Hello, buongiorno, hola, bonjour, guten morgen, ahoj. Over the course of one month abroad, I was acquainted with a barrage of different cultures found in the introductory statement. It began with my great-aunt, a seventy-nine year old widow from Peru and devout catholic, invited me to join her on a trip through Europe. English stopped between the two of us, once we disembarked from the airplane, committing myself to only speaking Spanish with her for the entire month. We began in Rome, specifically staying within the Vatican City, which my aunt was deeply insistent upon. We would awake to church bells at St. Peter’s beckoning us to a ridiculously early morning mass. The mass was conducted in Latin, by a short Italian priest with a Prada briefcase- it was hard to focus on the mass itself. I wandered off around the marble statuary and bronze baldacchino, wanting to soak in every detail of the church’s grandeur, even going into the sacristy which I later learned was closed to the public. Then we would have breakfast, for it was forbidden to eat before communion, accompanied by a typical Italian espresso while being inundated by the smell of a first morning cigarette for many of the locals. Typical tourist sightseeing and the occasional Italian opera intermingled with the religion and later followed in the night by a trip to a bar, most notably the Ice Bar, which is kept at negative five degrees Celsius and is made completely of ice, which my aunt was not keen on staying in. After a new found religious nature, I boarded two ridiculously large American luggages on the small train and was off to OberÃ¶sterreich in Austria. Much of my extended family remained in Austria while some moved to Peru after World War II, but my aunt was the only family member to remain in contact with them. This in my mind was one of the foremost purposes for the trip, my induction to a family I had never met. We stayed with an uncle in the Alps of Austria, a man who built his house in its entirety, went into the forest to cut wood for heating, and tapped into an underground well for water. While in the Alps I helped cut wood in the forest, went hiking in wooden clogs, climbed to the top of a windmill on a hilltop and met more cousins and family members than I ever expected to meet. I then went to Salzburg to meet with another uncle, a brew master at Trumer Pils brewery. Leaving the Prada shoes I recently bought in Italy at home, I assumed an internship in the brewery. From carrying bags of hops, to heating the pre-fermented mixture and stirring the fermentation vats, I witnessed and participated in the entire process of beer making. We also saw a nude modern play entitled Orgy of Tolerance by Jan Fabre, which evoked more criticism than anything else from my aunt. It was a short journey to Prague, where I met some family friends and heard their daughter, an opera singer, sing. Returning after a month away, I found much of my house the same, my parents seemed unchanged, my outward appearance seemed relatively the same, but within me, I felt a surging energy of an agglomeration of so many foreign experiences. As I sit here having just returned from church, sending a message to my cousin Thomas, drinking Trinkschokolade, listening to Dolcenera, I am surrounded by the richness of different cultures and know my trip was a success.
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