Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Two Weeks

I have hit the legit home stretch now - I have two weeks left SLU-Madrid Adventure.  It is a crazy to think about really.  I skyped my friend Steph tonight and we talked about time - as I have with some of my other friends during the last couple of days.  Time is a weird thing when you look back at it.  For example, it feels like forever ago that I was in Chicago boarding a plane to Madrid, but then again this semester has blown by.  I can't believe only four months ago I packed my stuff up in my apartment with Steph and moved out of SLU - it seems forever ago.  And my trip to Paris the third weekend I was here seems long ago.  But as I said before this semester has literally been one of the fastest if not the fastest semester of college so far.

Today was my last day of my Monday/Wednesday classes.  We reviewed in my EAS class for our final which was surprising very helpful for the final - now I just have to find the motivation and buckle down and focus for all my finals.  I need to work just a little longer and then finals will be over and I will be on a plane back home - I know I sound like I want to be home right now, which is somewhat true, but I know it is going to bitter-sweet.  I have made a life for myself here.  I mean I have lived here for four months - how could I not be sad to be leaving?  Another thing is two of my best friends here do not go to SLU back in the states - Elizabeth and Megan.  Elizabeth is from Chicago and goes to school at Creighton and Megan is from Minnesota and goes to school at Bethel.  It will be weird next semester to not be at the same school as them - it will take some adjustment to get use to things back at SLU especially since some of my good friends at SLU will be studying abroad next semester.  Sad.  But I was able to handle coming to Spain barely knowing anyone and making friends quickly and easily - and friends that I know I will have for a life time.

Anyways, back to my last day of classes - I got my history paper back today and did not do as well as I would have liked to.  I worked really hard on that paper - put a lot of effort into it and had about 5 people edit it and I looked over it numerous times.  I am just upset that I didn't do well, because I put the effort into the paper.  If I would have written the paper quickly, before it was due, and didn't take the time to edit it I wouldn't be disappointed in my grade, but since I thought I did well on the paper I am disappointed in my grade.  I am debating on whether or not to go and talk to my teacher.  I mean with the comments of the paper it doesn't seem as though he would be willing to change the grade of the paper - I am going to sleep on it and see what I feel like in the morning.

As the days of my study abroad experience and dwindling down I have been thinking a lot about the experience I have had while in Madrid and while traveling the world (not just Europe, since I went to Morocco)!  One thing my thoughts have been focusing a lot on is the relationships I have - friendships really, but also my relationship with myself and my family.  When studying aboard you realize that people who are really willing to make the effort to stay in contact with you.  Now, I am not trying to hurt anyone here, but you really do find out who are your true friends.  The ones that ask you to skype or make an effort to see what I have been up to during my time in Spain.  Friendships, well all relationships, are a two way street.  There is only so much one person can do without getting anything in return.  Trust me it is not the greatest felling when you realize a friendship you thought was strong is no longer a healthy relationship.  I wouldn't change having this experience for anything in the world - it truly has been the experience of a lifetime.  Thank you to all the people who have made this experience what it has been - especially the rents for funding most of the experience - thanks guys :)

So what else has been going on in my life? Well..
1. My art history professor asked us to email her pictures of us that Colosseum and the Pantheon for the people who went to Rome - well I emailed her a couple of pictures and this is the email I received back
Muchisimas gracias, Victoria, estas guapisima!!!!!!!!!!!
See you tomorrow in class.
Besos y abrazos

For those who do not speak Spanish roughly translated it says:
Thank you so much Victoria you are goregous
See you tomorrow in class
kisses and hugs

One of the nicest emails I have received in a while (much better than the one my mom sarcastically sent me that other day with this link   Love you mom).  Anyways, my professor Curra decided to put my pictures in a powerpoint presentation and show the whole class and tell the whole class that I was beautiful numerous times - oh it was great! haha

2. Where I work got a new dress code - "Black dress pants and black shoes and men's black tie with a while long sleeve dress shirt"  Yes you read correctly I will be looking like a man this summer at good old Pick and Save - oh I love my life and my job... I just have to keep telling myself that is why I am going to college!

3. I got to skype Scott and Kelsey tonight - they will be picking me up from the airport when I head down to SLU for the weekend after I get back!!!! Sooo excited to see them!! The rain better be done by the time I get there guys!!

4. Gloria made hummus for dinner last night and it was wonderful :)

5. I should be studying for my finals at the present moment, but blogging and talking to my friends is more fun.  But the thing is after a certain time of day my brain shuts off and just can't study any more - I work a lot better in the morning for sure.

