28.10.06

Be Patient

Friends,

Please remember that I am in school. As you can see, I have not updated my blog in a bit. I have not forgotten ya'll. I have been traveling for the past two weeks so, I am a month behind. Check daily (hourly) as I have a lot to write before I forget.

Hep

24.10.06

Antwerpen, Groundhog Dag & Kat voor Diner

In order to give Jason some time with his uncle, Aisha and I slept in rather late. However, we delayed a rather simple, yet hardy breakfast. It constisted of pastries, cheese, cerals, muffins and coffee. It was amazing. To top it off, there was reggae & Jamaican rap playing in the background. Unlike American rap, Jamaican rap has a message. We sat at the table for about two hours just talking. It was so relaxing and so amazing, yet this was not the end.

We loaded up the car and allowed Uncle Lukey to give us a tour of his tour. It is amazing how much he knows about the town. Then again, I supposed we should all know about the place we live. He was very pleased to give us tours of local attractions and introduce us to prominent community members. The tour concluded in a beer bar that is known for having famous jazz musicians. The only one that wanted a beer (a little after noon) was Aisha. We made her drink it pretty fast so that Uncle Lukey could drop us off at the commuter train station.

You ever have a day that felt like the same thing was happening over and over again? Well, I think today qualifies as one of those days. A local hottie got on the same communter train as we. However, she got off a stop before we did. She was really beautiful and I wanted to follow her, but I didn't. We made our way to the main station. Upon arrival, we found that the train actually picks up at the previous station. In other words, I should have followed the hot girl. After making it back to this station, we somehow got on the wrong train and ended up back at the same station. Learning our lesson, we tried again... ok, so maybe we didn't learn our lesson. It took about three tries before we finally got on the right train.

We arrived in Amsterdam a little after ten. We found our hostel and it had to be the most amazing place ever, St. Christopher's. It was at the entrance to the red light district and had a bar/restaurant on the main floor. The rooms were themed, so our place was painted wall to wall with the EastPak character. We were also on the top floor. This was a great place to end a day that was rocky for awhile.

After we checked in, we decided to get something to eat. While walking, I noticed a place that made doner kababs. Since I loved them so much, I persuaded Aisha and Jason to try them. They agreed. Alarms did not go off when I asked him what kind of meat it was and he said, "I don't know. It is meat. It is not pork, but it is meat." We ordered and waited as he heated up the meat. Heated up? The was no flame, so searing. He pulled the meat out of a freezer. I should have let it stop right there, but I didn't. While we were standing in line, three "interesting" girls from Wales walked in and began to hold conversation with me. They were in great spirits until they looked down and saw two kittens freely crawling about the establishment. They began to rant about how unsanitary this was (in the cutest little accents). Just as they calmed, the man handed me my "doner kabab". I didn't look like it normally did. I took a bite... then looked at the floor. I seriously think he cut up those kittens and served the meat. I payed for all three and advised Aisha and Jason against eating them. It was horrible. We walked up and down the street looking for a trash can.

23.10.06

Note : Le Louvre est fermé le mardi

With the events of last night, we didn't really get up at 8:00am like we intended. I think we were delayed about two hours. Anyhow, we all got up at about the same time, and began to get ready to depart. After locking our luggage in the train station, we had plenty of time to make it to the the food court, the Louvre and Notre Dame. The Pompidou Center was still a possibility, but we would really just see how the day played out.

We made it to the food court at the peak of lunch hour. The lines were not bad, but finding a seat wasn't the easiest thing to do. Oddly enough, Aisha and I had trouble finishing out food. Jason tore through his burger and fries, but we had a hard time. It was so disappointing. On our full stomachs, we decided to enter the Louvre from the Carousel level. For those that don't know, this is the level that was mentioned in Da Vinci Code. Upon making it to this level's entrance, we found that it was closed. This should have been a clue to us, but, like idiots, we went to the main level. It was not until then, that we found a sign saying that the Louvre is closed on Wednesdays. Maybe it just wasn't meant for my friends to see this place. I wouldn't say they were missing much, but it is something that everyone should do if the chance presents itself. I suppose this time it didn't really present itself.

The next stop was to Notre Dame. We never found the Metro station that went there, so we walked in the wrong direction for about twenty minutes. When we realized that we were being lazy, we decided to head in the correct direction. On the way, Aisha acquired a wine gift set to carry along. When we got to Notre Dame, it was everything I remembered. It remains at the top of my list of places to visit in Paris. This time, we started inside of the Cathedral and then climbed to the top of one of the towers. I got glimpses of Pompidou while I was there, but time proved that we were not going to make it there. While we were in the towers, there was this cute little girl that kept asking her dad questions in the cutest little English accent. She would say things like, "Is that one [gargoyle] eating a bird daddy?"

After Notre Dame, it was time to head to Antwerp. This trip was all Jason. Aisha and I were excited about finally meeting his family. We knew it was going to be great... and it was! It was really hilarious. We didn't have a chance to eat on the train, so we were pretty hungry when we got to Antwerp. Jason's cousin Earl met us on the platform. He was a bit hard to miss because he is like... 6'9". He took us outside to meet his sister, Debra. The two of them (and her husband) were responsible for bringing us to Jason's uncle's house. Before that, however, we had to get some McDonald's because the house was way "in the country". We got the food to go, and after about a 15min. ride, we were at his uncle's house. Jason rode with Earl, so Aisha and I got to meet uncle Cecil Johnson first. He was so cool, and still retained a heavy Jamaican accent. He was so excited to have us. He sat us down at the dining table and asked us what kind of wine we liked. Since I like white and Aisha prefers red, he opened individual bottles for both of us. Luckily, Jason showed up to help me and Earl was more than happy to help Aisha.

After eating, Jason's other cousin, Canasta, had waited up to see us. Earl took us around the corner to their new home. I was excited when we first pulled up because she and her husband were still building their home. They gave me a tour and talked to me a bit about the process. They also had a whole spread of food and endless drinks waiting for us. It was crazy. They knew we would be hungry and looking for a good time so they had it all set up. What started out as an hour visit turned into about two and a half. When we got back to his uncle's, I don't remember going to sleep. They had rooms set up for each of us to sleep in. I remember looking forward to taking a shower that night. Next thing I know, I was waking up because I missed my shower. I guess I was full and tired. Oh well, the coming day offered more adventure.

L'eau Libre e "Familia"

Waking up on the train is not bad. You go to sleep in one country and awake in another. This time, we woke up in Paris. The sky was overcast, but we didn't really care. We had not trouble finding our hostel, but (once again) we could not check in for a few hours. We left our bags there and decided to get breakfast. We found a nice little cafe and I had my first crepe ever. It was good, but left me wanting. I also had some of Aisha's omelette. I think the best part of the meal was Jason's water. When we got the bill, he found that he was not charged for the water. This was great, "Free water? I want to eat here all the time!"

After the meal, we went to Sacre Coeur. It was great that I still remembered how to get there. It was even better that our hostel was right around the street from it. This was one of the many benefits of our hostel, but I will get to that later. We didn't spend too much time at Sacre Coeur. We started at the top and walked our way down through the garden to the main street. We decided it would be best to get our train reservations at this time. This would also come in handy later in the evening.

Once we got our reservations, we went straight back to the hostel to complete our check in. On of the benefits of this place was that we had a private three person room with a private shower. The bathroom was public, but that was no big deal for us because we were the only ones on our floor. What was funny, was that our shower was literally in the room. There was no door. There was a curtain and the shower was directly behind the curtain. In order for one of us to shower, everyone else had to leave the room. It was funny. After we got the shower situation figured out, we decided to go to the Louvre and Notre Dame. After that we would make our way to a jazz cafe.

