Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thank God for Rick Steves.

Ok so last week was a crazy week as always.  It is never a boring night in Viterbo because let's face it, we go out every night.  Shu has been our go-to place and making friends with the bar tenders is always a bonus.  Unfortunately we have been introduced to cross-bows which sure taste amazing!  All week I was excited about Rome so it was hard for me to focus on school but somehow I managed.  I think I am finally understanding how hard it is to learn a new language.  It is an entirely different way of learning than I am used to and I hate the fact that I can't break apart and translate the entire sentence word for word but I am getting used to looking at it as a whole instead of each individual word.  Of course having Antonio come over and help me for 3 hours a day helped a lot too.

Last week we were also introduced to the best meal I've had since being in Italy.  La Trattoria is a restaurant that only has a few things on their menu each day.  It is a family owned restaurant and is a very small hometown type thing.  They are, however, famous for their pear pasta.  I can't even begin to explain how good this stuff is.  I'm going to attempt to make it when I get back to the US but I know it won't be anything similar to how they do it.  Maybe I will just have Tina come back with me to help.  Tina is the daughter of the woman who owns the restaurant and she is our surrogate Italian grandmother.  She is so sweet and gets excited whenever we come in (we have been in three times since our first, an going again tonight).  The first night we went in, it was just me, Kate, and Alma.  We ordered vino della casa (house wine) and she brought that out with some bruschetta.  After that we got our main dish and we couldn't even believe how good it was.  There really are no words.  After we were finished with that a table of men who were in there bought us some dessert with dessert wine and that was amazing as well.  I don't think I have ever been so full and happy in my entire life.  Just thinking about it makes me want to go right now ( but i have to wait another two hours until Kate gets back)

Another amazing food experience was Thursday night when Antonio invited Kate, Alma, and I over to his apartment to cook us dinner.  He made pasta with pomodoro e tonno (tomato and tuna) and it was awesome!  We all sat around playing cards, laughing, and talking until we decided to go out.  All the boys were so great and they really know how to treat the dinner guests.  They served us our plates, made sure our drinks were always full, cleared the table, and refused to let us do the dishes.  (I think we should bring them all back with us).  That night we went out again and had a great time.  A bunch of USAC-ers were out at Shu and of course we showed Italy how we do it back in America!

On Friday we rose bright and early to go to the beach and the tarot garden.  Laying on the beach was amazing and I just wanted to stay all day.  We were only there for a couple hours so it was just a little tease, but this weekend I get to go back and it will be wonderful.  After the beach we went to the trot garden which was unlike anything I have ever seen before.  It is a garden full of concrete statues with mosaic tiles decorating them.  It is a little creepy at first, but once I got used to it, I realized the beauty of it.  You can read more about the history and see pictures of it here :

After returning from the tarot garden we had about 30 min to run home, shower, change, and get back to go to another little town and watch some members of our group perform at a wine tasting event.  They all did great and the wine tasting was so cool!  I was really tired so by the end of the night I was a little grouchy and just wanted to get home because I knew it would be an early morning the next day.

Saturday Kate and I got up and got ready to head to Rome with Emily, Cathryn, Nicolette, Rachel, and Josh.  I slept about the whole way there, and of course Kate took a great picture of me (what are roommates for right?)  When we got to Rome, Kate and I went to check into our hotel and just walked around before we had reservations to the Vatican.  Once we got to St. Peter's square we were in awe of everything.  It was amazing just to be standing there knowing how much history and how many important people had been there.  We went through the Vatican museum which was HUGE and had soo much stuff.  It was great, but there were way too many people and it was very crowded.  At the end of it, however, was the Sistine chapel and looking up at the ceiling was amazing.  It was almost as if the pictures were coming out of the ceiling.  I was a little surprised at how small it was, but the detail of all the artwork made up for it.  After the Sistine chapel we made our way over to St. Peter's Basilica and I was speechless.  It was by far the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my entire life.  I can't even begin to put in to words how majestic and amazing this place was.  I was almost in tears just because I couldn't imagine ever being lucky enough to stand there.  At this point my camera was broken and Kate's was dead so we didn't get pictures, but I will steal Emily's because I know she got some really good ones.  At 5:00 we were able to go to mass at the main altar which was one of the best experiences I've had here.  It is still amazing to me that people get to go to mass there every Sunday.  It was so surreal and I would recommend going any time you visit Italy.

After mass we went to eat at a little pizzeria where I had veal for the first time in Italy.  It was better than I expected it to be and I was really pleasantly surprised.  When we were done eating, Kate and I went back to our hostel to relax for a little while before going out.  At around 10:00 we started walking around Rome just to walk.  We didn't really have a destination, which was great because we totally got lost, but it was so worth it.  I fell in love with Rome that night.  We ended up at campo di fiore, which is a market by day and a "hangout" by night.  We got some wine at a little bar and sat down for a while just to relax and people watch.  After our wine, we started walking some more and ended up by the Trevi fountain.  I is so beautiful at night.  It is said if you throw one coin in you are assured a return trip to Rome, two coins leads to new romance, and three will ensure a marriage or divorce.  Of course I threw ONE in!  We got gelato and sat and watch the fountain for a while and decided to make our way back to the hostel.

On sunday morning we got up and headed to the Collosseum, Forum, and Palatine hill.  Out of all of those, I liked the collosseum the best.  It was amazing to walk through everything and see how big all the structures were and to imagine how they were able to build such amazing things with simple machinery. After spending most of the day walking we were all exhausted so we went to hang out at the main train station before going to eat.  We decided to eat at Hard Rock cafe and it was great because I really felt like I was back in America for a little while.  I had an awesome hamburger and it cured my homesickness for the time being.  It was nice to get that little taste of home while being half way around the world for so long.  When we were finished eating we met up with the rest of our group and went to an Opera..

