Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Dubliners

Do you know what I herd?


haha If you know my father than you understand that joke. If's funny anyways. :)

So for my last European adventure (for this year at least! ;) ) Emily, Gena, and I traveled to Dublin, Ireland to celebrate Gena's 21st birthday and to enjoy one last weekend getaway before we have to go back home...
We arrived in Dublin on December 3rd (Happy Birthday, Dad!) and met up with Emily and my's friend Mike Kemp. He has been studying in Dublin for the semester. After checking into our [excellent] hostel we headed to the Guinness factory to immediately immerse ourselves in Irish culture (ha). Interesting fact: Arthur Guinness, when he started the brewery, signed a contract for the land for 9,000 years!!! Was he expecting to be around for that long or something? Nah..he was just a smart man. ha After the Guinness factory, Mike took us to his apartment and showed us around his campus...a real college campus! Not saying that AUR isn't a real college campus...but it definitely doesn't compare to DU or The University of Dublin.

As for the rest of the weekend (Mostly because I don't want to bore ya'll with details), we explored Dublin, went on a tour out into the Irish countryside, went to tons of pubs, drank lots of Guinness and beer, partied with the Irish, celebrated a fantastic 21st birthday filled with kisses and crowns (literally), and made some fantastic 1-minute friends!
I can't believe I come home in 10 days. Where did the time go???? I'm not sure I am ready to fact.. I am positive I am not ready to leave. When I go back it means back to the reality of actual life. This semester has all just been a fantasy. But I will say.. there are few things that I am looking forward when I get home:
~driving my car!
~coffee to go
~a bathtub
~a dryer
~my mom cooking for me (at least for 2 weeks)
~my cell phone
~my double bed
~being able to contact people with no worries about the time difference

See ya'll soon!

Much love,

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving-Roman Holiday

You might wonder about the title of this blog cause I bet you're thinking..Kristen..Thanksgiving is NOT a Roman holiday. My friends, you are correct! However, I will explain :)

Being in Rome for Thanksgiving definitely caused for some mixed emotions on my part. On Thursday, my ISA program put on a dinner for was a fair attempt but it wasn't anything to be excited about. However, while people around me complained about the bland mashed potatoes, lack of gravy, and overall mediocre dinner, I was thankful. I was thankful for an Italian attempt to make ME feel home in a country that is obviously not celebrating Thanksgiving. However, I was also thankful to be able to have Thanksgiving Take Two-Roma style. Two dear friends and missionaries, Tim and Janet Hall, who live here in Rome invited me and Emily to celebrate Thanksgiving with them and a few of their colleagues. I cannot begin to explain how thankful I was to be able to be there with them, have gravy, a homemade pumpkin pie, and simply be in the comfort of a home with people who love and celebrate the grace of Jesus!

Being in Rome for Thanksgiving got me thinking a lot about Thanksgiving. First, it was difficult for me to not be at home for this holiday however I was THANKFUL for skype. After our ISA dinner I was able to come back to my flat and skype with my family and the Dobsons and I was thankful to see them. After baking a pumpkin pie for the ISA dinner, I was THANKFUL for my mom and sister always making the pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving dinner because a stove with no thermostat and two girls with not much cooking talent doesn't result in such a great pie :). Spending Friday night with the Halls for dinner I was THANKFUL for God blessing me with two people that have shown me love and help beyond anything I could ask for during my time in Rome. And those are just a few things I was thankful a few days!

I will not bore ya'll with an extensive list of things I am thankful for, many of which I have taken for granted, but I do want to share a few of top ones with everyone.

-I am thankful for DU making it easy to study abroad and I am thankful that I never experienced culture shock. I am thankful for DU financing a lot of my time here in Rome but I am even more thankful for my parents being willing to fund the majority of my experience here.
-I am thankful for adventure! I am thankful that Jesus has taught me how to put one foot in the water and trust Him enough to walk on it!
-I am thankful for books. I am thankful for having the time and leisure to read novel after novel while I am in Rome. You may think that's an odd way to spend time while I am in a foreign country but I never have time to do this at DU, so I am thankful to be able to read so much here.
-I am thankful for people... a few of whom I want to specifically write about
-Antonio-I mention him a lot but I am SO thankful to have met an Italian who literally beams with happiness when we come into his cafe. I am thankful for our minimal Italian conversations and for his excitement at always seeing us.
-Casey Chelf-thank you for keeping in touch with me so much. I hope you know how much our conversations mean to me and I thank you for always having time to talk to me. Always.
-Luke Caudill-thank you for remaining in my life and showing me exactly what it means to love without an agenda.
-Mom and Dad-thanks for being my parents! Seriously.. I don't thank you enough for all the support-emotional, physical, monetary, etc, that you give me. I would not be in Rome if it weren't for both of you and thank you for getting a 13 foot Christmas tree for me!
-Becca-thanks for showing me the ropes on travel! Thanks for sharing in Greece with me and being my adventurous partner in crime. You've taught me the importance of 1-minute friends and you got me addicted to travel!
-Katie, Mark, and Abbie-thanks for being able to talk to me about things and offering me sound, Godly advice. And thanks for being born, Abbie :)
-Ben McElroy-thank you for The Wild Good Chase. You're's a great book. And thank you, in a roundabout way, for not being a part of my life anymore. Without you I have become enamored with Jesus and I have become the adventurous woman I am meant to be.
-To my friends back home-thanks for keeping in touch and I seriously miss you all like crazy
-To my new friends here-thanks for sharing in this experience with me! It's something we will never forget and through it we have bonded in a way that I will never bond with anyone else in my life
-Tim and Janet Hall-thank you for your love and support, help and guidance during my time in Rome. Thank you for welcoming me into your home and family.

