Monday, April 26, 2010

Catching Up

So I wrote this post over time, but I felt like the world deserved an update, so here it is. Ignore any spelling errors, because honestly, it was too long for even me to read over...

I am currently on the bus to Corigliano in Calabria, to visit my Italian family members who do not speak a word of English, watching out the window as the rolling countryside of southern Italy passes me by. Of course this won’t be posted for a few days, as I will not have, nor time probably, to post this during the weekend. But I have a seven-hour bus ride, two hours behind me and five hours to go, and a lot of time to write and update the world, so I wanted to properly set the scene.

I last left you before my spring break. I was so stressed before the vacation that I didn’t even have time to say see you later (ci vediamo) due to midterms and such. My midterms all ended up going well and I finished on the last Thursday in March and I packed nine days into one backpack and went to sleep at Ashton’s with Nicole. Spring Break began Friday, March 26th at 3:00 AM after going to sleep at 12:30. I jumped in the shower, the only possible way for me to start my day, my substitute for coffee, got the other two out bed, and we caught a cab and then our flight to Paris at 7 AM.


We arrived in Beauvais, France around 9:30 AM, an hour outside of Paris. We took a bus to the very end of Champs Elysees. We were very possibly overtired, and therefore overambitious, so we walked all the way down this famous avenue, not even our giant backpacks wearing us down (of course at one point, just after exclaiming “I look like such a tourist with this backpack!” Nicole’s bag exploded, sending her bra, my straightener, and the communal blow drier scattered on the sidewalk. In attempt to console Nicole’s embarrassment, Ashton yelled “It’s okay! No one knows us! I can walk around naked if I want,” of course assuming, oh yeah, foreign country, sure, no one will understand me. Nope. A Frenchman turned around, pointed his finger at her, smiled and said, in a classic French accent, “No. You can’t!” The laugher that followed actually probably never stopped.)

So we passed the Arc de Triomphe and then made our way down to the Louvre and spent a solid four hours there, viewing amazing artwork. Ashton and I were beside ourselves, more so Ashton as she is an art history major. After the Louvre, we decided to find our hotel, which became a two-hour adventure, as we had written down the wrong address. I went online and found directions on the hotel website, but Nicole just wrote down the address. The wrong address. So we get off the metro, very confused as we can’t find the street the hotel was “supposed to be on,” so we turn off the street and stop into another hotel to ask. The man at the desk was nice enough to print out directions to the address we gave him. So we go to this hotel, which has the same name as our hotel, but isn’t our hotel…apparently there are at least five hotels in all of Paris with the name “Hotel Des Arts.” Fail. The man at the desk was not so nice, but he still called the closest hotel with that name and we did have a reservation. So we walked another half hour to this place. It was the sketchiest hotel I have ever seen. We walked up five flights of spiral staircase. The toilet was outside of the room, down a hallway in which the floor was covered with plastic…probably so they could replace the plastic when the horror film murders occurred, leaving any stains. I’m telling you, this place is right out of the movie, “Taken.” But we made it out alive, despite the fact that Nicole’s bed actually folded in half when she sat on it, a flaw the hotel pretended to fix the first two days and we finally gave up the third day.

The Paris experience continued the next with a visit first to the Sacre Cour, a beautiful cathedral at the top of a hill that overlooks all of Paris. Amazing view. Then we walked down to see the Moulin Rouge. Then the Musee d’Orsay, a museum with famous impressionist artists: Van Gogh, Renoir, Monet, etc. That was fun. Then we got coffee to get us to the Notre Dame. Then we walked all the way to the former location of the Bastille. Now, Ashton and I have both taken courses on French history. I knew that they actually dismantled this building after the French Revolution, but we were really expecting some sort of remains No. There’s just a monument. So we walked around this area in search of we don’t even know what. Finally I caved and broke out the blackberry to discover that we again failed. But there was a nice French protest around the monument, so that was cool. That night, we decided to go to the Eiffel Tower and have ourselves a picnic. We bought wine, French baguettes, pepperoni, and brie cheese, and awaited the light show. Basically the tower sparkles for five minutes every hour for three hours every night. It was cool to see. And we met two nice French men, who told us that the weirder brie tasted, the better…which would mean that our brie was the best, because it tasted really odd. That’s French cheese for you, I guess.

The next day we climbed the Eiffel Tower. It ended up raining, but it was still amazing to see all of Paris, including the Sacre Cour. Then we went to Versailles, my favorite place by far. I had just learned about Louis XIV, the French king who created this palace, in my European history class last semester, so I was really excited. And it was beautiful, especially the gardens.


We flew into Madrid with very little idea of what we were going to do. The first day we got there, we just got into our hostel, which was actually very cool. It had an indoor courtyard in the middle of a big room, from which the hostel dorm rooms branched off. Basically in Madrid, we just wandered around, saw the plazas and shopped a bit, went into the Sofia Reina modern art museum and the Prado. We did a tapas tour, hosted by the hostel. Tapas are small portions of food that a restaurant gives you with the purchase of a very cheap drink. We just went to four different restaurants and tried four different tapas. It was good. We also did a pub crawl. That was pretty fun. Things were a lot more interesting in Barcelona though.


We checked into our hostel, a really interesting looking hostel, in which we also had really great roommates from England and even Oregon. We immediately set out in the city and walked all the way down La Rambla, a famous street with lots of food, stands, people dressed up in crazy costumes, and even a giant fruit and meat market, at which we stopped to get fresh fruit juice. We walked until we hit the sea. First we saw the marina, and then we walked further until we found a beach, which we decided to go to the next day. We walked back in search of food, unfortunately running into Pita Inn, and eating the most amazing falafel pitas ever. I say unfortunately because we returned 3 more times…we were only in Barcelona for 2 days.
That night we met up with some people from our program also vacationing in Barcelona. They took us to the trendiest club I have ever seen: Opium. There were completely unnecessary women provocatively dancing on a stage. That’s how fancy it was. A man even came out and played his violin along with some clubbin music. It was amazzzzing. I just stopped dancing and stared at him with wide eyes and wished I could be that amazing.

