Sunday, March 24, 2013
"Remember that time we woke up in Paris?" was precisely what I said as I rolled over in bed Friday morning. We started off the day with a trip to (oh dear, let me google how to spell this because French sounds nothing like it looks - I swear the middle of the word just disappears) Sacre Coeur, a beautiful church on a hill. We then returned to the Eiffel Tower for a daytime viewing and were this time able to climb the stairs. We made lots of friends in the lines, especially an Australian family and a couple from Orlando, Florida on their 15th wedding anniversary. Then we started trekking towards the Arc de Triomphe, which we also climbed (and for free, even better) and then we wandered around Avenue des Champs-Elysées. We saw these kids in awesome coats, and we asked them what their deal was. Argentinian rugby team. Fantastic. We kept running into them. It was awesome, they invited us to their hotel, but that didn't quite make the cut in our itinerary. After asking a hotel guy for a cheap place to eat, we started another long trek to the student district and then ran around for 2 hours trying to make a decision because all the restaurant people would stand outside and harass you to come into their restaurant which was obnoxious. But we finally made a decision and I was able to try snails!!! Delicious. Another Paris dream come true. Also had creme brulee for dessert. After dinner we returned to get some sleep to gear up for Saturday which went like this: wake up. Stumble across STARBUCKS COFFEE WOOOOOO. Not that I don't love Italian coffee, but sometimes you want coffee that lasts more that three sips. Continue onto Musee D'Orsay, an art museum which I surprisingly liked. Saw some of Monet's works and the famous Vincent Van Gogh self portrait. Oh oh, then we went to the Luxembourg gardens. Beautiful. There was a fountain with little kids and their sailboats, sunshine, plenty of runners, pony rides (!!), a playground so fancy and big that you had to pay for it and mmmm delicious crepes. This time I went for creme of chestnut instead of my classic Nutella. Amazing. We then walked to Notre Dame Cathredal. Only one problem. It just happened to be the day that they were ringing the new bells for the first time. There were so many people, we couldn't even get that close to the church. But oh well these things happen. Stopped by the Shakespeare and Company bookstore and started tracking down places for dinner. Found this place called The Frog and the Princess which had an enticing menu of chicken wings and nachos, but perhaps an even more enticing cute waiter who invited us in to look at the menu and who got slightly embarrassed when we reminded him that it was outside. We told him we would keep it in mind. We finally settled on this Tibetan restaurant, and very quickly realized it was a bad choice. I think the tiger rug in the background of this picture says it all. So that interesting meal with small portion sizes, left us no choice but to return to cute boy (whose name turned out to be Edward, lives in Australia, taking a gap year in France, has only been there for three weeks) for second dinner, consisting of aforementioned nachos and chicken wings along with my first (and legal!) beer sampler and first legal margarita! The restaurant had an awesome sports atmosphere with a rugby game on TV and we made great friends with the bartender Allie. Afterwards we returned to our apartment and geared up for our final day. We woke early to get to the Louvre right when it opened. Saw the Mona Lisa (so much smaller that you would think, but her eyes do follow you) and the Winged Statue of Victory and Hammurabi's Code. Very cool stuff. Also got another Starbucks coffee. After the Louvre we returned to Notre Dame to pick up Mary Grace and Cayla from mass, and alas Palm Sunday drew another massive crowd, so I had to remain content with simply viewing the outside of Notre Dame, but fine by me. Then we had lunch, said our goodbyes to this wonderful city and began the journey home. It went like this: Walk to the metro. Take the metro to the bus. Pop up out of the metro into a MASSIVE rally against gay marriage. Form a human chain to walk through the crowd and all the flags. Take the bus to the airport. Take that plane back to Italy (after running into a girl who is studying in Spain with my friend Grady from high school). Have the guy at the bus window call to stop the bus from leaving to we can get on to take the bus to the train station. Take the train to Padova. Walk half an hour back home. Now here I am, at 2 am, still SO wired from everything that has happened, but also with a quiz tomorrow at 11:30 so I must force myself to go to sleep!
