Sunday, December 13, 2009


Home at last! It's wonderful to be back. I got a solid 12 hours of sleep last night. When I woke up, I was confused about where I was and my first thought was "Where do I need to be today and how am I going to get there?" It was a relief to realize the answers were "church" and "drive."

I played bass this morning, which normally wouldn't have been a problem, but it was the kids Christmas program today so there was an unusual amount of activity and preparation before the service. Instead of having 45 minutes to practice, we only had about 10. I wasn't feeling very confident about the songs, so I just turned down the volume on my amp and figured the kids would be cute enough to distract everyone, and nobody would care very much about the bass.

Oh, I wanted to share a couple of pictures from London. It ended up being a really fun night! Reed was an excellent tour guide. I got to ride in the top of a double-decker bus (what?! no driver on the top?), see some famous works of art in the London National Museum, which is free and open to the public (and fortunately, open late), ride the tube plenty, see Big Ben, and walk and walk and walk. Part of the walking was due to Reed's quest to find a particular pub he wanted to visit. It was a little tricky to find, but in the end we made it and I got to experience some rowdy British nightlife.

I was amazed by the number of people. You can kind of tell by the photo above how packed the sidewalks were. Part of it may have been the season and partly that it was a Friday night, but there was a non-stop, heavy stream of people everywhere we went. And walking so fast! It was like Rome on speed.

One thing about the abrupt cultural change made me laugh. I had gotten used to the Italian way of never forming any lines, just pushing ahead until you get to the counter or ticket booth or whatever it is you need. When I got to the hotel from the airport shuttle bus, I waited at the front desk and suddenly realized there was nobody around me. Confused, I turned around to see where everyone had gone, and lo and behold they were lined up behind me! I've got a picture to prove it.

I suppose this is my last post. Thank you all for joining me on my travels! Ciao!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

London, eh?

Ahh, the adventures of travel. I was so pleased this morning to make the train on time that runs from downtown Milan to the airport. The flight boarded on time, and everything seemed to be fine, but once we were on the plane, things changed . . .

Fog in London was causing delays, and they estimated we had 2 hours to wait before taking off. Three-and-a-half hours later, we finally left, but arrived too late for me to make my connecting flight to Denver. After that I stood in the customer service line for 2 hours waiting to see what they could do. Fortunately, there was a man from Denver in front of me in line who was pleasant to talk to and let me use his phone to call BA just in case something opened up more quickly that way. The best part, though, was when I heard my name and turned around and saw Reed! I was sure he had made the flight and was comfortably on his way home, but it turns out his flight from Glasgow had mechanical problems, so he missed it too. So good to see a familiar face, because I've about had it with traveling alone and navigating new transportation systems every day. BA put us on the same flight back tomorrow that leaves at 12:30pm and arrives at 3:30pm.

Now we're at a hotel near the airport. Since Reed is familiar with London, the plan is to go downtown and see some of the sights. He looks pretty tired, though, so I'll see if he's still up for it.

Wish I were home, but glad I'm not alone!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ciao, Italia!

One last entry (at least from Italy). This one is from the lobby computer of a hotel that is not the one I booked. The room I booked for 3 nights turned out to only be available for 2, and they didn't have any more space so they sent me to another hotel. This one is even nicer, though, so I'm not complaining.

I visited Bocconi University today, which is a presitigous business school here in Milan. I thought it might be a little intimidating, but the people were very friendly. Our official meeting was in a room that was totally white with a long glass table and tile floors. Very cold, unfeeling, and business-like. I had coffee afterwards with 3 DU students. It turns out to be a good thing I chatted with them, as I was able to disabuse them of the notion that their grades from Bocconi will come back to DU as pass/fail. Darren in particular looked a little nervous upon hearing the news and kept asking clarifying questions. Since they are directly enrolled in an Italian school, the assessment is very different from the U.S. version. Their entire grade is based upon one final exam. I think Darren will be studying a little harder for the rest of the semester!

Early flight and long travel day coming up. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


I do not think that what some people do counts as travel. When you take a taxi everywhere, stay at nice hotels where everyone speaks English, eat out at restaurants where everyone speaks English, and in general use money as a buffer between you and the rest of the world, can you really say you've experienced a place? Haven't you just shifted the geographic location of your bubble? A change in scenery does not constitute a change in experience.