The Opera itself was interesting, and I really enjoyed it, but I was so tired that all I wanted to do was shower and sleep.  It was a great experience and I'm really glad I went, but after that opera and then one we went to last night (Wednesday) I think I am all opera'ed out for a while.  It is cool to see because it's such a big part of the culture, but it's hard to stay focused when I have no idea whats going on.

We finally made it back to Viterbo around 2am and I showered and hit the bed for some much needed sleep.

This week has been pretty uneventful.  I had another test on Tuesday, which I think went pretty well, but hopefully I find out soon.  The weather here has been's been pretty rainy the past couple days, but that also means that it hasn't been too hot which is nice.  We are going to the beach this weekend and it's supposed to be sunny at 80s which will be PERFECT.  I feel sorry for all my Kansas people that are enduring 115 degree weather :(

While I love Italy, I am getting to the point where I am ready to come home.  I miss Straiter, normal showers, a big bed, and all my family.  I will definitely be sad when I have to leave the people that I spend every day with, but having Kate in Manhattan will sure help.  We are planning a trip to Vegas over Christmas break to see all our Vegas girls as well, so I'm definitely looking forward to that too!

Well I am off to eat some amazing pear pasta and go shopping with Kate!  I will update you again next week!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Pisa and Florence!

July 25th
            So I know it’s been forever since I have written which kinda stinks because trying to remember all the fun stories will be a little difficult…Let’s just start with Pisa and Florence.

Last weekend we decided to go to Pisa on Friday and Florence for the weekend.  On Friday morning Rachel, Alma, and I traveled to Pisa to see the leaning tower and the duomo.  As soon as we got there we walked through the arch and immediately saw the tower.  It was such a relaxing day but it was so much fun.  We got to take some sweet pictures, hang out on the grass (until we got kicked off) and walk around to all the little shops.  I did a lot of gift shopping that day as well!  After we were done with Pisa we caught a train to Florence and met up with Emily, Cathryn, Bridget, and Kate.  After that we just went to our hostel and went to bed because we were all very tired and just wanted to sleep.  On Saturday morning we got up and went down to the leather market.  It was absolutely AMAZING.  There were purses, coats, shoes, jewelry, and everything else you could imagine.  I ended up buying a really nice leather jacket and I can honestly say that for the first time in my life I’m excited for it to be cold so I can actually wear it.  Next to my cowboy boots this is now the most expensive item in my wardrobe, but it will be so worth it.  The guy who helped me was awesome too.  I tried on probably 10 different jackets and as soon as I put this one on, I knew I had to have it.  It fits perfectly and smells even more amazing!  After we completed our shopping we walked over to the Acadamia.  I was pretty excited for this because I really wanted to see the David.  I’m not a huge museum fan but this one was pretty awesome.  The David was so much bigger than I expected and I just stared in awe for a while.  It still amazes me how detailed and intricate it was.  Once we were finished with the acadamia, Alma, Rachel and I decided to go get some lunch.  This is where the real fun begins..

Let me preface this story by saying that the men in Italy are usually very forward.  They don’t hold back and they will go to extremes to get a girl’s attention.  And in Italy, blondes get a lot of attention…  (I really shouldn’t have dyed my hair before coming)  Anyway, our waiter came up to us and just started talking to us and making pretty normal conversation.  He asked where we were from, what we were doing, what we studied, all that good stuff.  Well after a while he really started to “step up his game”.  He brought in some leaves from a plant out front and handed us all these leaves, but then he decided that wasn’t good enough.  He took them to the back and sprayed them with his cologne so they would smell better I guess?  Haha I ‘m not really sure what his train of thought was about that whole situation.  So after he gave us the “flowers” and proceeded to flirt some more, Alma and I decided to order some cheesecake.  He brings out the cheesecake and told us that one berry was for him and the rest should be divided up between Rachel, Alma, and I.  Well after we got done eating our cheesecake he came over and saw the berry.  He then told me that he wanted me to “give him the berry with my mouth.”  That was the first time I was really taken aback by his comments, but I just brushed it off. After we finished eating we exchanged numbers with him because we wanted to know of a fun place to go out later that night.  I figured he might call, he might not, but I wasn’t going to wait around for it.
            Well we went back to the market and walked around for a while just shopping and goofing off when I get a phone call from an odd number.  Well guess who it is!  Kush (sorry I didn’t introduce him earlier) wanted to meet up with us at a local bar to get a drink…sooo it’s about 2:30 and the perfect time for a mid afternoon “snack” so why not?  We got to the bar, ordered drinks, and were just having a great time hanging out when Kush decides to tell me he wants to marry me and have me move to Florence.  Well it was all in good fun and I’m (almost) sure he was joking but it was still a little too much too soon!  After our drinks we walked around for a while and then decided to go back to our hostel.  We were able to relax and chill out for a while which was much needed!  Our hostel offered an all you could eat buffet for 8 euros, which seemed like a great idea at the time.  Trust me: it wasn’t.  The food was barely even edible.  When we were finished eating we took the bus back to the station and went to walk around the main square by the duomo.  We ended up meeting up with Kush and his cousin at the bar from earlier where we proceeded to go to a club on the top of a HUGE hill.  I swear in Italy if there’s something cool that needs to be seen, they put it at the top of a hill.   Anyway, once we got to the top we could see all the lights of Florence, and it was gorgeous!   Once we got into the club we got to our table and started the night off at 2am.  We got bottle service, which was AMAZING and just sat around talking and laughing about everything.  At one point I looked up and realized it was getting light out….well we had to get up and t go mass at 9 so I figured we should probably head back to the hostel.  Once we got back I got in a great two hours of sleep for the next day!
            On Sunday somehow we made it up in time for mass at the Duomo, which was really amazing.  I think it’s so cool how I can go to church half way around the world and still know what’s going on!  We toured another museum, ate some lunch, and walked around some more.  By that time we were all so exhausted and just wanted to get on the train to sleep!  We made it back to Viterbo and I think I went to be around 10:00 that night which is usually when I take a nap before getting up to go out…

