Sunday, May 26, 2013

Home Sweet Home

First thing in the U.S.: Order a medium-caramel swirl iced coffee, cream, no sugar; turkey, chedder, and bacon on a roll, and a toasted chocolate chip bagel with butter at Dunks. The guys definitely thought I was so weird. But it was so delicious. Nora and I rolled in the driveway at approximately 12:30 and it was so nice to finally be home, even though it was approximately 6:30 am Italy time, and I had been up since 7:30 am Italy time to say goodbye to the kids before school. The flight was fine except I didn't sleep on the place because it was too early to so it was a long flight and we had to wait on the plane after we landed for half a hour. It was slightly painful. But I entertained myself with Super Smart Animals, Sex and the City, Desperate Housewives, The Guilt Trip, and all the delicious airplane food and free alcohol. It's pretty surreal to be home, I definitely already miss some things, but a 24 hour Dunks was nice andddddd BACON FOR BREAKFAST!! Wooo. So all is right in the world. I'm so blessed to have had to this experience and I can't wait to see how it changes my experiences in the U.S. But I'm also counting down the days til I can return. Krazy Kate, though possibly more aptly named Kasino Kate now, out.

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Perfect Last Night

The sky cried for us (words of Marissa) all day Friday as a symbol of all the rain we brought to Padova this year. We ate on last time at Passione Pizza (artichoke and sausage pizza - how am I ever gonna eat pizza in the U.S. again?) and the woman gave us a free foccacia with Nutella. It was amazing. We then bought flowers for our host family and continued home to pack. Now things get exciting. I met my friend Ilaria in the piazza for a Spritz at 5:40, we then joined up with Mary Grace and her family, along with Linda's sister Laura. Linda arrived just in time to accompany me to the meeting spot for our VESPA RIDE. Alberto and Gianmaria were so incredibly nice and took me and Amanda out for Spritzes before our Vespa rides!! We talked about all sort of things. They are definitely older, but I have no idea how older, but Gianmaria is pursuing a PhD in physics in Germany. They think I'm weird because I have chickens and go to a university with monkeys. While we were walking to the Vespas, they asked why I asked them for these Vespa rides when there was a piazza full of people ahahha. Fishing for compliments I think. The Vespas were beautiful. It was a glorious moment indeed. They let us take lots of pictures, but my camera was being really dumb so once I get better pictures from Amanda I'll add those as well. They drove me to my house so I was home in time for dinner. Tommaso got to meet them as well. I was so happy to have one last Italian dream come true. I had a wonderful last dinner with my family. I gave Chiara and Tommaso their Bucknell T-shirts so they can rock the orange and blue. Tommaso is of course swimming in his because he's so skinny. I then returned to the piazza for a few more spritzes with all my best of friends. Linda and Ilaria met us as well. I couldn't have imagined it any other way. We saw Alberto and Gianmaria again and they continued to laugh at us, but I think they also felt really cool because all my friends knew who they were and wanted to know about the Vespa ride. On our way back to the car, Linda and Ilaria and I got one last Italian crepe. It was delicious. I honestly couldn't imagine ending my Italian life any other way. Ilaria gave me a bracelet in the car. We sat and talked for a few minutes trying to ignore the goodbyes that loomed ahead. But I know I will see everyone again some day. This is definitely not the end. Everything is now packed and I will get on the bus at 11:00 for the airport. I will be in New York at 7:30 tonight. Absolutely surreal. Ben fatto, Italia. It's been absolutely amazing.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Epic Vespa Search Continues

