Sunday, October 31, 2010

caught in the middle

What would be an effortless task in the States, such as laundry or errands, often takes multiple attempts in Italy, making these simple everyday jobs a bit more of hassle. Living in Italy, this is a reality I have quickly realized and while I would love to say I have come to terms with it, my lack of patience is still a work in progress, BUT improving daily :)

Last Saturday afternoon I decided to run to a nearby shop to gather some household items we were lacking. Midway through the bus ride, I realized there was a different mood in the air. Everyone traveling on the bus that day was frantically talking with one another and seemed to be on edge. Conversing rapidly in Italian, I was only able to detect words here and there and began to realize that I didn’t recognize the route the bus was taking. The group increasingly grew more and more antsy until the bus came to a final halt, ending up far away from our intended destination, and everyone, some as equally confused as me, got off.

It wasn’t until I stepped off the bus that I realized exactly what all the worried side glances and frantic chattering was all about. I walked towards a crowd, police marching ahead of me towards the scene. Groups gathered waving flags and drinking wine, people shouted over microphones, crowds cheered and blew whistles. I had found myself in the midst of what seemed to be a protest. As a street vendor approached me in attempts to sell his product of the day, I spotted the metro. Swiftly dodging the crowd while devising my next plan of action, I escaped underground. I would hop onto the metro and get off at the next stop, Termini, where the store lay only a few blocks away.

Walking up the stairs from the metro, the familiar sounds of commotion getting louder, I realized I was yet again smack in the middle of this rally. Termini is Rome's "Grand Central Station" and much to my surprise must have been the gathering point for all these activists.

I was minutes from the store, yet tens of thousands of drunk protestors stood in my way. I decided to try and weave through the crowd. As I maneuvered through the army of shouting Italians and amid all this disarray, I found myself caught in an unexpected downpour. Rummaging through my purse for my absent umbrella, the protestors began chanting and singing. I knew then my mission had been halted. Defeated, angry, and dropping way too many f-bombs under my breath, I surrendered and made my way back. Three hours later safe, dry, and back in my apartment, I quickly decided our apartment could go another day without those items we were so desperate for before.

Unfortunately, at the time I didn’t have a camera, iPod, or any device to take footage so I resorted to stealing a picture of the rally off the internet.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Saint Paul, France: An Artist's Escape

Gorgeous view of the village on the drive up.

Perched on a hill, St. Paul de Vence has and remains a haven for artists of all types. As I walked the winding stone-paved roads through this medieval village, scents of rich French onion soup filling the air, I too was captured by the artistic allure St. Paul has on it's guests.

Delicious lunch consisting of French onion soup and quiche.

And my personal favorite.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Life With Italians

It has been nearly 5 months since I moved to Rome and Friday marked the start of yet another beginning. After two trips, four people, and an absurd amount of luggage, Sarah and I moved into our new place off Via dei Pettinari. We are a stones throw away from Piazza Navona, Campo di Fiori, and just minutes from the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and the Pantheon – pretty much the center of everything. Although excited for this change and being able to live in the heart of Rome, I am sad to say goodbye to the very best roommates we could have asked for upon our arrival. “Immerse yourself in the culture.” I heard countless times before moving halfway across the world. After living with Filly and Gianma, aka G-Dog, I can now say I have a better understanding of the Italian culture and lifestyle.

Their days start much later than my previous 5:30am wake up call. Often not waking up till after 1pm, Gianma and Filly would emerge from their rooms squinting from the bright rays of the afternoon sun. Still dressed in their pajamas (on some occasions not changing at all during the day) and grabbing the espresso maker, they would make their morning café and return to their rooms for some studying.

Breakfast is not a big meal in Italy and if eaten at all is typically something sweet such as a just-got-out-of-the-oven fresh croissant, or cornetto in Italian. Filly would always shake her head at me muttering something in Italian when she caught me making my eggs in the morning. “Breakfast?” She would ask with a look of disapproval. We always had the same conversation over my choice of breakfast foods. “Si, si.” I would respond. “No. Breakfast, we eat dolce.” Here she goes again, I would think to myself.

