Monday, April 30, 2012

lakes, landscapes, and seascapes. (MM #21)

How about a little Mindful Monday action, y'all??

I've mentioned before that this Eurotrip has been rather humbling at times. Being away from close friends and my native language has been somewhat difficult, but the breathtaking landscapes, the beautifully historic buildings, and of course my loving [Italian] family are regular reminders of God's grace and glory. This month abroad has gone by so quickly, but–short though it was–I think it has served an important role in my transition from college to my next stage of life.

Sometimes it's easy to look at a building that has remained standing for over 400 years and be impressed by Man. In a place like Tuscany, however, with a 360˚ panorama of nature available at all times, it's hard not to be impressed by God (or whichever higher power you might subscribe to).
The scenes that surrounded me this week have been astounding...


 ...and reassuring.

I know that my stresses, fears, and insecurities are nothing in the grand scheme of things.

And that's a good thing.

Just one Monday from now I'll be boarding a plane for Florida. Can't believe it.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


My little point-and-shoot is feeling pretty overpowered lately...
^my [mom's] cousin, Joseph, who has been kind enough to open his home to me this week.

(and no, the cat is not dead.)

 From one generation to the next...

(note: ^this is not a posed photo)

 (This picture taken with a Canon PowerShot SD1100. Sounds fancy, eh?)

PS- these two are probably the cutest roommates I could ever have.


The land of milk and honey (and wine, and olive oil)

[just ignore the telephone lines...]

After a busy long weekend of to-and-fro travels (which I'm sure you're sick.of.reading.about.), my aunt and I have arrived.

 I kind of feel like keeping it [relatively] simple, so…here are some pictures of my adventures so far:

 --Waves crashing alongside our train--
Here's another (I know it's blurry, but it's the only one that captured 
the true color outside my window)

It seems like an old village sits atop every hill in this region. Here's one near my cousin's house:

Friday, April 27, 2012

over the river and through the woods…

Last Sunday, I met up with another friend who happens to be in Freiburg--she's studying abroad in Germany for the semester--and attended Mass at the cathedral. I didn't understand a single thing, but it was still nice to be in that place with God. [Although I haven't spent this trip with my nose in a Bible, or been to church every Sunday, it has nonetheless been somewhat of a spiritual journey, what with the constant humility lessons and all...I've had to trust that everything will work out...And not a day passes that I don't thank God for my amazing family (stateside or otherwise) and the immense beauty that seems to blanket this continent.]

After Mass, we headed into an area with a bunch of hiking trails on the edge of the Black Forest, and spent an hour or two trekking around.

music to my ears: Freiburg, day 2b

Disclaimer: There are videos in this post, but...they're not of the highest quality. 
My bad, folks, my bad.
(Also, please just ignore my talking...Thanks)

Maybe my perspective was biased by my happening to live with a music student and then meeting a bunch of his friends, but Freiburg seemed to be full of music.

The town is populated by a large selection of music students, street musicians, symphonies, and local bands. I wish I took more videos, but alas, I am a pansy, so here we are.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Freiburg, day 2a

Saturday was a full day of experiencing Freiburg in its many forms. The day began with a walk around town followed by a small hike up to an overlook, continued with some window-shopping, and finished up with a night on the town.

First, the walk:
The apartment that I called home for the weekend was located in the heart of the "inner-city" of Freiburg, which is less of what Americans would consider an 'inner-city' area and more like the historical district. The streets are cobblestone, the cars are few, and the buildings are lovely. Only the unremitting drizzle and the chill in the air made it a less-than-perfect stroll.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


My arrival in Germany last weekend marked my entry into the sixth country whose language I didn't understand. At this point, however, I feel like I am so over the I-can't-understand-you thing. 
Well, not entirely: I still feel like some sort of "typical American" for arriving in a foreign country without learning the language, but at the same time, I'm no longer overly freaked out by my lack of knowledge.