Nicola has disappointed me. After we initially met him Saturday, I texted him Monday and asked what time he was working so we would get an aperitivo. He said he would wait for us and signed the message "Baci" which means kisses. When we arrived, he told us that he found another friend with a Vespa so the four of us could go together!! To the hills!! Which are at least half an hour away for a bit of vino. It was definitely a jaw-dropping moment and Mary Grace and I were so excited, which of course was only topped when he said "Baciami" or "kiss me" as we were leaving, so we of course gave him the normal kisses on the cheek. The next day, however, when we went for another aperitivo with our Italian friends Linda and Laura, Nicola started acting weird. He had a strange reaction when I told him in Italian to not stand me up, and he never responded to my text. So Nicola got the cut and I was mad at him because I lost two days of Vespa searching. But in the meantime, shared lots of fun times with friends and took pictures with our favorite pizza place people who are husband and wife! Wednesday was our last day of exams. I rocked my Italian final, had a little and by little I mean big crying meltdown when my Marine Ecology professor told me that I should have taken her final in English, but that wasn't the point. Anyway, that's in the past so it doesn't matter. I put in so much work and learned so much from that class and my friends all said really nice things about me and made me feel better. Then, I met up with my friend Annachiara for a last time to catch up and say bye. I hate goodbyes. In the evening, the fun started because we were all ready to celebrate the end of exams. Amanda, Mary Grace, and I ate dinner in the piazza. This one waiter was for some reason in love with me and told me that I ate slow because I talk too much and he knows this because he was watching me...okay buddy. At the end of dinner, Mary Grace pointed out a table with two boys. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. I walked up to the table and said "Excuse me, I have a question. By chance, does one of you have a Vespa?" The answer: Both. I asked, "Really? Seriously?" and with confirmation, I pulled up a chair, sat down, and said "Here is the situation." I explained how we needed to go on a Vespa ride before Saturday etc. etc. and got Roberto's (though his name might be Alberto) phone number. After meeting up with others in the piazza we walked to Navigli which is the summer university outdoor bar scene. I continued playing my new favorite game, "Do You Have a Vespa?" Made lots of friends, even those without Vespas. One guy asked if he could marry me. I can't remember why though - I think I successfully learned a curse word in dialect and was using it properly. Anyway met another guy with a Vespa, got his number la di da. I was with all my favorite American and Italian friends and life was perfect. I never wanted the night to end. After Navigli, Linda and Laura drove us all to this other place, an outdoor club with sand and a beach theme to end the evening. We finally collected everyone around 3 am to head home, making it a true Italian night indeed. Today, we have our final lunch with the program. We went to the hills and visited a beautiful villa. It was a lovely time and the beginning of all the goodbyes, but I was able to take photos with all my favorite professors! (and our favorite barista!) Goodbyes are the worst, and many tears have already been shed, and the end is still far. But then it was quite exciting to receive a message from Roberto/Alberto to say that tomorrow was better for Vespa rides!!! I didn't even have to text him first!! Which is fantastic that I didn't scare them away with my aggressive moves. If all goes to plan, I can install the final chapter of the Vespa quest tomorrow!!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Why Study When You Can Blog?

The most exciting thing happened last night. It is well known by all my friends here that I have been on an active search for a ragazzo (preferably cute and single) with a Vespa because I obviously can’t leave Italy without riding on a Vespa through Padova. But thus far, my search has come up empty even though I can recite my lines flawlessly: “Ciao. Per caso, hai una Vespa? Sto cercando un ragazzo figo con una Vespa perche’ sogno di andare in Vespa prima di ritornare negli Stati Uniti” (translation: Hey! By chance, do you have a Vespa? I’m searching for a cute boy with a Vespa because I dream of taking a Vespa ride before returning to the United States). Returning to last night, Mary Grace and I were planning to have dinner in the piazza, but our restaurant was still in the process of setting up their tables so we said what the heck, let’s get an aperitivo (a before-dinner drink). Once we ordered, I decided that I needed to ask our waiter if he had a Vespa. He sadly said no, and after inquiring as to why we were asking, said “Chiedero’ tutti i ragazzi” (I will ask all the boys!) and he ran off. He returned in a few minutes and announced that he said found a Vespa, but after a few moments of miscommunication, we discovered that he hadn’t found us a boy with a Vespa, he had asked to borrow someone’s Vespa so that he could take us himself on this Vespa. So we ordered another round of drinks to continue this song and dance. Little by little we gathered more information such as his name (Nicola – though he was quite afraid that it was a girl’s name in English) and his phone number. We decided that since he was working Sunday and Monday that Tuesday or Wednesday would be best for this Vespa ride. Then he brought us free shots. It was the first time in my life that I’ve ever received a free shots, and after doing some casual math, we came to the conclusion that he spent approximately seven U.S. dollars on us, and therefore must love us. So Mary Grace and I anxiously await the coming days, and I will obviously keep you updated. A few other things: Tommaso is getting restless. Whatever little control I had over him is now gone. He is always on my Facebook and messing around. I think the kid’s going to be devastated when I leave. But I did get a little revenge the other day when he forgot his keys and I took a picture of him locked outside the gate and put it on Facebook. Revenge tastes so sweet. I have to entertain myself somehow as I study because I’m getting quite bored of it. Even though I’m pretty devastated that I’m missing Bucknell graduation this year, these past two weeks in Italy have been my favorites. I feel so comfortable with everything here now and it’s so sad that I have to leave so soon. Yesterday Amanda and I went to the Botanical Garden, which was beautiful and serene and spent some time in the sun at our last market in Prato della Valle. Finally I would like to make one last announcement: I MISS MY PARENTS AND MY BROTHER VERY MUCH AND I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE THEM WHEN I GET HOME. LOVE YOU.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Countdown Begins

