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.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Aroma Playgrounds

Tucked behind corners, lining main streets, and in the middle of crowds at Piazza Venezia, produce stands highly populate this city. Walking a few blocks home from a nearby cafe, I pass four alone. As I near my local fruit stand the wind picks up and although yards away, the smell of ripened berries hits me. I breathe in deep, slowing my pace.

As I approach, I am momentarily sidetracked by a grumpy middle-aged woman arguing with the cashier, whom I have now developed somewhat of a relationship. (He recognizes me when I stop in, that has to count for something.) Anyway, this woman holding a quartered watermelon is yelling at the poor guy. The sweet watermelon juice drips down her hands and onto the pavement makeing me cringe at the thought of how sticky her hands must be. I remember my antibacterial lotion and my anxiety disappears as fast as it came.

Blood red tomatoes catch my eye and I remember why I am here. Smelling and inspecting each one becomes a routine and I choose four of the most perfect tomatoes. I take another deep breath and follow my nose to the nearby basil. Visions of buffalo mozzarella, fresh tomatoes topped with basil and rich balsamic flash before me. I pick up the forest green basil, the sweet strong herb engulfing my senses. Basil is featured in numerous traditional Italian dishes and is also a symbol of love in present day Italy. I set the basil down and make my way over to the fruit. Golden apples and oranges catch my eye as hints of cherry make their way to my nose. These aroma playgrounds have become one of my favorite things in Italy.

I finally decide on a few oranges and call it a day. A few juicy oranges and four perfect roma tomatoes later, costing a whopping 1.25 euro, and I am on my way home.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

From teaching English to paradise.

I came to Italy in May with the intentions of teaching English and setting up private lessons on my own as my main form of income. When that didn’t work out as planned, I was in power mode looking for jobs, anything to bring in some income and keep me occupied. The networking paid off and about two weeks ago Alfredo, the guy I work for doing PR for Rome nightlife, told me about his friend Stephanie owner of La Dolce Vita Style. She was in a bind and needed help ASAP and he thought Sarah and I would be interested. He told me to call her immediately and as soon as I hung up the phone, I got in touch with Stephanie.

Sarah and I met up with Stephanie that very same day at a cute corner café along the Tiber in the Travestere area. Going over the basics of her company and what we could anticipate doing, I began to get very excited.

La Dolce Vita Style, or LDVS for short, specializes in trips and events for study abroad students and we would be in charge of everything from marketing and creative collaboration, to event planning and guiding trips throughout Italy and Europe. A few hours later, we had jobs and set up to meet the following day to start training. Part of our orientation required us to attend the trips LDVS offers to better understand the operations of the company. Our very first getaway scheduled for the following weekend, I felt giddy leaving that café. Not only was I now employed, this position was perfect and a dream come true.

Our first destination: Ventotene. Two short trips, train and ferry, led us to a tiny island surrounded by the deepest blue waters of the Mediterranean. Population just about 600, not a single traffic signal in sight, 3 whopping km, Ventotene is the ultimate escape from the hustle and bustle of Rome. Vibrant overgrown flowers line the island roads first inhabited by the Romans 2,000 years ago. The streets unnamed, narrow, and quaint, led us to our private villa complete with an outdoor shower. This island, in the first 6 hours we were acquainted, had captured my heart.

Upon our arrival on Friday we relaxed on one of the stretches of sand under the intense Mediterranean sun. My mind wanders to California and the many people I miss. I come to a few quick conclusions. First, being that my dad would love it here. I imagine his eyes crinkling as they do when he smiles, his excited laugh and only being able to utter “Wow,” in awe of this place. This would be his paradise! I take in the scenery and one of the many island boys catches my eye. My girlfriends back home would drool over these gorgeous men with their perfectly sculpted, deep tanned bodies. I think about the previous loves in my life and my mind wanders even more. While Ventotene may have stolen my heart, some of it I left behind in California and I am beginning to really miss my friends and family. I force aside all those thoughts, push skip on my iPod, and take in the beautiful scenery.

That evening we enjoyed an almost four hour dinner beneath the stars under a vine covered terrace. Sipping on a glass of chilled Shiraz, we started off with a mix of vegetables naturally salted from capers and olives drizzled with freshly squeezed lemon. Menus don’t exist here and our server, Stefano, reviews the night’s fresh seafood dishes based on the catch of the day. While I love seafood, I had never tried clams – they always kind of intimidated me to be quite honest. Feeling adventurous, I opted for one of their house specialties as my main dish. A fresh seafood dish made with clams, shrimp, and swordfish tossed in a white wine sauce served over linguine. Clams became a new favorite and I ate plentiful amounts of the freshest variety of seafood this past weekend.