I got to experience two thrilling events today.

One was seeing The Last Supper. In person. Incredible. The other was riding on the back of a scooter through the streets of Milan. Don't worry, Mom, I was wearing a helmet. And the driver was Roberto, the IES Milan Director, and it's really not good for business to kill off any study abroad advisors - especially when their university sends the most students.

This is a picture of the central train station in Milan, where I arrived. I liked the artwork and the colors, and have found it to be indicative of the city as a whole. They use a lot of bright colors in the public decorations, and it all feels very modern and vibrant.

Tomorrow is my last full day in Italy, and then Friday morning I have an early flight from Milan to London, and then London to Denver. My appointment with Bocconi University is at 11:30, so I'm planning to use the morning to visit the Duomo. You can climb all the way to the top and get a view of the whole city, and even the Alps. It's the largest Gothic cathedral in the world - twice as big as Notre Dame (take that, Paris). Best of all (and I mean this in all travel-weary seriousness) it's close to my hotel so I can make it there without getting lost. Of course I got lost walking to the IES center this morning. If Milan is a grid, the Pope's not Catholic.

Love you all and look forward to being back home! I also look forward to seeing these furry beauties, who tried their best to get packed along with my suitcase.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I had to remind myself today of the very thing I wrote about yesterday - discomfort is ok, it can lead to good things. The pep talk happened during the 2 hour and 15-minute train ride from Florence to Milan, during which I was standing the whole time. Apparently, when it comes to Eurostar, the trains are nice (not to mention expensive) and they go really fast, but they do not hesitate to overbook. And since today is a holiday, a lot of people were traveling home after having a long weekend away. I had a good conversation with a student from Naples, though - she made the second half of the trip go much faster. Can you believe how fast I've picked up Italian? Haha. Just kidding - she, of course, spoke English.

The director of the IES program took me to dinner tonight. It's a good thing I don't have the opportunity to live like this very often, or I would be a whale. The owner/chef was a character. He helped translate the menu for me, and when something was "multo bene," he'd say "yummy yummy" and laugh.

Milan is breathtaking. Although I'm not visiting during a typical tourist season, one advantage is seeing all of the Christmas lights out. Roberto, the IES Director, gave me a little walking tour of the downtown area after dinner. He has lived in Milan his whole life, so he knows it all. This is the first ever mall in the world. It's actually what gave inspiration to American malls - the idea of having a clustered, protected shopping area.

There is a McDonald's in this shopping mall directly across from Prada and Louis Vitton. Roberto explained that the condition under which McDonald's was allowed to have a store was by ditching their usual logo and adhering to the color scheme that is Milan's - gold and black. The result? You decide. I should check to see if they have a 1Euro menu.

One interesting thing about my visit to Florence. I told you that today was a holiday, but what I didn't realize was that it's equivalent to our Black Friday, except no major sales, everything is still super expensive. The streets and stores were jammed.

And one final, random generalization before I go to bed: Europeans spoil their kids even more than Americans do. They wait even longer to have them - most Europeans today don't even think about getting married until they're in their 30's - and they usually only have one. There are some darling, petted, beloved little children being pushed around the streets of Florence.

Hmmm . . . just had a thought. Maybe I'm just bitter because of the kid who actually had a seat on that train from Florence but never sat in it.

Monday, December 7, 2009


It's been a full day, but a good one, and I only got lost once.

The highlight was having dinner with the director of the Accademia Italiana here in Florence. They also have a branch campus in Rome, where DU has two students, so I had lunch with her last week. Seeing her again tonight felt kind of like seeing an old friend, I've met so many people in the meantime. She is American, married to an Italian, and has lived in Italy for 25 years. She took me to an amazing restaurant where I had the best meal I have yet had on this trip, and that is saying a lot. First, a caprese salad (Jaime, the best I've ever had - I wish I could have sent you a bite. It was heavenly). Main course was pumpkin ravioli, followed up by cheesecake, followed up by coffee, followed up by limoncello, a lemon-ey digestivo. Yum!

Now for some gross generalizations about Italians:

1) They walk slowly. They are in no hurry to make their way down the tiny, narrow sidewalks that line the crooked streets. Their energy is vested in conversation and gesticulations, not walking.

