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!!!!