When we got to the Louvre, we were disappointed to find that we had arrived just at closing time. After taking pictures on the outside, we decided the best alternative was to go straight to Notre Dame. As we set out, we got hit by a big rain. Perfect! We got stuck under a bus canopy for shelter. Once again, plans changed. Now we simply wanted to get something to eat. Jason chose the place. A "international foods" restaurant. This we perfect because we would be able to get a variety of foods. After searching for more than an hour for the place, we found that it was connected to the Louvre. What idiots we were (or maybe just me). When we found the restaurant it was a Luby's style cafeteria. Even worse, the prices were high and there was no way we were going to get full. We decided to eat lunch there tomorrow and simply find a nice sit-down restaurant.

We found a place we had passed a few times earlier. Upon crossing the street I found myself standing next to a distraught older Italian man. He was trying to cross as well, but he knew it was not like back home (step into the street and traffic stops). I looked at him, patted him on the back and said, "Va bene. Andiamo!" He looked at me with a surprised smile on his face. Campioni del Mondo! Dinner was great. I had a croquette, but I don't remember what the meat was. The most excitement was trying escargot. We got a serving of six shells. Jason tried one, liked it, but decided against trying more. Between Aisha and I, they were all eaten (what a surprise).

Originally, we were going to go back to the hotel, and change for the club. However, we felt that this move was not best considering what happened in Barcelona. We were dry, so we took the opportunity to go to the Eiffel Tower at night. As we approached, I was struck by something new. They have installed lights on the tower that cause it to sparkle at night. This was amazed us as we took out our cameras for pictures and footage. We had a great time on at the top. Specifically, on the way down we were crowded by "familia". Now we have coined a new phrase that will ensure that we never lose each other in a crowd.

After the Tower, we went to the jazz show. We sat down and ordered some rather odd drinks. We thought we arrived on a bad night because we did not see the live jam session we had intended to see. As Aisha finished her madudu... Yes, madudu... I found that there was another area upstairs. I was grateful to find this because the experience after this is indescribable. I bought the most expensive black Russian ever, but I think it was worth it because the jam session was great. We walked in as they were finishing up a glorious rendition of Chameleon. After that the introduced a few featured musicians and began their next song. This was the first that I had heard of the drummer and my goodness was she amazing. I think I fell in love right there. If her solo is toward the end of the video, but she was wrecking the show at the beginning as well.

At the end of the song, we thought it was best to go back to the hostel and rest up for the morning. We had to get up early to make it to the Louvre. However, when we got to the Metro station, it was closed. We had no idea it had a closing time, but we had barely missed the last train. We were in a state of controlled panic. We were tired, damp and lost. Luckily there was a police station outside of the Metro station. The police seemed very helpful as they told us how to get to a bus station with a smile. It took awhile, but with the help of another Frenchman, we were able to figure out how to get back to the hostel via bus. Like I said, it is a good thing it was located near Sacre Coeur. However, our elevated stress level caused us to get off the bus too early. We had to navigate back to a closed Sacre Coeur at night Though I wasn't worried about the environment, we kept trying to get Aisha to walk like she was "hard". Inspite of her lack of toughness (and she is from Brooklyn) we made it back safely. After our arrival, we were so tired that all three of us crashed for the night without a peep until the next morning.

22.10.06

Barcelona a Paris- Tres Mohammads

After a "tiring night of fun", we decided we can't act like this throught the whole break. We are old, but we didn't come to waste our time. We woke with an agenda... sort of. After checked out of the hostel and set off to store our bags in the train station. Upon arrival at the station we found that there was a movie being shot. We were forced to go through tight security and only allowed to use half of the station. It was very odd, but we cooperated.

We left the station and ate breakfast outside under a cafe's canopy. The sandwiches were really nice. It seemed as if there was a music festival about to start, but while we were around they were doing mic checks. It would have been nice to have live music while we ate. However, as we walked to the first square, there was a young percussion studio that began to play. We think they may have been the opening act for the festival because they marched right up to the stage. We didn't stick around because we wanted to get some things out of the way.

We decided to go to the beach. But, we didn't exactly know where to go. We strolled down the wrong coast for about 20min before we decided to ask someone. Then we turned around and walked to nearly the end of the earth, but we found it. It was nice to be able to talk and goof around all of that time. We sat on a warf for some time and just felt the cool ocean breeze. It was relaxing for all three of us to be in our world.

After leaving the beach, we realized that we had more time than we actually desired. Aisha and I were hungry, and also wanted a cocktail. I also had to try paella. The first restraunt we sat at did not have cocktails, so we only ordered simple drinks (and Aisha had a beer). We found a place directly across from the train station. We sat down and the atmosphere was rather nice. We decided to order sangria. "We're in Spain... drink sangria!" This place had the worst sangria I have ever tasted. Ya'll know me... well it was so bad that I had to ask the waiter to take it away. We were afraid they were going to spit in our food because they seemed a bit offended (so I felt bad). I simply could not stomach the taste. But, they made up for it because the paella was magnificent. Aisha and I shared but I swear I ate more then she. Spanish food can fill you up really easily because we were stuffed...once again. Perfecto!

After the meal, we still had time to kill so we walked a bit more. On our jouney we came across a Great Arch. I dunno why it was there, but I took a picture of it. What was funnier was this boy riding his bike in the square leading to the arch. He seemed be enjoying himself a great deal- riding up and down the same slanted walkway. "Weeee!" We stopped by an internet cafe and checked messages for about 30 min. I can't remember what we talked about, but it was a relaxing walk. After getting so far, we decided it was best to head back to the station. As we walked, we stumbled upon an organized outdoor soccer game. It was nice to sit with this community and feel like part of it as they cheered on the players. The best part, was the environment in which they were playing. If you look at the panoramic, you will notice that the central apartments in the background have no facade. It was a true section of the building. Amazing!

When we arrived at the train, there was a photography display in one of the waiting areas. After looking, we found that the line for security had gotten extremely long. I guess everyone in Barcelona waits for the last minute to catch their train. They had to let a few people skip in line because there was no way for them to catch their train if they waited. We made it to our train on time.

Of all train trips, I must say this one was the most interesting and active. When I got to my couchette there it was empty. I figured my roomates simply had not arrived. I went to check on Jason and two of his roomates had already settled in. They were both older gentlemen, but he said they seemed nice. We decided to check on Aisha. When we found her room, we were in shock. She was surrounded by three young guys. She was smiling and saying how she felt safe with them. I didn't care, there was NO WAY I was letting her sleep in that room. We met the guy and two of them (the two that were friends) we name Mohammad. We thought that was weird. The third guy didn't know them, but he was of Arabic decent as well. Collectively, they spoke Hindi, Spanish, French and English. It was quite a feat to get everything translated. The ticket lady, did not have the best attitude and was very curt with us while we tried to get things figured out. She made Jason and I go back to our rooms. Upon arrival to my room, I found my roommates had returned. On top of this, they were women. Apparently, Aisha and I had accidently switched tickets and I had the ticket for her room. Once got it figured out, I had no problem switching rooms. Aisha kept trying to get me to get their contact info so that she could keep in touch. I wouldn't do it, but on the way to the dining car, I found that she had already taken care of the situation. One less thing for me to worry about. In the dining car, we found that the two Mohammads had another friend. As it turns out, his name was Mohammad as well. In other words, there were a total of three guys named Mohammad... hence the name Tres Mohammads. They stayed up in our car all night singing and one of them had a serious cigarette depencency. It was a bit annoying, but I managed to make it through the night.


20.10.06

Milano e Barcelona

I woke on my own accord this morning. I got up and decided to take a shower instead of a bath. I turned on the television and decided that I had an hour to catch American Dreams. To pass time, I attended the complimentary breakfast. It wasn't the best breakfast, but it was free. These are the luxuries afforded to those who decide to stay in European hotels.

After checking out, I had nothing to do but hike back to the train station to wait an hour for Jason and Aisha. I pictured them tired, worn and lost as they walked down the platform. Then music would begin and we would all hug as if we had not seen each other in years. Well, that didn't happen. They did not look lost at all. Instead, they looked like veteran travelers with their bags in hand. I gave our greetings and I led them to the line to get our reservations for the next train.

