Sunday, May 3, 2009

Coming home...

So the time is nearing and my time here is about to end. I've had a great four months, wonderful experiences, amazing opportunities, but I've also realized that home is where the heart is and I wouldn't trade my family and friends for the world. Here's my final article I submitted to the Bethany Messenger...i'll just use it as my close to final post for this blog. for those of you following who aren't from BC, well I'll still be seeing you soon at home or sometime this summer! Thanks for following, it's been quite a ride :).

“The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be the beginning.” –Ivy Baker Priest

If you recall back about 5 months ago, I began my writings to you all with a precursor, a quote by Mark Twain about going all in and throwing caution to the wind. My semester abroad is quickly coming to an end and I will soon be seeing most if not all of you around campus in the near future. So I chose to begin my last piece with this quote. My experience is ending, but really it’s only the beginning of my new experience, viewing my “real life” with new eyes.
I came in to this with few expectations, but I’d like to take this chance to review them and see how my vision really played out. My mornings in Rome begin to the harsh sound of the British voice that is my alarm clock on my school provided Nokia box phone, yes the kind you had in high school. I drag myself out of bed to get ready and begin the 30 minute walk to class. Before I head out of the building a get a cappuccino out the the vending machine, a jump start for my brain. I walk into Italian class and I can feel the nerve-endings in my head firing rapidly as they translate the Italian my teacher is speaking to the English my hands are writing in my notebook. I continue my class day and I return to my house after my last class at 5. I head to the grocery store to pick up the essentials. It’s a daily occurrence since one Italian sized refrigerator shared with eight girls doesn’t compute very well. I walk through the store grabbing my usual purchases: pasta, sauce, cheese. I stop at the bread counter the baker smiles at me, he teaches me something new today. The bread I’d been calling Pizza Bianca, I should really call Pizza Romana he says. I thank him and continue my shopping. I check out and go home to make dinner and then do my homework.
Not exactly how I pictured my days, a few things are similar and few are different. Does that mean it wasn’t good? I would say that’s as far from the truth as you could get. I have whole heartedly enjoyed my experience in Italy and all of Europe. I have really found myself in this experience. I’ve learned to be creative with everyday activities. Ever try to go a week without a microwave? I’ve gone a whole semester. How about a dryer? I’ve air dried my clothes for 118 days. Everything I do takes planning and thought. This has led me to appreciate the convenience of our society. One of the first things I was told when I got to Italy was. “Time is not money.” This is true. Italians take their time, they enjoy the everyday things in life. Dinner is easily a 3 hour affair and walking down the street could take all day. At first these things were annoyances, but really it’s nice to slow down and enjoy life once and a while. We all need to take a step back someday and realize that we aren’t getting ahead by working ourselves to death, getting to that vacation week and saying, “No, I’ll take it next year.” Life is passing us all by. We are speeding past the best times of our lives. If I learned nothing else, it’s to slow down. I miss the fast pace occasionally but I can definitely better understand how appealing it is to take life one baby step at a time.
I hope you all have enjoyed my experience with me. I’ve really enjoyed sharing it with you! Please when I get home, feel free to stop me, anytime, anywhere and ask me, anything. I encourage you all to try an experience like this for yourself. It’s definitely life-changing and something I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for. I’ve seen the world. I’ve seen how other people live. I know that Americans can be ignorant and arrogant, and I know that I’m no longer one of those Americans.
Thanks so much for following! Good luck on your finals and I’ll see you all around campus soon! My trip is ending but my experience is truly just beginning…

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Lazy beach day in Positano

April 25
Today we got to sleep in a little more and only had to be ready by 9:30. We got ready and had breakfast around 9 and then went and loaded up the bus. We took the beautiful ride down to the beach. The whole ride was along the cliff and had gorgeous views of the water from a straight drop off. It was like driving through Colorado but with water. The water was a gorgeous blue and clear. You could see the rocks even from the height we were viewing it from. We continued to Positano and as we got near we had to get off the bus and walk the rest of the way down because non-public weren’t allowed. We got off at a beautiful look out with a fruit stand a lady was waiting with a knife and plenty of oranges. She kept saying, “You want to try orange?” Of course, we all tried a piece and a majority of the group purchased fruit. We took pictures and started the walk down. It was all down hill and we walked along the side of the road. We finally made our way to a set of pedestrian stairs and started the walk down the beach. It was like walking through a cute little Italian village in the movies. The stairs led to a little market set up along the street and set underneath a lattice of intertwined wisteria plants. Then it lead us to a street of shops and finally past a basilica and down to the beach. We then got our instructions on how to get home and when to meet if we wanted to pay for boat rides and finally we were on our own. Kristin and I set out onto the black sand beach to find a spot away from our tourmates because we didn’t want to here their annoying American voices any longer. We set up close to the fence on the far side of the beach and away from the others. We laid out our towels got into our suits and laid down to "prendiamo sole" (take in the sun). After awhile our tanning was interrupted by a game of calcio played by a group of Italian boys. The ball ended up hitting Kristin and she moved. I was near asleep so I didn’t want to get up just yet. I stayed for about 30 min more then moved over the group of friends Kristin had met on Spring Break in Greece from Florence. I went and tried out the water. It was really nice, not really cold, but the rocks under my feet were the unpleasant part. After I tried out the water I went back and laid in the sun for a bit more but we decided we needed a little break from the sun so we didn’t get completely fried. We went up to the bar and sat down for a drink. The waiter brought us a menu and we decided Daiquiri sounded amazing. I really was thinking strawberry, but the waiter said, “Lemon?” after we ordered like it really wasn’t a choice, and then he said, “It’s better.” We took his word for it and let him put the order in. He brought out our drinks in fancy glasses and we had our first sip. It was like heaven in icy delicious form. We sat and enjoyed our drinks and decided to go up and explore the shops a bit and then maybe find some gelato. We walked up through the shops and looked around we made it up the basilica but decided we were too scantily clad to go in so I just peaked around the corner and snapped a quick picture. We continued up and looked through the little market set up along the walk way. After we got to the next set of stairs we decided to head back down. We didn’t want to walk too far up because we would have to do it later so we just headed back down and found some gelato then enjoyed eating it in front of a shop with a funny shirts in Italian. One was translating what a girl says and what she actually means. It said that yes is no and no is no and maybe is no and then other things that we figured out but I can’t remember all of them. There was one for guys to and it was I’m hungry I’m hungry, and I’m tired is I’m tired, and I love you means let’s have sex now. We walked down to the beach again and laid out again. We spotted Tiffany and went over and talked to her. Then Kristin and I went down to the water and took some pics. We finally just laid back out and enjoyed the last bit of the sun. We were going to stay and have dinner on the beach and see the sunset but then some girls said that the last busses were earlier than we were thinking. Mike had told us 10 or 11. We decided not to chance and head back up and check out the timetable for ourselves. We made it up to the Tabacchi on the main road. The timetable said that the last one was at 7:40, too early for the sunset sadly. We went back down to find lunch and after searching towards the bus stop we went back down to the beach. We looked at several places and they all seemed to be really expensive, we hadn’t had lunch earlier so we decided to just go for it since our options were pretty limited anyway. We sat down and ordered a glass of wine and I got the gnocci alla sorrentina. It was with tomato mozzarella and basil. When it came out I’m pretty sure it was one of the best pasta dishes I’d had. Mike Deller came over and asked if it was good. I gave him a taste and he got this surprised happy look on his face that turned to sad as he said, “I just got a Panini.” It was hiliarious. After we finished our meal we went back up to the top to wait at the bus stop because we didn’t want to risk missing the bus since it would be the last one. We waited and were soon crowded by Italians, even a couple that literally pushed their way in front of us. There was still about 30 minutes before the next bus was supposed to arrive. We waited some more and the bus finally arrived. It was near uttered chaos. We were pushed by a group of old people to get on the bus. We managed to get on but we had to stand the whole way back. It turned out to be quite a workout through the winding streets. We did get to see some beautiful views of the sunset though. We continued the way back, but we passed our stop and went back into the center of Sorrento. The bus had the heat or something on so my feet were burning up. It finally stopped and we got off and went to the taxi stand and got a cab back to the campground, Santa Fortuna. We went back to the cabin and took a shower. After we showered we went up to the bar to sit and use the internet and work on a little homework, even though that didn’t really happen. We got tired and turned in early.

