Friday, January 30, 2009

Roaming around Rome

I started out today like I have for the rest of the week: with a trip to the grocery store. This is a fairly Roman thing to do, though, because they tend to buy each day's food fresh. Our refrigerator is small--we can't buy an entire month's worth of food like we do in the States. Plus there are no shopping carts at the grocery store, only baskets, so we are limited in how much we can buy each time. I'm just glad the store is so close to us--we only have to walk down to the end of our block and down the street a little way.

The thing about Rome though, once you start walking everything seems close. Maybe just because you never have far to go until you run into another historic monument (or the ruins of a monument).

Today Shannon and I decided to go out walking and see where we ended up. We walk through Trastevere all the time, so instead we went the other way, across the river to the south part of Rome. We walked around the Aventine Hill and over towards the Palatine Hill. I still can't get over reading about these places for my history class and then being able to just go out and see them.

Walking back towards Trastevere we found the Pyramid of Cestius (yep, there's a pyramid in Rome). Turns out this pyramid was built outside the city since it's a tomb and they were forbidden in the city walls, but Rome grew so much that eventually the pyramid became a part of the construction of the Aurelian wall. Now it's next to the southern gate of Porta San Paulo.

After that, we walked towards school and decided to continue up to the Vatican. I know, I know, I've been in Rome nearly three weeks so I should have seen the Vatican already. I finally made it, and we're going back tomorrow morning to actually go inside. Today we just took pictures outside and stood in awe of how huge St. Peter's Square is.

And then we finally made it back to our apartment. We walked over 3 hours and covered a pretty sizable chunk of Rome, but it felt good.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

La Biblioteca

I have five classes this semester, each with a list of required texts and recommended texts. Altogether, I think there are eight books I am supposed to own so that I can do the readings for class, etc. These eight books would usually put me out, oh, say 150, maybe 200 euro. However, I paid exactly zero euro for my books.

First, SAI (I don't know if I ever explained what SAI is. It stands for Study Abroad Italy, the program I came over here with. They are our liaison with our home school, host school, housing and other things in Italy.) has collected an assortment of books over the years from past students. They offer these books to current students by way of the honor system: take what you need for classes and bring them back at the end of the semester. This works out well since no one wants to buy a brand new Statistics book and then have to lug it back to the States or try to sell it before leaving.

So that's how I found most of my books. The rest I found in the reserve section of our library, which means I have to go to the library and read for class there, since you can't actually take the reserved books home...but since I have several hour breaks in between classes, that's the perfect time to veg in the Frohring Library with a copy of Rome: A History.

I'm pretty proud of myself, but the funniest part of this is even though I bought the least amount of books out of all of my roommates (zero), I have the most books in my room out of all my roommates (15). Big surprise, right? Of course I would be the one with all the books, and half of them aren't even for my classes. I'm quite sure I have some undiagnosed disease.

The thing is, once I get started on something, I can be single-minded to the point of after I started forming this theory about Rome's history and gender roles in Rome I went crazy finding books to research and back my theory. I'm hoping I will get to use this stuff for my research methods class, but if I don't I'll still read most of the books. Right now the stack on my bedside tables holds titles like Engendering Rome, The Erotics of Domination, Goddesses, Whores, Wives, & Slaves and Reading Roman Women. Good stuff, I know. The librarian actually told me I had pretty much gone over my limit tonight.

I realize I haven't so much told you anything about living in Rome as I've exposed myself for the deranged bibliophile I am, but I promise you will learn more about Rome than you ever cared to know in the coming weeks, thanks to all of these books.

Post-blogging Thoughts on a Wednesday Night

[editorial note: I wrote this piece last night, after the tram post, in my regular journal. At first it was just going to be a freewrite about my research questions for social research methods, but it turned into more of a reflection, so I thought I'd share with you.]

I was all set to write something intelligent here and then somehow I ended up on youtube and now I'm falling asleep with one hand in my Italian homemade trail mix (M&M's that taste low-fat, non-salted peanuts, tiny flavorless raisins) and my Italian homework spread out around me on my bed.