Well anyways I think that is all for tonight.  Hope everyone is having a good hump day (Wednesday)! Love you all.  I will leave you with some things to ponder and some "interesting" facts.

  • Is a vacuum good if it really sucks?
  • 111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321
  • Why are they called stands when they are made for sitting?
  • Why doesn't glue stick to the bottle?
  • To burn off one plain M&M candy, you need to walk the full length of a football field. 
  • Why do we sing take me out to the ball game when we are already there?
  • The dot over the letter "i" is called a tittle.
  • By raising your legs slowly and lying on your back, you cannot sink into quicksand.
  • Why is it called "after dark" when really it is "after light"?
  • If Wal-Mart was classified as a country, it would be the 24th most productive country in the world.
Ponder those for a little.

Paz y Amor. God Bless.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Roman adventure

To start things off I will give an overview of how this blog is going to go.  Even though Easter Break was my longest break of the semester it was not as jammed packed as my other trips.  Since Elizabeth and I knew we were only going to Rome and we had 8 days to see it all we decided to take it slow.  Therefore, this blog is not going to be as long as I thought it was going to be – well at least I hope it’s not going to be that long.

I will start with day one.  Friday.  Elizabeth’s and my flight was at 5 in the evening.  We shared a suitcase and each had a backpack.  Getting to the airport was uneventful – we just took the metro.  The only semi interesting thing that happened was I tried to go through the metro gate with my suitcase and it didn’t work so well.  The suitcase went through but I got stuck – I had to use two metro passes.  Oh well.  When we got the airport we went to check our suitcase we went to the “We checked in online… just drop your bag here” line.  I placed our suitcase on the scale and it read 25kg… oh no! It is only allowed to be 20kg.  The lady told us it would only be 16euros for the 5kg overweight charge so we were thought that wasn’t that bad and just to pay it.  We had to go to a different line to pay the 16euros though.  As we were walking to the other line we looked at the paper the check in lady gave Elizabeth and it actually said it would be 60euros.  I thought “ugh those accents get me everything time with 15 and 50 and 16 and 60”.  But there was nothing we could do about it now because they had already taken our suitcase and there was no way of getting it back.  We just paid the 60euros and went on our merry way.  Our flight was a little late taking off but it went smoothly.  After landing in Rome we went to retrieve our heavy suitcase, which took forever to come around on the belt.  With suitcase in hand we were ready to make our way the train to take us to Termini – the main train/metro stop in Rome.  Our hostel was suppose to be a 5 minute walk from Termini.  Well on our way to the train we were stopped by what we thought was a guy that worked at the airport.  He asked us if we were looking for the train to Termini and we told him we were – obviously we looked like two lost Americans.  He informed us there the train was and we were about to start walking when he told us there was a shuttle that cost 3euros more and would take us directly to our hostel.  I made the decision that we should take the shuttle since it was getting late and dark out.  Well the guy didn’t actually work for the airport he actually worked for a shuttle company and I think he tricked us a little – I think that train would have been about 8euros cheaper.  But we didn’t have to figure it out when we were tired and it was dark.  While we on the way to the hostel we drove past the Colloseum and the Arch of Constantine – my mouth literally dropped.  I could not believe what I was seeing – it was the most amazing sight I think I have ever seen in my life.  Once we got settled in at the hostel (see picture of room below) – which was a lot nicer than we thought it was going to be we went to find some Italian food.  We ended up at a restaurant close to the hostel and got Margarita Pizza (essentially cheese pizza, since it was good Friday) and red wine.  It was great!! I don’t know if it was so good because we were hungry and tired or if it was really that good.  After dinner we just went back to the hostel and went to bed – it was around midnight.

First taste of Italian cuisine! :)

 Our first real day in Rome was Saturday.  We decided we wanted to take it slow and not try to see everything in one day.  Our game plan was to see the Colosseum and The Roman Forum.  On our way the Roman Forum we stopped in some churches, well Basilicas actually.  We stopped in Santa Maria Maggiore and Saint Peter in Chains on the way.  One of the basilicas was very close to our hostel therefore we past it every day.  Saint Peter in Chains is a little hard to find – we just happened to walk up some random steps and found it.  St. Peter in Chains contains the famous ‘Moses’ sculpture. 
Me in front of Saint Maria Maggiore

