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.


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.


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.