Anways..I could go on and on for the things and the people that I am thankful for but I want to end with this except from the Wild Goose Chase:

From The Wild Goose Chase Pages 60-62
"After your sermon at Union Station, I decided to approach your challenge to thank God for the daily miracles we generally expect from Him or even forget about. instead of waiting for the evening, I decided to start right then on my walk back to the Metro. Knowing the list of thanks could be infinitely long, I decided to focus my prayer of thanksgiving only on miracles I was receiving at the moment of my prayer. Thank you, God, for aerobic respiration. Thank You for mitochondria, which right now are creating ATP. Thank you for ATP. Thank You for glycolysis. Thank you for pyruvate.

With a biology degree, I ended up having a lot of things on the list. By the time I got back to my place in Arlington, I was thanking God for each of the amino acids. Thank you, God for glycine. Thank you for leucine. And isoleucine. And tryptophan. By the time I was thanking God for the fact that all organisms that form amino acids have the same chirality so that my body can reuse the nutrients and cellular building blocks of the food I break down, I found myself in absolute awe of His creation.
I prayed while I took a walk outside, thanking Him for bones and ligaments and tendons. I also thanked Him that I somehow never took an anatomy course in college, because otherwise I would have felt compelled to thank Him for each bone by name, which would have definitely set me back even more in my quest to get through most of the miracles I receiving at that moment.

I spent the day praying without ceasing! I literally didn't stop and just consciously kept listing things I was thankful for. I listened to music and thanked Him for my ears' cochleae. while I made dinner, I thanked Him for zylem in the plants I was preparing. I spent a lot of time thanking Him for the molecular properties of water. I thanked Him for the bacteria in my colon that help me digest food. I thanked Him for genetic recombination, which made developing and cultivating cotton plants possible for the jeans I was wearing.

By the time the sun set and it was dark at 9 o'clock, I think God was amused with the futility of me trying to thank Him for everything.The Spirit finally hushed me, saying "You can stop now."

So just remember to always be thankful. Seriously. No matter what country or language you are in.
So everyone Thank You, Grazie, Danke, Gracias


Ciao ragazzi!

Time for another wave of blogging!

The weekend before Thanksgiving we had our final ISA excursion to Florence and a small Tuscan town, Arezzo. I really enjoyed this trip because it was out of the city and into some small towns, which of course, I always prefer :)

The first day in Florence we had a walking tour around the main center of town. We made our way to the Duomo and then on to the visit my future husband, David. ;) Obviously we all known the
fame of Michelangelo's David and with good reason. This sculpture is magnificent. I'm talking 17 feet of pure, masculine beauty. Although I get somewhat distracted with the misproportions of his unusually large......hands (come on people...just cause he is butt naked, don't assume I'm looking at other things! hahaha) truly is a masterpiece. But then again...I think everything that Michelangelo did was a God ordained, God given masterpiece.

That night Madeleine, Gena, and I enjoyed a night out in Florence. We went to the Fish Pub (ha) which turned out to have a lot of character. Made some 1-minute friends with three guys who were quite hilarious. Afterwards we made our way to a club, however, we didn't want to stay but apparently you aren't allowed to leave until you buy 10 E worth of drinks. Well. We had no money and the annoying bouncer would not let us leave. Thankfully, Lorenzo, one of the guys friends who didn't even talk to us came to our rescue and paid
the guy off to let us out. I pray good karma for that man!

The next day we had a tour of the Uffizi gallery. I won't bore ya'll with my infatuation with the artwork in here but it was pretty incredible. :) Then my friends and I headed back to the Duomo and climbed the 463 steps to the top! What a climb! But what a view! If any of you ever make it to Florence, definitely climb those steps because it is well worth the effort!

Had an excellent Rick Steve's recommended dinner that night. Oh..and spent too much money on Italian leather goods :)

Sunday morning we left for Arezzo. Not going to lie....I was exhausted and upset about things that I don't even remember much from that day. But it was beautiful. I do remember that :)

Much love,

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Phew...I am getting exhausted writing about all the adventures and places I have been in the last three weeks that I am certain ya'll must be exhausted reading about them! ;)

This past weekend I traveled to Prague, Czech Republic with my friend Jeff. My other friends had decided to go to Venice for the weekend and I found a cheap flight to Prague and being that it was one of the top places I wanted to visit while in Europe..Jeff decided to come with me and off we went! We were flying WizzAir..which, understandably, sketched us just a
little bit. But the flight was flawless and I even thought it was better than RyanAir! ;)

First off, Prague=BEAUTIFUL! It very well may be the most beautiful city I have visited so far. I would suggest to every person to make a visit to Prague in
their lifetime. The first day, we went to the Jewish Quarter, Josefov, of Prague and toured all the Jewish synagogs and the Jewish cemetery. This ghetto is well preserved because Hitler had wanted it to become his museum to an exterminated race. Sick huh. was very interesting. The cemetery was really sad. The Jews only had a small area in which to bury their dead sothey buried them on top of each other, five hands a part. If you want to see a picture of what it looks like go here:

Another interesting fact about Josefov is the golem. Legend says that Rabbi Loew created the golem in order to protect the Jewish community. It was said that he created a golem out of clay to protect the Jewish community from Blood Liberl and to help out doing physical labor, since golems are very strong. Go here if you want to read more about the legend: http://www.pi

Friday night, Jeff and I had tickets to see the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra at the Dvorak Hall. It was amazing!!! Enough said :)

Saturday we booked a tour of Terezin, a Jewish concentration camp about 50 kilometers outside of Prague. It was NOT an extermination camp, although many people did die here, but rather it was a transition camp where they brought Jews and prisoners and then would later send them to places like Auschwitz. The most interesting thing about Terezin is that it was actually visited by the Red Cross. Terezin was used for propaganda. They staged the whole town to look like a heathy, clean, livable town so the Red Cross would not be suspicious as to what was really happening there. They had the Red Cross tour planned down to the MINUTE so they wouldn't see anything they weren't supposed to. While it was very sad to visit, it was extremely interesting.

