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?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

024 - Weekend with the Family

Lets dive right into this post shall we?

As I mention in my last post, my family had arrived in Italia, last weekend and they got back into Roma on thursday evening. So after class I went down to meet them at the apartment that they rented for the long weekend near Villa Borghese. It was a bit tricky to get to, so I took a bus to Via del Corso and walked up the Spanish Steps...questionable idea, it was a much longer walk than expected, but I survived and saw cool stuff on the way. As I was walking I kept getting annoyed at the all the tourists who kept getting in the way, which made me realize "Wow, I'm actually...Roman now".  Anywho, I showed them around near the Trevi Fountain and Spanish steps. Then took them to my favorite restaurant in Rome "L'Archetto" it's a they have quite literally dozens of sauces for spaghetti. Plus it's cheap for Rome, not like I had to pay (they treated) but still, it's easy on the wallet.

Friday, my parents and grandparents came up to Monte Mario to see the JFRC. They obviously loved the campus as much as I do. We even had lunch with Director Iodice, he is a great guy and I can't thank him enough for all he has done to help myself and my family over the past few weeks. Mensa was actually very good for lunch, which was's usually so-so. Hence, my parents now think I eat well here, little do they know. After all that, we headed downtown on the bus...grandpa really enjoyed that. He was cracking jokes the whole time. I then took them down Via del Corso and to Piazza Navona. But more importantly I introduced them to Giolitti gelato, which is delicious (as all gelato is). But I really like their pastries more than gelato. I was more so excited that I was able to find Giolitti by myself without a map, because the other times I went I was with others and wasn't really paying attention. This weekend really showed just how well I know Rome, even though I don't think I know it that well. As for dinner, we ate at a place near the apartment, they had real good pizza and I also got suppli (which was subpar...c'mon italy)

Saturday my family did their own thing because I had a preplanned day trip to Tivoli for a cooking instructional. It was probably my favorite day trip I have done thus far. First off we didn't have to wake up ridiculously early, and secondly because we got to make pasta and eat it, in addition to other awesome food. Well on the way to Tivoli we stopped at Villa Adriana (Emperor Hadrian's villa). Basically an awesome and HUGE complex of ancient ruins. This dude hated Rome (even though he ruled it) and so he built a huge getaway. It was very well preserved, I even saw a lizard. They make you pay for maps so naturally we kind of got lost when we were inside, kind of freaked out for a bit because that is how every horror movie ever starts. But we found our way out and on to Tivoli. The restaurant was automatically cool right off the bat because it was inside ancient caves. The chefs taught us how to make bow tie, fettucini, and gnocchi. I have to say I am pretty awesome at making pasta, it's also cool because it only takes a few ingredients and then most of the pastas can take any kind of sauce to make TONS of dishes. After a 4 course meal and delicious dessert, we had time to walk around Tivoli. Most of us decided to go to Villa d'este; not sure exactly who built it or when but it has a crap load of fountains and fresco paintings. So whoever built it had a lot of money and free time on their hands, because those gardens were huge.

Finally, Sunday (today). Met my parents after lunch downtown. We had tickets for a tour of the crypts and catacombs. I would have to say the catacombs were my favorite, they go over 100 feet underground and the halls go every which way, without a guide one would surely get lost. Unfortunately they do not allow pictures in the catacombs (or any of the sights we saw today) I definitely did NOT take ANY pictures AT ALL. (sarcasm is pretty thick here). Anywho after the catacombs we saw the San Clemente Church; which is a 12th century church built on top of a 4th century church built on top of a 2nd century church on top of a 1st century church. Yea, exactly. It was pretty epic going down through all the levels. There was even a spring running underneath the bottom level, which clued the ancient people in on the fact that there was multiple levels they forgot about. After that it was on to the "Church of Bones" and old Capuchin monk place (whatever you call those)...basically each crypt is made of a lot of bones, over 4000 monks are displayed. It was kind of creepy but also kind of cool. Another great italian dinner with the family followed...though I had a steak. There was still wine and such involved so it was still very italian.

Grandma and Grandpa leave early tomorrow morning, and then the parents leave on tuesday. It was great to see them, a good way to spilt up the semester and make it a little easier to be away from home for so long. Only 6 weeks left!!! Crap its going by fast!! London in two weeks!!! I want make the best of the time I have left...but I will be happy to go home. It's quite a catch 22.

