Thursday, April 19, 2012

remember that time i went to rome...

the Vatican

so in my last post i mentioned that i had a draft saved about my adventures in rome, but i hadn't organized them into readable sentences or anything yet. i figured i should probably make that a priority before it becomes outdated and irrelevant (i wrote that last sentence about a month ago. so i think it's a little too late for that. oops.) like all the other twenty some odd drafts i have saved on here. but because i'm tired and i'm pretty sure i don't have long to do this, i'm going to make one of my famous lists. shall we?

rome was... quite the experience. i'd be lying if i said i absolutely loved it from the start, heck it'd be lying if i said i liked it from the start.
first, we arrived mid-morning after spending the night attempting to sleep sitting up on the train. any day that begins off with train sleep as it's backer is doomed from the start. when we'd told people we were heading to rome we were greeted with handfuls of warnings about pick pockets and thieves. with all these warnings fresh in my mind i stepped off the train tired, sore, and immediately overwhelmed.

after gaining some semblance of our barrings, me and marissa attempted to find the tourist office to get a map and recommendations on hostels worth staying at. a few laps around the station confirmed the last thing i wanted to hear, there was no tourist office... or none that we could find. our aimless wanderings found us in front of a map of the station trying our hardest to hopefully see the tourist office that we'd somehow missed. after only a minute of staring but not understanding what my eyes were seeing, we were confronted by an elderly-ish man (whom i took it upon myself to immediately distrust very, very strongly. my intense aversion to him was probably a mix of sleep deprivation and residual paranoia from my loved one's warnings. the combination of which is much more powerful than i ever could have anticipated.) this italian grandfather then proceeded to, repeatedly, give us a sales pitch on his abilities to find the cheapest and closest hotels that would best suit our needs because he'd just helped a group of eleven find a hostel clear across town for 10 euro a piece and then they ended up coming back to him to stay in the first hotel he'd recommended that was near the station and only 27 euro a piece and how the people were so grateful to him and how he was not going to charge us any commission, like the people at the booths would and how we should trust him because he just helped a group of eleven find a hostel clear across town for 10 euro a piece and then they ended up coming back to him to stay in the first hotel he'd recommended that was near the station and only 27 euro a piece... seriously. exactly like that. he talked in circles.  he offered to take us to the nearby hotel and just as i was about to open my mouth to say no thank you marissa agreed. so we went.
the hotel he promised us ended up being less like a hotel and more like the sketchiest hotel i'd ever set foot in. there was no sign out front to mark it, and we had to use three separate keys to get inside the building, inside the gate that was inside the building, and then inside our room. upon entering our bedroom i realized this wouldn't be so bad. that is until i noticed there was only a full sized bed in there. yep. one bed. two girls.
the fact that we had a private bathroom totally won me over and then i realized we had a bidet.  and that's when i couldn't stop laughing.
the next hour contained the overly friendly Italian grandpa from the train station coming and getting us from the hotel to take us to the open tour, tour bus company to help us purchase a ticket, which we surely didn't need, and then to a different tour bus company to purchase another ticket which would take us to Pompeii and Naples the next day, which is something we actually wanted.

the rest of the Rome trip definitely got better, well that is after a small incident in the internet cafe, where we were reassuring loved ones that we had made it safe, which was speaking a little too soon. i had just finished using my half of our purchased 30 minutes when i heard something happening behind me. turning around i saw two men in an awkward embrace of sorts, which turned out to be less of an embrace more of an attack. after semi wrestling for a minute or two the second man whipped out some handcuffs, and after slapping the first man around a few times, he cuffed the man and led him out of the store. i could taste the adrenalin in my mouth.
after that everything definitely went up hill. i wish i could give you a play by play of our next few days but, due to the time that's passed and my awesome memory, i couldn't do that even if i tried. so instead here's a list of things i managed to jot down in my phone while we were there:

