Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bonjour Paris!!

Upon learning that I was moving to Rome, I made a list of "must-see" locations. These were places that I had only read about, dreamt about getting to. Places like London, Ireland, Barcelona, Prague, Austria, and more. And which city held the distinguished number one spot? Paris.

 However, since I was having trouble with my visa I didn't feel comfortable traveling. As such, each semester when my students left Rome and spread throughout Europe my heart was inevitably heavy when they returned with their tales and pictures of the City of Lights, the City of Love. Sigh. I wanted to go so bad. So, when I finally received my visa this summer what was the first thing I did? I posted an invitation on Facebook to anyone who was interested in going to Paris with me for a long weekend in October. My friend, Beth Ann, accepted and so the trip I'd been dying to take for well over two years started to take shape.

Each semester we have a 10 day break that hits smack dab in the middle of the term. I get to leave Rome for 5 days of that break. This leaves me enough time to get out and about, to see the sights, to live it up, if you will. Paris in 5 days? Not sure it's entirely doable, but I'll work with what I've got! So, the planning began. Beth Ann and I met 4 times before we left and nailed things down like flights, hotel, what we wanted to see, where we wanted to go, what we wanted to eat, and anything else we could think of. We had a little trouble with the flights and finding a hotel, but once we got all of that set we were good to go. Paris: here we come!

As I began to write this I realized, you don't need (or want for that matter) every single detail of our trip. So, I'm going to try to keep this brief...from this point on. :)

We arrived in Paris on Friday and checked-in to our hotel. We surveyed our surroundings and headed back out into the city in search of a restaurant that was recommended in our guidebook. After a few moments of backtracking and re-situating ourselves on our map, we found the restaurant--Restaurant Polidor. It was supposed to be a more rustic restaurant with family-style dining in that the tables are all put together and you sit with people you don't know. This doesn't mean that you share food with those people, but you do share space. I'm not going to lie, it was a little awkward sitting next to a couple and being a part of their conversation, but not being a part of their conversation all at the same time. Still, the food was ok. I was fairly disappointed when we received our pumpkin soup and all it was was pureed pumpkin---only pumpkin. There wasn't any hint of salt, pepper, or any spice whatsoever. Huh. We then dined on boeuf bourguignon, as seen on Julie and Julia. That was pretty good---hearty and very filling. Finally, dessert. Oh dessert. Say what you will about French cooking--and quite frankly, until our last meal in Paris I wasn't all that impressed by French cuisine---no one, and I mean NO ONE, does dessert like the French. We had an apple pie/cake/tort thingy that was cinnamony, sugary, buttery deliciousness. Heaven really. But, I'm getting away from my promise of brevity....

So, from dinner we meandered to the Seine and looked out over Notre-Dame all lit up in the Parisian night. I loved Paris from that moment. It was all just so....Parisian. The architecture, the sights, the sounds, even the smells were exactly what I thought it would be. All that was missing for me at that point was a musician playing La Vie en Rose on some sort of instrument. We paused for a moment, soaked it all in because we had a lot to get done in the next 5 days...

Saturday: The Louvre. This was our goal for the day, along with Saint-Chapelle, and Musee l'Orangerie. Ha. How naiive could we be? I love art and Beth Ann has her degree in Art History...did we really think that we only needed a 2-3 hours at the Louvre?! Try 4 or 5....and that's not even seeing everything! We did manage to see all of the major pieces--Mona Lisa, Nike/Winged Victory/Cupid and Psyche/the Prisoners, The Wedding Feast at Canna and the Venus di Milo. In between those pieces we saw some other incredible work by Giotto, Botticelli, Bernini, Raphael, and others. We could have spent days in that gallery and still not have seen everything! If you thought the Vatican museum was hectic and crowded...ha! Try the Louvre. I couldn't even get in front of Mona. Nope, I had to settle seeing her from the side...and that was fine with me. She wasn't even my favorite. Nope that's a three way tie between Nike, Cupid/Psyche, and the Venus di Milo.

After we left the Louvre, we hoofed it over to Saint-Chapelle to see the stained glass. Oh.My.Stars. Breathtaking doesn't even begin to describe it. Nor do pictures do it justice...still...here ya go...


Next, we tried to get into Musee l'Orangerie...but it was closed. Drat! Then, we tried to get hot chocolate at Angelina's, but there was a line down the block. Foiled again! So, we settled on a corner cafe where we had crepes and hot spiced wine. Yumm. From there, we "hopped" onto the hop on/hop off bus and saw the sights of Paris as the sun set.

