Saturday, August 11, 2007

J is for Journey.

Viareggio Beach, Italy - June8, 2003

• In the summer of 2003, I studied abroad in Florence, Italy.

• Florence is an amazing place to study art history…luckily, I was!

• I was very homesick the entire month. I often hear study abroaders say the first month is the hardest. Therefore I wonder if I had stayed longer, would I have done better.

• It was my first birthday away from my family. I spent that day…my 21st birthday in Vatican City with 3 girls I met days before, 1 girl I knew vaguely from my dorm floor and 1 girl I knew from art classes. They gave me a card which was nice. Even better, listening to my mom sing happy birthday as I stood in the center of Vatican City (first thing in the morning her time).

Trevi Foutain - Rome
Trevi Foutain, Rome - May 24, 2003

• I was determined to get a Prada suit while in Italy. I even went on a grand adventure on train out in the middle of nowhere to the Prada outlet. Got overwhelmed by shopping for such an expensive item, and ended up leaving with nothing, even though mom offered to foot the bill. I should have at least got some Prada shoes, now that I think about it.

• Prior to this trip, I had been just barely into Canada. I ended up leading around a group of girls on foot through the streets of Rome my first weekend there. They had all been out of the US before, and a few even had been to Rome. Lucky for all of them, I have a level head and am good with a map. We ended up seeing a ton of Rome.

• The same level-headedness came in handy during a second weekend trip to Paris, where I managed to navigate the Metro after an entire of walking Paris on foot, without knowing a lick of French or ever taking public transit like that before. The funny thing is I get nervous taking public transit systems for the first time, like The El in Chicago or even our local bus system, in a country where I know the language.

Creation of Adam - SistineChapel
Attempting to capture part of the Sistine Chapel, on the sly and without a flash…not so successful.

• I ventured off on my own on train trips one weekend while everyone else I knew was in Venice. During one said trip to Asissi (I believe), I was hit on my a man while walking to the McDonald's that was near the train station. I don't think he was Italian, but he wanted to accompany me…yeah right, I lied through my teeth and said I was meeting my boyfriend at the McDonald's. And before you yell at me for eating McDonald's while in Italy, it was the only place near the station and I wanted ice cream. I also found out that Smarties in Europe are not like Smarties here. I was so perplexed why one would want a Smartie McFlurry, so I had to try. It turned out to be like M&Ms.

Naked Midget on a Turtle - Boboli Gardens, Florence
Naked Midget Riding a Turtle & Me. Boboli Gardens, Florence, Italy - June 2003

• In my second trip of the weekend of lone adventures, I went to Siena. Thought I had remembered how the bus system worked from the train station from my guide book. Upon getting off the train, I couldn't find the bus stop that was supposed to be right in front of the station. I heard a group of men, well, a grandpa, a father, a teenage son and a younger son, speaking in English. They seemed to have been in Siena before from their talk, so I figured I follow them to the bus stop. Ummm…well they weren't going to the bus stop. They walked to the city, which is atop a hill. It was probably at least a 3 mile walk uphill. Trying to stay far enough behind them that they wouldn't think I was following them. But we were the only ones walking. They had to know. So thank you gentlemen for not leading me astray. I did manage to find a bus back down to the train station, thankfully at the last moment before I was going to head back down walking.

In Front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Leaning Tower of Pisa, June 7, 2003

• I didn't go on the other side of the river in Florence until some of my last days in town. That's kinda sad, right? I did eventually, but it was more of a last ditch attempt once everyone had left, and I still had a couple days in town by myself.

• Everyday to get to class I walked by El Duomo, and ate lunch nearly everyday in the Medici Plazzo just watching people before going back to class.

• I didn't eat much good Italian food while living and visiting in Italy. I was trying to save money, but I also wasn't very hungry during my stay. I did, however, enjoy many good cups of gelato.

I'm So Audrey!
I'm So Audrey, Aren't I? - Mouth of Truth, Rome - May 24, 2003

• I lived in an apartment, outfitted with Ikea furniture with my classmate and 2 Chinese students. Those 2 girls hated me. But I hated them. They never washed dishes, left raw meat bits and kale all over our tiny kitchen, I ended up cleaning up after them. And never a thank you, or even an acknowledgment I was there. Heck, I would have been fine if they ignored me but at least shared the air conditioning remote so we could air condition the entire apartment in the heat wave we were experiencing. But no, they managed to keep the fact that there was air conditioning a secret behind their closed door for 3 of the 4 weeks.

• I once saw a man peeing in the middle of a busy street in the middle of the day when coming back from exploring the city. I didn't just see him, I walked a mere couple feet away from his stream. Italian men are creepy. I definitely came away with that. Luckily I was not pawed openly on the streets. Not being blonde really paid off in that instance.

In Front of the Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower, Paris - May 30 - June 1, 2003

• My one regret…I did not ditch classes one Friday (because I had an Italian exam) to go to Venice. I know people always say "no regrets," but I really do regret not going. I went to Italy not only for the experience, but for the classes. They said if I missed any tests I would fail the class. I could not risk that, though it turned out the teacher was young and cool and gave us all a free pass on one test. Plus I would be lying if I didn't say the cost of the trip really scared me. It was a lot for a weekend trip. And though I've loosened my spending ways now, I was a real tightwad.

• I still get really emotional when I think about the trip. That's difficult for me to admit to the public. Not only was it a great experience, I saw a lot more of the world then I had ever seen before, but it was also very difficult on me. I was homesick. I was studying. I was wanting to see everything. And I was an ocean and half a country away from my family, and almost a full country away from Mike (he was working at Philmont Boy Scout Ranch in New Mexico that summer).

David - Florence, Italy - June 2003

• For a few of my favorite shots form the trip, look back at this post. These are the images I have had grand dreams of framing one day in my future home. This day is growing nearer and nearer!

• I hope to have another journey like this someday soon, but more tame. It's on my life plan right now. I need to see the world outside America again before we have greater responsibility. Hopefully next time, it will involve more exploring, more good food and more relaxing than the first journey. It will probably never be as enlightening or educational, but to just experience things outside our country will be wonderful.

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