Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Day #7428 - Silent Night

I literally haven't left my house today. Down at school this past week during finals, me and my roommates would make sure we at least went outside once a day. The closest I got today was answering the door for the mail lady because someone had to sign for a package. That doesn't mean I haven't been in total awe of it's beauty. It's been snowing pretty consistently all day. Like I said the other day, though, I know it can be dangerous and I know that so many people find it annoying and a pain to deal with. Pardon me if I start to sound like Charlie Brown, but this season is supposed to be all about Love and family and hope, with peace on earth and goodwill toward all men. However, all of that, no matter how hard we may try, becomes secondary to the commercialism that consumes us. People genuinely don't believe me when I say I don't care so much about Christmas presents. Sure I want things, but I'd rather have a few days with my family and friends with no drama or fighting than any material things. So even though scraping the ice off the windshield of your car in the sub-zero windchill is never fun, take a moment to just appreciate what we do have. And come on, it's hard to deny that the power of weather is pretty awesome. All of this snow fell from the sky. It was just evaporated water, turned into a cloud, and now our landscape has been completely transformed. Come on, it's a little bit cool =)

Another thing I just want to take the time to comment on is surprises. I love it when things in this world can surprise me. People, places, things. For example, I'm not sure if I can remember the last time a movie made me cry. It rarely happens and I think the first time it did was when I first saw Finding Neverland. Tonight I watched Dan in Real Life with my brother and dad. Now for most of the movie, I just felt awkward and uncomfortable (probably because I could identify with the protagonist more than I wanted to). However at the end when Dan was talking to his daughters, I felt a tear on my face. I never watched this movie before because I thought it looked awful, and I ended up really enjoying it.

And I love it when books can surprise me. I'm currently re-reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time in a few years and wow, I forgot so much of the story. Usually I'll just pop in the dvd if I want a bit of Lizzy and Mr. Darcy, but the book, wow. Austen really knew how to tell a story. I never really appreciated Mr. Darcy's side of the story before - the movie just makes him seem like a jerk because you're only seeing her side of the story. In the book, you really get to see how tormented he is and we can all relate to the idea of falling for someone that our friends don't approve of. I never fully saw that Darcy starts falling in love with her the night they meet. It's like I'm reading a whole new book - what a great surprise.

And with this night being the eve of Christmas Eve, I now close this post while wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a happy holiday. Travel safely and just try to remember the real reason for the season =)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Day #7426 - Yarn and Yultide

Well final exams are finally over for everyone, so I'm back in Schaumburg for a month of rest and hopefully letting my brain recover from the massive assault it's been subject to for the past semester. I already went to Michael's today and got started on a new sweater that I hope to finish knitting by the time we head back to school.

The neighborhood is beautiful right now. I know that snow can be really unsafe to drive in and completely annoying when it comes to shoveling, but especially at night, it just makes everything look so at peace. Not going to lie, one of my main motivations for blogging tonight was going to be so I could rant about the fact that I've only been home a day and already, some people who I have always considered good friends are already not returning my calls and ignoring my texts and how much it sucks when I try to take an initiative like people are always telling me to do, but at the end of the day I'm still alone. It's a horrible feeling. But when I look out at the streetlights and snow covering my currently quiet street, it's just nice. Sure it'd be nice to have anyone to share these kinds of moments with, but it's so pretty that I don't mind. Patience is a virtue that I have always struggled with, and I also just try to remember that those kinds of things just might not be in the cards for me. So yeah. Sometimes, life is just a pain. Sometimes the people you need to listen, won't. But then other times, it'll snow in the days before Christmas and put a blanket over the world in a way that makes you wish that things like magic and Santa Claus were real to you all over again.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Day #7363 - A Change in the Air

The weather here finally feels like fall. Especially in the past week, it's been all over the place ranging from the 40s to the 80s. Today was nice because it was in the mid to low 60s - threw on a long sleeve shirt and a baseball hat with my jeans and I was good to go. One thing that I kind of hate is that there's not time in my schedule right now for me to sit out and enjoy it. I would love nothing more than to just sit out on the quad with a book and my ipod and read in the afternoon. Unfortunately, the soonest I could do that is Wednesday afternoon and even then, not for very long due to meetings and whatnot. But when I finally get to, it'll be sweet.

In life outside of the classroom, things are okay. There are things especially in the social realm that I wish I had more control over, but since I don't, I'm just accepting it and counting my blessings. As the saying goes, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to accept the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." But I'm confident that things will eventually turn around - it's just got to be a matter of time, right? In the meantime, duty to my homework calls...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Day #7351 - I Now Pronounce this Season, Autumn!

Today has been one of those days that I have been waiting for since the weather started to cool off. The air has been crisp and clear, the days are cloudless, the nights have a breeze that, frankly, is freezing. It's even been October for over a week already, yet I have not truly felt like it was Fall yet. And then today, it finally happened.

The leaves turned! It's one of those things that you can just sense Nature is just taking her time with. Any time soon, the trees would finally surrender. Baseball season is over (at least for any Chicago fans), football weather is upon us, and the Greek system is in the middle of barndance shennanigans. Everything has been leading up to this moment, suggesting that the time has come. I love seeing the green quad covered in the yellow and maroon leaves, everyone dressed in hoodies and jeans. It's a good feeling indeed.

In other news, life is keeping me busy (but mostly in a good way). My current cause of some frustration is my CI 335 class aka Education Technology. Long story short, technology hates me when I actually NEED to use it and right now, I'm not such a huge fan of it either. But I'm trying and the instructors were really understanding at class tonight when I explained to them why I had nothing done. I keep reminding myself that things could be worse and that in the grand scheme of things, I'm really doing okay. So good deal.