The Amalfi Coast: Capri

This morning after the fiasco with our accommodations last night, we woke up freezing cold and got ready for our day. We went to breakfast up the little trail to the restaurant and found the amazing spread of rolls and cornflakes for our dining pleasure. Kristin and I were really just glad that they had coffee. After breakfast we all met and headed down to catch our ferry to Capri. It was quite a trek down the hill, but once we got down there we really realized how beautiful the place we were staying really was. I mean it was pretty rough, but not as rough as some of the girls were making it out to be. We made it down to the pier and loaded the boat. Kristin and I managed to get on the wrong side because as we started out we were definitely in the shade and the wind made it really cold. We picked up a few more passengers and took the 30-45 minute ride to Capri. The views were gorgeous. We passed by Marina Grande when we first reached the island. Our next stop was the famous Blue Grotto. It was inside a cave that was only accessible under favorable conditions in small 4 person row boats. We waited as boatloads of Asians were carted in and out of the site and then we got our turn. We were in the first boat since Kristin and I were a group of 2, we were put with the random Dutch people that were on our boat. Our guide took us over to pay, since it was culture week still I guess the price for the entrance was reduced and we only paid for the boat ride. It was 6.50 and then we waited our turn to get in. The guide said the tide was getting high and we could tell as the water nearly touch the top of the entrance with each wave. We watched as three boats came out and each of the groups that were in boats emerged from their fetal positions and clapped and cheered. They also flashed their peace signs as they passed our boat. When our turn neared Kristin and I braced ourselves laying down in the boat and waiting as the guide grabbed the chain and pulled us into the grotto. We got in and our guide told us a little about everything. The water is blue, and the lighting is from the heat of the rocks below. There is an opening in the grotto that the ancient Romans used for something (I was too busy taking pics) and it’s now inaccesible due to falling parts. We finished our circle around the grotto as we were serenaded by our driver and then waited our turn to attempt to get out. As he started to pull us through he said, “Oh My God” and Kristin and I got very worried. There were times that it got really dark and it was a little scary because that meant the water had gone all the way up and covered the entrance/exit. Looking back on it now, it doesn’t make sense that he said it English, he was obviously not English speaking, so I think he was doing it to freak us out. We made it out fine, no problems and got to the boat and got back on. We took our seats and everyone else managed to get back on and we headed back out on the water. The next stop was the green grotto, it was not an enclosed one so we got to see it without getting off the ferry. There was coral growing and it was really pretty. We also saw one of the private celebrity beaches and the second oldest lighthouse in Italy. We soon arrived at Marina Piccola and got dropped off. At this point we started a walking tour, up the long hill to Capri, and then to Ana Capri. We walked through the quaint little towns and took the little busses. It was just gorgeous and almost straight out of a movie. We went to the sandal shop and I bought lemoncello and then we had lunch at a little restaurant and had some pizza and water with ICE!!! Then we picked up Kristin’s sandals and headed back down. We made it down in record time and changed into swimsuits and laid on the beach for an hour or so. I walked into the water and saw a jelly fish. At 4:00 we loaded the ferry and started our trek back to the mainland. We visited the white grotto and saw the natural arch along with the cave opening where Romans used to throw out the traitors or enemies of the empire. We finished the tour of the island and headed back out over the open sea. It was a nice relaxing ride,