Three things made Germany especially different from Spain and Italy:
     a) I could in no way, shape, or form follow along in people's conversations like I can at least pretend to do with the Romantic languages.
     b) I had less of an ability to pick English out of a crowd like I can in Italy and could in Madrid. I guess that's due to English being a Germanic language, but yikes, does that mean English sounds to Italians like German did to me?
     c) Everyone I came in contact with spoke English, and many of them spoke it very well. (Maybe that's why I had such a good time…)

Annnnnnnnyway, language barrier or not, to Germany I went.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

She'll be comin' round the mountain(s) when she comes...

Have you ever found yourself in a place, at the beginning of an adventure, where–as thrilling as the excursion ought to be–you just aren't excited about it, on account of not being sure if it will actually come to fruition? [Have you ever found yourself in a place, at the beginning of a blog post, where the first sentence made no sense? Hehe…]

Anyway, what I mean to say is, there was so much doubt in my actually arriving in Freiburg to visit some friends that it was difficult to make myself excited for the trip.
>>First, there were problems finalizing the dates of the trip.
>>Then, there were issues with the tickets-- first the prices were raised, then I found out that they might not arrive (by mail) in time for the actual trip [that would be convenient, huh?], then when something DID arrive in the mail, I was unsure of how to present it at the station.
>>To top it off, the super long line at the train station leading up to my finding ^that answer made me worry of missing the train altogether.

Nonetheless, after a late night in the Venice/Vicenza area, and I hopped on a train with one old friend and three new ones. Our temporary destination: Milano. From there, I did catch a train to Germany, and the four recent UF grads headed to Paris. Someway, somehow, I managed to catch not just any train to Germany, but the right one, and I made the right connection, and finally made my way to the right Freiburg (apparently there are two). And I could not be happier that I did…

Monday, April 23, 2012

to venezia, and beyond!

At the end of last week, I tossed aside the cold and dreary blanket that had fallen over Milano and hopped on a train to Venice.
On the way, I passed by lots of grapevines…


It's amazing how the time has flown by.
Hard to believe I've been in Italy for about 3 weeks now, isn't it?

Last week, I finally got a chance to explore Melegnano, the little town in which I'm living my suitcase is located. Admittedly, I have gone up and down a few select streets several times (to catch the train to Milan), and did a good circuit around town during the Fiera del Perdono, but this was the first time that I really walked around without purpose.

Unfortunately, while we were walking, I kind of just felt like walking, so I don't have a whole lot of pictures to share. Just imagine a quaint little Italian town and you're probably on the right track.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

local flair

One thing about this trip that I like–and didn't altogether foresee–is that I've been able to see these places through the eyes of locals, staying on the outskirts of town, experiencing day-to-day life.

Yes, I still whip out my camera and have the characteristic tourist stare whilst in the shadows of historic buildings, but let's just pretend for a second that I don't.

For the past 10 days, I've been passing the time with my 2nd-cousin, who has been kind enough to let her foreign, seemingly mute relative tag along with her and her friends. We frequent a little nearby town of Corsico, and...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Milano, and I don't mean the cookies:

A week or two into my stay in Milan, I finally made my way to the historic district. This is the Milan of the postcards, where every building around you is beautiful, old, and impressive (much like Madrid).

Silvia and I started our adventure at the only reasonable place: Il Duomo.

Duomo, Italian for cathedral, is the simple name given to some towns' main (read: biggest) church (Florence's also goes by this same epithet, whereas Venice's gets "Basilica San Marco" and Rome's gets "St. Peter's Basilica"). Milano's Duomo is indeed grand, it was incredible to actually see it's facade this time around (when I was here with family in 2004, the entire front was covered in scaffolding).
(Now there's just the bit of repair work being done up top)

Friday, April 20, 2012

fast talkers

Okay, so maybe it's just because I didn't do my homework ahead of time, and/or maybe it's because my brothers and I tend to speak slowly, but Italians sound like the woman in this video to me, most of the time. 

I swear the language is set up to sound way faster.

A few of my cousin's friends met us out the other night, and we had fun exchanging tongue twisters. I taught them this classic, and in return I got this:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Alle montagne

Okay, so maybe it's just because I didn't do my homework ahead of time, and/or maybe it's because my brothers and I tend to speak slowly, but Italians sound like the woman in this video to me, most of the time. I swear the language is set up to sound way faster.

