Thursday, January 9, 2014

Relationship Status: Single and Smiling

Where do I begin? The past couple weeks have been fairly eventful. With a new year and a new semester started, I've been on the Strugglebus a few times as you might guess. I'm still a holiday virgin! No New Years kiss, but I'm okay with that.

I can say that my classes are much more suitable for me, so that's been a great experience. I've been trying not to procrastinate and getting to the library to get ahead. I'm taking 17 credit hours/7 classes so this is more than I usually take on, but I'm enjoying the material a lot already. I hope it stays that way.

Relationship-wise, things are certainly not so great. I like to take my time and get to know someone. I'm not about time constraints, but I think it takes a lot of time to get to know someone new and decide whether it's a good fit or not. I happen to thoroughly enjoy being single. Sometimes, relationships sound appealing, but then I remember how much work they really are. If I choose to get into one, I'd prefer to put in 100% as it's not fair not to put in any less. Recently, I was talking to someone, and it seemed great at first. We seemed to have a lot in common, and I thought maybe this could turn into something. You never know. Yeah, you never know until you jump into it and discover it's not what you thought. I always keep my heart locked tight, and that doesn't really change. I won't change for someone. Compromises are fine, of course. Naturally, if you want to make it through life, you're going to need to make them. You just have to decide which ones are worth making.

Unfortunately, in this situation, I wasn't ready to commit to anything. I actually tried to make this clear from the get-go, but I guess I wasn't clear enough (communication is key! No one wants their time wasted!). I'm just entering my twenties. I'm young. I'm adventurous. A relationship doesn't interest me, and that's okay. I want to get married someday and have kids, but that's not on my agenda at the moment. I have to focus on school, my co-ed honor fraternity, my health – mind, body, and soul – and maintaining the friendships I already have while developing new ones. Frankly, a boyfriend at this point is just an accessory. It's funny because my roommate pointed out that I'm always the "guy" in the relationship. I never want anything serious, I'm extremely independent, and I'm usually the one to break things off. In fact, I'm always the one deciding the fate of the relationship.

I've been coming back to my senses after last year, and I'm just looking out for what's best for me. As a college student with a lot of goals and ambition, it's okay to be selfish in my personal life right now. I didn't mean to hurt him, but I also think guys need to consider what the girl they're chasing after is really all about. You can't figure that out in a week. Men: don't think with your eyes. Think with your ears. Listen to what she has to say especially if she's a woman of few words like myself. I would say I'm complex, but not impossible. Take the time to figure out if she's someone you really want to get involved with and if she's truly in sync with what you want romantically. Don't be blinded by what you want to see. Take a good, hard look at what's in front of you. Face realizations early on; it'll prevent you from getting hurt. Bringing someone into your life isn't to be taken lightly: it takes work. It's not just like a new phone or gadget you incorporate into your life. People are dynamic and have millions of facets ranging from their moods to the people they're connected with to their thinking to their experiences. There is no single story to any person. Remember that.

I don't know if this would work for you, but it always works for me:

If you think you like someone, observe them for 30 days. Talk to the person, and maybe get to know them a bit. If you're still interested after 30 days, go for it.

There's probably some psychology behind it since trial runs for products are usually 30 days – not saying a person is a product! But I'm sure this isn't a coincidence. I skipped my 30-day rule this time, and it did not end well. It also doesn't help that he's friends with a bunch of my friends, too. Be careful if that's what you're getting into. The effects may radiate in an undesirable fashion beyond what you intended. We're all interconnected, so be careful.

Also, don't force anything, and don't be afraid to FRIENDZONE someone until you decide they're someone you actually want to pursue. It will save you time! LOTS of it! Be your own person, and don't take any crap about things they tell you that you "need to fix" or "work on", especially if you just met. Sorry, that's bullshit. You know what you need to improve on, and your love interest should respect your values, quirks, insights, body, etc. Whatever it may be, your person is there for the great things about you, not the things that aren't perfect. If they don't like something and want to change you, then you decide if it's reasonable or not. Not everything is going to match perfectly, which is why the phrase "opposites attract" exists. However, if it rubs you the wrong way because it's just a fundamental part of who you are or how you're wired, is it worth staying? You tell me.