Moses in Saint Peter in Chains

We finally made our way to the Roman Forum and saw the line was forever long, but I was informed that the line was shorter at the Roman Forum than at the Colloseum.  We decided to just wait in line because we obviously didn’t want to miss it.  As we were waiting in line we found out since it was Italian Heritage Week and it was all free, we just had to wait to line for them to hand us tickets – seems a little pointless.  But I guess they wanted to see how many people were coming in?  When we got our tickets the lady told us the Colloseum closes at 2 and it was already 12:30.  Instead of heading into to the Roman which closed at 6 we decided to go to the Colloseum.  This was one of my favorite parts of the trip – I think it is where I feel in love with Rome.  I think I could have literally just stared at the Colloseum for the whole day and never get bored.  In my Ancient Art History Class we just learned about Rome, it was great to put to use what I have been learning in class.  I also believe that having some background knowledge made me appreciate the sights way more than if I just went to Rome not knowing anything about the history.  When we got to the Colloseum the line to get in was forever long – I thought they were all waiting for tickets.  So I made my way up to the front of the line and sort of cut in line and just walked into the Colloseum.  Ops!! To my surprise most of the people waiting in line had tickets too – basically I skipped 100+ people in line.  My bad – I really didn’t mean to – I thought they were all waiting for tickets!  I pictures cannot describe the incredible structure of the Colloseum.  Since I am in Ancient Art History I thought I would give you guys a little background on the Colloseum: it is the biggest amphitheater ever built by the Romans – before Rome there was not the use of concrete which meant theaters had to be built in the slopes of hills.  Therefore, concrete had the construction of the Colloseum feasible.  The Colloseum has three sets or levels of arches – when it was built it had 76 arches and today only 31 original arches remain.  There were 80 entrances/exits and the Colloseum housed a 70,000 people.  That is an overview of the Colloseum – I don’t want to go into much detail about the structure – it would make this blog longer than I want.  Enjoy the pictures!

Hello Colosseum!!

Inside the Colosseum

Trying to be artsy...

The arch of Constantine - next to the Colosseum

After the Colloseum Elizabeth and I walked through the Roman Forum.  Even though I was told to have a map of the Roman Forum – I didn’t.  From the information I learned in my class I could tell what some of the rubble was in the Forum.  However, overall it was a really cool place to just wonder around – there were many gardens and it was just a peaceful place.  Elizabeth and I were sitting on a bench in the Roman Forum and a group of people from SLU Madrid came and walked right past us.  I knew most of the girls in the group.  It was funny how we went countries away and we still ran into people we knew – yes I know a lot of people went to Rome for Easter Break, but to be in the Roman Forum at the same place and time is crazy to me!  There were a lot of tour groups – mostly in English – walking through the Forum so I would try to ease drop on the tour – sometimes I got some useful information other times I didn’t.  

You know just climbing trees in the Roman Forum :)

Overview shot of part of the Roman Forum!

 After the Roman Forum we found the Column of Trajan.  The Column of Trajan is a commemorative column to commemorate the victory of an emperor.  The columns are normally topped with a stature of the emperor and when they died they were buried I the bottom of the column.  Trajan Column commemorates the victory over Dacia and it was dedicated in 113AD.  Today the Trajan Column does not have a statue of Trajan instead when Rome became Christian the statue was changed to St. Peter holding the keys to heaven.  Elizabeth and I ate lunch right to the Column – we had sandwiches from a stand close to the column.  After we were refreshed and full we continued walking – we found the restaurant that Geoff recommended on our way to the Trevi Fountain.  The Trevi fountain was so crowded but yet amazing.  It is difficult for me to describe in words everything we saw and the pictures do no justice.  I guess you will have to visit Roma for yourself.  After sitting and people watching for a while at the Trevi we wanted our first Geleto – we made a tourist mistake.  We got our geleto for a place literally right next to the Trevi Fountain – aka we paid way too much for it.  Also I did not choose good flavors – I chose some fruit mix and mint – another mistake.  As the week went on I learned to ALWAYS get chocolate geleto and some fruit flavor to pair it with.  After the geleto we made our way back to the hostel, but we stopped in the tourism office to see if they had any interesting information and to ask where the nearest grocery store was – about a 5 minute walk from our hostel! Perfect.  We stopped in the grocery store and got bananas, bread, and wine for the night.  Surprisingly we were not that hungry so we just had some bread for dinner as we watched a movie.  It was nice to have a chill night and not to worry about where to go or what to eat or anything like that.  Also we wanted to go to bed semi-early since we were attending Palm Sunday mass the next day.