A ferry off the port of Formia led us to this heavenly island in the middle of the Mediterranean. Peaceful, quiet, beautiful and not packed with tourists, Ventotene has become one of my favorite places in the world.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

cab rides home at sun rise

We make our way down the windy cobblestone path and join the crowd at the taxi stand. My feet screaming at me for deciding on the 5 1/2 inch grey suede pumps, hair reeking of cigarette smoke, and my body exhausted from all the dancing, all I want is my bed. The night sky is growing lighter as we flag down a cab and I check the time - 5:30 am. Back in California, this was my typical wake up time during the week. Oh how different things are now.

Sarah and I say our goodbyes, complete with double-cheek kissing, and hop into the cab. Discussing the night we just had, all of our new friends, and swapping stories, the crazy taxi driver speeds down the narrow empty streets. He takes a strange turn down an unknown street. Confused as to why he didn't continue on the familiar former street, I use the little Italian that I know to question him. He quickly explains that the side street he turned on would lead us to Magna Grecia, the major street we live off of. "Ahhh, buona. Grazie!" I say.

During the next 5 minutes as he chauffeured us home, we exchanged conversation in Italian. I surprised myself with how much of the language I already understand. Even with my American accent and broken Italian, I feel as though I am beginning to get the hang of this. He drops us off and we bid farewell - all in Italian of course. Beyond drained, but content with my life in Italy, I crawl into bed as the sun begins to make its mark on the day.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dolci: l'amore della mia vita

Smooth rich chocolate. Sweet frosted cupcakes. Mouthwatering carrot cake. Creamy frozen yogurt. If you know me at all, you know I love sweets. My love affair with indulgences causes me to seek out only the best, and the best I do find. Heavenly dark chocolate peanut butter cookies can be found at Levain Bakery in New York, good ol' Rite Aid carries the perfect mint-chip ice cream, and the best tiramisù is made in an Italian kitchen.

I had the false assumption that tiramisù was difficult to make. Maybe the exotic name, which references the espresso and literally means "pick me up", threw me off and it was hard to not think this delicate dessert was anything but a b*tch to make. I was so wrong. Just add eggs, espresso, milk, mascarpone cheese, savoiardi biscuits (commonly known as lady finger biscuits), sugar, a dash of salt, sprinkle on some cocoa powder and VOILA, tiramisù! Okay, maybe it's not that simple, but you get the idea.

Below is the easy steb-by-step recipe for the most delectable tiramisù taught to me by an Italian herself. So go ahead and wow your next dinner guests or better yet, treat yourself to this traditional Italian dessert.

What will I need?

6 tablespoons of sugar
5 eggs
3 cups of fresh cooled espresso*
2 cartons of mascarpone cheese (about 16 oz)*
2 packages of savoiardi
biscuits (about 24)
1/2 cup milk*
pinch of salt
cocoa powder to garnish
2 mixing bowls
1-2 medium size pan*

*I want to forewarn you that these amounts are estimations. Italians don't exactly follow recipes, it's all in their head. If you desire a creamier or thicker tiramisù, use one pan, add more mascarpone cheese, add another egg etc.

Brew roughly 3 cups of fresh espresso. Set aside to cool. Separate 5 eggs and place yolks in one bowl and whites in other mixing bowl. Mix 6 tablespoons of sugar to the yolk bowl and whip. Add 1 tablespoon of milk to the yolk bowl, whip again and set aside. Add the remaining milk to the cooled espresso.Next, add 1 pinch of salt to egg whites and whip till fluffy. Add the mascarpone cheese and whip again. Combine the two egg mixtures and whip.

Now you will begin to construct the cake layers. Take a savoiardi biscuit and very quickly dip into cooled espresso mix. The key to this dish is to not over soak the bisquit which will cause the cake be soggy and liquidy. I suggest you take one side and dip it in and quickly flip over. There is no need to let it sit in there at all - a quick dunk will do!

After you have covered the bottom of the pan with the dipped biscuits, layer the cream on top, covering all the soaked lady fingers. Dust with cocoa powder. Repeat till you have the desired layers/thickness. Cover and set in fridge. Let cool for a minimum of 2 hours. For best results, let set overnight.

Bon appetit!!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The ghost of Rome.