Side note that I meant to write about a couple days ago: I love it/get freaked out slightly when the music I might be listening to perfectly fits the situation at hand or the mood I'm in. It's like for however brief a moment in time, my ife has it's own soundtrack :o)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Day #7304 - End of a Teenage Era

So in just under two hours, I leave my teenage years behind and move into my twenties. While the past 6 years have been eventful to say the least, I'm actually much more nervous about this new chapter. From 8th grade until now, changes have obviously happened in me - junior high, all of high school, and half of my college career all done. But as they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same. I still love The West Wing and government, music, books, art, crafts, am incredibly shy even with people I do know, want to make friends that will last a lifetime, and find a place in this world where I truly and absolutely belong. So I guess this is a sort of toast by me for me - here's to everything that brought me to today and to everything that is to come. Who thought it would ever happen? Certainly not me :o)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Day #7292 - The Great 08-08-08

So even though this particular date was a few days ago (my 7,290th to be exact), I still feel as if I should document the occasion in some way.

The biggest deal for me was the fact that two days ago, the games of the 29th Olympiad started. Now for those of you who may not know this about me, I LOVE the Olympics. I love watching the opening ceremonies and seeing what the host country's culture is like and especially the march of nations when all the athletes come together in the spirit of competition. To me, it is progress toward a greater good, however small a step it may be. Plus, there are some really unique things to watch on tv now for the next two weeks, sports that no one ever really notices except for these once every 4 years. So good deal! I love the Olympics.

Earlier in the day I met with Amanda and Elissa about final detals for the apartment - fun times were had and the discussion was lively.

Last night was a mini-Verona reunion bbq. Again, fun times were had and it was nice to hang out with new friends and talk about old times. Plus everyone seems to have liked my lemon jello.

Other than that, I've just been gearing up for this last week before heading back down to school. Today I think I'm going to start tackling the decision of what clothes to bring (which for a girl can be quite a dilemma). I'm really hoping to start the year off on a positive note and stay that way for the semester. I'd really love to make Dean's List again and just remember to stay focused on the things that really matter. And if I'm able to have anything resembling a social or love life, that'd be nice too haha.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Day #7286 - They Built It, So I Came

So I know I haven't written here in a while, but I have two reasons for that: I've either been incredibly busy and therefore haven't had time OR things have been so boring that there's nothing to say. However, the past few days have been pretty memorable.

The week itself was pretty standard - Mom finished up school on Thursday, I worked more on getting stuff for the apartment and finishing up my shopping for recruitment. The other night we watched Sweeney Todd as a family, which none of us had ever seen before - wow. Quite, quite bloody and incredibly sad, but really interesting and well done. Oh theatre! I also had a shopping and baseball day with Michele which was nice - the two of us haven't really gotten to hang out just the two of us much this summer.

Yesterday, Mom, Dad, Steven and I went on a mini-roadtrip. On our way to Iowa, we stopped in Freeport, IL (Home of the Freeport High School Fighting Pretzels) and saw Little Cubs Field. Basically it's a miniature-Wrigley Field, complete with ivy and a scoreboard. It was pretty cool. We continued on to Galena where we walked around the town and saw President Grant's home. After spending the night in Iowa, we woke up bright and early to go play some baseball on the Field of Dreams in Dyersville. Wow. That was just plain cool. I'm not the brainest girl in the world especially when it comes to sports. I rarely understand all the rules, but I can appreciate and enjoy watching the game. I actually made some decent contact with the ball when I was up to bat, roamed around in the corn, and saw the big white farm house. It was such simple fun and I couldn't have been happier just to PLAY. We drove home after that, stopping in Dickeyville to see a fake grotto and then Pitosi to a micro-brewery. All in all, a very nice little trip.

Oh, and most people know that I'm a lover of storms. However I'm not going to lie, tonight's storms freaked me out. I don't like it when it's quite this close haha. However, rain usually means I'll sleep well tonight, and I'm all for that :o)

Monday, June 30, 2008

Day #7251 - Back in the US of A

Being home has been interesting so far, but nothing that I really hadn't expected. Mom, Dad, Steven, Grandma and Grandpa all came to pick me up from the airport which was really nice. Then we all came back to the house where I gave them their souvoneers. I was exhausted because I hadn't really slept much at all on the flight back, so they stayed for lunch but left shortly after that. Shayna and Melissa also stopped by for about ten minutes, which was great because I haven't seen either of them since December. I showered, changed, and then the four of us went next door for the Simantz's graduation party going on for Meagan and Becca. I have no idea how I managed to do it yesterday, but I stayed up until 9. At that point, my eyes couldn't stay open a second longer and my back was in total agony, so Mom gave me a vicadin and I was out like a light.

Last night was the first really good, deep night's sleep I've gotten in over a week. I didn't wake up until 9am. It was a prodcutive, though. Did most of my unpacking, did some reading, and figured out that my project for the week is going to be going through my clothes. With the fact that I'm turning 20 next month hanging in my face, I need to start dressing like it. Mom made an awesome dinner, I just finished watching National Treasure 2 with Dad, and now I'm about to call it a night. Yup, it was a good first day back. Though I'm kind of bummed that I haven't really seen that many people yet. Hopefully that will change in the next couple of days, though.

Okay, bedtime for monie. Goodnight, all.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Day #7250 - Heading Home

I can honestly say that even though I leave for the airport in less than two hours, I cannot believe that my time here in Italy is already over. The past 6 weeks of my life have flown by so incredibly fast and while of course I am excited to see all my friends and family back in the US, the past few days with all of their good-byes have really made me see how much I got out of this whole experience.

To back up a bit, though. Monday we had Art History - classroom portion in the morning, saw Bascilica di San Fermo and some Veronese gardens in the afternoon. Beautiful. Tuesday and Wednesday in Florence were amazing. I had so much fun with Brenna, Colleen, and Krista - we saw a lot (including The David!), but there will still be plenty to see when I go back (and I do mean WHEN, not IF). So in addition to seeing the David, we climbed the bell tower and got a beautiful view of the Duomo, went to Santa Croce, and I got a gold cross from Ponte Vecchio. It was a great final trip for the semester.