If I was a morning person (something I might start to answer when people ask me what I want to be when I grow up), I would venture into the center of Rome tomorrow looking for a market to buy some dried fruit to add to my trail mix, but I don't think that will happen. First, I will set my alarm for 8 but without fail I will only get up for a bathroom break and then reset my alarm for 10. I mean, I don't have class until 1:45. Second, the only market I know of right now is the one at Campo (dei Fiori), and I've pretty much decided that's fast becoming a tourist trap. All the kids at school talk about Campo (there's clubbing there at night, but it's way American), and the market during the day seems overpriced and fakey fake. Maybe I'll wander back and take some pictures, since the produce does look fresh and it probably tastes good, but there must be another, smaller market where real Italians go.

I wish the weather was better because then I would want to walk around more. Once it's nicer out I'll be able to check out the botanical garden that's supposed to be close to campus plus wander up to the Vatican. A lot of the big monuments I'll get to see in my on-site art history class, so I'm not as worried about finding those on my own, but I do want to find some of the lesser known things in Rome, the things tourists and people only spending a few days here often miss out on.

I know a lot of my fellow Americans will miss out on these things too because they are all so concerned about where they are going every weekend. I don't really even want to leave Italy. I'm planning on coming back to Europe in my life so I don't feel all this pressure to see Paris, London, Madrid, Athens...and I definitely don't want to be confined to seeing these places in just one weekend. No, instead I want to really live in Rome and travel to some places around Italy.

A lot of this feeling stems from my classes on ancient Rome and what I've learned so far. It's given me this huge need to write and research more about Rome's history. I'll get to the specifics eventually, but what it comes down to is Rome, history, gender, storytelling and me. Somehow my story seems to fit in Rome's story and I really want to know how it all comes out. It's one hot mess in my head now, all of these ideas and research questions and possible theories and story ideas, but hopefully I can untangle some of it in these next few weeks.

I've got to peace out, though, since the garbage truck is on my street now and by the time I'm done with the homework I have left and I'm ready for bed it should be gone and via Pascarella will finally be quiet.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

As the Romans Do: Riding the Tram

Tonight I rode the tram home from school, as I have been doing these past few days. It seems safer than walking through the alleys and dodging motorbikes. (Even on the sidewalks--three of them came pretty close to me the other day. I guess the actual street was too crowded.) Riding the tram gives me ample time to digest the things I learned in class and to do some people-watching.

The first thing you notice on the tram is that Italians seem to have no personal space. They crowd right in and smoosh up against one another, no problem. This makes sense if you consider Rome and how people live--all crowded together. You also notice, though not always by watching but more by smelling, that American hygiene and Italian hygiene are not always the same thing (this is of course even more apparent when combined with the whole no personal bubble thing).

A lot of my fellow tram riders seemed to be coming home from work with their borsi (bags) and tired faces. It was after 8, which is about the end of the work day from what I have seen. But you have to remember, Italians believe in long lunches, so even though they went to work at 8 or 9 that morning, they did take a 2-3 hour break in the afternoon before working again. This is a huge difference from America, where we would rather plow through the day and then relax.

I actually experienced that difference first hand in my class tonight. Social research methods is scheduled from 5:15-8 and at about 7:05 our professor gave us a choice: take a five minute break and then come back until just before 8 or keep going and get out at about 7:40. All of the Europeans (4 of them) in the class voted to take a break and us Americans (there are only 2) voted for skipping the break in order to get out early.

Five minutes later, when class was supposed to start again, the only ones in the room were us Americans. We had to wait another couple of minutes for the Europeans to come back from their walk/smoke. I'm not saying one school of thought is better than the other, I just think it's funny how ingrained these things are.

Another thing I learned today, which I hope to put to use sometime soon, is the best option for mailing (postcards) is the Vatican City. Because the Vatican is actually its own country (no passport stamps though) it has its own postal system and post office. And I've heard from various sources that they are far more effective than the regular Italian post. So it's a good thing I've been too lazy to buy stamps at the tabacchi on my way to school, because I'll need to buy Vatican City stamps in order to send them from the Vatican City post office.

