, a cashier I had come to know, was working the register. I asked him how thing were going while checking out. While I still have trouble deciphering his thick Sicilian accent I made out something about back pains and a desire to travel in my luggage with me on my return to America. Then I was off through the back alleyways of Bologna I could now navigate with my face down in my Ipod. As I crossed through Piazza Maggiore I heard an African-sounding voice calling after me “mister!” I ignored it at first but then felt guilty and turned by head. He had a hand-full of books in one hand with the other gloved hand raised for an embrace. I told him I had already bought a book of poems from Senegal that has sat on my desk untouched all year-long, gave him a hand-full of throat lozenges and was on my way.
By the time I arrived at the BSCP office a little bit after ten, it was too late. An office full of teachers from universities across the US already occupied Professor Ricci’s office, buzzing about their experiences in Italy thus far. I waited in the main room. I hadn’t been to the BCSP office in months since all my classes this semester are through the university of Bologna. I chatted a bit with Paolo, my language teacher from last semester, joking about how our class was irreplaceable. A few spring semester students sat at the computers, tapping away at the keyboards, a few more filtered into Paolo’s classroom. I didn’t recognize any of them. I felt like an outsider in the office where I often saw my American friends last semester. I sat by the desk of the program’s administrator, Daniele. I chit-chatted a bit with her and Lorena, the office assistant, and eventually had a chance to thank professor Ricci for the recommendation letter he wrote for me that resulted in my acceptance in a teach English abroad program. Then I left the office to go home for lunch. On the way home I saw the old accordion player I would pass every other morning last semester. Needless to say it had been months since I’d seen him but I dropped some change into the hat that laid on the sidewalk in front of him and he gave me the usual nod as if I hadn’t missed a day.
I made a typical Italian lunch around two o’clock. Pasta with tomato paste (you don’t buy pre-made sauce) datterini tomatoes, onions, tuna, capers, with an American touch, bell pepper. Around four o’clock I went to pick up the kids at the International school for my babysitting job. I walked home with them and, as usual, had to bribe them to do their English homework with the promise to play wrestling, which consists of me tossing them back on Francesco’s bed while they try to take me down as a team, they always win. Around half past six my boss, Silvia, came home and I walked back to my house, taking the shortcut my roommates had taught me. I reflected on how things had changed this semester. I had grown familiar with faces and places around Bologna. I now recognized people who have the same routine. They take the same bus lines; they go to the same supermarkets and cafés. What was once familiar to me had become alien and vice versa. I had a long trip to Ireland coming up, but I realized that day that I had changed. I fit the mold now and had become one of those recognizable faces and when I return it wouldn’t at all be like before but like returning home again, and with that the Italian word for the day is abituato — literally “habituated” or “used to.”