The next day we did the beach in the afternoon and got ourselves some color. This was after we saw Sangrada church. At night, we met up with more people who had flown in and went out to another club. Unfortunately, that night Ashton got her bag stolen on the beach. Fortunately, she realized it shortly after and she only lost about 25 euro, one credit card, and her Italian cell phone. Unfortunately, the next night, Nicole also got gypsied…but she lost her camera and her entire brand-new wallet that had bought in Madrid, handmade leather, with 75 euro. I was the only one who made it out of Barcelona with all my belongings.

That last morning was nice though, as Nicole and I climbed a very large hill and check out a castle, and then we all went together to Guell Park, where the artist Gaudi made his mark with beautiful constructions. Then we left, ending our spring break with only two hours of sleep the night before and two long faces at having lost valuable possessions. Despite the poor end, the break was overall a success and very enjoyable.


Last weekend, I went to Milano to visit my Italian cousin, Daniela (technically the granddaughter of my grandfather’s aunt, but we’ll stick with cousin for simplicity’s sake), and her husband, Ennio. I took the fast train from Roma and arrived around 9:00 PM. They greeted me with flowers and I gave them a bottle of wine and a baby outfit for Daniela’s baby, due in one month. We drove home to their small town of Vermezzo, just outside of Milano. Then we began to eat dinner at 10:00 PM: homemade pasta and potatoes with pesto, chicken with spinach and a special eggplant dish: melanzane “mensa mensa.” It was all delicious. Then an Italian dessert of course, a crispy tort of sorts with almonds.

We had a long night’s sleep, followed by a busy day. But first the busy began with the biggest and most delicious breakfast of carbs ever (the pounds are packing on, I warn you). Cornetti (croissants) and biscuits with nutella, homemade jams and honey, and cakes. Then Daniela showed me her wedding pictures. Her and Ennio got married in a castle in Tuscany. Jaw-dropping, I know. The pictures were beautiful and they were so cute together. They still are. And they are so in love and so happy for this baby to come. It made my heart melt to watch them all weekend.

Then we went to the center of Milan, saw Castello Sforzesco, Parco Sempione, Arco della Pace, the Duomo, and walked around a bit. Then we headed to Como, a nearby town, and relaxed beside Lake Como, before going to dinner with a pair of their friends who live there. I sat through dinner listening to the beautiful language of Italian. I was exhausted so I didn’t speak much, but I loved listening. I also tried again some delicious food, recommended by Daniela and Ennio: risotto Milanese (where else to try it but in Milan), ossobucco (a meat with the bone still in, and you can actually eat what is in the bone…I tried it. Interesting. Very interesting), some Italian dessert which I forget the name of.

The next day Daniela and Ennio had to go to the hospital, so they sent me with a map and I wandered around the city, seeing the famous Italian stores that one only stands outside of creepily taking pictures because they’re just too fancy to go into. I also went into the Castello Sforzesco and checked out the art gallery they had going on in there. After they were done at the hospital, they took me to a Sicilian pasticceria and I tried granita, a dessert somewhere between gelato and ice. It was good stuff. Then Ennio, as he had been doing all weekend, politely forced me to try some other desserts: a fresh and homemade cannolo and a sfogliatella. I didn’t hate it.

After that, we went home and just relaxed. I think it was the most relaxed I have
been since I came to Europe. We ate a small dinner (my stomach was thanking me) and Daniela and I just talked for hours, about her life, her family, the people I will meet this weekend. It was so nice. And she even said, after knowing me for only those few days, I felt like family. I miss her already.

But now I must prepare myself for this weekend. I am very nervous about my Italian, but I think it will be a good learning experience. My roommate at our hotel in Firenze, Alli, told me one night when I was stressing about memorizing some verb tense or increasing my Italian vocabulary, first “You need to take what we like to call the chill pill,” but more importantly, “Right now, you are lusting for Italian. You need to fall in love with it.” After multiple anxiety attacks and actually breaking down and crying in front of my professor, twice even, once when I was the only one in class and I was overwhelmed by my lack of understanding and no one was there to share the feeling with, and once with the only other student in my class (Yes. There are only two of us.). Thank God she was there that time because she followed into the bathroom and told me I wasn’t alone. But some people deal with anxiety, pain, suffering differently. I’m not afraid to say that I break down and cry often, because that is how I deal. I am so passionate about everything that I do. I know that I perfection does not exist. Learning Italian has very slowly shown me that. I still struggle with failure, and I am still sensitive to others, but I am learning so much about myself. I know that I care too much about what other people are doing, what other people say, and I compare myself constantly to these people. But why do they matter so much? Just one of the many questions I know now that I must truly assess.

My semester is quickly coming to an end. Saturday, I will have exactly three weeks until I meet my parents in the same airport they left me three months ago. After this weekend, I will have exactly three weeks until I am driving onto Assumption College’s campus, completely at a loss of expectations. Earlier in the semester, I thought I knew. I kept telling people: this is how it’s going to be when I get back…But that’s because they tell you everything will be the same. No one is going to change. They tell you this so you’ll go. So you won’t be scared. Well, I saw threw their words and I was scared. But coming here, I pretended I didn’t know. But everyone changes. And everything. So when I get back, what will I recognize? Will my house be different? Will I be able to sleep in my own bed? Will the campus be different? Who cut their hair? Or died it? Who’s dating who now? Have people forgotten about me? These are questions I will not try to answer. I know now, for the first time all semester, that I will miss Rome. That when I get on the first of my two planes and begin the nearly 24-hour journey home, I will cry. I really won’t know what to do with myself.