Irish Bus fiasco #2

April 19
After visiting the Blarney Castle, we made it back to the bus station and the girls got their tickets for the airport and I decided to buy a ticket for Galway. I had about 20 min before my bus left so I went back to the hostel got my new room key and moved my stuff. On my way in a lady yelled at me as I was walking past her as she smoked a cigarette and sat on a door step, “Why don’t you just take a picture.” I was really confused, I guess she thought I was looking at her, but whatever I went on my way. After changing rooms quickly, I went back down to the station and got on the bus. I gave my ticket to the driver he punched it and I took a seat right up front. We started on our way. The driver seemed to be a really nice guy. He was really happy. It made me smile. He started the trip off by saying, “The seatbelts are provided for your safety, please wear them. Seatbelts on.” He sat back down and we started down the road. The bus ride went smoothly. I chatted with the driver during stops and told him I was studying in Rome just here for the weekend. He said that I should get off at the last Galway stop it’s the main center and what not. I eventually explained I wasn’t staying in Galway for the night. He was shocked. He told me that the last bus would be leaving at 6:05 and we got into Galway at 5:45. He felt really bad and said that he would have at least been giving me a tour of the important things we passed had he have know. He asked if I saw Bunratty Castle and I told him I did. I told him everything was fine. I enjoyed the countryside, it was better to be stuck on a bus in the country than sitting in a city. I asked him if my ticket was good tomorrow for the return on the chance that I just decided to wing it and stay in Galway for the night. He said it was a month return so I could use it up to a month later. I then headed out and he suggested 2 hostels I should check out and the two I should avoid. I tried to find them and had no luck. My time was running short so I decided I would just take the bus back. I ran to the bathroom and as I was headed back to get on the bus I saw my driver again. He asked me what I had decided. I told him I hadn’t found a place to stay and it was too late to go out and see the Cliffs of Moher or anything like that anyway. He had an idea and took me to the inspector’s office and told me to ask if there was anything going to the cliffs and then a way to get to Limerick so I could catch a bus to Cork. I thanked him again, he was so sweet to try so hard to help me. The inspector said there was no way to do that. I wasn’t going to ie I was a little upset that I didn’t really get to do anything there, but it was a nice 24 Euro countryside tour. I had now been from each side to the other of Ireland, and to the south as well all in 3 days. I loaded up the bus and prepared myself for the 4.5 hour bus ride back. I ended up falling asleep most of the way home. It was a long 9 hours in the bus.

The Irish Car bomb: wait....that's not funny

April 18
We got up and had breakfast and I took a shower and we headed out. We took the tram to the bus stop. The ticket machine at tram wasn’t working and we missed the first one and then had to wait for the next one it was only like 10 minutes but we were running behind so it was a little issue. The bus was leaving at 10 and we got to the bus station and got our tickets by 9:59. Luckily we got on the bus and took our seats. We started out and had beautiful views of the Irish countryside. We made several stops then we went through Abbeyliev, and made a stop. We pulled off and not a few hundred meters down the road there was tons of rattling and I looked back to see smoke billowing out from the back of the bus (where we were sitting). The bus rolled to a stop and I guess the driver ran out of the bus and that created a panic so everyone on the bus jumped up and collected their belongings and got off the bus quickly and almost orderly. We finally all got off and were standing on the side of the road and the bus driver apologized and said he would get a new bus on the way. We took the time to go to the gas station a little ways back and grab some lunch and snacks. With our picnic in hand we went and ate in the little grassy knoll by the bus. There was a little old lady that we had talked to while the driver was trying to make arrangements, she had been so concerned about luggage or something smoldering beneath the bus. She had presents for grandkids apparently underneath. I guess there had been a few bus fires lately in Dublin, so this wasn’t a strange occurrence, that made us feel much better (and that my friends is practicing Irish humor). Anyway, she came and stood near us and we offered to help her sit down and get back up but she said she’d be fine and pulled out a cigarette and began to smoke. She said she was going to get some mineral water and not to let the bus leave without her. We told her we’d make them wait. We ate our sandwiches, yummy BLT’s with real bacon! They were delicious. Soon our friend returned and we sat as she stood and watched the traffic go by. There was a bus full of boys we assumed rugby players or something. It was funny because they were all sitting the same, one arm on the seat in front with their backs to the windows. We watched as a semi pulled up and asked some guys what was going on. It was really funny. A new bus finally pulled up, it was a private coach and we all loaded up on there. It was really nice had a sunroof and everything. It was really kind of touching because the bus driver watched as we all pulled away. He was a nice guy and handled the situation well. We pulled off and headed back on down the road. About 30 minutes later we stopped for 10 minutes. It was definitely unnecessary since we had just had an hour long break. We saw more countryside the stone fence ridges and hedges that created fences. There were sheep, cows, and horses. There was even the classic picture of the old man that was out tending his sheep with his collie, so Irish. We saw a castle at one stop, Cashel. We finally made it to Cork. The hostel was super easy to find, it was right up the road from the bus station. We went in and got to our room, it was really small but nice and we had our own bathroom. We headed out to see Cork and went shopping in some cute little shops on the main shopping street. We saw the Holy Trinity Church, it was remodeled inside so it was just like any other church. We walked through a park but it was a little creepy. There were strange couples making out, a drunk homeless man passed out sitting up on the park bench, and a sketchy homemade sign saying free massages pointing to a woman with a rolled out yoga mat near a tree. We decided to head straight out of there. We found the place we had looked up to go eat food, Café Gusto. We ordered sandwiches, flying Bacons, and cappuccino. After our the meal the owner came out and talked to us and told us some places to go. We headed up Washington street as she had instructed us and realized that it was pretty dead around this time. We found a little swap shop that doubled as a bar or however you want to put it. I got a dress for Kristin’s wedding rehearsal. Then we walked around the shopping area some more and I found the shop where the dress I bought really came from. We decided that it would be best just head to the bar and call it an early night because the girls had to leave tomorrow and we would need to wake up early to get things started. We went to Sine the bar that the guys had suggested from last night. There were only like 5 other people in there so we got our choice of table. We ordered drinks, I got Murphy’s since it was the local brew, and we sat down to enjoy the night. We sat there for 5 hours, our pictures from the night show the progression of the long candle at our table as it burned away. We had been there for so long the bartender brought us free shots, called Baby Guinness, they were Tia Maria, a coffee liqueur topped off with Bailey’s Irish Cream. It tasted like chocolate. Before we finally left I got a pic with our bartender buddy and then headed out to walk home.

