The internet has been out where I am sleeping (a wealthy area called Al Mahdi) so I haven’t emailed or posted at all. I am awake now at 4am. Went to bed at 9:45 so I’ve had a good amount of sleep but it stinks to be up this early. Caleb and Elijah are also awake and Sara just went back to bed. We’ve had some really neat experiences thus far and Sara and I are slowly learning some basics in Wolof. We know the greetings and some other words like water, etc.

A few days ago I sat in the kitchen while the cook, Soomba, prepared a dish called Yassa. It was so fun! I sat there with my journal and tried to point at ingredients and ask questions. Sometimes she knew the French word so I could figure out what it was. Soomba knows very very few words in English but the language barrier doesn’t keep us from liking each other. She seems so kind. I need to make sure I get a picture of her. (By the way, it is completely normal for families to have someone that does some housework.)

One fun thing I did today (or yesterday rather.. Dec 4th), is play with two boys at Grandma Jo’s house (Codou’s mom). We were playing with the tiny ball they have, just passing back and forth then it started to turn into monkey in the middle. Mostly it was just me in the middle because my soccer footwork is extremely poor ūüėČ I picked the ball up to pretend to make a throw-in and the boys thought I wanted to play basketball so we switched sports! It was great! They started putting their arms in a circle for a hoop. I think Sara got some pictures so I’ll have to share those when I’m back. I was so sweaty when we were done, whew. The boys were probably 13 and 10. One was Codou’s nephew, Moustafa, ¬†and the other was his friend. The best part was when they started to dunk and ¬†I was the basket haha. Most of the kids here are so kind. They all shake your hand from the age that they can walk unless they are “talibe” on the streets. The talibe are kids that beg on the streets. They run next to the cars… I can’t believe more kids don’t get hurt doing that. (Talibe also means “disciple”.. not sure what the correlation is there. Another question to ask.)

Since the internet is not so reliable I will end my post here… I wrote one a few days ago but it was lost because I was kicked off before I could post it.

I am taking tons of pictures and some video as well. We are having a great time here. Miss you all and GO COUGS! (Even though I just heard we lost the Apple Cup. Bum.)

Salam Alaikum (Peace be upon you)

Day 1 in Senegal

November 30, 2010

This may be a bit jumbled because I don’t want to sit on the laptop for too long, but here are a few highlights from my first day in Senegal.

We flew in at about 5 am, and got to the apartment. Codou’s family is loud and wild and so stoked to see her! I wish I could understand some words in Wolof.

The food rocks. This morning (at 1:30pm when we woke up) we had this huge dish on the floor and we all sat around it and ate. Really spicy good food. Tonight for dinner we had a huge dish of fresh lamb. It was so moist and full of flavor mmmyeah it was excellent! To drink they have bottled water around, Sprite, Fanta, or this unbelievably sugary pineapple juice. It tastes like you’re literally drinking candy.

The roads are mostly just made of sand and the the drivers here are absolutely nutso. There are no traffic lights or signs or anything, and apparently there aren’t any rules either! There are piles of cars just trying to get around each other.
One thing that is absolutely killing me is the language barrier. There is one sister, Awmy (no idea how to spell it), who is 21 and learning English so we can talk with her a little. Oumy, the model who lives in Nice, France but has an apartment here where we’re staying, speaks English really well. But most of the time they are all loudly jabbering away in Wolof!! It’s so nuts! I can’t seem to pick up any patterns at all… the only thing I’ve learned in Wolof so far is “jiddy jiff” which means thank you. Again, no idea on the spelling. . I don’t have time to consciously write the way I want to but like I said, I’ll have to give you quick snapshots.
It’s really humid and pretty hot but not unbearable. We have AC in our rooms so that is something to be thankful for.. Anyways I should get to bed so I don’t get too thrown off and jet lagged. It’s nearly 1 am here. I probably won’t upload any pictures until I get home, sorry!

I am embarking on my next long-awaited adventure in a little over 48 hours. With immunizations complete, one carry-on bag filled to maximum capacity, and a passport waiting to be stamped, I will fly to a country in Africa the size of South Dakota. Dakar, Senegal is the westernmost point in Africa and a popular destination for French vacationers.

I don’t quite know what to expect, but I am unbelievably excited. Stay tuned!

Come mi manca l’Italia!

February 16, 2009

I’ve been missing Italy more than ever lately. I was able to talk to my roommate on the phone this past week and we just knew exactly how each other felt. It was great to have someone to talk to about the people and experiences we had together that actually knew who or what we were referring to.

Every day I re-live moments or feelings or sites that I saw. It’s almost all I think about.

I’m still working on the video and I think I’ll come back here to finish up a summary of the rest of my semester abroad.

Our adventure to the airport was a bit nerve-wracking, to say the least, but we made it. We flew from Malpensa Airport to Naples and then took a shuttle bus to Sant’Agnello. The bus ride in itself was worth the trip.¬†Having no idea what this town was going to look like, we were both a little¬†nervous we might¬†miss our stop. When we arrived to our stop, we were just so exhausted we HAD to find our hostel, immediately! The town was pretty small and cute, full of hotels and little shops–we could tell it was a popular vacation spot during the summer. There were¬†plenty¬†of young teens running around trying to prove their coolness–either hanging on¬†their Vespas or by carrying around their helmets, “Look at me.. I have a sweet strut. You know you want me.” Oh, the teenage years. It was nice to see some younger people around.

7H - The best hostel in Sorrento

Seven Hostel aka 7H - The best hostel in the Sorrento area. We slept in a dorm-style room with 5 other girls. The showers were hot, the beds were clean and comfortable, free internet, a bar/restaurant, breakfast served there.. very friendly people, a beautiful view of Sant'Agnello and the surrounding mountains from the roof terrace..., A+! I could live here!

The walk to find our hostel wasn’t too bad. It only took¬†about 15-20 minutes¬†through the perfect weather and¬†beautiful scenery to find our perfect hostel. We were so lucky to have found out about this place.. palm-trees-a-plenty, sun and blue skies, an A++ hostel.. Ocean just a 15 minute walk away.. Another vacation away from vacation.

In addition to all these wonderful things, we made some cool friends in this town. The other travelers at our hostel were all fantastic people with crazy stories–two 18 year old girls from Toronto whom we shared a room with, a mother-daughter combo from Brazil (only the daughter spoke english), 1 solo traveller also from Canada (hilarious guy), another solo traveller from Seattle, and then there were¬†a bunch of Kiwis and Aussies. It was interesting to say the least!

After a pleasant evening of relaxing and conversing, one of¬†our new friends walked Aneisa and I down the street a few¬†blocks¬†to a great local pizza place. Big yummy pizza for cheap! The man who owned the place was very pleased with our italian¬†enunciation–I wish I could remember his name. His pizza place was¬†fantastic. We each ordered our own pizzas and Aneisa and I split a liter of Fanta. I’m not really a pop-drinker, but Fanta my friends, is quite refreshing.
The next day we hopped on the Circumvesuviana railway and headed south a quick 5 minutes to Sorrento. We explored the town and passed by the Leone Rosso, a restaurant recommended by many–we’ll have to go back for dinner. One of our new friends, Abhijit, a solo-traveller from Seattle, met us in Sorrento at the railway station were we caught a bus that would take us further down the Amalfi Coast. Rick Steves had a lot to say about this one,¬†so we figured it was a must. The bus ride was about an hour long and took us around the “toe” of southern Italia. The drive was I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E. It was a curvy road anyone would render impossible for a large bus to take, but let me tell you,¬†the driver conquered those pinhair turns like there was no tomorrow. There were a few moments I felt scared for my life, quite possibly because we were on the edge of the mountains and one slight mistake by the driver could cause us to roll, or more realistically, free-fall¬†to the¬†sharp, lava-rock covered ocean floor below.¬†(Mom–you would have HATED it.)
The most incredible hour of being in a bus I have ever experienced. The Amalfi Coast.

