Minturno and Minturnae

Buon Lunedi, Amici! Another fabulous weekend, another long blog, and here we go!

 June 11th, 2012
Another slower day the the JFRC, filled with homework and lameness, but I had one of the best talks with my art history professor. I will spare you the details, but I left feeling so reenergized and ready to take advantage of my last two weeks! That night we head to Fluid for an appertivo. An appertivo is happy hour where you buy one drink for about 8 euro, but then get all the food you can eat. Granted, it’s finger food, but it is still to die for! Major thanks to Sara for telling us to go there! When we walked in people thought I was nuts for dragging them there but we all absolutely loved it! So yummy!  

June 12th, 2012
Another busy class day. Not too much happened, two lectures and a short trip to the Pantheon. We decided to hit the town at night, it was really cool and a lot of fun! Delicious food and drink and a great time had by all! One of the benefits of being in a smaller program is that I feel like I really got to know a lot of people and we have a lot of fun together! This is definitely where I am supposed to be right now!

June 13th, 2012
We are off to Minturno! Minturno is a gorgeous coastal town south ofRome. This trip was a study trip which meant it was all planned by the school and I am so glad I went on this trip! The day started with an early train ride to the town, but when we arrived we were greeted with a breathtaking ocean front view with a private beach. Everyone hit the beach right away and I am always reminded of how relaxing just laying in the sun is…and how easy it is for me to burn. So later that night I found some lovely and extremely awkward sunburn. I do not understand why sunburn can’t just burn your skin evenly. It looks like part of my stomach was half-attacked by some wild animal and the rest is still its pasty self. We then took a tour of someone’s house; literally this woman owns the house and property that has the original gates, mills, sundials and mosaics of the ancient city! The property was absolutely gorgeous, like a scene from secret garden filled with lush greenery and stonework. I still cannot get over that a woman just owns that house and maintains it and allows people to tour it!

Pretty much everything we ate this weekend was delicious! Seriously, I think the only bad taste in my mouth was sand. The best part about traveling with the school is that the food is absolutely delicious! My only gripe is that I have gotten allergic reactions to shrimp in the past (it’s not every time and my windpipe does close or I don’t die), so on this trip I was not allowed to have any fish. I completely understand why the school wouldn’t let me, but I still would have loved to try all the different types of food! My favorite part of the first meal was the dessert, hands-down! It tasted like a creamy, pie version of an almond crescent! My mouth is salivating just thinking about it!

 June 14th, 2012
We started the day bright, early and cheesy. We toured a deli/cheese factory where we got to see how Mozzarella cheese balls are made. They are all overItaly, they look like eggs in various sizes but are made completely of delicious cheese! The process is bizarre, but they literally make a giant ball (like the size of a giant beer cooler or laundry tub) and then break off smaller balls and they even braided some of it. It was really funny because the owners pulled out a giant braided Mozzarella and held it up like proud parents holding up their child. It was really funny seeing how excited and happy they were and the cheese was so good! I am not cheese’s number one fan, but I absolutely loved loved loved this cheese! I wish I could bring it back!

We then headed back to the beach and laid out a bit more and had a picnic lunch with fresh bread, prosciutto and, of course, mozzarella cheese! It was one of the best sandwiches I have ever ever had! When we headed back to the beach, some friends wanted to go paddle boating and I felt brave so I went with! I know this seems stupid but I am not the best swimmer and have a huge fear of open water but I am really proud of myself for actually going in the ocean on a boat! I didn’t swim in the super deep part, but I can still say I was on a boat in theMediterranean!   

I got a bit more sunburn during my paddle boating adventure, so I went back inside and got ready for another delicious meal and awesome tour! Our guide was bizarre, but really funny! We saw all of these original balconies, frescos, archways and roads. It’s weird to think that people built everything beforeAmericawas even thought of! We walked past this gorgeous, ancient church and we saw a wedding! It was weird because most of the guests were wearing black but it was cool that the couple drove away in a BMW with bows all over it! I asked our guide, Cesare about typical Italian weddings and what was common and their traditions, it was really cool to learn about the similarities and differences all while speaking Italian! It was by far the longest conversation I had in Italian while here, but I felt super accomplished! We then headed to dinner and OMG it was so good! I had spaghetti which was so good. I’m sorry Mom, but this spaghetti was the best I have ever eaten in my entire life ever! But while I was eating, Cesare came up to me, took my fork and taught me how to properly twirl pasta! I freaked out because it was so cool! Seriously, learning how to twirl pasta was on my list of things to learn while here and while it was not by the attractive Italian man I would eventually marry, it was still so cool! I then learned from Mike, our director of student services who translated for us the entire trip, that Cesare was watching me from across the table and couldn’t help himself, I guess my American-pasta eating ways were too much for him and he couldn’t help himself! It was so cool! I am still geeking out with excitement over it! We also had one of the most delicious white wines and penna cotta I have had here. Penna cotta is a creamy, jello-like dessert that is covered with fruit, caramel or chocolate and this penna cotta tasted like vanilla ice cream, it was the best I have had inItalyso far!

