Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Italians: Coffee and Cars; Mid-day Naps and Machine Guns

I knew coming to Italy was going to be a cultural experience. What I didn't know was how much of a change it really was going to be.
Let's start with the obvious. Kansas=small; Roma=HUGE! Kansas (as in the entire state) has just a few more residents than the city of Rome. My small town Kansas attitude just doesn't fly around here. You don't smile when you pass someone, or say goodmorning. No you keep your eyes glued to the ground only glancing up to make sure you don't get hit by traffic at the crosswalks. Which brings me to my second point.
Point 2: In order to drive in Rome you must be certifiably insane. I can't tell you how many times I've nearly been hit by a car, or worse, by one of those crazy scooters when walking through a crosswalk. This is not the only dangerous thing I've noticed about motorized vehicles in Italy. I don't know what kind of test they have to take to drive, but it must be long. I have not seen a posted speed limit and in most intersections there are definitely not lines to tell you which way traffic is supposed to go. From what I understand you just have to "know." I've come to the conclusioon that I would definitely not be fit to drive here.
My next cultural difference is although this is a city Italians definitely like to take their time. Along with taking their time comes the process in which you order and drink your coffee. First of all Italian coffee is simply a shot of espresso, to get american coffee you order an Americano and then deal with the dirty looks that you will recieve from that point on. Also on a side note, a latte is hot milk. If you want your latte like you order at Starbucks you should probably stick cafe in front of it. Now for how you get your coffee in the morning. There are probably hundereds of coffee bars throughout the city. I think I pass at least 20 on my 30 minute walk to school. So when you walk in to one of these various establishment you must go to the cash register order and pay and then hand your ticket to the guy behind the bar to make your coffee. Now that I write that all out, it's just like ordering at Starbucks, but there they tell you where to go and what to do. We had to figure it out the hard way here, a trial and error of sorts. Next thing you should know is that once you get your coffee you take it at the bar. You drink your coffee standing up with all the other morning bar-goers. And when you are done you simply leave. Can you get a coffee to go you may ask. Why of course not. There is not a single place, not one, in all of Rome that serves coffee in cups that you could take out of the restaraunt. We did discover the little coffee vending machines but it's not like your Venti White Chocolate Mocha with double espresso. No it's a small shot of cappuccino to get your day going, that's as close as you'll get to a coffee to go.
Moving right along, the third cultural difference is Time is Not Money. Italians like to take their time here. You sit down at a restaraunt you may wait 15 minutes before they take your order and then another 30-an hour while you wait for your food. When you are finished you must ask for your check (il conto) or you could be sitting there for the rest of the evening. Customer service is the least of their worries. They are doing a service to you by being open. With that comes the strange hours of operation. Most places open around 9 a.m. with the exception of some coffee shops. Everything is then open until about 1:30 or 2:00 at which time businesses close their doors for the afternoon siesta. Then everything opens back up at 4:00 and stays open until 8 or 9.
Finally is Italians with machine guns. It's not a strange occurance to see the Caberineri standing on the street next to their Range Rovers wielding very intimidating looking machine guns. Why I have no idea, but I do know it's different. Then again it is Italy!

