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.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

012 - Vive il Papa

If you know anything about the Italian language you probably guessed what the title says/is referring to. For the rest of you it means "long live the father" (aka The Pope).

That being said, let's dive right into blogging shall we?

Pretty uneventful start to the week. You know the whole "having class" thing. But they call it study abroad for a reason. I gotta say I'm really getting used to life over here. It's still wayyy different than in America. I still prefer the hustle and bustle, but this is a welcome break from all of that. Lately I find myself staying up quite late and waking up early, so basically the typical life of a college student. As for missing my American tv shows you may ask? It's not so bad. I have my ways of watching them if necessary, but again, this is a nice break from all those distractions, though now I'm finding that this blog/uploading pictures is a new distraction. Don't worry, exploring comes first...the pictures and updates some second. I really can't wait for spring break in Greece. That is going to be super amazing. Wait, I'm going to Paris on FRIDAY. Let's enjoy that first!

Alora, oggi andiamo visitare il papa! Today was our semi-private audience with the Pope. So a number of us got up and left at 6:30am (for a 10:30am start time) in order to get good seats. We got 2nd row, so it was worth it to get up that early. It took place in an audience hall just to the left of the basilica, a pretty cool room if you ask me. After what seemed like forever of sitting there, Bennedetto XVI came out to a pretty rousing applause. Various bishops then welcomed everyone in various languages. Next was Bennie's speech, in what I think was latin/italian(?), he was kind of mumbling. Then the same bishops came back up and announced the various groups in attendance. Some groups, when announced, sang a song (like the group of Polish school girls, who kind of looked Amish with their weird get-ups). We at the Rome Center had no song prepared. We just clapped and he gave us what I like to call the "Gary Zilavy Three-Finger How You Doing (C)"

It was pretty incredible to be that close to such a worldly figure. Even if you aren't Catholic or whatever he's still a famous and commendable person. Then to wrap up the audience, he sang the Our Father in Latin (thought it was a dead language, but we'll go with it) and then proceed to generally bless the items we had, and I mean everything. Yes, if you had a pack of gum in your pocket, it is now blessed. Mother if you are reading this. I had picked up a pack of a dozen rosaries, yes a dozen. And I will be distributing them to family and friends. I also had picked up a St. Michael necklace charm and chain on the super cheap, figure I'll be a necklace guy for a while.

On a slightly less exciting note, the calico (soccer) teams were announced. I'm on team Green, which means nothing really for you people. But just know Team Green is going to dominate this calcio league.

Right then, hope everyone is safe and sound on account of the Blizzard of 2011. Send me some pictures! I'm a little upset. I love snow. But then again, I'll take 55 and sunny.

I'll post again after this weekend in Paris. Also GO PACK GO!!!!