Thursday, November 4, 2010

and I remember how it felt.

... as I woke up early on Thursday mornings, bleary-eyed, still not quite recovered from the previous night's escapades playing Calcio and going out afterward for beer and pizza. As I crawled out of bed and gingerly stepped down the ladder attached to my top bunk, I attempted to be quiet to not wake Roommate Beth, but I secretly knew I was fighting a losing battle in our tiny dorm room. The cold marble floors underneath my feet helped awaken my senses, and the first bits of sunlight began to peek through our windows. It was time for another day in Rome.

I hurried to get ready, while still trying to maintain the silence of the early morning, as I pulled open the creaky drawer under Beth's bed to retrieve my clothes for the day, put in my contacts, threw up my hair, gathered up my possessions, and headed downstairs to meet my classmates to head downtown for Art In Rome class. (You'll notice there was no mention of taking a shower, but honestly, that was not even a consideration after my late evening the night before. When the decision is between sleep and being clean, unfortunately, sometimes the less hygienic option must prevail.)

As I walked with my classmates to the bus stop, we were mostly quiet, still waking up and taking in the day. There were always debates about which bus (the less reliable 990 or the more frequent 913) would get us closer to our destination in a timely manner, and we would stand waiting impatiently--just like the Americans we were and still are--for it to arrive once our decision had finally been made. The bus--just like the streets of the city centro--was usually crowded, and there always seemed to be that person who wanted to stand just a little too close to you for comfort; it's not like Italians are known for their sense of personal space. As we navigated our way around the city, the sun continued to rise, as well as the temperature. The bus began to feel a bit stuffy and claustrophobic, but in a slightly comfortable way. Just like the "real" Italians, we were part of the life of the city in that moment.

Eventually, we would arrive at our destination for the day's class, which usually consisted of some type of ancient Roman ruin or Baroque church. While at the beginning of the semester these places were always very exciting to us, by the mid-point of our time in Rome, we had grown relatively nonchalant about them. It was just another class we had to wake up entirely too early for, another struggle to stay awake, another few hours of note-taking, another weekly occurrence, one of the rare routines in our chaotic Roman lives. 

However, our first real order of business before class even began was one of humanity's most primitive needs: food and drink. We would scour the streets nearby for any sign of a cafe (known as a bar in Italy) and hurry off to satisfy our early morning urges for cornettos and cappuccino before class.

Eventually, we would all drag ourselves away from our impromptu breakfasts, collect the day's handouts, stick in our earpieces so we could hear our elderly, bald professor lecture in the midst of the crowds of tourists, and begin another day of classes. As we strolled around some of humanity's most beautiful creations, I would like to say that I spent my time in awe of these aesthetic masterpieces, but in reality, I spent most of my time wishing I was still asleep, looking forward to lunch at Mensa, or dreaming about where the next weekend would take me.

It was just another day in the life after all.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I remember how it used to feel.

Bet you didn't expect to hear from me again, huh?

Well, I'm not back in Rome. I'm still in St. Louis, still at SLU. In fact, it's been over 10 months since I left Rome (10 months and one week to be exact). And in these past ten months, a day hasn't gone by where I haven't thought about Rome, missed something about Rome, or been thankful for Rome.

That's what brings me back here today. The more time goes by, the more I realize how much I never wrote down about Rome and how much I still have yet to say.

When I started this blog, it was mainly to keep friends and family members updated about what I was up to over in Europe. As time went by, however, it morphed into something that I also did for me. If I'm honest, I have really missed blogging since last December.  So, I've decided to continue blogging about my experiences in Rome and Europe, but just for me this time.

Who says that a study abroad blog has to end as soon as you come back home? In fact, I would argue that it shouldn't end. No longer being in a place physically doesn't mean that you aren't still there on some level emotionally.

