Friday, August 31, 2012

Two words: curdled milk. Ok and one more word: blech. As of this morning I've sworn off milk in Europe. I don't know what it is, maybe they don't use preservatives or something, but what I do know is that I bought a small bottle of milk on Wednesday and by Friday it was curdled. Yech. Needless to say, this was not the best way to start my day. Aside from it though, the day was fairly good! We had our university orientation this morning at 9 and we successfully navigated the buses and found the meeting room and arrived on time for the first time since we've been here! YAY! After the meeting we finished up some visa business which was really nice to finally be able to check off the list. Once that was done, we grabbed lunch at a little cafe down the street from the university then headed back to the apartment amidst the brewing storm clouds. We got hit by a little rain on our way back to the apartment but the storm  really hit once we were safe inside. And it was wonderful. I fell into a wonderfully happy sleep with the rain pouring outside. It was great. The forecast for the next couple of days is cooler and rainy so I'm pumped!

After the lovely nap, we pulled ourselves together around six and decided to go in search of a new market, considering the one we were currently using was not doing us much good. And we found one! Oh was it glorious! It was much more like an American market in that it had a much larger variety of goods, including many non-food essentials. So I was finally able to get my hands on necessities such as a hairbrush, kleenex, tape, and many other magical things. Grocery stores are magical places. For Sure. Post-grocery store we headed back to the apartment and one of my roommates cooked a lovely chicken and rice dinner for all of us. It was so lovely to be able to cook and eat in our own apartment. But most importantly, the brightest highlight of my day was because I finally found some tape, I was able to put up all my pictures in my room! Yay! Now it feels much more my own and I'm much happier now that I have all the lovely faces of my friends and family smiling down at me. I really couldn't be happier.

And now, as I'm writing this, I'm siting in the living room with my roommates planning our fall break trip! We're going to conquer Paris, London, and Dublin - oh it will it be wonderful! I'm getting so excited!

I'm still counting my lucky stars that I'm settling in so well. I truly can't express how faithful God has been in providing good friends, good fellowship, and a great comfort and peace in my heart. Blessings upon blessings.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Embracing the Tacky Fanny-Pack-Wearing-Map-Consulting-Camera-Toting Tourist Inside Me

Today was a tourist kind of day. It began rather nicely by sleeping in until noon. How. Lovely. I haven't been able to sleep in since I've been here. Because we open the windows and doors to keep the apartment cool at night, that means that come morning, all the sounds and lights of day come freely into the apartment, hence making it difficult to sleep past 9. Somehow today we managed though and it was wonderful! We left the apartment an hour before we were supposed to be at the university to meet up for a bus tour. But, as we've learned over the past couple days the public transportation system in Rome is very unreliable. So we ended up standing at the bus stop waiting for the bus to show for about 35 minutes. In short though, we did make it to the university with a little time to spare.

Our afternoon was spent on the bus tour, where we saw several impressive sites such as...
a pyramid that was a burial monument for the first king of Italy (i think?)

the Baths of Caracalla

Rome's Unknown Soldier Monument. Un-affectionately known by Romans as the "wedding cake"

an old castle/fortress that used to be used as a refuge for the Pope in times of danger. there used to be a tunnel leading from the Vatican straight to here.

where Caesar was assassinated (sorry for the poor quality, I just couldn't resist posting this!)

St. Peter's Basilica! 

