Last Sunday night, I ate dinner for almost three hours with my host family.

I can&t remember the last time I&ve eaten so much and enjoyed myself so thoroughly at a meal as I did that night.

There were fourteen of us at the table 8212; fortunate were the ones fluent in both Italian and English. The rest of us missed almost half of the conversation. In my one month here I&ve come to appreciate the value of facial expressions.

Before the meal, my host mother Silvia briefed me with the information that her brother would be present with his second wife. The fact that I thought it unnecessary for her to tell me this beforehand made me realize how desensitized I am to divorce and remarriage in America.

Dinner consisted of nearly ten courses. Not knowing how much was yet to come, I did not pace myself in the early rounds. Luckily, I have an insatiable appetite for good Italian food.

However, as I ate some roast beef that would be classified as raw by most American standards, I silently hoped I would not be afflicted by mad cow disease sometime down the line.

My favorite part of the meal was the apple cake we had for dessert. My host mom smiled when I went back for more. At that moment, I was thankful for my ability to eat like a truck driver.

As the eating wound down, the conversation turned to politics. My host father Alessandro belongs to an Italian political group, and he was endlessly amused with my opinions about the American political system.

He wanted to know the differences between the political parties in the United States. The most controversial issues I could come up with were gun control, abortion and the death penalty. Alessandro laughed at these so-called differences, considering that one of the major Italian political parties runs on the platform of secession from Italy.

He then commented that if the election crisis in Florida had happened in Italy, a civil war would have broken out. I&d never realized until then that I take for granted the stability of the United States government.

When the conversation slowed, my host cousin Marta jumped up on her aunt&s back and they bounced around the kitchen laughing.

As I looked around, I was amazed and a little envious of the closeness and affection of my host family. I was lucky to be a part of it, if only for a month.

8212; Katherine AidalaClass of 2002

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