Misbah Hyder

Reacquantining With Rome

4/4/11

I am back in Rome! That is all I can think about and say continuously. This feeling is wonderful. I was in New York for the longest 4 days of my life. I love New York and my family, and I was so happy to see them but I wasn’t ready to be back home yet. Now that I’m back in Rome, everything feels righ

I arrived Tuesday afternoon and have just been happy since then. I made sure that I would not exert too much of my energy anymore and take it nice and slow. Because of that, unfortunately, I did not go to my debate tournament in Vienna. My partner was also sick this weekend, so it would not have worked out. But still. I would’ve just gone to Vienna to visit anyway, but I knew it wasn’t the right thing for me right now. A majority of my week was deciding whether or not it was. So this weekend was a Roma weekend and I was completely satisfied with that.

As a way to thank my friends for all they had done for me, I brought them goodies from New York. The one thing all of us missed so much was peanut butter. We always talked about it and how upset we were that it was so expensive here. So I bought a couple of jars. I also bought Twizzlers, Sour Patch and Teddy Grams (one of each) for other friends who were having withdrawal symptoms for other American indulgences. I definitely had my share when I was in New York. Despite of how much we love Italy, Italian food and culture, we are still Americans. We still need our peanut butter.

This week and next week was/are catch up week. I missed all of my midterms and a lot of work in the time I was sick and in New York. Now that I’m back, I am only going to class, studying for all of my midterms and catching up on everything here. This includes the social aspect as well. On Tuesday, my friends wanted Chinese food. And because I could not walk to the Chinese place by the end of the day, they got take out and we ate it in my room. It was a really great time with great friends and great Chinese food in Italy (yeah, that’s right).

Christine went up north to Torino this weekend and to an orange throwing festival right by there. This allowed me to have the room to myself for the weekend and just be in Rome. Friday was a perfectly relaxed day. It was raining and I was just in my room chilling out. When I went out for breakfast and then lunch (which I ended up not getting), I took my camera and had a photo shoot of our area in complete Sepia tone. This is the tone of just browns and bronzes. It was so great to use my camera again after a week and a half to two weeks. I really was rediscovering Rome and through my camera lens. It was perfect. Also, for those of you going abroad or thinking about it, this is what our street looks like. You know, except in color.

As for Saturday, Patrick and I decided to make a day trip to Orvieto. It is a small town up north. This town sits on top of volcanic tuff. As a result, there is a web of caves underneath the city because it was so easy to build them with the softer material. The Etruscans, the first people of Orvieto, built caves to survive: to make olive oil, house prisoners and attain water from wells. One of the coolest things to do in Orvieto is go on a cave tour. The tour guide brought us to two of the caves. It was unreal that we were above ground level and in a cave. We could look outside of the window openings and see lands and other towns below us. It was very interesting to learn how the Etruscans lived, built and utilized the caves and eventually how they reacted to the Roman conquering. Orvieto is also famous for its cathedral. In a word, the cathedral is ornate. The outside of it has carved out sculptures and mosaics which make the cathedral so grandiose. As immaculate as the outside is, the inside is that “plain.” It has a very simple inside compared to other cathedrals I have seen. I wish I knew more about the history of the cathedral because the inside looked a little unfinished. Only a few of the windows were stained glass, which is strange for a Gothic cathedral- just as one indicator. Otherwise, the cathedral really is beautiful. The day before, I researched famous Gothic cathedrals in Italy, and Orvieto’s was one of them. To me, that was pretty exciting. Overall, Orvieto is a beautiful town. We just walked around and weaved through the streets. Like many of the small, old towns in Italy, all of the streets lead you right back to the Cathedral. This really does show you the fact that the Cathedral was truly considered the center of everything.

In our exploration of the town, we found a very nice place for lunch. I got an Umbrian (Umbria is the area of Italy where Orvieto is) pasta. It was delicious. It was a thick and heavy spaghetti with a spicy tomato sauce. It is so wonderful to eat from these kinds of places because the food is completely localized and authentic. After that, we explored some more and were heading towards the well of St Patrick. On our way there, we walked down some steps and on a path along the cliff. It was very cool to see Orvieto from bottom up. On our way to the well, we did stop by a deserted cave- I mean, that’s another story.