2) Energy is assumed to be off until you turn it on. In other words, lights automatically go off after a certain point unless you turn them on. The hair dryers only work if you hold down a button; otherwise, they turn off. The showers are made so you can easily turn the water off and on so you're not wasting it when you don't need it.

3) Men seem to think that staring and making kissy noises are effective means of getting a girl's attention.

4) They enjoy life, but "la dolce vita" is a myth. They study hard and work hard.

5) They are protective about their food because it is the best. Do not argue with them about this.

I'm looking forward to seeing Milan. Now that I've had a taste of other parts of the country, I am understanding that Milan is not considered by some to be even part of Italy. It is Austrian, for all intents and purposes. The industrial North, the "innovators," the Milanese. Part of me dreads going back to a large city because they are harder to navigate, but I learned tonight that the streets in Milan are straight and laid out in a grid. Yet another reason why it's not Italian.

Earlier, I wrote about comfort. Now I have a new perspective on discomfort. Every day so far on this trip I have experienced discomfort in one way or another. Some days it has been the pressure of finding a new location on time and meeting with people who may or may not be the kind of people that put you at ease. Or it's been hunger and searching for food, not really knowing what to look for or expect, or how to order it properly. Every day, though, I've had unexpected comforts; wonderful moments of connecting with someone I met only a few minutes before and hadn't expected to find anything in common, or the adorable dog I got to pet today when I visited an Italian host family. It's been a good reminder that the risk of being vulnerable is worth it, and the danger to being always comfortable is never experiencing anything new.

(By the way, as a side note, I have a theory that the reason so many more girls study abroad than guys is because women are more accepting of/accustomed to/expected to be vulnerable, making them more open to new experiences.)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Christmas Market!

Look what I stumbled upon today. A German Christmas Market! I love these. They used to have a big one in Chicago, and last time I was in Europe they were all over. They're not as popular in Italy, but Florence has a pretty big one. Dante was watching the whole event with a disapproving look.

For some reason the Uffizi Gallery put me in a bad mood. Maybe I was already grumpy when I went, but I definitely was upon leaving. I’m just not big on crowds and disorganization, and this place had plenty. I rented an audio guide, and the guy had a smug way of way of saying “if you’re in the right room, you will see . . .” Jerk. How am I supposed to know if I’m in the right room when nothing is marked?! What, should the painting of the Madonna tip me off, because those are pretty much everywhere!

Sorry, had to vent a bit. And this is a stereotype, but it’s holding true. Asian tourists are quite pushy. I was cut off more than once by one of them, and the only time I saw one of the Gallery guard people get excited and yell was when an Asian girl started to pull food from her bag and eat it. Right in front of Botticelli.

The Christmas Market cheered me up, though, and so did a little shopping. There is a huge open market in Florence with stall after stall of scarves, leather jackets, purses, jewelry, you name it. I resisted buying any leather jackets or boots, although every vendor assured me they would give me a "special discount." Sure. The most important purchase I made was on my way back to the hotel, when I came across an electronics store and got an alarm clock. I've been missing that the entire time. In fact, I overslept this morning because I apparently didn't set the phone alarm correctly. I decided I couldn't risk that in the morning since I have such a tight schedule.

Here’s the sturdy German meal I had for dinner at the Christmas Market. I had to restrain myself from running to the French crepe stand instead, where they were making fresh crepes with Nutella and bananas. But maybe Tuesday . . .

Saturday, December 5, 2009


I am laughing quite a bit at myself tonight. I have been an absolute clown for the amusement of the guy at the front desk. We'll call him Marco.

My first move was to ask if I could print something off (I wanted to print the confirmation email from the online ticket I bought for the museum I'm going to tomorrow). Not that it was a wrong question or anything, but it was an awkward conversation, and I felt like my English was making him uncomfortable. Next, I was waiting for my laptop to charge and plotting my dinner when I decided to take some pictures of the hotel (I've been trying to do that at each location so I have a record). And . . . managed to lock myself out of the room. So I had to bother Marco again. Here's the picture that caused it, by the way.

A little later, I put on my jacket to leave, handed Marco my key (as is the custom here - you don't take your hotel key with you), and pulled the handle of the front door. It started to open, but as I was walking forward he exclaimed about something, which startled me. At the same time I realized he was telling me that the doors open automatically, I was tripping down the stairs. I didn't fall, but it was a close call! I could hear him laughing as I walked down the street. Here's a picture of the front of the hotel, where you can see the treacherous stairs.