As Natalie Goldberg (and Hemingway) say, it takes time for us to process these types of things anyway:
It takes a while for our experience to sift through our consciousness. For instance, it is hard to write about being in love in the midst of a mad love affair. We have no perspective. All we can say is, ‘I’m madly in love,’ over and over again. It is also hard to write about a city we just moved to; it’s not yet in our body. We don’t know our new home, even if we can drive to the drugstore without getting lost. We have not lived through three winters there or seen the ducks leave in the fall and return to the lakes in spring. Hemingway wrote about Michigan while sitting in a cafĂ© in Paris. ‘Maybe away from Paris I could write about Paris as in Paris I could write about Michigan. I did not know it was too early for that because I did not know Paris well enough.'
--Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down the Bones 
So, here I am--to reflect, to remember, and most importantly to write about Rome and Europe again. Probably rather sporadically, but I know this is something that I need to do.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

"We'll always have... Rome."

It's been almost 4 days since I arrived back in the USA; home is both entirely different and entirely unchanged at the same time. It's strange how quickly I have been able to slip back into my old routines and leave tiny parts of my life in Rome behind without almost even realizing it.

Rome and this past semester almost feels like a crazy dream. Even on the plane back to Chicago, I was writing on my journal, and I could hardly believe that everything I was saying was real. Did I really spend the past 4 months living in Rome? Did I really spend most of my weekends traveling around Europe and Africa with my friends? Did I really hike the seven miles linking the Cinque Terre? Did I really skip around the gardens of Salzburg? Did I really ride a camel around the pyramids? Did I really spend Thanksgiving in Paris? Did I really see the house my great-great grandfather was born in in Germany? And by the end did I really know Rome like a local? Yes, yes, and yes.

At the beginning of the semester, I feel like most of us at the J-Force lived our lives in a constant state of disbelief. "Guys, we are on our way to Italy for 3 months... We just landed in ROME!... Oh my gosh, we're at St. Peter's... I can't believe we just spent the weekend at Capri... We just had class at the Colosseum... You can buy good wine for 2 Euro?!?!..." and so on and so forth. Much like David, we often wondered, "Is this real life?" The answer was always "yes" and "no." Yes because it was real, but no because it wasn't permanent. We always knew we'd have to pack up our bags in a few short months and leave this experience behind.

After awhile, statements of disbelief stopped being quite so frequent in our lives. They were instead gradually replaced with ones more along these lines: "Yeah, I'm just staying in Rome for the weekend. Nothing too exciting... Okay, we'll meet you at the Spanish Steps at 10:00 and then go to Campo like normal... We're just going downtown to get gelato and walk around--it's a pretty chill night... Another Art in Rome class in a Baroque church this morning... I just booked a plane ticket/spent a weekend in [insert European destination of your choice]..." Rome and our way of life there became comfortable; it was never remotely close to a routine, but it was comfortable in it's inconsistency, drama, and excitement. Despite the fact that things were always crazy and different, after awhile, it was a sense of change that we grew accustomed to.

At the very end of the semester, we all began to realize that this change in perspective had taken place almost without us noticing it. As our time drew to a close, we all focused on appreciating our last moments in Rome by spending them in the places we had grown to love.

As for me, while I said many of my goodbyes with my fellow J-Forcers before they returned home on the group flight, I had an additional round of goodbyes with Rome because of my travels to Germany. After returning to Rome on Friday afternoon, I had all day Saturday to spend the way I liked before flying out on Sunday.

So, on Saturday morning I got up early and walked to the Vatican, where I watched the sunrise from St. Peter's Square. So beautiful. There are no words. After that, I paid my last visit to the Basilica itself before it became crowded with tourists groups. Instead of standing on my tiptoes to see a glimpse of the Michelangelo's Pieta, I looked at it by myself, admiring the emotion and detail in the work. I knelt to pray for the last time, in thankfulness and gratitude for my gift of a semester.

Then, I left the Basilica to spend the rest of the day wandering around Rome, reliving my memories, visiting my favorite sights, and bidding them goodbye. I spent two hours at the Borghese Gallery, hanging out with two of my favorite artists, Bernini and Caravaggio. I ate my last real Italian pizza, pasta, and gelato and drank my last glass of wine. I remembered beginnings at the Colosseum, art classes in churches, nights out at Campo de' Fiori, meals eaten with my parents, afternoons shopping with my friends, and all of the moments in between. As I walked miles around downtown for the last time, I realized how many memories I really had acquired in Rome; they were every corner I turned. I ended my day in Rome the way it had began and the way my time in Rome had begun, at St. Peter's Square--my favorite place in the city. It was the perfect ending to the best semester of my life.