How do you make a place your home and then have to say goodbye forever? My Italian professor yesterday said that life is full of “lasciare”…of leaving. I hope one day I will come back here. Last night, one of the administrators said, “You…you really have to come back.” And so one day, hopefully soon, I will come back. And maybe I’ll bring my family. And maybe we’ll go see Daniela’s baby, and maybe even come back down to Calabria (provided everything goes well this weekend ha). Or maybe I’ll just go get married in a castle. Make it a family tradition. Who knows…but I will come back. Because I love this country. And I will have seen if from toe (literally, as Calabria is the “toe” region), to top (Milano and Venezia). I love this language, and I will continue to learn it after I return to America. And the people here. I love Italians. I just had the best conversation with my cab driver last night, on the way back from our spring celebration dinner (granted, the champagne had given me a little liquid courage). He even reduced my fare by 40 cents! That never happens after 10:00 PM! And he said “buon piacere” as I departed…it was a pleasure meeting you.

And so in three weeks, I will have to say “Buon piacere, Italia. Mi mancerà molto, ma tornerò. Ci vediamo...” It was pleasure, Italy. I will miss you, but I will return. See you later…”


Calabria was interesting. I spoke a lot of Italian. I heard a lot of Italian. My head was spinning by the end of day one. I saw the city my grandfather was born in, the building he was born in, I met his aunt, his aunt’s daughter, his aunt’s son, and his sons, and their children. It was a truly amazing experience. The city was absolutely beautiful. We even went down to the beach one day, but just to walk around because it was too cold to swim. And Ines, one of the children, and somewhat of a cousin to me, and my age, took me out one night to a club/bar and I got to meet some of the Italians her age. It was such a nice weekend. I learned so much. I talked about love, politics, culture, and so much more. All in Italian. I really hope to go back some day, and bring the rest of my family.


Last weekend I went to Amsterdam. Another absolutely beautiful city. We took a bike tour one day and saw it all. Our tour guide even had some interesting facts about the other questionable happenings in the city. So again, I learned a lot. I ate a lot of really good food, nothing Italian of course (ps. Dad, I love your meatballs, but I’m going to need at least a month before I eat them again). And our last night, we didn’t book a hostel because our flight was at 6:50…turns out this was not such a good idea. To pass the time, we went to see a movie: “I love you, Phillip Morris,” a very inappropriate film starring Jim Carrey and Ewen McGreggor about how “being gay is expensive.” Really don’t think this one’s going to make it to the States, so if you’re interested, go check it out online.

After the movie, I slept on an airport bench for three hours, backpack under my knees and purse under my head. There were probably about 20 of us from my program waiting for the same flight, so I felt pretty safe. Then I got 2 more hours of sleep on the plane. When I got into Rome, the weather was too beautiful to sleep more, so Cat and I went to a park near us and I got nice and red. I mean, tan.

Now I’m just coming back from the nicest run I’ve had here. It still amazes me to run along the Tiber River, approaching Castel Sant’Angelo, and crossing over Ponte Sant’Angelo, on which are Bernini’s angels: sculptures of angels depicting the passion of Christ, one holding a cross, one holding a crown of thorns, etc. This Baroque theme of pain and suffering in art was popular during and after the Counter-Reformation, as an example made by the Catholic church that people’s lives were not that bad in comparison to the suffering experienced by Christ and other Christian martyrs. Fun fact for the day.

And speaking of such things, I have my first final tomorrow: art history. I’m very tired after Amsterdam and I’m struggling to find motivation to study as the weather here is increasingly beautiful.

But finals means I’ll be home soon. And at this point I’m more torn than ever. Every time I talk to my parents or Carleigh, I can’t wait to get home. But as the weather makes the city even more lovable and I think about how I may have taken my living here for granted the last three months, I want more time, and I don’t think I’m ready to leave.

So I have less than two weeks to soak up Rome. I’ll make a list of lasts and I’ll try to get them all…otherwise, I guess I’ll just have to come back. Who wants to come with me?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Le Lezioni di Cucina

Eccomi! Here I am!

Today is Saturday, the day of my second Italian soccer game. Most people are traveling this weekend, but there is a pretty solid group of us ready and excited to go tonight. I'm about to go out to breakfast with Ashton, as she slept here last night in place of my three missing roommates, and then we will go purchase our Roma sweatshirts to show our Roma pride! But until then, I will provide a nice update.

So my Wednesday and Thursday cooking classes were the highlight of my week. Wednesday night, I departed for Francesca's home, hopping on a bus that takes me past the Colosseum. On the bus, I heard on either side of me people speaking English. I first realized that on one end were two girls from my school, Jennie and Michelle. I texted Jennie and she looked up and yelled "YEAH! I'M GOING TO THE COOKING CLASS TOO" haha. Then I heard someone say " know, because I'm a Jew." Gail! So I texted her too. And she was with Hannah. So all five us of somehow managed to get on the same bus going to same place at the same time. Hilarious. So we showed up and the cooking began...

I told you already what was on the menu, but I will further explain. The main dish was one of Francesca's own creations. Here in Rome, a very popular snack is something called "supplì," basically a fried rice ball with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese inside. This was Francesca's take on that. We used bread crumbs and olive oil to line the bottom of a large round pan covered with freezer paper. Then we made the rice mixture: white rice mixed with tomato sauce, garlic, olive oil, a little salt, and an egg. Heat the sauce first, add to the rice, then add the egg. This was layered on top of the bread crumbs. Then we added a layer of mozzarella cheese. Then another layer of the rice mixture, topped with more bread crumbs and sprinkled with olive oil. Bake. Eat. Delicious.