Regardless, we reached the original piazza we reached after we took the tram from the train station. Right by it, was the well of St Patrick. This is a deep, spiraling well you can walk down. We walked down and back up. That’s all you can really do, but it was really cool. Overall, Orvieto was a great day trip. To anyone who is planning on studying abroad- make it a point to go to Orvieto. It is certainly a well worth day trip.

Today is study day. I have my Governments of Western Europe midterm tomorrow and it’s major crunch time! This weekend (and week overall) was a perfect mix of relaxation, school work and social activities. But most importantly, it was a wonderful way to reacquaint myself with Rome.

Not Ready, Not Yet

This week has been one of the most difficult weeks I’ve ever been through. I have had some back problems for a couple of years, but in Rome, it escalated. I saw a doctor last Friday, and after that, it only got worse. From Sunday on, I have been going through physical pain and emotional trauma. Right now, I am writing this blog entry from the airplane. It’s Friday, February 25th and I’m on a plane to New York.

The biggest problem with my situation is that no one knows what is wrong. The symptoms are on and off; sometimes I have difficulty walking, sometimes I’m fine. However, due to the fact that I have been to a different doctor and specialist every day since Monday, and still no one knows what is going on with me, I am heading to New York to find some answers.

I contemplated as to whether or not I should blog about this. Ultimately, I based my decision on the fact that this experience is a part of my study abroad. This is what happens when you are in a foreign country, don’t speak the language and without your typical support system. The experience I’ve had this week is just as important as any of my weekend trips or museum visits. I have learned more than I have ever learned in just the matter of days.

The first thing that should be known is that the Office of Global Studies in New York and Rome are amazing. They have helped me so much throughout all of this. I never went to a doctor I didn’t know by myself and I have knocked on their doors more than I can count. Erin Nester, Mark Eckman, Domenico Ferraro and Carla Weigers were helping me throughout the week. Along with the good people at HTH (which is the health insurance we have during our time abroad). And I couldn’t thank them more. So for those of you who are considering to study abroad or are already, you’re in good hands. I’ve pretty much tested it out. J

But on a personal level, I have learned a lot about myself this week. Prior to Sunday, I have never really been ill. The doctor’s office was a foreign land to me and medicine was something I only took when my mother forced me to. I never asked anyone for help because I always thought I could do everything on my own. The last thing I wanted was to be a burden on someone else or dependent upon anything. Well, I can easily say that this week defied all of those sentiments.

With the condition I was in, there were times I was unable to walk on my own. Countless times I would have to hold on to someone in order to be able to walk. There were other times I couldn’t walk to the get something to eat. All of this forced me to ask my friends for help; many of them were more than willing to do so anyway, all I had to do was ask. And for me, asking was the hardest part. I don’t like the feeling of being helpless, and there were certain times that I felt that way. In the midst of this adventure, as I like to call it, I have learned so much about myself (even in terms of biology!).

I am not ready to officially leave Rome just yet. This is the hardest thing for me right now. I’m supposed to be in Venice right now, going to Vienna next weekend and still have so many more adventures and experiences. My Study Abroad experience is not over and this obstacle will not let it be. I won’t allow it to get the best of me.

The Ultimate Week

This was the week before it all started. On Sunday, a health condition ensued which affected and will continue to affect the rest of my trip. There is a reason why I named this blog the ultimate week. Starting Tuesday, I did something every day. I told this to Christine, she said it was worth it.

There has been a Van Gogh exhibit here which was supposed to close last week. This exhibit is supposed to be amazing and was extended for another 10 days because it was doing so well. Christine, Chris and I decided we wanted to see it. The exhibit was basically about how Van Gogh was influenced in his time in France and the Netherlands, and with that, which artists influenced him. The sections were by periods of time in his life in each place he had traveled to, and have other artists’ work between Van Gogh’s. It was really nice. The thing I love about exhibits like these is that they’re so focused. By the end of the gallery, I was able to understand Van Gogh personally as an artist so well. I understood his development as an artist and relationship between him and his peers. This is something you really don’t get with mass-museums, as I like to call them. I had the same effect when I went to Barcelona and saw the Picasso museum. This exhibit was very worthwhile and I’m really glad I was able to see it. After that, we explored Piazza Venezia itself a bit. We went upstairs, stood on the terrace and got a beautiful view of Rome. We could see the Colosseum, Forum and domes (no, but seriously- domes). And of course, my camera and I were doing some serious work.