The most incredible hour of being in a bus I have ever experienced. The Amalfi Coast.

So why was this roller-coaster¬†ride so¬†incredible you ask? Because I felt like I was witnessing Heaven on Earth that’s why. My pictures don’t really do it justice–it was a difficult task to get a good one through the dirty windows. But believe me, it was a beautiful sight I’ll never forget.¬†Unreal. ¬†

We had the choice of stopping in a few towns on the way, but we figured our best bet was to take the bus all the way to the town of Amalfi and then backtrack if we had time. We had to make sure we were on the last bus back up the coast, otherwise we’d have to take a very expensive taxi ride.
Amalfi was pretty cool, I think our conclusion was that we wish we had stopped in Positano instead. Amalfi is a very touristy town. It was really cool how the town is tucked up into the mountain-side though.. very cool. We looked around for a place to eat but unfortunately our hunger had some pretty bad timing. When it comes to be the 1-6 o’clock hours, most decent restaurants are closed so we had to settle for some mediocre food¬†that’d probably been sitting out for good amount of hours. What came next was a little unexpected.
Abhijit and Aneisa

Abhijit (Seattle) and Aneisa (MN)

RAIN!!!!!!!!!! We wanted to get gelato so we hurried to another place closer to the beach and took cover. Outside the gelateria was a little covered area usually covering tables in a restaurant that was perhaps closed for the off-season. We waited there for the rain to stop while eating some delightful gelato.
While waiting for the next bus to come through for our ride back to Sorrento, we ventured out to the docks to witness a pretty excellent sunset.
Me and Amalfi

Me and Amalfi

Breakfast at La Sorgente

Breakfast at La Sorgente

When I woke up, I felt so comfortable and didn’t want to move! Outside it was raining still and we were so warm and cozy. Breakfast was on the table and ready for us at 8am. We filled ourselves a traditional Italian breakfast, pastries and coffee (though they would drink a straight shot of espresso). We ate with a French couple that was staying in the other room.. There were only a few things we could say to each other because they didn’t know any Italian, we didn’t know any French .. and the man only spoke a teeeny bit of English. However, I found them to be very kind people–they both smiled with so much sincerity!

Francesca and Ricardo, the kind owners of La Sorgente B&B, drove us to the train station after we finished breakfast and packed up. We took a train back to Milan and the metro back to the same hostel.

Since we had already done some good exploring on Sunday, we pulled Rick Steves out again and asked, “Dearest friend! Where, oh where shall we go?!” The Milan chapter responded with il Monunmentale Cimitero. Perfect! A gloomy rainy day…let’s go to the cemetary. (My roommate has an odd fascination with death and everything involving it so she was pretty stoked).

Unfortunately, it was against the rules (and not to mention sorta disrespectful) to take pictures of the graves; thus, I don’t have any pictures… but the trusty internet does! (so since I’m lazy tonight and don’t feel like explaining what this place is, take a gander over to wikipedia and read a snippet of what this place is all about: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cimitero_Monumentale). Right-o! It was one of the most amazing places. I couldn’t believe how gigantic that place was. There has to be thousands of people buried here. It was really neat to look at pictures on some of the graves, also to see fresh flowers at a lot of them. We weren’t able to wander through the whole thing because it started to rain more.. We were there for a solid hour or 2 already so I felt pretty content with what we saw.

Entrance to the cemetary

(photo from wikipedia) This is only the ENTRANCE! Oh man... it was gigantic, seriously.

From Milan we planned to take an early train to a town called Stresa. When we got to the subway, one metro came by but we couldn’t fit because it was full with people headed to work or school. If we wanted to make our train, we absolutely had to get on the next one! We shoved our way in with our big packs. We arrived at the train station and searched everywhere for the machines that give you your tickets. Milan Central Station is so confusing! At about 8:22 Aneisa stepped up to a machine and selected a train that left at 8:25am (the one we planned on taking). I said, “Noway! We can’t make that!” But she apparently thought otherwise.

The tickets printed and we sprinted (as fast as a heavy backpack will allow) all the way up two escalators, down a hallway and out to the platforms …. “Which platform is it?!”¬†“I don’t know it doesn’t say!” We decided to quickly ask a lady walking by, showing her our tickets. “I’m not sure… let’s see… Binario 2 I think, si si binario 2.” We.. sprinted again from one side of the station to the other through 100s of people only to be completely let down when there was no train at the platform. Turns out the lady told us the wrong platform.

We stood there thinking, sweating, breathing… disappointed. What a way to start the day. Aneisa wanted to sit down and rest, but there was no way I was about to waste our day when we had planned to be somewhere else. There was a customer service desk right in front of us. Fantastic! Maybe they can give us a refund and tell us when the next train leaves to Stresa. Not until noon. But! We could take the metro to another station in Milan and catch a 9am train.

Va bene! We ran back to the subway having absolutely no idea which line we would take or which direction we’d go. Eventually we made it to Garibaldi Station and found our train.. To Stresa!

Alright, so. We arrived about an hour and a half later in Stresa and went outside to call our B&B La Sorgente so they could pick us up. We waited in the rain for a good 30 minutes guessing which car would be the one picking us up. It was so foggy and cold and rainy.. but we were on “vacation”! We had to enjoy ourselves. The driver was a very nice man with silly looking teeth and a scratchy looking navy blue sweater. He asked us what we would do–we had no idea, so he gave us some tourist tips and dropped us off in the middle of town, taking our packs with him. Our room wouldn’t be ready until 1pm so we had a few hours to explore.

We walked around Stresa and stopped at a cute little cafe for brunch. We decided we would take a boat to each of the islands in the lake (Lago Maggiore).

Boat dock in Stresa
Boat dock in Stresa. As you can probably imagine, there weren’t very many people out and about. Stresa is primarily a summer-vacation area, so the season to be on¬†the lake ended about a month ago.
Cool lookin place

Cool lookin place from the boat, beautiful green trees! I definitely miss Washington when I'm in Florence.. There really isn't any greenery except for the park right next to my apartment. And even then... it's a pretty gross park haha. You have to be super careful about where you step.

 
Isola Bella

First stop: Isola Bella

We got to the first¬†island pretty quickly, Isola Bella. Isola Bella has some big gardens you can walk through, but because it’s offseason, they were closed. It was still a pretty fun island to explore. We walked around for a while just looking at the buildings and the shops, stopped in a park for a while, then started moving back to the boat dock.

Caffe Lago

Caffe Lago

On the way back we came across the coolest little cafe!! Caffe Lago. The first thing about Caffe Lago that caught my attention was this guitar sign they had outside. I walked a little closer to see the second thing that caught my attention: an excellent plaque with a Stevie Ray Vaughan quote hanging next to the doorway. I had to go in there!

It felt so familiar to me–I definitely could have been in the states. The walls were covered with guitars, posters, pictures, old framed vinyl… and the coolest part about it¬†is that everything was autographed! Bruce Springsteen, ACDC, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, The Yardbirds!!!!, Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd¬†…. Whoever owns this place definitely knows people. It was so cool! ! I felt so at home for some reason haha.

Caffe Lago

Caffe Lago

In order to linger a little longer and not feel too awkward, I ordered a cioccolato caldo and took a seat at the nice wood tables. Dad I think you’d have loved this place–it had a definite, warm log-cabin feel to it. The tables and benches seemed handmade, probably from olive trees. My hot chocolate was, as always, aaaamazing! So thick and tasty. It was a perfect cozy remedy to the cold and rainy day we were having.

We sat in the cafe for a good half hour then meandered back to the boat so we could hop to the next island. I don’t think I stopped smiling for a bout an hour after we left that place.

When we got to Isola Pescatori, we walked about 15 feet, turned around and got back on the boat. We sort of mutually decided we had done enough exploring and needed to get out of the cold. We both felt pretty satisfied with our day.