Then before I knew it, my alarm clock was ringing at 4:30am, all of my bags were packed, I was armed with snacks of pizza and Italian pastries for the plane ride, and I was stepping into a Roman taxi for the last time. I chatted with the cab driver in Italian on the way to the airport about simple matters, how long I had been in Rome, what I was studying, the weather, etc. "Fa molto freddo!" he commented, almost shivering in Rome's low 50 degree temperature, while I wasn't even wearing a real coat at the time. As I had recently returned from snowy, windy Berlin, I corrected him saying, "Germania fa molto freddo!" He laughed at that and agreed with me. He asked "Ti piace Roma?" (Do you like Rome?") to which I could I could only answer emphatically, "Si, mi piace Roma molto," my Italian-speaking abilities falling short in expressing how dearly I have grown to love that city.

Once at the airport, I thanked the cab driver for his kindness, checked my two suitcases, bought one final beginning-of-a-trip muffin, and eventually stepped onto the plane that would take me back to the United States, leaving Italy behind. As the plane ride went on, two emotions overwhelmed me: thankfulness for my wonderful semester and excitement to be going home. You see, it's Christmas Eve today after all, and I can't imagine being anywhere but here, with the friends and family that I love. At the end of the day, it's the people that matter, not where you are--even when where you are is Rome--and I don't know if I have ever appreciated being home so much.

But no worries, Rome. I am fully confident that I'll be back; I threw my coins in the Trevi Fountain to guarantee it. You couldn't keep me away if you tried. And until then, we will always have our memories.

Love always,

la fine.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Guten Tag!

A quick note...

Well, the semester in Rome has now officially come to a (rather dramatic) end, and I have found myself in Germany for the week! So far, Beth and I have been to Rothenburg and Munich, and today we leave Munich for Berlin. I LOVE Germany so far!!! It is definitely one of my favorite places that I have traveled to. It's wonderful... and I especially love being here during Christmas Market season! I fly back to the States on Sunday, and I am starting to get more excited about coming home though. I think once I finally get there after all of my traveling, it will be great. :) Okay, well, I have to go make one more quick round around the Christmas Market before we leave!


Monday, December 7, 2009

"Just blame Rome..."

Rome, you're no good for me.

You make me crazy, make me laugh hysterically one minute and want to cry hysterically the next. I make decisions that don't make sense to me, do ridiculous and impractical things, and when I wonder "why?" out loud, all I'm told is to blame you.

You--with all of your inconsistency, your chaos, your completely disarming and yet charming sense of beauty. There is no place like here, no place like you, and you know it. You are proud, but not cocky; regal and majestic; ancient and full of wisdom--wisdom you don't share easily. You know what's gone on before, and you know that it's not worth the trouble to deal with it again. You don't even have to try; you are content to exist, to just be. You understand that being is an art grander than the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, or even St. Peter's. Rome, you know how to live.

Rome, you're no good for me; you make me weak, lower my defenses, let me stumble, leave me exhausted. You push me around, and when that's not enough for you, you knock me down on my face. You shape me; you make me. I get sucked in by your mystery and your romance, and you spit me back out laughing, making me stand up on my own two feet again. You have taught me passion, to live in the moment, to seize adventure with both hands and take off running.

Oh, Rome, we've had less than four months together, but a lifetime wouldn't be enough for you. After all, you're the Eternal City--you've been here for thousands of years before me, and you'll still be here after me. In a city of this scale, I never thought I'd really get my hands on you, but I've made pieces of you my own. And I haven't left yet, but before I do, I'm leaving a piece of myself here too. I'll be the girl in the dress sitting on the cobblestones of St. Peter's Square, gazing up at the Basilica with a cone of gelato in my hand, still as completely in awe of you as I was my first night here back in August. Others may not see me, but a memory of me will always remain; you'll know I'm there, and that's enough.