Column of Trajan

Trevi Fountain

Me in front of the Trevi

Palm Sunday – mass in St. Peter’s Square with Pope Benedict XII of course.  Elizabeth and I did not have tickets, but we were still able to go we were just going to have to stand for the mass.  Mass started at 9:30 and I wanted to get there around 8 just to make sure we could semi see and everything and just to enjoy being at the Vatican on Palm Sunday.  We staked out the spot where we were going to stand for the next four hours.  As we were just taking it all a family walked past us and tried to enter the are where people were sitting.  The guy guarding the entrance stopped them and asked for their tickets and they told him that they didn’t have any and he responded with “No Problem.  Go ahead”.  We were in the right spot at the right time – Elizabeth and I then just walked in and picked out some seats to sit down.  Once again we were very lucky.  I choose random seats and it just so happens they were next to a brother/sister order.  They were handing out prayer cards – the brother that came to talk to me first language was not English, however he told me I should talk to his brother Joe who was from Chicago.  After he gave me the prayer card everyone started moving to the side of the seated area – Pope Benedict XII was going to process down and that would be the start of mass.  Elizabeth and I ended up standing next to Joe and this girl studying in Italy (who goes to Marquette and knows people from Oconomowoc – small world).  Anyways Joe was fluent in Italian, Latin, and of course English.  He offered to translate the mass for us – it was wonderful!! I cannot believe how lucky we were on Palm Sunday – having seats and having someone to translate the mass for us.  In general, mass was incredible.  Again, it is hard to explain – you just kind of had to be there kind of thing.  I also could not believe the number of people that were there – simply amazing!  I hope everyone has the chance to attend mass at the Vatican with the Pope at some point in their life.  I believe I also enjoyed the mass more because Joe was there translating for the majority of the mass – I mean I could pick some things out (since I have been to Palm Sunday Mass many times before) and I also know the order of mass and the gospel that is used.  After mass and walking around the square we went on the hunt for food – we ended up at a restaurant a couple streets away from the Colloseum and had pasta.  It was my first pasta in Italy and it did not live up to everything I hoped – I mean it was good and all but not to die for.  Maybe it was just the restaurant thought – I was still hoping for some better pasta on the trip.  After lunch we were going to try to go into the Vatican Museum, but it was close because it was Palm Sunday.  Instead we got some geleto (chocolate and raspberry) and ate it in the Square.  After our geleto we decided to go back to the hostel and take a nap and just relax.  We had no idea what to do for dinner, but we knew we were not willing to spend a lot of money.  After resting for a while we decided to go to the grocery store and go have a picnic next to the Colloseum.  We got wine, bread, cheese, and meat – we had sandwiches and bananas for dinner.  As we were sitting outside the Colloseum a cute old Italian man came and talked to us – in English of course.  He talked to us for about a half hour about Roma and all this other stuff… towards the end it got a little long, but that is okay!  We were tired from getting up early so we just watched a movie and went to bed Sunday night.

St. Peter's Basilica for Palm Sunday Mass

Where Pope Benedict XII would sit for the start of mass


Procession Starts

Oh hey there Pope

More Pope Benedict XII

The Army of Eucharistic Ministers 

View while Picnicing on Sunday night!

More view
 Monday we explored the west side of the city all the way to the river.  We just walked around and found the famous spots and the not so famous spots.  There really isn’t that much to tell about it.  I think it would be better in pictures.  Enjoy!
While wondering through Rome we came across a park and I wanted to stand on a tree!

We also found the Trevi Fountain again!

And the Pantheon!

The largest dome built in Rome - the Pantheon was a building built to dedicate various Roman gods.  However, when Roma became Christian the Pantheon was converted into a church.

Some cool people are buried in the Pantheon - mostly Italian kings

Oh you know just hugging a smooth corynthian column at the Pantheon - no big deal!

Elizabeth and I in Piazza Navona.

Another famous fountain - located in Piazza Navona

Sun :)

As I said before Monday was a day of wandering the streets of Rome to see what we could find... After Piazza Navona we wondered into a random market.  First we stopped a sandwich place to grab some lunch - best sandwich of my life.  This sandwich consisted of a bread similar to flat bread, fresh mozerella cheese, fresh tomato, and a little basil.  It was warm and fresh and just delicious!  When we were trying to find a place to sit we randomly found the market and got some random amazing fruit cup - I believe that this lunch might have been my favorite lunch in Italy.

All the delicious fruit.

Fruit cup :)

As we continued wandering around Roma we found the major river in Roma - Tiber River.

Just a nice picture by Pt. Sinto - the bridge.

More wandering lead us to the Scared Area of Largo Argentina - more Roman ruins.

Gesu - one of the main Jesuit churches in Roma.

At the steps of the Wedding Cake - a monument to remember the first king of Italy.