Our train from Milan took us to Bern, Switzerland. We had a four hour "layover" until our night train to Barcelona. We found lockers (not such an easy feat) and then got something to eat at Burger King. Normally, I would not have enjoyed the BK, but it was interesting to see what a Whopper tastes like on this side of the earth. On top of this, Aisha was elated to learn that they serve beer in Burger King. Jason and I learned that our credit cards are outdated and do not work everywhere. In Bern, your credit card must have a microchip in it to work.
"Run your hand over the scanner... no more fishin' for your fish."- Goodie M.O.B.

After eating, we walked around for about 45min until it was time for us to go to the platform for our train. We settled in our sleeping chairs and began to relax. I realize that this was the first time that we actually had time to talk to one another. Though our seats were not together, they kept me company until I went to sleep. I told them all about my students and various happenings. I honestly think we angered some around us who were trying to sleep, but I had not seen them in so long and had so much to talk about.

The morning came swiftly. Waking up on the train was not as bad as I thought, but it was not as nice as the hotel bed. (Funny how dramatic the change was in only 24hrs). We stepped off of the train and into Barcelona. Our first task was to find the hostel. I ended up calling to get better directions and we found ourselves on the popular street called Ramblas. However, there was no hostel in site. We walked up and down the street for about an our and a half. I used up all of my minutes trying to call the guy at the hostel's front desk. Finally, I got frustrated and asked a group of young tourists where there were staying. They recommended their hostel so we found it and set a reservation (check-in wasn't until 2pm).

Since Jason and Aisha had been traveling a lot already, they were out of clothes. We used our waiting time to do laundry and get food. The Laundromat was in a square that also had a fitness center, Irish pub and a small university. It was quite an interesting space. What was more interesting was the pub that we ate at. We were in Spain and everyone that worked at the Irish pub was literally Irish. It was great.

Checking into our hostel was flawless. We walked up, paid our deposits and got our keys. All three of us were looking forward to a great warm shower (though it was already warm outside) to feel refreshed. However, the shower had to have been the worst nightmare for me. I would not say it is the fault of the hostel or our roommates (five guys we still hadn't met), but just circumstance. The floor in the bathroom was wet and filthy, so I had a hard time navigating with my "foot- phobia" at work. However, I was able to get clean.

After showering, we went to see Sagrada Familia. We got the hang of Barcelona rather quickly. We figured out our trains and made our way through the town. I was a bit disappointed because the cathedral was undergoing renovation (and I forgot). I didn't really want to pay to go inside (which worked out for the best later on). We took a few photos outside and then headed back to the hostel to get ready for dinner. On our way, we found saw an array of interesting things- cool fountains, a guy in stretchy pants and a clothing store with a DJ & back-up dancer. The coolest was this store called Disegual. They had it sold everything from high end suits to urban wear. The music they had playing was great- Reggae and "non- mainstream *** hip hop". One of the workers told us of a club that played that kinda of of music, so we decided to find that club later that evening.

When we reached our hotel, the lady at the front desk suggested we try Toppas. It is a style of eating in which you try a lot of little things to eat. We found a nice little place outside of the Barcelona Cathedral and had a good ole time. We experimented with foods we had never seen or thought of eating but the experience was nice. I didn't get full, but we felt it was best to search for desserts. However, we didn't get more than 15 meters outside of the restaurant when we saw an awesome street performer. You will have to visit Jason's blog to get the full effect. He was awesome.

After that, Aisha and I got dessert similar to Crem-Broulette- called crema catalan. It was really sweet and really filling. We were so stuffed, that we needed a nap when we returned to the hostel. We were pumped about going out, but we are also old, so sleep was in order. Jason was not tired at all and decided to go to an internet cafe until we woke. Well, we laid down at about 9:30 and I didn't wake up until a little after midnight. On top of that, Aisha was knocked out. There was no way we were going out tonight. Maybe tomorrow.

19.10.06

Venezia: Giorno di Groundhog

Even if you have not seen it, we are all familiar with the movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray. Basically, it is about a man doomed to repeat the same day over and over again in a town that he hates. Well, at the conclusion of this blog, you will see why I felt like Bill Murray today.

Its not that I don't like Venezia, but today I am really ready to leave. I simply cannot wait to get on the train and head to Barcelona. However, I have found that in order to make it, I will have to spend a night in Milan. I am not happy about this but Andrea (the man that ran our hotel on Lido) helped me find a hotel very near to the station.

Today, we go to Brione & Vicenza. Last time I was in Italy, the Brione Cemetary was my favorite site of them all. The space simply amazed me. It is very aesthetically pleasing and well designed. I simply cannot describe the feeling I got from returning once again. I sincerely hoped everyone loved it as much as I. The trip was great... once again.

As we loaded the buses, we headed to Vicenza. However, during our ride, we changes were being made to accommodate travel schedules. For some reason, it was necessary to call back and forth between buses, counting who was in need of leaving & when. In addition, we got lost... twice. A trip that should have taken 30min, ended up taking about an hour. By the time we arrived, one bus had to head back to Venice in order for those students to catch trains or plane. The other bus stayed for and how so the students could see the sites here. The hitch... they were on their own. All of the profs went to check into their hotels, or left so we were left to fend for ourselves. Christina, Rosanna and I walked through the town and ate far too much. Eventually, the time came for us to head back to Venezia (the place I could not wait to leave). I walked with Kendra and "The girls" to ensure they made it to their respective locations via vaporetto. Upon reserving my train to Milan, I found that I had the last reservation making it cost far more than what I intended. I finally made it to my train and got on. However, this trip to Milan (a city I did not want to go to) was not going to be short. About an hour into the train ride the train stopped. I looked out of the window just as the conductor announced that we had arrived in Vicenza. Can I EVER get out of this city?

I was quite happy when I arrived in Milan (because it was not Venezia). I checked into my hotel and debated getting something to eat. I knew breakfast was free and it was already late. The hotel was very nice, so I decided to wait on the food. The great thing about this place was that you could pay ten euro for 24 hours of unlimited movies. I made the purchase and began watching Jarhead. It is a lot better the second time around. I fell asleep shortly after that. Milan isn't so bad after all. At least Hotel Soperga wasn't that bad.

17.10.06

Venezia: Giorno due e tre

Tuesday
Today we took a tour of Basilica di San Marco. It was obvious the line was going to be long so Sharon and I worked together to get everyone to Piazza San Marco at a good hour. This however, fell through and I ended up taking a later vaporetto to show the remaining students where to go. We walked around the square with Paolo until time to go in. Upon entrance, I found myself amused by Julia and Jere regarding various aspects of the cathedral. We all got a kick out of the security- or lack thereof. Paolo wanted us to say until the lights came on in the ceiling. Once they came on he said everyone was free to go. The next tour was of the Doges Palace about two or three hours later.

The Doges palace was very adventurous. We saw furniture, weapons, tools, paintings, sculptures and a prison. It was a well rounded tour that everyone could enjoy. It was given Sra. Pietroboun again, but this time we were able to keep up. This tour turned out to be nice and no one was happy that it was over. This is because we had to rush over to do another tour with Peter. He wanted to take the students to a few modern housing developments. When we reached the first place, a number of the students thought it was great. I thought it was horrible. Yet others, thought it was a waste of their time. We spent the majority of the time here before moving to the next area. Students kept disappearing and reappearing. By the end of the night I just wanted to get back to the hotel. After Peter sort of abandoned us at the University, we made our getaway. I called Amber and Mark to make sure they had eaten (they were both sick). I had pizza, then we got gelato and turned in for the night. It was a great way to end.