Irish Fun

We got to Trastevere station and went to the taxis. Kerry spoke to them in English, mistake #1, and asked if it was only 30 Euro to Ciampino. The guy said no, that we were outside the city wall. I got really fired up and told him that I could see the walk from here and that we were within it. He said not that it would be a metered fair, and acted like it was all good, and we just told him no and started to walk away, told him we would just go to another taxi stand. Finally an old guy told us to get in and agreed to do the fair. It is the law and is ridiculous that they still try to cheat us after all this time. I was upset that Kerry flat out used English and didn’t even try to use Italian. Oh well we got a really nice old man to take us there and he drove really slow so it was good that it wasn’t metered. We got there in plenty of time, I gave the guy a 5 Euro tip because he was so nice and went against what the mean guy said. We checked in and got through security quickly. We headed to our gate and went through passport control and got stamps. We then waited for the flight to board and finally got on. The flight was nearly 3 hours long and we got into Dublin, got our passports stamped and took a cab to the hostel. It was so crazy driving on the other side of the road. When we got there the cabbie was really nice got out and got our luggage and pointed us to the hostel. We got checked in and had the guy point us to a bar. He said we had to go to a late one in the Temple bar area so we freshened up and headed there even though we were trying to avoid that. We went to the Porterhouse Pub. The girls got Bulmers, a cider, and I had some sort of light Irish beer. We walked around the bar just checking it out. There were 3 levels with a live band set on one, but there wasn’t a band playing tonight. We sat down at a table and started to drink and talk. It wasn’t long before we were joined by one guy. It was funny because we had just been talking about body language that invites people in and Steph was demonstrating and it worked. After a while the whole group of guys flocked in and started to talk to us. They definitely weren’t Irish, in fact they were French. It was interesting to talk to them but we kind of gave up eventually and luckily they turned the lights on at the bar so it was time to leave so we headed out. An Irish guy as we were leaving said, “You’re breaking those French boys’ hearts.” I laughed because his accent was funny and it was just funny in general. We headed home and then just went to bed.

Easter Mass at St. Peter's

EASTER! I woke up this morning at 6 a.m. to get ready for Easter Mass at the Vatican. We had planned to leave the apartment at 7 to get there early and get good seats. We were all very impressed that our plan was executed almost flawlessly as we walked out of the door two minutes early. Rachel reminded me as we started down the first flight of stairs about the tickets however and I ran back up and grabbed them. We made our way to the tram stop and saw that even on Easter Sunday the market was already starting to be in full swing. There was a tram that just left so we waited at the stop for the next one. Of course 5 went by going the other direction without a single one coming by to pick us up. We waited about 15 minutes and decided we had jinxed it by saying everything had gone so flawlessly. One finally came and we were on our way. We were joined by a couple other groups of students that looked like they were headed to Easter Mass as well. We got off at the Tiber River stop and headed towards the Vatican, it was a little chilly so we kept to a pretty brisk pace in hopes that we would warm up a bit. As we walked up the side street to St.Peter’s I laughed when we passed an RV with tourist maps in the front window. I turned around to the girls and said, “See, I knew someone would be camping out.” We all laughed and snapped a picture for memories sake. We continued on our way and finally arrived at the square only to find a small crowd gathering and a completely empty square. It was almost 7:45, but we soon discovered that they weren’t allowing people to go in until 8:30. Of course there was no line, we were in Italy after all. We waited and waited and finally moved up the side instead of waiting and trying to create a line like rational human beings. They finally began to open the gates and the crowd moved us forward whether we wanted to go or not. We were being pushed and shoved by nuns. The guards finally put a stop to the madness by slowing the process down but as soon as people got past them they were off and running like a horse out of the gates. Little old ladies and nuns, sprinting to get the best seats, I was in absolute shock. We were some of the first 100 in and ended up getting really good seats, near the middle only about 8 rows back. We took our seats and prepared ourselves for the 2 hour wait that lie ahead of us. Rachel had come prepared with crossiants, peeps, cards and her Angels and Demons book. We took pictures and hung out for a while but eventually resorted to playing a round of Go fish and then just sitting and wondering when something would happen. Around 10:00 things finally started to happen. The Swiss Guard and Band came around and everyone was up on their chairs trying to see them and get pictures, we were too far from any side to really get a great pic but we managed to get some pretty good views. It was a pretty intense entrance. They lined up on one side and another set of guard lined the opposite side. As soon as they were all set the Pope began to make his entrance with the large processional of other bishops and priests. We were a little sad because if we had been near an aisle we would have been able to see him up close and personal, he was even reaching out and touching people but we had our share at the papal audience. He made his way up the stairs and we began the mass. It was a beautiful service. The choir was great. It was all male with younger voices along with well trained seasoned ones. They sang “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” in English, one of my favorite Easter songs so I was happy. Most of the mass was in Latin but hey did at least one part in every major language. The pope gave the homily in Italian. They prepared for communion and we saw a mass of priests come out. There were like 5 rows of at least 10 on each side of the altar. They did the offering and people representing different nations brought up the gifts to the pope and got to kiss his hand and be blessed. I was nearly crying at the thought of being blessed personally by the pope. We went through the Eucharistic ceremony and the priests went out into the crowd accompanied by a security man with a yellow and white umbrella so that they could be spotted in the crowd. Then they administered communion to the masses. I was so amazed. It was so crazy. After communion we finished the service and then the Pope made his way to the balcony to deliver his Easter message. It took a bit and all the while the crowd was waving flags and cheering, “Benedicto,” and “Viva Papa.” They showed on the screen the arial view of the square and all the way back into the street was packed with people. I was in shock and here we were in the 8th row at Easter Sunday mass at the Vatican. The Pope gave his address in Italian but I understood that he was saying that Jesus Christ was crucified and died for us so that we would be forgiven of our sins and could enjoy eternal life in the Kingdom of his Father. He also said that we should strive to walk in the way of the light of Christ. Past that I got caught up in translation, but that’s the main just of it. He prayed for peace in the world, in Africa, Israel and Palestine. Then he addressed the crowd in every language I think I’ve ever head existed, we lost count there had to be at least 30. It was really neat. The crowd cheered as he stood and gave the final benediction and left the balcony. We decided our best exit strategy was to find the nearest one and get out instead of trying to get to the back of the square and go that way. We managed to maneuver our way through pretty efficiently and made it out back to the main street by the Tiber in very good time. We walked back to the tram and took it back to our apartment. It was almost one, but we were all really tired so we decided to take a nap before we started our Easter dinner feast. I broke out the candy and had some skittles, chocolate and a part of a Fanta before I lay down to take a 2 hour nap and wake up at 3 to start making dinner. Rachel and I ended up staying asleep till 5 and we woke up to find that Kristin had the table set with a center piece and napkins all fancied up. I went into to start helping her cook. She was just starting to cook the hamburger for the pizza. I got out the crust and we started to contemplate just how we were going to make a bunny shaped pizza. It wasn’t that hard and I just used one for its head and then cut out two ears from the other crust. We had all the meat cooked and started to sauce the pizza and place the cheese on it to look like eyes, cheeks, and a nose. Then we put hamburger all around the facial features and put cheese on the ears. We managed to fit it on the oven pan thing and then put it in to bake. We finished up the rest of our meal. Rachel made asparagus, I made a fruit salad, and Kristin already had a salad ready. After the pizza was done we all gathered at the “dining room” table, well the 5 of us that were home and sat down to have our Easter dinner. It was really nice. The food was good and we pretty much finished everything off. After food we broke out the Colomba, a traditional Italian Easter dessert. It’s a cake that’s supposedly shaped like a dove, though we were all pretty skeptical of that. When Kristin and I went grocery shopping it seemed like everyone had these boxes with handles that had a cake inside so we decided to get one just to be authentic. We opened the box and Rachel did the honors of cutting the cake, after all she had seen Claudio do it (her Italian teacher). Then we sampled the delicacy. It was pretty strange, more bread like than cake, but over all it wasn’t too bad. A good Easter day.

