Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sigh of relief

Huge load of stress of my shoulders. Bookings are underway. 10 day break is as follows:

Geneva, Switzerland


Prague, Czech Republic


Amsterdam, Netherlands


We are finding some sweet deals on airfare, too. I can't believe our good fortune.

First done

Just finished the Western Civ midterm, and I was the first done. That seems really odd to me. It certainly doesn't mean I did the best; I know that much is true. I likely performed in the mid- to low- B range, which is fine.
I'm learning, and I'm learning a lot. This atmosphere is so conducive to learning the material, but I wish you could throw me into a classroom where we had to learn about screenwriting, modern film, Green Bay, cooking, anything. I feel so stupid discussing Western Civ, because it isn't my forte, nor is school for that matter. I'm so ready to graduate from this silliness and do something I actually want-- maybe school for film (haha?) and be in an environment where my mind and opinion are equal, and where I truly care about the subject matter.
It's supposed to rain this weekend while we're in Cinque Terre, which means they close the trails, thus neutralizing our reasons for going. Here's hoping for light.
Some people have hinted that it sounds like I'm not enjoying myself here. That's so far form the truth. But it's not a constant high, and I can't sugar coat everything.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Vernacular

Sit in our apartment each morning and you'll think we've learned Italian or something. But no, we don't know much beyond the basics. Here's a typical conversation:

Me: Chicco Cioc, here I come!!
JT: Oh, sorry, we're out of Mukki.
Me: NOOOOOOO!
Alan: Dude, chill, just drink some Skipper.



I will always drink Skipper.

Band Photos

Would you buy our CD?





I'd buy more time, but traveling will bankrupt me

In concurrence with my shrinking eyes (see two posts previous), it has immediately come to our attention that traveling is frustrating!
If we had planned a 10 day excursion from home, it would have been done months in advance. However, we only have 3 weeks. We couldn't make arrangements ahead of time because we didn't know one another. We had no idea who our travel partners would be, or where we would all want to visit.
Traveling itself is the main expense, and the trickiest part is visiting various train and plane sites looking for the cheapest tickets. Easyjet.com, Transvia.com, Ryanair.com, Staralliance.com, Trenitalia.com, Eurail.com... they have all dominated my waking hours these past days. And on top of that, our Internet access is so limited that we have to give efficiency our full efforts. It isn't helping that I have two presentations next week and a midterm tomorrow.
We have yet to look into hotels/hostels, etc. That seems to be the easy part, especially this time of year. All I know is I want to go to Prague and Amsterdam, and having 10 days makes it almost necessary to visit somewhere else.
This is one more example of the huge difference between our culture and that of the Europeans. With the European Union, moving about is so easy and natural, their countries the size of our larger states. But all these Eurail passes, these flight restrictions, these traveling policies, not to mention finding transportation to and from each airport, is all foreign and big and... expensive.
I'm really enjoying the fact that my Florentine life has been frugal. Paris may be more difficult. But not as difficult as this.
I love the little things we learn in every which corner.

Peanut butter jelly time!

I found you! Now I need to find a microwave, a clothes drier, and a Chik-fil-A.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Meet the cast

Kate F is a great fit for me on this trip. I feel like she is the closest thing to my “real-life” friends. Kate is a guy’s girl—she can hold her own in a masculine conversation, but she’s still adorable. I was Ken to her Barbie during a karaoke bout of “Barbie Girl” this weekend, but Kate is no Barbie girl.
Always count on Kate to be motivated. She’s definitely independent, very willing to be the first one on the dance floor or to take the karaoke mic. She’s got the sweetest smile and laugh, and she turns her head away blushing whenever the center of attention-- which is often.
Kate won't tell you this, but I'll let you in on a little secret... she has only ever cried to one movie. I won't name the specific movie, but it stars Hilary Duff. She's going to kill me for telling you that.
One treat of this trip has been predicting how my new friends behave back home. I have a feeling that Kate makes lots of other girls jealous, because she has more gumption than any of the next females. Expect Kate to work for the things she wants, and no flimsy brat is going to step in the way. But don’t think she’s manipulative or anything; Kate just has a unique way of combining cute and smart. Kate fits in as tomboy with the guys, or as girly girl when that role seems more appealing. I’m trying to convince Kate to play fart tennis with me sometime, but she might have a little more Barbie in her than I originally thought… she has yet to accept the invitation.