La Sorgente

La Sorgente

The boat took us to a town north of Stresa called Baveno. From Baveno we walked 2km south (a little less than halfway to Stresa) to La Sorgente, the BEST Bed & Breakfast!!! It was like a vacation from vacationing! The walk was a little scary at times because Italian drivers are absolutely nutso and drive way too fast. Because the roads were wet, I kept imagining a car driving by and either splashing me with a huge muddy puddle, or spinning off the road and sending us flying into the rock wall, “Two American students hit by car in Baveno, killed.” Yeah, sorry, not so funny haha. Anywho, the walk was also pleasant at times–we could tell that the whole area would be a beautiful and relaxing vacation during the summer months.

¬†We hung out at the B&B for awhile, got warm and cozy in some dry clothes and eventually… we got hungry! We asked the nice lady who owned the place with her husband where we should eat for dinner. She recommended a bar for an apertivo, and then a restaurant¬†called¬†Sotto Sopra. We walked back in to town, and found a clean looking bar. I ordered a glass of the local red wine and then they brought out some snacks.. Bread with prosciutto, cheese, olives and potato chips. We watched the TV and giggled at the Italian singers. For some reason I just can’t take Italian musicians seriously, well the ones that I’ve seen live at least. Here’s one that was catchy enough for me to remember the artist: “Pop Porno” by Il Genio

After we had our apertivo, we walked a few blocks to the Sotto Sopra restaurant. Besides one couple over in the corner, we were the only customers! Oh…my. The food was SO good. For an appetizer the chef brought out some roasted/sauteed? peppers covered in a yummy sauce. Aneisa and I couldn’t figure out what it was, we only knew it was tasty! For our main course we had pasta with cream sauce, mushrooms (it’s the season for funghi! therefore…it’s the specialty dish of the season)… and it was great! For dessert……. we had…. chocolate ..souffl√©, che buona!! Oh man it was perfect. We enjoyed our dinner so much we had to tip them–people in Italy generally don’t tip.

souffle cioccolato - Look at that presentation!

souffle cioccolato - Look at that presentation!

Oct 26 – A Milano!

November 17, 2008

the shopping area

the shopping area

Fall Break continues…

Sunday morning, Aneisa and I woke up bright and early to catch the 8:14 train to Milan. Once the train started moving, we looked at each other in complete excitement.. Checkpoint number one! We arrived to Milan Central Station a little after noon. First thing we had to do was buy a map of the city and figure out where the heck we were and how to get to our hostel. Aw, sweet Adventure!

We set out on foot with our gnarly backpacks a good 5 or 6 blocks to get to the metro line we wanted to take. (Later we realized we could take the green line from the station to get to the red line). We slowly read signs and walked through the station, bought our 1,10 euro tickets and hopped on the next subway train that passed through. Okay, do you really need all these details? Nawww. The subway was definitely the most used public transportation in the city. Absolutely fantastic! I wish Seattle had a subway system. Anywho, we made it to our hostel–Hostel Emmy. Don’t ever stay there if you go to Milan! Okay it wasn’t that bad, the shower was hot, there were no bugs in my bed. It was just really old and a little shabby lookin’.

Allora! We put our packs in our room, ate some sandwiches that Aneisa had made that morning, and set out with my Rick Steves book to explore the city. We took the metro to Piazza Duomo and just started walking around! I liked that we went to the city with no expectations–it was fun to just explore and be spontaneous. (HOWEVER, we did not see Leonardo’s The Last Supper because you have to make a reservation a good month in advance ūüė¶ Oh well.)

Me and the Duomo

Me and the Duomo (Took about 600 years from start to finish, 1386-1965)

We observed our surroundings.. and decided we would take a gander into the Duomo. I followed Rick Steves self-guided tour so I could understand a bit about the history and statues inside. One of the statues, St. Bartolomeo, was very interesting. Bartolomeo, aka Bartholomew the Apostle, ¬†was “flayed” and crucified upside down.. Thus, there’s a statue of him carrying his own skin. It’s a little weird… but it looks cool haha.

bartolomeo

Statue of St Bartolomeo by Marco d'Agrate

From the Duomo we wandered into the shopping area. I walked through Prada just for kicks… MAMMA MIA!$$$$$! I don’t know how people spend so much money on stinkin bags and shoes.
We walked through the rest of the shopping area into an opening which became a piazza (which I forget the name of)with the statue of Leonardo da’Vinci and right across the street, the famous opera house, Teatro della Scala. We sat on a bench and watched pigeons walk around on Leonardo’s head and shoulders for a while. It was funny watching people position themselves for pictures in front of Leonardo to get just the right angle.
More to come!!! I promise!

YES WE CAN

November 4, 2008

At this moment I wish I was back in the USA to celebrate with my friends. I’m watching CNN.com coverage clicking back and forth from celebrating Obama supporters to McCain’s concession speech to news coverage, awaiting Obama’s speech in 20 minutes..

Yesterday (the 4th) I wore my Obama tshirt walking through Florence to class and back. I felt so proud to be wearing it. I wanted people to know that I voted for Obama. When I got back from class I sat here on my computer waiting and waiting for the first polls to close on the east coast. By the time I went to bed, nothing momentus had happened–I figured I should get some sleep so I could wake up at a reasonable hour and start following the election again. I was definitely wrong about “reasonable hour”.

I got a phone call at a few minutes past 5:00am from my sister. (THANK YOU!) For those of you who don’t like math, that’s 8:00pm Pacific Time. It took me a second to realize perhaps why she would be calling me.. Surely the results hadn’t come in already..

When I came to my senses I had a jolt of energy–I wanted to know what had been happening at home! I opened my computer and was overcome with excitement seeing that Obama had 298 electoral votes.. OH MAN! Is it real?! I had to refresh my page a few times to make sure. I said to my roommate, “Aneisa….. Obama is President!” I wasn’t surprised she was awake–I wasn’t exactly thinking about being quiet at that moment. I wanted so badly to talk and celebrate with Obama supporters and be excited with people as excited as myself!** I wanted to cheer and yell! I wanted to open the window and tell Italy that our next President, MY President,¬†will be Barrack Obama in 2009!

 

**Side note: My roommates find me rather silly, ie, when they saw what I was wearing yesterday they said to me, “You would.”¬†Come onnnn.¬† I wonder how many people just didn’t vote because they were too lazy to figure it out.¬†Three of my¬†four roommates didn’t vote. Okay, it doesn’t matter at this point.. but still. I would hate to look back on this election and not be able to say that I voted..

Live music at Festival della Creativita

Live music at Festival della Creativita

The Festival della Creativit√† 2008 was at Fortezza di Basso, a fortress about 2 or 3 blocks down from my apartment. I hadn’t been inside the fortress yet…oh man! It was absolutely immense. I had seen the large brick building from the outside, but I had no idea how far it spread out. The festival started on Thursday and went all the way to Sunday. I only went Friday and Saturday.

The theme of the festival was Visions, Journeys and Discoveries. I’d definitely compare it to Seattle’s Bumbershoot… the events were very similar, although the festival didn’t have nearly as much live music. The music that they did have was okay–one of the stages had the theme “British Invasion”… Three bands from the UK played. The 1990s, The Metros, and Thomas Tantrum. Thomas Tantrum was fantastic–they sounded like a collision of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs with Regina Spektor. Very good. The main stage was absolutely terrible. I can’t even describe their sound. Waste of time.