On the same topic of food, Italians have a deep passion for their cuisine and take it very seriously. Sarah and I were often scolded on how we cook and prepare meals. There was always a right and wrong way according to our Italian roommates and with wide concerned eyes, they would intervene showing us the “proper” way to cook. Filly is a food Nazi and after receiving a food basket from my Italian friend Vincenzo, she proceeded to carefully inspect and smell everything I was given. After minutes of close scrutiny she handed over the basket. “It’s good.” She finally said nonchalantly while shrugging and nodding her head. I took that as approval.

As you can tell, food is a large part of the Italian culture. A good meal should always be shared with someone else and often were offered food from our roommates. I quickly found refusing once it was offered to you is rude and they do not take “No thank you” or “I am not hungry” as reasons not to sit around the table, have a good meal and conversation, and simply enjoy life.

The very last night at our old apartment, I prepared the “last supper” which was unanimously approved by everyone. “Molto buona!” A group of Italians that previously reprimanded my cooking actually enjoyed my meal.

Below are a couple pictures we took the last night.

Thousands of miles away from home, these two have become family. I will miss their nagging, the laughs, but most of all seeing their familiar friendly faces everyday.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Getting There

The past few months, my life has been a whirlwind of trains, buses, ferries, planes… all modes of transportation really. I never imagined spending so much time transporting from one destination to the next, nor having the patience to do so. While exploring new destinations has always been something I enjoyed, the “getting there” part I dreaded. I would find myself getting antsy, impatient, and anxious during an hour-long car ride down to San Diego with a group of my best girl friends. Now after taking buses, to trains, to another bus to a ferry and finally a last bus to reach a hotel in Capri, the “getting there" part is half the fun. I write this during my 4-hour train ride from Florence to Rome – months ago I would have dreaded this commute, now a mere 4 hours of being on a train is nothing.

This past weekend I spent in Tuscany which all began with a scenic drive through the golden rolling hills. Our group consisted of 13 females and one lucky guy – or shall I say we were the lucky ones. After a five course home cooked meal in a 13th century farmhouse, we all hopped back on the bus that would make its way to the train station. Full and happy, the excitement on the bus was contagious and before we knew it Mike, aka Chocolate Thunder, stripped down to his “dirty drawers” and proceeded to dance and catwalk down the crammed bus aisle. I am sure the egging on by 13 females and unlimited wine at lunch had something to do with this, but as we made our way through the Tuscan countryside, we were offered a show, and you bet we got it all on video. “La Dolce Vita Style is now including private strip shows and entertainment during all transportation.” I mean come on, that is some great marketing. Needless to say, this was quite a fun group of students and we had a great weekend.

Another memorable event was during a ferry ride from Sorrento to Capri two weekends ago. The weather, despite all of our pleading, decided to not work with us and throughout our island excursions, it rained. No, it poured, was cold and windy. Traveling during rain is never a pleasant experience, but traveling to an island during uncooperative weather with 50 students is a nightmare. Once our ferry arrived, after being a good 30 minutes late, we boarded ready to get back to Capri. After settling into our seats, the crew walked around saying “sick drink, sick drink.” At first I was confused as to why he was asking us if we wanted drinks, normally you just go up to the bar and grab them yourself. As soon as we got out of the port and they began walking around saying “sick bag, sick bag” instead, did I fully understand what they were talking about. The next 45-minutes were filled with swells so big our ferry was on its side half the time closely resembling The Perfect Storm.

While I was not worried about getting sick and more worried about my safety, amused Stephanie was laughing, bouncing up and down as if we were on Splash Mountain at Disneyland. I wanted to kill her. I gripped onto my seat with one hand, and the seat in front of me with the other. I would be holding onto a piece of the boat and for some reason that was reassuring. My stomach flip-flopped, students shrieked and shouted, images of a bearded George Clooney flashed through my panicked mind, and the Italian crew, although kind, reassuring and still offering us sick bags, stood back and laughed at all the sensitive Americans.

Whether it’s an island boat tour with hysterical students acting as tour guides on the intercom, frightening but memorable ferry rides or jam packed train cars of clueless Chinese people, the journey of “getting there” is half the fun.