A few of my cousin's friends met us out the other night, and we had fun exchanging tongue twisters. I taught them this classic, and in return I got this:

Monday, April 16, 2012

Buon Compleanno!

Hehe, woops. I've been at my cousins' (as opposed to my aunt's) house [i.e. w/out camera cord] for so long that I forgot that I still haven't shared what I did for my birthday... Wait no longer.

I'm not one to throw a big fuss about anything, so I just wanted to pass the day in relaxation. My cousin and I went to a nearby town to watch an Inter match with some pals, then we came back for dinner with the fam.
My cousin made me a super creative fruit basket [the artistic ability present in most of my family members seems to have skipped over me], and if you know me, you know I love fruit.

She also made me her homemade pizza...


Yay for living out of multiple suitcases in multiple locations! [sarcasm] 
I have finally been reunited with the rest of my belongings, which means one thing:
I finally have my fuzzy socks!

Oh yeah, and my camera cord, hehe. So pictures, yay! I've snapped over a hundred pics since I was last able to upload, so be patient and I'll try to space them out. Unfortunately, however, I'm going to have to renege on my mantra for this year, and regret that I didn't take more pics...(I'll explain later).

In any case, here you go, catch-up sesh Part I:

Saturday, April 14, 2012

REAL lessons learned.

If you're looking for pictures of Italy, turn back now. Sorry guys. I should be regaining the ability to transfer pics to my computer later today or tomorrow...

A while back, I made a little list of some lessons I've learned while abroad. The truth is, however, I didn't mention the real lessons that I've learned here:

A lesson in humility.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

"The Dive" -Fools Gold

so there's this: keep you occupied while we wait for my reunion with my camera cord.

I find it mesmerizing (the song, that is). I hope it'll suffice.

(I got the video via NPR's review of the release)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

so much...

                          ...of this Rosetta Stone screen shot is making me tilt my head a bit to the side.
Let's start L-->R:

upcoming adventures

Hopefully my revealing this updated itinerary for the world to see isn't one of those things they warn you not to do...Oh well! I don't exactly have an address for anyone to rob while I'm gone, 
so here goes nothin:

The adventures continue for me as I pass my days in Europe. I sat down today and figured out the general plan for the next several weeks. I'm hoping that my listing it here will guarantee everything going as planned, rather than jixing it. Again, here goes nothin.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Lessons learned.

Okay, still no camera cord. Sorry folks. Wasting time looking at my updates seems a lot less interesting all of a sudden, eh?

So with no pictures, no recipes, and no insightful books being read [I'm 16% of the way through David Copperfield–the book not the magician–and there's not huge selection of enlightening quotes to share], I'll revert to my other method of blogging: lists.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Mia prima Pasqua in Italia

Yep, I'm skipping birthday festivities and moving on to Easter, not because it was a completely uneventful day, but because I'm staying at my cousin's house for a few days and don't have my camera cord. Thus, we are left only with the few pictures from my phone, which I took today. 

Today is Easter, which–regardless of Europe's generally atheistic tendencies–is a big deal here. In fact, I feel rather slighted because in Italy (and maybe elsewhere in Europe), they get Monday off of school. We (my cousin Silvia and I) plan to spend it with a bunch of peers at a friend's house in the nearby mountains. I'll try to take some pictures and share about that experience later :)
As for today,

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Fiera del Perdono

Another birthday post, yet it's still to simply catch up on past events. 
Maybe tomorrow or the next day I'll be able to share with you some actual birthday happenings.

On Thursday, my aunt's little town of Melegnano had a big street market [I'm getting a lot of those these days] that we sauntered through. It was the 449th annual (give-or-take) Fair of Forgiveness, and it basically occupied every street. Unlike it's weekly Spanish relative (El Rastro), this one most indubitably had an Italian flair.

There were tons of stands with the typical clothes, leather goods, jewelry...

Starting anew.


Viva italia!
((viva inquinamento!))