Oh, Rome, you're no good for me, but I've loved you relentlessly all the same. I've defended you, and I keep coming back to you over and over again. You're intoxicating, and you draw me back in every time--from the alleys of Trastevere to Via del Corso and back to Monte Mario. Somehow my roads have led me to you, and I can't escape--and I don't want to.

You have given me everything, but you've taken all of me too. I can't get enough of you because there will never be enough. You're everything, and you're definitely too much for me.

Oh, Rome, you have been so good for me.


"... Each, in its own way, was unforgettable. It would be difficult to - Rome! By all means, Rome. I will cherish my visit here in memory as long as I live." --Roman Holiday

"Let's see how far we've come."


Sometimes it takes stepping onto that plane to begin the best journey of your life.

Sometimes it takes being away from your family to realize how much you treasure their presence.

Sometimes it takes leaving your best friends to make yourself realize exactly why you became friends in the first place.

Sometimes it takes being halfway across the world to understand that when it comes to the people that matter, distance doesn’t change a thing.

Sometimes it takes making the effort to meet new people to remind you how worthwhile of an effort it is.

Sometimes it takes pushing yourself to do new things to experience all that you came to experience.

Sometimes it takes taking a chance to have the memories you’ll never forget.

Sometimes it takes wandering Rome by yourself to really start to see it.

Sometimes it takes seeing history firsthand to reassure yourself of the value in studying it.

Sometimes it takes having nothing to rely on except God to realize that He always provides.

Sometimes it takes questioning yourself to understand who you really are.

And sometimes it even takes making the wrong decisions to make you realize what the right ones are.

Rome, I’ll miss you, but I’m almost home.

Less than 3 days left at the J-Force… Rothenburg, Germany on Thursday.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Even the smallest things.

“When I told someone that I was from Rome / it didn’t feel like a slip of the tongue.”
--from the student farewell speech at the end of the semester banquet

This semester has changed me, shaped me, and reminded me who I am—but that’s all underneath the surface. On the most basic level, this semester has also taken a toll physically on me.
I’ve been sore, beaten, and bruised. I’ve walked miles around Europe’s most famous cities, hiked trails linking the tiny towns of Italy’s coast, climbed a volcano, and even walked a mile just to go to the supermercato. I’ve acquired strange bruises of mysterious origins. I’ve tripped and fallen on the cobblestones of Rome more often than I care to admit. I now bear a scar on my left knee from tripping while playing calcio in the rain—a scar I hope doesn’t fade anytime soon because it serves as a physical reminder of my time at the J-Force. My feet are still sore from wearing heels to last night’s end of the semester banquet downtown (not the smartest idea I’ve ever had).
I’ve gotten knocked to the ground while trying to board the train back to Rome after a wine festival, squeezed onto the crowded 913 bus on the way to on site class, and generally forgotten about having any sense of personal space. Living, eating, studying, and constantly being in one building with the same 150 people will also do that to you.
I’ve woken up at 1:30am to catch a flight and almost as early for trains, napped on more train rides than I can count on two hands, considered six hours of sleep more than adequate, and generally grew to view late nights followed by early mornings as normal. Weekend mornings where I slept in until 11:ooam have been non-existent this semester, in exchange for exploring some of the world’s most fascinating cities. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I slept until 11, but I can remember waking up at 7am yesterday morning after going to bed at 2:30am.
I’ve eaten more train station sandwiches than I can count, bought over-priced muffins from Rome’s Termini train station on numerous occasions, feasted on McDonald’s at the end of many trips, and considered beginning to drink coffee more than once. I’ve also snacked on trains, not ordered water, and eaten sandwiches instead of full meals to save money. I’ve learned to love olive oil, buffalo mozzarella, and olives, and I can at least sound like I know what I’m talking about when it comes to wine. My main food groups have become pasta, pizza, sandwiches, and gelato, and that has probably had an effect on the way that my clothes fit, but it was worth every bite, every meal, every 60 Euro cent cornetto from Rinaldo’s. I’ll start running again once I’m back in Missouri (where flat ground does occasionally exist).
I suffered through the heat of Rome in August without air conditioning, the days when our window was always kept open in hopes of a breeze and we would shower right before going out just so we would at least feel presentable. Some people here didn't see any sites in Rome during the day until we'd been here for a month because we never went out in the city when the sun was out. Then, two months later, I slept in layers of clothes before the heat was turned on at the J-Force. I’ve stood in the rain at Auschwitz, frolicked in the snow of Salzburg, and had shoes full of sand in Egypt. Just last week, I walked across the bridge in front of the Eiffel Tower with my best friend in the world in the pouring rain as we both got soaked. Standing and watching the Eiffel Tower light show afterwards with our respective umbrellas is one of my favorite memories of that entire week.
There’s been other things too—I’ve skipped showering more often than I care to admit (usually in favor of sleeping), my hair has grown at least 2-3 inches, and I think I even dress a little bit differently. New clothing has crept into my wardrobe, from scarves from Cinque Terre, Cairo, and Florence to the purple coat I bought yesterday at the Roman clothes market.
But I’ve adapted to this physical change. All of the behavior I’ve just mentioned somehow became normal to me over the course of the last 3 months. I been so conditioned to a certain sort of behavior that it's hard to imagine how I'm going to go back to the way I was before, although I suppose the short answer is that I'm not, but that's the point. I have changed, and it will leave effects on me, even though I will probably go back to sleeping in until 11 pretty soon.
And I’ve loved every minute of it; I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
I’m going to miss it more than I can express.

