Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Days 6 & 7: Busy, Busy, Busy

I'm sorry, this is going to be pretty short again; I'll add more later. I have class in the morning, for five hours straight - one in which I stand the whole time, and the other in which the couches were undoubtedly created for posture correction.

Yesterday, I attended orientation for Florence University of the Arts. We sat in these chairs that were reminiscent of thrones, but I could barely stay awake during the hour plus long introduction. I blame the jetlag and lack of sleep. Although, I did have the best sleep that night than I had for a few weeks. After preparing for our walking tour, we were guided by a wise old woman with great knowledge of the architecture in the city. We even got to see the Baptisteria for free.

We looked like absolute tourists with small speaker devices on bright yellow lanyards and the packet we received from the institute. The sun bore down on us, but it was welcoming. We saw many historic landmarks, then were released for an hour of exploration. Victoria and I decided we wanted to save room for dinner so we decided to satiate our craving for gelato. It definitely did the trick and, surprisingly, kept us full for a few hours. Also, we a heard a market vendor say, "Ooh, ice cream. Hot..." I'm glad we didn't look like slobbering dogs with our gelato...

We returned to the Palazzi an hour early on accident because we lost track of time and our whereabouts so we attempted to scope out a 99 Cent Store in search of a towel. No luck. I guess we'd have to deal with the "community towel" one more night (only two girls brought towels, so we had to share them between the six of us). After our feeble hunt, we attended the wine tasting workshop near the culinary arts buildings in the school. We learned so much! I feel much more intellectual with a glass of wine now.

After the wine tasting, we got another break to freshen up for a free four-course dinner as part of our orientation. Unfortunately, a downpour began outside and our feet were squelching across the cobblestone the entire way to the restaurant. However, the food made it worthwhile. The first dish was by far the best. It was a panini with some meat and cheese. I can't give specifics because I don't know them, but it was straight delicious. The meal was slightly awkward as we had an "interesting" fellow at our table. The sad part was he came from our home country. Lousy Americans.

We went out for a drink and found a small, chic bar with a gorgeous bartender. He spoke Spanish and had one of those movie star qualities about him. He seemed like a nice guy. I had to head home because I didn't want to be out all night before our first day of school. Only Victoria and I left to go to sleep so I felt like a buzz-kill, but school comes first. We get plenty of time to party.

Today went fairly smoothly. Classes were great! I felt awful because my head kept lolling over in psychology, not because I was boring (I love psych!), but because I was just unnaturally exhausted. There are only about twelve people in the class, so there really isn't room to be a nuisance. Thankfully, we got a break halfway through so I could try and wake up a bit.

I got my lunchtime gelato at Grom; it was magnificent. I got Crema di Grom under Espresso. There is nothing as delightful as that combination. My belly and taste buds were basically having a party from it. We then took a siesta, grabbed our ID cards, free museum passes, and fresh food at the market. I bought TWELVE things for 16€. I could never find anything like that in the States. Great quality for such a low price. Gosh, I just sounded like an advertisement. I'll explain that trip more later.

Tonight was a little frustrating. I really don't enjoy going out on school nights because then I'm up this late, making me want to sleep tomorrow. Hopefully, I can make it through the day! I did eat a whole pizza tonight, yet somehow a six-pack is forming. I'm confused. I'll take it, though.

Okay, I need sleep. I'll update later. Buonanotte!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Day 4: Cheers London and Ciao Florence

Our last day in London has arrived. Truly, I'm going to miss it. Though, I won't miss the cigarette smoking and the dirty air. I have been blowing soot out of my nose for the past two days, and my eyes are more irritated than after swimming in chlorine. I hope Florence has crisper air even though it will be hot. I'm ready for some nature where there aren't so many cars and buildings.

I swear I'm allergic to London. I have sneezed at least ten times today, my eyes are irritated, and my nose is infinitely itchy. It started yesterday, but it's only been getting worse. Hopefully, it ends tomorrow when I change scenes. I will miss London a lot because it is just gorgeous, but I really want to be in our apartment in Florence so I have a bed to come back to, and I can be a little messier with my things. Normally, I'm quite disorganized, but being in this hostel has broke me like a horse. That's ok, though, because it's a bad habit of mine anyway.

For our last day today, we had a few Strugglebus moments. Brittany's debit card disappeared, so that was a fiasco in itself. Luckily, she cancelled it before it was used if someone did steal it. We got running a little late today, and I was really tired. My allergies prevented me from being comfortable as we made our second round around London because Melissa hadn't seen the major tourist attractions yet. Also, the weather was bitter cold with gusty winds. We got a few pictures of straight hair because it flew in front of our faces, especially since my hair is getting a lot longer.