I should probably end here so I can finish my compito (homework) and start reading some of the books I got on gender in ancient Rome (possible thesis topic? we'll see).

Buona notte!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Once Upon a Time...

[Disclaimer: I know, logically, that I am in a foreign country. I am not making fun of Rome in the following post, only trying to somehow explain this extremely odd feeling. Please enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed creating.]

It doesn't matter how many monuments and museums I see, I still can't convince myself I'm actually in Rome. I mean, there are almost three million people here but it doesn't feel like it. I guess it's part of the human condition to relate new experiences with the familiar, so for me Rome is like...EuroDisney.

In the Rome region of EuroDisney, the Italians are all characters, hired by Disney to speak Italian for my entertainment. Some sell souvenirs in little stands along the streets, others hold their children by the hand as they maneuver professionally across the uneven cobblestones in their high heels. Of course some of them work the attractions or water the gardens (though they really haven't had to these past weeks, as it rains nearly everyday).

The cobblestone streets are merely the setting, built to look genuine. Also in the setting, graffiti painted on buildings and signs and important looking statues set up around the park.

The tram is the main amusement park ride, but there are other, tamer, attractions like the Colosseum (haha, think about that one) and the Trevi Fountain where kids and adults alike can throw a euro in over their shoulder. Of course, when you first enter the park you trade your dollars for euro and these you can cash in at the various attractions.

When all of the excitement wears you out, just head on over to one of the numerous food stands, each with their own special menus. Most offer panini (okay, real lesson now: one panino, two panini. There is no such thing as "I'll have a panini." That's like saying "I'll have a sandwiches."), pizza, and of course gelato in every flavor under the rainbow.

And that's pretty much EuroDisney. Of course it is safe for the whole family (and that kind of feels true. I feel perfectly fine walking home alone after school, between 8-9 pm) and the only downsides are having to dodge all the annoyingly persistent umbrella salesmen and the fact that the Italian "characters" all seem to have a chain smoking addiction.

Little by little this warped view is wearing off (The constant honking no matter what time it is helps with that...there is no honking in Disney.) but for now it mostly describes my "culture shock"--or lack of. Once I can fully appreciate being in Rome, Italy I'm sure I'll truly be shocked by my Americanness and inability to ever fit in, and I'll let you know how that feels.

[PS: Thanks to the lady from the US Embassy in Rome for giving me the idea to describe Rome as EuroDisney. She did so to warn us against falling into complacency when we should continue to hold our guards up because Rome's number one crime is pickpocketing, usually petty and not violent, but it's easy to forget that you are in a real city. She also said sometimes Florence feels like part of Disney's World Showcase and Venice feels like a Disneyland water park.]

[PPS: I almost forgot about Pinocchio! Originally Italian, Disney made an animated film adaption of it in 1940. So I suppose he would have to make an appearance in EuroDisney!]

Monday, January 26, 2009

Under the Tuscan Clouds and Rain

I need to apologize in advance that my pictures from this Sunday in Tuscany will look nothing like anything from the movie Under the Tuscan Sun. There are a few reasons for this:

1) It was cloudy and rainy the whole day. Also, it was cold. Mostly because we went north and up into the mountains, and apparently the last week in January is the worst weather week in Italy.

2) I spent most of the day looking at the backs of my eyelids or staring down into trash cans or toilets.

Tuscany is a region of Italy, much like the Midwest is a region of the United States. It is further divided into 10 provinces (like states). Our day trip took us to two different cities in the region of Tuscany, Pienza and Montepulciano, both in the province of Siena.

Another important fact: Siena is quite hilly. And even though I rarely get motion sickness, these hills plus my seat in the absolute last row of the bus were apparently enough to put me out for the entire day.