Good Friday: Way of the Cross at Colosseum

April 10
For Good Friday Service, I went to the little church that is between S.Francesco a Ripa and S.Cecilia. It’s Santa Maria…something. After church I went back to the apartment and Kristin and I got ready to go to the way of the cross. We headed down to go to the Colosseum. We took the tram and got on a bus and then saw the masses headed to the Colosseum. We made our way down the street and tried to meet up with this guy I met in Greece. We couldn’t seem to find him so we walked across the street towards the Colosseum and realized we couldn’t see anything over there so we decided to try to find another way. We walked around to the other side and found a spot on the hill past the Arch of Constantine. I eventually found Tom and we stood and watched the ceremony and eventually found a seat. It was a really interesting experience. I guess they do a procession of the cross out of the Colosseum onto the road then up the hill to where the pope is sitting. They announced all the stations in different languages then read it in Italian. Then they did the Lord’s Prayer in Italian and some other adoration song in Latin. It was really cool to hear the music. I think it was live but it was so far away I could see if there were performers or not… I really enjoyed it, everyone in the crowd with candles, it was just cool to see that much faith in one place. After the service we made our way slowly through the masses back to the end of the tram line and back to our apartment. We were going to have a movie night but decided to postpone in favor of turning in early.

Greek Adventures: Take 2

April 3
Directions in Greek = “Just over there…”
I decided that today I would venture out to see Corinth, home of Corinthians. The ones that Paul wrote all the letters to. I got directions from the hostel and started out on my adventure. I headed to find the bus stop for bus 51 in Omnia Square and wandered for a long time looking at all the stops I saw and never seemed to find it. I headed up the street a little more and realized that the square I thought was Omnia Square, really wasn’t. When I finally arrived in the real Omnian Square I looked again and still no luck. I finally stopped a younger looking girl that looked like she would speak English and asked if she spoke English. She said she did and I continued to ask if she knew where the bus stop was for this 51 bus. She said she wasn’t sure and then I asked her if she knew how to get to the bus station that went to Corinth. She started to explain that there were two stations. I tried to tell her I knew I wanted to go to the one that started with a K, but I didn’t know how to say it or where it was. She finally pulled out her datebook that apparently had a list of where the busses went from the two stations. She told me which one to go to and wrote it down so I could just take a cab. I was really happy that she had helped, she must have spent a good 10 minutes talking to me. I went to the taxi stand and got in the cab and showed the driver what the lady had wrote for me. He nodded and off we went. We arrived at the station and I got out.
I went inside the bus station and was greeted by a room full of stands that all had things written in Greek. I had absolutely no idea what any of it said. I asked the information desk which one to go to if I wanted to go to Corinth. She pointed in a general direction and said the one in the middle, “Just over there.” I had no idea and was rather frustrated but I just got in a line and hoped that someone could help me. Once I got to the desk, I said I wanted to go to Corinth and the lady said ok and then didn’t do anything. I asked if I could get a ticket and how much it was. She wrote that it was 7.50 and I paid and then she wrote 29-27 on the back. I had no idea what that meant. I headed out of the station to find the bus because it left in 10 minutes. I looked around and didn’t understanding where I was supposed to go. I asked one person and they said 3 busses down, “Over there,” and held up 3. I got there and didn’t understand so I asked another person and she said 3 busses in the opposite direction, so I finally found a bus driver and asked him. He told me I had “lost that one” and that I would have to wait for another hour. My day wasn’t exactly going as planned, but there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it so I just went and grabbed a gyro and sat down and read my book as I waited. When it got close to 1:00 I moved closer to the bus and the man whom I had asked earlier nodded in approval and came over to tell me that it was the red bus that I was going to get on. Around 1:00, the bus began to load and I took my seat. The ride went by fairly quickly and uneventfully. At one point the old woman sitting in front of me turned around and started to try to talk to me. I told her I didn’t speak Greek. She tried to enunciate and talk slower and I just said “I don’t speak Greek, I don’t understand.” She finally gave up, but still turned around several more times and continued to try to talk to me as if I would magically be able to understand what she was saying.
We finally arrived in Corinth and passed over the Corinth Canal, which was pretty impressive. We stopped at the bus station, but not everyone got off so I stayed on to see where else it would take me. We went more into town and stopped at like a town square. It appeared to be the last stop. Before I got off I wanted to make sure I knew I could get back to Athens. I asked the driver if he spoke English and he said no. There was a younger guy behind me who hadn’t got off yet and I asked if he did, he said a little and I asked him. He then asked the driver and they told me I would have to go to the bus stop that was the one they had stopped at previously. I thanked them and got off and started to wander. I had absolutely no idea where I was headed. I didn’t have a map or guidebook. I had come completely unprepared. I started down the next street just to see where it went. Luckily there was a bus stop that said it went to Ancient Corinth. So my next step was to try to find where to buy bus tickets. I stopped at the next newspaper/tobacco stand and asked there. The lady didn’t speak English but we finally established that I didn’t want gum and that she didn’t sell bus tickets. So I just continued down the road, and eventually came to the water. I walked past it and then back onto the road I was on before as there wasn’t really anything to look at and it was kind of sketchy looking. I found an internet place and got time for the internet and Google mapped it. Then my plan was to try to walk there.