Yesterday's goodbye dinner was bittersweet, which was really to be expected. I feel like we all connected in one way or another, and it's just so interesting because some of these people I never would have known at U of I otherwise. We went to the same restraunt we had our welcome dinner at not so long ago, then afterwards went to the very same German bar. It made our whole experience feel like it was coming full circle. Today I walked around for a while and just said goodbye by myself to this city, this place. People keep asking me what my favorite city was that I've been to and I always start going through the list of the cities I would visit. In all honesty, though, while I liked visiting other cities, I loved coming home to Verona. Tonight when we were all at the opera Aida (yay! It didn't rain!!!), we kept saying that Verona really was our home now. Only 5 of us stayed the whole 5 hours, but we still got to say goodbye to some of the others whose apartment was near the Arena. I'm already looking forward to the reunions I know that we will have because we share so much now. I didn't cry, but my heartstrings were being pulled to their limits.

So I should probably wrap up this post for now, seeing as it's 3am here and the bus picking me up to go to the airport is coming at 4:30. I'm done packing, just got to clean up a little bit and get changed out of these opera clothes.

Ciao ciao, Italia! Ti amo! Sono Libera e felice! Grazie!!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Day #7244 - Trains, Trains, and More Trains

Okay, so it's not all trains. The other half is good old fashioned walking!

Sorry for the extreme lack of updates the past couple of days, but I haven't really been home. I haven't even had time to write in my journal since last Thursday! So let me try to think about what's been going on since then...

Friday, me and three other girls from the program went to Cinque Terre for a nice, relaxing, fun-in-the-sun beach weekend. And let me tell you, we absolutely were able to make up for 5 weeks of gray skies in 3 days! There was not a cloud in the sky the entire time that we were there. It was a five hour journey to get there by train, transfering 3 different times. By the time we got there, it was early afternoon. We took a bus up the mountain to our hostel and then after getting changed and settled, decided to hike down to the closest town. Our legs were shaking the whole time (visibly shaking!!) but the views were incredible! We went swimming for a little while in a lagoon, then hiked from Manarola over to Corneglia which took about an hour and a half. We took the train back over to Manarola (because we were exhausted!), then the bus back up to our hostel, grabbed dinner at the town's one restraunt, then went to bed early. Good day one.

Saturday was beach day in Montenegro. Despite our total care in using sunscreen, we still got burned, but not too badly. A couple other girls from the program met up with us on the beach in the afternoon, and that was fun for the most part (for the exception of one girl who was beligerntly drunk all day, but then again, she has been like that for the past 5 weeks. Her loss, though I will not miss the baby-sitting once I'm home). We had dinner that night in Vernazza at a little pirate restraunt owned by two of the funniest Italian brothers. As we were getting ready to pay, the three of the other girls I was staying with and I realized that we HAD to make the train leaving in 5 minutes to get back to the town by us to make the last bus up the mountain, otherwise we'd be hiking up the side of the road in the dark (a non-option in our minds). We paid, then bolted to the train station only to find out our train was 45 mintues late. When it finally did come and we got off, we had less than a minute until our bus was scheduled to leave. I ran like I had everything to lose from the train station to the bus stop and we made it just in time. It was intense, but wow. WOW haha

Sunday was pretty mellow and dominated by traveling. We took a boat out along the coast which was cool, did some shopping, but then spent most of the day getting back to Verona. All in all, a pretty fun weekend.

Today was all about Art History. Andrea gave us the most incredible Italian Art books that we get to keep and bring home with us in the morning, plus we looked at some slides and went over what our test will be like. After lunch, we went over to the Church of San Fermo and these really pretty gardens whose name I will have to look up. It was hot as heck, but beautiful. I'm going to miss that class because in our walks from site to site, Andrea teaches us so much about just Italian life in general that really add to the whole cultural experience of being here. Then this afternoon, I went to a Mexican restraunt with Megan, Krista, and Olga because as much as we love pasta, we were dying for a different flavor in our mouths and it really hit the spot. We hung out in Piazza Erbe for a little while, and now I'm back here at my apartment getting stuff together for Florence. I should probably hit the hay soon because it's already past midnight and we have a 7:15 train tomorrow.

I love you all, miss you tons, and hope to have emails from you when I get back Wednesday night! Only a few more days of this Italian life and then I'm back to the states!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Day #7239 - Test Time

Okay friends and family, here's a thought for you all. Recall, if you will, how difficult it is to study for exams and keep your attention confined to to your notes and worksheets and all that jazz.

Now add the fact that you are in ITALY to the picture.

What do you think I did last night/this morning?

If you guessed that I finished putting up more pictures on facebook and watched Italy play in the EuroCup, you guessed right!

But first, I'll try to fill you all in on what's been going on in my crazy little life the past couple of days. I'll start off with Saturday and Venice. WOW! It was amazing even though it was pouring for most of the time we were there. Seeing how they make glass was really cool and we also got to go to the last remaining hand-made lace school in the city. It was just incredible walking around and seeing all that water! Not that I'm ranking the cities I've visited or anything, but if I were, Venice would be near the top because there's literally nothing else even remotely like it in the world. And then when the sun finally came out right before we left, it managed to get even more beautiful outside!

Sunday was off to Lake Garda which is the largest lake in Italy. Riding up the cable car was really cool - we were so high up that we were actually inside the clouds. When it was clear, the views were amazing and when it started raining, it was just funny because, again, we were inside the clouds. Once we were back down to sea-level, we got to just take some time and explore the differnt towns along the lake's shores. The dinner that night was incredible. I think most of us were expecting more fish and less seafood, but it was still good. The calamari blew my mind. It was kind of bittersweet too, though, because it was our last dinner and trip as a whole group before our going-away dinner the night before we leave.