We got to see the Globe Theatre, which was phenomenal. It would've been great to be a Groundling, but we probably wouldn't make it to Stansted in a timely manner if we did. There was also this crazy golden guy that made my day. We also saw the Millenium Bridge (the one destroyed in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows). The previously claimed Millenium Bridge in one of my older posts actually wasn't the right bridge, but it was still enchanting! The walk was beautiful, and we kept it local, visiting some of our favorite spots, like Big Ben.

We went out one last time for good times' sake, and we did in fact have a good time. I didn't have to buy any drinks, and Melissa and I met some lovely British gentlemen. We got into a pretty intense conversation about accents, and asked them to try an American one. What does one of them come up with?

"Yo! Whaddu" - laughter. He couldn't even form a sentence. I guess we sound pretty thug. That's right, be scared of us Americans! Right...it was a good night, though. I tried German strawberry beer, but I didn't have my Guinness. I saved that for this morning at the airport, where I bought this angelic chocolate-filled croissant and a half-pint of my favorite Irish brew. I didn't sleep for about 36 hours, and I managed to rake in about 10 hours of sleep throughout my entire stay in London. I don't know how I survived this long, but I finally took the most glorious of siestas before getting cleaned up for tonight - our first night in Florence!

I must also say it is SO GOOD to have an apartment on the top floor overlooking the Duomo with 6 incredible roommates. We are going to have a blast. The rooms are furnished, the beds comfortable, and we have wifi! I'll admit, I literally got homesick for London after we left; it was the most discerning feeling like I'd actually left home. I haven't even felt that about the U.S. yet. Clearly, I'm in love with Europe and so blessed to have this opportunity. I'll probably say that a lot, but it just truly is such a beautiful experience. I may have missed some things that may have happened due to lack of sleep (no human should know the unrest I felt, oh my). I'll add more as I think of things, of course. I'm happy you can share in my travels! It is time for some authentic Italian pizza and some vino - a relaxing night. Ciao!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Day 3: Melissa, Platform 9 3/4, St. Paul's Cathedral, and Drunkenness

*I reread this (sober) and deemed it needed a few adjustments. I'm sorry if it was inappropriate - I just had a little bit too good of a night. The first sentence was priceless, though, because I unintentionally had a grammatical error; oh, the irony. But really, I like to at least try and be even a little bit classy.

I apologize in advance for any grammatical errors, etc. I'm the grammar queen, but I may or my not be very intoxicated. Haaaaaaaaaaaaa.

Melissa came into London today, and she is a riot. She is more on the Strugglebus than I am! That is a real feat because the struggle is so real. Though, the attractive marine left - no Americans for me, I guess. Sad day. (He actually didn't leave - some Aussie just stole his bed, and they exchanged a few hours in the wee hours of the morning. Both were drunk so it made the scene hysterical). However, I achieved my goal of not buying one drink and managing to have a great time via other drinks and befriending two British locals with Melissa.

Before life went wild, we went to Platform 9 3/4, therefore I'm a witch. I am a winner, and I clearly belong at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I took a smashing photo, and this was easily the highlight of my day.

We also saw St. Paul's Cathedral in the evening after searching relentlessly for Diagon Alley with no luck - STRUGGLEBUS. We walked down Baker Street for a good half hour. The cathedral was gorgeous, though. We took a million pictures trying to capture just the right one.

Like I mentioned earlier, we met two British guys at an outdoor bar. They waited until the second bar, which was German, to buy us drinks. They literally ordered the girliest drinks they could ask for - strawberry beer. I finished that pint, then we checked to make sure Brittany made it back to the hostel. She did, for the record, and was actually waiting for us! We met the two British guys at the bar two doors down, and I downed an entire Corona Extra. It was a great night. I need sleep, but the room is still spinning. Hopefully, I just pass out. I do NOT want to throw up. Maybe I'll finally get good sleep. Also, I think I found a potential doppelganger.

Okay, I'm done. And let me just say: my morals are intensely concrete. I'm such a damn rockstar. Aaand I'm out! Goodnight!

Day 2: Westminster Abbey, Hangover, and Pub Crawl

Today was interesting. First off, I woke up at frickin 6am because I couldn't sleep very well. I do miss my cloud, but not that much. I'm not really adjusted to the time, I don't think. However, no matter where I go, nighttime is my peak. I might go watch the sunrise in a few hours because Clay did that yesterday since he didn't sleep much either. I made my time productive by messaging sissy on Facebook. We get free breakfast between 7am and 9am, and I didn't want to wake Brittany up too early, so I waited until 8am.

