Saturday, May 3, 2014

Arriverderci is not a goodbye; it's a "see you later"

Today is the day. I said a lot of goodbyes.

To the kitchen (despite how quickly it could get gross)

To the living room (where I watched the Voice of Italy and a German cop shop on TV while eating amazing homemade dinner)

To my room (where I spent a lot of my time and shared so many memories with Brittany including 3am sleepy chats and stuffing our faces with pizza and sushi on our bed)

To the window (where I wake up each morning to watch the market in Piazza San Cosimato and see kids play at the playground on sunny days)

To my apartment keys (that I miraculously never lost once)

To the apartment garden (where I always greeted Carlo the "security guard", every morning)

To my apartment door (that will never be mine again)

To Via Roma Libera and Piazza di San Cosimato (where I have been so lucky to call home)

To Viale di Trastevere (which was basically our highway to the center of Rome/Piazza Venezia)

To Trastevere (where I was so lucky to have lived).

And to Rome. Rome, Rome. For 4 months, I have lived here. I have walked through the small alleyways and streets. I have visited all the major monuments. I have ate many Roman/Italian plates. I have visited a flea market, and gone to a comic convention, a ballet, and a football game. I have met so many wonderful and kind locals and people from abroad. I have lived.

I am thankful for Taylor, the best friend I could ever ask for, to share my experience here in Italy and all the other places we've traveled together. We dreamed of this since freshman year. We made it to Italy together and accomplished so much during these four months. I'm so proud of him for being ridiculously supportive and helped me through my highs and lows throughout this semester. I couldn't have done it without my best friend (and all my other support friends like Brittany and classmates).

I am thankful for Taylor for taking me to the airport. Despite the rain. And the ridiculous luggages. And for saying a difficult goodbye on his birthday, of all days. Of course, I will see him back in the states. We're both looking forwards to our senior year in college where we'll be sharing an apartment! It's been a long time coming.

I am also thankful for API for making this study abroad trip memorable. I am so glad I decided to go with this program because I got to go to places I never thought I would, I got to meet so many wonderful people. I got to find my great-grandfather's grave because of them. The API Rome RDs, Naike, Alessio - I will miss them both so much. I will miss seeing them a few times a month and seeing their warm smiles and hugs. I will miss catching up over cups of Naike's tea in their office.

Lastly, I am forever thankful for my family for making this study abroad possible. I couldn't have done it without them and their encouragement. I thank my parents for putting up with my mishaps throughout this trip (first dropping my phone in a toilet in Switzerland then fully losing it at a comic convention in Rome for one). I thank my parents for allowing me to travel to all that places I've been able to during my stay here. I thank my parents for everything. So thank you. I don't say that enough, so thank you. I love you both very much.

I'm sitting at the airport now waiting for my flight to London, then to Boston. I'm feeling extremely bittersweet. I will never be completely at home again because a part of my heart will always be here in Rome. I guess this is the price you pay for the richness of loving and living too many places and too many people.

Few days ago I wasn't ready to come home. I wasn't ready to face reality that would undoubtedly hit when I come back. I wasn't ready for my senior year. I wasn't ready.

But I feel I am ready now, despite how much I'll miss it here. I'm ready to walk back into my family's arms. And into Boston's. I'm ready to survive what I know will be my most stressful year. I'm ready to graduate from college. I'm ready to accomplish my goals with much more vigorousity than ever before.

You know, I threw coins in the Trevi Fountain (twice actually) to ensure my return to Rome. We'll see if the legends are true 5-10 years in the future. So, with a heavy but happy heart, I am leaving and I can't think of a better way to say farewell to the eternal city than: Arrivederci Roma. Until we see each other again.

Friday, May 2, 2014

And again.

There's so much to recount in these last two days. I don't want it to end! Goodbyes are hard. As much as we try to convince ourselves that it isn't really a goodbye, but rather a 'see you later', it's still difficult.

Yesterday, Thursday, is the last full day we all could hang out. Brittany, Taylor and I hung around all day and rode a 4-wheeled 2-seater bike (really meant for 2, but we managed with all 3 of us!) around Piazza Venezia and the Colosseum.Even though we only had t for an hour, we had the time of our life on it! It was SO much fun! We kept going uphill by the Colosseum and then let go of the breaks to roll down yelling our butts off. Everyone around us was smiling and laughing at our childish enjoyment. It was the best. Whenever we struggled up the hill, people helped give us a push! Team effort.

Afterwards, we headed to the Fest di Lavoratori concert. We had a general idea where it was. We walked past the Circus Maximus and past the Baths of Caracalla. Brittany called her Italian cousin to ask where the square was and we got a better idea where it was. We walked down the Via Appia! And winged it and found ourselves exting the Aurelian walls (Rome's second set of walls) and past the Renaissance walls! We walked so far! We ended up walking 3 hours to get to the concert.