It's 6:30 am and my alarm goes off. The next 30 seconds consists of a debate I have with myself. Do I want to get out of bed or continue to lay here and skip todays run. There is something serene about the early mornings, making it my favorite time to go running. My better half wins and I quickly jump out of bed before convincing myself otherwise.

With the majority of the city still dreaming, I take off at a jog. The Italian summer sun already warm on my face, I round the corner almost running into a local butcher. He is carefully preparing a display case with fine Italian meats and smiles as I pass him. There are scattered people on the streets at this early hour and I weave in and out, making my way towards the San Giovanni Laterano. Passing a group of priests on their way to the church, I make a right and run down one of Rome's narrow cobblestone roads. Lined with gelaterias and pizzerias, their owners are busy setting up for the day ahead. My destination, still far in the distance, begins to come into view as I run down this normally crowded street. With Lady Gaga blasting on my Ipod, I reach the Colosseum.

So far, this is my favorite place in Rome and my new running spot. Still quiet and not yet crowded with the daily tour guides and men dressed like gladiators ready to pose for a photo, I take a minute and digest it all. I gaze at the ancient arena that stands before me. Empty holes cover the surrounding wall which at one time were embraced in marble, iron, and lead. Taken by the Popes, the stolen materials were used to build St. Peter's Basilica and Piazza Venezia, leaving a barren skeleton with a bloody past.

I can't help but imagine what a day looked like for the Colosseum back when gladiators and exotic animals battled to the death while bloodthirsty spectators sipped their goblets of wine. The opening ceremony lasted 100 days claiming the lives of 5000 animals, many imported from Africa. My mind drifts off thinking of Russel Crowe and I laugh at Hollywood's depiction of Rome. Wishing everyone back home could see what lay before me, I remembered my Ipod's video camera setting. I NEVER imagined this would come in use; I also never imagined I would be living in Rome. Pausing the country song that now played through my ear phones, I took the video below.

With a smile on my face, I make my way back towards San Giovanni. Just before it is about to disappear out of view, I turn around making sure to get one more look at the ghost of the ancient Romans.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Afternoon Italian lessons while cooking.

As I chop up fresh mushrooms, zucchini, and onions in our miniature kitchen, Filly, our 21-year-old female roommate who speaks minimal English, curiously enters. Wanting to know what this American is cooking in their kitchen, she spouts off Italian so fast it makes me dizzy. I look at her wide-eyed and dumbfounded. Quickly realizing I have no understanding of the words she just spoke, Filly holds up a hand and leaves the kitchen speaking more Italian. Moments later she returns, laptop in hand and Google Translator, our new best friend, open with a message to me. “If you want me to teach you how to cook anything, just ask.” I absolutely love to cook and the thought of learning how to make traditional hearty Italian meals from a local, excites me. Nodding my head and smiling at my roommate I respond back that I would like that very much.

Sautéing vegetables, I continue to prepare my meal. Once again she begins to rapidly spit out her mother tongue then stops herself and looks at me, we both laugh. She points to the mushrooms sizzling in olive oil “Funghi.” With my American accent I repeat her, not able to pronounce the ending. She repeats herself much slower this time and I make a second attempt. Smiling and nodding in approval, Filly asks how to pronounce it in English. “Mushroom” I say, trying my very best to enunciate and speak clearly. She pronounces it with a slight rolling “r" sound. Nodding my head I respond "Si!" Smiling, my patient roommate points to the next vegetable and so begins my very first Italian lesson.

Yesterday afternoon, Filly and her cousin gave Sarah and I another Italian lesson. The four of us chatted away in Italian and English learning from each other. While being a beautifully lyrical language, it is not easy and at times I struggle. Similar to Spanish, Italians roll their r's - a trait I have always lacked. It wasn't long until my "r" problem arose and had all three of them trying to explain how to relax my tongue to make the proper sound. Multiple pathetic attempts later, the four of us were in a fit of giggles at my semi-retardation trying to pronounce the Italian "r."

Slowly and with the help of our roommates and locals, I am learning Italian. Italians are both patient and kind in helping us learn their ways. As we do our best to communicate and teach each other proper pronunciations, I find ourselves in heaps of laughter with smiles on our faces - the universal language wherever you may be.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

beginnings of a journey

I can’t find words for the week we just had. A journey filled with challenges, an adventure that led to two friends laughing, or a frustrating 7 days, that at times had me near tears – either one of these will do.