My shrinking eyes

My eyes were much larger in the United States. Planning weekend trips and spring break has become a compromise process since we’ve become immune to our surroundings.
Originally, I thought it feasible to visit 5 or 6 cities over the 10-day break. Not only would that entail little to no sleep, but it would absolutely kill me. It seems now that we will confine our trip into three locales: Switzerland (city TBD), Prague, and Amsterdam. That gives us a few days in each place, plenty of travel time, and we save money not moving around. Transportation can be the most expensive element. It’ll be nice to be acquainted with each city without feeling rushed.
I need to start compromising some weekend trips from Paris. London is looking less and less likely, as getting there could be one of my largest expenses. I see myself visiting London a few times in my life, so I wouldn’t be entirely heartbroken. I don’t think I can compromise Barcelona, though.
As for Italy, we have tried making each trip unique. We sound really snotty when we say things like “Oh, Milan would be so boring!”, but seriously, we live in Florence. You have to understand that all cathedrals, all museums, all restaurants just start blurring together. Venice was perfect, because no city in the world is like it. We stayed in Florence last weekend, which was great for slowing down and exploring the home front. This weekend we’ll do Cinque Terre, next weekend is Rome and the Vatican, and the final weekend from Florence we’ll be flying to Sardinia to visit Alghero along the Mediterranean coast. See how each destination differs drastically? That’s what I’ve tried doing. Not that Bologna or Milan or Turin would be boring, but when you live in an eclectic place like Florence, you get picky. People who live in New York City don’t get jazzed about visiting Albany, believe me.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Daniel Day Lewis honors Heath Ledger

Thanks Chris for sending me this video. It's hard staying up on American happenings with such limited communication.



With such an awkward Best Actor lineup this season, I think I'll have to throw my support behind DDL, although I haven't yet seen his film. He was honored at Telluride, which was a treat to see him, although I missed the actual tribute to see director Todd Haynes speak about I'm Not There (which, ironically, stars Heath Ledger).

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Stoic Help

An idea I always carry is to “know where I am going, remember where I have been.”
From my Florentine bed this afternoon, I discovered Seneca. Or rather, the Western Civ curriculum discovered him for me. But the Stoic had a lot to say, and some of it really affected me.
The reason I’m in Europe right now is direct result of other people’s malicious actions. My life would be a lot different had the cookie not crumbled my sophomore year, had “friends” been friends, had I stayed in line and waited my turn. This is where I have been.
In Seneca’s Letter IX, he talks about friendship and its basis. For the two hours I read the text, one was dedicated to re-reading Letter IX a dozen times.

The ending inevitably matches the beginning: a person who starts being friends with you because it pays him will similarly cease to be friends because it pays him to do so. If there is anything in a particular friendship that attracts a man other than the friendship itself, the attraction of some reward or other will counterbalance that of the friendship. What is my object in making a friend? To have someone to be able to die for, someone I may follow into exile, someone for whose life I may put myself up as security and pay the price as well. The thing you describe is not a friendship but a business deal, looking to the likely consequences, with advantage as its goal… actual love in itself, heedless of all other considerations, inflames people’s hearts with a passion for the beautiful object, not without the hope, too, that the affection will be mutual. How then can the nobler stimulus of friendship be associated with any ignoble desire?


All I want is real friends. And only a few of them. I’m tired of spreading myself thin and far. It has been a tiring life, having few people to confide in, sharing only the bare essentials with each passing stranger. Most of my friends are strangers, really. I thought that having three times the acquaintances as the next guy would get me somewhere, but it never gave me a phone number to call on a bad day, or a shoulder to rest my tired head when I needed counsel. Right now I am poor; sixteen months ago would have told you that this was wealth.
There is uncertainty as to where I am going, but I cannot forget where I have been. Politics and popularity never got me anywhere, excepting a funny way of getting me to Europe.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Sinful

Chocolate fair in Santa Croce. Heather melted when she found hot chocolate.
I think chocolate is the universal language.