After the bus tour, we were dropped off at the one, the only, the Colosseum! It was great! We met up with our same great tour guide from yesterday and headed into the Colosseum! Unfortunately, halfway through the tour, the Colosseum took another victim when my camera died. Womp womp. After the great tour of the Colosseum we continued through the Roman Forum which was magnificent! 
The Colosseum

Constantine's Arch - composed of different pieces taken from various significant structures in Rome

After finishing the tour, some girls and I hopped on a bus to go find some dinner. We ended up in an adorable little restaurant in Trastevere where we ordered from a pre-set menu for students consisting of mixed bruschetta (one mushroom, one zucchini, one tomato), a spicy pasta dish, finishing off with tirimasu all with a lovely glass of wine! Surprisingly, this was my first pasta, bruschetta and wine since I got to Rome! And it was all wonderful! After dinner we hopped onto the tram and were back home within minutes! All in all it was a good day! It really was good to get over to the Rome across the Tiber and see all of these classic Rome sights! I can't believe this is only my third day here, it feels like I've been here for weeks! I guess I really am settling in.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Oh my word, what a day! After a rather warm night of sleep, we headed out of the apartment at 10:15 for our 11 o'clock meeting at the university with the intention of catching the bus. Naturally, we couldn't find the bus stop, so we ended up walking to the school....again. However, the walk was much more direct and successful than yesterday. Like we actually had a clue about what we were doing! We still arrived 15 minutes late, but what the heck. We then sat through our program orientation which was, in a word, overwhelming. By the time the meeting was over, I was panicking. There was just so much information and so much to do. After the meeting though, the day got better because we finally figured out the bus system!! We successfully took the bus back to our stop without a hiccup! So we now officially know how to take the bus to school! YAY. Back in our neighborhood, we ran some errands during which we met a man who is from New York and he talked with us for a while in very good English which was quite refreshing! After the errands, we headed back to the apartment to take a nap! (As is the Italian Custom! I wouldn't have known, but Italians take siestas too! Almost everything closes down from 1-3pm and we even have official "quiet hours" in our apartment complex so everyone can rest! Maybe that's why the Italians are so happy!)

Finally, the day was topped off by heading back to the university to go on a walking tour of Rome which was splendid! Some of the places we visited were the Pantheon, Campo de Fiori, and the Trevi Fountain. It was led by a precious and hilarious older lady who was hilariously full of character and snappy comments. After the tour, some of us went and got our first gelato, then wandered back through the path to Campo de Fiori where we caught the tram back to our apartment!

a view of Rome

the Tiber

Campo de Fiori

Campo de Fiori

a "headless" street performer

the Pantheon!

the Pantheon

Rafael's tomb

tossing my coin into the Trevi Fountain and making a wish! our tour guide told us to throw it in with your right hand over your left shoulder. The first coin brings you luck, the second promises an Italian love, and the third guarantees a fiancee. I just threw in one. :)

all the roomies at the Trevi

A crazy day to be sure, but certainly a successful one! Can't wait to see what tomorrow holds!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ciao from Roma!

I'M HERE! I MADE IT! I can't believe this is actually happening! The past 36 hours have been a monsoon of emotions and stress and just general bezerk-ness! I said my goodbyes to my precious parents and sister Caroline at DFW on Monday at 11 am and hopped on my flight at 12 which took me to Charlotte for a three hour layover. If there's something that I've learned over the past couple years is I'm a crier. Like an ugly crier. I think in the past 36 hours I nearly broke down about five different times. But Charlotte was definitely one of the highlights of my travel. Since I often fly out of there when I'm at school, I know the airport, so it was a wonderful blessing to come back to something slightly familiar! I puttered around the airport for the full three hours and finally boarded my flight to Rome at 6:15. The flight itself was pretty good, I had a good seat, sat next to a nice girl who was also on her way to study abroad (as was about 1/3 of the plane!) and somehow managed to get four hours of sleep! Hallelujah! I was positively giddy when I noted that our flight path took us straight over Winston-Salem and I made sure to wave hello to all my friends who are back at school!

After nine hours of flying, we landed in Rome at 9:30 am on Tuesday! Ah! Crazy! I still can't believe it.... I'm in ROME. I grouped up with some other girls I had met on the flight and we successfully managed to navigate to the baggage claim, get all of our beloved belongings, and trek through customs to find our ISA greeting party! From there we were given information about the day and then sent off in different vans to our apartments!

