Monthly Archives: November 2009

roma fall ’09 semester: a few words.

nouns; places.

Roma. the aegean sea. matera. alberobello. sorrento. pompeii. capri. cinque terre. la spezia. levanto. pisa. velletri. assisi. marino. krakow. auschwitz-birkenau. vienna. salzburg. prague. london. venice. cairo. giza. alexandria. florence. paris. versailles. Roma. monte mario. J-Force. mensa. room 311. rinaldo’s. BP’s. calcio fields. campo de’ fiori. scholar’s. old bridge gelateria. st. peter’s square. villa borghese. via del corso. piazza navona. trevi fountain. trastevere. Roma. museums. churches. bridges. cafes. mcdonalds. alleyways. bus stops. airports. train stations. train compartments. metro. hostels. hotels. Roma. frankfurt. munich. berlin. home. Roma—always, always, always.

nouns; things.

friends. wine. carbs. heat. scarves. gelato. pasta. trains. maps. guidebooks. buses. fountains. water. nutella. mountains. beer. pizza. calcio. karaoke. visas. hiking. backpack. traditions. mass. journals. cobblestones. laughter. tickets. visits. picnics. classes. beginnings. endings. change. phone cards. bakeries. euros. cameras. tourists. loss. pictures. camels. language. olives. castles. art. gossip. mornings. crepes. the eiffel tower. questions. pierogis. rain. snow. love. canals. the sound of music. passion. music. homework. time. souvenirs. skype dates. to do lists. postcards. viewpoints. history. rivers. chances. markets. adventure. memories.

descriptive words; adjectives & adverbs.

good. scary. beautiful. overwhelming. rewarding. spectacular. loud. rushed. warm. welcoming. comfortable. ridiculous. quick. exciting. ancient. new. historical. competitive. crazy. wonderful. fantastic. amazing. magical. educational. better. uncertain. confusing. peaceful. moving. thrilling. foreign. silly. pink. hilarious. intense. spiritual. nostalgic. quiet. nerve-racking. awkward. frustrating. hectic. fun. fast. difficult. worthwhile. best.

verbs.

walking, walking, walking. running. traveling. climbing. growing. wandering. changing. loving. losing. discovering. being. waking up. sleeping. hiking. posing. riding. dancing. playing. eating. seeing. shopping. drinking. winning. wondering. admiring. failing. photographing. learning. planning. laughing. smiling. missing. treasuring. packing. relaxing. studying. falling. going out. writing. remembering.

-megan

p.s. only 10 days left at the J-Force, then 10 more days in Europe, then I’m home.

Advertisements

A moment of thanks.

It’s Saturday night in Rome–one of my last Saturday nights in Rome–but I decided to stay in tonight in favor of having some time to relax. The past week has gone by in such a blur, and I needed some time to catch my breath.

Kate arrived from the US early Sunday morning, and the next few days were spent showing her around Rome (and you know, attending class). On Tuesday night, we jetted off to Paris, where we stayed until Friday night, when we flew back to Rome. Then, we got up early this morning, saw a last few Roman sites, then I dropped her off at the airport to fly back to the US. Whew. Quite a week, I must say, but a wonderful week all the same.

With American Thanksgiving this past week, the idea of “giving thanks” has been on my mind lately, and for good reason. In addition to all of the other wonderful things in my life, I have so much to be thankful for just in regards to this past semester. I’ve traveled to amazing places, met fantastic new people, and done a lot of things that most people only dream about. From sitting in a rowboat in the Blue Grotto on Capri to going up in the Eiffel Tower, I won’t hesitate to say that this past semester has been the most incredible experience of my life thus far.

I just looked through the pictures that everyone has been putting up on Facebook over the course of the semester, and I can’t even comprehend everything that I’ve experienced in these few short months. I’m so grateful for where I’ve been and what I’ve seen on my weekend trips, but I’m equally grateful (if not even more so) for my time in Rome itself. Rome really has become comfortable to me; I feel like I love and know this city as more than just a tourist, which is exactly what I wanted to get out of this semester.

So, here’s to still celebrating the real meaning of Thanksgiving, even when my Thanksgiving dinner consisted of eating an omelet and crepes in a French cafe outside of Notre Dame. After all, the point is still the same no matter what country I’m in or what food I’m eating.

-megan

Playing catch up; Rounds 2 & 4: Visits to some of Italy’s most beautiful cities, Venice & Florence.

In the past weeks, I’ve done a far amount of traveling around Italy as well. Halloween weekend I headed to Venice with my friend, Emily, and last weekend, I ventured to Florence with another friend, Carly.

