Sunday, February 26, 2012

Where is the time going! I’ve been here almost 6 weeks, and can’t believe how fast the time is flying!! It’s been quite a while since my last update, and a lot has happened!

Every weekend there seems to be some sort of celebration (or we make our own celebrations…) but the biggest party I’ve been to has been in Venice. A small group of us went to Venice for the Carnevale celebration! And it was amazing! It was like one big Halloween party for the whole city. It was a fast and furious trip; we left for Venice on Saturday morning, and arrived around 5pm. First of all let me say that Venice is incredibly beautiful! There isn’t a single car in the town… people just have BOATS! I would love to live like that. We got there towards the end of the day, and the city was beautiful with the sun going down around us. The canals were a tad creepy after the sun had gone down, especially since I was in a city I knew nothing about… but all is well… I survived. After finding something to eat and grabbing coffee, we went in search of masks. The streets were full of people, some in elaborate costumes that probably cost hundreds and hundreds of dollars, and others were in nothing but their street clothes and face paint. And I think everyone was drunk. At 7 o’clock. Even the children. Just kidding… But seriously.... But I guess it made it all the more exciting! The main streets were also packed with vendors selling costumes, wigs, masks, and souvenirs. We picked out masks, and the party began! We made our way to San Marco Piazza, and that was breathtaking. It was an interesting tourist experience because I had never been to Venice before, and my first impression was after dark, with the streets crowded with crazy, costume-wearing people, and huge bands and projector screens in San Marco Square. It was the most fun, but it was different! I’m excited to go back and see it in the daylight, with normal people walking about. But on with the party…  Cities in Italy are structured around several “piazzas” which are like squares. Usually they’re by churches or big monuments, and they’re central to city life (at least they were in the olden days). So for the Carnevale celebration there was a different party in each piazza. Some had big stages with DJ’s or dancers and other entertainment. Other squares just had people hanging out. And in some places, there were people who had brought their own sound system and played whatever music they wanted while we danced around like crazies. And that’s how most of the night went. There was this group of people that were dressed like sailors, and they had a big cart that housed a big speaker and their iPod DJ. The cart had wheels, so we basically followed them around the city all night long! And danced! And it was awesome. We went to Venice with no hotel, hostel, B&B, etc. so our only option was to stay up all. night. long. And that’s exactly what we did! Sunday morning (after being up for over 24 hours) we grabbed pastries and coffee at the train station, and our train left Venice at 9:20am. It was a 6 hour train ride and we slept the entire way. I think we were all asleep before the train even left the station. Good thing no one wanted our stuff, because they probably could have stolen it and we wouldn’t have noticed until we got back to Rome. We got into Rome about 3pm and the rest of the day was lazy. We did our best to recover from the party before classes started again on Monday.

And then I had another great adventure on Monday when my friend Victoria came to visit me from England. She is from England, but she studied abroad at UNM for a year, and that’s where we met! When I told her I was going to be in Rome, we made plans to meet up, and so Monday evening she arrived in Rome! It was so good to see a friendly face!! Someone I knew back home. She had never been to Rome before so I did my best to show her around the city. It definitely made me feel more at home with this place, knowing where I was going and how to get places… it was a nice surprise. I’m a local now!!! We ate LOTS of pizza and drank LOTS of Cappuccinos (Cappuccini is the proper way to say it in Italian because it’s plural…) but that’s what you’re supposed to do in Italy :) Vitoria stayed until Thursday afternoon, and I was really sad to see her go! (*Thanks for coming Vikki! Love ya xxx)

This coming weekend we have a program trip to Tuscany and Venice. We will have classes, and I have a presentation to give, so it won’t be all play, but I’m excited to be traveling more and going back to Venice! Since I was a kid, when learned that Venice was slowly sinking, it’s been my goal to see it at some point in my life. And I can’t believe I’ll be going twice!! I’m so blessed to be here, and am SO incredibly thankful for everyone who helped me get here! I won’t ever forget this time in my life, and hopefully I’ll continue to have some great adventures! 