June 15th, 2012
We started our day with a tour of the ancient ruins of Minturnae. It was really super impressive how advanced ancient peoples were, with their heating and cooling systems, ability to build giant theatres, arches and resourcefulness. I will spare you the gross and disgusting details, which they really learned how to utilize their resources, even the nasty ones. We then headed to lunch at one of the top 50 Vineyards in the World, Villa Matilde. It was so picturesque with flowers, roses, olives and grapes everywhere. Of course the wine was absolutely delicious but I was most surprised by a concoction of a honey and cheese. They mixed grapes and honey to make this gelatin and then poured it on ricotta cheese. It sounds absolutely awful, but it was so good! The rest of the meal was delicious and we raced to the train station to sadly end our trip. The rest of the night was spent cleaning and getting work done. 

Off to find Aloe Vera and get some homework done!
Ciao Ciao!
-Diane 🙂

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Ballet and Chocolate Shots

Happy Wednesday!!

I am happy to report that I have a skin color! I am actually considered tan! Another two days of cloud-less skies, gelato and heat! Here you go!

June 9th, 2012
This morning I played major catch-up with cleaning, homework and getting stuff done here at JFRC. But in the afternoon, two friends and I headed back into the Coliseum and Forum so we could actually look around and see everything. I am still so astounded by the ruins. Everything is still standing and we (somewhat) know how everything was used, which my history geeky self is so jazzed about! After walking around, I went down to Trestevere, a cool neighborhood spot along the river, where my taste buds were blown! We went to “Dar Poeta” and get a delicious pizza! It is probably the second best pizza I have ever had (next toNaples, of course!) We then went to “Cioccolato e Vino”. a place from God, really, where we had chocolate shots. I had two because they didn’t have a lot of alcohol in them: one had coffee liquor, the other had coconut, both covered with chocolate syrup, whipped cream, chocolate shavings all served in an EDIBLE CHOCOLATE SHOT GLASS! You look ridiculous when you eat it because you have to put the entire thing in your mouth, bottom first and then when you crack the chocolate, everything slides down your throat and you are in heaven! It is so good! I am definitely going back there before I leave!

June 10th, 2012
We had class today. For Art History we headed to “Musei Capitolini” that had gorgeous works of art and parts of the Vatican Archives! The Archive’s were my favorite because they showed letters from so many historical people, such as Mozart, Abraham Lincoln, St. Francis ofAssisi, Isabella and Ferdinand and so many more! It was a really cool exhibit! We then headed back to the Partheon and to this hotel rooftop where I saw one of the coolest views ofRome! The view was breathtaking and we saw a cool aerial view of the Partheon. After photography we saw a beautiful ballet, “Giselle”, in an outside theatre with the Roman baths as the backdrop. How cool is that?!  What I loved most about the ballet is, even though I could probably never carry a conversation with the performers, but I still understood the story they told and watched in awe of the technique and grace of ballet. It was so wonderful and gorgeous and I am so grateful I got to go!

Today, I am off to the market down the street for some fruit and sunscreen and who knows what else!

Ciao!
-Diane 🙂

“Shittas that’s fun!”