Constant Change

Met up with Heather (from high school) this afternoon, and we spent the day walking all around town. We got a few miles down the Arno and found ourselves in a communist neighborhood, but also enjoyed the best, most filling lunch I’ve had yet (not in the communist neighborhood). It was a kabob, which is pretty similar to a pita. Best 5 euro I’ve spent… makes me forget about that 8 euro gelato that I still can’t forget.
In the 10 miles we must have walked, I felt at ease being near someone from home. Sioux Falls home, not Kansas home. It’s calming to pass time with somebody who really knows you, and where you’re rooted. Heather was on the volleyball team and I was her athletic trainer, and she was on Statesman when I edited the paper. I think we both needed a short break from our groups to find a taste of home in Florence. We’re both different people here, and for once we could be our old selves, together.
Part of being abroad scares me because I feel so different. It’s largely because of being out of my element, but also the group with which I spend my time. I don’t want to come home and turn away my old friends because I feel changed. I know my group of friends back home will stay the same, but it will still be hard translating to them exactly what I have felt. It’s easy to say that I’m just a different person in this environment, but it’s not like I’ll pack up this personality and store it away back in the states. I will likely be forever changed, and hopefully everyone will understand that since we’re always changing, always evolving, we are constantly fitting ourselves to be happiest, to be most comfortable. It’s easy to criticize somebody for changing, but really we’re just criticizing him or her for trying to adapt to a changing life, which isn’t fair.
This change inside me is certainly for the better. I think back a year ago, when I nearly dropped out of school and didn’t know what I wanted to become. I have certainly found my remedy. And when I’m home, I’ll adjust a little more, proving resilient as I find some middle ground.
It has not yet been 3 weeks, and I already feel different enough to write this. I find that exciting.

Italian Man Duality

Dear Italian Men,
You take great pride in your appearance. That is commendable, because you aren’t worried about crossing into your feminine side, or afraid of acting metrosexual. I think American men could take a page from your book and learn to act less proud about their masculinity. Being macho shouldn’t come as a contest. You are very trendy, yet many gorgeous women are still drawn to you.
However, on the subject of women—please stop being perverts. Women aren’t attracted to catcalls, or butt grabbing, or vulgar gestures. You act like arrogant, chauvinist pigs and scare innocent women to tears when they are outnumbered. Learn from American men that eye contact says enough. If a girl is interested, she’ll talk to you, and not because your hand is cupping her butt. Are you immune to pepper spray by now?
There seem to be two breeds of you. It appears that you only care about your actions when the lights are shining, or your manners disappear as soon as you outnumber the women. It’s pretty backwards how you think, really.
Perhaps there’s another grey area to find.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Pisa and Lucca

We went very excited about our day trip to Pisa and Lucca. What good are they for, other than a poorly-constructed tower?
Turns out we had the bets day in italy so far. It really comes when you least expect it!

Obligatory photos of the leaning tower of Pisa:






Bike riding in Lucca-- the most fun of all!





Thursday, January 24, 2008

Real Characters

Every day, we have to hit up a local internet cafe to check email, facebook, news, etc, so we find ourselves at La Chat.
La Chat has become a staple in our days, as well as our vernacular. I'll post later about our expanded vocabulary, but know that we definitely use "La Chat" 400 times each afternoon.
Vince is the guy who works at La Chat. AT least, we think that's his name. We would be sad if it turned out to be something else. All the signs say "La Chat by VInce", and there's only one employee... hence the conclusion.
Vince works every day from 10 am to midnight. 7 days a week, 14 hours a day. That makes 98 hours every week. Seriously, he's the only employee. He sits in this little internet cafe, not to be confused with a real cafe. There's no food, no couches, one dingy bathroom. We're all mystified by his ability to endure each day. When does he eat? Does he go home, sleep, and come back first thing? We're fairly certain he's married, although he has developed a crush on my roommate Alan, so when does he have time to just be a husband? But in the very least, we can always rely on him being at La Chat, speaking broken English to the dozen of us who keep him in business. "Ciao!" he yells as we come and go.
Truthfully, though, I wish some other cafes had wireless connections, because I am so sick of La Chat. Vince is horrible at math, and he has gypped each of us at least a few euros apiece. La Chat costs 5 euro for 3 hours, and dang, it has been adding up. Yesterday I left with 15 minutes in debt to VInce, telling him I'd pay today when I came. So, when I arrived this evening, he said I owed him for 55 minutes. WHAT!?
But, I guess it's the immaterial things that matter most. I'll probably be happy for Vince, for La Chat, and for my lost euros when I think back fondly. But seriously, the biggest reason I look forward to Paris is the Internet connections in the dorms. Ciao, La Chat.