Our story begins on Wednesday night, on the eve of my 21st birthday. After dinner with my host family, I was instructed to go the apartment of my friend Nick's Italian friends. When I arrived, a massive group of people surprised me and my friend Malka had made me a birthday cake complete with candles and provided me with my favorite drink! Everyone sang to me and it was marvelous. I then met up with more friends in the center and hit up our favorite bar before heading to the clubs with my friends Amanda and Marissa and had marvelous adventures. The next morning, I took some nice recovery time. My friend Linda gave me a book in Italian by Konrad Lorenz, who is one of the most famous ethologists ever! He had some geese imprint on him and they would follow him around. It was such a sweet gift and I love it so much! After lunch, I hopped on a bus, then a plane, then another, then the metro and finally arrived at our sweet apartment in PARIS that my friends Cayla, Mary Grace, Judith, and I were renting for the weekend. We used this website where people put their apartments up for rent to travelers, and so we rented this cute little place from a woman named Rhita for a ridiculously cheap price. We then set out to complete a very important goal: eat a crepe and climb the Eiffel Tower on my 21st birthday. the crepe was delicious but as itTurns out, they only let you take the lift to the second level at night, but whatever. It was epic. While Mary Grace and I were up there, the whole tower sparkled. It was so so cool and such a unique experience. After the descent, we had a minor mishap when we realized we didn't set a meeting point and couldn't find Judith and Mary Grace, but because we are brilliant young ladies, we were able to read each other's minds and figure out what the other pair would do in the situation and safely met up back at the apartment, a slightly krazy end to our first Parisian night.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Today I had my first day of Italian research and boy, I did the most exciting things. I'm working with one of the post docs in the lab, but it seems that I will be moving around working on different projects depending on the week. My lab studies sexual selection in guppies so this is what I got to do: First we take a fish from the room, then we anesthetize him. Then we take his picture and weigh him. Now the fun part: we put some saline solution on him and stroke him until he releases sperm. Then we use this program to measure how fast his sperm moves. The post doc, Alessandro was great and let me try a bunch of the techniques and I am so so happy and blessed to have this opportunity!!
Monday, March 18, 2013
Let me tell you about the Benedictine monks...oh wait I can't because I don't know anything about them. That was a recurring theme this weekend during our field trip to Siena and Pienza. We went with the BU program from Venice, which is an art program and not a language program, which is all fine and dandy except when I want to stab my eyes out during a guided tour discussing the composition and colors of some painting from the 14th century by some person that "I'm sure most of you have heard of before." But other than that, great trip. Siena is a really cool city. It's divided into 17 neighborhoods, each represented by an animal. You are born into a certain neighborhood depending on your family and there is a complex set of interactions between the neighborhoods including rivalries because twice each summer there is a famous horse race called the Palio. Each neighborhood gets a horse and there is a big race in the main piazza and the winning neighborhood has endless celebrations and such. Very cool. My kind of town. Oh and the jockeys ride bareback, but only the horse needs to cross the finish line, not the jockey. It was quite chilly while we were in Siena but we were still able to climb the facade of the "new" Duomo that was never finished so that was fun. Plus, dinner was paid for so my stomach was happy. We stayed the night in a cute little hotel and started the morning off by driving to the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore. More art blah blah...the frescoes were impressive, but I'm still not buying that the guy's whose life is depicted on the walls performed a miracle and made whole a broken wheat sifter. I can say my friend Amanda now knows me well because she came up to me and said "I know that in this whole church your favorite thing is the picture of that cat." And indeed she was right. Our last stop was Pienza, this tiny tiny little town in the gorgeous Tuscan hills. Thankfully we had some free time so I was able to slip away with some friends and escape into nature for a little bit. I can't even describe how beautiful the Tuscan hills are. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the views were breathtaking. I took some time to explore on my own. I made friends with a cat and saw a house that had a caged parrot living outside. After lunch, we took a tour of the Pope's palace and then got back on the bus for a five hour bus ride home. But I finished Harry Potter e La Pietra Filosofale so life was good. Once back in Padova, I went with my friends Malka and Lauren to our friend Nick's Italian friends' apartment, which was highly entertaining as they are Sicilian and crazy. As always, I was quite content to finally make it to my bed, as I had a mountain of work for Sunday and now I must face the pouring rain on this gross Monday morning to get to the BU office to do more work before class. Woo!
Sunday, March 10, 2013
Nothing like staying home for a weekend to relax, and your body deciding to get sick on you because you suddenly aren't doing something every minute of every day. But it's ok because this has been a fantastic week. As mentioned earlier, I started my marine ecology course. After my program director talked with my professor, my professor suggested that I audit the oceanography class that's right before my class on Thursday. Friday was an epic day indeed. First, I went to talk to a professor about the possibility of doing research with her, but then found out it wasn't possible because her research takes place at a biological station about 40 minutes away. However, her research assistant lives close by and she invited me to come visit in the spring and she would show me the station so I'm quite excited! The professor also recommended me to another professor whose research takes place on campus. He studies sexual selection in guppies. Sexual selection is my favorite subject. After meeting with him, he thinks it's quite feasible so I sent him my schedule and am now just waiting to hear from him. I also met this Italian kid on Friday who studies biotechnology so naturally I was excited to be able to talk about science things with someone. He walked me to my meeting and we talked about kangaroos and platypuses. Friday night, I had an awesome bonding night with my friends and we hit up our favorite discoteca. While I was there, I ran into my Italian friend! It was so great to see her because I hadn't seen her all week. Saturday I booked flights to Paris for my birthday weekend (woooooo! I think I also watched the Woo girls episode of How I Met Your Mother) and flights to London for the end of April. We then visited the huge market in Prato della Valle, where they literally sell anything you could think of. There's so many people and things to look at it, and I successfully restrained myself from buying anything. In the afternoon, I met up with my friend Gianluca. We practice speaking with each other and I learned that he flies airplanes which is really cool! And now here I am, all sick and congested, but my mom has offered me like 4 different remedies so hopefully something works!