Instead of eating out at a restaurant, I had decided to scavenge for some supplies to take back to the hotel. Bread, cheese, and wine were the main things I had in mind. It took a lot of walking and some luck, but I ended up with a plastic grocery bag filled with Tunisian dates, an orange, a little sandwich, a big cookie, and a bottle of wine. When I got back to the hotel I asked my friend Marco for a bottle opener. There is a little bar next to reception, so I figured it was an easy fix. Marco looked for quite a while and got fairly distressed when he couldn't find one. He kept muttering "It's incredible, incredible." I told him not to worry about it, but he got on the phone and called a nearby restaurant, explained my situation, and sent me a couple of blocks over so that they could open the bottle for me.

And this is how I found myself trotting down the streets of Florence with an open bottle of wine, a plastic bag filled with an odd combination of food, and a newfound appreciation for the ridiculous situations that travel can put you in.

A tourist at last!

Drum roll, please. I finally had gelato today and am posting a picture for your viewing pleasure. It was delicious. I believe the flavors were mint and hazelnut.

I wonder what it says about me that I write about gelato before the historic cathedral that I visited today. Hmmm . . .

Well, I did see the famous Duomo in Siena, and rented a little audio tour headset and everything. The pictures say more than I can. It's hard to wrap your mind around the fact that this place took hundreds and hundreds of years to complete. The original plan was to build one much larger, to out-do the one in Florence (there's always been a rivalry between the two cities), but the outbreak of the plague wiped out too many people and too much money for it to ever be completed. So they had to settle with this little thing.

It's impossible with a little point-and-shoot camera to capture all of the detail, especially on the inside, but here are a couple of pictures that hopefully convey some of the grandeur and beauty of it.

I also toured a museum that was attached, but photos weren't allowed inside. The best part, though, in my opinion, was the view from the top. The rolling hills of Tuscany are not just something that painters have imagined - they really do exist! You can see them in the background below. The open space with the tall tower is the main piazza in Siena, called Piazza del Campo (which is where I ate my gelato).

I've got lots more pictures, but it takes forever to upload them to blogger. Maybe once I'm home I'll have a screening for anyone who is interested. We can order Dominos, buy a box of wine, and pretend we're there.

I'm in Florence now. The train ride was seamless, I'm happy to report, and the hotel is adorable. Tomorrow I am going to see the Uffizi museum and hopefully do a little shopping. Monday I've got 3 school visits to cram in, and then on Tuesday I go to Milan. The 8th (Tues) is a holiday in Italy, so it will pretty much be just a travel day for me - most things will be closed. I didn't realize that when I was planning my trip, which is why I'm having to fit 3 schools into one day.

Over halfway finished! Now that I'm finally over jet lag I wish I could go back and experience Rome again. Those first couple of days are a blur of being lost and nauseous a lot. Maybe another day . . .

Friday, December 4, 2009


Don't you love words that are almost the same in other languages? "Perspectivo" came up during an art history class that I sat in on the other day. Well, now that I've had dinner and I'm in my sweatpants, I have a little better perspective than when I posted earlier. The silver lining to my day: I learned a lot about the Italian train system; also learned a lot about public pay phones (and how few there are); and the journey landed me in Siena, which is a beautiful city. I haven't seen much yet, but I look forward to exploring a bit tomorrow. I arrived too late today to meet with the second program I had an appointment with, so we are meeting tomorrow at 10am (luckily they were flexible). Afterwards, though, I'll have a couple of hours before I catch a train to Florence.

I felt plucky enough after checking into my hotel to request a new room. The cigarette smell is really bothering me - I think that after being sick for so long I'm more sensitive to it. Anyway, that request was denied, but at least I asked. Then I went and ate dinner alone at a real restaurant. I don't like eating alone, but I was hungry and it's hard to pass up an Italian meal, no matter the circumstances. I had gnocchi in a creamy pesto sauce. Trying to keep it light, you know. Dinner was a stark contrast to last night, when I felt like I was out with friends. Tonight I was The Lonely Traveler. Another good perspective to have from time to time, lest we take friends for granted.