Monday, December 23, 2013


Today was another lazy day, but I did leave the house! I went shopping with my stepmom to buy my dad a Christmas present and get a few things for myself, of course. Holiday shopping is so difficult! It gets harder every year, I swear because I feel like the people I'm buying for already have everything they need. Plus, I always find things for me when I'm suppose to be looking for other people's gifts. I suppose that's when it's time to get creative and start scouring Pinterest.

However, I did get some fabulous shoes at DSW – a pair of Oxfords and some black flats. My dad called them ballet slippers and tap shoes. I really hope that isn't the first thing that comes to other people's minds when I wear them... I think they're classy anyway, and that's what really matters when it comes to personal style.

On a more academic note, I finished my personal statement finally! What a feat! I am the slowest writer I know, so I'm glad that's over and done with, and all I have left is to choose my classes and get a letter of recommendation, which I already have two faculty members in mind for.

I ate too many cookies earlier, and I'm super sleepy, so that's about it for today. Sorry to be a bore! I suppose that's life sometimes, but it's good to relish the calmer moments, too. I'll be off dreaming some bizarre things as usual until the morning. ¡Buenas noches (I'm trying to teach myself Spanish)!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

I'm a Little Monster

I had a very lazy day today. I was feeling a bit under the weather, but I'm trying to battle that psychologically and with tons of water and vitamin C. I ate some cookies, watched Arrested Development, SNL with Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake (perfection right there), and Modern Family. I also stared at my personal statement for my semester abroad application. That's right, I stared at it. Obviously, I didn't get very far on that. I actually have it written, but it's mumbo jumbo right now and needs some serious TLC before I submit it.

On a far less academic note, my stepmom went shopping as usual and came back with a couple of geeky cat sweaters from Hot Topic for her and my dad, which they wore to a Christmas party tonight. I took their pictures, and it's no wonder people never know my dad is my dad. We're all starting to look the same age. What is life. After the conniption my dad had about her spending money on the sweaters, he ended up winning the ugly sweater contest. Everything happens for a reason, I suppose. They came back from their party with a cock. Get your mind out of the gutter! It's a glass rooster with a bow – lovely decor.

I'm just glad they put their young'n (5-year-old Korean they adopted in 2009) to bed, so I could just sit around some more while they went out. Ah, the lazy life, at least for me. He's adorable, but certainly my annual dose of birth control. I don't know how parents do it. Some magic must descend upon parents in order to care for kids because I sure can't handle them right now. I'm actually trying to live up my twenties by – drumroll please – going to the GAGA CONCERT IN JULY! The tickets were bought today, and I can't be more excited! I've been wanting to see her perform for about 5 years now, and it's actually happening! Little Monsters UNITE!

It turns out my dad is actually really into Gaga, but I didn't know this before buying my ticket with my fellow Little Monster, whom I adore SO much. For some reason, I don't know that many people who adore Gaga as much as I do even though she has millions of fans. I hope my dad gets a ticket, poor thing. Maybe that'll be my Christmas present to him. Strugglebus...I'm the worst with buying presents. I'd prefer if someone just told me what they wanted/needed, and I bought it right there. I know it should be a surprise, but let's be honest: who wants to go through the awkward gift return/exchange fiasco after Christmas if you get something your person doesn't like?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

It's Been Awhile...

So, this semester was a Strugglebus of its own. I was busy blah blah blah. Who isn't? I'm sure you know how that goes.

I took organic chemistry this semester and wanted to die. Some people click with chemistry – I am not one of those people. It also didn't help that I wasn't very fond of my instructor. Although it's great that I never saw a frown on her face, I think she failed to realize how many frowns were in front of her. She breezed through all of the tough material and focused on the easy stuff. Why do teachers do that?! Anyway, I passed with a B- so I can't complain. I've heard one too many horror stories of people completely failing the first time, so I'm grateful I at least made it the first time around. Plus, I refuse to retake a class. If I'm going to spend 4 months with a class, you can bet your cat I'm not going to do it all over again. No, sir.

