Thursday, May 05, 2011

030 - That's amore...arrivederci Roma

Last post from Italy, how depressing. I just got back from an epic day in the city center. I’ve got a little bit of time here before a number of us go out to the JP II bar for a last hurrah before we leave for the airport at 5:45am. Not going to sleep between now (10pm-ish) and then, by the way. 

(UPDATE...decided to stay in...we are partaking in various shenanigans on campus. Like putting on all of Annie's scarves)

I’m not going to write about finals much. They happened. They sucked just as much as Chicago finals. I think I did okay, as well as you can do during a semester in Rome having fun.

Yesterday (Wednesday) was my last two finals. Then a group of us (Mike Q, Brooke, Katie, Katie, Urrrrika, Matt, Jennifer, Christina, Meredith, Ryan & Lauren) went for a last big “family dinner” because some people were leaving this morning. We went to Trastevere to Bir & Food, probably one of the best resturants in the city. They have pizza that rivals that of famous Napolitano pizza. It’s a bit pricey, but worth it. Funny story; I ordered suppli classico, and I misunderstood the waitress because I thought she said something about being out of it and said they had some “asparagus” suppli, which she described as one big suppli. So I was like ok “va bene”, but then Erica ordered suppli 30 seconds later and the waitress said nothing. I was confused, but the asparagus suppli turned out to be pretty good (except for the 9 euro price tag, what was it laced with gold?). Oh well.

After Bir & Food, we walked 50 feet to the south (or whatever direction) to M8 (or Mate) bar. Since it was a Wednesday night it was pretty empty. Ryan and I each got one last pint of Magners Cider (don’t know if they have it back in the states). I am a pretty big fan of it since it’s not at all bitter like beer can be. We hung out, laughed and reminisced. Mike Q utilized his new nickname for me, “Jackie O” because I evidently my long-ish hair right now looks like her haircut, and I was wearing white sunglasses the other day. I’m going to miss that guy, well hell, I’m going to miss all my new friends.

This morning (Thursday), unfortunately it was time to finish packing. It never really hit me that this semester was over until I was all done. I haven’t really been this emotional in a while, but you just think you have so much time here…then it just runs out on you and you are left asking where did it go?  I’m surely going to miss the cleaning ladies walking into the bathroom to empty trash while I am in the shower.

I wasn’t about to let leaving get me down. I had one last Mensa meal, it was actually decent (sloppy joes, I guess they wanted to send us off well). Afterward, a few of us hopped on the 990 bus (for thankfully the last time, what an inconsistent bus) and made our first stop at Piazza San Pietro. A few hilarious pictures later, we took off walking. Crossing the Tiber we headed to Piazza Navona. Our Gelato Crawl 2011 (DUE MILLE UNDICI) took us first to Fridigdarium. Stopping in every souvenir shop on the way, our next destination was the Pantheon. I didn’t really need anything else, but I got a keychain and mini calendar, because why not? (I was running dangerously low on euros, until Katie bet me that I couldn’t spit my gum from the 2nd floor down to the garbage can on the lower level, a height of about 30 ft…needless to say I made it.) We hung out in Piazza Navona for a little while, simply just being. It was a great sunny day, and a little band was playing some very Italian music. Sometimes you just have to relax.

Della Palma was gelato crawl stop #2. This gelateria has near about 100 flavors. I was so overwhelmed at full that I couldn’t bring myself to get anything, I know how terrible of me. Next stop Via del Corso, but not for shopping, just for the heck of it. It’s officially tourist season let me tell you…can we shoot them? Gelato crawl final stop, Giolitti, best in the city in my opinion. After this “small” cone (seriously its huge) I was stuffed. Last stop on this final adventure was the Trevi fountain. It was quite the way too bookend the semester, as the fountain was on of the first places I went to my first day in Rome, or should I say night as it was about 1am when we got to the Trevi. That pretty much wrapped up the day, my apologies for not elaborating more, it’s very difficult to put into writing…and I’m not sure it needs to all be, it’s all so perfect in my head.

So…nine hours before the bus ride to Fiumincino. How do I feel? Not okay. I always talked about how much I missed home at the beginning of the semester. But now, where is home? Add Rome to that list…Chicago and Appleton. I can’t say it enough, I can’t believe how fast this semester went, maybe it didn’t seem like it at the time…but I can remember plain as day stepping on to the JFRC campus for the first time, luggage in hand.

