SIENA — It’s about a 2 hour train ride north of Rome. It’s a very medieval-looking town and has a really large square at the center of it, the Piazza del Campo. My favorite part about the city was the Duomo, their cathedral built in the 1100s. It’s made out of black and white marble and it’s interior is seriously..wow. Look for yourself:

PISA — We pretty much went there to take pictures with the Leaning Tower. It’s a cute town with some shopping areas, but it’s not crazy busy like Rome is, so that was a nice change. When u walk down the street in Rome, you can either: 1) Walk down the middle of the street, but be on the lookout for cars and vespas behind you 2) Walk down the side of the street but run the risk of stepping in dog poop. In Pisa and Siena, we didn’t really have to worry about that, which was nice. Okay maybe there was some dog poop. My roommates and I tried to be creative when taking pictures with the leaning tower because, as you will see, everyone else looks like a nerd pretending to hold it up:

On the train ride back to Rome, we got to see some of the coast:

Waiting for the Rick-Steves-recommended restaurant to open in Siena:

More pictures in Rome: Visiting the Villa Farnesina, a Renaissance house built for the richest man in Rome (banker Agostino Chigi, originally from Siena!)

At San Pietro in Montorio, apparently where St. Peter was crucified? That’s why I took a picture of this hole:

And finally, us at the Hard Rock Cafe Roma. We realized that we’ve been meat-deficient, so we decided to get some steaks!


My roommate says I’m like an ostrich. You know, how they hide their head in the sand when they’re scared, thinking that their body is hidden too — although I’ve recently found out that this isn’t true and the man who started the myth is, ironically, Roman. Apparently this guy wasn’t all that smart because while Mt. Vesuvius was erupting and people were running for their lives, he went to Pompeii to witness the action and be a hero. And then he died. If I were an ostrich, I’d be like: “Haha, that’s what you get for spreading your lies!”

Anyway. The reason why my roommate says I’m ostrich-like is because in uncomfortable situations, I tend to look down and not make eye contact and act like I’m invisible, hoping that the problem at hand will disappear. Good observation Laura. This has happened a few times, including: #1 – when that greasy waiter Nico tried to flirt with us; #2 – when this little girl came up to our table asking for money & we said we didn’t speak Italian so she goes “Thank you very much. Money please?”; and #3 – the most awkward train ride of my life this past weekend. I’ll explain.

Two of my roommates and I went to Siena and Pisa for our four-day weekend. We got on the train to Siena Friday morning and sat in a compartment with three guys because those were the only seats available. At first everything was…normal. They didn’t say anything to us, we didn’t say anything to them. And that would’ve been fine with me. But somehow, someone started talking to someone else and then I tried to hide my face in my Rick Steves Italy 2008 book. Ok, I might be exaggerating and they were actually nice guys, but it was just a weird experience altogether. One of my roommates was reading Us Magazine and the guy next to her decided that he should read it with her and turn the pages himself. Then she gave up on it, handed him the magazine and pulled out her iPod so she could be left alone. But that was a mistake because then he asked to listen to it too. The guys also asked to take pictures with us, which I did reluctantly. And you can tell that I’m uncomfortable in them, look:


We did get a few good things out of it. I got to practice some Italian. I could make out most of what those guys were saying (like: “We go to Florence together and go dancing” & “Tupac is the best”). But we had a little trouble trying to tell them “We all have boyfriends.” I still don’t think they got it. Maybe that’s why they gave us their numbers and bought coke and chocolate for all of us. Oh well. The important thing is, I’ll never see them again. Good riddance.


A picture of me, happy, alone, and without Italian creeps


This is usually the point in the quarter where students start to get lazy, lose focus, and do nothing. And I’m no exception. Even now, I’m struggling as I write this because my brain is just…slower. What’s sad is that I haven’t even been working that hard — our teachers understand that the “allure of Rome” is often greater than the “allure of homework” and have therefore assigned less work than they usually do. But don’t get me wrong, I am studying abroad and I have been doing something school-related. We just finished reading The Aeneid and are now beginning Dante’s The Divine Comedy. I’m not that excited to read it, especially after skimming the introduction titled “How to Read Dante.” So…the guy that translated the book had such a hard time that he has to tell the readers how to read in order to avoid being confused. Awesome.