Sorry if this post seemed rushed and a little business like, I try to make them witty, etc. But I am quite tired....I wanted to post while the topics were fresh in my head. So I'll end it here before I say something you all can hold against me later haha.

Ciao ciao.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

023 - Two post in one day?!?!

Well this will be a shorter-ish I updated not too long ago (sunday I believe).

Monday, I had my first "on-site" class for Art of the Roman world. Granted it did require me waking up slightly earlier than normal to get my butt downtown, a few of us got coffee and cornetti on the way. Our class met at the Vittorio Emanuele II monument; and for those who don't know, the Romans generally hate this building. It is VERY white, and looks like a wedding cake (or typewriter, depending on who you ask). Our professor has to be the most knowledgeable person about ancient Roman art, so it was a pretty awesome lecture. We were taken all around the outside of the Roman Forum and near the Colosseum. So really, I couldn't have asked for a better Monday, no case of the Monday's for this guy. AND my evening class was cancelled, so it was a REALLY good monday.

As for Tuesday, the weather became really nice. We are talking 65 and sunny, maybe a few clouds. So most of us spend the better part of the afternoon out in the courtyard basking in the sun, and maybe doing a little homework.

Wednesday (today), was more of the same. Nice weather, not a lot of homework. And just a generally good day. PLUS it was calcio night!! After the past two weeks being rained out, and one week break because of vacation, we FINALLY got back out on the field nearly a month later. Team Green was back in action, taking on winless Pink. I decided to try a new tactic, instead of wearing out team shirts, I donned my "Buffon" goalie jersey I had purchased a few weeks back. Evidently it worked, as Pink only managed 3 or 4 shots in the first half. The scoring came quite easy for us, 5-0 at the half. However Pink came out with new life in the second half. After two "lucky" goals...they had narrowed the gap. But my squad got it back together and scored a few more times before the time was up. Pink's keeper (SLA Will) managed a last second half field (the field is small) goal. In my defense, the time keeper had just yelled 30 seconds left and I was standing a good 15 feet in front of the goal, in NO position to make a save. Oh well, gotta let them have those goals, make them feel good. In the end, we walked away with an 8-4 win, improving to 3-1 with three weeks to go before playoffs. We have a date with undefeated Lime in 2 weeks. I am half hoping they stay undefeated for when we play them, I love playing spoiler. Other good news, no severe bruises. Did get a little rug burn on my knees from the turf, but eh, that's expected from a goalie. I gotta say I love that they have calcio here. First off it's a huge sport in Italy and secondly I love sports so as I've been saying, its something to look forward to in the middle of each week.

Well I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. I gotta say I could be a sports writer or something, as you can see I enjoy giving much detail about calcio. And even though you may not have any idea of what I am talking about, I'm still going to write about's fun, gives me an outlet for stress and whatnot.

Anywho, get to see my parents and other family tomorrow!! Spending a nice long weekend with them in Rome, and also I will be heading to Tivoli on saturday for a cooking instructional. It's gunna be a good weekend, I know it.

022 - Nothin' but pics.

So I know I've been uploading pictures to facebook. But I haven't uploaded any to here like I said I would. So here's a few highlights, my favorites.

Outside of Giolitti (very delicious gelateria/bakery)

So very French. 

Zodiac Overlook on Monte Mario

Herculaneum ruins: A food shop

Lunch near Salerno,  at a fancy pants hotel

On a Roman Bus...I miss the CTA

Obviously Paris

Rome/Vatican from the top of St. Peter's

A view of the JFRC

St. Peter's Square, still had the Christmas stuff up until Febuary

Colosseum at night.

Me, in front of the Gates of Paradise in Firenze

Sunday, March 20, 2011

021 - Benvenuti parenti

Welcome to my mother, 2 aunts, uncle and grandma and grandpa. They arrived this morning to begin their Italian vacation, and of course to see me.

Since my dad was already here, we headed over to the airport bright and early to greet the travelers. There was not a whole lot of time for chit chat as they had to head to the other airport in Rome for their flight to the Amalfi coast to visit my grandpa's birthplace. They'll be back in Rome on Thursday for a handful of days, so I will be doing stuff with them at that time. I'm planning on showing them the good restaurants of Rome, mainly to get a free meal but you know...a guy's gotta eat.