I am incredibly glad I came. I love to death the friends I have made, most I will see in the fall back at Loyola, but a few I don’t know when I’ll see again. The relationships you form here are bound to last the rest of your life. These people, you spend so much time together, that you can help but open up and become close to them. I will always refer to them as my Rome Family and I certainly know we will all get together in the future, wherever that may be. And to quote Katie Schmitz a few minutes ago “How long as there be a fan there [on the ceiling in her room]?” …it’s been there all year…

Before I came, I talked to a few people who studied here before me. They raved and raved about it, telling me I would love it. I was a bit skeptical at first, but now I see that was stupid. I know I still have 2 years of undergrad left but unless those semesters also take place in Rome, in no way will they be able to live up to the experiences I had here in Rome (and a few other places in Europe). It will be so weird to go back to “normal” life back in the states, but I am interested to see what the next chapter in my life holds. It’s funny, we all would talk about the things we missed back in the states and how we couldn’t wait to do them once we got back. Maybe that was a way to make us all feel okay at the fact that this time here would be over before we knew it. I will write one more post (or so) once I get back home, as a way to achieve some ‘closure’ on this blog.

In the meantime, I say to all my fellow JFRC-ers….raise a glass. Thanks for the best time of my, no, our lives.

Friday, April 29, 2011

029 - Going out with a bang.

I thought I'd get a post in here before finals began and I wouldn't have time to do much of anything but study and soak up my remaining time here. (Erica, stop laughing)

In Roma, they have a little thing called Pasquetta, or Easter Monday. Its essentially an extension of holiday and everyone goes on vacation or something. A few of us had originally planned on going to the beach but the weather was uncooperative. Instead, a trip to the local Chinese restaurant for lunch was in order. It was hella cheap, but not as good as American-Chinese food (yes there is a difference.) A good 4 day weekend for sure.

Tuesday, turned out to be my last Italian class for the semester. But in addition, that evening two of my friends had a little "shindig" at the Parliament Building downtown. They did some research about tourism for their internship this semesters and so a group of us went too hear what some big wig Italians had to say about it. We got to sit in an awesome room, something straight out of C-SPAN, comfy chairs, microphones at each seat. The whole thing was in Italian, I did my best to understand what was being said and I did for the most part but one of the presenters spoke so fast I got maybe two words. Evidently the Italians were very pleased with the research. Afterward, instead of going back for crappy Mensa, we went out to the same restaurant that the church crawl finished at. I was thrilled at this fact because the pizza was incredible. I mean really though, I have yet to have bad pizza here...even the worst pizza in Italy I will go so far as to say is better than the best pizza in the States. THERE I said it, think of it what you will. A stop at Giolitti for gelato finished up the night, it was oddly not busy there but then we realized it was a tuesday night.

Wednesday brought with it my last class of the semester (WHERE DID THE TIME GO?). Got my paper back for that class, Evolution of European Security, did a lot better on this paper than the midterm, so the Ambassador doesn't hate me as I previously thought. Whew, what a relief to be done for a while. I took the afternoon "off" and laid in the sun for a while, don't worry, I'm still pale. I said I really wanted to take advantage of my remaining time here so wednesday night there was a group tour to the Capitoline (Capital building of Rome) in the Campidoglio over looking the Roman Forum. City councilman Federico Guidi gave us the tour, again in Italian...its like everyone speaks that here or something. It was quite the experience, and once in a lifetime because the building is not generally open to the public. We even caught a glimpse of the mayor of Rome, but he looked busy (and it was even 8pm, I thought they all stopped working at 3?) The visit caused us to miss the calcio finals, but it was raining anyway and I only like to play in the rain, watching while raining is just annoying.

Thursday, I totally did not skip my last Italian was "optional". And optional to a college student means no. Sometime after lunch I went on a quest to get a wine key, I can't believe I went all semester without one. And you can just buy a wine key, you have to buy some wine with it. Picked up a bottle of cheap euro and fifty cent white wine. You get what you pay for when you buy a less than 3 euro bottle of wine. Even after chilling it, it was still mediocre at best. But a number of us were drinking wine while getting ready for the End of the Semester banquet. Basically all the hard work and traveling we put in during the semester all leads up to this night of celebration.

It was at a fancy pants ristotheatre downtown. Your traditional 3 course italian meal, complete with wine and bread. Pasta, beef & potatos and tiramisu. A number of professors and father Ted gave speeches. But probably my favorite was Christina's brief stand-up routine; I'd share some of the jokes but you really have to have lived at the JFRC to get the joke. She had everyone laughing. Awards and various superlatives were given out, and this brings me to the first point that this night reminded me of Prom. The superlative voting was your run of the mill popularity contest. And myself, being the laid back, under the radar guy I did not get anything. So sue me for not having 2 million friends because I go out every night and drink. Bringing me to my next Prom like aspect, the pre-gaming. It was very evident that most of the JFRC-ers went all out, and sure I had wine before had but I know how to be responsible. Sorry for getting angsty, but it just really ticks me off that some people don't know their limits and make a fool of themselves. It was supposed to be a night of celebration in remembrance for this semester and I mean in a large part it was, for me at least. But I guess if you drank the semester away, why would the banquet be different? I just don't have a tolerance for stupid irresponsible people, how old are you??