I know I cut it short, but I’m tired of writing!  I will talk about Rome some other time.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Reasons why I like America

July 13th
            I took my first Italian test today.  I think it went pretty well, but I will find out in a few days I think.  I’m not entirely nervous about it, but I don’t want to completely fail this class.  It’s just really hard to have motivation to study while in Italy.  Other than that, not much has been happening.  We go out almost every night and then take naps every day.  I have made some really great friends and I hope I can keep in touch with everyone after we leave.  This weekend we are going to Pisa and Florence, which I’m SOOO excited for.  I really just can’t wait to shop and buy everyone presents!  I think I enjoy buying other people things more than I like shopping for myself..
            Some reasons why I like America:
1.  It is IMPOSSIBLE to find a place to eat here between the hours of 12 and 5.  If you don’t eat lunch before 12, then you’re SOL until at least after 5.  I swear Kate and I walked around for almost an hour the other day before we settled for little sandwiches at a Café.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in naps and I love having scheduled nap time, but do they really have to close for so long?  This girl’s gotta eat!  I suppose people have to take long naps because no one goes to bed here until 3 or 4 and the people don’t start going out until midnight.  It’s taking some getting used to, but the three hour naps during the day definitely help!
2.  I don’t have to dress up all the time: I’m a pretty casual girl and jeans and a tshirt are my usual wardrobe.  I think people get more dressed up than that for bed here.  The amount of work these people go through to get ready every day must be a lot.  I’m all for looking nice every now and then, but I usually go for comfort over beauty.  The heels here are crazy too!  I don’t know how the girls do it especially on these streets.  I see 70 year old women wearing 6 inch heels on the cobblestone streets.  These streets are terrible too..I mean I trip all the time and I wear flats and sandals every day.  I guess it’s how they were raised, but man I would have broken ankles every day if I tried that.  My goal is to buy an awesome pair of heels and attempt to wear them out once.  I want to wait until the end of the trip though so if I do happen to break my ankle at least I won’t miss out on stuff!
3.  Air conditioning: I miss A/C and I miss it a lot.  It’s not so bad at night but during the day it’s so hard to be home because of how hot it is, and of course we can’t go anywhere else because everything is closed (see above).  So we just usually sleep through the heat and hope we don’t wake up as nothing more than a big pile of sweat.  These last two days have probably been the worst.  It doesn’t even help to shower because you start sweating right after you get out anyway.  We have learned that it’s best to close the windows in the morning before we leave for class to try and keep the cool air in but it only stays cool for so long.

Other than those three things I can’t think of any reason why I don’t love this place!

Friday, July 8, 2011

1st week of classes

July 6th
            So not much has happened since I last wrote.  And by not much I mean nothing that can compare to Siena.  Classes have started and learning a new language is a little overwhelming.  I guess I just don’t have knack for it and it is very frustrating when I don’t understand everything right away.  I feel like a lot of it is going way over my head and I just can’t catch on very quickly.  Hopefully it stars getting better though!  Our teacher is awesome and there are only 5 people in our class so it’s easy to ask questions
            So on July 4th we celebrated by eating McDonalds for lunch and then a huge group of us went to get hot dogs for supper.  We went to a cool bar and ended up staying there all night.  I finally got to talk to my mom, which was awesome!
            Other than that not much else has been going on here.  We’re still trying to figure out plans for this weekend, so hopefully I can give you another fun story soon!

July 9th
            Well our first week of classes is officially over and I survived!  I feel like we’re learning so much in so little time and I have NO motivation to actually study.  I want to learn the language and be able to have a conversation, but it is very frustrating because it doesn’t just naturally come to me.  We are not able to go to Spain this weekend cause we couldn’t find any place to stay, but we are about to plan all our trips for the upcoming weekends.  We do get to get to go to Assisi and Perugia tomorrow for a field trip so that should be a good time.  There is a jazz festival going on there so I’m pretty excited for that.
            I am finally feeling a little at home in Viterbo.  Kate and I try to cook dinner a couple times a week and my cooking skills are improving!  I feel like Viterbo is an ancient Manhattan.  The town is small and everyone knows everyone and the bars remind me of Aggieville, which is awesome.  I feel like we can go walk through town and always meet up with people or meet new people, which is really cool.  One night when we went out to the bars I brought my Josh Abbott band coozie with me and that is my favorite coozie ever!  It goes everywhere with me (yes, even Italy).  Anyway, I was drinking a glass of wine and Daniel had a beer so I decided to let him borrow it for a while.  I kinda forgot he had it and about 30 minutes later I went outside to talk to everyone out there and  I noticed that he didn’t have it on his drink.  I asked him about it, and he ran into the bar faster than I have seen anyone run!  I swear he was gone for a while looking all over the place and asking people for it.  I started to feel bad for him and I had already forgiven him when he came out looking pretty dejected.  But then all of a sudden he reached into his pocket and said it had been in there the whole time!  I decided after that, I wasn’t gonna let anyone borrow it again!  I got that coozie for my birthday and it basically says everything about me.  I know it’s crazy how much I like it, but hey..I’m just unique!
            Today we went to a lake close to Viterbo and had a pretty relaxing day. We got to swim and lay out which was perfect.  It was so hot out and the water was so nice!  I have a feeling we will be going back there quite often.
So other than the lost coozie, there hasn’t been anything too tragic happen. I am getting faster at showering and I can ALMOST take an entire shower without having to turn the water off!  My goal by the end of the trip is to be able to do so.  I am getting used to a small bed and the trash trucks coming by at 6 every morning, so at least I’m starting to feel more at home.  I know these next four weeks are going to fly by and I’m trying to savor every moment I have here.  So far, it has been a great time and I am making some awesome friends!  I miss everyone back home, but I know you will all be there when I return.  This trip is making me want to explore all of Europe because I probably won’t leave Italy while I’m here.  I never realized how much there was to do just within Italy so I guess this means I just have to come back a lot!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Life is good.