Organic Chemistry: B-

I did change my major to Environmental Science. I couldn't be happier. I realized a major reason I was continuing as a biology major was because I shared classes with the same people, and I was reluctant to step away from them. I was afraid of change. In the end, I needed to do what was best for myself and strive for something I'm passionate about. I should've known I wasn't a science person when it was my weakest area in high school (besides history – that's just out of the question). However, environmental science integrates everything I love, and I can actually see myself in that field. I can't wait for next semester!

For the meantime, I'm working on my application to spend a semester abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. I wouldn't travel until next fall, but I need to start organizing things now. Flights are quite cheap at the moment, so I want to snag one while the price is right. I also need to think about winter clothing, whatever that may be. Arizona and Florida have not taught me those things...

On a real first world problem note: I made a playlist on Spotify of some of my favorite songs, and I can't find a song to pause on because they're all so good, which means I can't go to sleep. Strugglebus.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Bonjour Paris!

Let me just tell you how foreign, yet familiar it feels to be back home in the States. It's strange. The reverse culture shock is certainly hitting me. Enough about that, though, and more about Paris.

Atop the Eiffel Tower.
I don't know who the lady is, but I certainly love this place.
Oh, Paris. This city was truly the most beautiful city I have been to. I'm sorry, London, but you definitely have some competition. I know the French and Brits have a bit of a rivalry, so I hope nobody gets too heated about that statement. Seriously, though, the moment I got to exploring the city, my eyes lit up, and I could have remained there forever. It almost came to that, but I'll explain later.

My first night in Paris was relatively uneventful. I got into my hostel late around 7:00pm, so there really wasn't much daylight to spend. I was exhausted anyway, so all I wanted was some food as I'd only had grapes for breakfast early that morning before I left Firenze. I caved and bought a California wrap at the hostel, inhaled it, and proceeded to meet some of my first friends in Paris. I had met a very sweet German girl while unpacking before my dinner, and she noticed a tipsy Canadian struggling with the washroom door. We giggled at him, and he proceeded to our table asking if I was Australian. Not even close, buddy.

I joined him and his friends outside soon after and we soaked in each other's company. It's really such a blessing to meet so many people while traveling. Whether I stay in contact or not, each person still holds a special place in my heart and experiences.

Around 2am, I was practically falling asleep at the table and the guys urged me to head to bed. I waved them off, saying I was fine, but about thirty seconds later I agreed and went up to get some much needed rest. I promptly passed out after cleaning up and brushing my teeth; I wanted to be ready to thoroughly explore the next day.

I woke up for free breakfast and found my German friend downstairs already eating. I joined her with a plateful of bread, ham, and cheese and a cup of English tea (forget coffee!). I was feeling quite ill with congestion in both my sinuses and chest, so eating seemed almost a chore, but I pretended not to notice. I have some wild infection now, but I regret nothing!

Since I literally had the whole day to myself with no one else's schedule to even consider, I thought the Notre Dame would be a great place to start. It wasn't too far, and I could easily walk wherever I wanted from there. I took the Metro, which I was getting really efficient at using finally and hopped off to a bright, beautiful morning filled with the sounds of tourists and French. I was unsure where to go, so I took a guess (which I'm apparently really good at). The ornate edifice crept into my view, and I hurried over. There was this great seating area, so I simply sat for some time and just soaked in the moment. I didn't go in as my shoulders were bare, and although I saw others going in without cover-ups, I didn't feel like fighting the line snaking half a kilometer back. I was content with just resting in the shade and staring at the exquisite architecture.

After what I felt was an adequate amount of time, I ran into an Egyptian guy. He offered to take my picture, so of course I accepted. He seemed nice enough, but clearly interested in more than friendship. Me being so passive, I just convinced myself he was just really friendly, so I allowed him to show me the palace nearby. It started to feel a bit claustrophobic as he asked more questions, wanted me to take his arm, bring me to lunch, and take pictures together in a lovey-dovey manner. This was my day, so I had to end it and end it fast. Quickest deterrent ever: "I have a boyfriend". I still feel terrible lying (thank the Lord, I'm going to church tonight), but it fizzled very quickly after that. Sorry dude, but I had a lot to see, and I really wanted a Me Day. It would've been counterproductive for both of us, and I didn't want to waste anyone's time.