Wednesday was a sad day. This was DTW’s last day in Rome. I guess the “problem” with the first rotation is that when you initially come, you don’t differentiate between who is here the whole semester and who is not. For everyone, Rome was completely new. Because of that, we became very attached to those from DTW and them leaving is so strange. Megan and I were always close since Freshman Orientation; but in Rome, we became so much closer. It was hard to see her go. As a way to commemorate their last night, two DTW guys, Matt and Corey, along with some other semester students decided to go to Piazza del Popolo and play music. Just for fun. We joined them a little later and it was one of the best things we’ve done. This is Piazza gets pretty populated during the day and is so wonderful at night. There aren’t too many people, but it is never completely deserted. We were all just hanging out, playing music and talking; it was a perfect way to say goodbye. Afterwards, I hung out with Molly, who is someone else from DTW. She wanted to go to the 24 hour bakery for a last time (good choice!) and so we did. She almost ended up crashing on my bed because it became so late.

Thursday was the first day of my Roma Pass. Roman museums have a really great three day pass in which you get free museum access to the first two museums you visit, a discount for every museum after that and free metro for all three days. This pass cost me 25 Euro and I ended up saving about 8-10 Euro by the end of it. For my first day, I did the Capitoline Museums. These are some of the most expensive museums in the city and contain a lot of art. I already had mentioned a “mass-museum” earlier; that’s exactly what this was. It was actually very overwhelming and a bit confusing to go around. But it was really cool because there were so many works I had learned about in my art history classes, and never knew they were in Rome. I really enjoyed it. Afterwards, a lot of us semester students went to Trastevere, which is like the Greenwich Village of Rome. We had a wonderful dinner and toasted to being in Rome for the whole semester. We’ve been seeing the new batch of DTW people coming in all day and we were simply filled with mixed emotions. It broke us that the first team left, but it was pretty exciting to see new faces.

As for Friday, Roma Pass Day #2, Christine and I went to the Galleria Borghese. But before that, we went to my doctor’s appointment. Little did I know, this would be one of many. But anyways, this was the museum I was most looking forward to. It is the home to many of the Bernini and Caravaggio I came to Rome for. They are my favorite sculptor and painter, respectively, and I was extremely excited to see their works (especially for free with my pass!). The museum itself is strange though; you have to make a reservation to get in beforehand and you’re only allowed for two hours. Especially for a museum I want to spend the entire day in because of all of the work, that time constraint really broke my heart. On a brighter note, the museum was fantastic! I don’t even know how else to describe it. I got to see multiple Bernini’s and Caravaggio’s in front of me; usually I get them in doses of one or two at a time. With how many I saw at once, I had no idea how to contain myself. After the museum, we were walking around Villa Borghese for a while which was beautiful. This Villa is so big and we did not nearly spend enough time in it; mainly because I had my Roma Pass and I was on a museum run while I still had the discount. But a revisit is certainly in order! The next museum we decided to go to was Palazzo Barberini. This was a national museum which also housed some Caravaggio. It was not too far from the Borghese, though it was a bit of a find. This museum was also beautiful.

That night, we met Shane and Patrick. Patrick was one of Christine’s friends from before and Shane is someone from the Staten Island campus. The four of us ended up sitting in the kitchen common area and talked for quite a while. Then the talk of gelato came up and we decided to show them a really great place by the Vatican. The four of us were then off to Old Bridge and it was delicious. Oh, and we also told them that because the first DTW students left and broke our hearts- we would not become attached to the second. Let’s see how well that works out.

As for Saturday, Christine and I wanted to go to the Galleria Corisini for my third Roma Pass day. This was another museum that had some Caravaggio. It was quite small and not too far from campus. The walk there was absolutely beautiful. It was beautiful day; we walked along the river and through unconquered ground in Rome. We strolled through the stunning gallery, which housed some really great pieces and then walked around after. We went to the Jewish ghetto to have some lunch. And then walked along the busy street of Via del Corso to get home- for some reason, it was so crowded. Regardless, it was a wonderful and tiring day. It wasn’t as museum filled as the other two, but a perfect combination of taking advantage of the beautiful weather with our love for art. That night, we cooked and just had a relaxed night.