Wednesday
Today was the day we went to the Biennale. It is an exhibit similar to the World's Fair. However, the Biennale hosts architecture exhibits from all over the world. One aspect of the show (the Arsenale) contains models that can be the size of an entire room. This years Biennale focused on cities, disaster and planning. I wasn't that impressed, but it was impressive. I was told Marc Boles had an exhibit (he is a student of Zaha Hadid), but I never found it. I was most impressed by the exhibit that was put together by the group from Cuba. They constructed an environment in which the workers lived. They worked, slept and ate there. It was constructed in the Francia pavilion from scaffolding. It was fully equipped with a kitchen, sleeping quarters, shower, t-shirt workshop, office space, steam spa, swimming pool and look-out tower. It was really fun.

After the biennale, the only ones that remained together were Dan, Mark, Christina, Brandi and I. We decided to do a bit of shopping. I was able to pick up my hoody. Mark checked on prices for a Rolex. Dan got to go to (and was disappointed by) the Diesel store. Christina and Brandi were happy after spending way too much in one of the glass shops. After the vaporetto back to the hotel, we had an early pizza dinner. We fell asleep in my room while waiting on some of the others to return from dinner. Upon their return, we were going out. However, I did not want to go back to the mainland. I quickly lost interest and decided to go to my room to rest up for our trip tomorrow.

15.10.06

Venezia: Giorno Uno

Our journey to Venezia was very nice. This started off a bit shaky, but everything smoothed out upon arrival. As it turns out, the bug that has been going around has gotten worse. There are five guys from Calpoly that are sick. Even Jill's (the Calpoly TA) dad is extremely sick. We really need to figure out what it is because students are dropping like flies.

After checking into the hotel, we had a swift walking tour of the city. It was not easy to pay attention on this tour because the lady (Sra. Pietroboun) walks very fast. The streets are so narrow that we walked in single file lines for most of the tour. The radios kept losing reception becuase of the size of the group. Overall, the tour was nice... and later I will learn that is was rather helpful.

I had set up to go to dinner with a group of students, but had to cancel because Sharon said we would have a faculty dinner. Initially, I was unhappy about this because I had no idea what to talk about. However, I sat on the vaporetto with Jere and he kept the conversation light. I dinner, I sat across from Paolo and we had wonderful conversation. He explained to the table that the people would keep bringing food until we said basta. This was true. We had mussles, grits & shrimp, smoked swordfish & salmon, fried calimari and shrimp, sorbet and finished with a cappucino. We had all of this on a day that they don't serve fish in Venezia. It was awesome.

After dinner, Peter wanted to introduce me to some grad students. He also showed me some places on the mainland that the students could hang out. The places were jumping, but I was really tired and ready to go to bed. I didn't get back until about 2am. Part of the reason we were so late is because we were not sure where the place was, nor how to get back. Not to mention that I had to go to the bathroom the majority of the time. The walking tour we had earlier came in handy because I had already taken note of where some local restrooms were. I used this to navigate and orient myself within the town.

14.10.06

Non sono bevuto!

I am not happy with myself after the gangster party. I guess I was more tired than I thought. I slept all the way through lunch. Melissa, Amber, Mark and Dan came by with bottles of water because they thought I had a hang-over. It really sucked because I was not the least bit drunk nor hung-over. I guess kids will be kids. Also, it was sort of sweet that they thought enough of me to get some bottles of water to help me out.

Not much happened this weekend. We spent most of the time preparing for the trip to Venice. There is still a lot to get together, but everything is set up for the most part. Though the purpose of heading north is to go to Venice, a number of the students are pre-occupied with their fall break plans. The internet has been bogged down because everyone wants to set up flights and hostels.

12.10.06

Due viaggi a Firenze

Today was a delayed trip to Firenze. Originally, the students had the option of taking an earlier train in order to see the local food market. However, it seems this train failed to exist. So everyone had to take the later train and that part of the trip was "omitted." However, to accommodate the students that really wanted to see the market, the group split. I hate it when the students split according to major (as I always have) because it seems that interesting things remain interesting no matter what your major is.

I remained with the group that traveled with Paolo. He took us in to a building that he lived in when he was young, but was also a museum. After spending some time here, we went into the Duomo and take a look at the interior. The students were mesmerized. It still holds a certain air of awe. We spent a great amount of time with our heads back gazing at the ceiling.

After lunch, we had a tour of the Uffizi galleries. We had a great guide and the information was VERY interesting, but we were pretty tired because of the vast number of stairs, lack of seating and the heat. Though we enjoyed the tour, we were fully prepared to leave.


A number of students had their hearts set on going into the Duomo. However, because of the split, all of the students did not get the opportunity. After a poll was taken, we found the students wanted to return to Firenze the next day. Paolo and I set things up and we shall return to Firenze tomorrow.

This mornings train ride went a lot better. We were only five minutes late, but we found Paolo quite easily. The first visit was to the Museo della'Opera del Duomo. I got to see two statues that changed my understanding of art. The first was Michelangelo's Pieta and the second was Donatello's Mary Magdalene. These pieces have stood out in my memory every time I think of my trip to Italy. After the museo, we entered to look at the ceiling of the baptistery. It was a simple tour (one room) but still amazing.

After the tours we broke for lunch and were left to climb the Duomo on our own. It was quite a trip. It is not until you are right next to the frescoes that you realize how graphic they are. After reaching the top, I was quite worn and ready to go down. We took a few pictures, and then we headed to the station. Today, we were anxious to return because there was a "Gangster Party" this evening. I suppose this was what they think of hip-hop music, but I will refrain from the social and political commentary at this time. Overall, I had a great time and that is really all that matters.

9.10.06

Brutta copia della Santa Chiara

Of all things, we were not prepared for a water shortage in the center. Did I say shortage? In actuality, the water was completly off in the center. When I say it sucked, I mean it REALLY sucked. We could not shower, bearly go to the bathroom and there was not much to drink. The students made due and "adjusted" to the changes. Photography had to be cancelled because of the lack of water, so I had company during my Tuesday ciesta. Melissa, Haley and I spent time at Hermes Cafe and did more talking.

At dinner, we were better off with a bottle of wine. After dinner, we learned that the water would be on the next day after returning from our field trip. Though we were not happy about it, it was still good news. We took it in stride.

Wedesday's trip to Firenze was a nice distraction from our lack of water. Peter also took me to pick up my computer from the doctor. The report said that I had a total of sixty or more viruses on my computer. But it is all better now, and I simply had to reinstall a number of my drivers.

Guillermo made his appearance right before dinner. I was nervous about his visit, but I was able to learn a lot about the things going on back in the states. After dinner, he spent a little time looking at some of the projects from last week. He was very impressed by the work that was done. At this point, my nerves were at ease.

7.10.06

Il mio calcolatore ammalato

So things were going great this weekend. However, I forgot to mention that my computer got a virus. I dunno how, but it has kept my spirits rather low. Most of you know how I feel about my computers and my car. They are like my children. Peter is going to take me to the computer repair place tomorrow, so we can figure out what the problem is.

It seems that things have gotten back to normal after a wild and busy week. Things are still settling
down regarding the presentations that took place last week. I still don't understand how "in the clouds" some of the students can be. At times I think it is an act, but it was something I had not planned on having to worry about during the weekend. Lots of people are still raving about how nice it was. We distributed the grades for the these projects today. It amazes me how conditioned the typical college student can be. Even though you constantly tell the students that the mark they have received in not equivalent to a normal letter grade, they still want to know if the are getting an "A" or "B". I can only laugh at it. For some reason, the seem to think that we carry a bag of grades. Once we give a certain number of A's away, all that is left are B's. Silly students.

As a change of pace, I was able to persuade Peter to hold lecture outside. The weather seemed to be nice during most of the day. But, when it came time for lecture, it got windy and cool. It took all of us by surprise. After class, Peter called the computer doctor and they said my computer would be ready the next day. I still must go a night without my baby.