To recap the last few days. Thursday was my "triumphant" return to class...I only had one class, so it was quite the easy day. Then it was the weekend, so really I got an extended Spring Break. Thursday night I went over to the hotel where my dad was, and since it was St. Patty's day we had pre-dinner drinks at the bar and ate dinner at the attached restaurant. It was quite good...spaghetti carbonara and some antipasti.

Friday we headed back to campus, did some laundry (since he had only packed for a few days but ended up having to stay). Had lunch with Vice President Emilio Iodice and a few others. I can't say enough good things about the staff here, they went above and beyond the call of duty and I thank them for that. That afternoon then, my dad and I headed down to the Vatican City (after waiting 40 minutes for the darn bus, I miss the CTA). I showed him the ins and outs of the VC, unfortunately the Pope was busy at the time and could not come to meet us. So we walked along the river for a ways. It was starting to get to be dinner time, so we headed back to campus. There is a very good restaurant not too far from the JFRC and we decided to eat there. Of COURSE I had suppli as my antipasti...(Quite note on suppli: If you don't know, they are fried balls with rice and good stuff on the inside, about the size of a clementine). Mi piace molti suppli! Annd for my main dish I got a pizza with shredded radishes and gorgonzola cheese (YUM).

Saturday, was a day trip to Anzio for a little tour of a few WWII cemeteries. We saw a German and US Cemetery. The US one was a lot bigger, even though it has fewer soldiers buried there. It was a cool site, the weather was great but it's still something to think about; a lot of good men gave their lives to make the world a better place...and what have we done with the opportunities they've given us? Afterwards we  ate a very good 5 course lunch. It was so much food, but it was so good...capped off with Tiramisu for dessert. The last stop of the day was a museum home to the largest collection of WWII era artifacts (Both war items and toys and such from that time period). All in all a really cool day, I learned a lot that I did not know about the fighting in Italy.

I realize that it wasn't the most exciting weekend ever, but then I keep remembering that I'm still IN Italy, so even a boring weekend here is still pretty great.

This coming week will be good, I can feel it...hoping for NO RAIN on wednesday so we can get back out on that calcio field. But I'm really looking forward to spending time with my family this weekend. I am certain I will have exciting things to report on about that.

Only 7 weeks left here! Ahh crap...gotta stop counting down the days. I have a feeling it is going to go fast...I'm not sure how I feel about that.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

020 - Why does the rain always ruin calcio?

Ciao regazzi!

I've been granted my freedom, finally. But more importantly, I've got a clean bill of health (well for the most part.) No infection, I'm not going to be starting a pandemic anytime soon which is great. It has been a real though past two weeks. But I made it, it was quite a test but I think I did alright. I want to thank everyone who had me in their thoughts, couldn't have done it without all of you. My family was a great help too. I know you may all be asking what exactly happened; well it was all such a blur and took a lot out of me so I would rather not get into it now. I think it is best for me to used this experience to become an even more patient person and move on.

Alora, on to bigger and better things.

Intramural calcio was cancelled once again, just like it was before spring break. I wasn't planning on playing, need to get my strength back. But I was looking forward to cheering my team on. Oh well, next week I'll be back out there. It's a lot of fun and its a good way to build bonds with the people here, and everyone likes to be competitive.

Well my dad is still here, and he decided it would not be worth it to fly back just to turn around and fly back on saturday with my mother, grandma and grandpa and aunts and uncle. This brings me to my next point. My family is coming to visit! They get here sunday AM and I'm going to head to the airport and meet them before they fly off to Bari to visit where my grandpa was born. They'll be back in Rome on thursday and I will be able to see them more extensively and show them around, and of course get a few free meals out of it. I am so so excited to see them, for one I don't get to see my mom's side very often and it will be a nice break, not that I don't love my friends here, I do, but I've always held my family dear to me.

Well luckily I didn't miss too much school wise, and I plan to use this weekend to catch up. I am planning on showing Dad around the Vatican on Friday and then on Saturday he is going to be tagging along on a day trip to see some WWII sites near Rome. It will be great, some father son really what they say is true, every cloud has a silver lining. Out of pain, can come happiness.