YAB

It's Amy's birthday this weekend. We're all going here. Maybe it will have to be somebody's birthday every weekend.

Contrast

When I tool around with Photoshop, one of the most common things I do is fiddle with the contrast. I love bringing out the changes in tones, colors, vividness. Seeing the varying levels of black and white can alter your perception of a photo.
Contrast is extremely important in life. You can be comfortable where you're sitting, and having sat there for 10, 15, 20 years, it's safe and quiet and home. But is it all that special without contrast? How do you know you love what you're doing? How do you know you've found the best place?
The past year has been about jolting all shades of contrast into my days. That's why I'm here in Florence instead of Kansas. But this contrast, at the very same time, makes me long for the Midwest.
Inevitably so, I am homesick. Not to any dangerous degree. No tears--yet--no needing to call home for a familiar, warming voice. It's just difficult throwing yourself out of your element, trying to adjust to the unfamiliarity of everything. I love it so much, to the degree that I miss all else which I love.
Today I bought gelato for 8 euro. There wasn't a price listed anywhere, and just like that, I shelled out 13 US dollars for the crappiest gelato ever. That broke my heart. I miss the convenience of opening the refrigerator and grabbing what I want. I miss the ease of which I can sprint across the street to Mom and Pop's liquor store, to snag a 6-pack before passing the evening with the gang. I miss the cheap American prices--seriously, America is so inexpensive, so affordable. I miss my cell phone--even though I don't miss my cell phone--, I miss microwaves and clothes driers and fast-cooking ovens and cable television and wireless internet and Mass Street and my car and peanut butter and going to movies... all of it.
Hearing about Heath Ledger's death, catching up on US politics, following the Jayhawks online, I try keeping pace with my actual life. We all talk here about "real life", as if our experience isn't truly happening. Yet it is happening, slowly and quickly at once, and we can't figure how to handle it. I'm going to miss this terribly when I'm back in the states, but only because it will be a contrast for which I long.
Apologies if I sound spoiled or shallow. Florence is surreal, but it also helps create the contrast in my life, revealing what I take for granted back home. It's exciting and scary to think I'll be trotting around the continent in a few weeks. More contrast, more fears and nerves to conquer.
Missing all of you. But don't worry about me. You have to be sad to be happy. Contrast, you see?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Italian Stallions

In order to look super fly at Madame Butterfly, Braeden and I knew that we needed to upgrade our style. In Italy, there are sales all through the early months of the year, so we decided to hit up these “Saldis” and find some blazers that could impress the lovely ladies in our group.
Apparently it isn’t uncommon for one store to have separate buildings across the street from one another. When we first entered the store—Zara—, we rode the escalator to each floor hoping to find the men’s section (Men=Uomo). No avail. All they had were Donnas (Women) and Bambinos (Kids).
Crushed, we worried that blazers were not in our fortunes for the big night. Exiting the store, we noticed across the street another Zara, and so we skipped, hand in hand, praying for manly fashions. (**Disclaimer** some details of this story are embellished)

After two more floors of Donnas, we finally arrived at the single floor of Uomo that Zara had to offer. Fortunately for us, they had a vast selection, and quite the saldi indeed. We each found a jacket for 50 euro, when the original price was 150 euro. That means we paid 75 bucks for something that should have cost 225. Pay day!
Hey everyone, come see how good we look! I know that I certainly looked sharp, falling asleep and hunched over in my seat at the opera. Italian Stallion, that’s me.

My entourage



Peggy Guggenheim lived for her passion. I love surrounding myself with people who do exactly that. In Venice, we went to the Peggy Guggenheim collection, which is a museum at her former water-side home.
Taking after her grandfather, Peggy was an art collector. She befriended tons of artists at a young age through her Bohemian lifestyle, and would often buy their work to help get them off the ground (often she would buy art just to support art’s cause, or to make the artists feel better about themselves).
Her collection includes lots of Pollocks, Ernsts, Picassos, and more. She has sculptures and paintings and glass, everything. Her house was practically an art gallery even when she lived there, and where better than in Venice?
Guggenheim also lived for her dogs. Below is a picture of her grave, which was in her courtyard, where she lies next to her deceased animals. I think that in my entourage, Peggy would bring a high level of respect and prestige to the group, appreciating the works of others, supporting us in our endeavors, and she probably could throw one helluva cocktail party.