Monday was our Art History field trip to Padua, which was awesome! We got to see a chapel covered in frescos by the amazing Giotto first and then went over to the University of Padua. There we took a tour and saw the world's first anatomy disection lecture hall, the classroom that Galileo taught in, and his lecture podium. We also got to witness some of the graduation traditions that take place in Padua when a person gets their doctorate from the university there. It pretty much involves getting the graduate really drunk and embarassing them in public, but it's all in good fun. After that, we walked over to St. Anthony's Cathedral which was beautiful. Unfortunately like most of the churches here in Italy, we weren't allowed to take pictures inside, so you have to trust me when I say it was amazing.

Yesterday I had the day off from school which was nice. I got to sleep in a little bit and then spent the majority of the day trying to study (aka realizing that I don't know anything) for my Italian final. The sun was out in the afternoon, so I went for a walk around the city, read in the piazza, and bought myself a vest which I had been eyeing all of last week. Megan and Kim who live downstairs came up and we ate dinner together before we met up with Audrey and Krista at a bar to watch EuroCup and cheered Italy on as the beat France! But on our way to the bar, I got pooped on. That's right, folks. We were just walking along and then suddenly there was pigeon-poop in my hair. Yes it was kind of gross but apparently for a bird to poop on you in Italy is a sign from God and is good luck (for those of you who don't believe me, just watch the movie Under the Tuscan Sun). Anyway, we all had a laugh about it so it was all good.

And now that brings us to today. I'm sure that my test will end up being fine, but I'm so glad that this class will be over and that I can just learn the language for more enjoyment than for the grade. But before I forget, picture links!

*Links removed 11/2011*

love you all, miss you tons, can't wait to see you guys, and i've been enjoying all of your emails!! keep 'em coming!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Day #7234 - School's (Almost) out for the summer!

Hello there, family and friends. I'm writing to you right now from my last day of Italian. A few more hours of this class and then the final next week - it's been fun but you will not catch me complaining once it's over. The past two days went so well, and then today I'm totally off. My brain does NOT do languages, at least not in this totally compressed setting.

The past couple of days I've been pretty laid back. Unfortunately, my sore throat doesn't seem to be getting much better and I didn't really pack enough tylenol for this sort of thing. It's not so bad, but I just really don't want it to get any worse. Wednesday was just Italian. Me and a bunch of other girls stayed after school to try to plan out our trips for the rest of the term. Next weekend it looks like we're going to Cinque Terre and during the final week, it's off to Florence. Hopefully it'll all work out!

okay more later - class is starting up again....

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Day #7232 - Buon Appetit!

Yesterday started out pretty ordinary, all things considered. After passing out incredibly early on Monday night (I think I may be in the early stages of a cold - my throat is constantly sore), I woke up, finished my homework, and went to Italian class. Since the weather was warm (low to mid 80s) I did a load of laundry and my homework, and hung it out on the line to dry before heading out to Piazza Bra. I had over an hour of good reading time sitting on the statue of the man on the horse and I have a feeling that I'll finish Persuasion by the end of the week. Because it was so warm out and I've been in a bit of slump since getting back from Rome, I decided to go crazy and treat myself to a 2 euro gelato haha. I got a 2-scoop cone of chocolate and strawberry - yum! At this point, it was still very much an ordinary day.

At night was cooking class. Since it was all the way on the other side of town and across the river, I walked over there with Kim and Megan. Thank goodness I brought my umbrella because it started to rain. It was some of the weirdest rain I've ever seen though - there weren't necessarily a lot of drops, but they were huge! Anyway, we got inside and got right to it. We made the tiramisu first (because it had to sit in the fridge and cool the longest while we made/ate everything else). Most of the class was just watching Signoria Anna do stuff, but we got to help with the smaller things like mixing, stirring, cutting, and using the poundy-thing to tenderize the meat. I guess when I put it like that though, we really were helping out quite a bit haha. Our appetizer was a Sicilian salad made with fennel (which I normally don't like, but was good how we prepared it) and topped with oranges, homemade croutons, and a sauce of olive oil, dijon mustard, paremesean cheese, and olives. The first course was spaghetti carbonara (with eggs and sausage), the second course was veel topped with tomatoes, and fresh mozerella cheese along with these tomatoes that we had cleaned the guts out of so they were kind of shells, then mixed the middles with bread, milk, and cheese before we put them back in the shells and baked them. Dessert was of course the tiramisu. It was all incredibly delicious and there was the added satisfaction that we had helped.

So while the cooking wasn't bizarre by any means, the weather was. Halfway through preparing the salad, the rain picked up again (aka it was like cats and dogs). But then it turned to HAIL! Signoria was even astonished - she said that pretty much never happens here. In the middle of this very severe and hazardous weather, I remembered something in the back of my head. Before cooking class, I had brought in almost all of my laundry off the line. Everything except my jeans because the wasteband and pockets were still kind of damp, so I thought a couple more hours would do them some good. The rain did stop though and this morning when I got my jeans off the line, they remind me of cardboard haha. Oh well - the hail probably beat some more dirt of of them, anyway.

So that, my family and friends, was what I did the past two days. Today's plan is school followed by another afternoon at the pool - it's become a good middle of the week activity because it's the one day that all of us only have Italian (otherwise Art History people have afternoon class on Mondays and Thursdays, Photography people on Tuesdays and Fridays). Hopefully the sunshine will hold out for us! Love you all and miss you tons!