Anyway, Prom likeness #3. Dancing. After dinner and stuff was finished, the tables were cleared and the DJ turn the music up, loud...seriously...very loud. Thus beginning two solid hours of in your face dance music. It was really great to just go all out and dance. Who cares if you don't know how to dance, just move your damn hips to the music and maybe throw your hands up every now and then. Sadly, the night had to come to and eventually, I just wish they would have let us know it was the last song...they just stopped the music. Oh well, it was more than enough dancing for one night.

For me, the banquet was incredible. It really wrapped up the semester nicely; good food, good people, what else can you ask for? Each day here has felt like a dream, I have to keep reminding myself that I am in Rome. And now that it's coming to a close, I'm going to have to constantly realizing that I am leaving soon. It's going to take a while to readjust to life in the States and I know I am going to miss this semester more than I can put in to words, but maybe that's okay. How can you describe the best semester of your life in a couple of sentences? You can't. I know when I get back I will get the question "How was Rome?" .... I'm afraid I don't know how to answer that. Just try to imagine how difficult of a question that is.

I know I said I was homesick in my first couple of posts and I couldn't wait to get back. That was the old me, the uncultured ignorant me. I've changed. I like who I am now so much better. I'm ready to go back, but I am not 100% happy about it. Leaving all my new friends, leaving this lifestyle. God, if there was ever the worst catch 22 this is it.

Sorry for ending the post so short like this, but I've got some more Rome livin' to do.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

028 - Holy Week in the Eternal City

Disclaimer: I don't know why the font is different. Deal with it.

Holy Week in the capital of Roman Catholicism, what more could you ask for?

I'll spare you the details of the school week, it's boring and because let's be honest you don't want to hear about it and I don't want to write about it.

We'll just skip to wednesday. Calcio playoffs. We had to play Purple again, we lost a heartbreaker 4-3. Never been on the losing side of an upset before. Oh well it was fun while it lasted; besides it wasn't the main reason I was here.

Thursday. Holy Thursday. Signed up to go on a "Church Crawl" with Father Al and friends. It was a very quick day of classes, or I should say “class” as I just had Italian and since we are done learning new things we are just reviewing. Anywho, that evening a bunch of us headed downtown with Padre Al and ended up meeting some students from Duquesne University who are studying in Rome. Lit candles in hand we started on the crawl in Piazza del Popolo. The walk took us down Via del Corso and all the way to Piazza Navona. I sort of lost track of the number of Churches we went into and saw the Eucharist exposed for adoration. I believe the number to be around 8 or so. Dinner at yet another stellar restaurant followed. Of course, being near piazza navona we were also near Abbey Theatre Pub and Fridgidarium gelateria, a stop at both wrapped up the perfect evening. The only problem I had was that a number of the students, both from the JFRC and Duquesne, seemed to have a lack of respect for what we were doing. The point of a church crawl is not to go along and chit chat and get dinner at the end. Things like that have just been bothering me lately. I’m okay if you aren’t into the religious thing, I get that. But then don’t come on the crawl, you are missing the point then for those of us who want to get something out of it. Rant over.

Good Friday (by whose standards? Ha. Ha. Bad joke). Had to do a bit of grocery shopping as the BANE of our existence “Mensa” was/is closed for the weekend. This is a much needed break from that food let me tell you. Got quite a bit of food from our favorite supermarket Simply, but it only cost me about 22 euro. Two baguettes for a euro? I can dig it. After a lunch at Tullio’s pizza, I decided it was time for a nap. Later that evening people were meeting at the Gesu church to head over to the Colosseum for the Stations of the Cross lead by Pope Benedict XVI. However, I decided they were meeting too early for my liking. So then about 8pm Katie Mac, Christina and I sauntered on downtown. The stations didn’t begin until 9:15 so we got there with plenty of time. When we got to the Colosseum we found thousands of other people, but after some careful maneuvering and squeezing we got to a decent spot. We really could not see much of what was going on but we could see the Pope a bit. It was much too crowded and crazy for us, so we left at about station 5. It was too hard to hear anyway, and the only thing I picked up in Italian was that “Jesus falls the first time”…so my ear for the language is getting better, just in time to leave eh? Ugh.

(Holy) Saturday. Was another lazy morning/afternoon. I honestly have no real homework I need to be working on, aside from studying. All the class papers I had (one in every class, ugh) have all been turned in. So later in the PM, I traveled and walked around downtown with Annie and Alex. Highlights included the Trevi and Mercato Trionfale. We had plans to head to the Hard Rock Café for dinner but those kind of fell through, no matter because I had to rise early for Domenica Pasqua (Easter Sunday) Mass with the one, the only, Pope Benny.