I'm in Italy for 9 more days. Today I finished classes and now only finals remain, Monday-Wednesday, one each day. From here on out, every day is an absolute roller coaster of emotions. A mix of holding on, ready to let go, sadness from good-byes, excitement for what's ahead. It's krazy to think it's all coming to an end. So here is where I draw my lines. Things I will miss: 1. Hanging out in piazzas and drinking spritzes. I don't know how America miss the memo on both of these. Especially the piazzas. 2. My family clapping and cheering when I successfully make fun of Tommaso. 3. Helping out in my Italian research lab with all the fish and chatting with Alessandro. 4. The ease with which I can find, buy, and eat crepes. My stomach hasn't accepted this truth yet. 5. The little victories when I use the imperfect subjunctive correctly or get the grammar right the first time instead of the third. 6. Grabbing coffee at the bar. 7. Using swear words that make all the Italians laugh. 8. Wine with every dinner. (Bucknell, I would like you to know that the mensa has both beer and wine in the soda machine) 9. Doing homework out on the terrace at school. 10. All of my Italian friends and my wonderful host family. Things I will not miss: 1. People who walk with massive umbrellas under covered side walks. 2. People constantly trying to sell me shit I don't need by calling me "bella" (a. how original. b. Flowers die. c. I don't smoke. Even if I did, I wouldn't want a lighter in the shape of a toilet. Or a pistol. d. I already have sunglasses on my face - why would I buy another pair? e. I'm 21 years old. I don't need a light up ball that you throw around at night.) 3. My half hour walk to school. 4. My sit-down shower. 5. Lack of microwave and dryer. 6. Lack of Dunkin Donuts and bacon. 7. Expensive drinks. 8. On second thought, expensive everything. 9. Facebook conversations with U.S. friends. 10. T9 texting. Things I'm excited for: 1. Summer at Bucknell, obviously. 2. David's graduation. 3. Getting my haircut. 4. Getting my official over 21 driver's license. 5. Being legal in the U.S. 6. Jamming out in my car. 7. MIDNIGHT!! Things I'm not excited for: 1. Coming to terms with the fact that I'm going to be a senior in college. 2. Figuring out what the hell I want to do with my life.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Last Travel Weekend - Going Out With a Bang