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Today I went to my first Marine Ecology course taught in Italian. I found the building and room all by myself, and I made two friends in the class. One girl gave me her phone number and e-mail and said she would facebook me details about a seminar tomorrow!! There are 14 of us in the class so it's nice and small. The professor uses a powerpoint along with the lecture which is immensely helpful. I talked with her after class and I think everything is going to be great (she even said I could take my exam in English but I'm going to try to do it in Italian). I'm so so proud of myself and looking forward to what is to come!
Sunday, March 3, 2013
Laying here in my bed right now, I am absolutely exhausted. Italy is kicking my ass. But it's only because I'm trying to have so much fun and well, I do need to sleep some time. Friday was my friend Marissa's 21st birthday so that led to plenty of festivities both Thursday and Friday night to gear us up for a busy weekend in Milan. We left Saturday morning and arrived early afternoon on a beautiful to realize that no one had a map. I had written down directions from the hostel to the stadium without realizing that no one had communicated about this very important aspect. But nevertheless we got some maps from a hotel and started a ridiculously long trek across the city to our hostel. We were on a time crunch to get to the hostel at our designated check-in time and alas, I was unable to visit Via Albertini, but it does exist! I saw it on the map. After a brief respite in the hostel, we grabbed a quick dinner and walked to the stadium and it was finally all worth it. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, the whole point of going to Milan was to see the AC Milan vs. Lazio soccer game. It was an awesome experience. The stadium was beautiful. Our seats were really high up but we had an awesome view of the field. Behind one of the goals is the Milan super fan section. Some people have these massive flags. Some people light pyrotechnic red fires when goals are scored. And the entire section has choreographed cheers complete with hand gestures. It was unreal. I don't think there was a single Lazio fan in the whole stadium. Milan won 3-0 and two goals were scored by Pazzini - which is literally my dream last name. You take Pazza and Albertini and smush 'em together. It can't get any better than that. In the morning we were smart and took the subway into the center. Checked out the Duomo, some other touristy stuff, the rich fancy shopping district and meandered through this castle. In the afternoon, we were about to bite each other's heads off due to hunger but then we finally stumbled upon this open (because everything is usually closed on Sundays) little place in the park. After eating my sandwich I went back for a crepe (with Nutella, one of the greatest food inventions on Earth) and the guy was asking where I was from and such and we had this great little conversation. I told him I was here til the end of May and he told me that if I fell in love with a boy in Padova then I would never need to return to Massachusetts! He told me "In bocca al lupo" which is a phrase that means good luck, although it literally means "in the mouth of the wolf." It's always tempting to say grazie, but the guy got really excited when I responded with the correct phrase "Crepi" meaning "may it lay dead." Don't really know the history behind the phrase, but people say it all the time. Anyway, those moments are the best. When I can have a conversation with someone in a different language in a different country. I've been struggling a lot with travel plans because I feel like my other friends who study abroad go to a different country every weekend, and I feel like I should be doing that, but I know I don't have to. Sometimes I just feel like I should, but in all reality it's those little moments in Italian that are truly the greatest victories and richest experiences. We then strolled through the park. I know my friends probably think I'm krazy because I was excited enough by the ducks, fish, lizard, and turtle that we saw when all of a sudden there were pony rides!!!! But I was way too big for the ponies which was sad. We then sat down and just people watched for an hour. Apart from the soccer game, it was probably my favorite part of the week. We were quite proud of ourselves as we are now able to eavesdrop on little kid conversations. It was just so interesting to see the hustle and bustle of the park. The dogs chasing each other, the moms pushing strollers, the kids crying or running around, plenty of people running, the shin shining. It was awesome. An ambulance came and parked next to wear we were sitting and the guys were letting kids sit in the ambulance and try on the jacket. It was so cute to see the joy on the kids' faces. We decided to hit up some gelato before we left and it was finally warm enough for me to be happy to have some. I mean I have been eating gelato, but it's just not my favorite thing in the winter, so I certainly look forward to more warm days. After a long 3 hour train ride home plus the half hour walk back from the station, it was so overwhelmingly wonderful to come home to a dinner of pumpkin risotto, two types of fish, stuffed calamari, and breaded mussels. I was definitely in heaven. I was so happy to talk with my family. I asked Tommaso how his weekend was and he said "Che palle" which essentially means "balls" and I joked that it was because I was gone and my host mom thought that was really funny and she said if she ever needed to know where I was, she could just ask Tommaso. So it was quite nice to return to all of that. I shall now to sleep because I have quite a busy week ahead. I start my Marine Ecology course (taught in Italian) at the University of Padova, and I am so beyond excited to have a taste of science again!