I will do my best to make up for the blogging I missed, well, I have to do some more interesting stuff first. Which I will. I've still got plenty of time left here in Rome, and I plan to make the best of it. Though my money is running low, there are still low cost ways to have fun.

Well thanks again for reading, I heart all my fans! haha. As always stay classy and ci vediamo dopo!

Monday, March 07, 2011

019 - Well this is ONE way to spend a spring break.

Hello all.

You are probably wondering why you haven’t heard from me in a while. Then again maybe you aren’t, as I said I would be going to Greece. Well I had planned to write a fair well post last Wednesday night, boy did that plan change.

I will spare some of the details otherwise this could become a very long post, and it’s a bit personal and hard to talk about. But I did want to update all my followers on what has been going on, so they need not worry but rather just keep me in their thoughts and prayers.

Now that I may have freaked you out a little I will explain myself.  Wednesday afternoon I started to feel real iffy. I can’t recall if I’ve mentioned before but I have been diagnosed for almost 3 years with ulcerative colitis, a form of IBD. I was having some symptoms of what those in the medical biz like to call a ‘flare’, meaning when the disease rears its ugly head. As the evening went on I was taking a turn towards the worse. I sought some help from Christina one of the student life assistants. And in the process of calling the local clinic to get me an appointment I fainted for the first time in my life. An ambulance was called and I was taken to the hospital. I was told I’d have to stay the night just to be monitored. My parents were called, just so they wouldn’t worry. I’d probably be back the next day. I was wrong.

I was feeling a lot better the next day and into Friday, and after some tests they said if my next blood test was good I’d be sent back to the Rome Center. That was until the results of my chest x-ray came back. Apparently I showed inflammation in my lungs of some kind. Now a quick note about IBD, it can cause inflammation not only in the digestive tract but literally anywhere it seems. Plus the meds I am on are also known to cause weird side effects. Funny thing is that my sister was just in the hospital for a similar inflammation in the lungs situation and it turned out to be nothing of concern. So I am very positive that is the case for me.

So today is Monday, this morning my Dad arrived. This has helped my mood greatly, plus he has been very business like and trying to do what he can to help my cause. They still need to run two more tests, a CT scan and something where they go down and check out the lungs (yikes). The problem is, this is an Italian public hospital. They do everything one at a time, and very slowly. For instance they took blood this morning with the full results coming in Wednesday, just in time for my scheduled CT scan. In talking with the various doctors, it sounds like if we get these tests done, the results will be very quick and I can get out of here soon. They are telling me at the earliest that will be Wednesday. So I’m really praying, but I’m also confident that it’s nothing but a side effect of my meds or scar tissue or something. Because I should also mention I have no other symptoms; no cough, chest pain, congestion. I’m other wise a healthy kid, so that is what is most frustrating.

I am nearly going insane here, if I did not now have access to the internet and movies and if my dad was not here, I would be a lot worse. I should also note that Mike Beazley and Cindy Bomben, two JFRC staff have been incredibly helpful in so many ways; translation, bringing me stuff from my dorm, etc. I cannot thank them enough, I could never possibly fully repay them for all their time an effort. I’m really trying to remain positive in light of this really crappy situation. I’d appreciate all the readers to keep myself and my family in their thoughts and prayers; it’s been a tough situation so far.

So this is a very roundabout way of saying I was not able to go to Greece as planned, but there are really more important things in life. And we are not always in control of what happens. C’est la vie….wait that’s French, and I’m in Italy, so maybe I am going crazy. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

018 - Karaoke, Calcio, Gelato and dinner with a Priest

The title really sums up my week pretty well, so maybe I don't need a blog post after all........nah I'll still do one anyway.

Monday came around, and that annoying thing called "class" took place. The bummer about having 3 monday classes is that I have 3 midterms coming up in less than 2 days. Good news is that spring break is less than a week away. Anywho, monday night consisted of installment one of Karaoke night. A good start of the week stress reliever. At first everyone was reluctant to get up on stage, but after director of students Mike Beazley sang the Backstreet Boys, the party was on. Now myself, not being afraid to look like a fool and get up in front of people, I signed up to sing Blink 182s "All the Small Things" Everyone was singing along with all the songs anyway, so it didn't matter if you could sing or not. Overall, great time had by all, can't wait for next time...any song suggestions?