We didn't stay long because a lot of people were drunk and it was a trashy scene. But the music was really nice and I got myself grilled corn-on-the-cob (a specialty for these kind of events, I guess). We took the metro back to Circus Maximus and back to Trastevere. On the way back to Trastevere, we met someone from New York trying to get to Trastevere, and since we were heading there, he tagged along with us until we crossed the river. He was super nice. :)

We hung around our apartment until Dom and Christina were ready and we met at Ai Spaghettari for our last group dinner. For Brittany and I, it was the first restaurant where we ate dinner together. And it was the last restaurant where we ate dinner together.

I'm so fortunate to have met such great people during this trip. I couldn't have asked for a better bunch!

And then Friday came. Today was my last day in Rome. Taylor spent the day with me, and I couldn't ask a better way to spend the day. We went to the Vatican City, and I finally climbed the top of the Duomo and saw the Pieta sculpture.


We went back to Trastevere to meet up with Brittany for our last lunch together at Pizzarius (the best pizza to-go in Rome!) and to say goodbye to her.

It was really hard to say goodbye but we made promises to meet up in a few weeks when we're back in the states. Taylor and I headed back to the other side of the Tiber and went to Via del Corso to run last minute gift shopping and to sell back my textbooks. I bought almost 200 euros worth of textbooks, and I only got 8 euros back. Ridiculous! I couldn't bring it back to the states because they're all ridiculously heavy (thanks financial accounting and management!) but I'm bringing home my art history books. So we did that and headed to Piazza Venezia to go to the Capitoline Museum.

If you look at all the 500 photos I took today alone, you'd be able to tell that I really like sculptures!

Afterwards we headed to the Pantheon and ate our last dinner in front of it. Here, I gave him a gift and a birthday card (in Italian of course!) with a written note, and then we toasted wine to each other - in honor of Taylor's 21st birthday tomorrow, in honor of our friendship, in honor of the amazing time we've had here... we both got sentimental through this. It was difficult. But we laughed it through talking about the stories we'll be bring back together when we return.

Of course, I couldn't go without going to Giolitti one last time, for a gelato. Straciatella con nutella always. Awkwardly, I spilled my gelato everywhere including my pants, but geeeeez, it was still so good that I didn't care! The spill only made it more memorable.

Before walking back, Taylor and I passed an open church and decided to check it out. The church was called Santa Maria in Campo Marzio. And suddenly - bones.

We both agreed it was more beautiful than the Vatican City. Yes, really! It was because it had more detail and engravings. And the music was playing in the background while we walked around and viewed the paintings, frescoes and sculptures. It was a wonderful way to end the night.

And so, my last night in Rome drew to a close. I saw all that I wanted to see for my last day. I ate all the things I wanted to eat before I left (a pizza, ravioli ricotta di spinaci, bruschetta al pomodoro, and a gelato from Giolitti). I said goodbye to all the people that made this study abroad meaningful to me. I am leaving Italy tomorrow with no regrets. No matter how sad I am, I am leaving knowing the experience I have had, the things I have learned, and the friends I have made, will be engraved in my heart and memories for as long as I carry on.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Once More Around the Bend

This is my second to last post here in Italy. I haven't been able to update this past few weeks because of finals week. And then myself wanting to make the best of the time I had left. Especially now, after finishing all my finals, and I have three days left. I'm not ready to go yet. I stay up past 2 AM because I don't want the night to end. So I stay up lying in bed in the dark with my mind still running hundreds of miles a minute, going back to these past four months, to all the places I have been, all the people I have met, all the things I have learned, and all the emotions I have felt... 2 days left. It makes me so upset to say that. I feel that I have so much more to do, so much more to experience. But you know what? I'm embracing what I've gained thus far. I'll come home with a full heart, thousands of pictures and new lifelong friends.

It's been a while, I have a lot to catch up on.

On the weekend of April 11th-12th, I went on my last real excursion with API to the Amalfi Coast. We went to Pompeii, Sorrento and Capri, which was beautiful. The overnight trip wasn't long enough for me, because I wanted to see more of the architecture and museums and villas, but I was able to experience the Sorrento town, a boat-tour of Capri and get a chairlift to see most of Capri's coast and the ocean, and drink limoncello. I would definitely go back to Sorrento and Capri. I want to go back to Capri especially.


I wish I had more time to share all my photos because just choosing a select few only shows part of the story. If I could, I would want to describe each of them for you so I hope someday I can show you these photos in person, and share my stories with you all.