Within a timespan of 24 hours this weekend, I stepped foot in 7 different cities. But I'll get to that in a bit. Friday I had a field trip with my Italian cinema class to a town called Chioggia which is close to Venice. A recent film called Io Sono Li was filmed there and we were meeting with a photographer who worked on the film to explore the city for a day to get a feel for the setting before watching the movie. Once again, our professor Guilia is awesome, so I told her that I could tour two more churches just for her. But after the churches we went to a fish market which was awesome! All sorts of fresh seafood and the vendors would joke with you and try to scare you with fish...but come on I'm not scared of a shrimp sorry. One guy gave me a star fish though which was awesome. The photographer, Massimo, who's this crazy hippie-ish guy took candid pictures of us all day which was really cool. He also suggested that we go to this restaurant for lunch. Except it's not really a restaurant. There's no menu and no prices. You just go to this guy Jackie's house and he cooks whatever he has caught for the day. Guilia warned us that it was a strange place, kind of looked like a crypt, but the food was good. Strangest. Experience. Ever. Words can't describe, but we all made it out alive...and better than that...decently tipsy - because only in Italy can you go on a field trip and get slightly drunk around your professor. But she said the only rules were we couldn't drive the boat or fall in the water. After lunch we went on a boat trip around the lagoon! It was a beautiful afternoon, sunshine, music on the boat, and just so much fun! We stopped at a beach and I put my feet in the Adriatic Sea!! After the field trip, Amanda and I got ready for our big night train adventure. We had a minor freak out when we thought we had lost a train ticket, and after frantically looking, realized that one of the tickets was for two adults. We were then ready for journey from Padova to Verona to get on the night trip before switching in Rome at 6 am to arrive in Napoli at 8 am. Unforunately we had this horribly mean lady in our cabin. When I sat down, she put her smelly feet on my seat and didn't move them all night! And at one point when I was all curled up in my seat because the seats were so uncomfortable and freezing cold and my neck hurt - I kid you not her foot were fondling my ass. Like put yo feet on your own seat lady. You do not own this cabin. But, since the night train was such a low point, everything could only get better. Once in Napoli we explored for a few hours. The guide book described it as a city of contradictions and indeed it was. It was a pretty dirty city, and many times when I felt uncomfortable, but then there would be random beautiful buildings (okay we went inside one church, but only one) and scoured the streets for a pizza place that would be open at 10:30 am. We sort of succeeded, but it was definitely only first lunch. We then hopped on another train and proceeded to Pompeii!! So cool to finally go to a place that I have studied so much. It was quite serene and so interesting. Eerie but nature-y. We placed don't touch the lava and jumped from rock to rock. Too soon? Maybe. After Pompeii, we finally headed to Sorrento (the 7th city in 24 hours) and arrived in our little camp site. We stayed at this adorable little bungalow. The campsite had a pool so we chilled there for a bit. We headed into town for dinner and checked out the port etc. Here's the thing about the South. Everyone is SOOO friendly. We made so many friends in all the little shops on the street. Everyone wants to talk with you and it was so nice to use our Italian so much. I bought some pistachio cream from a shop because it's my favorite and I had never seen it in a purchase-able form!! We went to bed as early as we could to prepare for our next epic day. In the morning, we rose and had free breakfast at the campsite. Then we hopped on a boat for CAPRI!!! My first time to an island. It was amazingly breathtaking. I obviously can't put it into the words, and the pictures can't do it justice. We started off our day haggling with cute boys for the best price for a boat trip around the island to see the grottos and cliffs. Beautiful indeed. We then pleaded and pleaded with Mother Nature to keep the sun out so we could take some beach time and go swimming!! The water was gorgeous and so refreshing!! We explored the center town - so ritzy. Beautiful hotels though. Expensive. One was 1000 euro a night. But crazy beauty everywhere. Then comes the interesting part. While we were walking we saw a sign that said danger falling rocks, with a little sign underneath that said "the last paradise of Capri" soooo we started walking down this cliff on this narrow little trail and essentially stumbled across this little nudist colony. It was such an interesting experience. They were very nice and the guy in charge let us going swimming (we kept our suits on don't worry) and we jumped off a cliff and then the guy gave us a CD with three songs that he's written throughout his life. So intriguing. So bizarre. We then headed back to centro and climbed up to Anacapri, which I guess is a different town on the same island or something like that. Then we got on our boat and headed back home. Important things that then happened: caught up with all of our friends in the street shops. Purchased a limoncello glass, and had a limoncello cream crepe. Oh man. It was so deliciously ridiculous. Wow. Wish I had an endless supply. Ok best part. We were walking back to our campsite along this windy road that climbs up this cliff and has amazing views of the port. We heard this loud noise. I hesitated for a second and then thought "oh man" and slowly turned around to see a huge firework explode over the harbor. That's right. Italian fireworks over the Sorrento harbor to end our last excursion of the semester. It was so unreal. I definitely shed a tear or two. I wish Dad could've been there to see it. We had a lovely dinner at the restaurant at the camp site. We made great friends with the waiters. Omg I stumbled across this crazy ugly mini-mechanical bull, but was quite excited obviously. Then we went to bed because we had an early morning with a 6:50 train to catch. But one final story. We were walking along the rode to the train station and some guy in his driveway asked if we were going in centro and needed a ride. In the U.S. I would never get into some random dude's car, but man, the South just makes you trust people. He was so incredibly nice and dropped us off right at the train station so that we had enough time to get coffee before starting our long trek back home. Luckily we used Italotreno instead of Trenitalia, which is such a far superior train company and we actually have a love affair with them. I'm so happy that my last train ride was with them instead of Trenitalia even though we were 20 minutes delayed (I still think it was somehow Trenitalia's fault) so I missed my entire class instead of part of it, but oh well. It was a memorable weekend and I'm glad I was able to experience the South because I'm taking a whole course on it next semester! I can't believe I only have two weeks left. It's krazy times indeed.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Best Weekend Yet: Pisa & Cinque Terre