When I woke up, I felt alright. Then, I felt a bit off at breakfast. Once we left for the day, I felt like complete shit. I now understand hangovers. I got more food in me and some water, but I didn't really feel 100% until I took a nap later in the day.

Okay, so after breakfast, we headed to the Underground where I bought my Oyster card, which is a pay-as-you-go card for the tube. I feel like a Londoner now; it's great. The only Strugglebus moment I encountered was that cardholders aren't allowed to add more onto the Oyster card twice in the same day. I had to go find a shop to exchange my money, and the guy still wouldn't give me all 10 pounds in coins. I managed, though, with my crappy Subway sandwich.

Clay, Brandon, Brittany, and I walked all through Westminster. It sprinkled a bit, and the temperature dropped, but otherwise it was fine. It took forever for us to find Buckingham Palace, though. We asked around, and this one guy straight pointed us in the wrong direction. Dumb Americans! We pretend we're Canadians sometimes because we know the U.K. isn't fond of us. What can we do? However, I do think how much the Brits dislike us is exaggerated in the States. People like to know where we come from and are curious about the differences in our lives. It can be nice as long as we're not doing or saying anything stupid.

We were told today in Adam & Eve, the restaurant we ate lunch in, that it was difficult to understand us. This turned me upside down because I couldn't imagine people not being able to understand American English. I pondered this for a good half hour and realized it must be valid because I don't understand what the Londoners are saying sometimes. I feel so dumb having to say, "What?!" a thousand times. It's weird. Although, I do catch myself saying things in a British accent or certain words are changing in my vocabulary (that's brilliant!). I hope it doesn't fade when I go back to the States. Go accents!

We took a nap for a few hours, as usual, once we got back to the hostel to reenergize for the night's Pub Crawl. This is where it gets interesting. After taking the tube to Leicester, we began at a bar called Verve. It was the classiest bar I've ever seen. There were sparkling chandeliers and modern lighting and furnishing. We got a free t-shirt (another to add to my collection - yes!) and free shots at all the bars. The Crawl was £10 itself, but it covered quite a bit.

The shot was, let's just say, not my cup of tea (punny!). It tasted like black licorice, and I'm not a fan of such flavoring. I figured they would switch it up at the next bar. Wrong! We downed our second shot of the stuff, which felt hot going down for a few minutes. I also had a pineapple and vodka to try and feel a little tipsy. I guess my body is adjusting to the alcohol rather quickly because drunkenness was obviously not an option last night. I did find someone that caught my eye and chatted with him a bit, but nothing happened. Yet.

I don't remember what the licorice alcohol was called, but I just googled it and came up with anis. Seems legit. Apparently it's 80-90 proof? I'll ask around today to get the actual name since I'm ballparking it right now, but I didn't feel buzzed at all. I guess it's time to go back to beer (more Guinness, please!)

We weren't really feeling the Pub Crawl, but continued on to the third bar anyway. Another licorice shot! I don't know why we kept taking them - they just were not tasty. Really, where's the tequila at?! Probably £8 or something ridiculous. The bars were pretty pricey. I've been avoiding converting money in my head because the conversion rate is painful. Darn U.S. economy!

Anyway, we snagged a table and were really feeling like dipping out. It just wasn't really that fun. This is where I get dumb. I was bored, so I decided to go mingle in the crowd and the guy from earlier finds me. He was with some obnoxious friends who kept taking my picture (sketch much?). We got to talking, not that we really understood each other because English wasn't his first language and the music was blasting, and his friends wanted to take another damn picture and motioned for us to kiss. Well...surprise! He was really attractive and foreign, so whatever. The friends started to get a bit aggressive and utterly annoying so I told them off and headed back to my friends. Clearly, it was time to leave.

We walked about two miles, then hailed a cab, which are very nice in London I must say. In fact, I really haven't seen a p.o.s. here. Not one. Walking around London at night is magical. It's a beautiful city - stinky, but beautiful. The lights dance on the Thames, and people are up all hours of the night. The architecture just looks that much grander with the sleepy shadows encasing the ancient structures. We appreciated their ornateness until one friend (I won't name names, *sigh*) peed in front of an embassy. And no, it was not me! Shake. My. Head. There were guards or something right down the pavement, too. Luckily, he didn't get caught, and we made it back in one piece. He was a little drunk, I'll give him that.