At our first stop, Pienza, I was feeling slightly okay, having already puked twice. I walked around a bit, took in the amazing view of the Tuscan landscape, and visited the church. I walked in during the homily of the mass, so I hung around in the back, listening and trying to get warm. I of course didn't understand a thing, but I learned on Saturday at Santa Maria (one of many churches in Trastevere) that no matter where you go, the Catholic mass follows the same pattern. It's nice to know Catholic really does mean universal in this case.

Anyways, Pienza is the home of Pope Pius II. When he lived there, though, it was called Corsignano. When he became pope, he had the entire city rebuilt as a Renaissance town and renamed after himself. Today it is a World Heritage Site, meaning it has cultural value to all of humanity. Less than 2,500 people live in Pienza and it has a distinct untouched-by-modernity feel.

The old men gathered in the piazza probably wondered what all of us Americani were doing there, but soon enough they lost interest in us and got back to their passionate discussions. (I never have any idea what Italians are talking about, but it's always passionate. They love hand gestures and facial expressions.)

After Pienza, we got back on the bus for a short ride to Montepulciano. Here was going to be a wine, cheese, olive oil, and mustard tasting, but all I wanted to taste was some sleep and my stomach really wasn't up to food, so I stayed on the bus for this segment of the trip.

After everyone had cleared out, the bus driver came back by me with the trash can. "You are sick?" he asked. I nodded and he set the trash by me, laughing and patting me on the head. I smiled, said "Grazie," curled up on the seat, and fell asleep for the entire time everyone was gone. When they came back I felt a lot better, even hungry, and ate the banana I had packed for myself that morning.

Now we just had a short ride to our final stop, Ristorante della Fattoria Pulcina, a restaurant in Montepulciano. I was so hungry when we got there, but once we sat down and I started eating, I felt sick again. So I alternated camping out in the bathroom (with no luck) and sitting in our reserved dining room (still not hungry)...until finally, and after having to run back to the bathroom (which was way far from where we sat, and through more winding hallways), I puked one last time and could be hungry. I made it in time for pasta dish number two, a sort of beef stroganoff thing, plus the main dish of oven-baked chicken and rosemary potatoes. For dessert I was craving ice cream/gelato or a popsicle, but instead we got espresso and some biscotto (dessert biscuits).

And that was the day. I slept the entire 3-hour bus ride back and crawled into bed as soon as we got back to our apartment. It sucked to miss out on some of it, but I have other trips to look forward to. In the meantime I'm trying to find popsicles, though I might resort to making my own with our ice cube tray and some peach juice mixed with Sprite.

Here are the pics from Tuscany:

Friday, January 23, 2009

weekend plans and updates

I finally have a mailbox! So my complete address (for letters) is:

Rachel Kaiser/Mailbox 450
c/o John Cabot University
Via della Lungara 233
00165 Roma

Also, here is my cell number here:


Just remember I'm seven hours ahead so it's probably not the best idea to call 8 pm, CST. Because hopefully I'm asleep then. :)

There are no classes on Fridays here; I might do some grocery shopping, take a few pictures around Trastevere...who knows, I might even pull out some homework to get it done before the weekend.

On Sunday we are taking a day trip to Tuscany to see the beautiful countryside and take in a traditional Italian 3-course lunch. The weather is supposed to be nice with just some morning rain and then highs in the low 50s...can't say I'm missing Wisconsin winter!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Warning: Tangent Detours Ahead

Haha...oh, and the other reason I know I'm fit for being an English major: extreme tangents. Which is what that last post was, because I completely forgot to mention anything I had planned on writing except for the fact that I am in love with an ancient historian named Livy.

What I also meant to write about was the inauguration. I watched it on Tuesday night with my fellow Americans in Rome and some interested Italians. JCU set up this big projection screen with live CNN coverage and brought in a speaker to discuss the importance of inaugural speeches. He was actually a speechwriter for President Ford and it was so weird hearing someone speak English without an accent. [Tangent warning] I've become so used to the Italian accent--like how when my history teacher says "vestal virgin" it sounds more like "veeestal veeergin"--that it's strange to hear Americans. I wonder what it will be like in four months when I'm back.