The second course was salad. There was a lot going on in this salad, but it was still very simple. Lettuce, naturally, with carrots, fennel, mushrooms, peppers, hard-boiled eggs, and maybe some other ingredients, but I didn't work on the salad...I was too busy helping with the dessert. The strawberry tart. Just saying it I can hear the angels singing. She already had the crust baked by the time we got there, because there was so much else for us to do. I was given the task of breaking the eggs to get the egg yolks for the cream mixture for the tart. The egg didn't even make it out of the carton before it was cracked by my clumsiness. Now there's efficiency. Francesca just laughed and took over for me. I was fortunate enough to have signed up for the cooking class the following night, in which we made a chocolate and pear tart, and we started from scratch. (When it came time for the egg yolks...Francesca did it herself). This tart was amazing. Whereas, the strawberry tart was just a cold tart, with strawberries on top, this tart was enclosed and baked like a pie made of dough...and so good.

Also on Thursday night, we made a very simple pasta with gorgonzola sauce. The two salads we made were pretty diesel too. Rucola with honeydew melon and gorgonzola cheese. And just mushroom and parmigiano for the second one. So healthy...until we devoured the chocolate and pear tart.

As for the evenings of these cooking classes...Wednesday was St. Patrick's day. So I wore my green and met up with a group of people at a bar that I am embarrassed to say is called The Drunken Ship. I had a few drinks, chilled out for a little bit and then headed home at a decent hour with my roommates. Nothing too crazy.

Thursday night, Nicole and I were both at the cooking class, so we came back to my apartment together and waited for Aston, while I skyped with Carleigh. Then we watched Extract. Not recommended, but we still had a nice relaxing night.

On Friday, when I woke up, I got myself ready and called my friend Sam. Together we went to Villa Borghese to enjoy the nice weather. I wore shorts for the first time (which ended up being a mistake, as the "warm" weather only lasted for about an hour before the sun decided to hide himself). I attempted to study but failed pretty miserably. Did I mention I have three midterms next week? No big.

Friday night I met up again with Ashton and Nicole and we had a very nice, very long dinner at a Chinese restaurant. It was, as always, so nice to take a break from heavy Italian food...and then we had fried ice cream for dessert. Ha. After dinner, we came back to my area, Trastevere, and hung out in my apartment for a little while with another girl from my program, Kayla, after we ran into her on the tram. Ashton fell asleep and the three of us stepped out into Trastevere and went to a bar that took meal vouchers for a drink.

Now here I am. The sun is not shining at the moment, and I had trouble sleeping. So I will probably study a little, maybe write some of my art history paper, but most definitely take a nap so I can enjoy the game tonight!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Troppo Lungo! (Too Long)

I am currently sitting on my bed, beginning what I have been dreading for three weeks: this blog, yet enjoying the most balanced and healthy meal I have ever made myself: a peanut butter sandwich (with peanut butter so expensive that I literally had to put back chicken to purchase accurate display of how much I love my peanut butter), a salad with tuna, tomatoes, carrots, and mozzarella cheese, and a pear. What a lovely change from the pizza I have been eating every meal of every day…

So why is this blog so dreaded? Well, it’s been three weeks, three weeks full of exciting things, as well as three long, emotional weeks, both exciting and stressful. And I wouldn’t want to leave any of it out! Therefore, with the help of my journal and my scheduler, I have decided to make titles for the ease of reading, providing you, the reader, with the opportunity to scroll on down to the part you have been waiting to hear about or skip over the parts you don’t care for. Or perhaps you will come back later, like stopping after chapters in a book. Or maybe you don’t care. But I am still uptight over here in Rome, so this is how it’s going to work, whether or not this preface was necessary. That being said…

Prague and Celia Fox

It all started Thursday night, the last weekend in February...Nicole and departed for the airport around 6:30 PM, but we just made it to our terminal as the flood of people was pushing through the gate to reach the shuttle bus to the plane. And the was literally an all-out race to the seats. But once we were settled, it was actually a nice ride. Arriving at midnight in Prague, we didn't do much but go down to the Pub in Celia's dorm and chat.

Friday was full of sights to see. We saw Old Town Square, in which was a cute little market with food and souvenirs and really legit Czech stuff. I got a crepe that was amazing but made feel sick it was so filling. However, after only an hour, in which we saw the Prague Castle, from which there are unbelievable views of Prague, I found myself with a sausage in hand, stuffing my face yet again, in Wenceslas Square. I'd have to say my favorite part of the day was when I was able to spend some time with just Celia, Nicole wanting to wander with the other Richmond students we ran into. It was so nice to have someone familiar, someone I could just feel comfortable around no matter what, someone I love so much! She took me across the Charles Bridge and over to the Lennon Wall.
It made me feel so at ease to see it; it was just so calming. Not to mention, on the way, there is the lock bridge...much like on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, on which people put locks with their names written on them, signifying love forever. Aw. Then we sat in a cafe and relaxed for most of the afternoon, of course stopping at an H&M. What could make a person feel more at ease?

That night we went out to dinner and then to a 5-story club. It was arguably the coolest thing ever. One of the floors was lighted like a disco floor and they played 80s and 90s music. We got back to Celia’s dorm around 4:00 AM, after waiting 30 minutes in Wenceslas Square for the night tram/bus, sitting against a building, prompting a young man to drop 1 crown at our feet as his friend recorded him on video, and I devoured a fried cheese sandwich, which was incredibly delicious. It’s like a chicken-patty-shaped mozzarella stick on a sesame seed bun. This is something that needs to catch on in America. Or at least Rome, for now.

