21 April, 2008

There's No Place Like Home

Flight landed yesterday around 3:30 pm. I didn't exactly sleep on Saturday night as people were leaving at all hours of the night and I was packing pretty much the entire time, so I was able to sleep a little throughout the 8 1/2 hour flight. After going through baggage claim and customs and meeting up with mom and dad around 5 pm, we visited with Aunt Jeanne, Uncle Mike, and Alison. I ate a nice big juicy cheeseburger and fries!

Then we went to Uncle Michael and Aunt Lisa's house and visited with Avery and baby Jack - he is sooo cute! Finally we went home and I slept from 11 pm until 12 in the afternoon today. It's was so good to wake up in my own bedroom :-)

17 April, 2008

Things Learned

Well, well, well. Here I am with only a few days left. Some recent reflections on my experience before I get all busy packing and sad and stuff...

Things I Learned
While Living with an Italian Host Family

  • You have to flip a switch for the hot water heater if you don't like taking cold showers.
  • Don't you dare eat everything on the same plate. Use at least two plates at every meal.
  • Do not eat while standing up. Also do not eat from a disposeable container. Or from a pan, pot, or tupperware. Basically do not eat like you are in college, even if you really are.
  • Breakfast does not include eggs, waffles, pancakes, muffins, or bagels. But it does include the best espresso and an immesurable variety of biscotti.
  • When learning a language, long awkward pauses are unavoidable. Embrace the awkwardness.
  • Hanging out your laundry to dry takes a bit of skill combined with self-confidence: "I will not drop these panties on my neighbor's head below me. I will not drop these panties on my neighbor's head below me."

Things I Learned
While in Italy

  • You can get by with ordering food in most bars and restaurants through pointing and saying "questo" or "quello" (this one, or that one) but sometimes it is better if you know how to ask what's in it as well.
  • The "neutral" expression does not indicate that a person is unhappy, as in America's eager-to-please consumer society. Don't overuse the smile in public.
  • Staring is okay. If you catch someone staring at you, and you quickly divert your glance or smile, chances are they will continue staring as you have revealed your foreign identity. Instead, stare directly back using aforementioned neutral expression.
  • If a guy starts speaking to you in Italian and he seems nice and not too pushy, chances are he is not actually Italian but a bus driver from Turkey. And that is why you can understand his overly-enunciated dialect.
  • If a girl starts speaking to you in Italian, you should probably get out of her way before she starts yelling at you in Italian instead.
  • While the "fast food" options are limited, there is no shortage of pizza or panini. However, that's about all there is for lunch unless you go to sit down somewhere and pay considerably more.
  • When asking for directions, don't rely on just one source. Some people may find it entertaining to misdirect you while others may act like they know what you're talking about even though they have no clue. Still other times, they may be pointing you in the right direction for the bridge named Matteoti instead of the street you're looking for - on the other side of town. Getting lost is sometimes inevitable, even with a map and a friend who speaks Italian fluently.
  • Don't trust the cab drivers. The less Italian you know, the more likely they are to rip you off. However, there are also some nice cab drivers who tell you about things to do in Rome or talk with you about popular music. And still others who will do this while diverting your route and charging you for the second fare zone.
  • "Index cards" or "flash cards" do not seem to exist. Study for midterms and finals using quarter-sheets of printer paper instead.

Things I Still Haven't Figured Out

  • Why shopowners let the flower guys into their stores.
  • How to properly pronounce "chiacchierare" (chit-chat).
  • How to use a phone card to make calls from a public payphone.
  • How to make pasta carbonara without it sticking to the pan!
  • Why Italians insist on wearing their fur coats and boots in 70 degree weather.
  • Why gelato is so much better than regular ice cream. And how skinny Italian women can eat it and still appear anorexically thin.

14 April, 2008

Sibling Rivalry: Italian Brother Style

For dessert tonight we had strawberries with homemade whipped cream. Here is a snippet of some typical dinner-table conversation between the two brothers, which I am finally beginning to understand (they talk really quickly!):

Leo: "Who made the whipped cream? Ludovico?"
Ludo: "No, I didn't make it."
Leo: "Oh ok, in that case it's perfect."

Some things never change, huh?

09 April, 2008

I Professori

(The Professors)

In honor of our last week of class and finals and all that jazz, I thought it might be nice to share some information about my professors with you. Unbiased, professional information, taken from Temple's website. The real reviews will come later, wuahaha.

Aldo PataniaAldo Patania | International Business Former senior economic specialist at the U.S. Embassy in Rome and senior country manager for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. MBA Director at the Rome Campus of the University of Malta. MA, Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies.

Gregory SmithGreg Smith | Anthropology/Sociology Founding editor of the series Societa Mediterranea. Involved in a variety of Italian consulting projects. DPhil, Oxford University.

Mario Teleri | Printmaking Widely exhibited printmaker who has produced documentaries on the history and technique of printmaking for Italian television, and conducts seminars and lectures at the Italian National Institute for Graphics and other institutes throughout Europe.

Registilla Aloisi Masella | Italian Language Diploma, School for Interpreters and Translators of Rome.