Okay, so, back to the inauguration. I discussed this with Emily, another artsy fartsy type like me, and we both agree that traveling makes you super-aware of the fact that people live and exist in different places and times. It was 5:00 pm when we were watching CNN, but only 11 in the morning in DC. Our day was winding down when America's was just beginning. It's hard to explain the feeling, but it's almost as if we were in two places and times.

Another thing travel makes you aware of: being American. The Italians all know who our president is. They know Tuesday was Obama's inauguration. And what do we know about them? Every time Obama mentioned other nations or our nation or anything relating America to the rest of the world, it struck me: I'm American. Being in a foreign country really emphasized that. I don't know what exactly to do with that knowledge--cheer, apologize, nothing--but I'm pretty sure I'll learn just as much about America as I will about Italy during these four months.

And I think that's everything I wanted to mention in my last post, but was too excited to remember.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Best Feeling

So far, this first week of classes has done at least one great thing for me: help me realize that everything in my life and everything about me screams English major. Every new class I have affirms my choice, and the crazy part is I'm not even in any English classes here at John Cabot. I think because all the ones offered I've already taken at SNC. I don't know.

But you know that stomach-fluttering, face-burning, heart-pounding-in-the-palms-of-your-hands feeling you get when the guy you're crushing on gives you his trademark grin? I got that in both of my classes today. Because I have a crush on storytelling. And it turns out, storytelling kind of likes me back.

I mean, how can it be that not one of my classes are literature-based and yet I have somehow turned them all into pseudo-English classes? We sit in a circle in my basic Italian class, which automatically puts me in discussion mode. The only language my stats professor seems to speak is math, so instead I free-write in my planner. My art history class meets in different sites around Rome, but we'll be discussing what it means to have this statue here next to this building and why we should care--all things we would discuss about a piece of literature as well.

My history class today is where I first felt that flutter...We are discussing the foundation of Rome and reading Livy's Early History of Rome so of course the myth of Romulus and Remus came up. And my mind jumped to the question of the importance of storytelling. Is it important for our histories to be factual? Is there a place for mythological history? What is history? At the time of Livy, myth was perfectly acceptable. Since then the definition of history has changed and with it the place of storytelling. I won't go on in too much detail here...because I could go on for pretty long.

I will quote Livy, though, because I think he's amazing and hilarious.

"There is no reason, I feel, to object when antiquity draws no hard line between the human and the supernatural: it adds dignity to the past, and, if any nation deserves the privilege of claiming a divine ancestry, that nation is our own..."

He is talking about Rome here and how its founder, Romulus, raised with his twin brother Remus by a she-wolf, is said to be the son of a mortal woman and a god.

Going on, my second heart-flutter was in social research methods. At first I was terrified because there are only four girls--four students total--in that class and it's geared towards those preparing to write their senior theses. I don't have to do one of those, I'm just taking this class for my sociology minor. But then we talked about topics and research questions and of course my mind was at it again. I wanted to tell the professor--at length--about my obsession with storytelling, literature, the creation of literature....unfortunately he cut me off because he's a poli sci guy and doesn't really know much about literature.

Anyways, my point is I think I'm really going to like these classes. I mean, any class that causes me to actually go to the library and sit down with the book and take notes--even if that class happens to be history and the professor is a bore--must in itself be interesting and of some value.

Monday, January 19, 2009

picture post, Rome Post, postal service, presidential post

This would have gone up sooner but my internet kept freezing last night so I gave up. Here's a photo link for the album in and around my neighborhood:

I haven't gotten my mailbox number yet, but I will let you know as soon as I have it. Eventually my mailing address will be:

Rachel Kaiser/[insert mailbox #]
c/o John Cabot University
Via della Lungara 233
00165 Roma

This is for letters only, though. Packages are supposed to be sent directly to our apartments. Mom and Dad tried sending something and we're waiting to see how that works.

