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?