Tuesday, clearly wasn't important enough for me to remember, so onto wednesday. Calcio game night. That's all I really need to say. My squad, Gang Green (the guac's) was taking on Brown. They feature an actual Div 1 soccer player from SLU. But surprisingly he was not a factor, I blocked all of the shots he took (jamming my thumb on the turf/concrete on one save). However, Brown found every possible way to sneak the ball in the goal. Including a freak header on a corner kick. It was quite a defensive battle that ending a 3-5 defeat for us. Oh well, had to lose that first game sometime, and now that its out of the way we can regroup, and move forward. The tradition of a glass of beer and pizza helped take the sting (and actual pain) out of the defeat. Intramural calcio is taken very seriously around here, as you have probably already guessed.

Thursday night, a number of us signed up to have a delicious (and paid for) dinner with the campus minister, Father Al. I love that the weekends start on Thursday here, I am going to be in for such a shock when I have to go back to Chicago and 5 day weeks, what madness! So the dinner took place at a restaurant called "Taverna Parione" near Piazza Navona, I highly recommend it if you are ever in Rome. Ordered some typical 'antipasti'...suppli (fried rice balls & cheese), fried veggies and bruschette (with tomato). Obviously wine was involved. And I've found that the house wine at italian restaurants can be very good, and cheap. And more and more I am finding myself a bigger fan of white wine rather than red. Red can be too dry at times for me, not fruity enough (I'm clearly my mother's son, at least when it comes to wine). For my main dish I got a calzone with ham, egg and cheese. Weird combo? No, delicious combo. And apparently there was another large party at the restaurant at the time, and they had tons of extra food, which the waiters brought to us. Needless to say, we were stuffed. Before we left, however, we had a typical after dinner italian drink Limoncello. Now when I say we were full, I really didn't mean that. There is ALWAYS room for gelato. And this restaurant just happened to be close to the best gelato in all of Rome. A hole in the wall gelateria called "Frigidarium". This place is so good it even has its own flavor called Frigidarium, not sure what flavor it actually is but its delicious. PLUS they dip your ice cream in chocolate and put a little cookie on top before giving it to you. I am now craving this gelato simply just by writing about it, thanks.

Friday was a school sponsored trip to the scavi at Pompeii. I signed up because last time I was in Italy we went to Ostia instead of Pompeii. My grandpa always has said that Pompeii is just "a bunch of old bones" and he couldn't have been more right. I guess I had higher expectations for Pompeii based on what I've read about it. I assumed there would be plastered bodies everywhere, not the case. There are still a number of them, and its kind of chilling to see, but that's not the ONLY thing Pompeii is about. Also I felt like the the ruins looked a lot like those at Herculaneum, which makes sense as they were both destroyed by the same eruption. Either way, it's amazing just how preserved everything is. The paintings on the walls, the marble. Kind of gives you a great insight to how these people lived. And staring at the daunting volcano in the distance is a bit unnerving. Scientists say its due real soon for a big eruption, rivaling that of the one that destroyed Pompeii. The highlight of the day was probably evading the Carabinieri (military police). Basically if you don't have a license to give tours you can't give one. And the professor who was with us obviously didn't have one. So we had to kind of sneakily walk around Pompeii so that he would not be arrested.

I have to say (and I've said this before). The time is going really fast. I'll be in Greece real soon. And then when I get back my time will be over half way done. Yikes. I'll try to update before Greece so you don't have to go too long without hearing from me. But we shall see how midterms treat me. Wish me luck, and good luck on your tests and whatnot.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

017 - Yet another 'fine settimana'

Yet another weekend almost over. I tell you, it's going by quite fast. Sheesh it's almost March!

It was a great weekend. As I mentioned before I was heading to Napoli on friday. Thus, I woke up at 6:30a to head to the treno stazione. It was a rather quick train, only 2 hours. But immediately upon our arrival, Naples showed her true colors. The colors of trash that is. I learned that the public service sector is more or less run by the Mafia, yes Mafia, thus they clean up whenever they darn well please. We right headed to Pizzeria da Michele (as seen in Eat, Pray, Love) but it was way famous before that movie anyway. Best pizza I've had in italy so far. Naples is not very big so we just walked around for a few hours, going into a number of churches and stores. All the while avoiding the trash, that due to the wind was forming trash tornados. Did not get back to Rome until later in the evening and upon arriving at the train station hunger was intense. I'm ashamed to say I got McDonald's, I did not come to Italy for that. BUT at least got something called a McRoyal which we do not have in the States.