June 30th
            Sorry I didn’t get a chance to upload pictures last night…we got invited to a party on the beach and that kinda trumps uploading pictures.  This party was down by the restaurant with the fake hamburgers but it was much better than those.  We drank wine (from plastic bottles), and some Italian beer,  which was good even though it wasn’t cold at all.  We met a lot of the natives and most of them couldn’t speak a whole lot of English so the conversation was pretty limited.  Nicolette and Kristin were able to help out a lot though because they speak a little.  Unfortunately we had to leave pretty early because we had to get up early this morning.  In Europe they really don’t start partying until around 12 so it was a bummer that we had to leave before they even really got started. 
            Today we woke up and went to the town of Amalfi.  Getting there was quite the experience.  Driving in Italy is insane and never in my life will I even attempt to do it.  We were driving along the side of a cliff in a huge bus and the road was so curvy that sometimes I couldn’t even look.  It is crazy how people weave in and out of traffic here.  I swear they don’t have any speed limits, stop signs, or traffic laws what so ever!  But we made it there alive (with just a few people motion sick).  Amalfi coast was gorgeous!  There were flowers and tress growing and hotels embedded into the side of the cliff that run about $1800 a night!  Amalfi used to be a very large town and then was partially destroyed by a tsunami so the population went from 50,000 to about 5,000. It is very touristy though so there are always a lot of people there.  The cathedral we toured was gorgeous and we were able to take pictures this time so that was pretty sweet.  I took a little time to pray and light a candle so I’m happy I got to do that. Today we decided that we really want to try and make Sunday mass and at least once we want to go to Sunday mass at the Vatican.  After church the Pope stands in a little window and blesses everyone…how cool would it be to get blessed by the Pope!!
            After we viewed the cathedral we went to lunch at a little local place that was really good.  We ordered the shrimp and gnocci, which wasn’t shrimp but cray fish.  It tasted ok, but it had a REALLY potent sea food taste so we didn’t eat too much of it.  The pizza, however, was good as usual.  In Italy, the meals are served in four courses, antipasta (appetizer), first course (usually pasta), (main course, usually meat), then dessert.  So a few people can usually  split one full meal.
            After lunch we were able to just walk around on our own a little.  My group decided to go sit down under some shade because we are so exhausted from the last few days.  It has been so fun and amazing, but it’s really starting to catch up with me.  I love touring all the towns, but I’m excited to have a normal schedule on weekdays and be able to travel on weekends.  I’m mostly excited to be able to unpack and not live out of a suitcase!  

July 1st
            Today we went to Caserta where we toured the Palace and the Baroque gardens.  The palace was cool and I was able to take a lot of pictures but I’m sure I didn’t capture the beauty of it.  After the palace we were free to each lunch and do go the the top.  We found a little spot to eat our lunch and saw some stray dogs.  Of course I started to miss Straiter haha.  We walked part of the way up the top and stopped at this little fish pond to take pictures and hang out until we had to leave.  We took the bus back to the airport to drop off some people and pick up two others and then another 2 hour bus ride to Viterbo.  I found out that Kate and I are going to be living together in our apartment so I'm pretty excited for that!        
   We moved into our apartment, which is decent I guess.  The bed isn’t the best and I miss my queen size memory foam mattress! As I was unpacking it really hit me that this is where I’m going to be for five weeks.  While I am so excited and so happy for this opportunity I got really home sick.  I miss having my friends around, I miss talking to my family, and I miss sleeping with Straiter.  This is the longest I have gone without sleeping with it’s really weird to me.  I almost liked sharing the hotel rooms because I wasn’t lonely.  I got my pictures out and put them by my bed, which made things even worse but I hope after I get my phone I am able to hear some familiar voices.  Even though I have gone longer without seeing my family before it’s weird knowing how far away I am and not being able to talk to them and share this experience.
    I am so happy for the opportunity and I know I will have a blast, but it just hit me that I really am half way across the world from everything I have ever known.  I'm sure once I start traveling and experiencing everything I will still miss my family but I will know that this is a great opportunity and I'm so lucky to be able to do this.  My family helped me to get here so I want to do everything I can to come back with a lot of pictures, stories, and feeling completely happy!