*Pictures coming soon!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I still can’t believe I’m in Rome. It hits me at the weirdest moments, and at other times I feel like nothing has changed.  Although my Italian hasn’t improved much, living in Rome is definitely starting to feel a little more comfortable. Most people speak a little English, so I can manage. Sometimes I even forget I’m in Italy because 99% of the time I still speak English. But there have been some obstacles, and most people that you run into on the street don’t speak English, or they won’t put the effort into speaking English to talk to you. So there have been multiple occasions I’ve felt like an idiot because someone has spoken to me in Italian, and when I inform them that I don’t speak Italian, they grumpily walk off. But I’m picking it up a little at a time and hopefully by the end of the semester I will know a lot more than I do now!

My usual week consists of school during the day, and exploration at night. Some of these explorations take us to the local bars, where we stay up way past my usual bedtime… and sometimes it’s just a nice stroll around the city as we look for a good, but sill inexpensive place to eat. Our school building is in an area called the Jewish Ghetto. It’s not the ghetto like we think of in the US, it’s called the Ghetto because it’s a term that was used back during WWII and it stuck. It’s actually a really nice area of town right next to the river. All throughout Rome there will randomly be gold squares in the ground that have names and dates on them. At first I didn’t pay much attention to them, probably because I didn’t know what they meant… But they are markers of people who were taken during the Holocaust. In fact, there are two right outside the front door to our apartment complex. I (obviously) wasn’t alive during WWII, and it wasn’t fought on US soil so I’ve always thought of it as this war that happened long ago, far away... I’ve never really connected. But here, these constant reminders of the past have really caught my attention. I’ve always loved history, but here it’s not just history, it’s a part of everyday life.

These last couple weeks have been pretty low key. No trips or big plans. A couple days ago I walked around Rome on my own (Mom and Dad, forget you read that :)), and was pleasantly surprised at how well I’m starting to know the city. It was nice to spend some time strolling around, trying to permanently burn the images into my brain. I realized that 4-5 times a week I walk by a big landmark. Usually it’s the Pantheon, and as I was wandering I realized that people actually live their whole lives like this. I wonder if they have pictures of themselves making a wish at the Trevi Fountain. Probably not… it’s one of those things where you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. It made me so very thankful for this opportunity and all the people who supported me and helped make it happen! I still have several months, but I know it will go by too quickly. One of my professors lives here in Rome 6months out of the year, and lives in New York the other 6 months. I think that’s the perfect life! A villa in Italy to use as a summer home, or winter home… Sounds amazing!

I’m taking advantage of every opportunity to enjoy all things Italian, like pasta and gelato, but there are definitely some things that I’m starting to really miss! First of all, green chili. It’s crazy how much I miss it!! There’s not really anything spicy here. I did have some nachos the other day that had those pickled jalapenos, and that was nice, but there’s nothing in the world like a green chili cheeseburger. Which brings me to another point: cheeseburgers! I haven’t had one yet, but I’ve been told of several places that have really good burgers. So I’m going to have to try them out here pretty soon! I’m also really missing Starbucks. Here I’ve had the best Cappuccino I’ve ever had in my entire life, but there’s nothing like an iced caramel macchiato from Starbucks. There is no Starbucks in Rome, but I’ve heard that there’s one in Florence, so I’ll have to make a stop when I’m there! I had some oreos the other day, so that was a nice little treat!   

Last night was the Super Bowl, and being proper Americans, we had to watch it! So we found this Irish Pub that was playing the game on all the TVs in the Pub. The only problem is that due to the time change, they game started at 12:30am here… Which means that when I came home after Madonna’s amazing half-time show, it was at 3:00 in the morning. So I think my brain is a little bit fried from that late night! That’s all for now, I’ll post more again soon!

*One last note… It snowed here the other day! Which was really exciting! The last time in snowed in Rome was in 1984!! The schools were shut down and this whole weekend kids have been out in the streets throwing snowballs and attempting to go sledding. So it’s a little bit colder here than it usually is this time of the year, but it’s so beautiful!