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!

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