On Saturday, I went to one of the buildings that was having a media display of sorts. There were poster designs and some motion graphics meda. I absolutely LOVED this exhibit. It was kind of like the Tour Posters exhibit that they have at Bumbershoot only it was just art. There was on artist that did a series on fonts.. I’m a bit of a font nerd. I’m going to do some searching to see if I can find some pictures of the exhibit or maybe figure out whoe the artist was. Some of the posters were¬†pretty interesting statements… For example, there was one with a picture of Bush sporting a Hitler-esque mustache made out of a barcode, and another rather disturbing one with two soldiers looking at a girl, perhaps Vietnamese, that said “Make love, not war”. Some were a bit less intense but nonetheless having to do with American politics. I was surprised to see one with a quote from MLK’s “I Have¬†A Dream” speech with Obama in the background¬†looking off into the distance rather philosophically. I should save this for its own blog…but it seems to me that everyone outside of the US is rooting for Obama. I even met an Italian guy who said “I wish we had someone like Obama”, (Italian politics have been going down the shoot for a countless number of years now. The current Prime Minister is terrible.) I talked to a Canadian couple on the streets of Florence about 2 weeks ago about politics, they were also Obama supporters. It seems that everyone is paying attention to this election.. I met some dudes in a hostel from Mexico–they brought up the election. In another hostel, some kids from Australia and New Zealand–again… they asked “Who are you voting for?!!”…Mamma mia back to the festival.

As we were wondering around the fortress, Aneisa cracked a joke that set us off laughing real hard. Apparently we were pretty loud because we caught the attention of a group of young 20-something Italians. One of them came over to us and introduced himself–we were instant friends. Gianluca, Doccio, and Lorenzo. They were a bunch of funny dudes from Pistoia, about 30km from Florence. As we got to know eachother we discovered that they were in bands.. And one of them, IDavoli, has a show coming up on 1 Novembre at Viper Theatre! I had just gotten a flier the day before for Viper Theatre so it must be where I’m supposed to go.. haha. Cool! New friends from the local Florentine music scene, I couldn’t have asked for more :). In any case, their bands¬†aren’t that good.., but here are their myspace pages: (www.myspace.com/idavoli and www.myspace.com/unasega).

(Obviously by the date of this post you can see that Nov 1st has already past, yes I went to the show.. that’ll get a post after I’ve updated you all about Fall break!)

Ciao for now!

at EuroChocolate Festival in Perugia

Aneisa and I at EuroChocolate.

For my Pairing Food & Wine class we took a feild trip to Perugia on the opening day of the grand EuroChocolate Festival. It’s apparently the biggest chocolate festival in the world and lasts for a whole 9 days!

Fortunately for us it was only a 2.5 hour bus ride south. Although,…we were on a double-decker that sorta swayed back-n-forth, thus causing everyone to feel a bit sick. On the way back¬†it was even worse because we all had a bunch of free chocolate in our stomachs.
the crowded streets

The crowded streets

Allora, the festival was pretty cool. It took up about 9 or 10 blocks down one street and 9 or 10 back down a parallel street. There were tents/vendors everywhere, all with some sort of chocolate product (ie, chocolate drinks, chocolate liquer, chocolate pasta, chocolate bars, chocolate covered bananas, chocolate baci [italian version of chocolate Kiss], etc). Some tents were major chocolate companies like Toblerone or Lindt, and then there were your smaller local companies. The European version of Dannon was there–“Danone”. They were passing out free chocolate pudding. Yum!
mel, van, ane

Melissa, Aneisa and Vanessa enjoying Cioccolato Caldo. I wish you could've seen Melissa absolutely freak out over how good this stuff is. YUM!

We bought this ‚ā¨5 ChocoCard that allowed you to get a bunch of “free” samples at certain tents (Danone was one of them). My favorite “free” sample would have to be the Cioccolato Caldo (hot chocolate). Italian cioccolato caldo is nothing like American hot chocolate, besides being well… hot and errr.., chocolate, of course. Anywho, cioccolato caldo is so thick you don’t know whether or not to drink it or eat it.¬†I’ve had it a couple times since the EuroChocolate festival and some people make it so rich you almost need a glass of milk to drink alongside!

Fall break

October 25, 2008

Tomorrow morning Aneisa and I will hop on a train to Milan. I am pretty stoked! We’ll be gone all week travelling all over. Here are the places we plan to go to: Milan, Stresa, Lake Maggiore, Naples, Pompeii, Mt. Vesuvius, Sorrento, and Capri. Ci vediamo dopo!! CIAO CIAO!

Coming soon…
EuroChocolate Festival in Perugia
Festival della Creativita (comparable to Bumbershoot, but with less music)

Oct 12 – Venice

October 25, 2008

 
On the boat to Venice
On the boat to Venice with my cool friends. Aneisa (my roommate from MN), Eric (NH), Spencer (Spokane, WA!), Taylor (MT), and Andrew (MA). We took a “taxi” boat through the canal to get to the main area¬†of Venice.
Let me first say that Venice is a beautiful city, but one day was enough and I would never choose to live there. My friend said it quite perfectly, “I feel like we’re in some sort of theme park.” Everywhere we turned there were tourists. In Piazza San Marco… oh man! There were so many people! It started to stress me out! Especially since nobody watches where they’re going because they’re looking up at the beautiful buildings. It was rather difficult to dodge the people,.. and the large population of pigeons. Pigeons are pretty bad because they just fly where they want expecting the people to move out of their way. I swear I almost got nailed in the face about 3 times! Yowza! What a story that would be.. “What happened to your face?” …”I was hit by a pigeon.”
 
Risotto frutti di mare! Yum!!! My first time eating squid.. I was a littl
Lunch: Risotto al frutti di mare! Yum!!! My first time eating squid.. I had to close my eyes a few times because the tentacles sort of weirded me out.

Allora haha, enough rambling. When we got off the boat we took a walking tour through the city. The tours are always optional, but I like to go on them so I can understand some history of the city and figure out where things are in order¬†to make the most of my free time. Run-on sentence. The walking tour was about 2 hours long and I hadn’t eaten since breakfast back at the hotel (at this point it was about 1pm). My friends and I decided we’d try to find a good cheap place to eat a Venetian meal. After aimlessly walking around for 30 minutes we found a fantastic little spot… I ate Risotto al frutti di mare, Seafood risotto. It was pretty good!

After lunch we wandered around the city window shopping and people watching. We went into the museum of Murano glass–Venice is famous for it’s Murano glass. Every block had a few stores where you could buy everything from mini glass people and animals, to extravagant jewlery, dishes and vases. There was one shop that was selling the most amazing cups. They were replicas of Picasso’s characters in the most vibrant colors. I wanted so badly to buy a set… but they were 65 euro a piece!

Me and Marco on the gondola ride

On the gondola!

Later in the afternoon, we decided we’d take a ride on a gondola. I don’t figure I’ll be back to Venice anytime soon, so I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity. It costs about 80-100 euro per gondola, no matter how many people go with you. We rode around in the gondola for about 40 minutes. It was very cool to see Venice from a different perspective. When you walk through the city you can’t see everything you would from the gondola. Anywho, it was pretty and fun and Marco, our gondola driver dude, sang some silly love songs.¬†

view from the canals of Venice

I still can't believe I was there!

San Marco's Basilica

Basilica San Marco -- Like many of the cathedrals in Italy, San Marco's has multiple architectural styles. When it takes a few hundred years to build, through the Gothic period, the Renaissance... naturally you'll have an interesting clash of decoration. There's so much detail too--very cool up close! The pictures that you see in each of the arches all all mosaics... Definitely worth seeing in person.

Venetian sunset

Venetian sunset -- This is, by far, my favorite picture I've taken this whole semester.

Oct 11 – Recchia Vineyard

October 23, 2008

the grapes!

The yummy grapes!

The tiny backroads going up the side of the valley to Recchia Vineyards were a bit scary in our monster buses. The view however, was phenominal.

The tiny backroads going up the side of the valley to Recchia Vineyards were a bit scary in our monster buses. The view however, was phenominal.

Wine cellar

We got to take a tour of the wine cellars.

Wine tasting

Ripasso Valpolicella, Amarone della Valpolicelli, Recioto della Valpolicelli. We did a wine tasting and were able to taste the three main wines of the Recchia Vineyards. I think my favorite was the Amarone, with Ripasso in a close second. Recioto is a dessert wine... it was okay, but I don't think I could enjoy a glass of it because it's so incredibly sweet.