July 3rd
            Best. Night. Ever.  On Saturday morning we had a short orientation where we talked about some technical stuff that was pretty boring.  Then we went to get phones, so I finally have an Italian cell phone!  If you want to call me…don’t.  (except for my parents of course)  It’s really expensive for you (free incoming for me) and I really don’t want to talk to a lot of people while I’m over here anyway.  After getting our phones, on a whim I decided to go to Siena with Nicolette.  I had been feeling kind of homesick so I wanted to do something to get my mind off everything.  Siena was having their biannual festival, Il Palio.  This is a huge horse race and festival  that has been going on for ages- each neighborhood is represented and I guess it is huge deal. ( read that!  We had no place to stay because of the festival so we decided to just stay up all night and catch the first train home in the morning (or so we thought…)
            So anyway we headed to Porta Roma around 1:00 where they told us that on Saturdays they only have trains to Rome.  So we briskly walked to Porta Fiorentina.  Once we got there Nicolete talked tried to talk to a guy who spoke no English…she did great in Italian but I think they only understood about half of what each other was saying and I understood zilch.  This guy basically shoved us on to a bus (I’m still not sure to where) and we rode next to a very sweet girl (also no english) who agreed to help us.  We got off the bus at a little Podunk train station where I swear we were the only ones there.  The sweet girl talked to the guy at the ticket booth and together they figured out a way we could get to Siena (because of course we just missed the correct train.)  So we waited  on this little bench for our train to come when all of a sudden it starts pouring rain.  We took cover under a little shelter where we waited for a few hours and our train finally arrived!  We had to switch trains a couple of times but we got there pretty smoothly.  The race stared at 7:45 and we got into Siena about 6:45.  We met a couple (and their 4 kids) from New York who spoke some Italian so together we found our way to the bus station and got close to the track.  We ran around for about 30 minutes frantically asking people if there was somewhere we could go to watch the actual race but we just missed the gate closing and we couldn’t find anywhere to go up high to watch it.  We ended up cramming in this very tiny, very hot, café where we made it just in time to watch the 90 second race.  The neighborhood we were in was not the winning one and I have never seen so many people cry like that.  There were people punching walls, sobbing on the street, stomping their feet, and saying words in Italian that even if I did know what they meant I probably wouldn’t repeat them.  It was insane the amount of people this race affected.  It was nothing like an American horse race.  The jockeys are pretty big guys in baggy clothes that ride bareback. The horses just kind of line up and start..and then they proceeded to ram into each other.  The race ended with two horses without jockeys.  I guess on Friday during practice one horse broke his leg and had to be put down it gets pretty intense.
            After the race, food, and wine, we walked around and found the “green people” who had won and were very happy.  There was a parade of people in the streets beating on drums and waving flags so we decided to join in and be happy with them.  We decided to stop in at this little Gelato place so I could use the restroom when I met a girl named Ashley from Seattle.  She was in line for the bathroom with me and we hit it off and started talking about traveling (she was traveling alone.)   I invited her to walk around with us so we started walking.  We ended up at this really cool bar and meeting a TON of people including Australians, Italians, Americans, and Irish.  We had a really great time and before we knew it, it was 3:30 and the bars were closing (but the drums and flags were still going).  Since Ashley had a hotel room and the first train didn’t leave unil 6:00 we decided to go hang out in her hotel room until we had to walk to the train station.  She's awesome!
            So 5 am rolls around and Nicolette and I start walking after a quick 20 min power nap.  We made it to the train station and got what we thought would be a very quick ticket to Viterbo and were on our way.  We arrived at our first stop and got off thinking we had a while to buy our tickets..we were wrong.  Apparently we missed our train while we were eating breakfast and the next train to Viterbo didn’t leave to 6pm. This was at 7:30 am.  We were not about to stay in the station all day after being awake all night.  So we found a train to Orte (that left at 9:30) which is a stop about 30 min from Viterbo and decided to go there hoping that there would be a train or a bus running on Sundays.  Once we got to Orte we met a very nice man who walked us to the bus stop (thank god!).  We finally made it back and I proceeded to shower and sleep for a couple hours.
            Kate got back to the apartment and we decided to go grocery shopping.  Well the store inside Viterbo wasn’t open because nothing is open on Sundays so we headed outside the city walls to Ipercoop which is a big mall with a walmart type store inside.  All I have to say is thank God Josh and Daniel were with us.  We didn’t realize how much stuff we bought until we started walking in the 90 degree weather back home.  We had our backpacks full plus 2 other bags each and Josh and Daniel really helped us out by carrying some of our other stuff.  Half way there a bag that Josh was carrying broke so he ended up walking shirtless through the town and using his shirt as a bag.  Well then Daniels bag broke and I remembered we had bought trash bags.  We put a few things into the trash bags and continued our hike. Finally getting home we were seating and gross, but happy to be there!  We cleaned our kitchen, did dishes, and (unsuccessfully) tried to unclog our shower.
            I’d say overall it has been an awesome weekend!  Nicolette and I decided to be travel buddies and are looking into going to Spain next weekend for the Running of the Bulls so be ready for that update!  We start class tomorrow which means the “vacation” part of this is over and I actually have to start doing homework.  Oh well I guess it will all be worth it in the end!

I'm sorry for the long update, but the internet and my computer have not been cooperating lately!  Miss you and love you all!

ps..I'm not proof reading this because I'm tired (and I really don't care) so again sorry for typos!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Capri, Gelato, and small hotel rooms!