BUONA PASQUA TUTTI (Happy Easter everyone!)
         Yes, the day has arrived. Jesus is risen, he’s back ya’ll. Get knocked down, he gets right back up (after 3 days). That’s why I like the guy. So as I said I awoke at the crack of 6:30am for to leave at 7 (I need a half hour MAX to get ready…BOOM). Since it is a Sunday AND a holiday, we figured the buses would be running…never, so we walked. And Ryan is a damn fast walker, so we got down there in 20 minutes or so, record time. However gates to Piazza San Pietro did not open until 8:30. Thus, we waited, with a few thousand of our friends. Since our school had reserved tickets for us, we were among the lucky few to actually get seats. We were in the second section of seats, so still pretty far back from where the pope sat but he did drive in front of our section on the way to the front in his pope buggy. Mass was fairly quick for a bit hoopla in the square. It was mainly done in Latin and Italian, but the 2nd reading was actually in English, so hooray for that. But I know how mass goes enough to know what the Italian means in each section of the celebration. It was cloudy and raining in the morning but by the time mass started at 10:30a it became sunny, coincidence?
         Getting out of the square/piazza after the mass was just as fun as getting in, and by fun I mean not fun. We were pushed by nuns, yes, NUNS. I have never seen/been around so many people before in my life, football games are less crazy. Anyway, we finally got out and got back to campus. It was such an incredible experience, once in a lifetime. I am glad I went, I really almost didn’t but as my alarm was going off I thought of Gramps. I knew he was excited I was going to be studying here, and unfortunately I don’t get to tell him all about the fun I have had. It was the thought of him that really told me I needed to be there.
         Again, since Mensa is closed we are on our own. So a group of us gathered up picnic fixin’s and walked to the Monte Mario park and the Zodiac overlook. It was an afternoon of food, wine and movie quoting. Since we are all away from home, away from our families, we decided to dine together and it was a nice time together. Did I mention there was wine? I came here without a taste for the fermented grape drink, but after a while I came to love the stuff and now I can’t get enough. Oh dio! Am I turning into my parents? Eh, wouldn’t be the worst thing.
         BUT EASTER IS NOT OVER YET MY FRIENDS. After returning to campus (and napping, that’s what wine does to you). A number of us were wondering what to do for dinner, so we called up the Hard Rock Café, since we still had a hankering after the plans fell through. As luck had it, they were open. Eight of us total hopped on the bus (which came right away, whaaat?) and then the Metro (which is great, but they only have two lines because there are too many damn ruins everywhere that they can’t have a decent subway system) Anyway, after walking through the doors we felt as if we were back in the US. Classic rock on the stereo and English being spoken all around. What else do you order at the Hard Rock besides a burger? A Milkshake. Yes I realize I will be home in less than two weeks. (Damn)…but I needed this pick me up to help get over the mixed feelings about the limited time I have left. It was a great night of more food, friends and laughter. Took about an hour to get the check, but that’s another story. A very eventful walk back to the bus followed dinner, we were all very full (and I am STILL full as I write this hours after eating). Again, it was great to eat with friends on a big holiday while being so far from home. It didn’t really feel a whole lot like Easter to me. I guess because I didn’t do anything of the things I usually do, like brunch with the family, find my Easter basket, things like that. Oh well, it’s always good to have new adventures and who knows, maybe new traditions.

So now I sit here, up late (no classes on Easter Monday). I can’t help but keep thinking about leaving so soon. I don’t want to think about it, but I know it’s coming so soon. I want to write about all my feelings, but I don’t think now is the time. I still have things to see and do, my time is not done just yet. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

027 - The longer I wait for the bus, the less likely I am to pay for a ticket.

Another week gone by, they are zooming along at a breakneck speed. Seems like just a week ago I was writing my last post...oh it was a week ago. My apologies again, but I feel like my posts are not going to be as frequent or all that interesting from here on out because I'm really going to try and concentrate not losing my mind over all this "holy hell I don't have that much time left here" stuff.


I found out early last week that I got that marketing internship back in Appleton for the summer that I was hoping to get. It's only part-time, meaning I am still going to be at Ace (Hardware) for a good chuck of time. But still, it's very exciting to finally get some real world marketing internship before I graduate and have to, you know, get a REAL job. And I this will tell me if I really do indeed love marketing as much as I say I do. Trying to coordinate two possible summer jobs from Rome is no easy task let me tell you, but it can be done. Also, I'm applying for Supervisor at Phonathon for the fall, I really hope I get it. I feel like Phonathon is where I need to be right now, especially because I would not have been able to go to London had it not been for the Forza Alumni Scholarship. I want to help phonathon continue to grow and I want to show the world just now darn responsible I am and how well I can rise to take down any challenge.

Tuesday night, the JFRC had its semesterly and ever popular Talent Show. Originally I did not plan on attending, but soon I realized it would be the talk of campus for a while, and that there were some good acts so I decided to go. Aside from Improv (we were not able to assemble the Rome Improv Team in time) my talents are not numerous, or at least ones that could be performed in said 'talent show' on such sort notice. ended up be a great, and hilarious time. A number of people sang things, there was a stand up routine and a break dance. Now it wasn't exactly the talk of campus as I expected but it was still a great time, and good way to take your mind off homework for a little while.