Some guy in front of us was talking about spaghetti sandwiches and how he wanted to invest in them, so we commented on it jokingly. He then asked if we were from Philly! Apparently he's been watching some guys on YouTube, and he's an expert now on Philadelphia. This just cracks me up because it's so random. Yes, of all the cities in the U.S., we must be from Philly because that's what he knows. We encouraged his spaghetti sandwich idea, though. I bet he'd make a fortune.

We also saw some guys definitely on the Strugglebus. They were attempting to both ride one bike down the road; it is highly probable they were drunk. They wobbled and giggled, and I was genuinely concerned they would get run over. They didn't, but we found them a few meters up crashed along the pavement laughing hysterically. The funny thing is they passed us a few minutes later going at it again! Priceless. This is why I don't need to buy souvenirs. These memories are better than anything I could've wished for. I should've recorded it, though. It was great.

You should also know London drivers do NOT mess around, hence why I feared for the bikers' lives. I would die if I drove here. Think of the scariest driving you've encountered. Now multiply that by ten. I suppose it may be comparable to New York. Also, the street signs are on buildings, not on the road. I know my way by landmarks now, and the only street I really know is where the Inn is. 'Tis a strange place.

This morning I couldn't sleep, so Clay and I went to watch the "sunrise". It was more of a shade rise because London skies are almost always gray, and the sun seems like a myth most of the time. Our arrival date was an exception, and I'm convinced Florida followed Brittany and me here, if only for the day. The skies doesn't change much, so it always feels later than it truly is. The "sunset" also doesn't happen until 10pm. Maybe that's why I can't sleep; I'm just never tired. It could be the naps, too. I don't know. I'm obviously just a opossum - I sleep in the light, and wake in the night. It doesn't matter which time zone I'm in, I guess.

Clay and I talked for a long time, and it's so nice to meet truly great people. He is a blessing. I was hoping to meet people from outside the country, but it feels just as good to meet others who are sharing the same experience as myself. I like that we have a lot in common and know we'd be great friends if we actually went to school together. There are beautiful people in this world from every walk of life. I think everyone needs to get out of their own backyard and learn about the cultures elsewhere. It completely changed my perspective on where I come from and wonder about why people behave or live a certain way. My mind is opening to a completely new place, and I'm so grateful for this opportunity. I don't think I can go back to being content with just staying in the States. There is so much world out there that needs to be explored. You can't get that by staying at home.

Today, our third amiga comes in. We don't have much planned since we've seen the main attractions, but we need to go to Platform 9 3/4, the Globe Theatre, St. Paul's Cathedral, and Abbey Road. I suppose we'll take the tube some more. I love public transportation, by the way. It gets us where we need to go in a timely manner and saves a lot of money and gas for the locals. I wish we had that in the U.S. Otherwise, I think it will be a relaxing day. I'm getting used to the city, so I'm feeling more comfortable with everything, except the smokers. I don't know if it's a European thing, but man! They are everywhere!

I'll keep you all posted about what's going on over here. More adventures to come! Cheerio!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Day 1 - What. Just what.

I'll just begin with my flight because, well, that's where this entire trip begins I suppose. Virgin Atlantic is AWESOME!!!! The food was great (surprise!), only one baby made a fuss twice throughout the entire seven hours, and I got to meet the most perfect Irish couple. I hope to be like them one day, traveling the world and holding one another close. Now that's real romance. This airline also had the most amazing movies to watch and music to listen to. I am so impressed. If I could fly Virgin Atlantic everywhere, I would. Not to mention, the flight attendants were incredible and an overnight pack with a toothbrush, toothpaste, pillow, blanket, and eye cover were all included. Why can't every airline be like this - sheesh! Also, the plane was so huge that it had a second floor - yes, a double decker plane. How is this even possible?

Enough about how brilliant my flight was - time for the good stuff. Today felt like an entire week in one day. First, we took the train from London Gatwick to London Bridge. By the way, I made it through customs without one single Strugglebus moment; go me! The currency is strange, but more on that later. The train took approximately 45 minutes (maybe?), and Brittany and I were only slightly turned around. We made it to the hostel without getting lost - again, a great feat. We checked in our luggage for a few pounds. She was on the Strugglebus, though, because her suitcase is enormous and wouldn't fit in the locker. Eventually, it worked out, and we headed out to explore.

We almost tried to get lost in order to discover some great London sights, but we didn't and saw some beautiful architecture and historical monuments. In other words, our legs and feel were complaining about all of the walking they hadn't done in a long while. We did find a great pub called The Draft House, which had, well, draft beers and the famous fish n' chips. The food was great, and my first legal drink (how precious) was pretty good. I got a Camden Pale Ale, of course, but it was a bit bitter. Plus, after all that walking and food, I was bound to experience some nausea. We made it back without me spewing anywhere like a volcano, though, and even got to check in early.