I took the picture below in Perugia. I thought it was interesting, because evidently the idea of cleaning up after your dog is somewhat new to Italians (I know the French aren't very interested in the notion, either). I like that this little baggie station has step-by-step instructions on what to do.

He sent a puppy

Perhaps days like this are inevitable when one is traveling. They seem to be for me. Best Day Yet was quickly followed up by Worst Day Yet.

This morning it was cold and raining. I had breakfast at the hotel then took a taxi to the bus station with plenty of time to make the 11am bus to Siena. Taking the bus was Lindsey’s idea (one of the Umbra staff members). When she heard I planned to go by train, which is a 3-hour trip involving 2 changes, she went online and found a bus that goes directly in only an hour-and-a-half. Lindsey wrote down for me exactly what to tell the cab driver to get to the right place, the name of the bus company (Sena), and the time of departure. She told me I would buy my ticket on the bus.

I arrived at 10:40am. It wasn’t clear where the bus would leave from, so I asked someone who looked official. He pointed to the left side of the waiting area and said (I’m guessing anyway – it was in Italian) – “Probably from here. Maybe from over there, but probably here.” Not feeling extremely confident, I waited nervously in the cold, looking around for some clue that I was in the right spot. 11:00am passed, and though there were many buses that came and went, I hadn’t seen one called Sena. There was a girl with a suitcase who was also waiting, so I asked her if the bus to Siena was coming. She said yes, but it was late. I was momentarily reassured, but it was a full 40 minutes before it finally arrived, and the whole time I was standing in the cold, feeling nervous about whether I would make it and whether someone would try to steal my bag. Enormously relieved to see the right bus, I put my bag in the lower compartment and climbed aboard, grateful to be leaving. Then I realized the driver was taking tickets. Everyone around me had a ticket, and I did not. When he got to me, I showed him my money and asked if I could buy one. No, he shook his head, clearly annoyed, and pointed across the street, saying something in Italian. I could make out “ticket office” because it’s close to the same word in Spanish. I asked if I had time and he said “2 minutes.”

By now my adrenaline was pumping. I ran across the street to the train station, which was my best guess of where I would buy a ticket. I tried the automatic machine but it was only for train tickets. I stood in line at the ticket window while the people ahead of me took their sweet time, chatting and laughing and moving at an excruciating pace. When my turn came, the person at the window told me I couldn’t buy a bus ticket there; I needed to go outside – something about “taxi.” So I ran outside and found a little booth next to where the taxis line up and wait. The woman behind the window was on the phone, signaling me to wait. She at last finished her conversation, I bought my ticket, ran back to the waiting area, and the bus was gone.

I did not cry. I just didn’t know what to do. I thought about calling Lindsey and staying in Perugia for another day, but realized that, regardless of how I got there, it was crucial that I get to Siena in the hopes of getting my bag. I went back to the train station and bought a train ticket to Siena. There is no direct route so it involved two changes. The next train left in 25 minutes.

My next thought was that I needed to call Amanda, the IES Director in Siena, to tell her that I was late and find out if she could help me with the bag. I walked up and down the train station but couldn’t find a phone. I started to panic. The reality that my bag was gone – and everything in it, including prescriptions, clothes, make-up, everything – was sinking in, and I felt helpless and I hated the bus driver for his meanness.

And then I saw a puppy. A little, fluffy, black-and-white fur ball sniffing the ground. I knelt down and he immediately came to me and started wagging his tiny tail and pawing at my knee. He chewed at my hand and licked at my face and by the time his owner came to retrieve him, I felt like I had been healed. I was calmer and knew that it would be ok, I would see my bag again, and I could figure this out.

Right now I’m on the third train – the one that finally goes to Siena – and I still don’t know if I’ll see my bag again. But I’m still struck by how that puppy communicated to me the presence of God. It was as if God knew exactly what I needed for comfort and strength in that moment to keep me from falling apart. I think He does know me, and I think He does care that much about the details of my life that He would send a puppy at the moment I needed it the most.

It’s been a cold, anxious, uncomfortable day. But thank God I’m not alone.