Me, Vanessa and Melissa

Me, Vanessa, and Melissa tasting our wine! They live upstairs in the same apartment building. Vanessa is from Boston and Melissa is from San Jose, CA.

Tour of the vineyards

Tour of the vineyard

FYI, I’ve just added a cool link that includes ALL the pictures I’ve taken here on the right side of the page.. Check it out: http://community.webshots.com/user/katyharrison¬†or click on the link over there —>

Oct 11 – Verona

October 21, 2008

Walking on the bridge to cross into the center of Verona

Walking on the bridge to cross into the center of Verona

When we arrived by bus to Verona, we took a walking tour.. Our guide said that sometimes this river will rise all the way to the top of the arches on the bridge! Once we got across the bridge, we turned around to look at the view to the other side. Our guide pointed out a church that Mozart had performed in! So I could be walking on the same streets Mozart walked at one point.. cool! They apparently still have the same organ he played on.

Romeo's house

"Romeo's house"

As you all know, or should, Verona is home to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Though the actual characters Romeo and Juliet didn’t exist, the Capulet and Montague families did–and they lived in the center of Verona. The way our tour guide explained it, it seems that the government of Verona has created their own landmarks to draw more tourists to the city. They labeled this house “Romeo’s House” and put a plaque on the wall quoting¬†a famous line from Shakespeare.
Juliet

"Juliet's balcony"

Juliet’s balcony/courtyard was probably the most ridiculously crowded, chaotic¬†small area I have ever seen in my life. It’s not even real! The balcony was constructed on the building AFTER the first Romeo and Juliet movie came out.. it’s modeled from the movie set. And get this–it’s made from a little boy’s very decorated sarcophagus! They thought it was pretty, so they used it to..make Juliet’s balcony. Wow haha. And all these tourists come to see it. It’s a little sad really. The only slightly legit thing about this building is that it is most definitely part of the historic Capulets’ living quarters.

Juliet

Statue of Juliet in her courtyard

Apparently, if you grab/rub/touch Juliet’s right breast on this statue you’ll have a good love life. Look at how worn out that thing is! It was a huge challenge to get a picture of Juliet without some random tourist groping it. The boys were very,…very immature. And yes, I touched it. Unfortunately, I don’t think anything will help my nonexistant love life. It was worth a try though, eh?

Cenral Market
Verona’s Central Market
 
 
  

Oct 10 – Concert night

October 19, 2008

 
Teatro Pergola
Teatro Pergola

On Friday night, I went to¬†the Matthew Herbert Big Band¬†concert at Teatro Pergola. I hadn’t heard of Herbert before the concert and didn’t do any research on him… All I knew was that it was going to be some sort of different electronic music and that I didn’t have very high expectations. Man was I pleasantly surprised! Matthew Herbert is rather difficult to stick in a genre so my description of his music is this: experimental jazz with a raw, electronic twist.

Matthew Herbert Big Band

Matthew Herbert Big Band

Okay. So. First you have the live orchestra/band and a woman on vocals. All the instruments and the¬†vocals¬†are¬†hooked up to microphones, which are connected to Herbert’s little DJ-station. Herbert’s¬†station has a keyboard, turntables, a laptop, and some other electronic devices. With skill, he pushes buttons, turns knobs and presses keys that samples the live sound and manipulates it to his liking.

If you want to listen, try his website: http://www.matthewherbert.com/music.php¬†(more selection of songs. though they’re mostly a lot older) or myspace: http://www.myspace.com/matthewherbert¬†(they played The Story live).

Rockin’ the vote!

October 13, 2008

I marked the little oblong circle on my absentee ballot today… I can’t wait to put it in the mail! I feel so privileged to be able to vote and really have a say for my country. I have come across some students here who didn’t make the effort to get an overseas absentee and really don’t care to vote saying, “It doesn’t make a difference anyway.” I wish they’d come to their senses and realize it really does matter and they should make an educated vote. Mamma mia, the youth of today … We’ll see!

Today I decided¬†I wouldn’t dress myself to¬†fit in on the streets. I wore my favorite¬†Cougar bball T, my backpack and¬†my awesome EcoSneaks–these three things give me away. My black skinny pants would pass. Italian women wear heels and super nice clothes.. skirts, business suits, fancy fashion stuff.. I don’t know how they don’t get sick of dressing up all the time. Also, I don’t know how they keep their clothes looking so nice when everyone nobody has dryers.. After I wash my clothes and they dry on the racks, they are really stiff and weird! Infact, the elastic in my underwear is starting to not be so stretchy. There’s definitely somethin’ in the water.. (it smells like chemicals). Anywho, my backpack. That is usually an easy tourist-spotter; Italians wear handbags. I’ve started to notice that the younger kids use backpacks.. but it’s pretty easy to tell if they’re Italian based on the brand.

I catch myself playing a game as I walk to class every day. Italian? American? Tourist? Once you get closer you can see if they are speaking english, italian, or another language.. but it’s fun to try and figure it out based on their body language, their clothing, or who they are walking with. Body language is a big one¬†for the Italian women.¬†They walk like they own the streets in their stupid 5-inch heels (yes, stupid and completely impractical, the streets of Florence are made of seriously uneven cobblestone, Hello sprained ankles!), nose turned up, never a smile, never acknowledging that there might be other humans walking on the sidewalk too.

Annnnnnnyways, here is the reason I mentioned my clothes in the first place: I was walking back from class and a guy was staring at me (normal), I minded my own business and just as I was passing him he said to me in clear english, “Are you really a Cougar??” I answered proudly, “Indeed I am!” He was too! We had a little chat¬†about what I’m doing in Florence, etc. Small world, eh?¬†GO COUGS!

And now it’s time for bed. Ciao ciao!

Coming soon… lots of pictures and stories¬†from Verona, the Recchia Vineyards (wine tasting and tour), Lake Garda, and Venice!

il mio compleanno = my birthday
ho ventuno anni = I am 21 (literally “I have 21 years”)

mt

The "smile with your mouth closed because you were ordered to pose for a picture while chewing" smile.

Alllllright! So if you remember, I took a train from Bologna at 5:15am on the morning of September 30th, il mio compleanno. I arrived in Florence at about 6:15, walked to my apartment… 6:30… there was absolutely no way I would be able to wake up in an hour if I went to sleep. I went to class at 9am after not sleeping since the morning before. Yeah, so..¬†I’ve got a guilty conscience. I fell asleep once or twice in my first class (which is 5 hours long), “Kathryn! Wake up!” She¬†still¬†hasn’t picked up the fact that I go by Katy so¬†I decided I’ll survive.¬†Then in my Italian class (only an hour 15 min), my teacher laughed as he said to me “Katy, sei stanco?” (Are you tired?) My response, “si, molto stanco…mi dispiace” (yes, very tired…I’m sorry). “Per che?” He asked me why and I told him I went to see a concert in Bologna last night and haven’t slept.. “Ohhh cool! Don’t worry about it. You guys are abroad! I expect you to have fun and go places and experience things!” And that’s why Enzo is the coolest Italian teacher haha. For the rest of the class he kept making jokes about me nodding off while taking notes… and applying it to our lesson. He taught us the verb “to sleep”… and also made a joke that was a bit racist… While pointing at each student he said “Americana, Americano, Americana,…. Giaponnese…, Americana..” Mamma mia!

Onwards! Went back to apartment, ate, slept 3 hours.. At 8 my roommates woke me up, “WE’RE GOIN OUT! IT’S YOUR 21ST BIRTHDAY!!!!” There I was, all tired and completely worn out, not wanting to go… But it was 4 against 1–no way I was getting out of that one. Plus, they apparently already had the night planned out.