Today is my birthday; tomorrow is Easter, so yay for that!

The past few days–my first of...let's see...35 in Italy–have been good. I already talked about my [semi-rough] day 1. On day two, we mostly just hung around the house until 4pm, when I headed over to my cousins house...

Friday, April 06, 2012

whadduppp, italia?!

AlpsInTheClouds on my way from Madrid to Milan
Okay, I think we can finally move on to my "new" country: Italy.  How's that sound?

It very possibly could have been my steady schedule of stay-up-late-wake-up-early that did me in, but nonetheless, when I arrived in Italy it didn't take me long to get overwhelmed. [read: I may or may not have had a mini meltdown (in private, of course)].

Mi casa en España:

I can call it "my" house because it really was. 
Here's proof:

The view from the balcony off my room was a joy to behold each morning. Every day of my week in Spain produced a beautiful azure sky, full of promise and, dare I say, adventure(?). 
Seriously though, I think it's bluer there...

Madrid Museums

If there's one thing for sure, it's that Madrid has quite a handful of museums and galleries-- The PradoMuseo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, and Museum Thyssen-Bornemisza are the "big three," but there are tons of others. During my stint in Spain's capital I ended up seeing the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Reina Sofía, Museo Sorolla, CaixaForum, and La Casa Encendida.

Here's my very simplistic rundown:

Thursday, April 05, 2012

My last night in Spain

So as I mentioned, the home at which I stayed for the majority of my visit to Spain was too far from the airport for me to arrive there on time for my early flight. I have a good friend who has relatives in Madrid, however, so--connections, connections, connections--I had an excellent back-up.

Melanie, a first grade English teacher at a bilingual school, took me out for a genuine Spanish night on the town. We first headed to El Mercado de San Anton for tapas, and it was so great!

El Rastro, etc. (Madrid día..cinco?)

Yeesh, talk about backlog. I already gave my disclaimer/apology a while back, so we won't waste time with that. You know how it is. Anyway, let's get back to Spain, shall we?

On Sunday mornings in one particular section of Madrid, there is a large street market called El Rastro. Fernando and I ventured down there to check it out the giant flea market, and it reminded me so much of Thailand. We mostly just looked/walked around though, because unlike Thailand, there was no bargaining, and it wasn't dirt-cheap. Oh well, still an experience...

Monday, April 02, 2012

Let's see...where was I...?

If you don't follow me on twitter (or if you're not in my immediate family)-- I made it to Italy! For the sake of consistency, however, I'm just going to keep on posting pics in chronological order (not to mention I just arrived here a couple hours ago and don't plan to actually explore for a few days anyway).

After Toledo's whole adventure I was ready to head back to the streets of Madrid. Here are some pics from my wanderings on Saturday. I hope you're not getting bored of the zillion pictures of buildings, because that's pretty much all you're gonna get. I'm not much for posing for the camera...You'll just have to believe me; I promise I was actually there taking the picture :)

pictures from Toledo

Here are the pictures promised in my rambling Toledo post from yesterday. Maybe you can see how it's possible to get lost there...

A lovely park on the way to the walled old city.

Thar she blows...

one last picture of the less-interesting, non-walled city :)

Here marks the "main"entrance to the city.

Brace yourself for a ton of pictures of the uphill-then-downhill winding roads, the tiny alleys, and amidst this hectic design, the hidden gems that pop out in between...

Sunday, April 01, 2012

on wandering (or, getting lost).

If not also "God," all souls should keep on their minds at all time the word--and directive--"Smile." Today I was reminded as such, and suffered the consequences of not having those words at the ready when my day began.

[So…If you couldn't tell, I'm currently reading David Copperfield. I'll veer away from Dickensonian writing now and go back to my own style of rambling. DO comment if you'd prefer the former, as it is, of occasion, an altogether entertaining test of one's abilities to ___[steer?] towards alternative syntactical arrangements.]

On to the story: Toledo…


Me? A tourist? Why would you ever guess that??

Oh, is it the sunglasses/camera/backpack/sweater-tied-around-the-waist combo?

Darn. And I was feeling so local, too...