P.S. Heard that my Chicago Wolves won the CALDER CUP!!!!! Woooooooo!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Day #7230 - 3 down, 3 to go

It's incredibly hard to believe that my time here is already halfway done. I'm trying to think back about what's happened and what I've been doing since the last time I wrote here, but Verona life is starting to come pretty routine. Class in the morning, lunch, usually reading in the park in the afternoon, then I'll try to get in touch with people for the evenings, dinner, and bed. This week will probably be much of the same, just add a couple loads of laundry and the fact that I need to start planning out what I'll do the last two weeks I'm here (because we won't have Italian everyday and will therefore have the opportunity for day trips in the middle of the week).

This past weekend I went to Asiago. It was really nice up in the mountains and the complete opposite of Rome the weekend before. Friday after school we took the bus up there, got settled, and had an incredible dinner at the hotel. Saturday we went to see where and how they make Asiago cheese (an extremely long process - I'm now much more appreciative of the cheese cubes we eat as appetizers so often). We also went to a street market and I went hiking around the mountain our hotel was on with Megan. Even though it was raining most of the day, it was still a lot of fun and incredibly beautiful. Yesterday I went hiking with 7 different people which was fun. We started on the same road that I did on Saturday, but we ended up going much higher and actually into the woods. It was a lot of fun, we were feeling extremely adventerous and saw some incredible sights. It was actually sunny, too! We have all come to appreciate the times when the sun comes out in Italy because none of us really packed enough warm clothes for all the wet weather we've had the past three weeks.

I should wrap this up now and get ready for school - hope everyone is doing well! Love you and miss you all so so much!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Day #7225 - Rome wasn't built in a day, but I saw it in 3

This past weekend in Rome had so many ups and downs to it, but mostly I can't believe everything we were able to see just in one long weekend. On the other hand, I kind of wish we had a little more time.

The real adventure started on Friday night while I was packing for the trip. It was around 10:30 at night and decided I was hungry, so right then would be a perfect time to learn how to make pasta by myself. Oy vey. Once one of my roommates came and showed me how to light the stove the old-fashioned way, I proceeded to make enough spaghetti for about 3 people and only heated up enough tomato sauce for a small child. It all tasted good, but needless to say my proportions were a bit off. And since we don't have tupperware here and I was leaving the next day, I ate all of it by myself.

Saturday I woke up at 5:30 to get ready to meet a bunch of the other girls at 6:45 for our 7:15 train to Bologna. However when I called them, they told me that they were already on board a 6:10 train and they had tried calling me but my phone had been off and we don't get voicemail on these phones. Not to worry, though. About 10 other people from the program were on the 7:15 train with me, so all of us got to Bologna and made the same transfer to our train to Rome.

Once we got to the city and found our new hostel (the one we had made reservations for was overbooked, so they moved us someplace else), we had lunch, saw the Trevi Fountain (BEAUTIFUL!!!!!) and did some shopping before our pub crawl that night. This pub crawl was intesne - it's a whole business. They go on the same crawl every night, starting from the Spanish Steps and charge a flat fee that includes cover at all the bars and cost of drinks for the night. I had some vino but mostly just enjoyed being out with the whole Verona group.

Sunday started bright and early at the Colusseum. Four of us decided to take a guided tour which ended up being extremely helpful. After that, we stopped at a caffe for something cool to drink. It was only late morning, but the sun was already brutal. Then we went back and took a tour of the Roman Forum which are all the ruins right in the middle of the city. Again, having a tour guide was really helpful otherwise I would have no earthly idea what I was looking at. It was also at this time that I got the majority of my weekend sunburn haha. After the Forum, Krista and I proceeded off to the Pantheon. I've read all about these different sights in books before and have seen a lot of them in movies, but to see it with your own eyes is just incredible. I was constantly blown away by how BIG it all is. After the Pantheon, we were all exhausted from the late night before, the early morning, and the toll the sun was starting to take on us. We went back to the hostel and took a several-hour nap, after which I felt infinately better. All 10 of us girls then got dressed up, went out to dinner, and headed back to the Trevi Fountain to get some night-time pictures. Again, I was blown away.

Then came Monday, the day I was looking forward to more than any other day for this whole trip. Vatican City. As luck would have it, the weather was completely dreary and after 2 days of the most incredible sunshine, it was raining. We made the best of it though while we stood in line for 2 hours for the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel and in the end, it was completely worth it. I also felt like if it had to rain any of the days, Vatican day would be the best one because everything was indoors. It would have been miserable to see the Colusseum like that. Once we finally got inside, I feel like I was just in a complete state of awe. Every inch of that building's ceilings and walls are covered in the most detailed art I have ever seen. The Sistine Chapel was everything people always say it will be and more. After the museum, we walked to St. Peter's Square. Nothing on earth could have prepared me for it. The sight put an instant smile on my face and also moved me to tears - I couldn't believe I was finally seeing this with my own eyes. Being there also gave me a huge sense of belonging as a Catholic because the Church's history is very much a part of my history as well and here was our own seperate nation-state just for Catholics like me. The inside of the Basillica was absolutely astonishing; beautiful doesn't even begin to describe how it looked, but also how it made me feel. As you can see if you looked at the links I posted last night, I took a few pictures =) The only thing that could have made this weekend better would have been to have my family and friends here with me. Don't worry - I prayed for all of you, so it's kind of like you were there.

Anyway! So that was Rome. There's more to be said about the journey home, but I need to close this up for now and get ready for school. Of course because some of us had planned on going back to the pool today, today's weather is looking like a high in the middle 70s and nothing but rain for the next week and a half.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Day #7219 - It's not the Heat, it's the Humidity

As I sit in my room typing this, I'm in an incredibly disgusting state. I always pick the worst days weather-wise to go to the grocery store. But perhaps I should back up a bit first...