Wednesday brought the last regular season game of Calcio. Team Green, looking to rebound from a heartbreaking loss to Lime and head into the playoffs on a high note was taking on Purple. To start off we only had one sub because of some sick members (and one or two girls who have just stopped playing for whatever reason)...and then midway through we had no subs because of a skinned knee to one girl. However, Conor really stepped his game up...leading the scoring with 5 or 6 goals. Purple would not go away, as striker Andy (who played for Loyola's team) netted 5 scores against myself. Did I have the best game, by all means no, I didn't save a whole lot. Luckily the team had my back, and we won 8-6. Heading into the playoffs with the #2 seed, the target on our backs is pretty big. Hoping to have a good playoff run, mainly for all the bragging rights...but I also think the champions get a t-shirt, and who doesn't love free t-shirts?

Thursday brought about the end to yet another 'fun' week of classes. You wouldn't think 4 day weeks would be that hard, but with 3 one day a week classes, the work can really pile up. So when thursday comes around, you are glad you have a three day weekend. It was kind of a low key night, late in the evening Annie and I decided to go get crepes down in Piazza Balduina not too far from campus. However, evidently the crepe place closes at 9pm on weekdays, so that nixed that plan...instead we got pizza on the walk back. That was the end of the night, or so I thought. Nope, we got back and were about to start a movie when Ashley, Erica & Matt came in and said they were heading down to the local watering hole just for a little while. I thought, why not, better than sitting around. We ended up staying at the bar for a topic was off the table, and it turned out to be a very fun night. Which then led me to sleep in quite late on friday morning.

Didn't feel like doing a whole lot on friday, kind of wanted to take the day for myself as I needed to still pick up a final souvenir or two for various people. Naturally, I headed down to the near the Vatican as the best "Rome Souvenirs" are there. Sure its a bit touristy, but every now and then you gotta do that while living in a big tourist spot. It's been getting steadily more busy around here with the arrival of Holy Week (starting today) and lasting until, well, mid-summer. It's going to be crazy here until we leave, especially with the beatification of JP II on May 1st. As much as I'd love to see that, I can't imagine what the Vatican will be like on that day, half of Poland is due to arrive for that. Might just stay up here on the hill or head to the sunday flea market. I still plan on seein' old Pope Benny and 40,000 of my closest friends next sunday for Easter mass. Once in a lifetime stuff right there.

Saturday (yesterday) I signed up to do a little good for the environment. So myself, and a number of other J-Forcers headed to the Monte Mario Nature Reserve with Cindy (from the JFRC) and an Italian guide. We were taken on a guided hike through the park, whilst cleaning up garbage on the way. It is a very beautiful park on the hill and because of this, it lends great views of both "old" and "modern" Rome. The walk was very enjoyable and it was great to hang out with friends who share similar interests about the environment and stuff. The most laughable thing of the day was finding hundreds of "preservativi" wrappers in one section of the park, well, at least the italians are being safe about it. A lunch at 'Il Chiodo Fisso" followed the hike. Perhaps it was the fact I was so hungry/tired from the walk, but that pizza was incredible, they are known for good pizza anyway but it was especially good that day. Suppli and fries for antipasti was also a nice touch. Oh did I mention the tiramisu for dessert? Heavenly. Upon walking back to campus we noticed the tree bed at the end of the driveway was very trashy and weedy, and since that was where we wanted to plant flowers we decided to do a little more for mother earth and clean that up. There was 15 of us so it went really quickly, and we frankly had fun doing it. Plus, the broom I was using looked like a quitich broom from Harry Potter, so of course I pretended I was flying.
        A pretty low key afternoon followed, and a nap. But a trip down to Via del Corso for gelato at Giolitti was in order that night. I have discovered the worlds best combination. Biscotto Oreo, Caramello, & Zabaione (eggnog)...with the panna (cream) on top of course. Each bite (lick?) was out of this world and I was truly sad when I had eaten it all. The highlight was seeing a huge group of tourists come in after us, clearly they did not know how the ordering process works (pay at the register then head over to the counter and get your flavors) as they were all lining up in front of the gelato counter thus causing the line to go out the door. Matt and I considered for a moment helping them out and explaining how to do it...but we looked at each other, then said "nahhh, they have to learn." It's moments like this that again make me feel like a true Italian and not a tourist. I haven't really felt like a tourist in a while, I like to try out my Italian on the locals and it ticks me off when I order or ask something in Italian and they respond in English. I'm trying to show them I'm not a "dumb American" but sometimes there is no pleasing these people.

So now today is Palm Sunday, kicking off Holy Week. I was planning on doing mass down at the Vatican but was so tired this morning I could not get out of bed, I'll catch mass later tonight here on campus. It's pretty great to be spending this week here in the capital of the Roman Catholic faith. Though I am surprised how many stores where open today, first off, it's sunday but also a holy day. But in reality, Romans are not that serious in their faith. Hence, when Holy Week rolls around, pilgrims normally outnumber locals.