First Day of School

January 20

Today was my first day of classes in Roma! I had Italian at 8:30 so I woke up at 7:30 to get ready and Rachel and I headed out at 8:00. We arrived at the Guarini campus and found our classroom. My teacher walked in a little after 8:30 and began immediately speaking in Italian. It was definitely a little overwhelming. She motioned us to move into a half circle and we began class by learning how to say our name and where we were from by throwing a ball back and forth. She continued to use Italian for most of the class. She went over the rules in English and explained that we would only be speaking in Italian throughout the course. For the purposes of explaining however, Valentina continued class in English. It was a good start though to class. My next class was in the photo lab which was located off campus. Rachel had been there before so she gave me brief directions, then as I started off to get there I decided to head back to the school and get directions from the “professionals”…not really but…you know. So I walked back in and another girl was getting directions too, so the two of us headed out together and walked down the street we were supposed to go and it didn’t look like there could possibly be a classroom there, but finally we found the number on the sheet of paper and realized that it wasn’t so hard after all. Our teacher was, needless to say, a little passionate about photography. He rambled the entire class period and I was nearly falling asleep. After class I went to a Travel Tips assembly and got some more pointers on how to get around in Europe. After that I went into the lounge where I found Kristin and we discovered the magic of the coffee machine. Yes, they have little machines that dispense coffee made with real espresso. Who else would have thought of that but the Italians? For a mere 35 euro cent you can get a plastic cup filled with cappuccino. It is my favorite Italian invention thus far! Once I had downed my liquid energy, we headed out to our International Affairs class. Our professor walked in and for some reason I just knew that I was going to like him. He began class by asking us about the election and what changes in International Affairs needed to be addressed. We talked about some interesting ideas and he introduced the course. I really enjoyed it though because he engaged us in conversation rather than lecturing to us the whole time. For my last class of the day, I headed to the Tiber campus. Before I went to class I signed up for the designer shopping trip with La Dolce Vita. I met Michael, who had been in my shuttle from the airport, and we discovered we had the same class! We headed to our classroom only to fin a sign on the door: “NS 202 15:45-17:00 Cancelled.” Strange that a class would be cancelled on the first day, but I wasn’t too heartbroken. Class from 8-5 everyday was going to be a little killer, but totally worth only having it on Tuesday and Thursday. I could make some sacrifices. Since I didn’t have class and there was about an hour and a half until the Inauguration we decided to find the bookstore and get our books. We got a map and they gave us directions for a bus to get on. We headed out and found that it was a little harder than it seems to just get on a bus and end up going in the right direction. We got on the 116 at what we thought was the right bus stop but soon discovered that it definitely was not, we ended up heading in the wrong direction and having to get on 3 different116 busses because each one we got on happened to have it’s “last stop” of the day. We ended up in a small parking garage and finally asked the driver how we get down towards the Spanish Steps. He replied that this bus would go there, so trusting his expertise we stayed on and continued to ride. We ended up passing the stop that we should have got on at and finally arrived near the Spanish steps where the bookstore was supposed to be. We wandered around asking for directions for quite some time and finally after searching for another 30 minutes we finally arrived at the Anglo American Bookstore. We each got our books. Mine were 150 Euro, not too bad, considering last semester at Bethany I spent close to 400 dollars. We started to go home, I just wanted to walk, I’d had enough of the Rome bus system. Michael, however claimed that this one bus would get us right to the school so we hopped on. Luckily, it did and we went to the Guarini campus to watch what was left of the coverage on CNN. The room was absolutely packed and we could hear that Obama had just started his address. We decided to go to a bar near school to see the rest of it, instead of standing outside the Aula Magna auditorium listening radio style. I enjoyed listening to the speech and it was good to see that we weren’t the only one listening. Although there weren’t any Italians that were too involved in it, the bar was pretty full with students who wanted to see the “new era” in American politics. I headed back home after George was flown out to Texas and Obama left the stage. It had been a long day and I was ready to get some rest.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Another day of touring!

The Colosseum
It was huge!
The ruins of a temple dedicated to Apollo
Almost all of my roomies, missing two, but enjoying a drink at an Irish pub!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Just a day in Rome...

Trying to figure out Italian laundry...considering it's all in Italian, and nothing makes sense. Not to mention that it only holds a pair of jeans and a few shirts, and there's no dryer so you have to hang your clothes to dry. It will be interesting to get used to.
Our tour guide Massimo!!!
Amanda, Kerry and I in front of the Pantheon! (Which, I didn't know was in Rome, but then I realized that I was thinking of the Parthanon, yea 2 different places)

Kristin Kerry and I at the Spanish Steps!

The Trevi Fountain at night...It was an amazing sight! Did you know it was named Trevi because "tre" is Italian for three and "vi" is short for the Italian word via for street. It's at the intersection of three streets! Fun Fact provided by Tour guide Massimo!

A Night Out...