As I walked out of the shop with my printed map I heard English voices. My ears have become oddly sensitive to my native language I can spot it through hoards of people. There were three people walking towards me, an older couple and a pretty young boy, probably 6 maybe 7. I asked them once I was certain they were speaking English if they could help me. The old man with a very thick Scottish accent said yes and asked me what I was trying to find. I explained I wanted to go to Ancient Corinth and he said something like, “Well you’re a right bit far.” I kind of laughed, but inside I was wondering what I had gotten myself into. The little boy then grabbed the map and looked at it. I asked if they knew how I could get there and the boy said, well there’s a bus stop and I could just take that. I said that I had saw the stop but wondered where I could buy tickets. The little boy began talking really fast, and I had to listen hard through his accent. He was saying there was a little blue box by the stop. He then asked if I read Greek. I told him no and then they offered to go with me. As we walked I learned that the older couple was visiting their daughter and 2 grandchildren that lived in Corinth. They were from Scotland. It was really neat. Once we got to the stop. The little boy went right to work on the box. He read the Greek and told me where it was going and such. We couldn’t quite figure it out so we went back to the beginning and discovered there was an English button. I took that route and bought a ticket. Then the little boy rattled off that I had to just wait for the bus to come. I thanked them both for their help and then took a quick picture with my tiny savior.
I stood and waited. I looked around and found the timetable for the busses. It said that this one was supposed to come at 5 past every hour. I checked my phone, it was 4 past, so surely the bus would just be there soon. One never came, so I got my book out and began reading. I took off my jacket, hoping to get some sun, and because I was burning up. I ended up having to wait for a whole hour for the next bus, the whole time I was being stared down by a really creepy homeless man.
Finally the bus came and I showed the ticket to the driver and asked if this was the right bus and he said yes. I got on and took a seat. It was a lot further than I had imagined; it would have been a long trek. I finally made it to Ancient Corinth and got off the bus and followed the signs to the archeological site. It wasn’t that hard to find the signs and follow them so I was lucky. Once I made it past all the tourist shops I found the exit of the site, so I continued up the hill thinking that the entrance couldn’t be far. It wasn’t really far or anything but it was still up the hill and hidden behind the masses of tour busses that were parked at the top. I got to the gate and had my student ID card ready and told the lady I was studying in Rome. She said the site was closing in 20 minutes. I asked her if I could still go in and walk through. She said I could. At this point, I began to attempt to break the world record for fastest sightseeing excursion. I was almost running. The tour groups that were exiting were talking about me in Italian, which was strange that I was in Greece and surrounded by Italian. I didn’t fully understand what they were saying but it was something like “Look at that crazy girl.” I was snapping pictures left and right and skimming signs as I walked past. I somehow managed to get a fairly thorough overview of the entire sight in my 20 minute time limit.
As I headed toward the gate, one of the tour guides was walking out. I knew she was with a tour group, that was Italian, so I asked her, “Parle inglese?” and she answered that she did. I continued to ask if she knew how to get back to Athens from here. She wasn’t sure and asked another man. He said I should take the train. She wrote the name of the train station down and told me to take a taxi to it. I left the site and walked down the hill to where I had seen a group of taxis parked. I asked one of them to take me to “Proastia Kos” He nodded and we got in the car and arrived shortly at the train station.
I and went inside to purchase a ticket to Athens. I walked up to the counter and told the man I would like to go to Athens. He said like I had to wait for an hour to get the ticket. I didn’t really understand, so I went into the little café and had a frappe (the Greeks obsess over this) and waited around. The next train was supposed to leave at 6:05 or 5:51, I couldn’t tell. The timetable said one and then the sign on the ticket booth said another. Neither had any English so who really knew. I finally decided to go ask the man again. This time he said the train was leaving at 5:51 and I asked if I could buy a ticket. They looked at me like I was dumb and said of course. I finally went up to the platform and waited. The train came right on time and I took my seat. The adventure of the day seemed to have ended. Once we got into Athens though deciding on a stop proved to be slightly difficult. The first stop was the “Athens” stop (the one I probably should have gotten off at). This is when I realized I should have planned my exit strategy a little more carefully. I got out my map and looked at the route I was on. I realized that I should have gotten off at the first stop but could still find a metro that looked fairly close at the next stop. I got up and waited by the door and got off at the completely deserted “Rouf” stop. The only person there was the cleaning lady. I asked her how to get to the metro stop. She took me over to a building in the middle of the platform and got another worker and she pointed me in the right direction told me to follow the signs. I did and I felt like I was going nowhere, but I eventually found my way to the metro stop and back to the hostel. It had been quite an escapade. A day full of “Just over there…” and waiting.