P.S. I wrote this on the train, but now I'm at the hotel in Siena. It stinks like cigarette smoke but I made it, and I have my bag.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

La Dolce Vita

Tonight, I had what may spoil pasta & prego for me. Spaghetti alla Norma. It’s spaghetti with marinara sauce, eggplant, and ricotta cheese. But ricotta like I’ve never had it before – shaved. Delicious. As Michelle so aptly put it, these people have food figured out.

I learned that bread made in the Umbra region is terrible because they don’t use salt. Why not? Because in the 1500’s there was a tax levied on salt, and to protest, the people quit using it. To this day, they won’t. I don’t think we know what a memory is in the U.S.

Such a wonderful night. Aperitivos first, then a long dinner, then a digestivo, and then a glass of wine just to make the evening last a little longer. Thank you, Umbra Institute! This has been the best day yet.


Yep, I like this town. Unfortunately, the fog was really thick today, so I didn't get to see any of the breathtaking views that it is famous for. I'm hoping that tomorrow I'll get to see a little on my way out of town, but the forecast is calling for rain. There's a reason there are high and low tourist seasons.

I'm back at my hotel now, and in about half an hour I'm going to dinner with some of the Umbra staff. There are two American girls who studied abroad here and liked it so much they decided to stay, and one Italian guy who is planning to move to the U.S. I had coffee with a DU student and got her take on the program. It's interesting to see the two sides. On the one hand, students are inspiring because you realize that their experience is what the whole thing is about. On the other hand, I forget sometimes how brutal they can be. Just critical in general, and I guess I tend to feel defensive of the program because I understand how difficult things can be to administer (and the program bought me lunch). It was a good reminder to take everything with a grain of salt, anyway.

I bought some chocolate today from what is supposedly the best chocolatier in Perugia. Who knows, maybe you'll be lucky enough to get some? :) Whoever comments the most often on my blog is a sure winner.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Small towns are better

I've only been in Perugia for an hour, but already I love it here. The cab driver charged me less than he needed to, rounding down instead of up on the total, and there was a small greeting party when I arrived at the hotel, just wanting to make sure that I made it safely. They also left a little gift bag in the room for me. Chocolates are Perugia's thing, and how nice of them to start me off with a whole bag of them!

Leaving Rome got a little hairy. I hopped on a bus (well, it was actually more of an awkward run with my suitcase, barely squeezing in at the door) and took it to the main train station. I had heard rumors about crowded buses and roving hands, and let me just say it's all true. Ick. Dirty old men. But I made it to the train station for only 1 Euro (you're welcome, DU), and caught a 6pm train to Perugia that arrived at 9pm.

Tomorrow is a full day, but I'm looking forward to it. No travel and no school to find. They are going to meet me in the hotel lobby in the morning, bless their hearts. I already don't want to leave.


Feeling reinvigorated after a wonderful, long-lasting lunch and a laid-back visit to the Accademia Italiana. They have me scheduled to sit it on another class this afternoon, but the director just suggested I go shopping instead. I like these people. :)

Just wanted to post a picture from St. Peter's of the sign demonstrating what type of dress is allowed or not allowed inside the church. Apparently the law is the same throughout Italy, but St. Peter's is one of the few places to enforce it. All of the program providers I've met with so far shake their heads over the way girls dress during the summer. "What part of 'don't show your shoulders' do you not understand?" The reply: "But I'm not catholic!"

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

St Peter's Basilica

I am exhausted, but before I crawl into bed and collapse, I wanted to post a couple of pictures from today. I managed to find the IES Rome office. It should have taken about 30 minutes to walk there and I allowed for an hour, and it worked out perfectly. They promptly put me in a cab and took me right back to the neighborhood where my hotel is to look at one of the student apartments. Good meetings, nice people, and afterwards I was able to see one sight in Rome - St Peter's Basilica, in Vatican City. Pictures don't do it justice.

The walk home is where things fell apart. I didn't get lost (at first), but the map didn't show that the road I was following isn't walkable for an important section, and then I was stuck backtracking because of the medieval walls that block everything off, and the upshot is my feet are incredibly sore and my spirits a bit dampened. I'm sure in the morning I'll feel differently. I don't want to complain (mostly because I know I won't get any sympathy), but it is a bit frustrating to be so close to all of these amazing things and yet unable to go see or enjoy them. I guess close is better than nothing at all, though, and maybe one day I'll get to come back and see the Sistine Chapel and the Colosseum. And have a glass of wine.