We had met Alfredo on the street earlier in the day and he told us to come to this club called Gilda. He gave us a card with the address and his phone number so we could call or text him. Alfredo is this guy who is on facebook and can get you in free to clubs and kind of exclusive parties (I guess). So we took the tram to it’s end and got off and started walking to the Spanish Steps, where we had been earlier in the day. It was a ways away and we didn’t know exactly where we were heading so that only made it seem further. Once we got there we called Alfredo for further directions. He said from the Spanish steps go left, so we turned and started walking we walked for about 5 blocks and still hadn’t find the street that was listed on the club’s card, so we finally asked a lady walking towards us where it was and she said we were going the opposite direction! So we turned around, I was really glad I hadn’t even packed a pair of heels to wear on this trip. So we walked back, past the Spanish steps and finally stopped again to ask a cab driver. He said to continue going the direction we were headed, so we did and went for ever. Pretty soon we arrived at Via della Mercede. I yelled back to the rest of the group with a southern accent for effect, “Well this is Mercedes Street and sure as hell ain’t what we’re looking for!” They all laughed and we decided to try one more down. Before we had continued onto the other block, we past a pair of couples, the girls were speaking English and I’m pretty sure they could tell we were lost even in their drunken stupor. They said they might be able to translate so we asked where Gilda was and they just said the exact same thing to the two Italian men they were with. The guys pointed down the street the way were were headed so we continued down. We soon discovered that we were going down a darker and darker street. A worker from the supermercado was headed out the door with trash and we asked him where to go. We had to repeat it slowly and then he said to go back up to where we came from when we tried to explain that that was where we were, then he said in Italian, o well do you want me to come with you? We just laughed and said no…We headed back up and once we turned the corner asked someone else. He finally told us the first left and the first right. Sure enough after 5 different sets of incomplete directions we had found the club. Freezing cold we walked up to the entrance and Alfredo walked out. He welcomed us and we just commented that we walked a marathon to get to his venue. He apologized and tried to get us in quickly. We got in free but no sooner had we walked in the door did we have to check our coats, which would cost us 3 Euro later in the evening. We all made a beeline for the bathroom and also discovered you had to pay for that as well. I didn’t have to go so Mellinah and I walked up to the bar to check it out. We didn’t want to ask how much drinks were so we kinda waited around hoping we could find some American looking people to ask. Finally the rest of our group came out and they went up and got drinks. It WAS 10 EURO for ONE drink! Ridiculous…needless to stay I remained 100 percent sober for the rest of the evening. The club was really neat, they had a dance off competition thing going, it was ok, but the creepy old Italian men and mostly old school tunes really weren’t cutting it for me. We left after less than an hour there and headed out to find a new party spot. When we finally reached the main road Kerry and I were a good 2 blocks in front of the rest of the group and being completely sober decided there was no real point in starting our night at 2:30 in the morning. We decided we would just continue home. The rest of the group called to us as they reached a bar near the main road and we just told them we were heading back. It was a long way back, I hadn’t realized how far we were until I started walking across the Bridge back into Trastevere and realized we still had another 30 minutes of walking left. After managing to get past the drunk Italian men crowded outside the bars smoking and rolling down their windows at intersections yelling at us in Italian we made it to our apartment safe and sound! I was so starving so we spent 30 min in the kitchen chowing down on our little food stores and then headed off for bed, it was a late night and tomorrow was definitely going to be an early morning!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Exploring the Eternal City

Today has been the best day yet! We didn’t really have that many obligations to fulfill for our orientation just to register for our permit to stay and give our credit card for a cell phone. The time between the two we headed out to find somewhere to eat and walked around in a circle and ended up eating really close to the school. After our last thing most of the girls headed back for a cat nap. Kerry and I decided to just get a shot of caffeine and head out to see some of Roma.

We went to a really cute coffee shop right by the school. We quickly found out that you order and pay for your coffee at the register then take your receipt to the counter and give it to them to make. After you are finished eating, or drinking, you are supposed to take it back to the counter for them. It’s different, and it’s interesting to get used to.