I've said this before but I have definitely changed in my seemingly short time here. I can't exactly pinpoint how, but I know I am different. I'll leave it up to you to decide just how I've changed....I just feel I now I have a different perspective of the world and my faith. Living in a totally different part of the world definitely has its adjustments, and I will probably have to readjust when I return home, wherever home now is for me. Time is running short for me here in Rome. If I thought leaving the States to come here was hard, leaving Rome to go back and leaving all the new friends I've made is going to be a hundred times harder. Sure most of them do go to Loyola with me, but a few don't. Who knows when I'll see them again, JFRC reunions perhaps, well thank goodness for Facebook at least.

Calling JFRC alumni for Phonathon really reaffirmed my decision to study abroad here for a semester. I heard so many great stories about how it was the best time of their life. I really couldn't wrap my head around believing them at the time. But now that I've been here for so long, I know exactly what they mean. Some of them are twenty years removed from studying here, but they still think about it daily. I know I will be just like that. American food with taste differently, busses will actually run on time, and I won't get robbed when it comes to exchanging money. But would I change a second of my time here?

You know the answer to that.

Cleanin' up the park...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

026 - I see London, I already saw France. Now just about those underpants.'s been quite a week, hence the lack of a post in just over a week. But that's almost better, it gave me a chance to get some stuff done (term paper and whatnot) and enjoy being in Rome before my stellar weekend in London.

A quick recap of my happenings before London. Maybe it was the fact that we flew out to London thursday night, rather than friday morning as most travelers do, but this past week went 'molto' fast. I'll do my best to remember what I got myself into.

Sunday, I remember that day quite well. Though I slept in a bit because of few of us were out late at the local 'watering hole,' just sitting, talking, having a grand ol' time. Anyway, Sunday I decided to take a "Me Day" and head down to the Via del Corso area for some shopping, I needed to finishing getting some souvenirs for the family. I will tell you I had a blast walking around by myself and seeing the sights. Probably the favorite thing I bought was a painting from P. Navona, I am normally not a fan of art, but I figure I'm here, why not immerse myself in the culture? Also bought a few of your more touristy items, postcards, etc. Being here for so long I feel like I am no longer a tourist, I spoke Italian to all the shop keeps, which they responded well too but still could tell I was American. Overall it was a good day, nice weather, and you know me...I love to spend those Euros.

Monday was your typical Monday, if your mondays consist of going to the center of an ancient city and learning about the ancient culture and seeing ruins for class. Yup had another on sight class. It's so great to get out of the class room every now and then. Can't believe I've only got 3 more weeks of class before finals!

Let's move to wednesday. Aside from churning out a 4 page paper for PolySci in 2 hrs. It was also Calcio game night. Game of the week. Green (us) vs. Lime (them). It was a defensive battle to say the least. Lime took a 2-0 advantage in to halftime. It ended up staying at that same score until 3 min left, when we managed to squeeze one by the Lime keeper. With time ticking away, I decided to take a risk, upon making an easy save, I dropped the ball and began to dribble up to midfield and passed it off to Conor, we had it in the Lime zone for a number of seconds I was looking to get the ball back and take a shot, but Lime got control so I hustled back to the goal, I was able to make it back in time but was off balance when a Lime player shot. Final score 3-1 Lime. So they will take the regular season crown with us taking 2nd.  It's all in good fun though, hoping to make a nice playoff run, much like my Green Bay Packers.

Thursday. I know I went to class, but I was so jazzed for London I'll be honest I was paying no attention (sorry Mom). After dinner we took a cab to Ciampino airport. It took quite a while because of Roman Rush hour (which is basically all the time). Got to the airport with plenty of time, flight was normal, got in a few minutes early to London. BUT there's a little thing called Immigration...and the UK is a lot like the USA and they take it verrrrry seriously. Took about 50 minutes to get through customs. Afterward we had to get us some British Pounds, because they are lame and don't use the euro. The exchange rate for dollars to pounds is worse than to euros. But things in London weren't too terribly priced. Anywho, at this point its about 1am and we hop on the last train out from Stansted Airport to the London City center. Arriving at Liverpool Street at about 1:45 we had to then catch a night bus (not Knight Bus for you HP fans) to our hostel near King's Cross. We finally got checked in at about 2:15am in the world's smallest room ever. It had two beds for the three of us, obviously the two Katie's took the large bed and I bunked up on the cot. It was wildly uncomfortable, and the pillow was about as thick as tissue paper. But its all part of the experience right?