The past couple of days have been extremely nice - very low key. Monday we went to see the Roman Ampitheater in Piazza Bra for Art History, then the past two days all we've had is Italian. Tuesday I ventured around the park and planned out Rome for the most part with a couple other people (good news - we're planning on spending almost all of Monday at the Vatican!) and then got to read on a park bench and enjoy the sunshine. Then yesterday me and a bunch of the girls went over to the public pool and went swimming. We all looked ridiculous in our required swimcaps (I didn't get a picture of it, but another girl did. I'll be sure to get a copy). So we enjoyed the water and sun. After that, I came back home with Kim and Megan. We went to a local place and got a pre-dinner spritzer which can best be described as a watered down glass of a fruity wine. We then went to their apartment and the three of us cooked dinner together. I'm quite proud of us - we had pumpkin-filled tortolini (Megan thought it was cheese when she bought it) that was actually amazing. We cooked that with some garlic, mushrooms, and tomatoes in olive oil for the sauce. We also made a salad and steamed asparagus - very healthy, tastey, and satisfying after a day outside. I ended up calling it a night early, though. It's just impossible to stay energetic and focused in class without a full night's rest.

This morning we had the usual four hours of Italian. Let me tell you, I forgot how much my brain does not like foreign languages. We're getting to the point where we're trying to learn irregular verbs and all this vocabulary on top of all the normal stuff and then needing to remember what words to use in what situations and is it masculine or feminine and is it plural because if it is, then you have to do something different in order for your sentence to make sense and yadda yadda yadda. I think I liked it better when the only word I knew was stunad. I need to sit down and study more of that tonight because it's getting to the point where I'm just embarassed every time I try to say anything in class.

After a quick lunch at home (I am a master of the salami and cheese sandwich), it was back to school for Art History. Today we didn't actually spend any time in the classroom, but walked all around the city looking at the architecture of various landmarks and different frescos and ruins. It's kind of cool because there's so much Italian and Veronese history all around us right in front of our eyes, but we don't know it until Andre points it out. Even though it was in the 80s today, the heat really wasn't that bad. The humidity on the other hand makes the air so thick that the eight of us in that class were lethargic to say the least. Our teacher even commented that 4 hours is a long time for a class to last and that the weather isn't being as nice as it could be. However he said it's a good thing we're leaving in June because the humidity gets even worse in July. So at least we can be grateful for that =) But when it wtarted raining on my way home from the grocery store (where I stocked up on pasta for dinners and more Nutella because I seem to inhale it), it was just gross. Which is why I'm currently wearing my comfy Illini gear - thank goodness for athletic shorts and free teeshirts from TIS!

Tonight I really have no idea what the plan is. A couple people are heading into to town for dinner, so I'll probably join them. Hope all is well, wherever you are! Love you all and I'd love to hear from you guys!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Day #7216 - And Then, The Sun Came Out!

Good morning, Vietnam!

Oh wait, that’s not right….

Good evening, Italy! Today’s weather was SUNNY with temperatures in the low 80s!

Hello hello again, friends and family. I know I haven’t written here since last Wednesday, but I promise I have a super good excuse: it’s ITALY and I just don’t want to miss anything. Life has been incredibly busy as of late.

School is going well. I keep trying, but my mind just does not grasp foreign languages (seeing as it still has issues with English quite a bit of the time). Art History started up last Thursday and is really interesting. We had that class again today and Andre (our teacher) took us to the Roman Ampitheater in Piazza Bra and because we were there for class, we got in for free! A word I love even more now that I’m here due to the exchange rate =)

I had my first outside-Verona experiences this weekend. Friday night, me and 7 other girls took the train down to Lucca, a small town in TUSCANY! It was incredibly beautiful – I felt that the small town setting was much more in line with my personality than a city is (but Verona’s a good compromise because it’s not too big). We had dinner in one of the main piazzas, spent the night in a hostel, and then during the day on Saturday we walked around, did some shopping, climbed an old tower attached to a church, and rented bikes so we could ride around the city walls. It was a busy day, we definitely used our time to the fullest and then rode back to Verona on Saturday night.

Sunday was our first pre-planned trip to the city of Mantua. While we were there, we toured two different palaces (we weren’t allowed to take pictures of the frescos though), had an incredible lunch, and went shopping at an outlet mall. The pickings were kind of slim, however I did buy the most amazing leather jacket and it was such a deal!

That brings us here, to Monday. Had both of my classes today, then went grocery shopping for the second time. There’s a small comfort in walking up and down the aisles and seeing American brand names (even if you can’t read anything else on the label) and hearing music in English over the intercom. They really love music from America here – it’s just kind of funny because we’re here for a cultural experience but keep bumping into English! Oh and good news – I got more bandaids =) though my feet are actually doing much much better in case anyone out there was wondering (but I’m pretty sure you weren’t).

That pretty much sums it up for now. I’m going to do my Italian homework really quick, and then most of our group is planning on getting together to hang out tonight.

Before I forget, here are links to some pictures I’ve taken so far:

Italy Part 1 – *link removed 11/2011*
Italy Part 2 (mostly pictures from Tuscany) – *link removed 11/2011*

Hope all is well back in the good ol’ USA – love you and miss you all!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Day #7212 - Planning

Hello Hello one and all to another instalment of my life. Wednesday is being brought to you by the number four and a product that is becoming near and dear to my heart, band aids. No really, my feet are totally and completely torn up due to blisters and is something I wouldn't wish on anyone.

Today was "normal" I suppose, considering that I'm an American in Italy and whatnot. Had class this morning, spent most of my afternoon running more errands and hanging out in Piazza Bra, writing and doing my homework because the sun finally came out. However that didn't last long - it started pouring again around dinner time. I'm at a friends' apartment right now. Audrey, Kim, Megan, Krista, Joe, Devon, Lizzie and I are trying to plan out the next two weekends. This Friday night and Saturday, a couple of us are probably going to a town called Lucca in Tuscany. Apparently it's a cute little town and you can do a bike tour or something. Pisa is only an hour away from that, and I'd really like to go but right now it's not looking likely. Sunday we have a pre-planned trip to Mantua where there's supposed to be really good discount shopping. Then next weekend we have a long weekend and we're trying to figure out how to get to/find a hostel to stay in ROME! I've made it very clear that I want to go to the Vatican, Trevvi Fountain (I know I spelled that wrong), Colusseum, and the Spanish Steps. It's kind of crazy trying to figure this out all on our own. It's kind of at the point that I can't think about the exchange rate because otherwise I'll never want to go anywhere.