04 April, 2008

Semi-Summer: Ventotene

I had been meaning to write this post since last week, but I have been so busy with finals coming up, a doctor visit, credit card issues, and registration for the summer and fall semesters at Temple - there just wasn't time! Anyway, I went to Ventotene last weekend with some other students. It's a little island near Naples about one square mile total. We left at 6 am on Friday morning by bus to the ferry in Naples, which took about 3 hours. Then the ferry took another 2 hours.

Here I am on the Ferry

The weather that morning was a bit chilly and rainy, but by the time we got to Ventotene it had pretty much cleared up and was slightly warmer in the sun. However, our rooms were extremely cold, especially at night, as they had no heat. Most of us had not packed our winter jackets and I pretty much layered up all my shirts underneath a sweatshirt to stay warm. As long as we were in the sun, though, we were warm. Unless we were in the water of course, which was also freezing cold!

On Friday afternoon we met our tour dude for lunch, and later again for dinner which was a little pricey (as lunch had been) but still nice because all 18 of us ate together. Plus, the prices included water, bread, and wine, and primi- and secondi- plates (i.e. pasta, and then fish) and our accommodations were inexpensive and beautiful.

Hallway leading from the back of the house to the street.

View from Terrace

The terrace was so beautiful in the evening and at night, while enjoying some wine and star-gazing. I was feeling more relaxed than I have been since my arrival in Italy.

On Saturday morning we got an early start and headed to the beach. It wasn't raining anymore, and there was plenty of sun. Part of the group decided to take on the challenge that was clearly tempting: swim to the nearby volcanic rock island just off the shore. I stayed behind with everyone's towels and belongings, awaiting a call from our friend Tim who was organizing a tour for later that day. The group made it to the rock and stayed for about an hour, basking in the sunshine and taking in the views. Everything seemed to be fine except one person who stayed on another small rock about 10 feet away the entire time. Turns out, it was our friend Lindsey who had become slightly hypothermic due to the extremely cold water on the way over, and on the way back she refused to get into the water again. The rest of the group returned, explaining that they had stayed for so long to try and warm up again. I myself swam about halfway over to meet them as they were returning, and felt my chest constricting. Ultimately, an ex-lifeguard friend had to swim out and rescue Lindsey from her perch on the smaller rock with a type of surfboard.

After all these festivities, Tim came and told us where and when to meet for our tour of Santo Stefano, another volcanic island rising out of the Mediterranean, visible from Ventotene.

This is the view from our rooftop terrace of Santo Stefano.

Several of us grabbed a quick lunch; delicious and outdoors!

"Jardino" Restaurant for Lunch

After our long morning at the beach on Saturday, we took a little boat to visit Santo Stefano. At least, half of us took a boat... the other half took something that more closely resembled an inflatable raft with a motor, including myself.

The Guys on the Dinky Boat

The Calm, Safe Harbor of Ventotene

Leaving the Calm, Safe Harbor

The buildings sitting atop the Isola di Santo Stefano served as a prison from the early 1800's until the 1960's. They held many political, war, and other prisoners, under the precept that criminals could be redeemed. It is now privately owned and treacherous to visit! Since we'd experienced the chill of the water that morning, none of us really wanted to repeat the experience in the late afternoon as the sun was disappearing. Anyway, we safely arrived at the island, muscles tense from holding on so tight to the rope running around the raft.

Water, Water, Everywhere

Then we had to climb up some very uneven stone stairs.

It was a long way up!

At the top, we had a "tour" in Italian. There was a woman there who knew English and Italian so she translated some of it for us. When the other Italians on the tour realized some of us knew a little Italian, they asked us what the heck we were doing there from America. We told them we were studying in Rome so they kind of understood that, but few tourists visit Ventotene and even fewer ever see Santo Stefano, especially given how remote it is.

By the way, the whole complex is in a state of decay. In America, we would have had to sign a waiver for this...

But there are really some beautiful views.

The tour basically consisted of us walking up the stairs, entering the prison where the cells were located, making a circle around the outside of a middle courtyard where mass was normally held, viewing some old photos in a binder held by the tour guide, and then exiting and descending the numerous stairs to meet our raft and return to the mainland.

Inside the Complex

I believe they held religious services here.

Tyler School of Art students at work!

Just outside the prison cells. My photography skills are improving :-)

I wish I could say the way back to Ventotene was easier, but halfway to the mainland, in the open, rough water, our driver mentioned something along the lines of "si e rotto" which translates to, "it's broken" and those of us who knew some Italian freaked out a bit. However, we got back to the mainland safely with our driver manually steering by turning the motor with his bare hands. What a day!

We had another dinner with the group and our tour guide that night. Later on, we made a bonfire on the beach which was a lot of fun except for the part where I sat on a nail that was sticking out of my improvised wood bench. It was nice to feel some real heat, though. When we went back to our rooms they were slightly warmer than the night before since I had left all the windows open that day to let some sunshine and air in, but still very chilly.

The next day the weather was beautiful again. We spent some time on our terrace and some more time at the beach before heading home on the ferry at 15,00. So sad to leave!

The ferry back to Naples was super-crowded, as it was the last one leaving the island for the day.

Arriving in Naples

We got back to Rome around 20,00 Sunday. And I got back to reality. As in, maybe I need to get a tetanus shot for that nail I sat on...

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