My Italian class is good, but I wish we had some kind of textbook to help us study. I mean, it’s hard to practice Italian where I live because it’s very tourist-friendly. I get coffee and a croissant every morning before class and I’ve learned how to order it in Italian: “Posso avere un cappuccino e un cornetto, per favore?” But then they answer: “Sure. What size do you want?”  Wow, is it that obvious that I don’t really know Italian? My bad. At least I try. But my art history class is really cool, and we actually had one of the most interesting lectures yesterday. Ricardo talked about Giorgio Vasari’s Le Vite and how he was the first to define the methodology of Renaissance technique. I know nothing about everything over here, so it was all new and interesting to me, especially when he started talking about Leonardo and Michelangelo. Tomorrow we’re going to see some of Raphael’s stuff (and then hopefully we’ll get to Donatello, Splinter, and Shredder if I’m following correctly…oh wait, that’s not right…I told you my brain isn’t working properly).

 Aside from school stuff, I’ve of course found some fun things to do on nights and weekends. This past weekend was probably the most eventful — I officially started shopping after the discovery of Via del Corso (shopping central – beware) and Porta di Roma (a centro comerciale aka MALL. i know, i’m in trouble). I also went with some roommates to Naples, the birthplace of pizza. It’s also dirty, crowded, and it’s apparently not a big deal to sell pornography on the sidewalks. I also walked past this guy on the street trying to sell a laptop in a very awkward, non-legit, i-just-pulled-this-out-of-some-guy’s-bag way. I know I’m making Naples sound horrible…but it kind of is. And the pizza tasted the same as any other pizza I’ve had over here. Actually, the only reason we were in Naples was because it’s the only way you can get to Pompei.

Pompei was cool and I took a lot of pictures, but I felt like after you’ve seen one old, desolate structure preserved by a volcanic eruption, you’ve seen ’em all. Maybe that’s just me. I still liked it there, and if you’re ever in Italy you have to see it; it’s just a given. I want to see a few other places in Italy, like Cinque Terre (which I heard is beautiful), Tuscany (for wine tasting), and somewhere on the coast (I want to see a beach!). I’ll be visiting Florence, Venice, and Milan with my family and classmates, and I’ve planned a weekend trip to Brussels. Ricardo, one of our professors, says it’s the most beautiful place in Europe – and I believe everything Ricardo says. Sounds naive of me, but all the advice he’s given us so far has been great. And he’s not one to deceive…unless you count the way he says focus (with his accent, it sounds like…..a bad word).

I guess that’s all I can write for now…and as always, pictures:

http://www.picturetrail.com/gallery/view?p=999&gid=19509221&uid=10925516

I didn’t write any captions this time, so…use your imagination.


This is mostly pictures and not really any history because I don’t remember everything Ricardo told us. He knows too much, anyway. Any informational stuff accompanying the pictures is probably quoted from Rick Steves.


Gina, myself, and my pizza. (Capricciosa – ham, olives, artichokes. Very common. Very good)


Outside of Basilica San Clemente. A 12th century basilica on top of a 4th century basilica on top of a 2nd century temple to Mithras. It was amazingly old and…just plain amazing.


Ricardo’s class walking in the park. And look, the Colosseum again.


Blurry picture of the tomb of Pope Julius II. Michaelangelo never completed it because the pope said “Nevermind. Paint the Sistine Chapel instead.” It was supposed to be 3 stories high with 48 statues. But this alone was wowww.


Inside San Pietro in Vincoli – St. Peter-in-Chains


Trajan’s Column


This is Amber. She could carry me over her shoulder if she wanted to.


Going on a group outing. Amber, Erica, me, Katie, Gyaltsen. Laura & Gina are missing because they were in Paris. Boo hoo.