The past 5 have been filled with nothing but delicious food and loads of fun! I finally feel a  self-awareness of being fully and truly present. It’s amazing how attached we are to our cell phones, texting, email, facebook, anything under the sun that takes us away from beautiful moments in our lives. There was a time this weekend while standing on a dock in the Mediterranean Sea that I realized how gorgeous life is and how fragile, precious and awe-inspiring it is; that view is one I will hold with me for the rest of my life. But, here is what else I have been up to:

 July 4th, 2012

Happy BirthdayAmerica! How did I celebrate? Wandering aimlessly throughout the streets ofRomewith my friend Taylor! We simply hopped off the Metro at the Coliseum and just turned down whichever street we wanted and we ended up seeing pretty much every monument inRome. Taylor and I both agreed that the Pantheon Was our favorite! We just so happened to stumble upon it; we simply turned a corner and before us stood this magnificent building that took us completely by surprise. Aside from the grandeur of the monuments we have seen, I think what astounds me the most is how long ago they were built and in thinking about the tools they used. Seriously think about it, they didn’t have any of the tools or supplies we have today: all the artistry, patience, time and manpower it must have taken blows my mind! It really is a humbling moment when you think about how they must have complained back then. To think that a street cleaning or a one day traffic detour affects us, imagine people back then saying “Had to walk the long way home today. A bunch of men were pulling a pillar up onto the Pantheon” We then finished our night at a wonderful restaurant with wine and delicious pesto and pasta. Another weird thing: all the different shapes and sizes of pasta! Seriously, how do Italians come up with these things?!

 July 5th, 2012
Womp womp, another class day, but we did head over to the Coliseum and Forum for art history. Unfortunately, we stood at our two bus stops for TWO HOURS to only be onsite for less than 1! But my professor is brilliant and probably one of the worldliest women I have ever met. She tells the craziest stories about her travels and studies at Oxfordand anywhere else in the world you can think of and I cannot get over it! The Forum was amazing with the intricate arches, temples, engravings and the sheer size of everything! The Coliseum really reminded me of the “Hunger Games”, back in ancient times, different parts of the empire used to have to sacrifice their children to Romeand the Coliseum was used as an arena for anything they wanted. From gladiator fights, to sending the children and Christians in to fight the lions, they even recreated a naval battle and filled the main floor with water! Now if that doesn’t remind you of the “Hunger Games”, I don’t know what will!

After photography, we had a welcome mass at the chapel di Sant’Ignazio and if you thought Madonna Della Strada was gorgeous, think again, because this church was filled with beautiful paintings on the ceiling of the heavens and angles and it even had a painting to make it look there was a third dome in the ceiling! We had the entire church all to ourselves and then headed off to a restaurant filled with endless wine, food and great friends. I love the community that I have here at JFRC, even though it has been only a week, I already feel close to many of the other students and staff members here. The J-FORCE family I have heard about for two years is finally real to me!

July 6th, 2012
Finally! Our first day trip! We headed south ofRometoHerculaneum, a coastal city that was wiped out whenMount Vesuviusfirst erupted and covered the entire area with lava or poisonous gas. A lot of people have mainly heard of Pompeii, which is on the other side of the volcano, but the difference is how they were destroyed: Pompeii was suffocated with poisonous gasses, but Herculaneum was covered with the molten lava, so we did not see a city frozen in time, like you would at Pompeii, but it was still cool! We learned that Romans were OBSESSED with sex! Pretty much every building we saw had something sexual about it and my mind is not in the gutter because the tour guide told us all of it! They used to have these buildings where on the first floor, they would eat and drink, but the upstairs was a brothel! (Really explains the “now go make me a sandwich” thing doesn’t it?) Even at the Forum we learned about how if certain women (based on their role in society) were found having sex, they would be buried alive after being paraded around the town and mocked and tortured! The brutality and barbarianism of ancient Romans never ceases to gross me out!

After our tour, we headed toNaples where we had the most delicious pizza I have ever tasted! Seriously, no pizza could ever, ever, EVER top it!Chicagoseriously needs to build more brick oven pizzerias because these pizzas are delectable! The city ofNaplesreally surprised me because I had heard such awful things about how gross and disgusting the city is, but after seeing it for myself, I can say with full confidence that the city ofChicagohas nastier parts thanNaples. If you think graffiti or dog droppings are gross, you might as well not even come toItaly, because it’s everywhere! I mean of course, come to Italy as soon as you possibly can, but know that there are no leash or pick up after your dog laws here and graffiti is seriously on everywhere you turn. For the most part, it is not inappropriate; it mainly talks about love and life and it is pretty elaborate for spray paint.