Unsure what to do next, I thought "to hell with schedules and plans, I'm just going to wander around". What's the worst that could happen? Well, the worst that could happen was a perfect day. I ran into St. Jacques' Tower, the Louvre, the gardens, street dancing, the coolest Mexicans I've ever met, Arc du Triumph, and the Eiffel Tower. Being the curious weirdo I am, I calculated how much I walked. 14 kilometers (9 miles)! And that's just based on Google Maps! I know I walked even more in my aimless roaming.

My photography skills are on point. 
During this little journey, I would sit at the parks and gardens and just feel the breeze across my skin and the warmth of the sun. It was actually a fairly hot day - something I was hoping to escape after sweating constantly for six weeks. However, I didn't mind it; the shady areas were the perfect temperature to perch myself. I could contemplate life and the world around me. I think it was in these moments where all of my travels and learning would finally begin to sink it. Since being home, it all feels like a gorgeous dream that couldn't possibly have happened. Those small moments made everything real.

We even match.
When I met my two Mexican friends, it was kind of funny. I immediately noticed they were pretty attractive guys, and I sent them a small smile when they looked back at me. I figured they'd turn the corner at some point, but after about three lengthy blocks of passing and falling behind each other, I decided to say something. I noticed they spoke Spanish, so I looked up and said, "¡Hola!" Surprised, he replied back and asked if I spoke Spanish. Sí. Next came a jumble of Spanish that I could definitely not process fast enough. With nothing but a blank stare in return, he hastily asked, "English?" Yup. He then proceeded the conversation in perfect English. What?! That was easy! It gets better, though. As we're getting to know each other, he mentions he lived in San Antonio, Texas. Funny, because I lived there as well! I knew all the streets he talked about, and he attended the university I considered when living there. By the way, I lived off of Babcock and Huebner (I couldn't remember when we were talking). I guess it is a small world after all.

We headed up to the Eiffel Tower after checking out the Arc du Triumph. I loved getting to know new people. I feel like I could never do something like this back home. Or maybe I can, and I've just been too afraid. I've learned I really have nothing to lose because it may turn into something much more beautiful than a hello on the street. Though this one didn't, I'm still grateful to have met them; they were such kind people with great stories to share. Plus, we bonded over our Mexican heritage, which was cool.

It's a masterpiece.
After our huge hike up the Tower, we went out to dinner, and I ordered my first Parisian dish - a ham and cheese omelette for dinner. How wild is that? I suppose not so much in France, but it would be strange back home. It came out steaming hot, dressed with a small herb on top. I must say, that was the greatest omelette I've ever eaten. The guys' food was just as fabulous, and we even got some free wifi. We were ready to head back to our lodging afterward, so we parted ways, hoping to meet up again that night or sometime again. Unfortunately we didn't but my night certainly wasn't a waste.

Remember the Canadian guys I met? Well, I was supposed to go to the Louvre with them that morning, but thankfully I didn't wait for a response to my text because it was the first Sunday, meaning entry was free. The line was hundreds of visitors long, and I certainly wasn't about to waste an entire day waiting. Anyway, I met up with one of them at the bar that night, and we both happened to want to go to the Eiffel Tower at night. Well, the night turned out to be any girl's dream date: kisses on the metro, gazing at a sparkling Eiffel Tower on the lawn, walking around Paris.

No Canadians here...
It was great until we got back to the hostel. In short, he wanted more, and I didn't. There was no way I was about to compromise any of my values while he scoffed at them. Unfortunately, this was the one thing we just didn't agree on. A small squabble entailed, and the night went from magical to awkward in a matter of seconds. An awkward goodbye later and I was left feeling quite offended and just disappointed. Thankfully, we weren't in the same room; that would've been even more awkward. He was still one of the coolest people I met even though the physical aspect just didn't quite work out. He was off on another adventure the next day anyway, so I'm sure he could pick up another girl with no problem and maybe get lucky with her. I'm just not that easy.