The first Sunday in Rome we went to the massive market, Porta Portese. As another Sunday in Rome, we decided to do it again and bring Patrick. We got up early and headed off for a great day of strolling around a market and possible shopping. There were a couple of cool things we found and it was fun. However, I had reached my physical limit in the middle of it all and I had to hold on to someone almost the entire time from thereon. After Porta and much needed rest, my health condition escalated Sunday night. I could not get out of my bed, literally. Little did I know that this would begin the saga of my back problems.

Seeing Italy, Step by Step

After this wonderful weekend in Barcelona, I’m really happy to have just stayed in Rome. This week was a lot more relaxed with some obstacles, and one day trip to Pompeii/Naples. I was able to explore more areas in Rome and it was just wonderful.

Monday was just the usual Monday after a weekend trip- catch up! It was filled with class, homework, laundry and getting my life back into order. And of course, consistent reminiscing about the grandeur that was Barcelona.

On Tuesday, Megan and I decided that we wanted to walk up the dome of St Peter’s. We also grab Matt and head over to the Vatican. Unfortunately, we went a little later and so the only option they had to go up was through the elevator. I didn’t want to do that because the whole fun of St Peter’s or any dome is the intense walking! Instead, we just went inside the basilica itself, the pope funerary level underneath and walked around the small country. We also took a picture with the Vatican guard! (As you can see) Swiss Guard

There is no doubt that St Peter’s basilica was the most grandiose church I have been to. I just stood at the head of the nave in utter awe. I had no idea what else to do. There was nothing else going through my mind; just absolute admiration. Then, I dared to turn right. To the right of me was Michelangelo’s Pieta. I walked over to it completely entranced. I was unaware for how long I stood there simply staring and admiring one of the greatest pieces of art in history. I want to say so much more about the basilica, the mosaics, the statues, sculptures, Bernini’s Baldikin, the altar and the Pieta. I just don’t know where to start and/or what else there is to say. I was that enthralled by it. The best part about this description of my experience in St Peter’s is that it sounds a bit farfetched. It may seem as though I am exaggerating everything. But the thing is- I’m not. If anything, I am almost understating my emotions by not having every letter in capitals and a bunch of exclamation points. I could not believe that I had waited until my 5th week here to see the inside of St Peter’s Basilica.

Friday morning we headed over to the very historical town of Pompeii. This trip was from the school for the semester students. This city was actually partially buried under lava after a major volcanic eruption in the first century AD. Since then, they’ve been excavating. The basic time we spent in Pompeii was a tour of the old city and the remains. It was absolutely beautiful. There was an eerie air to it, but it was so fantastic to see archaeology truly at its best. There were some remains which were fully intact and the detail still visible. Pompeiians were very fond of frescoes. They particularly used a red which is known as a “Pompeian red.” As we were walking around the site, we saw archaeologists at work. That, I thought, was pretty cool.

During our tour of the city, our group found a dog. This may seem like a completely insignificant thing to talk about, but this was so sweet. We found the dog in the middle of our tour and he followed us until the end. I’m not kidding, he followed us. If he stopped for some reason to go somewhere else and we went a little farther ahead, he would run to our group until he caught up. Or he would know the easiest way to get to some part of the city, and would meet us there. This dog was beautiful; it was brown/black and very friendly. We were definitely contemplating whether or not we should “sneak him” on the bus but of course and unfortunately we did not.

After Pompeii, we went to Naples for about half an hour. It was pretty cool because we went to the water and stood on rocks looking over the Mediterranean. After that, we jumped onto a bus back home.