St. Christopher's Inn - London Bridge.
View from my bed.
The hostel is interesting - not bad - just interesting. There are 11 bunk beds (22 altogether), and we are next to the window in the corner, which is a nice spot. It allows some air to flow through, and it's away from the sunroof. There are cute American guys all around us, so I'm not complaining. They ended up being our London crew, so it really worked out nicely. The washrooms (not bathrooms!) are small and kind of sporadic. I had a real Strugglebus moment trying to shower - oh lawd. Basically, I got as sweaty trying to figure out how to get dressed without getting my wet feet on my clothes as walking around all morning. I managed somehow, but I felt just as nasty as before I showered. I did drop my makeup bag and shattered a section of my eye shadow, which saddened me, but at least I have the remaining shadows, and nothing else broke.

On a happier note, our attractive fellow American friends decided we wanted to do the Pub Crawl, but we missed it - go figure. Instead, I got some chicken wings and 2 for 1 vodka and pineapple juice, and we decided to try and get lost in London on our own. This was a fabulous idea - no sarcasm, either. We took the tube to Waterloo, enjoyed more beer (I downed a pint of delightful Guiness like a champ!), and viewed some great sights, like Big Ben and a random Shrek and cowboy. We lost two of our seven, but were reunited at the hostel during karaoke night. I was quite drunk by this time, but I sobered up enough to know I was NOT going to sing. The DJ conveniently cut off performers right as a friend and I were getting pressured into singing. I'm still slightly tipsy, but I'm ready for sleepy time. It was a wonderful day, and I'm so glad I have friends to go venturing around London with tomorrow. Off to the London Eye we go!

P.S. The accents were an immense amount of culture shock. I wanted to marry every British guy that walked by. Also, there are WAY more attractive men here than in the States. Just saying - the men need to get it together over there. I'll be damned if I end up marrying an American man. That is all. Ciao until tomorrow!

Monday, June 17, 2013

T-Minus 39 Hours

So, it has come down to counting hours. I'm finishing up that last-minute load of laundry, making the final highlights on my list of items to bring, and feeling thoroughly freaked out. I don't have many other things to do, but there is enough unfinished business to give me some anxiety. I suppose this is natural as it is my greatest adventure yet. Moreover, as my flight draws nearer, a maelstrom of chaos is beginning to develop in my mind. As frightening as this is, the wonderment of my impending expedition will surpass this mental frenzy. I can't believe how quickly time has passed.

Quick Update (I'm tired. It's Late.)

Father's Day was today, and my dad has been in town from San Antonio, Texas since last night. We went to the beach this afternoon, floated around in some choppy waves, and got some delicious Grouper sandwiches from Frenchy's. It's nice to finally be building a better relationship with him after eighteen years of frustration on both our parts. The distance keeps us closer, if you know what I'm talking about. I'm also seeing a lot more similarities between the two of us that are just uncanny. For instance, we have the awful habit of asking "What?!" after someone says something even though we actually heard what he or she said; we just need time to process it. Thus, my sister developed the Ten-Second Rule so she doesn't need to repeat herself. It actually works most of the time.

Another thing, I'm fighting the mother of all zits - of course, right before my trip. I think this inflamed imp is driving the Strugglebus all on its own. I'm battling it with some gel from an ibuprofen capsule placed directly on the area, though. My stepmom saw it on Pinterest, so it must be legitimate. I do love Pinterest - I actually have quite a few things I want to test out from my own boards. We'll see if this one works.

Besides being nearly completely packed, enjoying my pop's company, and fighting little red devils, I don't have much else to tell right now. It could be that it's 4:30am (most probably), and sleep is dragging my thoughts into the blankets, or I haven't had much going on. It's most likely the former. Stay off the Strugglebus, my friends. Goodnight!  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

T-Minus 6 Days - OMG

You know how a dog sticks his head out of the car window, ears flapping in the wind, tongue lolling out, and you just know that dog is having the time of his life. That's me right now. I am less than a week away from leaving the motherland for the first time. Meep!

I'm the Foreigner Now

I wonder what people are going to be like over there. I have this fear, I guess I could call it, that people are going to hate me because I'm American. There's the whole stereotype of the world hating America, but I've talked to some people who said nobody really cares. I hope the latter is the case. My dad suggested I stitch a Canadian flag on one of my bags (who doesn't like Canadians, really?). I'm not about to go on fabricating this elaborate identity, though, because I guarantee I'll actually meet someone from Canada and it'll just be a mess. So... 'Murica!

In the News of My Life...