  • while on the train from Rome to Florence i definitely saw a rather detailed piece of graffiti of the monster dude from the goonies.... sloth, i think? yeah. it was pretty top notch. 
  • i managed to eat at mcdonalds twice while i was there. before you judge, i managed to eat something they don't offer back at home. so that makes it ok... right? right.
  • our bus ride to pompeii was rather long and with my talent of sleeping on public transportation i rested my head on the window and slept the whole time. sounds simple enough. nope. the ride was so bumpy and i was so tired that i didn't even notice my head being repeatedly hit on the window giving me a surprisingly massive raised bruise on the left side of my head about the size of the side of my hand, from the tip of my pinky to the base of my hand. 
  • i forgot my camera charger, which is still my biggest regret over the past three months. i didn't get nearly as many pictures of rome or florence that i wanted. i'm still sad about that. 
to conserve battery in my camera i started taking pictures on my phone. this was one of my favorites of the Colosseum. 

  • my favorite memory in rome was easily sitting at the trevi fountain on our last day, eating bueno flavored gelato, the temperature was 75 degrees and being perfectly content. i could have sat there for hours.
  • my cold uninviting personality finally paid off. tons of soulless italian salesmen felt the chill that is my cold shoulder over the two days we were there. every time one would approach me and marissa i'd quickly emasculate them with a flick of the hand and a "no thank you." only one man recovered quickly enough to retort with a "no gratzi?!" (i'm totally kidding by the way, they don't think twice about being rejected because it literally happens every two seconds to them. on the bottom of the list of jobs that strip you of any and all dignity resides the street salesmen.)
  • in other heart breaking news: i am nearly out of chap stick. i have probably two more uses out of it before i have to stoop to scooping some out of the bottom of it with my finger. those of you who offered to send me some are liars. that is all. (due to my untimliness of posting this, i have since completely run out of chap stick and replaced it with some that will do for now)
  • the day we tried to leave rome was a train strike. yep. when the lady at the ticket booth told us that i didn't know whether to laugh at our horrible luck or to cry at our horrible luck.

needless to say we eventually made it home safe and upon reflection of all the wrong it's done me, i've decided i definitely want to go back to rome. soon.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Lets break my comfort zone, everybody together now!

So while I was brushing my teeth to get ready for bed I realized I didn't smell anything. Normally that's a good thing but it alarmed me because that means my apartment no longer has that distinct Europe smell. My nose has finally acclimated to it. And it's not just that, but my building's doors no longer confuse me. I've finally learned which way each individual one opens. And when going somewhere I no longer have to take five minutes planning my course, but instead I have the buses memorized and know exactly when to leave and what connections to take (alright that one isn't entirely true. I got lost just last week but still, I've made significant improvements).

I realized I've been here for 71 days. That means I only have 79 days to go. My time here is nearly half over. This brought about on an onslaught of overbearing fears that maybe I'm not doing enough. That I'm not fully taking every advantage of the opportunity that I've been given to come here. That I'm going to leave wanting. That I'm going to leave with regret. So, in order to avoid that I've decided to give myself a challenge.

Every few days I would like to do something that puts me outside of my comfort zone, if only just a little bit. It can either take ten seconds or two hours, doesn't matter. Just so long as it's something that new that's going to help me grow just a little bit more. The only problem now is I can't think of enough goals. And that's where you come in, Mom and the three other people who actually read this. I need ideas. Help me think of simple things I can do to take full advantage of my time here. Ready? Go!
Here are some that I've already come up with:

Goals to avoid becoming complacent: 
order food completely in german
initiate conversation with someone i don't know
take a bus i've never taken before and ride it's route
be a tourist for a day where i live
go to the castle
carry my camera all day 
actually study in the library
get a picture of me with each of the people in my life here.
visit a temple
cook an elaborate dinner with friends
go on a run
sit alone by the river for an hour or two
carry a journal around all day and write 
visit an antique store
finally send off my post cards (i am the worst you guys, i'm so sorry)
go on a day long adventure with Rakel -by Rakel, obviously
see a sunrise -Dad
visit Sleeping Beauty's Castle- Mom
take a sketch book around for a day and draw everything -Evelyn
Go to Wattens
visit the zoo
Hike a mountain -Johanna

as i get more i'll add them here, and maybe i'll even include the name of the person who suggested it to me. such an honor! i know.

lets end on a positive note: here are a few of my new favorite things, my collection of post cards and fruit tea :)