5.10.06

Fu Fluns, Teresa and Cortona

This weekend could not come fast enough. The last few days were pretty stressful and rather full, but I made it thorugh. A number of the students took a trip to Torino. I am taking this weekend to relax and wind down. Besides that, this weekend marks Teresa's 21st Birthday. I spent the day trying to arrange a cake. We wanted to surpise her at midnight such close friends to her.

We spent Saturday in Cortona. We ate lunch at a resturaunt called Fu Fluns. The service was wonderful and we had great meals. After dinner, the group seemed to have gotten split. I spent a lot of with Brandi and Haley in a modern cafe. We talked about art, religion and philosophy. It was cozy and relaxing.

After returning from Cortona (and after dinner) we managed to get Teresa to join us at the Velvet Underground. It was great to have everyone out at the same time. I was happy that we were able to her a great time when she was so far away from friends and family.

3.10.06

Rassegna finale

Ladies and gentleman, I present... The Final Review. The way these projects were presented was actually quite exciting. Instead of a bunch of straight crits in the same area, we put together a "museum exhibit". With proper timing, location and arrangment, the students were able to act as art directors for their projects. The experience was unique and quite stressful at times. Most of the projects turned out very well. A great number actually took me by surprise. Others actually took a really surprising turn for the worst. Overall, everyone did well (so why are the students so concerned about their grades).

After the presentations, Maria (our guest) gave her lecture to an audience of exhaus
ted students. Of all things, I think this was the least well planned part of the day. The students struggled to stay awake during the the presentation, but I think Maria understood for the most part (in her own way). That evening, the students scattered throughout the building to wind down. Tomorrow, they will be in store for quite a city in Assisi.

The trip to Assisi was one of the easier of all of our trips. It consisted of a breif, yet in-depth tour of the St. Francis Cathedral, a brief look at some doors and off to lunch. Well, it was easy for some. Others, had to do an immediate "follow-up" for the presentations of the previous day. I felt an obligation to remain as Melissa re-performed the research part of her project on herself before Maria. After it was over, she said she better understood the crit she recieved and was more than happy to send the newly acquired data in a few days. I guess even the harshest situation can allow us to walk away with a lesson in life.

The remainder of Assisi was nice. I ran into Iris (from Calpoly) and we walked around the Cathedral of Santa Chiara for awhile. She shares the same interest in hoodies as I. We spent time trying to find some nice ones, but only ended up using up energy. I don't think it was a complete loss because she seems like a really nice person. We didn't exactly talk much, but I could see us becoming pretty good friends.

I suppose the excitment began when it was time to go. Each school gathered at seperate locations to walk their respective students to the bus. Upon leaving the location, everyone in each group was accounted for. Once we made it to the buses, no one could account for the wearabouts of Teresa. "She was right beside me". I stayed behind for the later bus to ensure that she was found and made it safely to the center. When she first told me what happened, I honestly thought she was trying to cover up what really happened. However, the more she told it to other (in the same way) I believed it. Basically, she said she got lost in thought and when she came back to reality, the group was gone. I know what everyone is thinking... it still boggles my mind.

1.10.06

Un altro giorno nell'occhio del pubblico

Monday was not very exciting. It was one of those "smile for the camera" days. The city always likes to re-establish their relationship with the center by presenting each University with a certificate of friendship. Before issuing the certificates, they hold a presentation completely in Italian.

After the ceremony, Peter had to head to Rome in order to pick up our lecturer for Wednesday. This, I was left in charge of the students. He left me in charge. If you know me, then you know my reasons for not wanting to be a teacher and you understand that this would be me facing up to one of my fears. However, things were not so bad. I held a brief 30min session and left them to finish up their projects. I was also able to take some time to work on my personal things as well.

I thought the stress of Monday was going to leave me broken. Instead, the stress of Tuesday ran me away from the building. Maybe I shouldn't put it in such a way. After seeing the things I had to accomplish in regards to organizing the students for tomorrow, I had to pull a disappearing act. I (with a few other students) escaped for about an hour after dinner to "calm down". I suppose if I really wanted calm, I should not have had a cappucino. I was relaxed upon return. I think I went to bed at about 4 or 5am (still leaving about two students awake and working alone). I think tomorrow will go rather well.

29.9.06

Ero solo stanco...

I fully intended to wake up for lunch. I really wanted to. I have been so busy the last couple of days. On top of that, I was a bit angry and stayed out WAY later than I had intended to last night. All of this, caused me to sleep through lunch. I was really hungry too.

The thing that makes it worse is what everyone thought. I was simply tired, but everyone seems to think I was drunk. Melissa, Amber, Mark and Dan came to my room with bottles of water. They thought I had a hangover. I had to explain to them that I don't get drunk and (more specifically) I would never get drunk with them. I don't think they believed me, but I also didn't feel like wasting my breathe.

I spent most of the day/weekend relaxing and doing nothing. I tied up ends here and there, but nothing serious really happened.

28.9.06

Oggi, andiamo acquistare!

Today, we went to Revenna. Initially, this visit didn't mean much because I could not remember anything that we did. However, once we made it to the town, things came rushing back once more. Basilica di San Vitale was the place in which I was able to finally grasp what I was learning in Art, Architecture and World History. Before, I would learn dates and events as if they had not effect on one another. But seeing how the changes in government also constituted change in religion, brought it all together for me. It was nice. We also saw Dante's tomb (a bit of a disappointment).

At lunch, we shopped. I am the first to say that shopping is not "something to do", but I suppose some students (Teresa and Mark) are rubbing off on me. We found a couple of spots and stayed in them, just to browse. I also had to cancel the architecture student's extended trip to Urbino. It seemed that the housing situation had not been worked out and we lacked hostels for about 5 of our 25 students. Instead, we would try to schedule a day trip to Arezzo tomorrow.

The Comune di Revenna tourist's beaureau offers a new way to see the town. If
you are traveling in a group, you can buy a multi-pass that covers the entire group. This idea saves groups money and is efficient for paying entrance fees. However, it is not the best thing for large groups of people with varying agendas. Getting this group around is harder than herding cattle.

The trip to Arezzo was... well, it didn't suck. Peter wanted to show a few modern buildings to everyone. The first problem was getting everyone to Arezzo at the right time. After we realized that an entire train disappeared, caught up with students that had no cell phone and corralled the remaining students, we began the tour.

The first building we saw was really awesome. It was an urban apartment building not far from the train station. Fausto actually worked on the design so it was nice to have him present to answer questions. However, only a handful of us took advantage of the opportunity.

The next place we went was actually a park. Peter wanted to show us how the community took advantage of this outdoor space. At this point, the mood of the trip changed. We encountered some kids that needed to get a soccer ball out of a tree. I will let the video link explain the rest. Note the voices after the water bottle is thrown the first time:

Water Bottle Incident

After this, the bottle exploded and a rain of pink lemonade fell all over Peter. Needless to say, the students got quite a laugh out of it. I think Peter laughed as well, I feel he took it rather well. We continued the tour, but the remaining buildings were not impressive (in my opinion).

Tonight is the first party of the year. They call it the hip-hop party. I suppose this is their idea of hip-hop. I am not looking really forward to it, but I guess we will see how things go.

26.9.06

Boun Compleanos, Micah e Sonia

I can't remember the next few days very well because I am writing about them two weeks later. I do know that Monday, September 25th was a very hard day to get through. Nothing bad happened, but I spent most of the day anticipating talking on the phone. That is right, I am actually looking forward to talking on the phone. If you have not figured it out, today is Micah's 8th birthday. Imagine how silly you feel when you want the entire day to fly by so that you can talk to an 8 year old for 10 min. on the phone.

When I finally talked to him, we didn't say much. Apparently, he is big enough for his own cell phone. I guess this is good. I don't have to go through a middle man to talk to him now. I have access to him anytime and anyplace. I asked him what he wanted and of course he said some kind of toy. When we finally established that he was not getting one he settled on sportswear. I don't think he realizes how far away I am. Furthermore, I know he does not realize that I am in Italy- campioni del mondo.