Her house, water-side:


Her grave, and her dogs' grave, in her courtyard:



Posse talk:
Me: Pegs, did you read my screenplay?
Peggy Guggenheim: Yeah, Adam, I did.
Me: And you liked it?
Peggy Guggenheim: Well, I bought the rights to it. Now you can make it into a movie!
Me: So you liked it?
Peggy Guggenheim: I bought it.
Me: OK… so… you liked it?
Peggy Guggenheim: I think I hear my dogs barking…

Past Inductees: Mika, Billy Collins

On Ledger



I am genuinely sad about Heath Ledger’s passing. He was just in his prime and his career was finally blossoming with films like Brokeback Mountain, I’m Not There, and the upcoming Batman film, The Dark Knight.
There’s a feeling that Hollywood may martyr Ledger. If his portrayal of the Joker highlights that film, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up with an Oscar campaign behind him next year. Based on the trailer, it seems more likely than some may think.

Also, the Westboro Baptist Church is picketing his funeral. I am livid about that. Just the attention they want.

Oscar reaction

Don’t even get me started on Into the Wild being snubbed. Is there a vendetta against Sean Penn or Emile Hirsch or something? Don’t we like sweeping visuals, lively colors, shooting on location, touching characters? It was the best damn movie this year, can’t people understand that!?
Happy surprises: Laura Linney (The Savages) for best actress, Jason Reitman (Juno) for best director, Ruby Dee (American Gangster) for supporting actress
Odd/sad surprises: anything from Into the Wild that didn’t get nominated (pic, director, actor, supporting actress, song, adapted screenplay… ANYTHING), Amy Adams out of best actress, the entire foreign film slate, Tommy Lee Jones for lead actor in In the Valley of Elah instead of supporting actor in No Country for Old Men
Curious what happens with the Oscar ceremony amidst the strike. Maybe I’ll be able to view the entire thing on YouTube in one video rather than each award individually.
I’ll post my personal picks another time. Being abroad is nice because I’m away from the politics of Oscar. Still regret not seeing There Will be Blood or Atonement before I left.

Opera Sickness

Group trip to Madame Butterfly at the Teatro Comunale. I was nervous that I would hate the opera, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected.
It was worse.

Things I would rather do than go to another opera:

-Shave my pupils
-Filet my armpit
-Grind my teeth into a powder and snort it
-Make out with Knut the baby polar bear
-Jump into a swimming pool with radios taped to my body
-Gargle 40 thumb tacks

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Harpers


My Western Civ teachers mesmerize me. They are world travelers and deep thinkers, lovers of the pursuit.
You know that question... what do you want to be when you grow up? Or, the adult version: Where do you see yourself in 10, 15, 20 years, etc...

There's a lot more in that question than people think.

A screenwriter. A storyteller. Comfortable. Hidden. A filmmaker. An intellectual. Happy. A traveler. A father. A husband. A rock.

Any of these answers work. But I truly want to be like Nan and Jerry. They inspire in a rare way. Few professors ever have that effect. I can count mine on one hand, but here's two more fingers in the air. I actually want to learn Western Civ now, and it may come much easier than planned.

Whelmed. Not over, not under.

Venice was so much like the photos. I didn't have a large agenda, because I really just wanted to absorb the city. And the agenda I did have was compromised. The glass blowing was closed to anyone not with a travel agency (but the glass shops were unreal), and the gondolas didn't fit our group... not that 40 degree weather was ideal for a gondola ride anyhow. But riding around the water taxis was an experience in itself, and the overcast skies accented the crisp mood. Everything felt gray, and quiet, but I preferred that with the context. Venice must be very different on a sunny July afternoon, which would be worth another trip.
There are no cars; first of all, it isn't logical or practical, and secondly, it just adds to the serenity. Boats take people everywhere. Alleys aren't a fearful place; they're flooded and hidden. Kind neighbors wave as you cross a bridge and they float beneath you. The nightlife is nothing. Literally, there wasn't a drop of excitement past midnight. Our hotel was boarding up, the streets were dead, the river quiet. It's humorous that Carnevale brings such a huge party to Venice when typically the town is so reserved. I'm contemplating a day trip for Carnevale in a week if it's affordable.
But another reiteration this weekend was traveling in small amounts. It's hard to please everyone, especially when girls want to shop and guys just want to look around... or catch a pigeon... or eat 20 minutes after lunch...