We cannot yet navigate around this country we know little about, and to top it off we are unable to communicate with the locals – the ONLY ones who can point us in the right direction. Before I moved to Italy, I had not realized how useless English would be in most foreign countries and how crucial a basic knowledge of the language would be. I have had quite the rude awakening. Last Monday we got lost not once, but twice without a cell phone and minimal ways to communicate with the natives. An easy everyday task in the States, such as picking up groceries, has now turned into a blown out adventure. Don’t get me wrong, I love every second of each experience; they just challenge you in ways that you have never been challenged before.

I love the days when you breathe in deep and smile at the moment you are in. Wednesday was one of those days. Sarah and I didn’t even do anything special – except we lived another day in Rome. We walked around Campo de’ Fiori, had a beer in an Irish pub, ate dinner at our favorite local Italian ristorante and all the while, I had to force myself to put the camera down and enjoy the moment.

While the past week have brought ups and downs, they have also reminded me of why I am here. I thrive on being challenged and living in the moment. The moments when you want to throw your map across the piazza and cry with frustration or when you look up during your daily commute, speechless, at the ancient Colosseum.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

food, architecture, and nightlife

Before leaving for Italy, countless people raved to me about the food. The word “fresh” was always used and now after multiple Italian meals, is really the best and only way to describe the cuisine. One would think that after eating an entire cheese pizza topped off with grilled zucchini you would want a wheel burrow to roll you out of the restaurant – This is not the case. The ingredients being real and whole, void of any unnecessary ingredients such as preservatives, leave you feeling energized. Unlike the heavy full feeling you are left with after eating a #2 at In-N-Out.

The architecture here is breathtaking. Every building you walk by is ornate and so different than the next one. I actually find myself holding my breath at times looking up in amazement at the ancient buildings. On Saturday we visited the third largest church in Rome, San Giovanni in Laterano, and I was at a loss for words. I kept looking around in awe only managing to get out the word “Wow.” I had to include a photo of the detailed ceiling; however, pictures really don't do these structures justice.

Nightlife here is definitely an experience in itself. Our first weekend here just happened to be opening day for the summer club "Babel". These are held outdoors and this concept is one of my favorite things about Rome thus far. The weather Saturday night was cool and breezy, perfect for a night out. After grabbing drinks at a pub we headed down the cobblestone streets towards the outdoor party. Walking in heels on cobblestone is quite a challenge, but we survived only taking a few stumbles.

While it has only been three days, I feel like we have been here for weeks already. Every outing has proved to be an adventure in itself and I am excited to write about all of it.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Say What You Need To Say

After spending the weekend surrounded by my amazing girls, I realized how much they will be missed and how truly lucky I am to have such fabulous friends.

After finding out a high school friend had passed, I realized how blessed I am and that I don't say what I need to say often enough.

Regardless of his womanizing reputation and pure doucheyness, John Mayer is a brilliant songwriter (in my "professional" opinion of course). Here is a few lines from "Say" - One of my favorite John Mayer songs:

Have no fear for giving in
Have no fear for giving over
You'd better know that in the end
Its better to say too much
Then never say what you need to say again

Even if your hands are shaking
And your faith is broken
Even as the eyes are closing
Do it with a heart wide open

Say what you need to say

I feel compelled to list a few things that maybe I haven't said yet, but need to:
  • My heart is filled with so much love that I want to give it to anyone that gives me the chance to.
  • I believe in angels. I also believe that Tori, my best friend, is mine. I would be dead if she wasn't in my life.
  • I envy my friends who are continuing their education and know what they want to do in life. I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up.
  • With that said, I'm so proud of each and every one of them. They continue to amaze me with everything they accomplish.
  • If it wasn't for one of my "exes" I never would have ran my first half-marathon a few weeks ago. Thank you.
  • My father's unconditional love and support got me through my last quarter at UCSB.
  • Tori's mom, Lori, may not be my birth mother, but she is my mom.
  • I miss and love my little sister more than she knows. I pray for her all the time.
  • Rachel gets my ass in gear and inspires me to follow my dreams and heart.
  • My Pop's makes me so proud it often brings me to tears.
  • I learn from each of my friends.
  • Without Jackie's encouragement, I never would have the confidence to start this blog.
  • This last Sunday was spent with my big sis and I had one of the greatest days laughing and bonding with her. I will never forget that day.
  • I am forever grateful for my mother giving me life and for everything she did in my early childhood.
  • I love my family and friends more than they will ever begin to realize.

Say what you need to say.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

What the f*ck am I doing?