After that Jeff and I went back to Prague and spent the afternoon wondering the streets, went to Old Town Square and other touristy places in the city. I of course did some shopping :)

Sunday we went to Charles Bridge and then toured Prague Castle, which is HUGE!

Oh another note on the Czech their currency is the Czech crowns..and the exchange is like 20 US $to 1 Czech Crown so needless to say..when I was at the ATM and pulling out 2000 CK..I felt extremely rich! Turns out that's only about $100. But I was entertained by having 1000 bills in my wallet.

Unfortunately I got some bad news while I was in Prague (no details. Those who know, know) and it was very difficult for me, for the first time, to NOT be in the USA. I wanted to desperately be home and with people who might need me. It's very difficult to extend comfort through cyberspace..or worse yet..Facebook. But it was all I had. It was extremely frustrating. I also realized upon my return from Prague that I only have but a little over a month left of time in Europe. Now more than ever am I realizing how much I am not ready to go back. But don't worry ya'll... I will return. :)

Much love

Schön dich zu sehen

Next stop: GERMANY!

Sometimes I laugh because I am always going to some new city, new COUNTRY every weekend and I wonder how the heck I am going to be able to go back to the USA and be satisfied with staying in Salida, Denver, or Colorado for any long amount of time!

The week after my mom left, I spent a few days in Rome doing school (ha) and then packed up to head off to Germany to visit my frie
nd Joel Puls. Joel was an exchange student while we were in high school and he lived with my family's good friends, the Dobsons (they are like a second family to me).

For starters....I paid for a shuttle to the airport that picks you up right at your
flat and takes you to the airport. Sounds great, right? Well I got picked up and then we had to pick up other people (it's a shared shuttle). We went to the first stop and the people that were supposed to be picked up weren't at the hotel so we had to wait. We waited for about 25 minutes before they finally
showed up. That puts the time at about...5:30 (my flight was at 7:45). Luckily the driver arranged it for some other driver to pick up the other customers since we had to wait so long for the one couple. Well we head towards Ciampino airport (the out of the way, small, low cost airport where Ryanair, WizzAir, and all the low cost airlines fly in/out of). We had to try like 4 different routes to get to the airport because traffic was so awful. We finally get on a road that will take us to the airport but it has a traffic light like every 100 meters and traffic is still pretty bad. Time: 6:10. Well....until you experience being in Roman traffic, you have never experienced insanity. Much to my luck, we were driving along, the driver stops suddenly, annnnd the car behind us rear-ends us. Great. Car accident! Everyone was fine but I started freaking out because I was certain I was going to miss my flight. And there wasn't another flight into Germany until Saturday morning! After the driver and the guy who hit us finally finished everything they had to do we got on the road again. Time: 6:45 (I had until 7:15 until my gate closed). So we slowly chug along and FINALLY make it to the airport. I jump out of the shuttle, run inside, frantically find my desk, and get my boarding pass. Then on to was a long line and I am freaking out asking everyone if they speak English. Finally this nice gentleman looks at my boarding pass, understands I have to be at my gate, and tells me to cut everyone. Ha! So...I cut everyone in line and wizz through security! I run to my gate and thankfully see that everyone is still lined up waiting to board. MADE IT! Just in time. However, at this point I have to pee beyond belief but I am so terrified of missing my flight that I wait until like 45 minutes after my flight has left. It. Was. Awful. But the good news! I made it to Germany!!

Once my flight finally landed in Weeze, I had to wait for another shuttle that would take me to Essen (where Joel lives). I made a 1-minute friend with an older man, Klous, who used to be a teacher and his daughter is studying in Rome too! After
the drive to Essen, I have never been so happy to see someone I knew! I almost cried when I saw Joel and his parents! :)

The rest of time in Germany was great! No flaws at all :) Joel and I explored Cologne, Essen, and Bonn during the weekend and I was able to see a lot of the cool things in these towns. Joel's parents were absolutely incredible! His dad is learning English so he tried to speak English to me! I felt awful because I speak no German whatsoever. However, Joel did try to teach me some basic phrases. It's a lot cause..I will never learn German!

Friday night was the best night because Joel and I met up with my friend Vincent who I met in Mykonos and his friend, Robert, from Norway! We met up in Cologne and spent the evening bar hopping, catching up, laughing, and dancing on tables (well that was only Robert..hahaha). When we met up with Vincent and Robert at the train station I tried to tell Vincent "Schon dich zu sehen" which means "nice to see
you again"...but I guess I failed because Vincent couldn't understand me at first. Ha! But at least I tried! Joel and I didn't get back home until about 4:30 Am because we had to take a later, extremely slow train. But it was a great night :)

It was so great to catch up with Joel and we even looked at all the pictures and scrapbooks he had from his time in Salida! It was so hilarious to look at them since they were from like 5 years ago! Good times!