Today has been one of the more frustrating days here in Rome, which is sad because it is only quarter after 11. Only the second day of classes and I already messed up my schedule. It went through some changes last week during orientation and I thought I wrote down the new class numbers, but I must have missed one. I was in the wrong classroom this morning. It was for the right class and the right time, but the wrong professor. Except when I checked after that class to see where I was supposed to be, the schedule only said "on-site" and did not give a list of the sites. Hopefully my prof. checks his e-mail so that can get cleared up.

On the bright side, tonight is the inauguration and we are having a sort of party here at JCU. A professor is coming in to talk about inaugural speeches and then we are going to watch coverage of it on a giant screen. I think the president of our college will be there. I'll let you know more after.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

il cibo e la storia: I'd eat anything made in the Roman melting pot.

Italy is pretty much synonymous with amazing food. So far I have not been disappointed in that area--whether it was from an aperitif buffet, a ristorante or even from the local supermercato (super market). The pizza I ate the other day had this flaky crust just like a pie should have. I usually don't like tomatoes, but for some reason they are pretty tasty here. Don't even get me started on the gelato. Even my cereal (it's called Choco Crack, and I think that fits...because I'm addicted) tastes good.

The other night some of my roommates and another girl we met (she's from Eau Claire woot!) found an aperitif for 6 euro. This means we ordered drinks and had an all-you-can-eat buffet with pizza, a rice dish, quiche and fried potatoes among other things. It's an amazing deal in Italy, especially since they don't have that rushed atmosphere. It's perfectly acceptable to order one drink and nurse it the entire night.

The downside to this is the absence of take out or anything to go. Not even their cappuccino or espresso can be made to go, at least in the traditional and local cafes. Instead you have to sit and enjoy it; it's also common to stand at the the counter and drink it, like you might at a bar in the states.

After the aperitivo, we found some gelato--my first in Italy. It was so good, like ice cream but way creamier. I had a combination of cookies 'n' cream and Nutella (hazelnut chocolate). We walked a little ways down to the Piazza Santa Maria to enjoy it like a Roman: slowly.

Besides taking in the local delicacies this weekend, we also went on two free tours. Our tour guide was this funny little Italian, but he had cool stories about each monument, fountain, and building. He kept telling us about all the different layers of Rome--literally, that apartments and the things we see today were built over the theaters, baths, and stadiums of ancient Rome--but also the layers of community and diversity.

Rome is home to the oldest population of Jews. It's also the birthplace of Christianity and home to the Vatican, the center of Roman Catholicism. Before these religions though, the Romans were a pagan people. And all of these traditions blend together in one vibrant landscape. A lot of the buildings combine aspects of each of these traditions. Take the Pantheon: originally a pagan temple, today it's the site of weekly Catholic masses. There are so many examples of this, it makes my English major brain hurt. America is a melting pot sure, but we definitely aren't the first.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Benvenuti a Roma!

If I have learned anything in my first week in Rome, it's this: Patience is a virtue best learned through experience. When we arrived, shuttles took us to the Study Abroad Italy office where about 70 of us lined up to get our apartment keys, cell phones and other orientation information. This took some time, but finally our drivers took us to our neighborhood in lower Trastevere. Most of the JCU students actually live on Viale di Trastevere (pronounced Tra-STEH-ve-ray) but our apartment is a few blocks further from school on Via Pascarella.

Facing Viale di Trastevere

Facing Via di Porta Portese

Because our street is so little and on the edge of the city, it's not even on the map JCU gave us. This made it a bit difficult for my four roommates and I to find the school the first few days of orientation. What was supposed to be a 25-minute walk soon turned into a 45-minute walk when we got lost in the winding alleys, which took us past street vendors selling Vespa accessories and lots of Smart cars parked wherever there was room. Finally we realized Viale di Trastevere would take us straight to school and go past bancomats (ATMs), pizzerias, and tabacchis--all necessities for travelers in Italy.

Though the language can be a barrier, I'm already picking up certain phrases (scusi [sorry/excuse me] and grazie [thank you] being my most used). It might be awhile before I understand Italians as a people--their two hour lunches, crazy parking and love for soccer--but at least I've figured out basic street etiquette. That is, a green walk means go, but watch for Vespas, a yellow means go a bit faster and watch for Vespas and cars, and a red means go but watch for Vespas, cars, buses and trams.