On Saturday, Megan and I decided to go to some churches and explore Rome! The two on the list were ones I went on in a walking tour: Santa Maria Maggiore and Santa Prassade. The former is a very large and prominent church. It is absolutely beautiful. The windows are what really get to me; the entire church is lit so immensely that it gives the church a whole new feel. Further, the mosaics of the church are absolutely mind-blowing. The walking tour I went on was abour different mosaics around the city. Of the couple of churches he brought us to, Santa Prassade astounded me the most. Santa Prassade is a smaller church right by Santa Maria Maggiore. The church itself is not as big or prominent as the other. However, it is the chapel that is inside. You have to pay a Euro to have the lights of the inside chapel turn on- totally worth it. The entire chapel ceiling, and I literally mean entire, is covered in mosaics. You look all around you- all of the arches, the walls and ceiling is just mosaic.

Megan and I also found a great kebab place. This place took meal tickets and was authentically Arab. This was really cool because the only other kebab places we had been to only served pizza as the other option. This place had Arabic music playing, served kebabs, rice, curry and other delicious foods. It was decorated with paintings from the other side of the Mediterranean. This was just a wonderful experience to have because it was so different than the rest of the Italian culture we became submerged into.

Through this week, I am starting to realize that I am seeing Rome (and Italy) piece by piece. It’s not all so overwhelming anymore like it was in the beginning where I wanted to do nothing more than see everything at once. Now, it is balancing schoolwork, a social life and exploring such a wonderful city and country- step by step.

Good Morning Barcelona!

This past week I experienced an Italian soccer game and Barcelona. I guess you can say that this was a pretty good week.

Starting off with the soccer game—Megan wanted to go to one for a while. So we decided to ask Domenico (who is the biggest Roma fan I have ever seen). And so, on Wednesday, we saw a Roma game. Americans like their sports. Yes. But they nearly do not like it as much as the Italians do. Especially from Domenico, we always heard about the intense Lazio versus Roma games (the two biggest rivals here) and how intense and dangerous they are. The game that we went to was a smaller one, and therefore wasn’t as dangerous, but it still gave us an idea as to how seriously the Italians take their soccer.

The stadium was extremely big and the security was even stricter than that of an airport. Our passports with tickets were checked about 4 times by police officers. Also, in order to attain a ticket, you have to bring your passport to the Roma store so that they can print your name onto the ticket. Right before the game starts, the entire stadium goes into a Roma song. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. The unity that I was a part of in the stadium was wonderful. Then, once the game starts, you can only imagine all of the screaming and cheering that was going on. There are flags waving everywhere and road flares going off.

The best part about the experience though, was seeing the rival fans. The opposing team was Breschia, and they had very few fans present; but the ones who were in a separate, blocked off section. Their little block was surrounded by guards all over. We found that to be really funny and unnecessary until Breschia scored a goal. Once they scored, then we realized. They went really wild and almost all the guards had to constrain them. This even happened when Rome scored a goal. Both sides would scream and curse at one another. It was pretty awesome.

Then that night, we had to pack. We were heading for Barcelona that next day! Barcelona was the most wonderful city. It was filled with such beauty, the weather was marvelous and the food was delicious.

We arrive in Barcelona, and we’re getting lost on our way to the hotel. There was one point where we decided that we were hungry. Right by us, we found a place that had tapas. And yes, in the first 2 hours of being in Barcelona, we were eating tapas. For those of you who don’t know (because I didn’t), tapas are appetizers that you share with the group you’re with. Everyone chooses at least one and you have a little bit of everything. It’s very cool.

For our first full day in Barcelona, we decided to only keep a couple of destinations in mind. Some of them included the Cathedral in the middle of downtown and the Picasso museum right by it. Since both were in the middle of the city, it seemed like the perfect plan to have some destination and leaving room for wandering! And the day was just perfect. We saw both of those things, went to a market and bought dry fruits and strawberries, and went to a Dali Museum! We did the perfect amount of wandering and seeing.

For those of you who don’t watch How I Met Your Mother, there is an episode where one of the characters is teaching his class about an “unfinished building.” Christine had just seen the episode days before Barcelona, and so when she saw all of the postcards with this mysterious building- it hit her like an epiphany. We went back to the hotel that night, and realized it was a building by Gaudi who also the architect of the Cathedral we saw. Gaudi was a renowned architect of Barcelona and did many crazy buildings all around the city! This “unfinished building” was called Sagrada Familia and it was our next ambition to see it. Along with that, came the ambition to see the rest of his buildings and works around the city. In order to fully accomplish all of our goals, only one thing was needed: bikes.