Much love,

Hola Espana I have done an awful job at updating my blog in the past couple of weeks and I deeply apologize! I have so many adventures to share with you all so I hope you don't mind reading a few long blogs all at once :)

To begin, my mom came and visited me during my fall break!!! She arrived in Rome on Friday October 23rd and we spent the weekend wondering around the sights of Rome and I showed her how my life has been here. It was fun to be able to show her where I eat and the trams I ride every day to school and my favorite pizza restaurant. After a whirlwind tour through Rome we got on a plane on Sunday and headed to Barcelona!!

We spent three full days in Barcelona and my good friend, Jenna from DU, met up with us and we explored the city together. Mom and I spent the first day exploring the streets of Barcelona. We visi
ted the Santa Maria del Mar which I would say is my mom's favorite cathedral and from a book that my mom and I had both read, Cathedral of the Sea. Afterwards we went to the Picasso Museum and saw Picasso's rendition of Velazquez's Las Meninas. Much to Jeff's satisfaction, we decided to do the double decker tour bus one day in order to see all the sights (Jeff makes fun of me because I love these buses). We were able to make it to all the Gaudi architecture. Jenna and I decided to put it on our bucket lists to come back to Barcelona when the Sagrada Familia is finally completed. We'll be about 80 years old but who cares!

I have decided to come up with a list of "favorites" during my time abroad so I determined that my favorite monument is the Christopher Colombus monument in Barcelona. I also determined that I loved being able to communicate better with the Spaniards! Although in Barcelona most people speak Catalan, I was still able to use Spanish (which I definitely know more of than Italian!) and was able to communicate with the people. It really made me want to get back into Spanish.
The last night in Barcelona, Jenna and I shared an excellent meal of various tapas...and an entire bottle of cava ;)
After Barcelona, my mom and I headed to Madrid! In Madrid we went to the Prado Art
Museum and mom was able to see some of her favorite paintings, including Las Meninas. We also went to the Renee Sophia museum and saw Picasso's Guernica. This could possibly be on the my favorite lists as my favorite painting. It's incredible! We also toured the Palace Real and Catedral de la Almudena which is by far my favorite cathedral in Europe (so far!).

The best part about Madrid was when we were exploring the different Plazas. We went to the Plaza di Toros where they have the bull fights. Unfortunately there were not bull fights while we were there (just another thing to put on my Bucket List!). Afterwards we went to Plaza Mayor. When my mom was out of college she and one of her friends had traveled all through Europe so she was excited to go back to all these places, like Plaza Mayor, that she has been to before..but now she was with her daughter :).
At Plaza Mayor we found a store that sold family crests and we found Medina!!! I was so excited!
I really enjoyed spending my fall break in Spain and connecting with a part of my heritage that I never really cared all that much about. I loved the feeling of embracing my family name and speaking Spanish and being around my culture. However, it did make me miss my grandpa a whole lot :( But I am sure he was looking down from heaven, smiling and singing Hallelujah as he watched me explore his country :)

While in Madrid, I was also able to see my friend Brittany who is studying there and my friend from high school Ellen. It was so wonderful to visit them and it was made me appreciate the fact that all of us are in so many different places in the world, experiencing different things and cultures and I cant' wait to be able to share them all with one another!

Oh...I also decided I want to live in Spain for some time in my life :)

Much love,

Monday, October 19, 2009

Assisi, Calico, and Antonio

Another uneventful week at school came and went. Midterms are currently going on as I write this but I have already had 2 exams (went well) and 1 left (not worried about it).

This past weekend we had an ISA day excursion trip to Assisi. Assisi is a small town located in the Umbria area a few hours north of Rome. It is the birthplace of St. Francis, who founded the Franciscan religious order. The entire town revolves around this man. We were able to tour the Basilica di St. Francis and see where he was born and where his father kept him prison! It was very interesting. I loved this town because it was located right against a hillside and you could look out over the Umbria valley. All the buildings were old white-gray brick. Assisi is known for their wild boar recipes and la rocciata (pastry with fruits and almonds) and i brutti ma buoni (ugly but good) cookies. Naturally I had to try all three :)

On Saturday, Emily, Gena, and I spent a rainy down near Vatican shopping. I bought my black boots and a few scarves. Later, we all cooped up in our flat and studied for midterms. Emily found hot chocolate mix so I enjoyed an evening drinking hot chocolate, studying, and lounging in my skivvies :)

On Sunday Emily, Gena, Madeleine, Jeff and I had tickets to a Lazio partita di calcio (Lazio soccer game)
It was so much fun!!! The Italians are so enthusiastic about soccer. They had songs, chats, and cheers and they had scarve
s and flags that they waved the entire game. I wish I could have understood what they were saying when they cheered... The game ended as a tie but it was very exciting all the same!

After the game, Gena, Emily, and I went to our cafe below our flat. We have become good friends with one of the workers, Antonio. He is an older Italian man and he speaks a little English. He is always so excited when we come in. He winks at us and gets a huge smile. We are able to speak with him a little in Italian. I told him that we were going to Assisi so he asked about that. He knows we always get cappuccini but this night he convinced us to get Roman hot chocolate, which is essentially melted chocolate. It's extremely thick and rich but oh so good! Antonio always gives us some sort of pastry or treat with our cappuccini but this night he was the only one working so he made us a Nutella filled crepe with white chocolate sauce. It was so good! Not only do we get special treatment, he never charges us for anything either. Three cioccolati caldi, un crepe= 9 E. Antonio gave it all to us for 3 E! Not just because we get free treats (ha!), but I have decided that Antonio and that
cafe is my favorite part of Rome. I love knowing that he knows us and looks forward to us being there. I also enjoy trying to communicate with him. I wish I knew more Italian but I also decided that the minimal conversation that does exist between us is exactly what makes it so good.