Our tour dropped us off at theNaplestrain station, where a small group of friends and I headed to Ischia: a small island off the coast ofNaples, and it is probably one of the prettiest places I have ever seen. We took a ferry to the island and met some pretty kooky people, but it was filled with local color and fun! We were exhausted after such a long day, so we only walked around for a bit, ate and went back to our hostel and slept.

July 7th, 2012
This was my very first hostel experience, but the place was actually really nice and completely family run. The family owned not only the hostel but two hotels, a part of the beach and a restaurant and aside from owning it, they ran everything! The parents worked at the restaurant, the sons were at each of the different places and it instilled a sense of community between those staying at the hostel. We met some interesting people: two sisters fromAustralia(who taught me the term “shittas”), another student fromNew Yorkwho was here for exchange, and a 19-year-old originally fromNew Zealandbut got a job inLondonand living by herself. All of them were backpacking throughEuropeand their stories were so fascinating! I could not imagine myself taking two years off before college and moving to some foreign country by myself! It just reminded me how much of the world I have and want to see, I just hope I get the opportunity to do it!

We spent most of our day on the beach, relaxing and enjoying the view. The water was as clear as day and the most gorgeous shade of blue I have ever seen! I tried my best to stay out of the sun, but still ended up getting sun burnt. Luckily, it isn’t that bad, just a little sore on my shoulders and tops of my legs, and it should heal soon! I definitely have to splurge and get sun screen this week, but because they know tourists need it, it is really expensive, about 20 euro for a bottle! It’s madness! After laying out and hanging out in the water (which I later found out had sea urchins in it!) We headed up to the hostel to cool off and get ready for dinner. The hostel provided transportation to and from their restaurant, but what they don’t tell you is the drive is very similar to one of a roller coaster. Just imagine a teeny tiny car with about ten people in it, very narrow roads with lots of tight turns and a crazy Italian driver. By the end of the ride, my heart was racing and I wanted to kiss the ground like the Pope when I got out. A lot of people know I get some anxiety when driving and you can only imagine the thoughts, prayers and fear racing through me as I thought I saw my life flash before my eyes! The crazy drive was worth it though! I had a delicious creamy lemon and parmesan pasta, tiramisu and my first authentic limoncello. I have had tiramisu and limoncello before, but nothing compared to the delicious tastes that overloaded my tastebuds! I think I can die happy now after eating that meal, it was that good! Limoncello is also very delicious: it really is chilled pure alcohol, lemon and sugar. Lots of sugar and lots of alcohol: to quote a friend “It tasted like a lemon head…a lemon head on fire!”.

Ischia was wonderful! Most people did not speak English, which really gave me a chance to use my Italian skills which are getting really good! I was able to have a legit conversation with a local about life inAmericaand what he does inIschia! I felt so cool and boss after that conversation!

July 8, 2012
We only stayed inIschiaa day, and took the ferry, train, metro and bus back to campus. I am exhausted! I plan on doing some homework and getting ahead in my classes. I also want to figure out what else I have to do while here. So if anyone has any suggestions, please send them my way!

After some crazy food cravings, I have learned that a lot of “American foods” taste extremely different and ten times better here! The fruit: must more fresh and delicious and filling! Shout out to my Dad: the cherries here are so delicious! You would not believe it, but I have eaten probably about three pounds of cherries while I have been here! All of the fruit is so much better than anything you would get at Pete’s! Next time you want me to go grocery shopping with you for fruit, it better be toItalybecause it is so good!  Even the chocolate tastes different! It is not as sugary here, but chocolatier, which makes me very happy!

Sorry this was so long! But I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed living it!

Ciao for now!
-Diane 🙂

The “Study” Part of Study Abroad

Ciao from Roma! The craziest thing about only being here for a month is that everyday is packed with some new and exciting! The past two days are no exception!