After all the wondering around we did on Monday we were just going to have a chill night at the hostel.  First we had the free pasta dinner at the hostel - which was a ridiculously awful!!!  Pasta was over cooked and the sauce was awful - I can't even explain it, but it was free so we ate it.  After dinner Elizabeth and I were just chilling, talking, and listening to music when we got new roommates.  We made friends with our new roommates - they were two boys one from Mexico and the other from Chicago - both were studying in Paris, France. Elizabeth and I decided we wanted to walk around Roma at night and we invited the two guys from our hostel - and once again we just wandered around Roma.  Tuesday Elizabeth and I were going to the beach on Tuesday so it wasn't the biggest deal if we were out late on Monday night.  The beach we went to was in Anzio - about an hour outside of Roma.  The water was beautiful and the beach was wonderful.  On Tuesday there were not many people on the beach so it was very relaxing - enjoy the pictures :)


Me in the Sea!
Tuesday night we had the awful pasta dinner again - Elizabeth and I thought maybe the dinner would change everyday or it was just really awful the first time we had it - we were dead wrong.  Oh well.  Wednesday we went to the Vatican.  We bought our tickets before hand and we were able to skip the 3 hour line!  One of the best decisions we made the whole vacation.  The Vatican museum was amazing - nothing like what I expected it to be.  But then again I didn't really know what to expect!  Elizabeth and I didn't want to pay for a guided tour so once again we just did our own wandering and read the signs.  We went into almost every room in the Vatican Museum - some of them had barely anyone in them.  It would have probably been nice to get a guided tour, but then again Elizabeth and I were able to sit down when we wanted and just do our own thing.  
Me on the patio of the Vatican Museum with St. Peter's Basilica in the background.

Just a cool picture.

One of the rooms in the Vatican Museum was dedicated to Australian tribal art - I thought it was extremely interesting how the Vatican Museum incorporated various cultures and even religions into the museum.  I guess I was surprise on the amount of non-Christian art in the museum.  There were numerous sculptures from Greece (well marble Roman copies of them) and sculptures from before Rome turned Christian.  It was just something I was thinking about while wandering through the Vatican.

Me in an amazing room in the Vatican with Roman sculptures. 

Belvedere Apollo


St. Peter's Basilica
Before going into the basilica I was expecting something amazing because of everything people said about the basilica.  Now don't get me wrong the basilica was beautiful, but I believe it lost something when it was crowded with hundreds of people in every corner of the basilica.  It was hard to appreciate the beauty of the basilica when most people just trying to snap a picture of this and a picture of that.  I know it is judgmental of me, but I just had a feeling that most of the people were there to be there and not to appreciate the meaning and beauty of the basilica.

Me outside St. Peter's Basilica

Some more Italian food from Wednesday night - Elizabeth and I could not take the awful pasta anymore so we decided to find some better food!!

Thursday Elizabeth and I went to the beach on Thursday - there were a lot more people there this time, because most of the kids had off of school.  We had a relaxing day at the beach once again and went out for dinner at a restaurant close to our hostel.  This was the second best thing I ate in Rome!! yummy! Overall the food wasn't as great as I thought it was going to be.  I think this is mostly because of the amazing food mom cooks at home and the fact that Elizabeth and I were not willing to spend a lot of money on dinner.  I guess I will just have to go back to Italy and taste some real Italian cuisine.  :)  Who wants to come with me?!

Friday we met up with Elizabeth's friend from high school and she showed us her favorite parts of Rome and just chilled and talked.  We went to a park in the north part of Rome - I have completely blanked on the name right now.  But it was beautiful and it was really nice to just relax and talk with Katie and Elizabeth.  Katie also took us to this amazing Geleto place - I got chocolate, mango, and strawberry.  It was wonderful! A little crazy in the geleto place not really a line just a mad rush to get to the front of the pack to order your geleto.  It was worth the 30 minute wait - it was sooooo good!!

Elizabeth and I throwing our American coins in the Trevi Fountain.

Really good pasta :)

Friday night Katie took us with her school to the stations of the cross at the Colosseum with Pope Benedict XII.  It was an amazing experience even though I couldn't really understand most of it, but then again I know the stations of the cross and could 

It was hard to get a good picture - of the Pope on Friday night.  This is the best I could do.  Saturday nothing that exciting happened.  Elizabeth and I just chilled the day and then headed to the airport around 4:30 and got home around midnight.  I had a wonderful trip and I cannot wait to head back to Roma someday!  But it was good to be back in Madrid!

Picture from the plane ride home!

Well that is the end of the blog - sorry it got a little short at the end, but hopefully you still like it!  Enjoy! I will be back in the states in two weeks and one day!!

Paz y Amor.  God Bless.