Much love,

When Hope Comes to Roma!

Wow it's been far too long since I have updated this! I apologize! For those that have facebook I am sure you have been tracking my adventures through my pictures. Well I have much to recap so I will be posting a couple blog posts all at once!

Last weekend, my good friend Hope visited for the weekend! She is studying in London so she flew in to enjoy a Roman weekend with us! It was great to have a reason to stay in Rome for the weekend and e a tourist again. We spent the entire weekend going to all the main sites around Rome again. Sometimes I forget how much I appreciate where I live right now because I am so caught up in wanting to see so much of the world. I need to remember to enjoy what is right around me.

Sunday is the day that I would like to write about...

I woke up on Sunday and decided I was going to go to the Roman Baptist Church that my friends, Tim and Janet Hall, had recommended to me. They know the pastor and he and his wife actually lived in Buena Vista before moving to Rome. Anyways, I really wanted to check this church out and see what it was like. On my way to the church, I have to walk down this long street Via del Corso. I'm not a big fan of going into new situations by myself especially if there is the possibility of me sitting alone (I HATE sitting alone). So on my walk there I was praying that God would give me someone to sit with. Well upon entering the church, much to my surprise, Tim and Janet were there! It wasn't God answering my prayer...He exceeded it! (He likes to do that!). It was so great to see them and talk with them. They told me that Dave (the pastor) had emailed them saying I had contacted him so they decided to co
me to church that morning on the off chance I would be there too. Talk about divine timing :)

So in my conversations with Tim and Janet they asked me what I missed and how my time in Rome was so far. Two things about our conversation will come into play later that day but keep in mind that they asked me if I missed my personal space yet and they warned me again to be careful about pick pocketers. Otherwise, it was a great morning and I was so thankful I was able to see Tim and Janet. :)

I headed back to my apartment so Hope, Emily, and I could go do a few other things before Hope had to fly back to London. We were planning on going back to Piazza Navona and to the Coliseum so Hope could see it in the daylight. Well...there is huge market that happens every Sunday on Trastevere so the tram was quite packed. Emily and I have gotten used to the tram being packed but it was unusually crowded this day. At one stop, it was very strange because a whole crowd (some gypsies) pushed their way on the tram. Usually the Romans just wait for the next tram if it is to crowded. They don't push their way on. I immediately was on guard because I felt like it was a weird situation. Well..we got off the tram and Hope's wallet had been stolen. I was so mad at myself because I felt like I had been keeping my eye on her. She was fine though and we were able to take care of everything and cancel her card. So..ironic situation #1..just that morning the Halls had cautioned me again about pick pocketers.

After we took care of the situation we had to get ready to take Hope to Termini so she could catch her shuttle to the airport. We waited for the H bus at the Trastevere station for about 30 minutes before we decided to just take the tram to the end and catch a bus there. We go over to the tram stop and to our utter disgust we see the gypsies from earlier and they actually were sitting there with their 2 kids going through stuff they had taken! We were staring to see if we saw Hope's wallet...but really what would we have done if we had? It really frustrated me.

We finally made it to the bus stop and again it was very crowded. It was like everyone in Rome needed to ride public transportation that evening. We finally made it on the bus and the Hall's second mention (me missing my personal space) came into play. The bus we were on was jammed back. Normally I do not care so much being so crammed up against people but it really bothers me when perverted Italian men use this situation to rub up all over me. I was so disgusted and irate by the end of the bus ride, I felt like screaming or hitting someone. Over the course of the ride, I had three men decide to invade my space and rub all their clothed anatomy against my body. Talk about feeling violated.

Finally after a stressful time at Termini we were able to get Hope on her shuttle and head back home. Of course, the day's excitement can't end there. On the bus ride home there was a creepy who was staring at Emily and I there whole time. Then when the bus emptied out some he has the audacity to come right next to where I was sitting, lean against me, and stare down at me. I just ignored him but I was so mad at that point.

When I finally got home, I had a good cry and took a shower. It was the first time since I'd been in Rome that I really did not like the Roman culture.

But I have to be thankful for a few things. I really think for one I experienced a spiritual attack that afternoon. I think Satan used my Jesus high that I was having from the previous night and from that morning and used it against me. However, I do think Jesus sent me the Halls that morning for comfort and as a warning. Why else would they mention the two exact things that I later experience that same day? I just have to be reminded how much I am dependent on Jesus and that I NEED him. I still feel safe here but I am definitely making sure I am no where near an Italian man when I am on a crowded bus. Basta! (enough!)

Much love,

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sorrento, Capri, and Pompeii!

Ciao ragazzi! Wow this past weekend was incredible and full of adventures! This weekend was one of our ISA excursions so we traveled to Sorrento, Capri, and Pompeii!

We left for Sorrento on Friday October 2nd and drove about 4 hours to the town. We arrived in Sorrento and checked into our hotel. I must say, these excursions definitely take the stress away from having to plan your own trip...where to to get there, etc. It's very nice having it all planned for you! Anyways..after we checked in we had free time for the rest of the day. Unfortunately it was rainy outside but we still scampered off to do some exploring!
My friends and I walked down to the port first and saw the M. Sea and the boats. After we walked around the town center
and did some shopping. Sorrento is famous for inlaid woodwork and limoncello! Naturally I had to buy something wood and we tried the limoncello (Not the greatest thing I've ever tried actually). Later in the evening we grabbed dinner at a Rick Steve's recommended place. (Rick Steve's writes tour books and he has become a comic friend to our group!). After dinner we decided to check out the nightlife. We ended up having one drink at a bar and going back to the hotel to rest since we needed to be up early for our trip to Capri!

