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.