One of my very good friends just got engaged to her boo thang, and I am just thrilled for her. I really mean it, too! Sometimes, you just nod your head and act excited, but in reality could care less what just happened. However, when I say I'm excited for her, I truly am. I watched the video of his proposal to her and was giggling like a school girl. It was terrible - my sister had to ask what I was doing or watching that was getting me so wild. She is just so precious, and I know they love each other so it's going to be a beautiful thing. 

Normally, I hesitate when my peers get engaged because we're just so young, and there is so much to experience out there before getting tied down. Don't people want to travel, get their careers started, and go out with their crew and get wild? There's no one to answer to - unless you have overly involved parents; in that case, I am so sorry for you - and no one to present conflicts with when it comes to school, activities, and work. Maybe it's just my being single and self-serving attitude, but I feel like there is so much to do before settling down to plan a wedding, kids, and basically forever. I've always been a free spirit, though, and I'm not sorry at all about how I'm living my life. The fact that I couldn't fathom getting married, or even getting involved in a serious relationship, for another five years or so is a benefit personally. I'm not ready to multiply my problems by two, but some people are. Everybody's different, and I praise those who figure these things out early because it's something that I'm just not ready for. But really, imagine being tied down to someone while Italian and British hunks walk by left and right. I don't think so. 

I'm not saying if I meet my future husband tomorrow, I'll politely decline. Of course, I'll take him! I'm just waiting for the right one to come along; I don't mind exercising patience in this area of my life. I know God has someone out of this world planned for me, and I don't want to jump the gun for someone who doesn't mean absolutely everything to me. I think that's where a lot of relationships fail. People settle. Don't do this. You don't deserve to be anything less than happy, and they don't deserve to be with someone who doesn't fully appreciate them. Besides, you would be stripping someone else of the opportunity to love that person in ways you never could. It's a win-win situation for everyone if you just give life some time to bring you and your perfect person together. 

Now that I'm done being a relationship guru (who even reads this stuff?), a wonderful thing happened last night. My sister and I have been on the Strugglebus because we're running out of food, and she doesn't get paid until Friday. First world problems. Anyway, our friend came over to watch Lord of the Rings with us, knew we were low on food, and bought us a frozen pizza at FOUR IN THE MORNING. He confided that Jesus told him to get us something after he left for the night and picked up the best frozen pizza he could find. God works in such mysteriously wonderful ways. I'm now going to make that frozen pizza for dinner. It's a good day.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

T-Minus 7 Days - Wait...ONE WEEK?! *Gasp*

I'm getting all packed, and I'm truly almost there! I still need my flight from Florence to London, but I'm not too worried about it. My travel buddies just need to get it together because I've been ready to buy a flight for three days now.

I also survived another orientation today. I was more comfortable onstage, which actually was not as beneficial as I might have hoped. A few "ums" escaped, and I almost drew a few blanks today. When people say they never say the same thing twice when public speaking, they aren't joking. I got a ballpark number of how many people I was in front of, and it was about 600-650 incoming freshmen and parents. That's a real feat if you ask me!

Here's a funny Strugglebus moment I encountered today:

Once I was done with my four minutes of fame, I went to make a few copies of my passport in the Marshall Center computer lab. I was trying really hard to figure out how to scan my passport and I couldn't figure out where to send it - it was just a mess. So, there I am tapping relentlessly on the screen with no luck, and I'm certain I'm hearing the same struggle next to me. I finally give up and look to my left where I find mutual failure. He asked if I was trying to scan my passport, and I replied that I was. It turns out he was, too! I then inquired where he was headed. What are the odds he's also studying abroad in Florence? Frazzled and adventurous minds think alike, I suppose.

Luckily, a girl to my right is also studying abroad soon - in a different location - and saved the day. I got my passport scanned, printed, and ready as a backup in case something goes awry. But really, what are the odds of this madness?!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

T-Minus 10 Days

A week and a half is left until I leave. Holy. Fudge. I started packing already! I'm pretty sure this is the first time I haven't procrastinated in a long time. Go me!

The last couple days have actually been really great! The Strugglebus has clearly stopped for maintenance or something so I haven't been riding it so much. We did have a couple of tornadoes nearby from Tropical Storm Andrea. I drove back from USF during all of the warnings on the radio. That was an adventure.