We woke up on Saturday and got ready to leave for Capri. I was kind of nervous because we were taking a ferry over to the island and after my ferry experience to Mykonos I was a little unsettled about getting on another one. But it turned out to be fine and it was a quick trip. We had the whole day to do whatever we wanted and we were recommended to rent a boat and go around the island. Our hope was to be able to go inside the Blue Grotto (which if you don't know what that is it is known for its size and the intense blue tones of the water. Here's a link of a picture if you want to check it out: ).

My friends and I finally came across a guy, Alfonzo, that would take us out on his boat and let us go swimming. It was a 2 hour trip around the island. begins the big adventure of
the day!

First of all it there were 8 of us on the boat and then 2 random guys joined our group. It was great! They turned out to be awesome 1-minute friends and we really enjoyed having them along with our group. When we got in the boat, Alfonzo asked
who was the boss of the group so my friend Jeff told him I was (because naturally...the one that ALWAYS gets our group lost has to be in charge!). So Alfonzo became my best friend. :) The first thing he said to me is "You have Italian blood!" Ha I laughed and told him no, no, only Spanish but he was insistent that I was Italian. I told him my name was Kristen but that name doesn't really exist in Italy so I was either Christina or Christine. And for the rest of the day Alfonzo would say "Look Christine! I give you the best tour! Isn't that beautiful Christine?! You like, Christine? See I show you all the best things!" He constantly wanted my affirmations and even wanted a picture with me. Mind you, this is an older (like 55 years) Italian man who spoke great English but in a heavy Italian accent. He was great!

So our group was pretty disappointed that the Blue Grotto was closed, right? Well we arrive to where the Grotto is and we can see why. The small opening is pretty much covered with water and the waves would hit the opening and almost cover it entirely. There is a staircase down to the opening but you can't really get inside from there. Well...we get close and Alfonzo says to us "The Grotto is closed...but for is open!" And all of us are

like WHAT?! And so Alfonzo says "Yes, yes, go quickly. And don't get to close to the edge. But go quickly...and don't tell anyone!" So all of us are like well heck! Swimming illegally into one of the most beautiful places in Italy..why not! Of course, for me, I am terrified of water and it took a little bit of coaxing to get me to do this. I mean we are talking, big waves, 50 meter swim, no life jacket, tiny opening, M. Sea...the works! Well, our group swims over and there is a chain that you grab onto and pull yourself (normally rowboats go in there) in. Once you are in it is very calm! I couldn't really appreciate the beauty as much as I would have liked because I was so focused on treading water, staying alive, and not freaking myself out. I didn't even really look down at the water because I was terrified of what could be lurking in that cave! Well..the waves were getting bigger so we needed to get out. Emily helped me leave but of course my timing is never right, a wave comes right as I'm leaving. I swallow a ton of salt water and get knocked up against the wall. Thank God there was that staircase right by so I was able to pull myself up that and get my breathe. Emily noticed that I was all cut up. I didn't even feel anything! After a few minutes I was able to jump back in and swim back to the boat. After calming down I took inventory of my battle wounds. I ended up scraping up my feet and toes pretty badly and I cut my knee and left leg a lot and I had a few cuts on my arms. But it was so worth it! Me, Kristen, terrified of water and all things related, just swam illegally in the Blue Grotto! This may be the highlight of my study abroad experience so far!

Well after that high...we continued on our tour around the island. Alfonzo showed us all the other grottos and definitely gave us the best tour ever! The rest of the day we walked around the island. Not as eventful and exciting so our boat experience! :)

Around 6 pm we left to head back to Sorrento. Returned to our hotel and cleaned up and got all the salt off our bodies! We had a great dinner out and then went to the Foreigner's Bar and had a glass of limoncello. We all went to bed fairly early because we had to be up early again.

Sunday morning, we checked out of our hotel and headed to Pompeii! I was so excited about this part of the weekend. We arrived and got to have about a 2 hour guided tour (by professors not tour guides!) around Pompeii. It was incredible! For anyone that hasn't gone, you all have to visit Pompeii.
It's so sad yet incredibly....incredible how well preserved it is! We only saw abut 25% of the city. I want to go back and just get lost in Pompeii. We saw a few of the body casts that they have made and it was extremely heartwrenching. One cast was crouched down like they were hiding and another was a pregnant woman. She was face down covered her face with her hands. It was awful yet so interesting to see.

This weekend was incredible for me because I finally feel like the adventurous spirit I have always craved for my life is finally becoming a living part of who I am. I mean...months ago I would never have done what I did on Saturday in Capri. I would never have gone swimming in the Mediterranean Sea let alone with no lifejacket into dark, closed grottos! But I love it because I feel like I am not only conquering fears that I have had but I am finally being adventurous without the help of another person. I love feeling like there are adventures to be had, experiences to experience, things to see, things to do, chances and risks to take, and life to be lived...and I'm doing it! I'm doing it all now and now I crave the adventure with every fiber of my being. And this adventurous spirit has always been a part of who I am but I have always needed another person to bring it out of me. And now I'm doing it on my own and with Jesus and it's incredible!

I'm not missing out on a single thing :)

Much love!!!!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Wien! (Vienna)

Guten tag!

This past weekend I traveled with my best friend, Emily to Vienna, Austria! We went to visit my high school Spanish teacher, Rene Frazee, and my high school soccer coach, Scott McFarland, and their two kids! They are currently living in Vienna and Scott is teaching first grade and coaching so I was super excited to be able to have
the chance to go see them!