Sunday, I ate my first bagel in months! We went to Bohemia Bagel, Celia’s equivalent of our Worcester Bagel Time. I had myself the most delicious bacon, egg, and cheese on a Parmigiano oregano bagel. Then we wandered around until Celia departed for her Czech soccer match. She generously left us with a map, and Nicole and I made a ridiculous hike to the top of some mountain (more of a hill, maybe, but it was a serious hike), and then climbed a tower, resembling a teeny tiny Eiffel Tower, from which you could see all of Prague. The view was breathtaking. After that, we traveled over to the “Dancing House,” which was pretty cool…just a modern-looking building which, with the combination of its curved architecture and the way it reflects light, makes it look like it could be moving, or dancing, rather. After our long day, we were in desperate need of un caffè, naturally (by now I am literally addicted…which is a huge fail, since I came here hating coffee). Being unfamiliar with the city, we walked for an hour and unfortunately bumped into the most expensive espresso I have ever had. Then we went back to Old Town Square for some dinner from the market. I tried the famous Czech pork goulash. It was very tasty. Finally, we returned to Celia and rested a bit before we embarked on the Prague Pub Crawl (with a Skype session to Carleigh, of course). This pub crawl had potential to be fun…starting out at Bohemia Bagel, drinking beers and mixed-drink shots (including a taste of absinthe. Not the real crazy stuff, but an experience nonetheless). We met a lot of interesting people. Paul, and various other Englishmen. Riccardo, the Italian from Cagliari, with his tongue ring. But by the time the clock struck 1:00 AM, we had only gone to one other bar, and the 4:00 AM of the previous night began to make us sleepy, so we turned in early.

Sunday morning we bagel-ed again (this time a chocolate chip bagel!) and just chilled for the day, stopping at Celia’s favorite coffee shop: Choco Café. It was a sad moment when I had to pull away on the bus to the airport. So sad, in fact, that I struggled to come back to Rome, altogether, and even somewhat throughout the next week.

When I returned Sunday night I booked my flight to Amsterdam for the last weekend in April. And then later in the week, I had the stressful experience of booking a hostel…I was so rushed that I may very well have booked a mixed-room dorm. However, the website refuses to tell me whether or not there is a separation of the sexes. It is doubtful. Oh well…all part of the study abroad experience, I suppose. At least I have Nicole! And at least they have lockers!

The next weekend: Vatican, Ali Dubin, and Una Partita di Calcio

Friday, I woke up at 8 AM to make it to the Vatican for my Art History class tour. This was such an amazing experience. Raphael’s “School of Athens,” Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling, St. Peter’s Basilica…things you see on paper and you think “wow.” Seeing it in person was…the easiest way to put it into words is that I was literally jumping up and down for joy. After the two-hour tour I grabbed a salad, the first one I had had in ages, with Ashton (we love going on our little dates).

That night, we went out for Dennis’s 21st birthday. First, to dinner at Tony’s – imagine 20 of us. They showered us with bread and wine and focaccia. And I had the most amazing gnocchi with salmon. Then we went out to my first club in Rome: Coyote. I surprisingly had an amazing time, lasting until 3:00 AM, unfortunately costing Shannon and I a 20 euro cab ride home. Not so fun.

Saturday was chill. I went for a run and bought a Roma jersey on the way back, to get ready for the AS Roma vs. AC Milan soccer game we would be attending that night. Then I prepared for Ali Dubin’s arrival, as she would spend the night waiting for her boyfriend to arrive at one of the Rome airports on Sunday morning so they could go on a nice vacation to Sorrento. I picked her up at the train station and dragged her to the best gelato place in town: Giolitti (they take our meal tickets!). We got back to my apartment, full of red and orange jerseys, and I settled her in with my amazing roommate, Cat, and Ashton, who took her out to get Chinese food while I was at the game.

Now, the game was an experience. I have been to soccer games, but this game made me realize that pride for one’s team at the games I have been has been pitiful. The Romans are unbelievably crazy. They lit flares, the set off cannons, they chanted “Milan: Vaffanculo!” I don’t think I need vto translate that for anyone. It was intense. And…David Beckham plays for Milan. As a former soccer player…let me start over. As a former female soccer player…this was a dream come true. However, every time we mentioned his name, we were getting dirty looks from those around us, dressed in their red and orange. So we kept our verbal devotion to a minimum.

Getting back from the game was a disaster and I didn’t get back until after midnight. I went right to bed, yet still failed to take Ali to breakfast in the morning. Woof. We were still able to get her out in time to get to the train station, less one towel, which I was actually very happy she left in my apartment so I was able to see her again the following Thursday when she returned to Rome to send her boy on his way.

On Sunday, I joined my roommates on a walk to the Vatican in the morning to see the Pope and accept his blessing. It was an amazing experience. Piazza di San Pietro was so crowded. People had signs, balloons, and the Pope even made shout-outs to all the different nationalities.

After that, I separated from everyone and decided to adventure and see some things I haven't yet. I walked around the courtyard of Castello San Angelo and then I followed the river until I hit the bridge that led to Piazza del Popolo. I have been there twice, but never really soaked it in. It's quite pretty and there were a lot of people. I grabbed myself a slice of pizza topped with salad with shrimp...amazing...and I watched some street performers do weird dances and hula-hoop. Odd. Then I climbed some stairs and some more stairs and then some more stairs and found myself overlooking a beautiful portion of Rome at the edge of Villa Borghese, one of Rome's largest parks. I could see Piazza Venezia, or at least the Capitoline, Basilica di San Pietro, and so much more. Ah it was beautiful. Then I ventured further into Villa Borghese. Not too far, because my feet were bleeding at that point from walking so much. So I just found a nice spot and read through my guide book to get an idea of other places I haven't yet seen in Rome. Then I walked 45 minutes back home. It was really nice day.

The post-soccer game week

This week (last week) was rough. I went to an AIFS dinner with Italians…a night that started off great as we all spoke Italian for a majority of the time. I was feeling great until one of the Italians stopped speaking Italian. I asked him why: Perchè non parla italiano? – Perchè non capisci...Because you don’t understand. It is true that I often ask Italians to repeat themselves. But they talk just about as fast as any other native speaker of a language, so in my defense, it’s a valid request. His comment was, of course, not meant to be vindictive, but when it comes to learning this language, something that I have not only been struggling with for the last 3 months, but also since I began learning it, taking baby steps since freshman year, I am a little sensitive. So much so that it really threw me off for the rest of the week.