Friday we got up at a reasonable hour and headed to the Underground station, upon buying day passes (because one ride on the Underground is 4 pounds and a day pass was 6 pounds, it just made sense) we took the Tube to Leicester Square, had breakfast at at quaint British Cafe. I had my first bagel in over 3 months, needless to say it was glorious. Now since this is the theatre district we hit up one of the discount ticket vendors. Tickets for Les Miz were all sold out (it's a pretty legit musical, and one of the few I can actually tolerate) so instead we got tickets for We Will Rock You; a musical that used exclusively music from Queen. Next it was on to Trafalgar Square, I guess it's the most famous square in London (side note: the Brits call them squares, the Italians call them Piazza...i hear a Brit on the plane call it Navona Square...oh dio mio) There was a big countdown clock for the 2012 Olympics in the square, all the preparation for the games has got pretty much the entire city under construction, that was kind of annoying. We saw Big Ben and the Parliament building, Westminster and the London eye. (Funny story, I gave Katie S. a pound to go up to people at ask them for the time while we were RIGHT IN FRONT OF BIG BEN, everyone she asked looked at their watches or said they didn't have the was funny, trust me) We had more important things to do, get lunch at the only Chipotle in europe. EPIC. Next it was on to the Tower of London, where such prisoners as St. Thomas Moore, Anne Boleyn, Jane Grey, and my favorite Guy Fawkes were executed. The Tower Bridge, Globe Theatre and the Millennium Bridge were among out next stops. It was then about time to head back to the hostel briefly to regroup before dinner and the show. We didn't have much time to eat so we grabbed fish and chips quickly at a pub.
       The show was crazy awesome, it was more a rock concert with a little bit of acting than a musical, and since it was all rock I enjoyed it throughly. Now since London basically shuts down at midnight we did not have much time to enjoy a pint of cider at a near by pub. Cider is delicious, it's not bitter like beer, its a sweeter ale in a way. And not going to mess you up too badly, though many locals we could tell had a few too many.

Saturday: Again had breakfast, this time near King's cross, at a reasonable hour. And since we were so close we decided to pay a little visit to platform 9 & 3/4, but alas since we are mere muggles we could not get through. The British Museum was next on the list, it was free which is a plus. Had a lot of cool exhibits, including the actual Rosetta Stone, you could even hold some of the reallllly old things. Held a mini vase from 2000 BC, no big deal. Lunch was another trip to Chipotle, when you are away from America for so long, you do what you can to keep craziness at bay. A stop at Starbuck's was mixed in here somewhere (Yes Melissa, I got you a mug). The National Gallery was after...lots of cool paintings and again I don't really like art per se, but the museum was free and it had some Van Gogh and Caravaggio. Onward to Westminster Abbey (and Big Ben/Parliament again), sure it's just another Cathedral and I've seen a TON here, it is still pretty ace. And it's British so what is not to love?  Hyde Park was the next stop, it's a little smaller than Central Park in NYC I'd say, but just as busy....a large pond and Princess Diana Memorial highlight the hopping park. Then at about 7pm we got tickets for the London Eye, the world's largest ferris wheel. It goes real slow, so you get incredible views of London. It was the first ferris wheel I'd ever been on, kind of expensive, but glad I did it. Dinner at another pup wrapped up the evening. Another pint of cider each and fish & chips capped off a great day. We had to get up at 3am the next day (sunday, today) so we called it a semi-early evening at around midnight.

Sunday: That's right, 3am wake up call...why do you always seem to get your best sleep when you have to wake up early, the bed was actually comfortable the 3rd night. Anywho we had a 4:10 train to Stansted to catch. The bus came after a few minutes...I'll say a lot of people were still up at that hour, I guess saturday night is the big party night, a few pubs are open past midnight but not a lot. Checking in at the airport went fairly quickly, but we were already cutting it close to our departure time of 6:10a. Security was moving at a good pace, they had a lot of lanes open and I commend them for that. However, they had to double search Katie Mac's bag, apparently she had too many liquids, oh well, they are just extra cautious like in America. Now as for the gate, we were at gate 50, and Stansted is set up basically like a giant line. So 50 was pretttty much at the end. We had to hustle to get there, but we had enough time because boarding was delayed a few minutes. Whew, on the plane, it's all over right? Nope.
        Now I was asleep most of the flight, but woke up shortly before landing, and was still kind of drowsy when after we started to get towards the runway, we sped back up. What??? "The pilot has just done a missed approach due to weather on the ground" Well sh*t, never had that happen to me before. Another 10 minutes and we had another go at the landing....saaaaame result. So this time the pilot gets on the horn and says that we are now being diverted to Fumincino (the big, legit airport of Rome). It actually worked out better in our favor because it's easier to get back to campus from there, so the joke is on THEM. Still it was kind of scary, going to land and then speeding back up. I was a bit shocked though, I've been on planes that have landed in worse fog. So what does that say about RyanAir pilots, are they just extra cautious? Oh well. I'll be flying Alitalia out of here in 4 weeks, no worries there.

So now here I am..another weekend gone by. Four weeks left to go. It seems like so long ago I got here, but also seems like just yesterday. Wow, is all I can say.  Thanks for reading this long post, enjoy it...because I am putting off homework for this. It was an incredible weekend. Not looking forward to this week so much, but the week is just a short 4 days away...I love no class fridays.