I was at USF because I was speaking for the Office of Undergraduate Research in those khaki pants I was complaining about. The Orientation Team Leaders (OTLs) and some other speakers said I did a good job. Thank goodness! It was so much different being onstage than preparing for it. It seems like an obvious thing to say, but it is absolute truth. I couldn't get through a single run either in my head or out loud without pausing, laughing, or saying something strange or inappropriate. However, once I got up there with the mic in hand, I put on a performance just like I used to for dance shows or musicals in high school. I wasn't nervous once I actually spoke, but before that, I'm almost certain my heart was going to leap out of my chest. I survived this time and apparently looked pretty snazzy, too. One orientation down, two to go!

Speaking of speaking, I heard a fabulous message by the pastor from Elevation Church (I forgot his name - Steven Something? Shame on me!) It was about the gap between expectation and experience. I fit the model so well, it was sickening. I realized that I oftentimes try to impose my expectations on other people, but that's not right. Like Martha, who was complaining to Jesus about her lackadaisical sister, I sometimes miss the beauty of the experiences I'm having because I'm too focused on the immaculate vision fabricated in my mind. Things don't always go as planned, but there is always a reason for the place we end up.

I miss messages like that at my church because I feel like numbers are the main focus sometimes, and that's not what a walk with Christ is about. It's about following Jesus' example and living like Him. I'm Christian, but I honestly get sick of other Christians sometimes because they act self-righteous instead of selfless. The crazy ones, like the old guy in front of Cooper Hall that calls every passerby a whore, give us a pretty bad rap. I suppose every religion/set of believers deals with these stereotypes, though.

On a giddier note, I discovered I have an affinity for b-boy style dance. My background in gymnastics and dance are perfect for me to delve into it. A good friend of mine has some sweet moves that I want to learn. I miss dance a lot, but since my disk herniated, it's difficult to train like I used to. I hope this is something I can really get into because I've wanted to do something somewhat athletic, but creative as well. Maybe I'll find a crew; that would be awesome! All this jumping around has tuckered me out, so I'm going to snuggle in my blankets - a.k.a. the cloud. Goodnight!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

T-Minus 13 Days

I am less than two weeks away from my greatest adventure yet! The only thing stopping me is a set of freshman orientations I have to speak at and hurricane season. Please, please, please let there be no wild storms headed to Florida on the 18th. There's already an almost tropical storm outside, but that's nothing - just some inconsistent downpours. That brings me back to my first day of college when I actually didn't have a first day because tropical storm Isaac was to make landfall. Psych! It turns out, Isaac wasn't about the Florida life and gave us a nice sunny day off instead. Thank you, sir.

The forecasters claim this season is going to be active in the Bay area. I made a snarky comment about how that's stupid because we don't get hurricanes anyway. I think I may have jinxed the weather. Maybe I jinxed it back by saying that so now it won't be very active. Either way, I won't be here to see it unless a storm brews up in August.

I hate these pants. I had to buy business casual pants to work orientation, and I didn't want black so I searched for some khakis. I tore apart the mall yesterday to find something and still left empty-handed. Whenever I'm looking for something, I can't find it; when I'm just browsing and don't intend to get anything, I come home with an armful of clothes. How does this make any sense? Also, what college student majoring in nothing business-related needs business clothes right now?! I'm really on the Strugglebus today. I finally found some today that I guarantee I'll only wear once - technically three times, one for each session. Nevertheless, stores need to get it together and order some decent khaki pants. My new dilemma is finding a shirt. I just can't find one to wear because everything looks ridiculous with these pants. I wish I could just go in my pajamas.

Even if I could, the fact that I'm on my own up there talking to hundreds of freshmen is terrifying. I dread this kind of stuff, even if it is for three minutes. I think it goes back to the outfit. I don't feel confident in it. No - these pants can't defeat me. If I can make a twenty-five minute presentation for an honors class, I should be able to manage three measly minutes for some bored kids. I used to dance and perform in theatrical productions for goodness' sake. I will own this presentation. And I will look good. And I will seize the wheel of that Strugglebus and drive it to success.

That, my friends, is how you win a battle against yourself.

Monday, June 3, 2013

T-Minus 15 Days

I'm basically down to the 2-week mark, and I'm freaking out a little bit about traveling. I still haven't determined how I'm getting from London to Florence, but I'm sure I'll make it. Another student wants to tag along, so I feel like a third person will be really fun and better to travel with, but we shall see. I'm stopping by my campus to make some copies of my passport, and I have a pocket-sized defense mechanism I'm borrowing from a friend so I won't deal with any funny business while I'm overseas. I'm going to miss my pals here, but I can't wait for some new adventures!