Additionally, with the first real assignments and research paper topics due this week, and impending midterms, the familiar feeling of academic anxiety struck and I felt overwhelmed like never before. This problem was magnified by the missing feeling I still had after seeing Celia, and then again when I saw Ali’s familiar face, not to mention the baseball team’s temporary relocation to Florida, which took “long-distance” to a whole new level. I really struggled to make it through. That is why this past weekend couldn’t have come at a better time…

Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri, Napes, Vesuvius

Friday we left at 8:30 AM from Termini Station and arrived at the ruins of the great city of Pompeii around noon. After lunch, we began our tour (joined again by Peter, who I had not seen since Florence, save a glimpse of him I caught at the Vatican when he was giving a tour to another group). It was so beautiful and so interesting. Additionally, I came to discover that the citizens of this resort town had very dirty minds…I’ll save you the details.

Friday night, I decided to take a train to Sorrento with a group of people, at the advice of one of the AIFS administrators. We got pizza at a restaurant recommended by Rick Steves. It was really very good. Then I had limoncello for the first time. Very sweet, but quite worth the try. After dinner, half our group departed for Vico Equense, where our hotel was located (halfway between Sorrento and Naples). Four of us stopped at a fancy bar, also recommended by Rick, called “Photo,” which was very trendy and decorated with professional photos. I had a piña colada on the rocks. Perfect end to our night…except for the 55 euro cab ride we were forced to take back, as there happened to be one of Italy’s famous transportation strikes that evening and the train was no longer running when we arrived at the station. On the plus side, I made friends with the cab driver, speaking Italian without fear.

Saturday was probably the best day I have had in Italy. We took a boat to Capri Island, off the coast of Naples. It was so beautiful. The famous Blue Grotto was closed, so we went to Anacapri, a part of the island that had cute little shops and great views of the water below. We found the famous Villa San Michele, overlooking Marina Grande, the harbor we had come into, and took so many pictures. Little did we know, the best was yet to come. The Seggiovia (chairlift), goes from Anacapri to the top of one of the mountains on the island. It is exactly like a ski lift one finds on a mountain in the Catskills, but each chair is only one person. It was a ten minute ride of absolute beauty and silence. The air was fresh and crisp (I’m so used to the cigarette streets of Rome) and the view became increasingly beautiful as we climbed. At the top we saw it all…the rocks and blue waters down below, the sea that seemingly continued to the ends of the earth, and even Mt. Vesuvius, back on the mainland we had just come from. We relaxed up there for a bit and then took our seats back down to Anacapri, where we enjoyed a calming pizza lunch.

We left the island around 5:00 PM, and everyone was exhausted. I passed out on the boat, which turned out to be a bad idea. I was seasick for the rest of the night, having to force myself to eat dinner around 9:30. Fortunately I wasn’t alone. Ashton was struggling as well, so we went on another one of our dates a block away from the hotel. We even ordered the same thing: Farfalle con salmon e noci (Bowtie pasta with salmon and walnuts). So good. Then fruit tarts for dessert. We were both exhausted and just went back to the hotel to pass out.

Sunday we enjoyed an archeological museum in Naples, followed by a trip up Mt. Vesuvius. The bus took us up most of the way on a treacherous road which was far too tiny to fit two vehicles, yet we someone managed to succeed in passing many terrified-looking people. The final 1000 feet were left for us to do on foot. A nice hike. An even nicer view. And we took some pretty funny pictures at the top. Then we were on our way, back in Rome just in time for me to be exhausted enough to sit in bed the rest of the night.

This Week

It was tough on Monday to get back into the swing of things, but I was more successful than I thought I would be…until it came to studying for today’s midterm. Even after procrastinating forever, I still feel pretty good about it, and I’m feeling even better to have one out of the way. Three more to go, and they’re all next week…therefore I don’t have to think about them yet. What I do have to think about is tonight’s aperitivo with Italians. I am getting back on the horse and trying to speak with strangers. Then tomorrow and Thursday, I’m taking cooking classes. Tomorrow’s menu includes Rice Timbale, coloured salad, and cream and soft-fruit tarts. Thursday we are making pasta with gorgonzola, gorgonzola and melon with rucola salad, mushroom and parmesan salad, and pear and chocolate tarts. Both are vegetarian, but I really wanted to get some more cooking experience under my belt, so I ignored that fact. Also on the agenda for this week is another AS Roma game vs. Udinese. I think it is this Saturday night. I’m excited, especially since all three of my roommates are off to Barcelona this weekend, so I will need something to do! I also hope to either go to Ostia Antica, located on the Mediterranean and only a 20 minute tram ride away, or chill for a day in Villa Borghese, taking advantage of the sun that we are supposed to have this weekend. Perhaps both.

Well, I’m sure no one in their right mind would read this all in one sitting, so I apologize for its length. But this is what I get for waiting three weeks to update the world on my life.

And I’ve learned my lesson. Now that you all know what is going on this week in my life, get ready for some commentary on them!


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Europa: La avventura vera comincia (Europe: the real adventure begins)

...In your eyes, love, it glows---and then my iPod ran out of battery.

I was only seven minutes into my second of what I hope will be many runs along the Tevere today. It has been on and off beautiful weather the past few days. I also went running last Sunday when the sun decided that Sunday would be the first perfect day in Rome. It was an amazing feeling. I walked through Trastevere for 20 minutes and when I hit the river, I just ran, passing people laying out in the sun, some holding hands or cuddling (they are very affectionate people, those Italians), passing bridge after bridge, watching the river water overflowing onto the walkways, a murky brown from the previous night's rainfall, and feeling a feeling of pure contentment as I let the sun warm me in my Assumption blue Open House T-shirt. It was perfect.