To go to Venice, Emily and I got up bright and early on Friday morning, following the J-Force Halloween party the night before. (I was Audrey Hepburn from Breakfast at Tiffany’s for Halloween, if you’re curious.) Since we had been up late the night before, we were both pretty tired, but we had a 6 hour train ride to get to Venice, so we had plenty of time to rest on the way there!
After arriving in Venice (at sunset!—so beautiful), we checked into our hostel, found a place to eat dinner, and then wandered over to St. Mark’s Square, where we spent the rest of the evening eating gelato and wandering around. I’ve decided that St. Mark’s is magical at night; it’s one of my new favorite places in all of Italy. Various cafes on the square each have orchestras that take turns playing music, and lots of people hang out there, and we even saw some couples dancing. So cute.
Since we were essentially only there one full day, we spent most of Saturday just wandering around trying to see as much of the Venice as we could. We started off at St. Mark’s again, where we went inside the Cathedral. It was so beautiful (like everything else in Venice)! From there, we basically just worked our way up the Grand Canal, just wandering wherever we pleased.
It was a really relaxed day overall. Besides St. Mark’s, there’s really not a lot of big sights to see in Venice; the main sight is really the town itself. Venice has to be one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Rome is beautiful too, but in a completely different way from Venice. Venice feels perfectly preserved; I spent half the weekend expecting to turn a corner and run into people in 16th century clothes. It’s almost eerie at times. I took so many pictures that day because every corner that I did turn seemed to be more beautiful than the last. That kind of beauty never gets old no matter how many times you see it. Emily and I literally felt like we were walking around in a painting all weekend.
We also ate a lot of excellent food that weekend and cheaply too, which is always nice. Oh, and I had the BEST gelato of my life in Venice, as per Rick Steve’s recommendation. It was chocolate mousse gelato, and it was fantastic. Emily and I finished Saturday evening at St. Mark’s again, before heading back to our hostel in preparation to get up early and head back to Rome.
…..
Then, last weekend, Carly and I took a whirlwind trip to Florence! We made it short and quick because we both wanted to make sure we spent part of the weekend in Rome, but we still were able to fit plenty in. Even though we were barely in Florence for 24 hours, we managed to visit the Duomo, climb the Duomo, go to the Academia and see Michelangelo’s David, go through the Uffizi, eat a great dinner, get gelato, and even get some shopping in! Whew. Like I said, it was definitely a whirlwind trip, but a great one all the same.
I visited Florence when I was in Italy for 3 years ago, but it was so nice to be back there again. It reminded me of the all the reasons why I loved it so much to begin with. Florence just has such a good vibe to it; it reminds me of all the reasons why I love Renaissance history.
We also stayed in the nicest hostel EVER in Florence. It was called Plus Florence, and it was amazing. There was a pool, steam room, restaurant, bar, etc. They even gave us towels and little containers of shampoo for free (unheard of behavior for a hostel). It basically felt like a hotel, and it was approximately 16 euros a night. So fantastic.
…..
So there’s a summary of some of my past weekend trips! I still have Egypt to write about, but hopefully that will be coming soon. That will be an epic entry, I assure you.
But for now, I have to finish up some schoolwork, and then go to bed to get up bright and early to meet my friend, Kate, at the airport tomorrow morning! She’s going to be here for the rest of the week, and I’m so excited! I can’t wait to see her! 🙂
To the remaing adventures ahead!
-megan

All good things must come to end.

Unfortunately, it is always true that “all good things must come to an end,” whether it’s a cone of the best gelato I’ve ever tasted, the Pink team’s Calcio season, or even this semester in Rome.

This past Wednesday evening was the beginning of Calcio playoffs. The top 8 teams were matched up, and only the four winning teams continue on to the next week. Unfortunately, although the Pink team played a great game, we had a round of bad luck and ended up losing. Therefore, for the pink team at least, the calcio season is now over. And the most ironic thing about the end of the Calcio season is that I never realized how much I enjoyed it until it was over.
I’ve fallen into a routine over the course of this semester, where Wednesday nights automatically equal Calcio matches and going out for beer and pizza afterwards. While we still have one more week left, I will just be standing on the outside, which is so strange.
Let’s be honest: frankly, I was a bit freaked out about playing Calcio in the beginning, and I wasn’t much better at the end. My roommate/teammate, Beth, informed me that every time someone asked me if I wanted to go in, I looked terrified, which I fully believe. However, underneath all of that, I genuinely did enjoy a lot of things about Calcio; it really was a great bonding experience.
Much scarier than trying to play defense against boys a foot taller than me though is realizing that I’m never going to do it again. Never again will I stand with those people on that field, chanting for the pink team, and being amazed at my more talented teammates Calcio abilities.
However, this all just brings me to the scariest realization of all: understanding that this ending is only the first of many that I will have to see through in the next month. And when I say month, that’s an exact number. I fly back to Chicago (and then St. Louis) on December 20th.
With every passing day, I’m becoming more aware of the other endings I’m going to have to face (including the dreaded final exams). I don’t think I’ve ever really handled endings well. I’m far too nostalgic of a person. Beginnings are exciting, but they make me nervous. Middles are comfortable, but they don’t last.
Endings are so bittersweet—weve learned to love Rome, the J-Force, Europe, gelato, and (perhaps most importantly) each other over the past few months. Soon we will be forced to leave it all behind, as we return to our normal lives and seek to understand the many ways that this semester has changed us with only a few cheesy souvenirs, greatly depleted bank accounts, and our memories to show for it.
We will always have our memories though, and perhaps they will be enough. I certainly know that they will be counted among my most treasured. All I can do now is be thankful that I was blessed enough to be able to have such a wonderful opportunity.
-megan