Fast forward to Saturday evening. A few of us decided to go out for dinner instead of mensa again. You really have to be here to understand just how "blah" it can be. Anywho, we headed to the south of Roma, "Trastevere". There we went to the #1 bar in the world according to some beer website. It's nicknamed "Ma Che" because the full name is much too long for anyone to remember. It's fun to try various beer from around the world, it's much like trying different wines, each has a unique flavor. I'm still adjusting to the whole "It's perfectly legal to drink here" But I have to say I have been very responsible, I'm in a foreign land and I'd rather have a good time and remember my experiences here. Afterwards we got a table at the restaurant "Bir & Fud" (Pronounced Beer & Food, but burrr 'n fud as I call it). We had some of the best antipasti I've ever had. Suppli (fried riceballs basically) and ham bruschette. For the main course we had pizza that rivaled Neapolitan pizza. However, the 2nd pizza we shared had anchovies on it. I was feeling adventurous so I tried it. IT'S SO SALTY. I'm glad I tried it, but I will probably never be eating it again. Then in typical Roman fashion we wandered the streets and ate gelato. There's no such thing as too much gelato.

On to sunday. Slept in a little, I love doing that by the way. Amo dormire a lungo! After dragging my lazy butt out of bed, Katie Mac and I ventured to the Porta Portese flea market in Trastevere. This market is HUGE. So many vendors selling, well you name it they have it. Granted a good number of the items were your typical "made in china" trinkets, there was a good deal of legitimate products as well. This was my first real shopping outing while here, I'm not a huge shopper by the way but I figured it was time to get some gifts for the friends & fam. Among my purchases was an authentic soccer jersey for myself. I choose largely on color but also because of the player, Buffon, a goalie and as I am team keeper for our intramural team I figured it was a good choice. Today was also my first taste of the regional trains here in Italy. I've been on the "train" trains and metro, but the regional trains are much like Chicagoland's Metra. Katie and I could not figure out where/how to buy tickets so we just got on. Ended up not having to pay there or back. Train for free equals train for me.

Now I sit here, still needing to do a bit of homework for class tomorrow but I think I'll go to dinner first. So I should probably leave you now. Thanks again for reading! Ci vediamo! Ciao ciao.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

016 - Another Game Another Win

Hmm let's see what happened since the last blog?

The rest of the weekend was fairly uneventful. Saturday a few of us went to a bakery and got sugary fried treats and milk, then proceed to eat/drink while watching Rent. Yes I'm a fan of Rent what of it? It's a good musical. And sunday was "do all the reading/homework I put off all weekend" day.

Fast forward to Wednesday night. Game night. That's right week 2 of calcio. Gang Green (my team) was up against a tough and scrappy Black squad. I let up a laser beam goal early, just after kick-off. Who am I? The USA world cup team? (hey-oh). But luckily the team had my back and we surged to a 7-1 lead with 5 minutes to go. Black did not go away quietly, and I got a little cocky. Thus the final score read 7-3. Improving our record to 2-0. I tried to take one coast to coast to score as goalie. Leading to one of black's goals. It was a good night, everyone seems to be having fun with intramurals. It gives us something to look forward to each week, a nice study break. I mean aside from all the traveling.

Looking ahead to the weekend. Made plans to head to Napoli (Naples) on friday for the day. Not much to see there except pizza and the coast. But I'm still excited. And sunday we are thinking of heading to Trastevere, a Rome neighborhood to the Porta Portese flea market. Gotta get some soccer jerseys on the cheap. That's a big reason why I came to Rome, for those and a Florentine leather wallet (CHECK).

I've also volunteered to be a student blogger for this semester, because on the Go Global page of there is no one from Rome blogging this semester. So if my next post or two is a bit redundant bear with me, as I have to play a bit of catch up, because I'm starting a month in.

Well then, ci vediamo.

Friday, February 11, 2011

015 - Why the Friday not?

I wasn't going to blog tonight but had a very interesting day so I thought I'd share it real quick with ya'll before we head out to dinner.