I'm taking a cab to my appointment tomorrow. That's my end-of-day resolution. One more school in Rome, and then I leave for Perugia. Ciao!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Day 1, Second Half

The last part of the day ended up being the best. Four students came to the ISA office around 4:30pm and we spent 2 hours chatting about their time in Rome. I love that part – it reminds me why I like my job! Then afterwards we went to a little pizza shop that is right by ISA and I had some incredible pizza. So, two good Italian meals in one day and I’m feeling much better. Now to figure out how to get to my meeting tomorrow . . .

Favorite observations from the meeting with students:

  • Recognizing the double standard Americans have with language; we want people who come to our country to speak English, and yet expect to speak English when we go abroad, too.
  • Italian teenagers are a hundred times worse than American teenagers.
  • Adjectives like busy, crowded, & noisy are not negative when they talk about Rome. That’s just how it is and they love it.
  • It’s possible to get used to walking past the Pantheon every day, so that you don’t even notice it.
  • People ask me “What did you do? What did you see?” But it’s not about seeing all of the museums and monuments. It’s about being able to give an Italian woman directions (in Italian!) and figuring out the bus system. That’s what I’m proud of.

Day 1

I can see that I need to be more organized. I'm sitting in the ISA Office in Rome where I have free wireless. I took pictures today and would like to post some, but my camera cord is back at the hotel.

So far, so good. My body is all out of whack, so hopefully it will catch up soon. I woke up at 2am this morning and couldn't fall back asleep. I think it was around 4am when I finally did. Fortunately, I didn't have an appointment until 10am.

I met the ISA staff and toured the American University of Rome. It's windy and gray here today, which everyone says is unusual. I had my first real Italian meal for lunch--it was delicious! Ravioli, Sardegna style, plus salad and a pear & cinnamon dessert. I really needed a real meal. Since I got in late last night and slept through the hotel breakfast, I've pretty much been running on crackers that I packed along. Things almost got ugly during the University tour when we got to the library. They had the furnace cranked, and suddenly it was a hundred degrees and this man was talking about open source databases and everything got all swimmy and I nearly threw up (Jaime, I know you're laughing at me). Anyway, they got me some water and I sat down and made it through without incident. Now that I've had a proper meal I'm feeling much better.

I'm going now to see one of the student apartments, and then to meet with students. More later!

Sunday, November 29, 2009


It seems to me that travel - the nitty gritty parts of waiting in line, showing your passport, taking off your shoes, waiting in line - is a quest for comfort. You have very little control over your surroundings, so you find what comfort you can here and there. For me today (yesterday?) it was a chai from Caribou at DIA, then helping myself to Reed's chocolate from dinner (he didn't want it, don't worry Mom), then listening to some of my favorite music after giving up on getting any sleep on the flight over. Now I'm at Heathrow Airport in London with a cup of coffee, watching a flow of people walk past with their bags, jackets, briefcases, purses, scarves, backpacks . . . everyone burdened by their comforts.

The biggest comfort on my mind right now is a bed. I can't wait to get to that hotel room! British Airways had the nerve to trot all of the coach passengers past their luxury "Club World" section with chairs that stretch out and have foot rests. Foot rests! Now that's comfort.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pasta & Prego

An unsettling thought occurred to me tonight as I was eating my usual bowl of pasta with Prego sauce. What if eating real Italian food ruins this staple for me? Granted, I put real parmesan cheese on top, so it's fairly authentic, but I have a nagging suspicion it might not stack up to fresh marinara with pasta made from scratch.

It's probably worth the risk, but I might need a new staple in the near future. Any ideas? Parameters are it must be cheap and easy to make, and you must be able to buy large quantities of it at Costco. And it can't expire quickly.

I'm so American.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hello, friends -

I will be in Italy for 14 days beginning November 29 (I leave on the 28th). I would like to share photos and anecdotes with you while I'm away, because if you know me at all, I'm notoriously bad at summarizing "how something went." You will ask, and I will not have much to say. So my plan is to post things while I go.

Here's my itinerary:

Rome - Nov. 29-Dec. 2
Perugia - Dec. 2-3
Siena - Dec. 4-5
Florence - Dec. 5-8
Milan - Dec. 8-11

Follow along if you'd like!