            Today we went to the gorgeous island of Capri.  I don’t think I have ever seen such beautiful views.  We took waayy too many pictures with Julie’s camera that I will be stealing and uploading.  We took a ferry from Serrento to Capri and the first thing we did over there was swim in the Mediterranean.  It was so hot already and swimming was the perfect way to start the day!  The beaches weren’t sandy at all, but they were perfect.  We found some cool rocks to hang out on and dry because none of us were smart enough to bring towels of course.
            After swimming we decided to walk around a little and see what the island was all about.  Capri is a very rich so all the shops were pretty expensive and they had all the designer “high end” shops.  We found the most AMAZING gelato after walking for a while..I had the strawberry and chocolate.  We decided we wanted to go to the top of the world so it took a while to figure out how to get there but we made it on our own!  The top of the world is a chair lift to the very top of the island and I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing the view was.  I will upload pictures but I know I won’t do it justice.  It literally took my breath away and I found myself just staring so much because it was so beautiful.  We got a glass of wine and sat at the little bar and just took everything in.  On our way back we decided that we were very hungry and Jackie and I were really craving hamburgers.  We found a little café right when we got off the ferry in Serrento and decided to order some hamburgers.  Well when they came out these hamburgers were sausage patties on tortillas…yeah I’m not sure either.  It didn’t really taste all that bad but we were pretty disappointed because we wanted a real American hamburger.  Oh well..I guess that’s what we get in Italy.  After coming back from Capri I crashed and took a two-hour nap, which helped so much.  I am ready to go tonight!  We got invited to a wine bar with a live of course we are going to hit that up!  I bought my first bottle of Italtian wine and I decided that I’m going to bring that one home and drink it in America.  I’m sure I will be bringing back numerous bottles, so everyone will get a little taste :)

            After eating gelato every night since I’ve been here I decided to talk about it a little.  Everyone knows how much in enjoy ice cream (and chocolate) and if you don’t then obviously you don’t know me very well.  Well gelato is made a little different from ice cream- from whole milk, sugar, fruit, or different flavoring; and most of all, it’s amazing.  I don’t know if ice cream will ever taste as good as REAL gelato.  Now there is real gelato and then there is what we like to call “push pop gelato” which is still decent, but just not the same.  Push pop gelato comes in little tubes that look like pushpops (shocking right.)  They put it into a little machine and push it out into a cone.  It looks really cool but it just doesn’t taste the same as the real stuff.  Last night we went to a little store that had home made gelato and I got the coffee and chocolate.  It might have been the best thing I have ever tasted.  Anyway..all this talk about gelato is making me crave some, so I either need to stop talking about it or leave to get some..but I have more to write so I think I will just get some in a little while!

Onto hotel rooms-  Hotel rooms in Italy are TINY. When you walk in you have two beds that are bunked and then two twin beds that are pushed together.  I have one of the beds that pushed together.  There is enough extra room to store our luggage and to walk through to the door, but if someone happens to be opening their luggage, bending over, getting dressed, might as well just wait.  There is about 2 extra feet of walking room between our beds and the door.  We do however have a pretty sweet balcony!  The bathroom is pretty decent, but the showers are small.  This one I am at least able to wash my hair in, but shaving my legs was quite the production.  I guess that’s about the best visual I can give about hotel rooms.  I might take a picture and upload just to let everyone see how packed in there we are.  I am so excited to move into our apartment and not be living out of a suitcase!
            I think that’s about it for this evening!  I’m going to upload some pictures to facebook!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Napoli, Pompei, Vesuvius

June 27, 2011
            We started out the day with a 4 hour bus trip to Napoli, which wasn’t too bad because I slept most of the way (not surprising to anyone).  As we pulled in to Naploli, it was pretty overwhelming.  All I saw was trash, trash, cars, trash, big buildings, and trash.  The town itself is very old and pretty run down.  The people in Naploli are very intense and didn’t seem to like the fact that a bunch of Americans were walking through their town.  The thing that surprised me the most was the driving. They really don’t have lanes or any sort of passing rules.  Motorcycles pass cars so close to the point where I am just waiting for an accident and people drive incredible fast.  Crossing the street is a little scary but we learned “always look your enemy (the driver) in the eye and NEVER run.” 
            Once we got to Naples we walked around a little on our own.  Jackie, Molly, and I went down to see the coast, where there were a lot of guys in speedos sun bathing which was just kind of strange.  We met up with the group for lunch and had a Maghretia with mozzarella di bufala.  Which is cheese from buffalo milk..and let me tell you, it was awesome (totally beats pizza shuttle at 2am).  After lunch we met up with Alesondro, our tour guide, and started walking around with him.  We went to a couple outdoor galleries which were beautiful and had so much history.  Too bad I couldn’t understand/hear him so I didn’t catch most of the stories.  It was a little frustrating because I found it all really interesting, and I really wanted to learn about it but I couldn’t quite catch what he was saying.  After walking around outside we drove around Napoli in the bus, where I immediately fell asleep, and then proceeded to go to the Archological museum.  There was a lot of cool artifacts and sculptures that was really awesome to see, but other than that I didn’t find it all that interesting.  The tour was very long and way too detailed for me to understand anyone.  He was very knowledgeable and passionate, but I just don’t share that same passion for art so I didn’t find it as interesting.
            We walked through Napoli and went into one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen in my life.  It was absolutely breath taking.  We were only able to be in there for a few minutes because the bus was waiting, and we weren’t able to take pictures, but I really wish we could have spent more time in there.  I love old churches like that because they never fail to take my breath away.  It amazing me that they are so old yet so detailed and filled with so much art.  The columns and murals on the walls were immaculate and I always wonder how they achieved that without the technology that we have today.
            After leave Napoli we headed to Serrento  where we will be staying for the next four days.  We checked into the hotel and went down to supper right away.  After supper a few girls and I walked around the town to find some good Italian wine and gelato.  While we didn’t end up getting wine we found Jenny’s bar where we got some cocktails and sat outside drinking those.  We walked a little bit more to get some gilato and then made our way back to the holtel.  I’d have to say my favorite part of the day was figuring out we could go out to the roof of our hotel and it has an AWESOME view of the Mediterranean sea.  We decied that tomorrow we are going to get bottles of wine and watch the sun go down over the sea on the roof…and I’m excited.

Ciao for now!