Tuesday was funny because it is Sonia's birthday. It is funny because I initially thought it was Sunday. At least I thought it was earlier instead of later. Anyhow, I know I could call her, but I was hoping Aisha would do it for me. However, I got an email from her saying that Sonia was not in New York. She got it in her mind to go to med school... in freakin Isreal. She is going to be there for four years. This put bad thoughts into my head. You know the kind that I mean... permanent resident of Italy-type-thoughts. I think it is in all of our best interest if I ended this message here.

24.9.06

L'isola di Capri- pronounced Ca'-pree

This seems to be the story that everyone has been waiting on. I should preface by saying that there are a lot of things I have not included because you simply had to be there. I can say that this may have been the time of my life. With that said, I want to thank the group I was "with" for keeping me entertained (even when I wasn't). Also, thanks for sharing your pictures. Now, on with the stories.

We finally left Rome. I thought this was going to be a simple "get on the train and sleep" trip to Rome. However, for some reason, our group of five guys increased with the addition of about seven girls. I wasn't too bothered. However, numbers only adds confusion. Thus, the trip there was a bit frustrating. "That is all I have to say about that."

What was great was the way things were flowing into my memory as we walked the streets of Anacapri. As we made our way to the hostel, nostalgia got the best of me as I gazed upon the beauty of the city. This was only the small part, but it held such memories in my heart that it was really hard to hide my excitement. As we walked into the doors of Bussola di Hermes, it was like returning home. I stood in the back as Rita Ferraro gave a sample schedule of sites and events for the group. Not much has changed about her because it still seems like she is able to say everything in one breathe. Then Pasquale came to greet the group. He is still as loving and friendly as I remember. The best part was when I finally revealed who I was to Rita. She was so excited and began to tell me stories of how they have improved and renovated to Hostel (now a hotel) since tragedies of 2002. She advised me to take a personal tour and take pictures if I like. I highly encourage everyone to stay here when visiting Capri. It is affordable and like I said, the staff is the friendliest ever. I shall always return to this location!

Rita recommended that the group goes to eat a pizzeria near the
lighthouse. On our way out, she surprised me with four bottles of free wine. I thought that was great, she told us to enjoy it under the stars on the water. Upon arrival to the lighthouse, I was ready to head to the pizzeria. However, I can not lie, the photo opportunities were amazing because the area was just gorgeous. However, I left my camera in the room, so the pictures shared from that night are courtesy of Dan. I think we may have missed the pizzeria by a few minutes. Instead, we ate at this pretty expensive restaurant close to the water. The food was nice, the company was okay, but once again I have found that large groups are not the best way to travel. A table of twelve is not an easy check to split. "That is all I have to say about that."

After dinner and finishing the bottles if wine, we were going to head back to the hostel. Instead, some wanted to hang out, so I found the Underground and went there for drinks and dancing. Yes, those that know me know I can't dance, but I like to move to music. I dunno why, but everyone seems to think I got the party started that night. It worked to my favor because everyone wanted to dance with me that night. It did wonders for my self-esteem, but I was just happy to have a good time. I was even more happy to meet this really cute girl from Trinity in Connecticut. She is studying fashion in Rome, I just wish I could remember her name!

I guess when I signed up for this trip, I didn't realized that I was part of a "tour group". So you can imagine my surprise the next morning when I heard, "We aren't going to Pompei. We are going to spend another day in Capri." I don't mean to be rude, but I am a grown man. I love Capri, but I missed Pompei last time. Ya'll may not be going to Pompei, but I am going. With that, I found the need to pull an Amistad- "Give us, us free."

The first half of the day I spent shopping with Haley, Melissa and Teresa. But, mainly I was with Teresa. She taught me the art behind her shopping. I suppose now I understand why she (and others) shop so much. Though their method is a complete other thing I probably won't understand. It was great to have time to just talk with her. Later, we caught up with Brandi, Christina and Dan. The group of us bought a boat tour around the island. Included was a swim in the Grotto Verde, numerous facts and a guide (Jerry) so cool that he cause a small tuna while explaining a site. I hope I can post a link to the video soon. As he pulled the boat to the dock, he let out a whistle. We all looked up and found a rather eager dog on the dock quite anxious to join us aboard. It was really cool. After that, we went back to shower and get ready for dinner. Dan and I were tired and expected the girls to take forever to get ready. They certainly surprised us because they were ready an hour before we expected. We really relaxing dinner and arranged to go to the club again. However, this time, the only ones that actually came were Dan and Christina. Mark was kinda mad when Dan and I left a little after midnight. I think he got over it pretty quickly.

The next morning, Dan and I rose early to got to Pompei. Mark decided he wanted to come along as well. Once again, the girls impressed us because they were ready to go a full 15 minutes early. I suppose I can't pick on them for being late all the time anymore. The group set out on a rather adventurous trip to Pompei and ultimately to home to Castiglion Fiorentino. When we finally reached Pompei, I was worried about the heat (no problem). I was worried about the walk (no problem). I was worried about food (no problem). I was worried about securing our bags (no problem). I was worried about getting a good tour guide (problem). The guy we ended up getting was pretty close to horrible. He was an older man named Hector. I don't know why, but he seemed to think they we were only interested in the secret lives of the inhabitants of Pompei. After our tour, I got the idea that the village was a primitive Las Vegas. Furthermore, I felt that the tragedy probably happened due to the wrath of God. I am more assured that all of the life there was not food, money and sex, but this is how the guide made it seem. We were all relieved when the tour was over and reluctant to pay the man.

Now, began our journey home. Due to missed, delayed and cancelled trains, the trip took longer than we had intended. However, this was not the negative part of the journey. Instead, we had to put up with pazzeschi Americani (crazy Americans). Upon seeing this group of six or eight kids from America, our group felt better about how we have adapted to the culture. The pazzeschi Americani were loud, obnoxious, ignorant and foul mouthed. We were even further disappointed to discover that they too were on out connecting train. These students became the topic of discussion for the remainder of the night. When we got to Arezzo, we had to take cabs to make it back to Castiglion, so we didn't have to walk up the hill from the station. During our travel, we kept Sharon informed of our delays, so she had dinner set out for us when we finally made it home... and it really felt like home.

20.9.06

When in Rome...

Tuesday
After a morning filled with travel, we arrived at the hotel in Rome at about noon. Our rooms were not ready (they never are on this trip) so we put our bags in the bar. At this point, we were free until out historic walking tour of the city. A group of us decided to visit the Coliseum early (still on the "Gladiator" fix). After "being a tourist" I decided to separate from the group for sketching and alone time. When the group met for the tour, we found that we were smarter than the tour guide. He was not completely wrong, but he put some buildings in the wrong period and skipped over things that the students were quite interested in. Overall, the tour was okay, but I guess the students are spoiled with a guide like Paolo. A number of them were VERY disappointed about not being able to enter the Coliseum. I know that was one of the best parts our our tour in 2002. The tourist scene has changed a great deal in Italy.

Nothing special really happened that evening. I didn't really care where I ate, but my group (the usuals) wanted to eat at Hard Rock. However, it was not possible tonight because the "A" line closed early. Instead we went to a shady pizzeria not on the "B" line. The waitress was cute, but the place was empty and service took a long time. After dinner, we decided to revisit the Coliseum at night. It was a great way to end our first night in Roma.

Wednesday
Today began with an audience with the Pope. It was pretty cool to actually get to sit this time around, however it was not as amazing as my audience with John Paul II. It was really hot and at times boring. But once again, I was happy to be their because I know there are many that wish they could have been in my seat. I spent most of the day on the phone with Peter trying to make arrangements for the group that evening. We were going to a museum opening so they wanted to look nice. This meant they had to "sit out" a tour that they were going to have before in order to get ready. I know this is going to come back and bite them all. That afternoon, Paolo gave us a great tour of St. Peter's. He still talks about the Pieta with the same passion and mystique.