Monday July 2nd, 2012

The day started a bit slow. Still fighting jet lag, I got up as early as I could and just hung around the campus and got a better feel for the community. The neighborhood is gorgeous! I am in love with Monte Mario and Balduina. We had a meeting with representatives from the US Embassy here in Rome and while listening to the horror stories of past American students, I learned of an internship program that I am now adding onto my bucket list of things I need to do, or at least attempt to do in my life. After that some friends and I decided to hit the town. We first started in Piazza dei Popolo and stumbled upon the Piazza dei Napoleon where we found the most gorgeous rooftop view of the city and surrounding area. After gushing and taking pictures of practically everything, we headed down Via del Corso, which I compared to the Mag Mile of Italy. There are tons of churches and shops, even some American brand stores, that we strolled through, and it felt like I was in a movie. If I had one snap shot ofItalyin my head before I came, they became a reality on Via del Corso! We then headed to the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, that of course were flooded with Tourists, but we still had a lot of fun and took some great pictures! We were exhausted after all the walking and headed back to campus and stopped at the local store and pizza place. The pizza inRomeis delicious! I knowChicagoraves about their pizza, butRomehas them beat hands down! It is much thinner than Chicago-style, but is made with fresh dough and vegetables and is absolutely to die for!

Tuesday July 3rd, 2012

Today, started the first day of summer classes. Such a downer in comparison to the last few days, but I am actually really excited about my courses. The first is Art History, taught by one of the most brilliant and hilarious professors I have ever had! She got her doctorate fromOxford, born inGreece, raised inSouth Carolina, and the best storyteller! A very exciting aspect is that most of my classes actually take place aroundRome! From the Forum, theVatican, to crazy churches, I do not feel like I will be taking a class! My photography class is proving to be a tad more difficult than I expected. I learned I do not have the best professor, for he fails to explain any terms he uses, even when asked to explain, and of the two cameras I brought, I need applications and settings that one phone has, but not the other. It was rather frustrating, but I am still super excited! I finished the night with some friends, pizza, gelato and bottles of Chianti and white wine. I also started to plan a weekend trip to theIslandofIsthcia. I am so excited because I have only heard great things about this place and have seen incredible pictures!

 Happy 4th!
-Diane 🙂

 

“Parlo poco Italiano”

So, after making the final descent intoItaly, my stomach made it’s ascension into my throat. I had finally come to the place that I have been thinking and dreaming about for the past year! Talk about a dream come true!

The taxi ride was extremely easy! We walked out of the airport to the taxi stand and we hopped in and luckily the taxi driver knew exactly where the campus was! And after living in Chicago all my life, and most recently driving through rush hour traffic every week, I thought I had seem crazy driving. Boy, was I wrong! Italian drivers are INSANE! They literally drive how and where they want and honk their horn whenever they want or can.

But we are here safe, sound and sweaty! First, the safe and sound: the campus at night is extremely safe. We have to get buzzed into the gate after a certain time and literally about a foot away from the door, we hear the buzz and at first, I was so creeped out, but after some group separation last night, I was so glad they watch the cameras so closely. I was talking to the porter (aka the security guy behind the door) I saw all of the security videos first hand. We are so lucky to have such great security and understanding staff. And in regards to the group separation, we are all back together now! Now to the sweaty: never will I ever complain about being too hot ever ever again! When walking around, literally the second you step outside, you sweat. The sun is always bright and sunny, but all day you feel gross! And then when trying to sleep at night, we have to sleep with a door open because the campus doesn’t have A/C. This is without a doubt a huge transition for me as I have never been without A/C for more than a few days (Thanks, Dad!) and I already have a new appreciation for back home.

Each day has been jampacked to far:

Saturday, June 29th

Right after we put our suitcases in our room, we were off to not only fight out jet lag but to explore our new neighborhood. While exploring we found the coffee shops, grocery store, convenient store and so much more! Monte Mario is a gorgeous and hilly neighborhood. My leg muscles are going to rock after this trip because we walk everywhere and everything is up a hill. Literally, it always feels like we are walking up hill!

We also learned how to use the crazy bus system and how there is no schedule or even a notification of the next stop. As a tourist, it is so hard because we have no clue which stop to get off at or where it’s at. But people are really friendly and surprisingly, a lot of people speak English.

After orientation, we had a delicious welcome dinner and then we hit the town! We headed to downtown Roma, to the Colosseum.  As we were all jet-lagged, we went on a hunt for two things: wine and gelato! Luckily, we found both in one! A cute restaurant which we had a white wine and nutella gelato! But as we were all exhausted, after a few quick pics, we headed home and after a 37 hour day for Mary and I, we quickly passed out!

Sunday, July 1st

We had our group trip to Castello  di Torre in Pietra, a winery not too far from campus. We got a tour of the caves that house to vats that ferment the wine and their simplistic ventilation systems and all sorts of fun! We then sat down for a traditional, five-course lunch! We had delicious food and endless wine! And shockingly, I liked the red, more than the white and in true Nancy-fashion (aka my mom) I fraeked out when I saw 3 kittens all sleeping outside. Don’t worry Mom, I took pictures.