There are still so many things I need to figure out for the summer, I almost don't want this semester to end, but I know it has to at some point. Oh well Future Kenny can worry about that.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

025 - Una buona settimana (A good week)

It's been quite a great week if I do say so myself. The weather as been very great (with the exception of a random 15 minute hail storm on wednesday). So that just set the tone for this said great week.

Monday was actually kind of a buzz kill, full day of classes. But I did get to have one last dinner with the 'rents before they left the next morning. So that in and of itself made the day better. Sad to see them go, it was great to have them here. Sheesh my dad was here for nearly a month! So kind of weird to not have him around but it's also good to have my freedom back. One month left, gotta make it count!

Tuesday, clearly nothing earth-shattering happened because I cannot remember really much of anything that went on. I know I stayed up late for some reason, which was dumb because I woke up with a cold that morning (but now today, saturday, I'm back to normal, I was popping vitamins like it was my job...kicked this cold's butt). I want to say I wrote my Theology paper on tuesday afternoon...Oh wait, tuesday was a really nice day, so I said "no thanks" to homework and yes to laying outside for 3 hours, as did most of us.

WEDNESDAY, if you know me at all you know what I'm about to talk about. That's right, calcio. Other things happened Wednesday too, more laying outside in the sun and reading. As well as studying for an Italian quiz I had on thursday. But let's get to the important stuff. Calcio. First off undefeated Lime was taking on one loss Red (we are 2nd in front of Red by virtue of goals for/against). Red decided to not help us out and went and lost to Lime. That just meant we had to take care of business in our game against Orange, and boy did we ever take care of business. Orange has had a rough season (no wins) and so we knew we didn't have to go hard, but apparently we did. Jumped out to a 6-0 half time lead, at which point I requested to be pulled from goal and put into a field position, it was getting quite boring back there (I did make few easy saves). Not 2 minutes into the 2nd half, I am in front of Orange's goal, I get a stellar pass from Connor and one time it with my left foot into the goal. Adding another goal near the end of the game I finished with 2. Final score was a shocking 10-1 (My replacement Joey ruined my bid for a clean sheet...haha but he was a sport for taking over and letting me play field). So this sets up a very TASTY match up for next week. Undefeated Lime vs. 2nd place Team Green (us)....a classic battle of titans...winner gets first place. It is onnnn. (I realize I talk about calcio a lot...but you gotta be here, it gets real fun and competitive)

Thursday, was another beautiful warm day (sensing a theme here?). Just had my one class as usual. Felt kind of blah due to my cold, but laying in the sun helped for sure. Side note: It was also my dad's b-day. So hooray for that. That night a number of us just hung out, shared music and watched Black Swan. FREAKY MOVIE. Very dark and crazy. But I thought it was good.

Friday, I was planning on getting some shopping for gifts done BUT Roma atac (buses) had other plans, they decided to strike again. So hence, a few of us just decided to walk down to the Vatican for Burger King and gelato (bad i know, but I needed a burger). Afterward we laid out in piazza risorgimento and felt fat. Luckily it was after 5pm at that point so they buses were running again, but evidently some buses never stopped running? They do strikes all wrong here. Sooo because of this long day of walking around in the sun, I was hot and tired so we chilled around the J-Force for the evening. But not before getting food from the grocery for the picnic the next day. Which brings me to....

Saturday!! (today). Got up, not early, but at a reasonable hour and took the metro to Villa Borghese. For those of you who don't know, its a big park, much like Central Park in New York. It's got gardens, walking paths, bikes to rent...and a lot more vendors than in central park...can't go two minutes without some guy trying to sell you roses. So we had our little picnic out in the sun, laid there for a while (I'm a little burnt now...but totally worth it). Now there is a zoo there as well, so I knew I had to hit that up. It was kind of pricey for a smaller sized zoo (12 euros) but it was a zoo nonetheless and I am a fan. Some of the animals kind of seemed sad or didn't have a lot of energy, which you do not see in the US zoo's. So perhaps they treat zoos differently over here, I mean it's a whole different lifestyle, so why wouldn't the zoo be different, just something to think about. After that, we walked down Via del Corso, i wanted to go to the Adidas store, but for some reason we did not find it, we realized later that we walked passed it, probably when we were complaining about the tourists on the sidewalk. Oh well, it's probably for the best I didn't spend money on sporting clothes...but I'll probably go back tomorrow...they have cool stuff there. But seriously, it has been a great weekend...probably one of the best I've had since coming here. I can't even accurately put it into words it was so good. I am just happy right now, that's all I can say. (Despite the sunburn).

NOW, it's off to go eat the cannoli I picked up on the way back to campus earlier...well I got two, so I will probably eat both, but we'll see.

All that said, this week went pretty fast...and that's kind of scary. I half want time to go fast so I will be home, I mean I won't lie, I am missing a lot of stuff. But at the same time I am having a great time here, stellar even. So I half don't want it to end. Oh life is tough eh?