My sister, a good friend, and I went to a little country shop today in a sweet new Ford pickup. I'm not a country girl, but I could mix it up every once in awhile. It's funny how I used to swear off country music, camo, and anything with a twang. Now, I want to go shooting, buy a knife, and I even appreciate country music when it's on in the car. There's a season for everything, and I obviously needed to open my mind to all of the different lifestyles out there. It's far more fulfilling to see the beauty in unfamiliar things than to criticize them without dipping a foot into the water. 

This is why I want to travel the world. There is so much to learn from everybody else. Ideally, I want to find a career that allows me to do this, but I have no idea what would cater to my desires and utilize all of my intelligence. I hope I figure it out soon because it's stressing me out, and I don't want to be in undergraduate school longer than I have to. Eh, first world problems. I'm just waiting for it to slap me upside the head so I can lay out a career. I'm glad I have the decision to do whatever I want, but I hate actually sticking to one. I just don't want to hate my job when I'm older. I have a general plan but no details - like piecing together the border of a puzzle, but the inside pieces are still strewn about the table. I'll get there, though. That's what they say, anyway. 

I have one more complaint about life, and then I'll hush up for the night. I have had killer back pain. Seriously, I have the spine of a ninety-year-old, not a nineteen-year-old. Herniated discs are no joke. There is no cure unless I get surgery, and, being a first-class passenger on the Strugglebus, I have the rarest kind of herniation so the pain will never go away. Even if surgery was performed, there is a 25% chance that it will re-herniate, and I'll be back at square one. Worth it? Nah, not yet anyway. The surgeon said most patients' pain subsides after about six months, but I was an exception once again. Maybe I'll get surgery next year; knowing my procrastination, it'll be another ten years.

On the bright side, I'm still fully functioning and had a wonderful day today. It's time for some Mexican food - fresh out of the kitchen - and a good workout (last day of my squat challenge!). If you're on the Strugglebus daily like me, just remember: there's a Strugglebus even shoddier than yours. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

T-Minus 18 Days

It seems like just yesterday my trip was barely an idea. It's kind of funny how it all began now that I think about it. I always wanted to experience the world, but never really intended to during college. I expected to be another broke college student living off of Ramen noodles in a stuffy room. Luckily, I haven't undergone such hardships. Work hard in high school kids because scholarships are a saving grace. Now, back to how I decided to study abroad:

The first event occurred when I had to attend a study abroad fair for a pre-med informational class I was taking. I needed credit and absolutely dreaded going to this thing. The instructors said to stay for an hour, but I knew it wasn't supervised and who am I kidding? No one ever stays for the required time anyway. So, I intended to power walk through the tables and dip out the first chance I got. Of course, things didn't quite turn out the way I planned.

I had just gotten out of class, and it was sweltering outside, where the fair was, of course. I sighed and headed down the aisle of decorated tables; I could hardly see where they ended. Since I had to write about my "experience", I was forced to talk to some of the representatives. However, something magical happened. I met the love of my life. Ha! Just kidding, but I did find something I love. These sharks had reeled me in, and I actually considered studying abroad. I believe I spent an entire hour there, maybe even more so, learning about another student's adventures in Italy, opportunities at Cambridge, a semester in Australia. The possibilities were endless. I returned to my dorm with a handful of pamphlets and a small gear turning in my mind.

The second event that led me to studying abroad was a project for my anthropology class during my first semester - one of those horrendous ten-page papers where you have to interview strangers about a lame topic. It was one of those projects that is especially painful for people like myself who feel like their disrupting people's days for a few stupid questions for some class they hate. After battling my introversion and contacting a few people, I unintentionally found myself in the Study Abroad Office. I set up an interview with someone in the workplace and begrudgingly headed up to it a few days later. Nonetheless, I had a wonderful time hearing about this young woman's experience in so many countries. I could just sit and listen for days if I could. Again, this was not what I was expecting, and when I admitted I was considering it, she encouraged me wholeheartedly to go for it.

I let the idea tinker around some more, weighed the costs, and narrowed my options down to two programs - Italy and Ireland. I asked friends, stared at the pamphlets relentlessly, and finally realized why Italia was the best option (considering the cost was nearly the same for each). Food. What is that boot notorious for? Only my favorite thing! Also, it's very tourist friendly, and that's kind of important for someone who's never left the motherland. Sad, I know, but I think I made the right choice.

How did London and Paris get thrown in there? Fun. If I'm going out of the country, I might as well make it count. The flights were also the cheapest to book. However, they're turning out to be... I wouldn't say a poor decision, but are taking unnecessarily arduous planning. Things will pull together, I'm sure. Prayers would be much appreciated. And money. Mostly prayers, though, since I don't expect cash to flow my way anytime soon. Darn Past Me did not budget right! I swear I have a lifetime pass on the Strugglebus.