June 28th
  Today was a much better day than yesterday.  We got to sleep in until 7:30 and left our hotel around 8:30.  The first thing we did was visit the excavation site of Pompei.  Pompei is an ancient city that was discovered from excavation after being covered by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.  The coolest part of the whole experience was standing in the theatre and being able to hear the acoustics from the "perfect spot".  I'm just amazed at their ability to figure all that out so long ago.  We saw ancient restaraunts, bath houses, laundry sites, spas, and of course a lupanare which is just a fancy word for a whore house. I thought that was really interesting.  As you walk in you see pictures on the wall and you "pick your woman".  There wasn't a universal language spoken so most men just pointed at the picture of the woman they wanted.  There were little stone beds in each room where you can imagine what went on in there...Deep, intellectual conversation of course!  Anyone we walked around Pompei some more and the most bizarre thing was the amount of stray dogs there. I guess people just drop off dogs because they will be taken care of.  None of them looked like they were going hungry which was comforting, but you know me..of course I wanted to take them all in!

After visiting Pompei we were able to hike Mt Vesuvius.  It was a little scary to drive up there because we were driving up the side of a mountain in a huge bus...and European roads are much narrower than American roads.  We had to honk every time we were about to turn a corner so we wouldn't hit cars oncoming traffic.  At one point our bus met another bus coming down and we had to back up around a huge curve so the other bus could get by.  Let's just say my mom wouldn't have been able to handle it!  But I figured that if we ended up falling to a terrible death, at least I would die happy!  Once we FINALLY got up there we were able to start walking.  There were a lot of cool little shops along the way and of course I had to buy gifts for a few people.  I don't want to buy everyone gifts from the same place so I have to try and spread it out a little..but who knows!  The hike wasn't a long as we thought it would be, but the view was AMAZING.  We could see the Mediterranean, Napoli, Serrento, and I'm sure a few other towns that I'm not sure of.  We took so many pictures that I will update soon but it was hard to tear myself away.  There was an awesome breeze so it wasn't too hot, and I just wanted to stay there forever!  Buuuut I guess we had to leave at some point :(

Tomorrow is a free day and we get to do whatever we want so I think most of us are going to the island of Capri and hanging out there most of the day to tour, lay out, and swim!

We found a really cool internet cafe with some amazing wine so I have a feeling I will be spending the next three nights here!  So far the trip has been more than I imagined and I have a feeling 5 more weeks is going to FLY by.  I miss my family and of course my dog, but hopefully pictures and messages will keep me from missing them too much.  Well we are going to get some more gelato and walk around for a little while.  I will update everyone later!


ps.  Sorry for any computer is about to die and I didn't have a lot of time to proof read..oops :)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A little overwhelmed...

Ciao everyone!

First of all, I want to apologize in advance for any typos and anything that is hard to understand.  I am exhausted but completely and utterly happy :)

The last couple days:

On Thursday I headed back to good ole Hays, America where I dropped off my dog :(  and my car.  Friday we packed our vehicle up to head to KC for ONE night.  I emphasize the ONE because I want you to be aware at how much we had packed for this trip.  I know that a 4 year old and a 2 year old require a lot of stuff..but man we had a lot of stuff.  The luggage rack on the top was full, and Ashlyn was buried somewhere in the back between the 2 coolers, 2 bags full of food, and multiple duffle bags per person.  I'm pretty sure I packed less for 6 weeks than they packed for one night.  Now I told you that story because later on I realized that I overpack too... Anyway, we got to Great Wolf Lodge and spend all day swimming and going down the slides.  It was so fun to see Kaleb get so excited over EVERYTHINg.  I mean that kid couldn't contain his excitement.  He was jumping, and running, and was a lot of fun to watch.   I am so happy that I got to spend the last day with my family.

Saturday we got up and headed to the airport. My flight out of KC left at 1:15 and there were no problems there.  However as soon as we took off for Chicago, a baby decided it wanted to scream the entire way..not just cry...scream.  I felt so bad for the little guy and for the parents.  They were so apologetic to everyone on the flight and seemed really upset by everything.  My plane landed in Chicago and I made my way to my next flight to Rome.

My flight to Rome was scheduled to depart at 5:05 PM.  We boarded the plane around 4:45 and everything seemed to be going smoothly.  Then we sat..and sat...and sat...and sat..and sat some more.  Turns out there was a problem with one of the engines (comforting right?)  We sat there for about 2 hours before we were finally cleared for take-off.  At this point I was started to get nervous because I was supposed to meet Kate in Rome at 9:15 to take the train to Viterbo...needless to say I didn't get there at 9:15.  So we finally take off and I start to get settled in...Let me set the scene here..  The seats in my flight were set up like so:  AB (isle) CFG (isle) idea where D and E went but whatever.  I was in seat G sitting next to a couple in C and F.  They might as well just shared a seat by how close they were sitting to each other.  I'm all for being in love and being happy and showing a little affection every now and then, but this couple acted like high schoolers in the back of a car...sick.  I heard them kissing every couple minutes and at one point she was almost sitting on his lap.  I almost turned and asked them if they were aware that children were on the plane because it was not G rated.  So as I'm trying to drown out the "smooching sounds" of said PDA couple the child in seat H is asking her mom (who is in the isle behind her) a question every 5 seconds and if the mom wouldn't answer right away she would keep asking.  Who knows..maybe she was just trying to keep from watching PDA couple too, but man she had some off the wall questions.  At this point I turned on my ipod and thanked God for headphones and country music (however there were times when I could hear the kissing over my music).  Needless to say, it was a very long 9 hour flight....