Greek Adventures: Take 1

April 2
I got everything packed up and headed out the door. I had just left the gate of our apartment and stepped down off the curb to cross the street when I somehow miscalculated the step and rolled my ankle over and fell to the ground. I was slightly embarrassed but other than that alright. An old lady stopped to see if I was alright and I told her I was fine. I got up and continued on my way and slowly the throbbing in my ankle went away and the burning of the new scrape on my knee went away as well. I made it to Trastevere Station and waited a few minutes for the train. Once at the airport I checked in for my flight and luckily the lady checking in let me slide with my heavy bag (I had my laptop). I thought it was 10 kg, but really it was 8, she lectured me about how it wasn’t fair to others but let me through with it anyway. Next I joined the rest of the travelers in the security line. It was really busy again, not as bad as when Jamil and I had gone to Paris but still pretty full. Luckily I had plenty of time until my flight. I made it through with no problems and made my way to the gate and sat and relaxed. After a while I noticed that I didn’t recognize any of the people at the gate from when I was checking in. I got up and looked at the gate only to see that they had moved my flight. I checked the board and got to the right gate and waited for 20 more minutes until they started boarding. I got on the plane I had a window seat, perfect for sleeping and got settled in. I didn’t fall asleep right away but it was taking a really long time to get onto the runway so I did catch a quick wink of sleep. I woke back up for take off and then fell back asleep. I woke up soon after though and they were serving food. It was nice to be on a flight with free service again! After all I had paid for a ticket, it was only right ! We had some sort of keish but it was better than any I had ever had before and chocolate cake and they served coffee and tea. I then read my book for class for the rest of the flight and almost got caught up to where I needed to be by the time we landed. We got off the plane and they stuffed us into a bus to go to the terminal. I got off and wandered through to the exit. I asked the information desk about how to get to the hostel and she said the metro wasn’t running from the airport right now but I could take the 95 bus to the city center and get off and I could walk to my hostel or take a taxi. So I went outside bought a bus ticket and got on for the ride to the city. There were some other American students on the bus, so that made me feel a little more comfortable, like I was going the right way. I waited a while and asked the others where they were going and unfortunately none of them were going to my hostel, I figured I would be alright still though and if worse came to worse I could always just take a cab. So I began to walk and at the crosswalk, I decided to ask a group of men in business suits which directions I should go. I started out with, “Do you speak…” and he responded before I could finish, “Yes I do.” I asked him where to go and he pointed me down the street and said that it would take me straight to the square. I took his word for it and started to wander off. I kept going down the street which was pretty deserted and hoped that this guy wasn’t totally off his rocker. Luckily, I saw a group of girls ahead of me toting luggage and felt more confident in my direction. I followed them a ways and then found that we were in the square. I saw the metro stop (or what I thought was the metro stop) and got out my directions to the hostel. I tried to figure out what street I was on, but…everything is in Greek and even though I’m in a sorority I definitely don’t read Greek. I decided to take a stab in the dark, literally and just head one direction. I walked up the street awhile looking for an Applebee’s like the one shown on the map. After 5 blocks or so I didn’t think I was going the right direction so I turned around and decided to try another way. There was only one other logical direction and it looked pretty dark and not that promising, but I started down that way anyway. After a bit I decided to go back and ask for directions at the ice cream shop I had passed. They said I was headed the right direction and said I would come to a circle drive of some sort and then to turn right. So I started down the street again keeping my eyes open for this drive. Eventually I decided that I was still not going the right way or had gone too far. I passed an Irish pub and stopped to ask for directions again. The waitress didn’t speak English and directed me to her boss, he took me out to the street and pointed me in the direction back up the street and said to turn left up aways and I should find it. I headed back and ended up stopping a taxi and asking where to go he just said I had to go to the first one to take me somewhere. I went to the front of the line showed the driver the address and map on the brochure and he said that I was here. I said I know but where is the hostel and he just replied again that I was here. I had almost lost hope. I sat down on a bench tears welling up in my eyes and broke down and called the hostel. The man that answered the phone laughed when I told him I was lost. I told him I was in the square and had gone almost every direction and couldn’t find it. He asked me if I could see a fast food place called “Evergreen” I told him I was looking at it. He told me to wait there that he would come and find me. I stood and waited for only a few minutes, when I was greeted by Tony. He was really nice and led me to the hostel. I walked in and went up to the desk. I handed him my passport and they started to look for my reservation. For some reason they weren’t able to find it. I had my copy printed off so I gave it to them and they were so confused, they looked to see if they had made a mistake or something but then realized that my booking wasn’t until tomorrow. I had forgot to book a room for tonight. I was so frustrated with my self at this point and could barely hold the tears back. They looked for a room and the only one open that they could find was a double private. It was going to cost me 80 Euro. I didn’t really care at this point and asked if they took credit card as tears streamed down my face. They spoke to each other in Greek for awhile and said that they could give me the room for half price for tonight since it wasn’t going to be used anyway and I was in such a situation. I was so thankful that they could help me out. I finally got checked in and paid and Chris, the guy at the front desk, showed me to the elevator and sent me up to my room. It had been quite the eventful evening. I now have a different view of “It’s Greek to Me!”