I'd say that's okay, though. The next few days brought something far sweeter.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Beginning of the End

Today marks the final week of my stay in Firenze. I know I said I was going to keep up with posting, but I've grown lazy and my travel euphoria is making its descent (so yes, I'm still alive - no one has to go Liam Neeson on me). I don't know what day I'm on, but I can count the number of days I have left in Europe: 10 (on the 11th I head home). It has been a journey not only physically, but emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. I'll get to the nostalgic rant when my trip comes to a close, though; there will be plenty of time for that.

I just had an intense déjà vu that I'm not sure where it came from. Hm. That's not important. What is important is to record the events of the past, I don't know, week and a half maybe? I suppose I'll begin with Roma...

Ahh, Roma. Now that's a city I could fall in love with (never as much as London, but it's up there). The five-hour bus ride didn't seem so long because the countryside in Italy holds some of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. Sunflower fields, sprawling vibrant meadows, rolling hills. It is divine - I wouldn't mind frolicking in them one day. I could actually enjoy the views this time as I wasn't drunk or hungover. I certainly learned my lesson from last time. Some people can do that - props. I'll take a good night's sleep and some fresh eyes for a new adventure.

We arrived in Rome around noon, and I was surprised to see a city that looked so similar to Firenze. Tall buildings towered over the narrow streets, and it was actually quite small. I expected this giant city all wide with the Colosseum in plain view, but it looked relatively normal when we stepped off the bus. I decided to tag along with some new people because there was some turbulence in the apartment, and I had planned on meeting a ton of new people while I travelled anyway.

The sky looked troubled, but I decided not to take my umbrella, believing the sun would conquer the clouds. Always listen to your intuition. Three girls from the program and I decided to go on a hunt for food and found a street full of restaurants. Unlike Firenze, the hosts were incredibly aggressive. Some followed us down the street, persistently pleading us to eat at their restaurant, some offered free services if we chose their restaurant, and some would just tear apart neighboring restaurants, claiming their food was fresh and superior to the others. All we wanted was some cheap, delicious pasta to hold us over until dinner. We finally went back to one that had decent prices, and the host offered free bruschetta. How could we resist?

We sat down, perused the menu, and waited for the server. After he attended to us, we asked about the bruschetta we were promised. He became hostile quickly and refused to give us some because one of the girls didn't order a dish, even though the rest of us did. The debate escalated quickly to the point that a cappuccino was chugged and we told him to cancel the order because we were leaving. Yeah, we know this isn't our home and things are done differently, but nobody had to get chewed out. That's when round two of our hunt commenced.

A heavy drizzle began with only two of us having umbrellas - at least someone was smart enough to listen to the little voice saying, "Just in case it rains..." We roamed - ha! "Romed"- around for awhile as the sky darkened and thunder boomed around us. This definitely wasn't just a typical rainstorm. We quickly headed back toward the meeting place and found a small pizza joint. It ended up being cheaper than expected and quite delightful. Being the cheapskates we are, we decided to find a bench or something to sit at as it costs extra to sit at a table in/outside restaurants. We found a short wall to plop on, and then it hit. The torrential downpour with gusts of wind and lightning strikes crackling one after another. The trees and the two umbrellas we had gave some protection, but we were definitely on the Strugglebus trying to eat our pizza. These tiny flower leaf things kept flying into my cappuccino, too, but I managed to enjoy my lunch.

It was fun to hang around and get to know other people on the program because many of us just stick to the people in our apartments. Although it's convenient, it's refreshing to see some new faces. We made light of our rain troubles and met up with everyone else to begin our tours of the Vatican City. This, by the way, is the smallest country in the world. I can officially say I've been in two countries at once. Anyway, the Vatican Museum is incredible to say the least. So much art and history are held in this ancient edifice, and it's an experience that simply cannot be described. I'm not an expertise in the arts, but I do appreciate the beauty of such stunning artifacts.

Our next stop was to the Sistine Chapel. Now, I was itching with anticipation to see this. We learned about this incredible work of Michelangelo's in my honors arts and humanities class, so I definitely felt a greater appreciation for it than many of the other pieces I had seen since being in Italy. Pictures are strictly forbidden, but they wouldn't have done it justice anyway.