Chinese birthday dinner

Chinese birthday dinner

We went to a nice Cinese ristorante for dinner, then down a few blocks to a music club/bar called BeBop. BeBop has live cover bands every night and that night it was the Beatles!¬†Sweet! I was very impressed with these Italians… they were very talented and did a fantastic job playing such well-known songs. Ya know, sometimes a band can cover a song and it’s absolutely terrible! For example, my favorite band is Incubus (duh), and if some unknown randoms decided to cover “Sick, Sad, Little World” they would probably sound terrible. Granted, “SSLW” is a much more complicated song than “Yellow Submarine” or “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”….Nevermind. Just nod and smile and pretend you get what I’m saying. Va bene.

¬†During the middle of the set, the band stopped and said they had an announcement…. “Is Katy here? Everyone it’s Katy’s birthday! Come up here Katy!” Oh gosh…… Yes they brought me up on the stage. I can be so awkward sometimes I just didn’t know what to do when I got up there. They handed me a mic and said “SPEECH!!” Aw man… What do I say what do I say…?! So I said, “It’s my birthday!! WOO!!” Man, I look like a goof.. “I hope everyone is having fun! I know I am!” *smacks hand to forehead* What?.. did I say that?!¬† Hahaah oh man it was a classic moment. Regardless of my stupidity, everyone in the club cheered and made a bunch of noise in approval and then the band proceeded to sing Happy Birthday. My nervousness continued… does anyone else feel super awkward when Happy Birthday is being sung to you and you have to just sit there smiling while everyone stares at you? Well I do! Perhaps I should have actually had a few drinks so I’d have¬†relaxed a bit. In any case, I ….sang with them, replacing the “you” and “Katy” with “ME!” Man, I’m cool. Good times.

Errr.. pure awkwardness captured on camera.

Errr.. pure awkwardness captured on camera.

In all honesty, it was one of the better birthdays I’ve had.

When I was back in the states and saw that Coldplay was touring Europe while I’d be abroad…. I was stoked! Maybe I’d travel to another country to see Coldplay …And then I saw the dates in Italy… in Bologna–only an hour’s train ride from Florence! I bought 2 tickets, hoping I’d make a friend who liked Coldplay enough to pay $86 and a buy train ticket to come with me.

Fortunately, I found a girl in my ceramics class. Her name is Mo (aka Maurine), she’s from New Jersey, and she’s a total goofball. We didn’t really know each other going into it, but we got along great and had a fantastic time!

Waiting for my panino with my free beer. The 50-something man next to me was trying to expl

Waiting for my panino with my free beer. The 50-something man next to me was trying to explain to me how this vendor worked.. Italians are very gesticulate people. He knocked his beer off the counter and spilled it all over my arm and a bit on my pants. He felt terrible and so he bought me and my friend Mo some birre! (birre=beers, birra=beer)

As I hoped they would be, Coldplay was ..incredible. I nearly cried I was so overwhelmed with joy haha. Well worth the adventure! The venue was fairly small–definitely not as big as Key Arena. The Italians by me all seemed to be quite ecstatic and enjoying the music as much as I was. Pretty much everyone knew all the words, even the girl next to us who spoke absolutely no english. It really is amazing how music can be so universal and affect someone the same way it affects me.. even though they don’t understand the words, they can feel the emotion and the excitement through the music.. They can feel overtaken by the sad yet¬†content and comforting¬†feeling of “Fix You” …or a rush from the marching beat and triumphant strings of “Viva la Vida”…. Perhaps they might be moved by the¬†atmosphere of live music,¬†..the rhythm¬†physically pounding in their chest…

Coldplay

Coldplay

Mmmm, sigh. End ramble.

Allora, after the concert there weren’t any trains to take us back to Florence until 5:15am, so we had to kill some time. We slowly strolled into an expensive hotel and used their bathroom.. taking our time.. enjoying the warmth.. filling our waterbottles..
 
Anywho, so we went back out into the dark, cold night to try and find another “shelter” and grab some food. Low and behold, the great Golden Arches appear down the street! Yes my friends, we went to McDonald’s. While eating my curly fries and Crispy McBacon, I swatted at the flies landing so gracefully in my ketchup and tried not to glance at the sketchy, staring dudes sitting in the corner. I was not about to sacrifice my warmth and shelter to get away from a creeper.¬†Give¬†them a¬†split-second of eye contact and you’re in for it!
 
How silly is it to bring in your 21st birthday eating McDonald’s in Bologna, Italy? Pretty silly I think. I was okay with it though, Coldplay made up for it. After McD’s closed, we went 2 blocks down to where many interesting people¬†gather at night, the central train station. Let’s just say it was such fantastic people-watching, if I closed my eyes I would regret it (because I would either, a) be attacked by a strange individual, or b) miss something hilarious. There were many a-stumblin’ homeless crazies who were,¬†quite possibly, using mind-alterin’ substances that in fact, could lead to a combination of police, unconscious drug-users on the ground, ambulances, and run-on sentences… no need to go on really. Well there was a woman who ran by outside while removing her brassier. I’m not sure why she would do that in such cold weather. We watched a short man with a hunch-back in a purple sweater try to pick-pocket everyone in the station. And some old dude slapped another dude and then flipped him off while yelling some obscenities in Italian. OH!! There was another old dude who was legitimately crazy.¬†It seemed as though he was preaching something to the people in the room.. he was so intense.. like he was trying to prove something to everyone, make them believe something. I asked my new Serbian friend, Aljosa, what the man was saying, but Aljosa said he couldn’t understand at all because he was using a different Italian dialect. He stomped around getting close to people’s faces like he was angry,¬†but he¬†wore¬†a huge psychopathic grin on his face.. His eyes darted all over the room looking for someone to acknowledge him…. it was the most interesting thing to watch. Even I knew it was psychobabble and I didn’t even understand the words–the guy was a serious whacko!
 
Aljosa's shoes. Yes, they are Sonics colors, but nonetheless, the Seattle skyline.

Aljosa's shoes. Yes, they are Sonics colors, but nonetheless, the Seattle skyline.

Okay new topic. Aljosa! (al-ho-suh) Aljosa is¬†my age, from Serbia, and is also studying in Florence but at a different school. He speaks Serbian, Italian, English, and wants to learn Russian. He told me his major was something to do with tourism but I couldn’t quite understand if that was correct… In any case, he was wearing shoes that had the Seattle skyline on them!!!!! I was so stoked to see that!! We were instant friends haha. He has never been to Seattle but he liked the shoes and started to ask me lots of questions about where I am from and what it’s like. …Likewise I asked him about Serbia. Anywho, cool kid, super kind-hearted, soft spoken, new friend. We will try to meet for an “aperitivo” this week so I can practice my Italian. (Aperitivo is basically an appetizer with a drink. You buy a drink for 6 or 7 euro and then there is basically a buffet of snacks.. At least that’s how someone explained it to me, I haven’t actually tried it yet.)

Basta! Enough!
 
In conclusion, I have¬†2 new friends (Mo and Aljosa), I can now confidently¬†navigate the train station, I had an awesome day before my birthday (which gets its own post and comes next), I went to McDonald’s in Italy..?, and ..I can check something really awesome off my Bucket List… “Go to a concert in another country.” SUCCESS!
The only thing I regret is not buying a tshirt to add to my collection. Maybe Coldplay will swing through Seattle when I’m back…. though I’ll probably be in Pullman. Hmm. We’ll tackle that one when it comes. Ciao ciao!
My adventure! -

My adventure! (click picture to open a bigger clear version)

¬†From La Spezia we took a boat to Portovenere. Portovenere is located in the Gulf of Poets..appropriately named I think (if you experienced the beauty of this place, you too would¬†want to write poetry.. the pictures don’t do it justice!)¬†From there we took another boat in the direction of the Cinque Terre and had a nice boat “tour” (the anouncer lady explained the towns as we passed them). Once we docked in Vernazza we had a mini walking tour and then an hour of free time. I decided to do a little hiking.. took some video. From there we took the boat to Monterosso, which I liked the most of the five towns. We had a walking tour and then 2 hours of free time in which I grabbed a traditional Monterosso meal, Spaghetti al frutti di mare and then went swimming in the sea. Afterwards we met at the train station and took a train to Corniglia. Unfortunately we only had 10 minutes of time here… Then we started walking the Via dell’ Amore aka Lover’s Lane. The old long road was covered in awesome graffiti. The view out to the sea was just phenominal….honestly, I have never seen water have such a vibrant color! When the road came to an end we had passed through Manarola and arrived in Riomaggiore. Again we only had a few minutes of time here to grab a snack or a gelato and then meet at the train station. We took a train beack to La Spezia where we plopped our exhausted bodies back on our bus and drove back to Florence!
 