Yep. So we got up super early Saturday morning and walked to a bike rental place. Once we got them, we rode down the main road of Barcelona, La Rambla, to the water. After riding bikes along the Barcelona coast for a little while, we decided to head over to our Gaudi destinations. Some of the sites, including Sagrada Familia, were up north. We rode up on one of the most beautiful days I’ve seen in a long time, alongside buses, taxis and cars. A couple of the sites we went to included Park Guell, Casa Batllo and Padrera. Of course we got lost going from site to site, but the north of Barcelona is laid out exactly like New York. The streets are in perfect grid form, and then, there is one street called La Diagonale- it’s Broadway.

Once we returned our bikes, we had to go to a paella place. There was one paella place that Christine really wanted to go to. We spent quite a bit of time looking for it, but we finally found it. It was delicious. We had seafood and vegetarian paella; paella is rice mixed with vegetables and/or meat. It’s one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted. After that, we did our last bit of exploring of this glorious city and called it a day.

We went back to the hotel to get ready for an early flight. The flight was going to take all day because we were going out of our way to Amsterdam as a stop over, and then to Rome. Hey, it was the cheapest deal.

Maybe starting to do as the Romans do?

2/18/11

Ciao!

So I’m almost into week 3 of my time in Rome and it feels like so much longer! Time goes by so slowly in Italy and I love it. Everyone takes their time for everything: strolling down the street, talking for long periods of time after a meal, not walking and eating. A lot of the things (such as being able to walk and eat) are things I miss about home, but I wouldn’t trade it for this wonderful experience! My past week wasn’t as eventful as my last two. This actually made me think that the entire hype and euphoria I had about Rome, Italy and Europe when I first arrived is wearing off. Now it’s starting to settle that I’m actually living here and staying in for a night or two is not the worst thing in the world.

My week started off pretty relaxed; after Amalfi, my only goal was to get back on track and back onto my Roman routine. Wednesday, however, was more exciting. Every couple of weeks the Pope holds the Papal Audience. This is where many congregate to the Vatican and the Pope will speak to us in different languages and say certain prayers. Unfortunately, I’m not fully versed on the particulars of this ceremony since I am not Catholic and I was a tad confused throughout. All I do know is that it was a great experience. In being in Rome, and living just a 10 minute walk from the Vatican, seeing the Pope himself is something noteworthy.

This weekend was when my friends and I decided to “do the Rome thing.” We wanted to stay back in Rome because we wanted to go inside of museums and etc since we only go out at night to wander. Megan and Christine (I’m sure you remember them from the last blog) decided to stay in Friday since we’ve been having quite event-filled weeks. Since I was on a mission to see every possible museum in Rome, I decided to head out on my own.

I knew that Palazzo Venezia, which is a very big and busy intersection in Rome, had some museums I wanted to go check out. So on my way there, I found three museums. There are two parts of the Fondazione Rome Museo: there was a Paul Eucharren side on one side of the main street with all futurist art while the other was called Roma E L’Antico which was basically on the Roman revival back to the Greek antiquity. I loved both of the exhibits. They were both so different and interesting. The Eucharren exhibit was all about different colors, shapes, moods and putting a modern twist on Rome. Meanwhile, L’Antico exhibit was about going back to the perfection of the Greek style that the Romans were so obsessed with.

The third museum I went to was called the Galleria Doria Pamphilj. This was my favorite. The museum was basically the old palace of Pope Innocent X and his family. It was so grandiose with paintings, sculptures, wall hangings, expensive furniture and etc everywhere! What was very exciting for me, personally, was that I was able to see original works of my favorite artists. The fact that a family possessed these works in their own homes just stunned me.

On Saturday, Megan, Christine and I decide to make two epic stops: a flea market and the catacombs. Saturday was a successful day indeed. We make our way through the Metro into one of the best flea markets I have ever been to. At first, it doesn’t look like it’s so great, there is only one line and it’s not even that long (unlike the first one I went to). It, however, was more than beats the eye. When you make a right passed a stall, you enter yourself into a city of stalls. We bought such awesome sweaters for 50 Euro cents and bought epic clothes from a Nepali guy. This was a successful shopping day (coming from someone who does not like to shop).