Right now I'm going to take the time to answer some questions that Grandpa Fumarolo sent me.
1) What were the "survival tours"?
These were basically long walks around the city, and they pointed out some of the major landmarks that will help us as we try to make our way around the city.

2) What is Idea Verona?
The name of my school - a language institute for foreigners who want to learn Italian.

3) What classes am I taking?
I am taking both Italian language and Art History for a total of 6 hours. I have also signed up for one of the optional cooking classes which I have on June 3rd.

4a) How's the apartment situation?
My 2 other roommates speak English fairly well, but I'm really not there often. I've been making a point of it to be out in the city because I don't want to waste time by hanging out in my room.

4b) How do you all manage to live in that squeezebox room!?
I don't know if I wasn't clear before, but I have my own room. It's incredibly tiny, but it's mine. I'll email a picture home soon so you can all see and put some up on facebook too, then email the family the album link.

I guess that's really it for right now. As always, I love you all, miss you, and wish you were here to see all the things I've been seeing. And if any one of you know how to make this rain go away, let me know =)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Day #7210 - Monday

Though we’ve only been here a few days, it’s getting to feel like I’ve been in Verona for at least a week already. Part of it must be due to all the eating, but we’ve been doing and seeing so much everyday that it’s hard to believe by night time that doing that activity or eating that dish was only a few hours ago and not a few days ago.

Yesterday was Sunday and Italians are very serious about keeping the Sabbath. When I say that most shops, stores, and restaurants are closed, I’m not exaggerating. I felt bad sleeping in so late yesterday – until 12:30 – but we had a pretty late night Saturday. We had our official “Welcome to Verona” dinner at a really nice restaurant where we met Claudio’s girlfriend Rita and son Pedro. After that, all of us (Claudio and his family included) went to a German bar where I then proceeded to drink beer out of a giant glass boot (don’t worry, I have pictures). It was just very relaxed and fun getting to know everybody.

In the afternoon yesterday once we all finally woke up, we met up with Claudio again at another bar and I ate the best Panini ever made, I kid you not. About 1000 times different and better than what they serve at Za’s. Once that meal was over, I went walking around a nearby piazza with Joe, Devon, and Krista. We went back to a couple places we had seen on the first day to take more pictures, including Juliet’s balcony. We then met back up with the group at another eating establishment called San Matteo. It used to be a church that was turned into a restaurant – incredible pizza!! The whole group went back to the piazza where most people had more drinks. These two Italian guys at the table next to us were interested in who we were and where we were from, so it was really interesting talking to them. So much about Italy is different than America, but yet so much is the same. After that was going home, and right now I actually need to go brush my teeth and head to school. Ahhh! Classes!!

***Later Same Day***
Today was crazy insane and is still so much fun! We went to orientation at the school this morning and after that headed over to Piazza Bra for lunch and gilatto. Yummy! (Don’t worry, I got a picture.) Then we headed back to school for our first Italian class. This is going to be fun, but also kind of intense. The lady who is teaching us, Daniela, doesn’t speak English to us and doesn’t let us speak English. It’s a little crazy at times, but I’m sure it will help us learn better. Then me and two other girls (Krista and Audrey) went grocery shopping which was an adventure in and of itself. I'm currently at Krista, Audrey, and this other girl Devon's apartment where we're (well, mainly Devon's boyfriend, Joe, is doing all the work) cooking pasta for dinner. They're letting me borrow their wireless connection. It's pretty fun getting to know everyone and the food smells delicious! Hope all is well back in the USA! Love you and miss you all!!!!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Day #7198 - But it's also Day#1!

Hey Family!

It’s currently 4am here in Verona and thanks to that little buddy I like to call jet lag, I can’t sleep. I actually managed to sleep on the plane, but then when it came time to go to bed for real, my body got all sorts of confused because it’s 9pm back in the US. Therefore in an attempt to tire myself out because I need to wake up in a couple hours, I’ll take this time now to describe what has happened so far.

The first flight from O’Hare to Frankfurt wasn’t that bad. Like I said, I managed to get a couple hours sleep and there were individual tv screens at each seat where we got to select from a bunch of different movies and start playing them whenever we wanted. Very cool – I watched 27 Dresses. The layover in Germany was fine – not exactly the most eventful 3 hours of my life. Very weird how they did it there – we had to actually go through customs after the first flight and leave the terminal and then go through security again and go to a different terminal. I also got my first airport “pat-down” which was something terribly awkward, let me tell you. Apparently German security does not like the metal button on my jeans, but I got wanded and such. So that was Germany.

The second flight from Frankfurt to Verona was incredibly short – just over an hour. At this point though, to my body it was some awkward time and I fell asleep for most of this trip. Italy customs was completely different. Some people’s luggage had to go through an x-ray machine, but most didn’t. Then you just mosey through the doors and that’s it – Welcome to Italy. Then the real fun began. We landed just before 1900 and our resident director Claudio was supposed to come pick us up at the airport to take us to our apartments. We waited for about 20 minutes to a half hour and he still didn’t show. We figured this was just because “everything’s slower in Italy,” but then looking at our original iternerary, I pointed out to everyone that on the schedule he sent us he didn’t think we’d be landing until 2240 (almost 4 hours later). We found his cell phone number, called and told him we were here, and then he called the bus company to get us an earlier ride from the airport. So instead of waiting 4 hours, we only had to wait 2.