¬†I think I would really like to go back to Cinque Terre and do the full on 6 hour hike through the hills, visiting each town on the way. I was sad that we didn’t have more free time to explore.. but still very glad I was able to visit this amazing paradise!!!
 
– PORTOVENERE –
Portovenere -

Portovenere - These buildings are apartments! They are tall and skinny but very deep. This line of buildings used to serve as a wall to protect the town. Nobody dared living there because it was too dangerous--you could be taken by the pirates or killed much easier than if you lived back in the town.

Portovenere -

Portovenere - This is walking in the street right behind the apartment buildings that you see above.

Portovenere -

Portovenere - The church of St. Peter. When we walked inside this church, it was still decorated with beautiful flowers and whatnot from someone's wedding earlier in the day. Talk about an incredible destination-wedding.. $$$ !Portovenere - My glam shot.. haha. This is me sitting on the edge of the church that you see in the picture above. Look at that amazing sea! It goes on forever!

Portovenere -

Portovenere - This is the boat we rode to Cinque Terre.

 

– CINQUE TERRE –

The boat ride to Cinque Terre

The boat ride to Cinque Terre

Vernazza

Vernazza - This is the view from the top of my little hike. You can go up a lot higher but you have to have professional gear and buy a ticket to get passed the gate.

Cave in Vernazza

Vernazza - This cave brings you out to a super-cool area where you can rock climb a bit. Amazing view! I would have taken a picture or two but it would've been difficult to keep myself from falling in the water and taking a picture at the same time ūüėČ

Riven in Vernazza!

Riven ..in Vernazza? (This one is for you Jami and Michael....)

Spaghetti al frutti di mare

Monterosso - Spaghetti al frutti di mare (Seafood spaghetti: muscles, clams, prawns, and crab! YUM!)

crab, mmmm

Monterosso - You might not be able to tell, but that's a crab arm/claw hanging from my mouth.. haha. I was trying to suck the meat out of it and decided it would be a funny picture.

Tyrrhenian Sea!

Monterosso - Heading out to swim in the extra salty, extra beautiful Tyrrhenian Sea. It was surprisingly refreshing!

The beach at Monterosso

The beach at Monterosso

Lover's Lane / Via Amore

Lover's Lane / Via dell' Amore

Piazza de Ferrari

Piazza de Ferrari

On Saturday we woke bright and early to meet in Piazza Indipendenza for a 3.5 hour bus ride to Genova. Genova, an important seaport, is just north of Cinque Terre on the far northwest coast of Italy.

St. Lawrence Cathedral

St. Lawrence Cathedral

 

When we arrived we had a nice walking tour of the city and saw all the basic important areas.. Tours of towns I don’t know from history class or something can be a little boring, but it’s still cool to learn new things. Genova wasn’t all that exciting historically, but it had some pretty architecture. Although, I’m not sure how many more¬†cathedrals I can be excited to see haha. Yes, I am a bit bored with the tours and staring at buildings.. but I¬†know I will appreciate being able to see all these things soon enough.

Genovan Farinata (left) and fish (right)

Genovan Farinata (left) and fish (right)

After the tour we had 2 hours of free time. Katie and I went to a tiny hole-in-the-wall local place to get some specialty Genovan food. We both ordered Farinata and some fish. Farinata is a chickpea flatbread. It was a real different texture but the flavor was excellent. The fish was….the best hot, greasy, fried fish I have ever had. When I took the first bite, it almost fell out of my mouth because my jaw dropped at how tasty it was.

Since there wasn’t much to do, we decided to check out the Acquario de Genova. I personally love aquariums and could spend all day in them so I was quite excited. I am one of those people that likes to read pretty much everything and take tons of time at each “station”. The sharks were the best. I got some video of them but no pictures.. (side note: I’ve decided I am going to collect all my video from my excursions and whatnot and create a sweet Italy video at the end of the semester.)¬†

Read the rest of this entry »

My long weekend

September 30, 2008

Hello all! Just a quick blurb and then I’m headed to bed…

In the last 4 days I have survived Genova, Santa Margherita, a swim in the Tyrrhenian Sea, the beautiful Cinque Terre, Coldplay in Bologna,¬†and my 21st birthday! I have so much to update you on and tons of pictures to post. Please bother me if I don’t write a few blogs about my adventures soon.

Buona notte!

This weekend I am venturing off to Cinque Terre and Genova!

I have a bazillion mosquito bites.

It is starting to get really cold at night.

I haven’t blow dried my hair in 3 weeks.

I finally found peanut butter–4,50 euro for about a cup of¬†creamy Skippy pb. FYI, I prefer extra crunchy JIF and I can definitely use a cup of pb in less than a week.

I went to the Supermarket last week to buy sesame seeds for a salad I was making. I couldn’t find them anywhere, so I approached someone to ask…. “Scusi, parli englese?” Try describing or gesturing sesame seeds to an Asian employee in an Italian supermarket that speaks neither Italian nor English. Huh?

I have my first quiz in Italian on Thursday (martedi). I’m pretty stoked because I think I will breeze through it. I talked to my Italian professor, Enzo, today and expressed that I was already bored–the kids in my class are incredibly slow, they honestly don’t pick up anything even if Enzo explains it really slowly in english and shows a bazillion examples. He said that he could tell and if I want he can assign me some extra compiti (aka homework) …haha wow I sound like a total nerd right now but I really do want to learn the language!¬†I think I’m picking it up so much quicker than¬†the other students¬†..because I’ve already taken a foreign language and understand the general rules for masc/fem. singular/plural… and conjugating verbs, etc. So the concepts we’re learning now are so simple and basic I have to actually work at catching myself from blurting out all the answers (it helps that there are only¬†9 of us in the class otherwise I’d probably be real shy). Allora, it’s bedtime yo. Buonanotte mi amici!

Pizza in Pisa

September 22, 2008

This weekend, Annie, Katie, Aneisa and I went to Pisa! We hopped on a train for¬†11,90¬†euro (there and back)and wandered through the tiny town. There really isn’t much there. We walked to the leaning tower and the church, took some goofy pictures.. sat and people watched.. then walked back towards the train station, stopping at a Pizza place on the way. The pizza lady totally tried to jip us and billed us for 10,00 euro more than our actual bill was…. Hmm, fortunately we are a sharp bunch of ladies and called her on it.

My camera broke before the weekend so I will grab the pictures from Annie when I can and put them up here soon..

Don’t worry, I bought another camera this afternoon, oi! My mom said:¬†“If you don’t buy one I will get pissed off at you! Very pissed!” Haha yeah okay Mom

*EDIT!*

Pictures have arrived:

The Pisa Cathedral... and some funny tourists posing with the tower

The Pisa Cathedral... and some funny tourists posing with the tower

Look! I'm holding up the leaning tower of PISA! And I'm making a really stupid face!

Look! I'm holding up the leaning tower of PISA! And I'm making a really stupid face!