I just want to say...

Dear John Felice Rome Center Class of Fall '09,

Thank you for making this the best semester of my life. Thank you for your passion, your enthusiasm, your willingness to have a good time, your desire to embrace this culture, and most of all, your friendship. After being in Rome, you have been what made this semester what it is.

I'm usually more wordy than this, but no amount of words could ever convey my gratitude. But I'll say it again anyway: thank you, thank you, thank you.

In the words of an Irish blessing (I should probably have picked something Italian, but oh well):

"May the road rise up to meet you;
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and the rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand."

Love & memories,

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The real lessons are outside the classroom.

Oh, Roma. I can't leave you. I can't let you go.

Final week of class. Last Theology class yesterday. Last Italian class tomorrow. Calcio championships/last night at BP tomorrow night. Last paper due Thursday. Final day of class Thursday. End of the semester banquet Thursday night. Study day Friday. Finals starting Saturday afternoon. Last night out in Rome Saturday night. Last Sunday Mass at the JFRC chapel. Finals Monday and Tuesday. Packing, packing, packing Wednesday. "See you later's" and then Germany on Thursday.

It's coming too soon, especially finals. I am so bitter that my last real week in Rome is mainly being spent in the JFRC library, tucked away with notebooks and textbooks by myself, rather than out exploring the city with my friends for one last time. It has been unanimously agreed upon that we have learned exponentially more on the weekends than during the week anyway, so why are my final days in this wonderful city being ruined by something as trivial as exams? In the end, what is really more important?

While I've never ever been someone that has blown off school (and I'm still not), I think that one of the most important lessons I have learned while studying abroad is that there are so many things that are far more important than school. And what matters now, in these final, fleeting moments, is Rome, with all of it's inconsistency, all of its chaotic beauty, all of its passion, all of the lessons I have learned and have yet to learn.

Oh, Roma. I have to leave you, but I won't let you go.


Monday, November 30, 2009

roma fall '09 semester: a few words.

nouns; places.

Roma. the aegean sea. matera. alberobello. sorrento. pompeii. capri. cinque terre. la spezia. levanto. pisa. velletri. assisi. marino. krakow. auschwitz-birkenau. vienna. salzburg. prague. london. venice. cairo. giza. alexandria. florence. paris. versailles. Roma. monte mario. J-Force. mensa. room 311. rinaldo's. BP's. calcio fields. campo de' fiori. scholar's. old bridge gelateria. st. peter's square. villa borghese. via del corso. piazza navona. trevi fountain. trastevere. Roma. museums. churches. bridges. cafes. mcdonalds. alleyways. bus stops. airports. train stations. train compartments. metro. hostels. hotels. Roma. frankfurt. munich. berlin. home. Roma—always, always, always.

nouns; things.