Afterward, we head over to the catacombs. We went to San Sebastiano because the other ones were closed for February. Saint Sebastian was a martyr in the first or second century AD and this is where he was buried, and a church was erected on top for him. The catacombs were just incredible. It was so intricate and mind blowing how they were actually done. There were three layers and my mind was fully blown. Further, the church on top was also beautiful.

As for today, Christine and I were going to the Vatican Museums for free, since they have that every month on the last Sunday. However it was too crowded and we were way too tired. Instead, we slept till 2:30 in the afternoon—a first time for us both.

For a week that wasn’t as eventful, it turns out we did do a lot! I guess it’s just how the Roman life goes. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do!”

Until next time… Arrivederci!


Meh, it’s cool; whatever; I’m not worried.

That was pretty much the motto of my entire weekend. But that’s jumping ahead.This week was the first week of class, and honestly, I really like all of my classes. All of the professors are great and the ones I’m taking really do interest me. I’m very excited for a semester of new perspectives! Because I have European professors teaching me about politics, it’s a brand new perspective than the American professors’ I’m used to.

But enough about the boring, class stuff; let me update you on my Italian adventures! On Monday, after class, a few of us decide to go up north to Ponte Milvio. This is a bridge over the Tiber River which has chains of “love locks.” These locks are to signify a couples’ devotion to one another. Basically, in securing the lock, you are committing to your significant other forever. This one bridge alone had hundreds, if not thousands, of locks with couples’ initials written on them. There are several bridges with this same idea because this one became much too full.It was very interesting to see this because Rome is after all the city of love! With all of its beauty, grandeur and romantic settings, it is no wonder that they would put love as such a priority!

Since the first day we’ve been in Rome, one of my friends Megan was telling us that we should have a lunch or dinner of just a baguette, olives and cheese. And so Tuesday night, a couple of us actually decided to try it. For food that was so cheap, for so many people, it was filling and delicious! All we had was pieces of bread with slices of cheese and olives. These are three food items Italians love, and we decided to “do as the Romans do!” This next part may or may not be as the Romans do, but we took the food from the supermarket and went to Piazza Navona and just ate the food on a bench. In it being so casual, and simple, it was perfect.After, we decided to wander and walk around a town called Trastevere. This is a great town right by the Vatican which is almost the bohemia of Rome. A couple of universities have campuses here, artists live here, tourists flock the pubs and restaurants. It’s just a great town to have a good time in. We didn’t do much this particular night, but I am certainly looking forward to spending more time there in the future!Some time during this week, that same friend Megan messaged my roommate, Christine, and I to go to Venice in the near future. Christine and I were initially planning on staying in Rome this weekend, but since Megan is doing DTW, we decided to do be more flexible. The three of us were searching for the right price for transportation to go anywhere in Italy. Suddenly, we decide to take out my Italy 365 day wall calendar which had the Amalfi Coast as the January theme. The pictures were just stunning and when we searched for the transportation: it was the cheapest! Just like that, we were going to the Amalfi Coast.

That was the best decision any of us had ever made. The planning itself was so spontaneous and casual, that it only anticipated for the carefree and perfect weekend. We had a 5:41 AM train from Termini (the main Roman train station) to Naples that Friday. We booked a cute Bed and Breakfast in Amalfi. And that’s it, we were off.

Amalfi is a quaint town on the south west coast of Italy. It is south of Naples and right on the Mediterranean. It was one of the most beautiful places I had ever been to. Words cannot even describe how the three of us felt about this place. The town had such a charm to it. What was even more interesting about our trip was that it rained the whole weekend. We were in Amalfi the first day (well, second half of the day technically); the second day was spent in a town up in the mountains to the north east of Amalfi, Ravello; while the third was mainly spent in traveling with some time in Naples. To get to Ravello, we took a bus up the mountain and then hiked back down. In our hike down, we were just watching the Mediterranean right in front of us. It was absolutely breathtaking.

In all of that, many of the locals told us that the places we were visiting would not be as beautiful in the rain. They told us that the weather conditions were unfortunate for our trip. However, the three of us felt the contrary. We felt as though the rain enhanced our experience.