The night before, Cat's birthday, was all-in-all a success. She was surprised by the delicious chocolate cake we bought from a local Italian pasticceria. We drank spumante (champagne) and bonded over some good conversation. Then we hit the bars.

After my Sunday run, Cat and I traveled to the Colosseum area to grab a cappuccino with Ashton...most expensive cappuccino I have ever had: 4 euro! Unreal. Word of advice for all you potential travellers: stay away from the tourist attractions when you're looking for food, but I'm sure that one is easy enough to figure out. Sometimes we just forget all these beautiful things around us are tourist attractions.

On the tram on the way home, I spent the entire ride in a staring contest with the cutest baby boy. He wouldn't stop looking at me with his gray eyes. Not blue, not green, but gray. It was the most mesmerizing mother would have been brought to tears.

Monday started a new week of classes that dragged on, as the more I fall in love with this city, the harder it becomes to concentrate on school. After school, however, I went to dinner with some local Italians. It was three-course meal which, after trying to moderate my food intake post-Florence and our daily three-course meals, I was not ready for. It took me hours to stop feeling like there was a boulder in my stomach. But it was certainly delicious, so I can't complain. As for the company, I was excited, until the boy I was sitting across from continue to speak in English no matter how many times I asked him to talk to me in Italian. He even had the nerve to say "speak English. I can understand you better." That is probably the hardest and most frustrating part about learning this language. It's very true the rumors you hear about everyone speaking English in Italy. Of course, not every single person, but almost anyone you, as a visitor, encounter. Store owners, hotel managers, etc. If you try to speak to them in Italian, quite often they will respond to you in English. I don't even realize it sometimes, and I will continue speaking in Italian, while they continue responding in English. They sometimes will even spot you on the street or right when you walk into their store and greet you in English. It brings me back to our orientation in Florence, when the policeman giving the safety presentation said "they will recognize you" this was of course followed by "but you won't be able to recognize them." However taken out of context it may be, he may very well have been advising for the protection of my ego.

But despite the way it makes me feel when people refuse to let me speak my slow and broken Italian, it's a learning experience. Not just in improving the language, but it also puts things in perspective. I am a foreigner in this country, and many view me perhaps in the same stereotyped way that many Americans view foreigners in our country. It makes me think, have I not gotten irritated at not being able to adequately communicate with someone in my own country? Of course. And this is where the education begins.

As for yesterday, I went to my first DAVE MATTHEWS BAND concert!! It was so amazing. We waited in line to collect our tickets for about 20 minutes. Not too bad. But as soon as we had everyone, we sprinted into the Palalottomatica (the concert's huge venue in southern Rome) and ran into the first door we saw just to be able to catch the end their instrumental opener. It was unreal. I had been getting myself psyched for this concert for weeks, ears plugged up with DMB streaming through my iPod every time I was alone. I was about to see and hear "Funny the way it is," "Shake me like a Monkey," my absolute absolute favorite "Two Step," "Baby Blue," which literally brought tears to my eyes, and so many more great songs.

It was such a great experience. Even finding our way to and from the venue was an adventure. Getting there was easy, as we only needed to take underground metro and then walk a few blocks. However, Rome is a city that sleeps at night and the metro closes at midnight. Fortunately, I wrote down directions for the night bus. Unfortunately, I had no idea where the actual stop was located, only its name. Fortunately, we stopped to get some late-night snacks at the stands outside the show, resembling carnival food. So I turned to random people asking in Italian if they knew where the stop was. Of course no one knew. The irony is that after about the fifth person I asked in Italian, an American boy wearing a red bandana and a leather jacket asked me to repeat the name. Fortunately, he and his friends were headed that way. So we followed. Unfortunately, we got there and had just missed the previous bus, the next one not due to arrive until 45 minutes later. We waited around until we got annoyed and started trying to hail taxis. Fortunately, just as we were about to get into what would have been the most expensive taxi-ride ever, I saw the bus pull up and we sprinted like hell to get on. A twenty minute bus ride and a thirty minute walk, accompanied by the greatest friends (who would walk me thirty minutes home only to walk themselves thirty minutes back home), I was safely nuzzled in my bed and ready for sleep, the tunes of Dave still playing in my head.

Tomorrow is Thursday, which means at approximately 10:00 PM, I will depart to finally see the lovely Celia Fox! I am unbelievably excited, but also a little nervous. This will be the first time I have ever made travel plans on my own, gotten to the airport on my own (with Nicole, of course), and gotten from the airport to the place I will be staying on my a country where the only word I know for sure how to say and spell is "woof" in English. So yes, I am nervous, but I am also excited to overcome this hump and prepare for all the future traveling that I will doing "on my own." And the destination is so worth any hurdles I may have to jump: PRAGUE!

Until I'm back in Rome,


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Buon Compleanno!

The title is a dedication to all the birthdays this week: Celia <3, my roommate Catherine, Brian, and two or three others from the Rome program. There were too many celebrations this week to count!

Thursday was a fun night. The carnival party was not at all what I expected. The bar, Elefunk, was empty when we got there. And even after the two hours of our stay, only about 15 AIFS people had showed up. This was a fortunate turn of events, as we were given three free drinks due to the absence of so many others. At midnight, we departed for Campo de Fiori, the popular night life site, which houses bars with names like the Drunken Ship and Sloppy Sam's. We went into a less American-sounding bar. It was very sheik. It was a bar, but everyone was dancing it up. We ran into a ladder, climbed it and found ourselves in a dance loft overlooking the bar. It was a lot of fun.

Last night was the first night I took it easy and actually enjoyed it.