Emily and I flew out of Rome Thursday evening and arrived in Vienna around 9 PM. When we arrived we realized...oh dang...we know absolutely NO German. This wasn't going to be like yeah yeah I can figure it out cause I know a little bit of Spanish or Italian or something like that. Sooo..we were excited! I actually thought it was the best language experience I have had yet because I just simply did not know anything!

We got to Scott and Rene's apartment and visited with them for a bit and then went to bed. I have not slept as well as I did that night the entire time I have been abroad! It was absolutely quiet and peaceful. I think also sleeping in the house of people I knew just gave me a lot of comforting feelings. :)
The next morning, Em and I got up and went to the Schonbrunn Palace with Rene, and her two adorable kids, Grace and Ethan! This palace is the former royal residence of successive Habsburg monarchs. This place was incredible! Em and I did a tour through the palace and then explored the grounds. They have beautiful gardens everywhere and statue
s and fountains. They have this area with small labyrinths and mazes and Emily and I had some fun getting "lost" in those. Then we walked up this hill facing the was where they were originally going to build the monarchy's "summer home" but decided not to. Anyways up on this hill you can look out over all of Vienna! It was beautiful! Emily and I made some 1-minute friends there too! We met Henning, from Germany and Rowan from Australia. They invited us to have coffee with them so we sat and visited for about an hour. They also invited us to a party on a ship that night but we didn't end up going. But they were good 1-minutes friends!

Later on Friday, Emily and I went to Stephensplatz and saw the Stephandsom Cathedral. This is in the 1st District (aka the high class area!) so we walked around and window shopped at Gucci, Prada, and other high end stores that I would never be able to afford! Scott and Rene met back up with us and we went out to dinner at a Thai place. Oh my gosh it was so great to eat something other than Italian food!

Scott left after dinner and took the kids home and Rene, Em, and I walked down to the Danube (it was really the canal for it but still cool!) and then decided to stay out for a drink. We ended up at this cafe (I'll remember the name somehow) that was supposedly Hitler's favorite restaurant! We had hot chocolate and rum and some applestrudal! It was so great to sit and visit, but it was crazy to be there sitting in the same place that not along ago, Hitler sat and ate and discussed...well..I don't even want to think about what he talked about!

The next day, Scott took Emily and I out on the town and was our personal tour guide. We went to Schloss Belvedere (The Habsburg's summer residence), we saw the opera house, and the building and courtyard where Hitler gave his infamous speech. Rene met up with us later in the day and we went to the Naschmarkt and did some shopping. Rene made us a homemade meal for dinner than night and we enjoyed a night of conversation. :)

On Sunday, Scott and Rene took us up to the vineyards because they were having a festival. We drank Sturm..which is essential wine that's not completely fermented. Not entirely sure..but it was good! It was hilarious though because there was definitely more alcohol content then we knew of in the drinks cause it went straight to our heads! But it was tasty! We couldn't leave Austria without having some wienal schnitzel so before we left for our flight, Scotty took us to lunch! It was yummmmmy!

So there's the rundown on my trip but here are some highlights! word:


Right when Emily and I got off the plane in Vienna there was a Starbucks welcoming us. I basically died of happiness. So the entire weekend (yes it was American of us but I couldn't help it) we drank Starbucks coffee. Oh it was heavenly

Second..the Austrians are so nice! And Vienna is so clean and organized! I absolutely loved my time in the city because I felt like people were friendly and helpful and it was just a very good vibe to the city. I thoroughly enjoyed it and definitely want to go back again! And I kind of want to learn Germa
n now!

Lastly, the Austrians are very..secretive..ashamed maybe..of their involvement with WWII and Hitler. It is very interested. They even have a memorial but it is located off the beaten path...away from the more visited areas. It's just interesting how they seem to try to hide it. The memorial by the way, was very interesting. It's a square made up entire of stone books. The books bindings are facing inward (ie opposite of how they would be in a library). The books each symbolize someone's life..someone's story..that we will never know because they were killed; hence why the bindings (where the title would be) is facing inward so you don't know who's story it is.

Well that's all for now!

Much love,

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cinque Terre

Come stai? Sto molto bene! (See I'm learning some Italian!)

Man I have the adventures to share with you all! :) My friends, Emily, Gena, Madeleine, Corey, and Jeff went to Cinque Terre this weekend. We left Thursday evening and caught a train from Roma Termini to La Spezia. The ride was a little over three hours and it was fun to see mor
e of the Italian countryside and the coast! After arriving, we took a taxi to our hostel in Bassia. In terms of hostel was ok. Decently clean and quite, however we did see a mouse in the hallway when we left to grab dinner! Stayed there for one night.

We got up the next morning and took a bus into the first town, Riomaggiore, where we had a hostel booked for the next 2 nights. After dropping our luggage off we went exploring and found a beach to spend the afternoon at. Oh side good friend Andrew Smith met up with us because he is traveling around Europe before his year in Spain begins! A fun addition to the trip! :) Anyyyways...spent the afternoon on the bea
ch. Jeff tried desperately to get as tan as I am (it's hopeles
s) and we all swam in the Mediterranean! Yes, I, Kristen, who is deathly afraid of water, swam in the M. Sea! Be proud.

After the beach we went back to check into our hostel. Our hostel ended up being at the VERY top of the town in an adorable apartment style complex. The view, as Jeff informed me, was worth the 60 euro and I now redeemed myself for every moment we've been lost so far for this semester. ha Yeah another side note, our group tends to have difficulties deciding who will be the leader and make the decisions, so it usually ends up being me. But then I have no idea where I am ever going so we end up lost. But we always find out way eventually! Every moment's an adventure!