For example, if you just simply look at the sky and the clouds. This texture and beauty would have never been there if it was sunny and clear out. We also saw a rainbow over the Mediterranean; now, how often do you see that? But more than that, I think it’s that because everyone told us that it was unfortunate and we still found such beauty in it despite of it, it made us love it even more. The rain and “unfortunate” weather caused us to see that even in what they consider to be bad weather, we still found such beauty.

This weekend was so perfect in every way. And because this was our first excursion, we had no idea how to go about it and what would happen or go wrong. However, we kept our cool, consistently used our motto, and ended up finding a place that was perfect and experienced its perfection.

Ciao bella!

The Only Thing that Stays Constant is the Moon

2/1/11

Calling Rome “the Eternal City” is certainly not an understatement. This city is filled with grandeur, class and rich culture. It’s nothing like I’ve ever seen or experienced before. And I think that was the exact reason for the simultaneous excitement and anxiety. We landed in Fiumucino, the Rome Airport, at 7:30 AM on Friday. There were so many feelings rushing through all of us. We were all telling each other that we were in Rome, but it never registered in any of our minds. It just didn’t click.

Once we get our bags, we proceed to find anyone Italian who is affiliated with St John’s. Now we meet the famous Domenico, who is amazing by the way! Every one of us absolutely loves him because he’s so friendly and welcoming. I think that’s what we needed the most; the fact that we’re in such a foreign environment makes us long for someone like him.

Friday was a very free day; we were able to do whatever we wanted because people were arriving at different times depending on their flights. By the time I was settled, it was almost time for the first Neighborhood Walking Tour. This was a basic tour were Domenico would show us where there’s an ATM, grocery store, Metro Station and etc. It was so helpful and great to interact in the Roman streets with a local! You get a completely different feeling because it no longer feels like you’re simply wandering and gazing; it feels like you belong and are able to integrate yourself into the rich culture.

In thinking of our plans for the night, my roommate and I decided that we wanted to wander around and explore Rome. One of our friends was telling us about how some people were going to the Trevi fountain and getting gelato. The best part of the night was that we consistently got lost. This allowed us to explore the smaller, less touristy streets and even discover other sites. In getting lost, we went to Piazza Navona which is so wonderful along with a Castle not too far from our campus.

The next day was a full day of orientation-based things so we were very busy throughout the day. After the orientation was over, though, we resumed our exploring! This exploring was mind-blowing. We were planning on doing this Medieval walking tour that I had in a tour book of mine, but instead we just wandered on our own and got lost (as usual).

We went to the Supreme Court building, and other smaller sites I can’t remember the names of. We then ended up the Palazzo Venezia which is absolutely stunning. As we were going to leave, I stood up and saw a beautiful road to the left of the main Plaza. As I looked more closely, I saw the Colosseum at the end of the road! And of course, how could we resist? We went to the Colosseum! Which, by the way, is quite far from campus; I personally did not think I would make it there so soon since it was so far. But this shows how getting yourself lost helps a little bit (just making sure you get lost in the right spots)

The final excursion for this weekend was sunrise this Sunday morning. Three of us who went out last night decided not to go to sleep; instead, stay up and walk to the Gianicolo Hill. This is a hill which shows the best sunset in all of Rome! I mean, look at it, it’s just stunning. It’s also not very far from campus. After that, we went to a Sunday flee market and just looked around. In knowing no Italian before coming here and only picking up some within the last 3 days, I was able to buy a necklace without having the stall owner know that I don’t speak the language! I think this was one of my best accomplishments.

All in all, this was a very successful first 3 days in Rome. I’ve seen a lot of it and experienced things I never thought I’d be able to in my life. But in walking through the streets of Rome, it’s unfamiliar and foreign. It’s so new that it keeps you interested but also intimidates you. However, I look up at the sky all the time and I see the moon. And you know what? The moon is the same. That is the same moon I see in New York, and it’s the same moon I see in Rome.

I know I’m some place completely different, I know I’m in a foreign land where I don’t even speak the language. However, it’s not so scary; seeing the moon in the sky made me realize that.

Now classes are going to start! So you’ll find out all about them next week.

Arrivederci!

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