After planning and finally booking what will hopefully be a very very exciting spring break: Paris-->Madrid-->Barcelona, two of my friends, Nicole and Ashton, and I spent the remainder of our day exploring. I had not yet been to the Vatican or seen St. Peter's Basilica, so that was our destination. We hopped on a bus and wandered around until we smacked into the thing. It was amazing. The Basilica towered over us as we stood in the piazza, looking somewhat ominous with the gray clouds that had accumulated in the background. We then walked down Via della Conciliazione and popped into a cafe to grab none other than a cappucino and a pastry. When we left the cafe, the sun had decided to come out, only to set behind the Basilica. It was so beautiful. We made a seat out of a street corner and watched the sky glow and fade in orange and pink, making the Basilica look surreal. In the last minutes of sunlight, we decided to separate and make our respective journeys home. I chose to walk, as all I need to do to get home is follow the Tevere. The sun had set and the bridges were all lit up. It was gorgeous. If the sights weren't enough, the weather was gorgeous yesterday, allowing me the luxury of walking around in just my Campus Activities Board rugby. After a lovely 30-40 minute walk, I was home.

I met up with Nicole and Ashton again for dinner. After walking around for a while, we gave up our search and settled on an Argentinian restaurant (You may wonder why we always choose foreign food here, but seriously, pasta and pizza will only get you so far). After dinner, we decided to take it easy and watch Inglorious Basterds. It was a great movie and a very relaxing night.

As yesterday was my roommates birthday, which she celebrated in Sicily, today we are planning a little gathering for her return this evening. Maybe some cake, maybe some wine, and hopefully we will discover a nice bar in our cute little area of Trastevere.

I'll let you know how it goes!


Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Today I found my way from Piazza del Popolo to my apartment in Trastevere without a map, on my own (not to worry anyone – especially my mother – it was 4:00 in the afternoon..or 16:00 by an Italian watch). I took at wrong turn along the way, but I was able to get back on track and put myself on the side street where one can find Giolitti, the most amazing gelaterria in all of Rome (not that I have tried all the gelato in Rome, but seriously…watch me), right by il Panteon (it competes with the gelato by la Fontana di Trevi, but I will let you all make the decision for yourselves when you get the chance).

My shining moment of independent and geographic domination was prefaced by a three-hour stroll around the beautiful city. I felt pretty awful today, but I refused to let myself sit inside all day, so I chose to venture with Nicole, one of my friends who is living in a home stay. We went to Via del Corso and popped in and out of cute shops. I made myself a mental shopping list of all the Rome souvenirs I want for myself (uh…and of course for others…), but was too frugal and gross-feeling to think about buying today, one especially being a Roma jersey (for the soccer match that was unfortunately cancelled this weekend, but will be attended hopefully next month). We also ran around to the sights I have already seen just to get some exercise and soak it all in again. This time when we were by the Trevi, we split a banana and nutella-filled crepe. Amazing! Did I mention 30 pounds are on their way? Don’t even try to pretend I’m kidding.

Nicole convinced me to buy Angels & Demons by Dan Brown today for some spare-time reading. Everyone was raving about it before I left and also when I got here. She tells me that it takes place in Rome and actually describes some of the most important sights. I think it will be a good book to read while I’m here, and the theme is also interesting: a battle between science and religion. Always a good battle.

This week flew by…I can’t believe it, especially since last week dragged on, as I was pretty homesick and stressed out by the change of moving to Rome and the final realization that I will be gone for three more months. But after hitting rock bottom last Thursday, and with the help of my best friends and family, I metaphorically shook myself out of my bad attitude and I’ve been really enjoying myself ever since. I have fallen in love with Rome. And I know I have amazing people to go back to in America. I’m in a good place. I am so lucky and so grateful for everything and everyone that I have in my life. This has already been an amazing experience, and there is so much more to do and see!

Grazie a tutti!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Piazza di Campidoglio

So I'm currently in between classes, enjoying a salad of last night's leftovers (rosemary chicken and broccoli pesto pasta) mixed with tomatoes and carrots...hardly enough carbs for an Italian meal.

I just enjoyed a trip to Michelangelo's Piazza di Campidoglio with my Art History class. It's official. I love Rome. This magnificent piazza was designed by Michelangelo and finished years after his death at the top of Capitoline Hill, the hill on which rests Roman's capitol building, similar to ours in Washington DC, and in front of which I am in a facebook picture or two. Surrounding this square, which is actually trapezoidal in shape to give the illusion of spacial expansion, are museums which house your typical glorious Roman statues and artwork on the walls. These statues include the original Marcus Aurelius statue, which is the only survived bronze equestrian statue from ancient Rome, as all the others were melted down for other uses. From within and around these museums and this piazza, great views of the Colosseum, the Roman forum, and even St. Peter's Basilica are available to visitors.

I know I sound like a guide book, but this was just about the most exciting tour I've been on, and it was for class! How great is this place? So there is your history lesson for the day. It just excites me so much, and I thought I should share my excitement with the blogger world.

As for my normal life...since yesterday, not much has changed. We threw a small surprise party for one of our friends who just turned 21 last night. He was glowing when he walked in. It was a lot of fun. Everyone tried his new creation of a drink: vodka, orange juice, carrot juice, and whole blood oranges, chopped up to absorb all the other flavors. I might be missing an ingredient or two, but it was by far the most delicious drink I have ever tasted.

Tonight is the pre-dinner drink with the Italian students. The plus about these "apertivi" is that at them are served "appetizers"...obviously you all know what appetizers are, but their reason for being in quotes is that when we attend such things, we just stuff our faces with the food provided to save on dinner. Economical, I know. The life of the study abroad student.

As for the rest of the week, I realized that in the grand scheme of Rome, I have been absolutely no where! So my goal is to get out and get to seeing. I have not even seen the Vatican yet! Granted, I live far away and I've only been here a week, but I am still an American at heart and time's a-wasting!

Buon giornata a tutto!