We then headed downtown again to theVatican, where we saw endless rows of knock-off purses, souviners, and pants. Yes, they sold pants and cheap long sleeve shirts outside of the Vatican for those who either did not know about the proper attire for entering a church or those who forgot their pants. We bartered with some of the sellers and got a lot of prices super knocked down, some more than 50%.

 We then walked across town, literally more than 2 miles, to the Piazza di Venetcia to head over to watch theSpainvs.Italycalcio game.. While I knew Italians were passionate for the sport, I had no idea how passionate they would be! In a park comparable to the size of Grant park, were hundreds and hundred of people and giant screens for people to watch the game. We were all excited but very quickly, that excited turns to apprehension as the crowds started running in with smoke bombs, throwing beer bottles and anything else you can imagine. We quickly decided that this was not the place to be and we headed over to pizza place, where the waiter tried to scam us! He not only gave bad service (and I am not saying bad service as in not an American style waiter who constantly harasses the table, but literally bad service) by over charging us, not bringing all of our food out warm or at the same time and also tried to give back the wrong change. Luckily we caught it and got it all sorted out, but I guess that’s what we get for going to a restaurant that has half of the menu in English. But we then got gelato, I got nutella and cream and tiramisu, and headed home. All of the public transportation was nuts but after about an hour of talking to extremely attractive police officers and carabinieri, we got home safe and sound.

 But this morning, I can definitely feel the jet-lag. I just finished a breakfast of a cornetto and hot chocolate (I had a cappuccino yesterday and realized why I have been avoiding coffee all of my life, but I will still give it another try probably). Today, I plan on planning the rest of my time here with day trips and weekend adventures aroundItaly.

 I love it here! It is a gorgeous campus and city and I am already trying to find a way to come back!

 Ciao!
-Diane

Adios America!

Soo due to the lack of wifi, this is an old posting. I blogged on the flight and was only able to post now, but more to come on what I have actually done in Italy soon! 🙂

So, it is hard to believe that I am on my way toEurope! Well, when I actually post this, I won’t be, but as I am writing it, I am on my flight currently flying acrossNew York!

 The past few days have been crazy! A lot of packing, panicking, shopping and life chats with my mom. I probably packed and repacked my bags ten times with my mom, weighing and reweighing to make sure I was under the limit, when I was by .6lbs. There is a slight possibility I overpacked but I would rather over, than underpack any day.

 I have found that some “see you soon”’s have been tough. But I know I am off onto an incredible journey! There are currently about 6 hours left of my flight and I am determined to watch as many episodes of “How I Met Your Mother” as I can!

 Update: now halfway through the flight! 4 hours down, 4 to go! And while I have not made any headway on HIMYM, I found that there is a trove of free movies on this flight! SO MARVELOUS! They even have a small collection of Disney movies, which is making the little boy next to us very happy. I just watched “The Vow” and I did not that that it was filmed inChicago, so a little bit of nostalgia set in when I saw the bean and the skyline, but then I realized “Hey I am flying over theAtlantic Oceanright now!” This is only my second time flying over an ocean, this first being a trip toHawaiiwith my family in 2007. I still cannot believe that I am flying toEuroperight now, without my parents. It is rather surreal that I have come this far and still have so far to go, both physically (in actually having to get to Rome) as well as mentally, emotionally and in any other possible way.

 Mary and I are having a great time! Both watching movies and simply hanging out. If you had asked me 16 years ago that I would be traveling toRomewith her, I would have never believed it! The two little girls who played school and with Barbie’s in the Trolia’s basement are now traveling toEurope! How crazy is that! Hopefully the Girl Scout camping trips toCampTecumsehhave prepared us for the adventure’s ahead!

Update: There are about two hours left on the flight and we are officially flying overEurope!! AAAAAHHHH!!! I have found that I fly really well, but I cannot get comfortable enough to fall asleep. Please cross your fingers that jet lag will not get the best of me! I talked to one of our flight attendants and she just stopped me and asked how old I was and if I was traveling alone. After responding, she simply said “good for you for flying this far by yourself. I know my kids would be too afraid to do that and I know you are going to have a great time. You might get scared, but know you are doing a wonderful thing”. And she made me feel ten times better! She also told me that most people at theFrankfurtairport speak English, so hopefully she is correct! (Update : totally true! The German flight attendants switched from German to English like a flip on a switch!)