friends. wine. carbs. heat. scarves. gelato. pasta. trains. maps. guidebooks. buses. fountains. water. nutella. mountains. beer. pizza. calcio. karaoke. visas. hiking. backpack. traditions. mass. journals. cobblestones. laughter. tickets. visits. picnics. classes. beginnings. endings. change. phone cards. bakeries. euros. cameras. tourists. loss. pictures. camels. language. olives. castles. art. gossip. mornings. crepes. the eiffel tower. questions. pierogis. rain. snow. love. canals. the sound of music. passion. music. homework. time. souvenirs. skype dates. to do lists. postcards. viewpoints. history. rivers. chances. markets. adventure. memories.

descriptive words; adjectives & adverbs.

good. scary. beautiful. overwhelming. rewarding. spectacular. loud. rushed. warm. welcoming. comfortable. ridiculous. quick. exciting. ancient. new. historical. competitive. crazy. wonderful. fantastic. amazing. magical. educational. better. uncertain. confusing. peaceful. moving. thrilling. foreign. silly. pink. hilarious. intense. spiritual. nostalgic. quiet. nerve-racking. awkward. frustrating. hectic. fun. fast. difficult. worthwhile. best.


walking, walking, walking. running. traveling. climbing. growing. wandering. changing. loving. losing. discovering. being. waking up. sleeping. hiking. posing. riding. dancing. playing. eating. seeing. shopping. drinking. winning. wondering. admiring. failing. photographing. learning. planning. laughing. smiling. missing. treasuring. packing. relaxing. studying. falling. going out. writing. remembering.


p.s. only 10 days left at the J-Force, then 10 more days in Europe, then I'm home.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A moment of thanks.

It's Saturday night in Rome--one of my last Saturday nights in Rome--but I decided to stay in tonight in favor of having some time to relax. The past week has gone by in such a blur, and I needed some time to catch my breath.

Kate arrived from the US early Sunday morning, and the next few days were spent showing her around Rome (and you know, attending class). On Tuesday night, we jetted off to Paris, where we stayed until Friday night, when we flew back to Rome. Then, we got up early this morning, saw a last few Roman sites, then I dropped her off at the airport to fly back to the US. Whew. Quite a week, I must say, but a wonderful week all the same.

With American Thanksgiving this past week, the idea of "giving thanks" has been on my mind lately, and for good reason. In addition to all of the other wonderful things in my life, I have so much to be thankful for just in regards to this past semester. I've traveled to amazing places, met fantastic new people, and done a lot of things that most people only dream about. From sitting in a rowboat in the Blue Grotto on Capri to going up in the Eiffel Tower, I won't hesitate to say that this past semester has been the most incredible experience of my life thus far.

I just looked through the pictures that everyone has been putting up on Facebook over the course of the semester, and I can't even comprehend everything that I've experienced in these few short months. I'm so grateful for where I've been and what I've seen on my weekend trips, but I'm equally grateful (if not even more so) for my time in Rome itself. Rome really has become comfortable to me; I feel like I love and know this city as more than just a tourist, which is exactly what I wanted to get out of this semester.

So, here's to still celebrating the real meaning of Thanksgiving, even when my Thanksgiving dinner consisted of eating an omelet and crepes in a French cafe outside of Notre Dame. After all, the point is still the same no matter what country I'm in or what food I'm eating.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Playing catch up; Rounds 2 & 4: Visits to some of Italy’s most beautiful cities, Venice & Florence.