Myself and Gyaltsen aka “Jen”. She knows some of my friends back home, so that’s cool.


While walking around, I’ve seen a few people on a regular basis, kind of like neighbors. Really weird neighbors. First, there’s this whole group of people I always see, especially at touristy spots like Campo de Fiori or any of the historic sites around here. They all appear to be of the same ethnicity and they’re all doing the same thing: selling crap. We have the pen guys, mostly on Via del Giubbonari, who stand maybe 8 feet apart from one another, each with their own stand displaying pens. And sometimes watches. It’s best to ignore these guys when they talk to you. If I didn’t want a pen from the first 9 guys, why would I buy one of yours? In addition to the pen guys, there’s fake sunglasses guys, fake purse guys, colorful jewelry guys, gun that shoots bubbles guys, and the two I hate the most — singing stuffed animal guys and squishy toy that does nothing guys. If you ever visit here, you’ll see. And you’ll hate them all. Is that mean? Oh well.

But there are also a couple other regulars over here that I don’t mind seeing. There’s Michaela, everyone’s favorite. My professor told us that she used to be a nurse, but then her son died and she went crazy. We usually see her sitting around campo in a tan or bright red poncho. Once in a while she yells something to no one in particular. Oh, and the other day I saw her naked. Just sitting on the ground, naked, fixing her poncho. But I like her 🙂 There’s also Nicco who works at a restaurant nearby. He’s nice, friendly,  and has a talent for identifying which of us is Filipina (there’s 2 of us, usually people ask if we’re Japanese or Mexican). He eventually gave us a creepy vibe when he brought the chefs out of the ktichen to meet myself and the roommates and said, “3 guys, 5 girls. Is ok?”

There’s always people in the campo entertaining. Usually there’s a band or accordion player; it doesn’t matter because they all play the same 3 songs: “My Way”, “Strangers in the Night”, and “Volare”. They love their Frank Sinatra. Oh, and I can’t forget about the weird mime who does yoga in the campo with his “tranquility music”. Him I don’t like so much. Same with the xylophone player. The xylophone? Really?

But I guess without all these guys, this place wouldn’t be as interesting. So thank you to all the creeps, salesmen, and homeless people who make this city so wonderful.


Happy Cleaning

10Apr08

Today was productie. Well actually, all I did was clean. That explains this picture — myself in my sweeping outfit: Broom + iPod + scarf around my face. You know, so I don’t inhale all the dust directly. That stuff is gross, I don’t care if I look like a dork. I also cleaned the kitchen, did some laundry, and bought groceries today. It’s kind of funny, because I never do this stuff at home and today it actually gave me joy to be cleaning. It must be the water over here. In addition to today’s feeling of satisfaction, I also experienced my 2nd unpleasant experience in Rome. And both times it was at the Punto SMA grocery store near here. It’s really useful to be able to walk to the store in a couple minutes to restock on Nutella, salami, bread, pesto, and cheese (is that all you eat Krystal? Yes, pretty much. Except when Amber makes dinner or we all go out for middle-of-the-night gelato). But when we go there we often get the “Silly American, Rome is for Italians” vibe. It’s those cashiers, man. There’s usually 1, maybe 2 aisles open for checkout. The cashiers sit in chairs the whole time and make you bag your own groceries. So you’d think they’d be in pretty good moods because they don’t have to do anything. But no, today one of the cashiers made me feel kind of stupid, all because of some 5 euro cents I owed her. I didn’t have 5 cents so I tried to give her 50 cents & maybe get some change, but she wouldn’t take it. Then the next woman in line gave me 5 cents to help out, but the cashier took it out of my hand and gave it back to the lady like, “Don’t bother, forget about it, she doesn’t understand”. So I just stood there, confused, and she didn’t even give me a plastic bag to put my stuff in because apparently I didn’t buy enough. But anyway, good thing that’s the worst thing that’s happened to me over here. I feel dumb complaining about it, but I tend to get bothered by little things.