The antsy-ness has started to kick in, and the little kid next to us is crying on and off, but hopefully the rest of the flight goes by quickly and we can get toGermany!! On the bright side, I just finished watching “The Muppet Movie” Yes, I acknowledge I am 20 years old, but it made me really happy! And conversely, Mary watched “The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo” and I only saw one part, and I was grossed out, so the Muppets were good for me!!

 Suprisingly, the food on the flight is delicious! I ordered the chicken and Mary ordered the pasta, and while we were both reluctant, it was SO GOOD! Then about an hour before we landed, we got croissant, jelly and fruit and it was delectable. Mary and I already love the food inEurope!  But, we did hit some turbulence in the beginning which is not fun, but all in all we had a great flight!

 Next Stop:Frankfurt,Germany!

Yeah, clearly being up for 37 hours straight makes you a little crazy!

More to come soon!
-Diane 🙂

 

Planning, Packing and Panicking: Mom to the Rescue!

Today I finally started to legit pack for my trip and learned that there is a reason packing and panicking only have a two letter difference. I started to by laying out my clothes and different outfits to wear. Trying to find the right shoes that would go with the most outfits and then it hit me. Somewhere in the mess and folding, I moved into the panic zone. Not even remembering how long I will stay there or what I even wanted to bring any more and the weather is supposed to be super hot  and then It hit me. I am going away for a month, away from my closet, my bed, my puppy, my air-conditioned room, my friends, my family and most importantly, my mom.

I love my mom with all my heart. If I ever need a shoulder to cry or someone to tell me the honest truth (which is why she helped me pack my clothes) she is there for me. I know I have been away from her while I’m at school, but normally she is a text, phone call, or email away, but in Italy it will be totally different. The time change, fewer text messages and the lack of access to the internet freaks me out! But today, I really got to send some great time with her and talk like we always do. It seems like the best conversations with my mom happen in the car going shopping. I haven’t had one of our car chats in a long time and it will be awhile until we can have another, but I was once again reminded of the wonderful woman I am blessed to call my mom.

I also had a great day with my friends yesterday, we had a fun day at the beach with Ghirardelli chocolate and gorgeous weather. One of my friends really got it into my head that I am going on a great adventure and not scare myself into missing any moment of it! They built my confidence and really made me feel ready for the trip, not in regards to clothes or having the right adapters for appliances, but that I am ready. I am a confident and smart girl who can handle herself but just can’t hold herself back from worrying too much. I love my friends and cannot wait for their adventures to start as well! The only reason I cannot wait for August, is for my friends and I to reunite once again!

But, aside from the nostalgia, I got a lot of work done in my preparations and packing! While I will probably make about 10 more Target runs before I leave, I have a good head on my shoulders and hopefully everything I will need. I also got a nice list of places to go from Anna, a sorority sister who just returned from her Italian adventures! The list sounds great and a lot of fun and I cannot wait to see them for myself! Thank you, Anna!!!

Ciao!
-Diane 🙂

To-Do Lists, Already Done Lists, and Everything else!

Countdown: 8 Days!

OH. MY. GOD. I cannot believe how quickly my trip is approaching and how unprepared I am. Typically, I am a type-A OCD person with lists up the wazoo, but for some reason I am completely unorganized and somewhat unprepared for my trip!

Here is the long list of things I still have to do:
-Order Euros from the bank
-Pack
-Buy better shoes
-Look for a sun hat (because I am albino and will burn in the sun without one)
-Get a good map
-Figure out what I am going to do
-Call bank so they know I’ll be spending outside the country
-Make an emergency card (per my Dad’s instructions)
-Order my books for my class (if my Professor would email me back!)
-Brush up on my Italian (because the little I could speak flew out the window the minute summer started)
-Pack!
-Take the 8,000 little pieces of paper my Dad has given me with information on it and put it in one notebook to bring with me
-Return the straightner (Update: I found out one of my sister’s old straighteners will work there, so I am good to go and the little rinkydink one I got from Amazon is getting returned!)
-Clean my room

I know it doesn’t seem like a lot but my head is spinning in terms of what I can actually get done in the next week while still enjoying part of my summer in the suburbs. I also don’t know what I should buy here or what I should wait on! Another odd aspect is what will I actually need for a month! It is such an odd amount of time! I have never been gone for just a month, it’s been a semester, with opportunities to go home frequently or know some stores near school, weekend trips or family vacations where everything is planned out for me.