The Eiffel Tower

March 26
It turned out to be really easy to use the metro and we got off and made our way to the Eiffel Tower. It turned out to be really pretty and we walked up the green lawn towards it. There was a family of four taking pictures 3 at a time, and I wanted a picture with Jamil so we asked them to take ours and we would take one with all 4 of them if they would like. That worked out well and we went on our merry way towards the tower. We stopped to admire and take more photos and then we rounded the corner and saw that there was a huge line to go up to the top. We went and hopped in right away and it was a good thing we did because quickly the line grew at least 2x the size. We got right in front of a group speaking in Spanish. Part of the group was in front of us and told us to go ahead because they had to get with the rest of the group. Jamil was confused because they had said it in Spanish so I translated. The line moved slowly but we managed to get to the gated area soon enough. Just as we started to walk through, the security guard closed it off and let a “group” through. It was a tour of Asians. I guess the guard thought I had said something smart because he looked at me and said, “What?” with a little smirk. I just smiled and was confused. I had just laughed because it was funny that we had just missed the cut off. After the group filtered through we were let past and into line. At that point it went quickly. We went and got tickets and then got in another line and got in the elevator, which they crammed you in. We stopped at the 2nd floor and switched elevators to go to the top. We were smooshed in that one even more and there was an Asian man with really bad onion breath. I was disgusted. We finally got off and were introduced to the freezing cold wind that blew at the top of the tower. We stayed on the safe side away from the gusting winds. You could still kinda feel it sway in the “breeze.” We didn’t spend much time up there, we took in the view took our pictures and headed for the elevator. When we got in the elevator we found out that we had a pretty funny attendant. He started out by pretending the elevator buttons were a video game controller and he talked about how he never had games as a kid so this was as close as he could get. Then he had obviously talked to the girls in the elevator before and was blatantly flirting but he was telling them that they should have fun with their time in Paris. They were free from their parents and responsibilities. They needed to be free and express themselves. Then he went on to say that he lived right over there as he pointed off in the distance and his wife she could control him from there, she probably had binoculars. We all got a little chuckle out of that. Once we got to the second level we went out and took some more pictures and then got in line for the elevator to the first floor at that floor we actually got out and looked at the places they had listed. They had the distances to cities around the world listed around the inside. Finally we headed back down to the bottom and as soon as we got off the elevator we were attacked by vendors selling cheap souvenir Eiffel Towers. We managed to get through them and head off to catch the metro.

A trip to Paris...

This morning it was off to Paris! We packed up quickly and went down to Asian lady’s and got kebabs and suppli to eat once we got to the train station/airport. We grabbed our bags and headed to the train station. Once we got there we got tickets and went and sat on the benches and ate our lunch as we waited for the train to come. We got on the train and got to the airport. Everything went surprisingly smoothly. We were running only a little behind and then we got in line to check-in. I thought there were two lines but JO didn’t agree so we stayed in the one line and we were behind a group of 3 older guys who took forever then a group of middle easterners who also took ages, meanwhile the other line was diminishing. We had sat in line for a good 45 minutes. Finally I told him we were switching lines because it was down to just one person. We finally got to the ticket desk just as we would have in the other line. We got our bag checked and our boarding pass and we had about 20 minutes to get through security. We walked to the security point and for the first time, the line for security was backed all the way up to the entrance doors. There was absolutely no way we were going to get through before our plane boarded. We stood for awhile trying to figure out what we should do. I saw some people go over to the side talk to one of the attendants and get to go into a different security line. Jamil stayed in line and I went over to ask. The lady said to ask the guy at the front so I went under the tape and the man looked at my ticket and waved me onto the quick security line. I motioned to Jamil and he came and joined me and we got in line. The three older gentlemen were in front of us and they didn’t seem to be in any hurry in getting ready for security and were just slowly taking off jackets and getting computers out. We managed to get through security but they stopped and asked me if I had any liquids in my bag, I said I had cosmetics in a small bag and they acted like there was something else wrong but let us through without even looking anyway. We only had like 5 minutes to get to our gate. Jamil thought it would be a good idea to run, so we did. I felt absolutely ridiculous. He grabbed my bag and I followed him up the stairs. We made it to our gate, panting, and there wasn’t even anyone lined up or any attendant standing at the counter yet. It was the first of many times we would run to catch something for absolutely no reason at all. We waited for a good 30 minutes before they finally began to board. We were first in line and the people who had gone through real security still made it in time. We got on the plane and took our seats and went right to sleep. The flight went quickly and we finally made it to Paris, but we were a good hour late for our scheduled pickup. Once we managed to figure out the strange upward moving ramps that took us to get our bag and found what we thought was where the exit would be we started to look for the blue minivan pickup. It was not as easy to find as we thought. We went to the info desk and asked where the gates were that I had written down from the email. They directed us and we went there but didn’t manage to find anything. I finally broke down and called the Apartment lady and said we were at the airport and couldn’t figure out where we were supposed to go. She asked if my mobile was working and said that she would call the pickup guy and have him call us. I headed to find a bathroom and left the phone with Jamil and told him to answer it if the guy called. When I came back Jamil was trying to figure stuff out on the phone with the guy. We finally managed to figure out that we were supposed to be down a level and went to the gate that the guy was talking about. We walked out of the door and saw the “blue van.” The guy seemed like he was looking for us so we waved at him and walked across to get in. He asked if we were with the apartment pick up and we told him yes. He got really snotty with us said he had been waiting over an hour. I could tell that Jamil was about to punch him in the face. I just told him we were sorry and explained our flight was delayed and we had no way of letting them know. He was still in a huff about it and opened the door for us and we started on our way. We had some confusion on where we were supposed to go and finally got it worked out and headed into town. He explained that he had to make another pickup and we said it was fine. He picked up another girl at the Holiday Inn and then took us to the apartment and dropped us off. We got out and I called Geraldine with Special Apartments and told her we were there. She asked which apartment we were at and I said the second one she had moved us to. She then explained she had sent a second email that had said she was able to keep us in our original reservation, but we hadn’t received it before we left. She said it was fine and that she would meet us there to get us in. She was there within a few minutes and showed us how to get in. There was a little magnetic key that you touched to the door and it unlocked it. It was the same for the second gate in side. Then we went up a nice set of wooden semi spiral stairs to the first floor. She opened the door for us and we looked around the apartment. It was gorgeous. She went through the contract and all the electronics and controls with us then sent us on our way to enjoy Paris.