Dinner on the Arno

September 22, 2008

Aneisa, Jordan, Katie, and me on the Arno River for dinner

Aneisa, Jordan, Katie, and me by the Arno River

This was before Rome on September 8th,¬†but I forgot to mention it. All of the API students had the pleasure of eating dinner–though it was more like a bunch of appetizers–on the Arno River right by the Ponte Vecchio. The place where we ate, I am told, is not open to the public..so only special parties maybe? Not quite sure. They didn’t tell us where we were going, ..we all wondered what restaurant would be crazy enough to try to accomodate 150 American students! I was especially curious when we entered through this super-secret tiny door in the wall..¬† In the end, it was a beautiful night with the moon shining right down on us and the river a-flowin!

API is so amazing. They really give us the hook-ups!

Weekend in Rome

September 18, 2008

Journal entries from my weekend in Rome:

Our Mercedes-Benz bus......

Our Mercedes-Benz bus......

12 Sett 2008 – Halfway there
We are out in the countryside of Italy; it’s so green and beautiful! Tons of trees and hills everywhere mountains in front of us.. It makes me feel more at home. The homes out here are amazing. They’re all so old, like in the city, but they have much more character. Ristorante stop!

We’ve travelled about an hour and a half and just stopped for a snack. The gas stations here are so funny–instead of having just a little shop with your basic candy bars and sodas, they have a full on restaurant, cafe, and grocery store in one building. We all piled off our buses (3 buses of about 45 kids) and invaded this place. It was absolute chaos!

There is a kid on the bus who has his music on so loud I can hear it over my own headphones! He’s listening to some hip-hop that has the same exact beat throughout the whole song….what a moron! He’ll be deaf by the time he’s 30 if he keeps listening to his tunes at that volume. Time to invest in some noise-cancelling headphones.

Spanish Steps

Spanish Steps

Later that day…

Oh man! We went on a walking tour of Rome. So many cool places to see..so much history! We went to the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain (which was pretty cool but ridiculously crowded with tourists), the Pantheon (also amazing, more on this one later) and we saw some fantastic architecture. The hotel is apparently a 4-star hotel. It’s pretty nice, big room, aaawwwesome shower.

Okay, back to the journal entries later. Now I’ll explain the sites we saw with some pictures!

Our first stop on the tour was the Spanish Steps. They were fully funded by the French, but they are a path from the Holy See (yes, SEE, not sea) to the Spanish Embassy.. thus, they are the Spanish Steps.

I climbed to the top of the 138 steps and was pretty stoked to see my first bigger view of Rome. Since we arrived on the bus all I saw was the streets and the tall buildings.. but couldn’t get a bigger picture of what Rome really looked like. A lot of the other students compared Rome to New York City–minus the skyscrapers of course. I’ve never been to NYC¬†so I can’t really have a legit opinion,¬†but I’m not too sure why they compared the two cities… I would imagine that they are nothing alike. Maybe the “big city” atmosphere? (Side note: my laptop battery was getting low, so I decided to reach for the cord to plug it in …reachhh…almost…WHAM! My chair fell over and I smacked the solid floor rather hard. That’ll leave a bruise. Laptop ..plugged in.)¬†

Me and the view from the top of the Spanish Steps
Me and the view from the top of the Spanish Steps
Next we went to the Trevi Fountain. It’s basically a giant fountain built into the side of a building. Tons of fantastic sculpture. There were way too many tourists there to really enjoy the fountain.. Oh well. The Pantheon was way cooler anyway!

The Pantheon is amazing. It has these fantastic columns that are over 2000 years old and were brought over by boat from Egypt. If I remember correctly they are 45 feet tall with a diameter of 3ft. The actual structure was built in 125 AD. At the top of the dome, there is an oculous that is 29ft wide!!! It kept raining..so it rained inside. It was kinda weird but the guy who designed the Pantheon apparently had reasoning behind it. Oh, and just FYI, Raphael is buried in there. No big deal. I got to see Raphael’s grave.

Pantheon - "Temple of all the gods"

Pantheon - "Temple of all the gods"

After the tour we went back to our hotel and rested for a little while. Katie, Aneisa and I were in one room, so naturally we ended up venturing out together to grab a quick lunch and find something to do. We decided to head towards the Roman ruins and go inside and walk around….but when we got there (after staring at the

Roman ruins

Roman ruins

map for a good 20 minutes to try and find the entrance), we found out that we had to pay to go in. Both of our tour books of Italy (including the one and only Rick Steve’s), said that the entrance to the old Roman forums was free! We asked the ticket people and they said they changed it in May.. bummer. We walked around the forums outside the fences and read through a bit of my tour book to get the main ideas. We could see the ruins just as well as anyone inside probably could have! It all seemed so unreal.. the old worn columns and buildings..

On Friday night, Katie, Aneisa and I went to a restaurant that our program people recommended to us called La Carbonara in Campo de’ Fiori Square–about 3 minutes walk from our hotel. It rained a little on our walk there but otherwise it was pretty nice out so we decided to take an undercover outside table. We got a table, ordered our food and water (you have to pay for water here…..) and got our bread…. Then WHAM!!! HUGE RAIN STORM! (see below) ..It was windy and ridiculous! Some of the umbrellas blew over and took some tables and dishes with them. The picture below is from the entrance of the restaurant. We stood there with the rest of the people from outside just waiting for the customers inside to finish eating. In the end, our food was fantastic (I had Ravioli Spinaci… aka Spinach Ravioli) and we had some great conversation!

La Carbonara in the rain..

La Carbonara in the rain..

On Saturday we got up early again and hopped on the bus. We arrived in the Vatican City….The Piazza is gigantic–it’s probably the biggest one I’ve seen. St. Peter’s Basilica is…even more incredible. It’s absolutely enormous from the outside.. then you walk in…and it’s breathtaking. (It is, in fact, the largest basilica in the world.) When I walked up the stairs to the entrance I was already in awe..then I walked in! Man.. I thought it was pretty¬†cool in pictures and my history books, but seeing it in person is an entirely different experience. When our tour guide pointed to my right to show us where Michelangelo’s Piet√° is displayed, I felt speechless and .. Yeah I know I’m totally cheesey, but guys!!! I was SO excited to see Piet√°!! In PERSON! In any case, the basilica was huge and cool and I got to see a lot of art that was in my art history books in just one place, ..and I also learned a lot more about its history and architecture.

St. Peter's Basilica from the piazza-- Look close at the tiny people on the steps!

St. Peter's Basilica -- Look closely at the people on the steps of the basilica; it's pretty big, eh?!

Michelangelo's Piet√°
Michelangelo’s Pieta
Me in St. Peter's

Me in St. Peter's

After the basilica we went to this lame fortress that I don’t even remember the name of….. Then we had free time! I chose to head over to the Sistine Chapel (duh, who wouldn’t?!) where I got to see even MORE art history come to life. I’ll be honest, the Sistine Chapel didn’t blow me away–I was a bit irritated by the guards loudly.. and sternly.. telling everyone to be quiet and “NO PEECTURES!”..It was really crowded but I tried to enjoy it. There was so much to look!¬†I think I was more excited to Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgement”, and Perugino’s and Boticelli’s frescos than I was to see the famous Creation fresco, (God giving life to Adam). The wall frescos were much bigger than I imagined.. Hmm. I think you just have to see it yourself ūüėČ

Michelangelo's The Last Judgement
Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement

Finally! The last day, Sunday, we went to the Coliseum. I couldn’t stop thinking about Gladiator. I asked our tour guide how accurate that movie was to history and his response was a silly little old man laugh,..¬†and a “not one bit!” Then he continued to break down all of history comparing it to the movie.. Oi!

In any case, the Coliseum has some pretty insane history. It’s all a bit bloody and gruesome, but I must admit, the structure is pretty amazing and monumental for having been built so long ago. It’s really unfortunate that the marble was stolen for other various projects–I can’t even imagine how beautiful it was before it was ruined!
The Coliseum, where countless men and animals were murdered for human entertainment..

The Coliseum, where countless men and animals were murdered for human entertainment..

And that’s that!