Never have I experienced such a connection to a piece of art in my life. I shuffled in amongst the dozens, maybe hundreds, who had also traveled all this way to view the ceiling. I gazed up, wide-eyed. My jaw immediately dropped as the fresco swam into my vision. A warm tear rolled down my cheek as this experience enveloped me. Another warm streak and another followed. It's one thing to read the Bible, but it is a most divine experience to gaze at its scenes artfully crafted by the hands of Michelangelo. The world had stopped in that moment, and I could see the roots of my faith so clearly.

The tour continued on to St. Peter's Cathedral - the largest in Italy - where its size was incomprehensible. I knew it was enormous, but my mind couldn't quite fathom it. I finally realized it was because the edifice was so proportional that the size of each part simply couldn't be understood. This was gorgeously puzzling, and I adored every minute. I'm not Catholic, but I wouldn't mind attending a mass in there.

We were then released for free time. I didn't buy anything because, honestly, souvenirs are overrated. I always look back and wonder why I bought that keychain or mini model of some monument that sits on my shelf collecting dust. Instead, I've learned to absorb the experience and take some pictures. Plus, I'll have wonderful stories for my friends and family that a magnet or postcard can't tell.

From the Vatican City, we headed into the heart of Rome to our hotel rooms, which were roomy, comfortable, and best of all, had air conditioning! It took us quite some time to figure out the electricity because the hotel key had to stay in a small slot by the door in order for it to remain on. It was strange. However, we had a spacious bathroom with a real tub we could take normal showers in. I napped in our bit of spare time, then we all headed to our scheduled dinner. Pizza was on the menu, so I wasn't complaining. A full belly later, I was ready to go to sleep. One of my roommates turned on the TV, and what did we find? The Hunger Games! I was a little too excited to watch it in Italian, but I soon found my eyes heavy and took the card out of the slot to turn the lights out. I wanted to be energized for day two.

The Colosseum was first on the agenda after a scrumptious continental breakfast (those are the absolute best, might I say!) The walk was shorter than it appeared on the map, and I thought it would be more... colossal (so punny! I know, I'm lame. Just accept it). Nevertheless, I stood in awe of the ancient arena. Our tour guide was fantastic! She didn't give us the lesson we get in history class, oh no - she gave us the dirty details of the place, and I loved it even more. We were allowed some time to explore the second floor, where many pictures were taken and a lap around the entire thing had to be done. I could've spent all day there, but of course, there was plenty more to see.

We went to the house of the Vestal Virgins, saw the place where Caesar was cremated, and looked over Roman ruins. So many facts flew my way, and I attempted to snatch as many as I could. The more you know, right? Our tour ended, we sadly departed from our lovely tour guide, and one of my new friends knew of a place a friend highly recommended (no pun intended; you'll see why in a minute). She knew it was atop one of Rome's seven hills (see?) we just had to go apparently. We asked our tour guide for directions and she pointed out the way on the map, but warned us we'd likely get lost. Not only did we NOT get lost, we found some of the best views in Rome. Where did we go? To look through the keyhole on top of Aventine Hill. It is famous for its view of the Vatican. If you look it up, you'll see what I saw, but naturally it's even better in person.

After my friend and I looked through the keyhole, we found a perfect little park on the hill that overlooked all of Rome. We sat for awhile and chatted about our experiences in Italy so far. We had some similar struggles and a similar personality, so it was fortunate we met. This was the part of traveling I loved. After sufficient time baking in the sun, we wandered around some more before heading back to the hotel. Dinner was in a few hours, so I took a bit of time to relax.

Dinner was delicious again with a few different courses that left me with a food baby. Many of my peers were planning on going out to bars, but I really wanted a preview of the Trevi Fountain before our tour in the morning. Expecting it to be at least a bit less crowded, my new friend and I waddled up and down the steep streets of Rome to make a few wishes. When we arrived, we were disgruntled to find a swarm of tourists snapping photos of the majestic fountain. That didn't deter us, though because it was just magical. I could've stared at the massive marble structure all night, but after almost an hour, we were ready to head back to the hotel.

I hung out in my friend's hotel room because I didn't really want to go to sleep or be in my room alone. Again, the TV was turned on, and what did we find? Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets! In Italian! Needless to say, we were unnecessarily giddy and watched the last half of the movie. Once it finished, I returned to my room and snuggled into my bed.