But enough of the freak out, some really exciting and postive aspects of my preparation:
-I got a new swimsuit! Those who know me, know I do NOT like swim suits, swim suit shopping or even swimming and laying out, but I have a stroke of luck when the first suit I tried on looked great on me and it wasn’t too expensive (Thank you, Target!)
– I have a really long list of places I would love to go to and have done a lot of research! Nerd Alert!) I even made some pdfs of reading so when I see historical sites, I will actually know what they were used for.
-My clothes are all set! Maybe a new top or two, but I think I have my shopping done! (After years of spending summers inside cold, air conditioned theatres, I realized I didn’t really have summer clothes)

So yes, that is everything that is, has been, and probably will continue to flood my head in preparation for my trip! But now I must start to check things off my list! Maybe I will start by actually getting the giant suitcase down from the attic, please cross your fingers there are not any spiders up there and I don’t fall off the ladder again!

Ciao!
-Diane 🙂

Volts, Watts, Hertz, huh?

Countdown: 13 Days! Woah!

So while getting ready for my trip, I have realized the absolute blessing it is that my Dad is a Type-A Electrician extraordinaire! Father’s Day aside, my Dad has been a huge help in getting ready! From helping me set up my phone plan, helping me organize the currency exchange, and teaching me the bizzareness of European outlets and electrical things, my Dad has been absolutely phenomenal and I cannot thank him enough!

But this whole outlet thing is so bizarre! I not only need a new electrical strip, but I need an adapter to then plug into a convert just to charge my laptop or straighten my hair. So weird! And my Dad has been helping learn the 22v to 120 htz (I think that is right?) thing and he has been so incredibly patient but at this point, I will probably just write what I need to know on the side of the electrical strip.

In trying to get all my electronics ready to be converted, my friend and I bought adaptable hair appliances, a hair dryer and straightener. Both arrived on the same day and all looked correct until I pulled out the straightener. Actually, it is not even a fully grown straightener, this thing looks like a straightener’s baby.  My Dad says it will work perfectly fine in Europe, but I don’t even know if this thing could last the entire trek. So now I have to return the little guy and find a new one. Yay!

Well I have a long to do list ahead of me, but in only 13 days, the only thing will be having the adventure of a lifetime!

Until next time,
-Diane 🙂

Getting Anxious!

The current countdown is 14 days. Yes, you read correctly, 14 Days until I embark on probably one of my bigger adventures. I am studying abroad in Rome, Italy for four weeks and trying to immerse myself in Italian culture as much as I can in that short time. Right now, I am just trying to wrap my head around the fact that in 14 days I will be on a plane, without my parents, across the ocean to a country I do not know a whole lot about. I wouldn’t say I am nervous or scared, but more anxious and excited. I finally get to really spread my wings and see who I am and what I can do. I do not speak Italian very well, I have never vacationed or really gone anywhere without someone else with me or planning my schedule but I have full control over my Italian adventure’s and that is what makes me the most nervous. If I do not enjoy myself or see or do the things I want, I have no one to blame but myself. So I decided to blog so I can keep track of what I am doing and making sure I get as much out of my adventure as I can.

The planning has started, lists are being made, all important information is being accumulated and the nerves are starting to sink in. A lot of my friends and family are starting to pump me up for my journey: telling me places to go, where to find the best pizza and gelato and what to bring, but others are starting to fill my head with doubt: you don’t speak the language, you don’t know how hard it is to travel to a foreign country by yourself, you are automatically labeled at a victim because you are American and the most nerve-wracking: “Dee, I don’t think you know what you are getting yourself into”. And that person is absolutely right! I have no clue what lies ahead of me or how I am going to get there, but I am confident, have no fear in asking for help and there are very few, practically no challenges I have not overcome in my short life. I understand being realistic and not expecting my trip to turn out like the “Lizzie McGuire Movie”, but I wish the haters would let me get excited to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime journey.

Until next time, I will ignore the haters and get ready for what lies ahead.

Ciao!
-Dee