The museum opening was nice, but not what I had expected. I was thinking there were going to be more architects and more discussion. It was nothing like architectural gatherings I have attended in Dallas. I suppose AIA and Corgan are better at entertaining. I was able to have a few discussions with the students, but it wasn't the same. After the exhibition, we all split for dinner. I wasn't with the group that I had intended, but I was with an okay group. Dinner was not great, but we had an adventure getting home.

Tonight was the first time we experienced every form of transportation that Rome had to offer. Dinner took so long, that the "A" line was already closed by the time we were ready to go. We decided to take a bus to the "B" line. However, the line closed by the time a bus arrived. Instead, we rode a bus to the area of the hotel and walked the rest of the way. I think it took about two or three hours to get back. It was ok. I was too tired to do anything that evening.

Thursday
It doesn't hurt to remember that everything you are given, you eventually pay for. Well, then again... sometimes it can hurt. The students missed a few sites yesterday because they wanted to get ready. In turn, all of the sites were crammed into one day of extensive walking. We walked an entire region of Rome. Then, we walked to another region to catch a bus. I found it hilarious because I saw this journey coming a mile away. What I did not find funny was losing my pictures. I had been having trouble with battery power already. When I finally got the problem solved, I accidently formatted my memory card and lost the numerous pictures I had taken the previous day. They are irreplacable. This did, however, happen before we visited Renzo Piano's Parco della Musica. I think this visit will do wonders for my research.

What was interesting was the final region that we visited. It was the home of the gypsies. Typically, society sees these people as trouble makers and theives. However, Peter and his group of Stalkers have taken time to understand these people in an attempt to give them an accepted place in society. Gypsies are human, thus they deserve to be treated accordingly.

After the tour, Peter let the students decide to come back another time to finish the tours of Rome. I think he was not feeling well and could not go on much longer. That evening, we went to eat at Hard Rock Cafe. I wasn't excited about it, but I wasn't opposed to the idea either. I simply went along with the flow. I had a plate of nachos and the drink(s) I had been deprived of the night before. I then went back to the hotel to sleep the night away. Other students went to see sites for one last time. I felt I needed to conserve my energy for our trip to Capri tomorrow morning.

18.9.06

Not too much

Nothing much happened Sunday. I spent time around the center. I relaxed and made plans for the coming trip to Rome. I suppose the guys got their wishes fulfilled after dinner. We were treated "Gladiator" in the theatre. Though most of us have seen it numerous times, the movie still retained an amazing turnout. It hyped everyone up to see the Coliseum in Rome.

Monday, was filled with preparation as well. I think we literally attended every class offered by the College today. We were so worn by the time dinner came. After dinner, Melissa, Brandi, Teresa and I set out to do our laundry. However, instead of walking, we opted to get a cab. When the vehicle showed up, the driver was none other than Filippo. This is the same driver that was hired by the center in 2002 to transport the ARCH students to the project's site. It was great to see him and he gave us a great price for the fare.

At the Laundromat, I had time to get to know the girls a bit better. We got gelato next door. We also read and joked around. It was great to do my own laundry again, but the company I was with made it better. The walk back did not last as long as I thought it would. I think I may make this journey a habit (especially if laundry day keeps turning out the same).

Now, on to Roma...

16.9.06

Let's hear it for the boys- Firenze for a Day

Friday was presentation day. I think it went a lot smoother than anticipated. Some of the projects that had great potential were a bit disappointing and vice-versa. Overall, however, I think all of the groups grasped the lesson from this project. However, I don't think they all understand that they did a good job. A few of the groups did not work together very well.

That night, I saw no problem in going out with the students to celebrate their regained freedom. We began at the Loggia and ended at the Garden Underground. However, some students felt a bit more liberated than others. It wasn't too embarrassing, but there were few students that did a bit too much celebrating. I was happy to have Matt, Dan and Mark there to help me keep things under control.

It seems like these three guys are always together and always letting me "tag along". We took a trip to Firenze to handle a few things. Matt wanted to get a leather jacket and Dan wanted to get some t-shirts. We ended up falling into this great store that told us all about the discounted merchandise available to us because we are not from Europe. Due to the reduced prices, Dan bought a leather jacket as well. After that, we visited a few other stores in town. These stores turned out not to be what we thought. In the end, we bought our t-shirts from a tourist stand.

As soon as we got back on the train in Firenze, rain began to pour down. However, we decided to brave the weather and not get a taxi. When we arrived in Castiglion, the rain came down harder and we ran into Reilly and Sara. The two of them were not prepared for wet weather. We shared our umbrellas and jackets with them as we trekked back to the center.

Saturday evening, we were presented with the opportunity to watch a movie in the theatre. They guys wanted to watch one movie, but the girls (with me and Dan) out-voted them and we watch "The Sound of Music". It was a good movie, but not as good as they made it sound. It was very touching, but no tears reached my eyes. It was simply mediocre.

14.9.06

Leave no man behind

Tuesday left not much for us. Calpoy has left for Rome so the building is rather quiet. The students are looking forward to faster internet speeds, more space and more food at dinner. I suppose it is nice like this, but I do like having more than the Aggies around. It gives us all a true view of the world. It is NOT College Station.

Wednesday, was pretty much a nightmare day for me. I have been told time after time to "stop babying" the students. "They are adults" so they should figure stuff out for themselves. I think it is about time I took this advice. I can bearly get my own work done because I am field their questions. Basically, I am going to have to seclude myself for some time.

Today, we went to Sienna. Paolo could not come, so the only people on the trip that had attended were Anna and I. First, we woke to find that our "breakfast" was locked in the office. The students seemed to find it okay to blame me (this by the way was not the best idea). When we got off of the bus, we were responsible for getting the students to the tour guide, with our limited knowlegde and bad maps. I think we did a rather good job of getting the students there in a good amount of time (but the students didn't feel this was fast enough). After that, I was basically responsible for making sure no one lost the group.

Once again, Peter had an interesting tour prepared for after lunch. We went to the "Good Vibrations" exhibit. It was a contemporary exhibit on rock and roll. I rather enjoyed it. I didn't make it to all of the roms, but I do have my favorites. The best (in my opinion) was the vault exhibit. It simply had a Marshall amplifier with music being piped into it. When we first stepped into the space, all we heard was the hum of the electricity in the amp. Then, pressing the pedal in a pulsing motion we were able to get a little sound. Finally, pressed it for an extended period and was greeted by the sounds of Jimi Hendrix playing the Star Spangled Banner. This is one of the few versions of the song I feel actually have heart. I really like the entire exhibition, but this one in particular was a well thought presentation.

At this point, things are going great, but this was only short lived. The time came to get back to the bus, and I had a feeling that everyone did not know how to get there. Unfortunately, my intuition was right. Long story short, I had to leave two students in Sienna. I felt horrible. Others told me that they had just as much opportunity as everyone else, but the truth of the matter... we had no place to be but dinner. And we were the only ones in the school so dinner could have been a bit late. In the end, they made it back to the center safely. I just hope it doesn't happen again.

Tonight, began the all-nighters for the students to get their work done for the presentation Friday. They worked so diligently that I am finally able to focus on what I need to be doing with my work. I have actually made strides regarding my final study. I am quite pleased with myself.

12.9.06

Cinque Terra

It has been four days, so I suppose I owe a bit more when it comes to writing. You see, this weekend, I went to Cinque Terra. The moment I set foot back into the center, I was running around trying to tackle numerous tasks. You will see what I mean as you read on.

The trip to Cinque Terra was organized for eight people. Four girls (Christina, Melissa, Teresa and Brandi) and four guys (Matt, Daniel, Mark and myself) set out for a weekend adventure filled with hiking and beaches. Little did we know that our adventure would start before we stepped outside of the center. Though we agreed to leave the center a certain hour, Melissa was delayed so the guys set out to buy the tickets and distribute them when the girls caught up.