airports, see it all the time
where someone’s last goodbye
blends in with someone’s sigh
’cause someone’s coming home

you can’t build a house of leaves
and live like it’s an evergreen
it’s just a season thing
it’s just this thing that seasons do

and if you never stop when you wave goodbye
you just might find if you give it time
you will wave hello again
you just might wave hello again”
–john mayer

buon appetite.

I am a little bit obsessed with the way that Italians eat. I’ve never known a group of people that are so dedicated to food.

To eat dinner the Italian way, most people won’t go out until at least 8:00. They will eat several courses (antipasti, primo, secondo, etc). They’ll linger for hours over a meal, drinking wine, and enjoying conversation. Unlike in US, no one rushes you away from your table. Waiters expect you to stay for at least a couple of hours.

Everything here is so fresh. Even the simplest things are so good; I end up eating tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella almost everyday, just because it’s that good.

Everywhere in Italy and especially in Rome, there’s so many good restaurants, bakeries, and cafes. And everything is [almost always] excellent.

Other people have been complaining about becoming sick of pasta since the beginning of the semester, but I’m not. At all. And frankly, I’m not looking forward to going back to American food. I feel like food here is a lot healthier here and better tasting.

Yes, the food is definitely going to be one of the hardest things to give up. I will miss it so much.

Playing catch-up; Round 1: A brilliant weekend in London.

To backtrack a bit, my first weekend after Fall Break, I traveled to London! I flew to London by myself, but once I arrived at Heathrow, my dad met me there. We spent most of the weekend with my Uncle Bill (who is British), his sister, and her family.

It was a fantastic weekend (or rather “brilliant,” as the British would say). As I’d already been to London a few years earlier, I already knew that I would love the city (which I do now more than ever before), but being there again was wonderful! Unlike a lot of the traveling I had been doing up to that point in the semester, London was extremely relaxing. Instead of running around and doing tons of sightseeing, we mainly just hung out, went to the pub, walked around, went to the pub, ate, and oh yeah, went to the pub again. (You think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not.)

In all seriousness though, it was so nice to experience a city the way that locals would experience it. I actually felt like I was living in London for a few days rather than just frantically running around trying to see every touristy site ever. Staying in a real house instead of a hotel or hostel definitely helped enhance that feeling as well.

I hardly saw any of the typical tourists sights –no Big Ben, Parliament, or Tower of London–and didn’t set foot near a museum this time around when I was in London, but I feel like I actually saw London; I actually experienced London as more than just a tourist.

One of the things I have been thinking about a lot this semester is the different approaches people can take to traveling and what suits me the best. While I do love to sight see and visit museums and other historical sites, I think it is also really important to find that critical balance between doing things in a place and just taking time to just be in a place. London was a weekend of being, and I loved it.

Oh, and a bit of advice for those traveling to the UK anytime soon: make sure you know the address of where you are staying because if you don’t, they will not let you through customs. And apparently, saying that your father is meeting you and you are staying with family friends is not sufficient! Ah, it’s just another lesson learned, right?

The whirlwind of life.

I am so behind on posting. There has been so much happening in my life since fall break, and I have unfortunately been sharing precious little of it.

I’ve really been wanting to write about the weekend trips I’ve been on, but time to do so just hasn’t materialized quite yet. I’ve been gone every weekend since Fall Break, each time off to vastly different places–from London, to Venice, to Egypt (!!!), and back again.

Each of these weekends has been so wonderful. When I returned back to the Rome Center this past Monday morning, my roommate, Beth, asked me how my weekend was, to which I responded, “Amazing. Probably the best weekend trip I’ve had all semester.” She laughed at me and replied, “You say that every week,” which is honestly the truth. I’ve truly been blessed to have some amazing travel experiences this semester, and I don’t take them for granted.

All of this traveling has made time here pass so quickly, and the end of the semester is suddenly looming over all of us here at the Rome Center. Today marks one month until the group flight back to Chicago for most of the students here (me excluded, I’m staying for 10 extra days), and our next month is jam packed full of tests, papers, projects, presentations, and eventually the dreaded final exams. In addition to all of this schoolwork, most of us are still traveling on the weekends, and we have to fit in time to do everything we’ve been putting off doing in Rome. See how busy we are?

Even now, I’m writing this post as a break from memorizing the names of Baroque architects and Renaissance painters for my Thursday morning Art In Rome test. Later tonight, we’re supposed to have a karaoke night here; we’ll see if I make it to that one.

And now, I should definitely go back to studying for Thursday’s test. Wish me luck!

-megan