My final morning crept upon me quickly, and I shoveled down another free breakfast. I had to stock up for the last day before heading to our final tour. We walked all over Rome, visiting the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, and Pantheon. At the Trevi Fountain, our guide told us how to properly make a wish, and I realized I'd done it all wrong the night before. My picture was perfect the night before, except it wasn't right. I redid everything the correct way, so we'll find out if it comes true. Obviously, I can't share what I wished for, but we'll see if it's granted in the future.

Once we were released for the remainder of the day, I met more people I hadn't previously encountered and decided to tag along with them. We ate lunch, and I found they were a bunch of goons like me, filling our meal with laughter and warmth. Afterward, we all headed back to the Pantheon to get a look inside since we couldn't beforehand (a mass was underway). It was magnificent as most of Rome is, and we headed to the Trajan Tower next. Here, a few of us parked and chatted for about an hour. It really is a unique experience to share this entire adventure with others, even for only a moment. With only about an hour until our bus left for Firenze, we soaked in the last sights of the Eternal City on the way to the hotel.

Drained, we retrieved our luggage, and reclined in exhausted silence awaiting our departure. Finally we boarded the bus and were ready to head back. Unfortunately, two of our people understood the time to be an hour later than the scheduled time, so we had to wait an extra thirty to forty-five minutes for them. In the meantime, an anomaly happened. Another fierce thunderstorm appeared overhead; not only was it more intense than the first, but large hail crashed down from the sky. I hoped the lost sheep would find their way soon, which they did.

I found it peculiar that we were being seen off in the same way we were greeted. I enjoyed the raging weather and watched its progress as we drove into and out of it. We returned to Firenze safe and sound with cloudless skies just as we left it. The weekend was certainly one of my favorites, and I hope I can return there one day. For the meantime, I'll be celebrating my last week of classes and my time here. Then, I'm off to Paris and, finally, home.

I can't say I'm not excited and ready to go home. I can't wait to see my family and friends and snuggle in my cloud. I also can't wait to move into my new apartment with some of my best friends. What an eventful summer. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Buonanotte! This girl needs to study for finals...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Day 29: A Turnaround

I've had some bumps and bruises during my time in Firenze, but things are beginning to look up.

Monday was one of the best days I've had here, and it was very unplanned and simple. One of my roommates was going to retrieve her phone, and I asked to join because I planned on roaming around anyway. She wanted to go to Museo Galileo, and I thought it sounded interesting, even though it wasn't one of the free sites included on our museum cards. I just wanted to explore anywhere new. We picked up her phone at the school, stopped to get her a panini, and made our way to the museum. Thankfully, it wasn't packed as I had expected, and I was pleasantly surprised at how intriguing the place was. It was full of nautical instruments, ancient globes, and other gleaming gizmos that would be any inventor's dream.

I was glad that the other roommates were in Paris because we could take our time through each exhibit and not worry about rushing anywhere. This was the experience I had been wanting here without worrying about what five other people wanted to do or were complaining about.

This great bike exhibit explaining the origins of the bicycle and hands on activities dealing with space and physics completed our tour. It was an incredible experience, and I learned so much. It was nice that the museum wasn't overwhelmingly large, and visitors were sparse. After all of the walking, though, we were ready to grab some food.

Lorena and I headed to the restaurant where I had eaten previously with our program director and other roommates because she desperately wanted some Carbonara. We were the only ones in the restaurant, and our server was quite cheeky. Many of the Italians are; I love it. That is actually defining factor of my personality, but I usually stay quiet because I'm always afraid of offending someone. You never know when people will take offense to something, and my sense of humor is certainly an acquired taste.

The food was just as scrumptious as the last time, and we were ready to continue on our spontaneous adventures. As we walked out of the restaurant (I never remember the names, just the locations), Lorena pointed out the doors across the street. We're almost certain we found the apartment the Jersey Shore stayed in when they were in Firenze. We'll have to watch that season to be sure, but I think we found it. I have a picture, and I will certainly be comparing it to the one seen on the show. Unfortunately, their wild behavior contributes to the awful stereotypes us Americans get, but I will admit it's entertaining.