"Should we just buy our tickets and leave without them?"
"Nah, they will be here and that's not right." So we waited and they showed up about 10min before it was time to leave. We bought the tickets, boarded the train and we were off.

Our train got us there 2 hours before we could check into our hostel. We decided to "lock" our stuff up and find something to eat. The trek to a pizzeria was not hard at all, but the girls were so indecisive. Eventually, I just stepped into place and started ordering. Everyone followed so our first meal in Cinque Terra was a success.

Upon return to the hostel, the guys were given a 5 person room. We were informed that may be a fifth person joining us. Though we paid for two 4 person rooms. We went to the beach and everyone got a kick out of my fear of bees. The swim cause Matt and I to crave seafood. So, we all went to the hostel to shower and change. After opening the front door, we discovered our fifth roommate. Jo was from Wales. Traveling alone, Jo was meeting up with people that she had met only days ago. Did I mention Jo was a girl? She was pretty cool. She wasn't extremely gorgeous or anything, but she was nice to talk to and cute enough. I was worried that she may think the entire situation was awkward (4 guys & one girl.)

After showering, we set out to find a nice place to get seafood. In this one road town, the selection was not cast, but we soon settled into the only place we felt could accommodate a table for eight. After 8 entrees, about 6 desserts, a few waters/cokes, and two bottles of Reisling, our total tab was 192 Euro. It may have been expensive, but it was definitely tasty. After that, we went to sleep with an agreement, "We just get up when we get up and do whatever we feel. No set times for the morning."

When morning arrives, Mark gets awakened by the bells of the local church (same as at the Center). One by one, we arise (without waking each other) and prepare for the day. When we are all dressed we decided to go for a hike. Mark knocks on the girls' door, but no one answers so we headed out. We hiked from on city to another. We would have done it in half of the time, but we were following the "Elderly People Convention" that decided to visit Cinque Terra that day. On our trek back, I received a call from the girls asking why we left them. They said they were up, they just didn't feel like answering the knock because it was annoying. We were like, oh well.

They joined us for the beach later that day. But, that was for only about 2 or 3 hours because we had to do at least one serious hike. We chose the infamous trail number 9. While searching for the trail, we came across and amazing modern building. The discovery actually got better when we found out this building (with so much thought put into it) was merely a parking garage. We thought that was as good as it got, until we reached the top level to find that it was a roof garden. It was a nice accidental discovery.

The hike's difficulty level was "slight". We think that meant, "slightly the hardest trail ever". The majority of the first 30min was nothing but a vertical hike. As we started out, we came across a resort (Casa di Limoni) and the owners promised us a glass of lemonade if we made it to the top. There, we would find a shrine and a cathedral. In addition, there were amazing views along the way. Upon out return, owners kept their promise and served us fresh lemonade. In addition, they gave us a brief history of the property. They told us how they asked that the original rock into which it was built to be exposed.

That night, we got back to find that Jo had been replaced by Dave. Dave was a rather large (non-female) from Canada. After some time, I found that he freaked me out. He got his clothes stuck in the washing machine and was set on taking it apart to get them out. He pulled out knives, swiss army knives and all kinds of weaponry in order to accomplish his task. It freaked me out, but not enough to remove me from my bed. Mark, on the otherhand, slept on the girls' couch. The rest of us made it through the night without being massacred by the knife wielding Canadian.

Sunday morning, we woke up and made our way back to Castiglion. On the way, we ran into some other students from A&M and they traveled with us to Pisa. Then we finally got back to the center after the longest train ride ever. It was cool though because there were some cute dutch blond girls on the train that liked us. They kept smiling and taking our pictures.

Once we got to the center, the uproar began. Apparently, the little memorial ceremony we planned for September 11 had turned into a big deal. I spent the evening helping Sharon prepare the building and get the word out to the students. There going to be a number of important figures at the center and they really wanted to look good.

When the actual event happened, it was very brief and awkward. The two keynote speakers spoke in Italian, so none of the students understood any of it. It was quite funny when the students realized that the speeches addressed issues that were from opposing extremist points of view. When the student participation part happened, it was short lived. Concluding the student speech, there was the call for a moment of silence. However, the MC did not understand English and ran completely over this part of the ceremony. The A&M students were fully dressed (as asked), UT had already left for Rome and the Calpoly students showed up in street clothes. It was very awkward.

That evening, I spent time modeling for the Calpoly students. They needed subjects to pose for figure drawing. It was quite an experience. I have new respect for individuals that do this sort of thing on a regular basis. I made a nice chunk of change that I could use for hanging out with at the Loggia.

It has taken me all week to write this post, but I think I have covered everything. I still have not solved the problem with the pictures which frustrates me. I am reluctant to move sites because I understand everyone has this one already. If the need comes, I will try to make the transitions as smoothly as possible.

7.9.06

Prima Fine Settimana

They say time flies when you are having fun. It also flies when you are waiting to have fun. I can't believe it is already time for another update. I suppose I have been keeping so busy that I haven't been paying attention. I apologize for the lack of pictures thus far. I still have not figured out the issue with uploading. But trust me, when they come... there will be plenty!

Yesterday, we took out field trip to Firenze (Florence). It was the same old same.... meaning I liked it. Paolo's lecture was amazing as usual. I still learn stuff even though it is my second time around with him. We ate lunch at the same restaurant, Pinella. But, this time I sat at the faculty table. I didn't really want to because I have developed a rapport with a number of the students (odd as they may be). However, it was needed in the right thing to do. I got to know Paolo a bit better and also talked with some other profs that seem pretty cool.

After lunch, Peter took us on his walking tour. The students seemed quite captivated. Even though everyone was full and tired, it didn't take much to keep their attention. They even participated in a few reading exercises and asked questions. I was delighted.

When the tour was over, Peter left everyone to do their own thing. He left us at the art store he always frequents (that always gets me lost). I even said, "This is the point where I get lost." I guess the students didn't hear me and found this opportunity to let me lead them. I was so lost at first, it ain't even funny. But I guess I made a learning experience out of it. (A) When I say I am lost I ain't joking and I don't mind walking a little further to see what is around a corner. (B) Don't ask me how to get somewhere... I AM FREAKING LOST!

Upon return to the center, we had dinner and participated in a centerwide charette. The problem we were given was to redesign the center's courtyard. Since the removal of the large tree, a true program has not been developed for the space. I was delighted to participate, but did not want my "T.A. Status" to cause the students to simply follow my lead. I threw suggestions out, but I did not put a single stroke on the final presentation, and used a guiding technique when design questions came up. I think we did a great job in the end, and it was fun. Though we got off to a bit of a rocky start.

The next day was filled with nothing but classes and food. I think everyone is finally getting the grasp of the fact that I am still a student. I simply can't see why that is so hard to understand. The day for me was full of work. If I wasn't doing something for Peter, then I was making announcements for Paolo or Sharon. If that wasn't the case, I was setting up a meeting for someone or reserving a room. I don't mind the work, but I think it took it out of me today. I have not touched my work for awhile.

When I "finished" working, I set out to do my laundry at the new laundromat, but it turned out not to be in the location I had thought. I settled on doing it after dinner. In turn I joined Dr. Blackwielder's class (I gotta get used to calling her Julia) for an old Cary Grant/Catherine Hepburn movie. It was a typical Catherine Hepburn part and it was surprisingly hilarious. I think I really do like Julia.

After dinner, I walked to the laundromat. It was about a 30 min trip but I think it was worth it. It gave me the opportunity to relax my mind and see new parts of the town. Upon arrival, I saw the biggest (and probably best) gelateria in town. I was presently surprised by the setup of the entire area. I was able to relax and read in perfect peace. My walk back was hard, but not too bad. Now that I have done the hills with a pack, I am sure my body will stop complaining. I think I had a good day. Tomorrow... Cinque Terra!