Everything is a learning experience. We navigated the train stations, learned about validating tickets or sprinting through the stations, looking for our next bin. We learned that reading signs is essential. Arrivals from Florence does not mean departures to Florence. Punctuality and logic are the traveler's two greatest tools. Step back from the situation, and your questions are answered. Patience. Confidence.
And if you get lost or set back... be glad. That's an experience that you alone can conquer. People try planning things to a T, and those same people are boring, because they leave nothing in their life to chance. That's something I'm grasping slowly. My life is plotted months, years in advance. Happiness isn't under the heaviest rock.
Everything is happening so fast. Look at what I've seen in the past 10 days. My eyes need a break, but my heart and my head won't allow it.

Don't ever worry what you're headed for.
The river always knows the way.
We'll be forever drifting in between.
Tomorrow, and yesterday.

-Mundo Zerdo

Meet the cast


Kate N should be in the pictures. She fascinates me with her lightness, her presence, her intelligence.
If I were a filmmaker, I would beg Kate to be my muse. Wilder had Marilyn, Alfred had his blondes, Woody had Diane and Mia. It's not a romance, but an obsession. She reminds me so much of Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, or of Julie Delpy in Before Sunrise/Sunset. People need to meet Kate, because she could teach the world so much about thinking and living.
Kate has made herself our mother without realizing it. People look to her for knowledge, her confidence in the classroom and her logic on the street. Her intrigue is intellect, but also a sense of humor. Kate doesn't get offended by trivial jokes, and her mentality is so progressive. Her family drove me to the airport, and I felt so lucky to experience their environment. It's evident that she was raised to think independently, but to reserve herself, so as not to trounce anyone. I feel like so many people strive to be like this, but they force their values or ideals on others, which suffocates. Rather, Kate exudes this worldly insight, and you just want to know her opinion. She's so philosophical. It's a dream. And Kate is just naturally beautiful. She doesn't get into makeup or glitz or trivial matters. Her personality alone can carry her, but she looks like a work of art.
Wouldn't America learn something from her? All I think is Diane Keaton, Mia Farrow, Julie Delpy. I want the world to see Kate as well, but I'd have a hard time sharing her.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

VE(ry)NICE

Imagine this: A city built on water. OK, sorry, we all know that. More on Venice soon. Some things to hold you over, while I hit up the Packers game at midnight (I will be dead tomorrow):









Bad news bears though: No glass blowing, no gondola ride, but I'll elaborate another time.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Thanks, Wells Fargo.

Gotta shout out to my wonderful bankers over at Wells Fargo for freezing my debit card even though I called them and told them I'd be traveling. Making those phone calls was the top priority of mine when I should have been listening to the tour guide in Siena and San Gimignano. It was also wonderful getting my card handed back at the cafe with a "rejected" receipt. How embarrassing; thanks for making me spend the only bit of cash I was carrying at the time.
They flagged me for fraud, despite my being here a week and using the card the entire time. I suppose it's better they did it today than this weekend when I am paying for the hotel in Venice.
Speaking of Venice... I'll update when I'm back from there.
Aunt Mary, I should see some glass blowing, get excited!
This wraps up the massive updating I did today. Ciao bellas!

Under the Tuscan Sun

Siena and San Gimignano are the quintessential Tuscan towns. They lie just outside Florence, and we traveled by bus to both.
Siena has healthy competition with Florence. It’s kind of a KU-Mizzou rivalry, always trying to 1-up each other. We visited the Church of St. Catherine and saw her head and thumb, both of which are preserved. Lots of relics seen on this trip thus far.
In San Gimignano we went to the Torture Museum, and saw lots of medieval methods of paaaaaain. Very interesting, for sure.
Photo time! The view of Siena is absolutely breathtaking. Look how creative they were in torturing people back in the day, too.