Let me just start by saying: holy hell. This weekend was amazing. Marissa, Amanda, Ashley, and I were rockstars. We kick off Friday by training it up to Pisa, as a quick stop off before our main destination. Thankfully we were only there for two hours because we at this point have low-tourist tolerance. We didn't climb the Leaning Tower but we took all the classic pictures. And ate at Subway, which in hindsight, was maybe one of the highlights. U.S. food cravings are more frequent now, and quite hard to fight. Then we headed to CINQUE TERRE!! We stayed in this awesome little apartment in the first town, Monterosso, owned by this cute little women Antonella, who was so helpful and nice. We kicked things off right away with a hike along a trail in the opposite direction of the the other towns just to see what it was like. We were so happy to be out in the fresh air, away from cities and churches and museums....and then of course when we got to the top there was an old abandoned church. I'm telling ya, you cannot escape from the churches in Italy. However, if you are hiking in a bathing suit top then Jesus won't let you in, so you only have to look from the outside. Anyway, it was a pretty intensive hike. Afterwards, we were domestic and went grocery shopping for breakfast and dinner for the next day. We ate at this restaurant at which Antonella got us 10% off and played the most awesome game of Would You Rather? (Would you rather have spaghetti hair or light bulb eyes? Would you rather have muffin hands or corduroy skin? Would you rather have a unibrow that can't be shaved or an endless supply of bellybutton lint?) Headed to bed early as always to rest up for the day. (Sign says "Avoid Loud Noises" Obviously that didn't happen.) We started off the morning with a baller homecooked breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast. And then started off our day by hiking to the second town Vernazza and then to the third town Coniglia. I literally cannot describe in words the epic beauty of these places. The trails aren't easy because there is so much altitude change, but the views are so so worth it. In Vernazza we had lunch at this crazy pirate restaurant and a Belgian couple asked to take their picture with us because we were exotic. In Coniglia, we met these two women at a gelato shop who said they walked to the fourth town, but the shortest path was closed, so they took a longer, 3 hour path. They gave us their directions, and we just had a moment of clarity when we decided that we had to do it. It was the hardest hike of my life. But so beyond worth it, as I said, can't put into words. When we got to the fourth town, after we explored for a bit we found out the normal walking path was closed. So we went to the Information Office and the lady told us we could walk along the car road. We had to. At this point, I couldn't stand still because my legs would start shaking but we absolutely had to finish all 5 Terre. It was an amazing ending. We arrived to the final town, Riomaggiore, in just enough time to run through town with this energy that came from God knows where to the rocks to sit down and watch a gorgeous sunset. Then we traveled via train (our bodies deserved a rest) back to our little Monterosso and in the most efficient way possible (we outlined the plan on the train: Kate - boil water, pour wine, set table; Marissa - cut veggies; Amanda - do your pesto pasta thing; Ashley - cook chicken) cooked a most fantastic dinner. Then we passed out for the night, only to awake to the sound of thunder and downpouring rain in the morning. Which was quite sad indeed as it became apparent that we would not be rewarded for yesterday's hiking with a day laying on the beach. So we turned instead to souvenir shopping as we needed some material possessions with which to remember this weekend. I bought a cute dress but the find of the day was popping into this artsy little store where we started talking with this girl who had studied abroad her junior year in Siena (where we had all visited) and was now working for this Italian couple in the little art store, but also made a lot of the jewelry that was sold there. She had such a cool story and we were all very inspired. I bought this special necklace because out of all the places I have traveled this semester, I felt most connected and happy in Cinque Terre and I'm happy to have a piece of it to carry with me always. After a delicious lunch of more pesto pasta and a beautiful place of mixed anchovies (devastated that I forgot a food pic) we went to dip our feet in the Mediterranean now that the rain had stopped. After climbing out onto the rocks (where at one point Ashley hysterically fell, but was unharmed) Amanda and I decided we had to jump in. We stripped down as much as we publicly could and jumped in. It was SO cold but very exhilarating. We ran back to the apartment to quickly change and hop on the train only to find that one of our connecting trains was suspended but for some godly reason that cannot be described, Trenitalia was nice today and we had no problems taking alternate trains and still arriving home at the same time that we would have. I am still floating in heaven a little bit from this weekend and I know I will have fond memories of it for a long time.