So as we have no class on fridays, I slept until, oh 10am-ish. Kind of took it easy, really I was being lazy. Still kind of sore from calcio (yes its that intense). But I did manage to get my butt to the gym and lift for a little bit. So then after lunch I decided I would explore.

I was just going to go down to the Vatican and walk around, maybe shop or whatever. But I saw some fellow J-Force-ers in the square and they were going into St. Peter's so I figured, why not? We then also decided to climb the stairs to the dome, ALL ONE MILLION OF THEM. Ok so there aren't that many stairs but it's still a lot. The view from up there is incredible. You can see all of Rome and more. Luckily, I'm not afraid of heights, but it was still dizzying walking up the narrow stairs. The inside of the basilica is unreal too, the paintings and murals are done very well. I can't believe it took me a month of living here to finally get inside of it. Still have to go to the museum and Sistine Chapel, but I've got time. I then decided to go down and see the tombs' of the popes. I've seen my fair share of ancient tombs by now, so theses weren't the most lavish but still, important guys are in them. When I got to John-Paul II's tomb there was at least 50 people in front of it. Obviously because he was the previous pope and was pope for a while and very well liked. I didn't really know how to feel. Kind of how everyday here is going for me. It's all so surreal, I can't seem to process it. I don't think I'll really know how I felt during this semester until I am back home and can debrief.

Okay, well that's really what I had to say, I uploaded the pictures from earlier, so enjoy. Ci vediamo. (or rather in May)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

014 - Let's get ready to CALCIO!

Let's see when did I post last? Oh right it was a few days ago about my trip to Paris. Well because of that I've decided to stay around Rome this weekend. Probably going to explore and what not. I want to stop by the famous sunday flea market in Trastevere. I need to pick me up some discounted soccer jerseys.

This week was pretty uneventful school work wise. For my one class Art of the Roman world we are studying some pretty interesting Etruscan pieces (of which, I saw a number of them at the Louvre). The reading for class isn't bad, mainly because every other page is a huge picture. And I've just realized now I haven't written about my classes at all on here. So here we go. I'm also taking a Roman Catholicism course, a Global-political Science class, and ITAL 102. I was taking Intro to Acting, I figured it could help with my improv. But I dropped it for a few reasons. First it wasn't what I expected, I don't like acting. Which you may be saying "wait, isn't improv acting?" Well yes and no. In improv you change characters and whatnot so quickly and its fast paced, its really nothing like stage acting. I also dropped because I was taking two art core classes and I only need one, AND the provost lowered the graduation credits from 128 to 120. Meaning I don't have to take 15 creds, I can take 12 and still be on track.

Enough of the boring stuff, you don't want to read about my classes, most of you are taking classes, you know the drill.

On a fun and exiting note. Intramural calcio started on Wednesday (yesterday). For you Americans reading, calcio is soccer. (History note: When Mussolini was in power he outlawed foreign words thats why its not even called "futbol") My team, Team Green (aka Gang Green) played in the second slew of games, so we got to watch some other teams first, and see what they were doing right and wrong. When it came our time to play we developed a basic strategy, nothing fancy, a simple 2-1-2 plus goalie. I was selected as keeper based on my past experience. We got off to a HOT start scoring two goals in the first 3 minutes of play. We cooled off a little from there and finished of an intense game with a win, 6 to 0. That's right, you are reading the blog of a guy who pitched a shutout (I'm not modest or anything). Team Yellow played ok, and it was only the first week so teams don't have a lot of chemistry yet. I'm excited about our team and really like our chances coming down the stretch. That is, if my body can handle it. In order to preserve the shutout, I was going all out. And we play on a field that is basically carpet over concrete. Banged up my knees pretty good. Have a huge bruise on my left one, I have a pic up on facebook. Team (Forest) Green received Team of the Night honors and all the teams went out for pizza and beer (a tradition after each game I am told). Overall it was a great night, I am going to look forward to every wednesday night.

Yesterday was also the first day I did not feel any homesickness of any kind. I kind of realized just how fast this semester is going. I mean, already a month in. Spring break is right around the corner. Speaking of that, I paid the rest of the Greece trip, yikes its a good chunk of change. But I received 250 euros from the Forza Scholarship fund. So thanks alumni for that!

Well, I'm looking for a relaxing weekend. Stay classy America.