I'm living in a lovely and considerably spacious (by European standards) apartment with five other lovely girls. Our apartment (affectionately known as D9) has a little entryway, a spacious kitchen/breakfast room/living room combo, two singles, two doubles and two baths PLUS a balcony! I'm in a double with a really sweet girl from Arkansas and we're getting along great! My other roommates are from Arkansas, Nevada, Indiana, and Hawaii and they're all just as wonderful! We were given the day to settle into our apartments and relax and explore. So we did just that! I unpacked, organized, showered and then took a two hour nap. Then three of the girls and myself went out to explore the neighborhood and in search of some necessities such as shampoo, detergent, food, and the mother of all necessities: toilet paper. Thank goodness we found some, considering we only had half a roll left. CRISIS AVERTED.

Then, at 6:30 we met up with some other girls who live in the building to start our 30 minute walk to school where we would meet up with the rest of our group and be whisked away to a lovely dinner. And, as I suppose is necessary for any college student travelling in a foreign country for the first time on her own, I and all the other girls got terribly and miserably lost. I mean, we had no clue where we were. I did my best conversing with shop owners and pedestrians with much gesticulating and pointing in an effort to get us to our destination. Needless to say, the supposed 30 minute walk turned into a 70 minute walk. Yippee. Oh, and did I mention that it's in the 90s? Granted, there's a good wind, but that's negated by the fact that there's no air conditioning in our apartment. However, despite the frustrating (albeit enlightening) adventure we met up with the group and proceeded to our wonderful first Italian dinner!

It was fabulous. The restaurant was just outside of Rome in a nice rural setting and a great atmosphere. The dinner consisted of a french fry appetizer, a HUGE multi-variety pizza (honestly the largest pizza I've ever seen in my life) and a delectable nutella pizza to finish it off in that wonderful Italian style. Post-dinner, we were bused back to our apartments and now I'm sitting on my bed writing this, with the windows open in a desperate attempt to cool the room.

Tomorrow we have some orientation in the late morning and a walking tour of Rome tomorrow evening, with lots of time in between for more exploring!

Hopefully I'll write again soon!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

One Month Behind Me and Four Months Ahead

I have to ask you, when the heck did this happen? When did July become August? Where did those 31 glorious days fly by? Because I certainly don't feel like there were 31 days in that month. Crazy. And now I'm sitting here and the calendar says August 9th. This summer went to fast! My past month (since camp) has been spent with a hodge-podge of activities. I trekked down to Houston to apply for my Italian Visa, which came in the mail two days ago (YIPPEEE!!). I then spent a week in Nashville to visit my sister and a friend where I proceeded to fall in love with that beautiful city. I mean really, such a great city. And now, I'm home prepping for Roma! Can't believe it's so close. I got my list of roommates, my apartment address, and lots of other fun information yesterday, so of course I'm starting to get giddy. 

In the meantime though, I'm having a blast with where I am now. For instance, last night was a monumental night for me. I'm 20 years old and until last night, I had never been to the circus. That's right. Go ahead and adjust your bifocals, put in your contacts, you can read that sentence again but it'll say the same thing: I had never been to the circus. Needless to say, I had a great night. My personal favorite: the elephants. They were so stinking cute! Like holy bananas cute. Riding an elephant is now officially written in permanent marker on my bucket list. Among my other favorite things were of course the tight-rope walkers, the bounce stilts, and the aerial acrobatics. Just getting to go was wonderful, I've been wondering for 15 something years what the circus was like, and now i know! And what a great thing to do to transition into going to Rome, right? Hopefully I'll post a little more about the preparation for Rome, but for now, here are some snapshots from the circus!
the tightrope walkers, practically right in front of our seats

me, my dad, and my sister after the show

With all this behind me, I can only look forward to the wonderful things that are to come in the next four months! Like for instance, my other sister comes home from a two month whirl-wind tour of Kuala-Lumpur, Thailand, and Shanghai! SO excited to have her home!