In the past weeks, I’ve done a far amount of traveling around Italy as well. Halloween weekend I headed to Venice with my friend, Emily, and last weekend, I ventured to Florence with another friend, Carly.
To go to Venice, Emily and I got up bright and early on Friday morning, following the J-Force Halloween party the night before. (I was Audrey Hepburn from Breakfast at Tiffany’s for Halloween, if you’re curious.) Since we had been up late the night before, we were both pretty tired, but we had a 6 hour train ride to get to Venice, so we had plenty of time to rest on the way there!
After arriving in Venice (at sunset!—so beautiful), we checked into our hostel, found a place to eat dinner, and then wandered over to St. Mark’s Square, where we spent the rest of the evening eating gelato and wandering around. I’ve decided that St. Mark’s is magical at night; it’s one of my new favorite places in all of Italy. Various cafes on the square each have orchestras that take turns playing music, and lots of people hang out there, and we even saw some couples dancing. So cute.
Since we were essentially only there one full day, we spent most of Saturday just wandering around trying to see as much of the Venice as we could. We started off at St. Mark’s again, where we went inside the Cathedral. It was so beautiful (like everything else in Venice)! From there, we basically just worked our way up the Grand Canal, just wandering wherever we pleased.
It was a really relaxed day overall. Besides St. Mark’s, there’s really not a lot of big sights to see in Venice; the main sight is really the town itself. Venice has to be one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Rome is beautiful too, but in a completely different way from Venice. Venice feels perfectly preserved; I spent half the weekend expecting to turn a corner and run into people in 16th century clothes. It’s almost eerie at times. I took so many pictures that day because every corner that I did turn seemed to be more beautiful than the last. That kind of beauty never gets old no matter how many times you see it. Emily and I literally felt like we were walking around in a painting all weekend.
We also ate a lot of excellent food that weekend and cheaply too, which is always nice. Oh, and I had the BEST gelato of my life in Venice, as per Rick Steve’s recommendation. It was chocolate mousse gelato, and it was fantastic. Emily and I finished Saturday evening at St. Mark’s again, before heading back to our hostel in preparation to get up early and head back to Rome.
Then, last weekend, Carly and I took a whirlwind trip to Florence! We made it short and quick because we both wanted to make sure we spent part of the weekend in Rome, but we still were able to fit plenty in. Even though we were barely in Florence for 24 hours, we managed to visit the Duomo, climb the Duomo, go to the Academia and see Michelangelo’s David, go through the Uffizi, eat a great dinner, get gelato, and even get some shopping in! Whew. Like I said, it was definitely a whirlwind trip, but a great one all the same.
I visited Florence when I was in Italy for 3 years ago, but it was so nice to be back there again. It reminded me of the all the reasons why I loved it so much to begin with. Florence just has such a good vibe to it; it reminds me of all the reasons why I love Renaissance history.
We also stayed in the nicest hostel EVER in Florence. It was called Plus Florence, and it was amazing. There was a pool, steam room, restaurant, bar, etc. They even gave us towels and little containers of shampoo for free (unheard of behavior for a hostel). It basically felt like a hotel, and it was approximately 16 euros a night. So fantastic.
So there’s a summary of some of my past weekend trips! I still have Egypt to write about, but hopefully that will be coming soon. That will be an epic entry, I assure you.
But for now, I have to finish up some schoolwork, and then go to bed to get up bright and early to meet my friend, Kate, at the airport tomorrow morning! She's going to be here for the rest of the week, and I’m so excited! I can’t wait to see her! :)
To the remaing adventures ahead!

Friday, November 20, 2009

All good things must come to end.

Unfortunately, it is always true that “all good things must come to an end,” whether it’s a cone of the best gelato I’ve ever tasted, the Pink team’s Calcio season, or even this semester in Rome.
This past Wednesday evening was the beginning of Calcio playoffs. The top 8 teams were matched up, and only the four winning teams continue on to the next week. Unfortunately, although the Pink team played a great game, we had a round of bad luck and ended up losing. Therefore, for the pink team at least, the calcio season is now over. And the most ironic thing about the end of the Calcio season is that I never realized how much I enjoyed it until it was over.
I’ve fallen into a routine over the course of this semester, where Wednesday nights automatically equal Calcio matches and going out for beer and pizza afterwards. While we still have one more week left, I will just be standing on the outside, which is so strange.
Let’s be honest: frankly, I was a bit freaked out about playing Calcio in the beginning, and I wasn’t much better at the end. My roommate/teammate, Beth, informed me that every time someone asked me if I wanted to go in, I looked terrified, which I fully believe. However, underneath all of that, I genuinely did enjoy a lot of things about Calcio; it really was a great bonding experience.
Much scarier than trying to play defense against boys a foot taller than me though is realizing that I’m never going to do it again. Never again will I stand with those people on that field, chanting for the pink team, and being amazed at my more talented teammates Calcio abilities.
However, this all just brings me to the scariest realization of all: understanding that this ending is only the first of many that I will have to see through in the next month. And when I say month, that’s an exact number. I fly back to Chicago (and then St. Louis) on December 20th.
With every passing day, I’m becoming more aware of the other endings I’m going to have to face (including the dreaded final exams). I don’t think I’ve ever really handled endings well. I’m far too nostalgic of a person. Beginnings are exciting, but they make me nervous. Middles are comfortable, but they don’t last.
Endings are so bittersweet—weve learned to love Rome, the J-Force, Europe, gelato, and (perhaps most importantly) each other over the past few months. Soon we will be forced to leave it all behind, as we return to our normal lives and seek to understand the many ways that this semester has changed us with only a few cheesy souvenirs, greatly depleted bank accounts, and our memories to show for it.
We will always have our memories though, and perhaps they will be enough. I certainly know that they will be counted among my most treasured. All I can do now is be thankful that I was blessed enough to be able to have such a wonderful opportunity.