Sunday: Versailles. Need I say more? Yes. Ok, I'll try to be brief. A-mazing. Incredible. Opulent. Overwhelming. Over the top. WOW. The Chateau was so wonderful. Such a rich history, furnishings, and sights. We got to see the kings' bedroom, Marie-Antionette's bed, the desk where they signed the Treaty of Versailles, and so much more.

After the Chateau we picnicked on its steps overlooking the massive and impressive gardens. From there, though...we went to my 2nd favorite place in all of Paris. Marie-Antoinette's Hamlet. I wasn't sure what to expect, but what I found...far exceeded any expectations that I might have had.

Imagine stepping into a picturesque fairy-tale village. Think Beauty and the Beast. A village of small houses with thatched roofs, gardens, window boxes, and lush grounds. Welcome to the Hameau.

As the story goes, MA wanted to know what it was like to live like a peasant. So, she had the village built so that she and her friends could experience life as a commoner. I am sure that that the peasants of that time didn't live like this...

Upon our return to Paris we grabbed dinner and then took a relaxing boat tour up the Seine. A great way to cap off a magical day...

Monday: We spent the day seeing everything that we didn't see the days before...Notre-Dame,  Musee l'Orangerie, and the Eiffel Tower. Notre-Dame was impressive and, again, the stain glass was incredible!
My favorite, though, was Musee l'Orangerie where I was able to sit and stare--literally--at Monet's Water Lillies. I wanted to go to Giverny and see his gardens so badly, but it wasn't possible this trip. I made due with the museum and I wasn't disappointed.

Tuesday:  We took our last day before we returned to Rome to see the rest of the sights. We went to Montmartre to see Sacre Couer, the neighborhood, and Moulin Rouge. The church and the view from in front of the church were stunning. So worth the trip up there! Moulin Rouge....ehhh...but still, it's nice to say that I've seen it...

Overall, the trip was AMAZING! I had the best time with Beth Ann, and would gladly travel anywhere with her again. I loved Paris. I didn't see nearly enough...so I figure that a return trip is necessary. Perhaps this spring....

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

It only took 2 years....

I am headed back to London the first weekend of November, but this time...well, this time I have no worries. Because. I received my permesso di soggiorno!!! (Stay permit)

I started this process back in June of 2009. I was advised to wait until I arrived in Rome to apply for my work visa. So, I did. And I waited...and waited...and waited. In the meantime, I was "prohibited" from entering the UK for 6 months...went to Sofia, Bulgaria...and continued to wait for the Italian government to process my paperwork. Finally, I received notice this past March that my visa application had been "set aside" for bureaucratic reasons.  So, I returned home for four months and began the visa process all over again, but from the States this time. I received my visa in August, returned to Rome at the end of the month, applied for my permesso within 8 business days, reported for fingerprinting 3 weeks later, and received my permesso 3 weeks after that. Alleluia!

I am so thankful for it and for the Lord's provision during my waiting period. I know I wasn't always patient--and not always quiet about my impatience--but in the end it all worked out.

So, to mark the occasion, I am returning to London for a weekend with some students. I have everything in order this time England---so watch out!

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Noticed in the neighborhood

I love where I live in Rome. It's a great neighborhood that isn't saturated with tourists. Rather, it's a neighborhood full of locals who frequent the same corner bars, grocery stores, gelateria, and other shops. I see the same faces pass me by day after day as I go about my business. I love knowing that I live in an area where people who know you stop to say hello and ask how you are. It's comforting to be part of a community in such a large metropolis. And every time I get recognized here...well, it makes my day.

About two weeks ago I popped into the bar on the corner---bars are not BARS, but instead are what Americans would consider a cafe--to get a sandwich for lunch. I was paying the woman, who did recognize me despite my four month absence, when the guy who has regularly made my cappuccino over the last 2 years saw me. He did a double take and smiled saying "Ciao! Tutto va bene?" (Hi! All's good?) Yay!!! I am remembered as being a member of this community! Then, I saw him again as he was getting on his moto and strapping on his helmet to leave for the evening the other day. He stopped and said "Ciao!". I just love that. I love that I am someone here rather than just another face.