Siena













San Gimignano (and Torture Museum)











Almost Famous Moment

I have always wanted a moment like in Almost Famous where they sing “Tiny Dancer” on the tour bus. Well, we got our moment today coming back from San Gimignano! Maybe I let the camera run too long…

Real Characters


Lucia was our tour guide in Siena. She was a very cordial woman, and had an interesting story to share.
In Siena, the town is divided into 17 neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has colors and a mascot, much like Hogwarts from Harry Potter. Lucia walked us through the Goose district, represented by green and white. Lucia herself, however, is a member of the Waves, represented by a dolphin and the colors blue and white. Their enemy is the Towers, portrayed by an elephant of red.
Twice each summer, a horse race takes place in the city center of Siena. The 17 horses represent these neighborhoods, and pride awaits the neighborhood whose horse is victorious. It is also very dangerous to be alone in your enemy’s neighborhood. Stick to your side, and hang with your partnering neighborhoods.

Band Photos

Braeden and I are starting a band. I’m the lead singer, and he does drums, or keyboard or guitar, whatever. We’re going to take a few CD cover photos on the trip. I always look in the camera, and he looks away. Any band name ideas?




Thursday, January 17, 2008

G'day, bidet

In concurrence with my try (most things) once policy, I had my first bidet experience last night.
And I kind of liked it. Time to get friendly with the bidet!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Perspective

From an overlook of Florence, we were able to put the city in perspective. I’d like to go back on a sunny day. It’s been so rainy, but that didn’t stop me from finally feeling like I’m here and I belong. I am in Florence, I am in Italy, I am in Europe.
And when I got lost in the cemetery atop the tallest hill, it meant walking home at least two miles alone. Down the hill, across the Arno, through the Uffizi, and the Piazza della Signoria, and down Via dei Ghibellina. It was nice to contemplate everything, and to appreciate this blessing. And I made it home with no trouble. Florence, after one week, actually feels like a home. And what a grand, overwhelming home it is.


Overlooking Florence:






Florentine cemetery at San Miniato al Monte:





Meet the cast


Braeden is someone I’m very grateful to have along. When Accent paired roommates, I think they did well in putting the two of us together. I’m not sure he and I would have ever hung out back home (because I doubt we would have met one another), but we’re on the same wavelength here.
You know how girls who live together get on the same menstrual cycles? Sorry for the analogy, but that’s kind of how Braeden and I have become. When I can’t sleep, he can’t sleep. When I need a nap, he needs a nap. When he’s hungry, I’m hungry. Our budgets are the same, and we both want the same out of food, drinks and trips. We're even lame enough that we save spots in class for the other person. Basically our routines have been the same, and it’s sort of this unwritten rule that we follow each other around. I thought my trip would include lots of alone time, but I can honestly say I’m grateful to have his company all the time.
When not referencing South Park, Braeden is probably trying to act black or collecting material to make fun of people. He’s always cracking jokes, and is extremely laidback. We’ve adopted some of the upstairs girls as our own, and either they’ll come down to us or we’ll distract them from homework. He and I are their chaperones to Venice this weekend.
Walk by our bedroom and you’ll probably hear us giggling like little girls; we’ll talk about all the ladies in our group, ramble about sports, or just be, I dunno, dudes. It’s funny to me because I have no friends like him back home; I’m not sure he has any like me, either. He’s kind of a “bad ass”, and his experiences are almost completely opposite of my own. I think that’s why I’ve gotten along with him so well. I remember telling Nicole before the trip that I wanted to be “one of the guys” on this trip, and thought that would be a hard accomplishment with so many girls. Braeden has allowed me to feel like exactly this way, and it’s exciting thinking about the adventures that lie between now and April. Here’s to hoping he doesn’t get sick of me before then, because it’ll be hard convincing the other three guys to shave at the same time as me.

Unforgettable in Italy

Some things I'll never forget about Italy:

Italian Sirens... they are loud, and everywhere. Actually I can hear them outside right now:


Homelessness. This woman jumped in when Nicole and I tried taking a picture:


Flying over the Alps. Wow. Rocky Mountains, who?