We headed out to find the Vatican. Turns out it was super easy to find. We just followed the river up and take a left. We ended up meeting up with another SAI student and going there with him. We took lots of pictures and looked around the front. We didn’t want to pay for a tour that day, so we decided to see if we could find the Vatican. We walked outside of St. Peter’s Square and followed the wall until we found an opening. We tried to walk in but the guard looked at us and laughed and said that there was no way we could get in, basically at least. So we continued around the wall and after awhile, we came to the entrance of the museum. Once again we didn’t want to pay, you can get in free on the last Sunday of the month. We still thought there might be another entrance to the Vatican so we continued to follow the wall….and we followed it around corner after corner…thinking that there would be something around the next corner. That was a totally false assumption. Ridiculous, we walked for close to an hour. It was absolutely insane, and soon enough there was St. Peters again. We had walked ALL the way around Vatican City! We were absolutely beat. Since we had done so much work, we went to a cute cafĂ© and ordered dessert which was super expensive (6 Euro) but AMAZING! After that it was nearly time for the JCU events for the evening so we headed back to campus. We went on a “gelato tour.” It took us on our first trip across the river and we went through the American Bar and shopping area. It also took us to the Pantheon and that was really neat, but the interior was definitely not what I expected. I hadn’t done much research so that was not too unusual. We stopped at one gelato shop, but then headed back to meet up with more students for the “Apertivo” It was an event set up by SAI for students to get to know each other and eat FREE food! It was fun and after that we headed home. On the way some of the girls wanted to stop for wine and desserts so we found a little restaurant that Kristina had suggested and I ordered Tiramisu. My first official Italian piece. It was really good, not extremely different from Martinelli’s but there definitely was a change. We finished the walk back up to the apartment. I got on the internet checked on things, and meanwhile Kerry had googled our trip to the Vatican and around the wall and found out we walked 10.7 km. That was crazy! That didn’t even count our trip around before lunch and the gelato tour we probably walked about 10 miles. So that’s how Italians stay skinny with all the pasta and desserts….

Here's a video clip of our adventure! :)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Here's my video in the Square...It was amazing. I finally felt like I was in Roma! Vatican City is only 5 minute walk from campus and about 30 minutes from my apartment. It's so awesome.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I’m finally in the city of Rome. My travel experience wasn’t amazing but I got here in one piece and my bags did too J! My first flight was late so that set things back but the wonderful United Airlines clerk got everything switched over which meant I flew into a different German airport, Frankfurt, but it really wasn’t that big of a hassle. The flights went really fast, I didn’t have much of a layover anywhere except in Frankfurt and most of that time was spent trying wake up and be a normal person again from my 9 hour flight across the Atlantic. I finally got to Fumincio Airport in Rome around 2:15 p.m. It was kinda crazy from that point on. We waited for about 3 hours in the airport for a shuttle to the school to check-in and get everything we needed. I piled in a van with 4 other people and all of our luggage around 5:00 and took the very interesting drive through the city, many small winding streets and CRAZY traffic. We made it to the office and then got our phones, keys and signed lots of paperwork, it was all a blur. I was so tired and we only had about 5 minutes to do it all because our shuttle had to get going. It was way too much information to process in such a short period of time, but we loaded back in the van and our driver maneuvered through traffic and dropped us off at all of our different apartments.

I arrived at my apartment complex, and lugged my suitcases up 2 flights of stairs, thank goodness it wasn’t 7 like the boys I had been dropped off with (little did I know there was a small elevator I could have used). I reached the door and attempted to open it with my new set of keys, one of which definitely resembled a car key. I think I must have made quite a ruckus, because I soon heard voices from inside. “I think some one is trying to get in.” and I answered back introducing myself and it seemed like forever to get it unlocked and we tried everything finally I turned the key just right and the door opened.

I walked into my apartment, I was expecting the worst. I mean from all of the information we had received from Study Abroad Italy it sounded like our living situation could be quite interesting. I was also worried because we had 9 girls living in one apartment! I was praying it was huge and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was. You walk in and the “dining” area and living room were really small with a teeny-tiny TV. As you continue down the hall it turns to a wooden parkae floor which is absolutely gorgeous, we have 4 pretty good double sized rooms and one single, 2 bathrooms and a nice kitchen. There is also a beautiful blue tiled balcony that you can access from three of the bedrooms! It was so great to find that we had a nice place to live! My roommate wasn’t there when I got it but 5 of the girls were, and they all headed out to dinner. I stayed in to unpack and after a while 2 others arrived and we went to find some food as well. That dining experience is a whole other story! After we finished we headed back to the place and I got to meet my roommate. She seemed really nice, but we didn’t spend much time getting to know each other. We sort of unpacked and then crashed out. We had to be up for breakfast at 8:30 at the campus.

P.S. the picture is my room...when I moved in, you can't really see all of it and this blog is kinda lame, I can only post one pic at a time...i'll work on that though so you can see more :)