After our revelation, we headed to the Fortezza (fortress) because it looked interesting. It turned out we couldn't actually go in, but we parked in the grass outside of it. A bunch of people were napping or relaxing, and we figured why not? I'm not sure how long we stayed there, but it was blissful. The air was fresher, a pond twinkled behind us, and everyone just kept to themselves. I will certainly be going back again to study or just take in the scenery. It would be perfect for a little picnic date; where is my Italian stallion?!

On the way home, we stopped to get Lorena a smoothie. Unfortunately, the juice bar had literally just closed, so she said an iced coffee from Astor would suffice. Little did we know, we'd get more than just an iced coffee. Free Korean aperitivo! That's right: chefs in training cooked some classic Korean dishes, and we got to sample them without paying a cent. It was delicious, and the Korean chefs were very hospitable and kind. It made me want to travel to South Korea, so that may be in my future travel plans.

A full belly and some exhausted feet later, we hiked up the eighty steps to the apartment. I relaxed awhile, then decided I wanted to go for my first run in the city. I thought for sure I would land on my face because of the cobblestone, but I found my awareness has increased dramatically. I felt like those superheroes who have just discovered their powers, and the world looks completely different. They can maneuver around obstacles stealthily like a badger and sense incoming objects from miles away. That has become my life. Okay, maybe I'm not that advanced, but I'm definitely more aware of what's going on around me, and I don't trip as often; that only happens when I have a little too much wine.

The night was beautiful, and it was exhilarating to finally exercise after being a slug most of the time. I'm going to try some yoga tomorrow night because I'm certainly not hitting any clubs before we head to Rome. Being drunk and hungover in the same day is not a goal of mine (been there, done that).

The next day (yesterday), I attended my two classes and napped - world's most interesting story. Lorena then asked if the roommates and I wanted to eat dinner at her new friend's place. Free dinner again?! Count me in. His apartment was modest and had an antique collection that he sells from. Four of his friends were also in our company, and I was apprehensive that they were born-and-raised Italians, but after awhile, we all had enough wine, good food, and great music that diminished the language barrier. They could all speak quite good English so communication was possible and fun. I received an odd compliment from one of the guests. He pointed to my nose and asked if I was Greek. I'm usually apprehensive about it because the bridge rises first instead of dips under like a typical American nose. He claimed that mine was most beautiful and rare, though, and that everyone else's was insignificant at best. I'll take it. I love how Europeans appreciate the natural beauty in people and not the plastic Barbie wannabes that litter the U.S. - all the more reason for me to move to Europe.

The night was wonderful, and I'm so thankful we got to spend time with some natives because that's what I've been wanting all along. Risotto, pollo con birra (chicken with beer), Sardinian cheese, and lots of wine. That sounds like a good time to me. I crave more of these authentic experiences, and I'm hoping the next few weeks bring them. I wonder if I can get any Italians to start saying "Strugglebus"...

I did randomly run into a member of my honor fraternity today. What are the odds?! Neither of us knew we were in Firenze at the same time, and I couldn't have been more shocked. She and her boyfriend have been backpacking around Europe this summer and are moving to London later this year (Yeah, I'm really jealous...). We got to talking and decided to run around together. I was initially planning on going to a museum, but obviously plans changed pretty quickly. Instead, we climbed up to Piazza de Michelangialo. This was lovely as I hadn't made the climb yet. The sun was in a prime position for pictures, and I loved having some great company. Their adventures sounded incredible, and I still can't believe we ran into each other. I showed them my apartment, from which they departed to eat dinner and explore more.

I need to study for an exam tomorrow anyway, make dinner, and catch up on this thing. I've been slacking, and I'm well aware. I'll try to keep up for the last half of my trip at least. This is my point of reference for all of the stories I have to share when I get home, which I can't say I don't miss. I think it's just my friends I really want with me; if it weren't for them, I'd probably never want to leave Europe. I still plan on moving here when I graduate, so that gives me three years to peruse my own country. I really can see why foreigners aren't fond of Americans, though. Truthfully, I'm not either now. That's a rant for another time, though. It's time to actually study (you know, because I'm "studying abroad"). Buonanotte!