Monday, February 07, 2011

013 - SUPERBOWL CHAMPS! (and a weekend in Paris)

Warning: long blog post. If you need to take a potty break there will be an intermission.

First off: I am incredibly jazzed that the Packers were able to overcome so much adversity and injuries and bring the Lombardi Trophy home. I am also glad I got to watch the game, but more on that later.

Secondly, I hope I'm doing this whole "blogging" thing well enough that ya'll are not bored, but are enjoying it. I'm doing this blog in lieu of a write down journal, mainly because I don't have a lot of time to write in a journal and I'd rather share my thoughts with the people who care about me enough to read this.

SO, my weekend.

Woke up at 3am to head to the airport for a 7am flight to Paris. And by Paris I mean Beauvais airport 75km from Paris. Luckily they have busses into the city center, so we did that. Upon arrival we just started walking and wouldn't you know it we ran into the Arc d'Triomphe. Afterwards we walked down the Champs Elysees, going into some stores and such. After getting lunch we found our way to the Eiffel Tower, a good photo-op. Our next stop was Notre Dame, which for those of you without a map handy, is a good 3 miles (or so it seemed) from the Eiffel Tower, it took a while to walk there. The outside of the cathedral is not great compared to the ones in Italy, but it's the inside and stained glass that makes it unique. I then remembered that my high school French teacher has a friend (Mme Faim) on Ile Saint Louis. I managed to find her "famous" shop, but also remembered that she retired just a few years ago. It was still great to see though. It was getting late after that, so we headed to check into our hostel. Let me tell you it was an experience. Four beds to a room, or should I say closet. But the other people in my room were from France, Brazil and the UK.

The next day, after a good nights(ish) sleep. We headed to the world famous Louvre. Walked around that for a few hours. Now I'm not a huge art fan, matter of fact I was a little bored and Rome sick. But there were still some cool pieces, like the Mona Lisa (obviously). After the Louvre we headed to the Opera House to see if we could find the Phantom. We did not find him, instead we sat on the step and people watched for a while. Next we went to Invalides, this fort type thing where Napoleon is buried, unfortunately you had to pay 9 euro just to see his tomb, kind of stupid if you ask me but the French just love ripping off tourists. Again it was night fall, so this time we went to see the Eiffel Tower all lit up. It sparkles for 5 minutes every hour, which is cool but gets old quickly and frankly wastes electricity, silly french. Of course we did not leave Paris without a glass of champagne which was great, albeit expensive.


Sunday it came time to leave Paris, but we had seen a lot and walked a lot so it was great to get back to Rome. Mainly because the Super Bowl was on that evening/morning. It took us over 2 hours to get back from the airport because Rome's public transit runs when it wants to run, it's not on any schedule and I'm really surprise they even have designated bus routes. Urg, I miss the CTA.

I had decided since the NFC Championship game that I would for sure stay up and watch the Super Bowl. So I found out that it was playing at the Hard Rock Cafe Roma. Getting there was a total non-issue. We actually had to walk up the Spanish Steps on the way, well we didn't HAVE to but we did anyway. The game was great, duh, but a little bit of a nail bitter and the end. But my boys pulled it out in the end. I always knew they'd hang on. What a great year. I'm definitely buying the DVD highlights of the season, as I've mentioned before. The Italians were very rowdy for the game, which made it more fun, there were also a number of Americans there as well wearing Packer jerseys. Now as for getting back to the J-Force, we tried to find a taxi stand, no luck. Walked all the way down Via del Corso to piazza del popolo, still no taxi's. Then I remembered that the N6 night bus stops at Piazza Cavour, so we walked that way, kind of a long walk but just as we got to the stop we see a bus and its luckily the N6. We finally get back at about 5:15am. I have a 9:30am class on mondays so that kind of sucked this morning, but nothing a little caffe can't solve. Also, I just found out my 2pm italian class was cancelled for today. Still have one more class later, but this leaves a little time now for a siesta.

WHEW, sorry for the long post, but I hope you enjoyed it. I mean this blog is partly for me so I can go back later on and see what I did week to week. Calcio (aka soccer) starts this week. My toe is still bothering me, it's all the darn walking. I hope it will be alright for playing.

Ciao ragazzi, I miss being in the states a lot, can't believe I was not there for this great Packer moment, but I'll be able to look back on this time and always smile. Repeat next year Pack? I think so.