After checking in, we all cleaned up and then went out to dinner. We ate at this very nice place right in town. There was this old Italian man who went around the place serving the wine, folding napkins, and just visiting with people. For not really knowing any Italian, we were able to understand what he told us. He thought Corey and Andrew were brothers and that all us girls were very beautiful and he approved of the fact that the guys were with more girls! He was adorable! He pretty much made my whole trip!

The following day we woke up early and hiked the famous Cinque Terre Trail. It's a 9 km hike that connects all five of the towns. We started in Montorosso and ended
in Riomaggiore. The hike was incredible!! Soooo many stairs and a lot of up and down (which didn't go over well with my knees), but the views were amazing! It felt great to finally be in some nature and in small towns without any noise or pollution. We stopped in each of the towns when
we reached them and snacked. In Vernazza we had pesto pizza
because this town is known for their pesto.
In Corniglia we had gelato. One section of the trail was closed because of mudslides so that was kind of a bummer. The very last section of the trail is called the Via del Amore (Trail of Love) and people (lovers) hook padlocks on the fences and wires all along this section. It was very cool!

After our exhausting day we hiked the 300 stairs back to our hostel and cleaned up and then enjoyed a lovely dinner at a place right at the bottom of our place. The next morning we needed to catch a train back to La Spazie because we had a train back to Roma at noon. Well...we got to the station with plenty of time only to be announced that the train was delayed. And it kept being delayed..more..and more. I was praying the entire time that it would arrive or that our train to Roma would be delayed so we would not have to wait or pay more before we could get back to Roma. Finally the train came and arrived in La Spezia at 12:09 (our train to Roma was supposed to leave at 12:06). We got off the train and ran to our platform and what do you know! The train to Roma was delayed and arrived about 2 minutes after we got there! It was definitely a Hallelujah...come again...HALLELUJAH..moment!
It was a great weekend! I learned a lot about traveling with friends and how people have different traveling styles. There were definitely some tense moments on the trip but I think we all really had a great time. I thoroughly enjoyed the small town feel of Cinque Terre and I was able to spend some quality time walking and talking to Jesus when I was on the Trail. We had a lot of laughs..I almost lost my Nalgene water bottle...we tried n
ew food...practiced some Italian..oh, I almost forgot! One of the best moments on the trip...we were sitting on the wall down by the water and all of a sudden, I recognized someone! The DU Bologna group just HAPPENED to be in Cinque Terre the same weekend! Talk about a small world! But then after that...we kept running into DU was so funny! We didn't know any of them but we got some great laughs out of realizing that DU has infested Italy with study abroad students. I guess DU's whole 85% study abroad rate really rings true!

Well that's all for now! I hope ya'll are enjoying reading about my crazy adventures as much as I am enjoying having them!

Much love,

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Posso Avere Un Altro...

Well. This was quite the crazy weekend! :)

Friday, me and four of my friends spent the majority of the day visiting
the Vatican Museum. It was incredible! There was so much to see! I could spend the entire day just looking up and still not see like 2% of the artwork in the Vatican. We mazed in and out of little chapel rooms, corridors lined with tapestries done by Bernini, and sculptures of castrated men (poor guys). I was most excited about seeing the Sistine Chapel and truly it is as extraordinary as you think. It's not as big as I thought it was going to be. However, standing in that chapel and actually seeing Michelangelo's creation was beyond captivating. I felt moved to tears and exhaustion looking at his creation scene and the scene of judgement. It was confusing to decipher between what was painted versus what was actually part of the building. Breathtaking.

After the Sistine Chapel, we decided to wait on going into St. Peter's because the line was long and we were all tired. We met up with my friend Jeremiah that I met at the hostel I was staying in before I moved into my apartment. Hung out with him for the afternoon and then we all got together to go to a beach party! We were supposed to meet up with a friend of Jeremiah's at the Yellow Hostel/Bar.
Well...we left around 7:30ish and needed to catch the 75 bus. We waited at the bus stop for ab
out 30 minutes, saw about 40 bus 3's go by, and no 75's. Welcome to Italian public transportation (this is one thing DU orientation people got right!). Well we finally got a 75 and were able to make it to the hostel in time. Th
e drive to the beach took about 45 minutes. When we finally got there, we all got some drinks (I made friends with the bartender. ha) and then sat in the sand and listened to a live band. It was great! We had a great night laughing, drinking a little vino, wading in the Mediterranean, and....losing my AUR student id card, my monthly bus pass, and getting sand in my camera. Yeah it was bad. But it was a fun night! I successfully learned how to order a drink in Italian and how to pro
perly greet people with the cheek kiss and I had a very elementary conversation with an Italian!

Saturday I slept for a good portion of they day. In the afternoon, my roommates Emily, Gena, and I went to the Villa Borghese, a beautiful park in Roma. It was very relaxing to wander around, get some gelato, sit and read, and people watch.

Today (Sunday) I wasn't feeling well again (still pretty sick) and Emily, Corey, Jeff, and Madeleine had plans to go to the beach. However, it was raining so that plan was scratched. Instead we all decided to get some lunch near the Tiber River. It was a great little place! We had a yummy lunch and then found an english bookstore and I found a toy shop with all handmade toys! Afterwards we went to the Basilica di Santa Maria. Apparently this church is the first church where they had Catholic mass. It was beautiful and I'm definitely going back to do some drawing!

Well it was an eventful weekend and I'm looking forward to a relaxing week of classes!

I hope everyone is doing well! Miss you all!

Much love,