 


I was the last to arrive at our apartment, and therefore I have the smallest room. But I was grateful at the same time because at one particular spot in the room, you can connect to UW’s wireless internet. Our building is literally right next door to the UW Rome Center, and although some students have really nice apartments with beautiful bathrooms and kitchens, we have a decently nice apartment with WiFi. So I guess we win. But lately we haven’t been able to connect to the internet from our apartment, so that’s kind of disappointing. But there’s also good news — we have hot water!

Living here is a nice change. Of course I miss everybody at home, but it’s nice to kind of be “out on my own.” I don’t consider it a bad thing, but I think I’ve been kind of sheltered and dependent and I feel like it’s good for me to be out here meeting new people and experiencing a different culture. With that said, my roommates and I have felt a little homesick lately (and I know it’s only been a week), so we ate at a Chinese restaurant the other day and even had some McDonald’s. There’s a lot of good food here, but sometimes you just want fries and chicken nuggets. If there’s one thing that’s really different about eating in Italy versus eating in America, it’s that it is a lot slower over here. People take their time to sit and eat, and it’s not uncommon for you to spend three hours out at dinner. Even fast food places are a bit slower. For example, our cashier at McDonald’s was interesting. After we ordered our food, he slowly and neatly placed our food on a tray to give to us. Before laying down the fries, he unfolded a napkin and then placed the fries on top of it so that the fries wouldn’t touch the actual tray (even though the tray already had a placemat on it). When we ordered fries to go, he wrapped the fries with a couple napkins and then put them in a to-go bag.

It’s not just the dining experience that’s different over here. In America, things are bigger, faster, louder, and more convenient. Over here, most people drive tiny smartcars or vespas (SUV’s are strictly American) and they take their time to do most things (eat, walk, fix the hot water). In Italy (and probably many other countries) they’re very accepting of the fact that you only speak English. A lot of the people will try to work with you and use any English that they know to help you out, as opposed to you having to struggle to speak Italian. A lot of Americans adopt the “You’re in America, so learn English!” attitude, and then don’t even try to speak the native language when visiting another country. My roommates and I have had discussions about how Americans are kind of spoiled and selfish and expect to get exactly what they want — egocentricity abounds. So this is a good learning experience.

Today we had our first lessons in Italian and Art History from Ricardo de Mambros Santos (who’s amazing by the way; he knows everything about the city and is fluent in Italian, and he’s not even from here..he’s Brazilian). It’s like he imparts wisdom with every word he says, and our brains can’t process fast enough to remember everything. But one of the things he emphasized in lecture today was that Rome has experienced a continuous metamorphosis. Many existing features of the city today are examples of the old being reused to create the new. The Colosseum used to be the location of a manmade lake. The Piazza Navona used to be an arena for horse racing — in the Middle Ages, instead of destroying the arena, people turned it into houses and today the piazza still retains the shape of the arena floor. People took marble from the exterior of the Colosseum and also used it to create houses. A lot of pagan temples have been turned into Christian churches by Emperor Constantine. Even early depictions of Jesus (not his face, but his clothing and raised hand) were created based on previous images of Roman Emperors — Emeperor Augustus was depicted with a raised hand and scroll, his common stature when addressing the people, and was dressed in robes; Jesus is depicted as raising his hand to bless the people and is also dressed in robes. A lot of the symbols and codes used before Christianity were transformed and given new meaning to aid in the transition from being a Pagan to being a Christian.

There’s a lot to learn, I know…and that was only a fraction of it.

The market in Campo de Fiori

The midnight parade of people in yellow jackets. I don’t know if this happens often, but it was kinda cool.

 

Myself and a weird fountain

Along the Tiber River

Santa Maria in Trastevere

This is all really old and I’m sorry I don’t know more about it

The ceiling inside the church

The windows of the church

The altar

Roommate Laura and I at the Trevi Fountain

Fontana di Trevi

All of my roommates except for Erica. The girls from the nice apartment had a little get together for everyone in class.