A lot of people lump Italy in with the rest of Europe (which, logically, is appropriate) but, as this video shows, Italy tends to do things a bit different. They showed this at one of our orientation sessions after we were in Rome a few days so we had already experienced some of these situations. It really is like this!

On Wednesday SAI sponsored an Aperitivo (like an American Happy Hour, but with better food). We went to Bros where they had the best artichoke spread, sausage and formaggio (cheese), and pasta. Plus we got a complimentary glass of vino (wine). Afterwards we took a short walk to a scenic overlook of the city. It was a little foggy, but we could still see a lot of the lights around the historic center.

one of the many side streets in Trastevere

outside Bros

Stephanie-Rosanna-Shannon-Marina at our aperitivo

It's been a good, tiring week, but I'm anxious for classes to start. Besides a basic Italian language course I'm also attempting statistics and social research methods (to use Kim's phrase, I'm supes nerves for those). I also have a history course on Rome and Ancient Italy and the class I'm looking forward to the most: Ancient Rome and its Monuments, which is an on-site art history course.

Wish me luck!! (buona fortuna)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Germany Frustrations

Alright, before I describe Rome, let me tell you a story about Germany. I flew into Frankfort and had about an hour layover before my flight to Rome. My ticket said I would fly out of gate B, but the flight departure board said A. So I went to A, where the guy told me I was in gate B. Okay, so I just had to walk back a bit. At these gates we had to go through security again and then I found B07. No one was there, but there was still almost an hour before we left. And then it was almost boarding time and no one was there, not even an airline worker.

I should quickly mention, when I first got to the gate I decided to go to the bathroom...the sign said "Toilets"--as in plural, more than one. So I opened the door. To a guy zipping his pants. Apparently there was only one toilet, and it was the handicapped one. And the lock didn't work. Luckily he was American and we laughed about it.

Also, I tried using my phone card to call home and at least let them know I was in Europe. But that didn't work either. I tried all the different numbers and even got an operator, but she was only willing to help if I called collect or charged the call to my credit card. She couldn't help with calling cards.

Back to the Gate Fiasco: I have five minutes to get to my gate before boarding starts. I find an airline worker and ask her to check what gate I'm supposed to be at. And what do you know, it's A26. So I was right to begin with and the German guy told me the wrong thing. The walk back to A26 is a long one involving many moving sidewalks and stairs and when I finally find an elevator it gets stuck. I jog back to the stairs, down more hallways, in between people and finally I make it to the gate. Auf Wiedersehen, Germany!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Finally Here!

I finally made it to Rome, all luggage intact. I am on an Italian keyboard now, so I will save most of my stories for when my laptop and internet are working. So far I just had orientation and a lot of forms to fill out. My apartment is quite nice, stay tuned for pictures. The downside is the trek from our apartment to school takes about 30 minutes, but at least there is no snow!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

and so it begins...

Yes, it's true: I'm spending Spring 2009 in Rome, Italy. I know, I'm an English major and for the longest time I was set on studying in London, but with the study abroad application deadline looming, I switched to the land of pizza and the Pope. I blame it on the book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Please read it if you haven't already, especially the first section. Who wouldn't want to go to Italy after reading that? I really do owe that lady a thank you.

The process for studying abroad was stressful yet satisfying. I didn't know how I would finish the application and get my classes approved on time, but I did. I didn't know how I would ever get a visa, but I did. God is good. I only had a slight breakdown at the Italian consulate in Chicago and only one of my classes remains to be approved. (In my defense for the breakdown, I was yelled at by a large Italian man for not properly affixing my photo. He gave me five minutes to fix it but then ended up using his stapler anyway.)

So now I have all the paperwork, a round trip ticket, and an iPod full of audiobooks for the 13 hour plane ride. I leave on January 11 and come back on May 10...a full four months of living like a Roman.