I am on the plane. No passport, buck naked, on the list of forgotten items to pack: green pea coat and favorite black peep toe BCBG pumps. I wake up in a panic dripping from my own sweat. "What the f*ck am I doing?"

If someone asked me a year ago where I picture myself in 2010, I never would had thought that I'd be mere days away from overstuffing two suitcases worth of my precious belongings and flying myself across the world to live in Italy. 35 days away and the idea still seems ludicrous to me. But that's the exciting part to me. The anticipation of what's in store for the next year or so of my life is totally unknown. The thought of immersing myself into unfamiliar territory is so thrilling it scares me sh*tless, but that fear continues to drive me to take this giant leap.

Fear is a funny thing really. In most cases, it's what stops us from doing what our heart truly desires, because we are all scared of "failing". I put that in quotes because how can one fail if they tried? It's when you don't take a risk, that you actually manage to fail. Without fear, I would have done the safe thing, stayed in California, continue to work for an amazing company, surrounded by family and friends. But the fear of what would happen if I didn't go, overruled the comfort of staying.

Without a job or apartment lined up and knowing a whopping two people currently living in Rome, I occasionally get a puzzled "You're out of your effing mind" look when discussing my move abroad. This puts me in panic mode. My palms get clammy and I think again "What the f*ck am I doing?" I try turning this hesitation into excitement, but once in a while it gets the best of me and I begin to think twice about my decision. Thoughts of missing another year or so of my family and friend's lives consume me. This is no easy concept to grasp let alone accept. I remind myself that I have done this once before when I moved to Santa Barbara for school, but I was a car ride and a few hundred miles away. Not a 14 hour flight half way around the globe. Leaving all the people I love - my support system - will be the hardest part for me.

Putting family and friends aside, the little things that are now in my life have made me reconsider my decision. Yogurtland, the 80 degree days in February, and leaving more than half my shoe collection in storage is on the top of that list. This sounds ridiculous, I know, but it's leaving the comfort of what my life is right now in California that frightens me.

"What the f*ck am I doing?" continues to be a daily thought often accompanied by a handful of anxiety. But most days excitement of the unknown and the idea of change overrules the panic and I remember to just let go of the fear and roll with it.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

"Aha" moments

The past few weeks were jam-packed with 21st birthday celebrations, dinner dates, Italy arrangements, and mini trips to LA and San Juan Capistrano. Even with this hectic schedule, I managed to complete and cross off a gratifying amount of tasks on my never ending "to-do" list, and have a few realizations.

In less than a week I will be turning 25. While most of my friends want to run and hide in solitude at the thought of being that much closer to 30, I welcome it with open arms. Many people view getting older as a bad thing; often the same people who have given their life a timeline. Graduate college at 22. Begin the career of my dreams shortly after. Get married at 25 and have my first child at 27. "I am not where I pictured myself at this age." Hearing this personal proclamation makes me cringe. How boring would life be if every year unfolded the way we planned? It's life's unexpected challenges and journeys that continue to shape us into who we are. People look back on their lives with each turning year and concentrate only on what they have yet to accomplish, not what they have already achieved.

I see every year as a fresh beginning - a clean slate - and this one is no different. A little more than a month after turning a quarter of a century old, I will relocate to a foreign country, make new friends, and begin a life in uncharted territory with a new roommate. I can't start my 25th year any better.

As I reflect where I am at, at this age, I couldn't be happier. I have already accomplished so much in my short life and am proud of where I am today. Life is full of ups and downs and while I have trekked through those valleys quite a bit in the last few years, I keep climbing up. When I begin to think it doesn't get much better, life surprises me yet again and I conclude I am happier than ever. Life is what you make of it. You are the only one in control of your happiness and the outcome of this journey.

Driving southbound on the 405 freeway, it hit me that moving to Italy is the most selfish thing I have done thus far. The realization that this move is for me and me only, brought me to tears. (Rachel, you can stop laughing now. You know I cry at rainbows). Countless people have stated that I will meet a handsome Italian man, fall madly in love, and get married. Despite that the idea of love always tends to send chills down my spine leaving me with a giddy feeling, I gawk at this concept. Finding my Prince Charming is last on my list at this point in my life. Being selfish and continuing to do things only for me is my main goal, and besides the only thing I count on falling in love with in Italy is the culture, delicious food, and beautiful scenery.

I live for these sporadic moments of awareness. It could be a song lyric, a familiar scent, or an old friend that triggers what I like to call "Aha" moments. At these instances I stop and reflect, sometimes have a good laugh. Other times cry at the realization that I love life and am only getting happier with each and every day.