So I finally get to Rome airport (which is not in Rome btw) and I find Kate (thank God!).  We ended up meeting a few other girls from our group and decided to wait and take the group transportation with them.  So we sat..and sat..and sat some more until the group flight arrived.  By the time we got on the bus to get to our hotel it was 5:30 (maybe?) pm in Rome which means 10:30 am in Kansas.  At this point I had only slept a couple hours on the plane and it was not a very good sleep.  My back hurt, my head hurt, but I was so happy to be here.  We walked a couple blocks to our bus with all of our luggage..which by the way I think I win for most luggage in the group (and we all know who I get my overpacking gene from)  We took a two hour bus ride to the hotel which I slept all but maybe 5 minutes of and finally arrived in Viterbo.

We got checked in and I was able to take a shower- which was AMAZING!  This shower might be the smallest shower I have ever stood in.  I couldn't even wash my hair without my elbows hitting the doors..needless to say my legs didn't get shaved today.

After showering we walked through town and went to a Pizzeria where we ate pizza topped with french fries and hot dogs (and yeah they did that just to mock us)..but it was fun.  We got to see part of the town which I think is really neat.  It is a really small, old town and all the building are old, but it has so much history and culture that will be so cool to learn about.  I didn't want to take any pictures tonight because I just wanted to take everything in.  I want to have time to take good pictures of all the cool fountains and of course the view of the Palace (which is BEAUTIFUL).  Tomorrow we head to Napoli (Naples) which has the "only" pizza in the world..I mean I'm sure it doesn't compare to pizza shuttle at 2am, but I will at least give it a shot.  We start our south of Italy field tour which lasts 5 days and we get to travel and see a lot.  I can't wait to get started traveling and exploring everything.  We decided tonight that we are just going to be tired for the next 6 weeks so after we get some real sleep tonight we are going non-stop for 6 weeks and I can't wait!  I know it will go by fast and I don't want to waste any time.  So on that note..I'm signing off!

Sorry for the novel..I guess I just had a lot to write about..and it's only the first day!!  I'm off to finally get some real sleep, even though it's only 4:30 in is definitely bed time here!

Buona notte! (goodnight!)

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Instead of packing and cleaning and doing the million things that I still have left to do, I'm reading and blogging...oh well

So I've said goodbye to everyone in Manhattan, and that was the easy part.  Sure, I was sad that I won't see my friends for six weeks and I know I'll miss out on some great times in Aggieville...buuttt I'll take Italy over Aggieville- at least for a while.  The hardest goodbye will come tomorrow at 8am.

I know it's corny and people make fun of me for it a lot, but my dog is the closest thing to a child that I will have for a long time.  I haven't spent more than 4 days away from her since January 7th, and I thought that was difficult.  Every day I had to call and ask how she was doing.  She is there all the time.  I have had to worry about her for the last 6 months and to give her up for 6 weeks is going to be painful.  My biggest fear is that she won't remember me when I get back.  It makes me sad that she will be so much bigger and almost out of puppy stage.

I made the mistake of reading Marley and Me again. It's bad enough to read it at all, then add actually having a dog and on top of that having to leave her.  I've already cried while reading and it hasn't even got to the sad part yet...I probably shouldn't finish this one on the plane ride.  I don't want to be that crazy lady that no one wants to sit next to, so I'm trying to finish it before I leave...I have no doubt in my mind that I will.

Don't worry once I dry the tears from my eyes I will post again after I say goodbye to Straiter and before I leave the country..that one should be interesting.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How I got to where I'm going.

So I have never blogged before and I'm a little nervous.  I don't really know what all to write or how to write it but I'm sure I'll figure it out eventually...

First of all, I want to explain the title of my blog.  It is the title of one of my favorite songs by Lady Antebellum ironically called "I was here".  If you have never heard it, then I suggest you go listen to it.  Here- I will even post a link for easy listening (if I can figure out how)
Hey I got it!

Second of all: Why I'm creating a blog.
-During the summer of 2010 I started thinking about how I wanted to study abroad.  I figured this is my one chance to go away for 6 weeks and not have to worry about school, a job, a family that I have to take care of, etc.  This would be the once chance in my life to pack up for 6 weeks and leave everything behind without a second glance.  When I first started thinking about going somewhere I originally thought about going to Ireland or Germany.  Ireland, because I have always seen pictures and heard stories about how beautiful it is and of course because they speak a language I actually understand.  Germany, because I wanted to know more about my heritage and the spend time getting to know where my family came from.  The more I thought about it however, the more I realized that these places were too "safe" for me.  This whole experience is about me going somewhere, by myself, completely out of my comfort zone- somewhere I don't know anything about, anyone there, hell- I don't even know how to say "hello" in Italian (ok that might be a very slight exaggeration).  So I picked Italy solely on the fact that I like Italian food (and the men aren't bad), and I've heard the culture is completely different than here in the United States.

I have gone through a lot of changes this past year and I wanted something to embrace those changes rather than set me back to where I was.  I have never really been an independent person.  I don't like doing things by myself, and I usually have someone right by my side.  I seriously can't even go jean shopping alone!  After this past year, I decided I wanted to change that.  I want to be comfortable alone and in my own skin.  I want to worry about making myself happy and not caring what other people think of that.  I want to do things for me and because of me.  So I'm going half way across the world by myself knowing no one that I will be spending six weeks with.

I am leaving the United States on June 25th and I will return on August 6th.  I have never been outside of the United States, nor have I ever traveled alone- so this will be quite the experience.  Do I have any idea where to go when I get there? Nope.  Do I know what to do, how to act, what to wear?  Not a damn clue.  But I'm gonna go over there with an open mind, and a new outlook on life and hope to have the best experience of my life.

Well here goes nothing...