I got to meet one of my roommates last night when I got to the apartment. Her name starts with an “n” I think and Claudio doesn’t know if these girls are Chinese or Japanese. Anyway, she doesn’t speak very much English at all, but Claudio said that the rest of the girls who live here are coming later today and speak much more English than this girl does. I unpacked, made my bed, and then went out to get food last night with two other U of I girls who are in my building, Megan and Kim. We went down the street to a little pizzeria and had pizza and wine. Soooo good! Very different from the Chicago deep dish that we’re used to, but still tasted incredible. After we ate and came home, I got to embark on the many adventures I will have trying to figure out this apartment. Lesson number one – no toilet paper and bidets are just plain weird. Lesson number two – there’s a special yarn-like thing that must be held in order to get the tub to drain otherwise it doesn’t. Lesson number three – locking the door to the apartment and unlocking it is the goofiest process ever. You have to turn the key in the lock 5 times before the door can open. Hopefully it won’t take me the whole 6 weeks to get used to that.

I realize that I haven’t described my room yet. Well, it’s less than half the size of my room at ISR. There is no closet – instead there’s a sort of thing to hang some clothes on next to one wall and shelves like we have in the garage on the other. My bed is a twin tall, but skinnier. I’m getting very well aquainted with the wall. I do have a door that goes out to the balcony, but I can’t really use it because my desk is in the way. I’m not doing a very good job describing this place – have no fear, I’ll take pictures. Though the apartment isn’t exactly fabuloso, it’s not bad either. It’ll just take some adjusting. At least I get a nice view – the building is across the street from a beautiful old church with a high steeple.

Well I should probably try to get back to sleep now. It’s going to take me a couple nights at least to get used to this new bed and room – I’m just hoping that the next two days or so leave me completely exhausted that way I’ll have to sleep at night. I miss you all so so much. I’m really scared about letting you guys down, but I’m going to try to take as many pictures as possible and remember as many stories as I can. I love you all and look forward to hearing from you soon!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Day #7197 - Halfway There

There really is nothing quite like Urbana at the end of the school year. The weather becomes warm and teases you in the worst possible way - the more gorgeous it gets outside, the more time you're forced to sit in the Union or the dorms or the library and try to pour over the volumes of notes we've been compiling for the past 16 weeks. I also made the kind of random observation the other day now that the trees here have bloomed - when the flowers open up all over campus, I'm constantly reminded of the smell of clean laundry. It's so refreshing, it's like a mini-wake up boost in the middle of the day.

With every passing test, I can't believe that by the end of this week, I'm officially halfway done with my undergraduate career. I know that it's terribly cliche to say "I can't believe how fast it goes by" but the sentiment is so true. These past two years have been some of the best and the worst times of my life, but I really don't think I would trade them for anything. I wonder how different my college years would have been if I had gone to St. Mary's or ISU or Bradley. I'm sure I would be saying the exact same thing. No matter where I would have gone to school, I know I would have learned similar things, probably done similar things. I guess these lessons are the sort of life lessons that Ms. Howard was always talking about back in Discovery. I remember how she was always going on and on about how there's so much more to the world than what we become used to in our individual homes with our solitary lives and how there are so many more lessons out there to learn beyond the ones that we have in classrooms. I can't help but feel that next week when I get on that plane, I'm fulfilling a part of my destiny that maybe she saw coming but I was never sure of. The world is ours not for the taking, but for the exploring. If we took it for ourselves, then what would the future get?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Day #7189 - The Finals Countdown

Cheesy title for an entry, I know. But it really says it all. Plus I'm an English major who has been writing term papers non-stop for the past three weeks and is now completely out of original thoughts. Deal with it :-)

It hit me today just how fast this semester and, in fact, this whole year has gone by. A new roommate, a new major, a new floor not to mention the sorority, all the new friends I have been making (and getting to know old ones even better), and getting ready to leave for Italy. I cannot believe that in a short two and a half weeks, I'll be living in Verona. I've been dreaming of this ever since I read Bloomability in 7th grade and now, the time is almost here.

So while I sit here in my ISR dorm room (which I'm not at all ashamed to admit part of me will miss), I ought to start sifting through my endless pile of notes and stacks of books and study what it is I have been learning in my classes this semester. However, I can't help but think more about the things I have learned that weren't necessarily on any syllabus. My courses have shaped me, of course, but not just academically. As a person as well. A year ago, I would have been terrified to go to office hours and have a professor critique my thesis and then burst into tears when the criticisms started, no matter how constructive they might be. Today, though, I held my head up, was eager to hear what my professor had to say, and had an intelligent conversation with this PhD on some of the most difficult literature I've ever been asked to master on my own. I never thought I'd be able to do that. Why can't accomplishments like that be considered in my grades instead of pesky final exams?? haha :-)

In other news, I had a dream last night that I was in a dance class...how random...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Day #7174 - Little Things

It truly is the little things in life that can make things turn themselves right again. Less than 24 hours ago, I wrote here about how some things and some people never change, refering to the negative aspects of both. Earlier today, however, I remembered that that can be a good thing sometimes, too. I got a phone call from a friend back home who really just said such nice things and it reaffirmed my faith in people. It makes me grateful for all of my friends, even the ones who ignore me. Though they drive me crazy most of the time, when it matters the ones who truly care about me step up to the plate and make me feel like I really do matter.

So here's a toast to those of you who support me - it matters more to me more than words can say =)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Day #7170 - Another one?

Yes yes, I know that the world must be wondering how many blogs could one girl possibly need! Well, myspace is creepy and xanga and livejournal are dated, so here I am. Also, this will be primarily for my Study Abroad trip this summer to the wonderful Verona, but hopefully it'll get more use than that. 35 days until I'm outta here!