The weekend after was Easter Weekend. I had a research paper and another philosophy paper to finish, while Brittany visited her family and my other roommates were gone for Amsterdam (I think), and Taylor was in Tunis in Africa. So I was alone and had the apartment to myself all weekend. I got all my stuff done, and I was able to visit the Vatican City during the mass on Easter Sunday morning. I went early and got a spot, but only got a glimpse of Pope Francis speaking and I had to leave since I suddenly got sick after standing for 2 hours in a crowd of millions. Took me 15 minutes to even leave Vatican City!

 Eyyyy, Papa Francis!

Then it was the last week of classes. I handed in my papers. I went to a ballet show at the theater one night with API at the Teatro dell'Opera, which by the way, was really beautiful and interesting. I handed in my sketchbook. I performed a managerial debate. And then I was done. I decided that before I really began to study, I could afford to do one last trip. Just one more. So Taylor and I took a day trip to a place called Civita di Bagnoregio. We had to take a train to Orvieto and then take a 30-minute taxi to Bagnoregio. Civita di Bagnoregio, we thought was tourist free, turned out it's a destination for Italian tourists. After wandering around and waiting longer to even get a spot for the very few restaurants there for lunch, we headed back. We got back to Orvieto earlier than expected and saw that they had a funiculare - basically an uphill tram. Since we were so early, we spontaneously took a ride up for 1,30 euro and found the actual town of Orvieto (dubbed Old Orvieto). We saw photos on display in some stores of a great church, so we decided to find it, and found the Duomo. It was so BEAUTIFUL and dominated the piazza. It really reminded me of Florence.

Ballet night (one photo)... and....
Civita di Bagnoregio and Orvieto:

After that great day, it was down to the grind for finals. My first final was Management on Sunday morning (ugh). Then financial accounting on Monday. Philosophy on Tuesday and finally, art history today - Wednesday. I don't feel so good about my first three finals, but I think I kicked butt on my art history final! Good, because I was feeling awful about my other finals and studied beyond my brain's capabilities. There was a point where I couldn't process any information at all that I had to take a break! So that paid off!

After my art history final today, I treated myself by going to the cat sanctuary in Largo Argentina off Via Arenula with Brittany. I mentioned it a lot in my posts, especially in the beginning. If you come to Rome, you'll see that Largo Argentina is actually a ruin of temples. But if you look closely, you'll see a cat, or 20, laying around in the ruins. Today Brittan and I actually ventured inside the shelter itself (under the ruins) for the first time, and I was SO surprised by all the cats inside! Apparently they shelter over 200 cats. There were lots of disabled cats - cats with an arm or leg missing, cats with one eye missing, a cat completely blind, a brain-damaged cat (I first thought it was injected with anethesia, but it wasn't), and I met a cat that was deaf and she was a bit of a jerk. I wanted to adopt 4 particular cats, even that mean deaf one. They were all so perfect in their own way.

Brittany and I dubbed this cat "Crimson Chin" (Fairly Oddparents reference), because of its jaw, but it most likely had a disease or disability of some sort. He's a bit shy but friendly.

 This one was missing its ears (but still can hear), and had some impediment that make them stick their tongue out often. But it was so happy cuddling us. They kept purring like a motorboat and pushing their head into our chest and arm nook for warmth. I got droolmarks on my shirt from this one. So cute!!!!

Because we were in there for 2 hours, the volunteers had to move us out of the nursery room to make room for more visitors, haha. Too bad. So we each donated 5 euros for the good cause and headed to Tiber Island to sit down by the shore. On very sunny warm days, people often "sunbathe" here on Tiber Island while on their breaks.

Later in the evening, we headed for the last meeting with our API RDs, Naike and Alessio, for a big dinner with the rest of the group. We had a fantastic meal, and my friends and I stayed behind with Naike and Alessio to talk with them more because for me, it was so hard to say goodbye to the two nicest and most wonderful RDs anyone could ever ask for. I'm so glad I had the chance to meet them. 

So it's 3 AM now. I'm still wide awake and I don't want to go to bed yet. I'm just stretching time on now at this point. Tomorrow (well, today) is May 1st - Primo Maggio, which Italy celebrates as a national holiday for labor workers with the Festa dei Lavoratori. It's basically Italy's labor day. So tomorrow, my friends and I will walk around Rome to finish our errands (me: print my plane ticket, get remaining gifts......if the stores are open, that is). Also, in Rome to celebrate Festa dei Lavoratori, they hold a great concert sung by Italian and foreign artists! Trams and buses will be closed for a period of time, so we'll be figuring out the best way to get to the Laterano Square! 

We'll be finishing off tomorrow night with a nice dinner with all of our friends, as a way to say "see you later" because it's definitely will not be a goodbye! We're so fortunate that we all live in the New England area, so we are all relatively close to one another. There will be planned reunions for us in the future. :)

2 more days.