airports, see it all the time
where someone's last goodbye
blends in with someone's sigh
'cause someone's coming home

you can't build a house of leaves
and live like it's an evergreen
it's just a season thing
it's just this thing that seasons do
and if you never stop when you wave goodbye
you just might find if you give it time
you will wave hello again
you just might wave hello again”
--john mayer

Monday, November 16, 2009

buon appetite.

I am a little bit obsessed with the way that Italians eat. I've never known a group of people that are so dedicated to food.

To eat dinner the Italian way, most people won't go out until at least 8:00. They will eat several courses (antipasti, primo, secondo, etc). They'll linger for hours over a meal, drinking wine, and enjoying conversation. Unlike in US, no one rushes you away from your table. Waiters expect you to stay for at least a couple of hours.

Everything here is so fresh. Even the simplest things are so good; I end up eating tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella almost everyday, just because it's that good.

Everywhere in Italy and especially in Rome, there's so many good restaurants, bakeries, and cafes. And everything is [almost always] excellent.

Other people have been complaining about becoming sick of pasta since the beginning of the semester, but I'm not. At all. And frankly, I'm not looking forward to going back to American food. I feel like food here is a lot healthier here and better tasting.

Yes, the food is definitely going to be one of the hardest things to give up. I will miss it so much.

Playing catch-up; Round 1: A brilliant weekend in London.

To backtrack a bit, my first weekend after Fall Break, I traveled to London! I flew to London by myself, but once I arrived at Heathrow, my dad met me there. We spent most of the weekend with my Uncle Bill (who is British), his sister, and her family.

It was a fantastic weekend (or rather "brilliant," as the British would say). As I'd already been to London a few years earlier, I already knew that I would love the city (which I do now more than ever before), but being there again was wonderful! Unlike a lot of the traveling I had been doing up to that point in the semester, London was extremely relaxing. Instead of running around and doing tons of sightseeing, we mainly just hung out, went to the pub, walked around, went to the pub, ate, and oh yeah, went to the pub again. (You think I'm exaggerating, but I'm not.)

In all seriousness though, it was so nice to experience a city the way that locals would experience it. I actually felt like I was living in London for a few days rather than just frantically running around trying to see every touristy site ever. Staying in a real house instead of a hotel or hostel definitely helped enhance that feeling as well.

I hardly saw any of the typical tourists sights --no Big Ben, Parliament, or Tower of London--and didn't set foot near a museum this time around when I was in London, but I feel like I actually saw London; I actually experienced London as more than just a tourist.

One of the things I have been thinking about a lot this semester is the different approaches people can take to traveling and what suits me the best. While I do love to sight see and visit museums and other historical sites, I think it is also really important to find that critical balance between doing things in a place and just taking time to just be in a place. London was a weekend of being, and I loved it.

Oh, and a bit of advice for those traveling to the UK anytime soon: make sure you know the address of where you are staying because if you don't, they will not let you through customs. And apparently, saying that your father is meeting you and you are staying with family friends is not sufficient! Ah, it's just another lesson learned, right?