My favorite moment, though, was the other night after we went to the AS Roma match. Let me preface this by saying that Rome has two soccer teams: AS Roma and Lazio. They are bitter rivals and you are either for the one and against the one, but never for both. And people will let you know which team they support. Anyways, I stopped to pick up a pizza to go for dinner with a couple of my students. I had my Roma scarf in my hand and my girls were all wearing their newly purchased Roma t-shirts. One of the waiters started to say something to me and I was able to catch "Lazio!" So, I deduced that he was a Lazio fan. Come to find out...the pizzeria is a Lazio pizzeria. This means that the owner and all associated with the establishment support Lazio and NOT AS Roma. The owner and the rest of the waiters proceeded to give us a hard time and even went so far as to pretend not to let us order! Then, there was this kid of about 11 years who was clearly an AS Roma fan. He chimed in and shared his 2 cents. I looked over at him and said "Forza Roma!" Well. If that didn't start a rapid fire of Italian, I don't know what did. He clearly agreed and clearly told the Lazio people what's what. It was fabulous! I was a part of something big and something innate in this culture. And I loved it. I loved every minute of it...even those minutes of not understanding a word of what was being spoken to me.

I love Rome. I love living here. There's something magical and yet gritty about this city, it's people. But for all intents and purposes--it's home. There are still things that drive me nuts about this place, I miss my family and the familiarity of the US, but I've become a part of this place. And I am in love with this eternal city.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Unexpected blessings

If you've been following this blog or have read anything in the last couple of posts at least, then you know that things here in Rome changed a bit when Lynda returned to the States and I gained a new married male colleague. I don't like change at first, but am capable of adapting fairly quickly. So, things are still a bit new and I am finding my way in them. The biggest change for me has been the loss of the constant companion I had in Lynda. She and I did everything together from cooking/eating dinner together, to grocery shopping, to eating out, to shopping, to traveling. And now, well, it's different. And it's been something of a challenge. But, God has reminded me that I am not alone. That He has not left me here to my own devices.

This week He has demonstrated His love for me through a beautiful bouquet of flowers my students bought me just because I'm me. He demonstrated His faithfulness to me when a friend invited me to dinner on my first Friday night off of the semester so that I wouldn't spend the evening alone. And, finally, He demonstrated how much He cares about how I'm doing when another friend in Rome called to chat and check-in with how I am doing.

No matter what circumstance I find myself in, how alone I feel, or how surrounded by people I am--our Heavenly Father is quick to remind me that above all I am treasured, loved, and wanted by Him....and there's nothing better than that.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ace of Base, a blast from the past

There were 2 songs that hit the charts big while I was living in and around Venice during the summer of 1993. The first was Haddaway's What Is Love and the other was Ace of Base's All That She Wants. 

Any time that I hear either of these songs I am transported back in time. I can so clearly see myself as a very young...and somewhat naive...16 year old, away from home for the first time and in a foreign country all alone. Hands down, the best summer of my life. It was that summer that I fell in love with Italy for the first time. It was a summer that helped to form who I am and the adventurous spirit that drove me to apply for the job that ultimately brought me back to Italy and to Rome.

So, anyways, there I am just the other day walking through the Bata shoe store while on my way to the grocery store--yes, I have to walk through a shoe store to get to the grocery store---when what do my ears pick out amongst the chatter of shoppers? Ace.Of.Base.  I immediately see myself in my mind's eye at a disco-tech in Venice with my host brothers, Paolo and Antonio, and my travel companion, Catherine. The four of us are dancing and laughing--just enjoying the night and each other. How I wish time travel were possible! I would go back to that moment in a heart beat!

I miss my host brothers. We have lost contact and I haven't been able to find their address. I would love to write them before my spring trip to Venice so that we can get together. I wonder what that reunion would be like; I wonder what they're doing---are they married? Have kids? Still live in Italy? I just don't know and I think of them often and that short span of time when I was a part of their family.

I wonder what will trip my memory in the future of my time in Rome. I wonder if it will be a song, a smell, a phrase, or a particular food. I want to soak it all in while I am here so that one day I can look back with as much fondness as I do my time in Venice. Both were/are life-changing experiences and I am so thankful for the opportunities that God has afforded me. What a blessing to live what I love.

I think it's time for a dance party in my room...the only question is Haddaway or Ace of Base? :)

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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Busy as a bee

Despite the utter the lack of sleep that I have had since I arrived back in Rome, I have been uber productive and busy. I don't know where all of this energy is coming from, but I like it. :) I have things well in hand and prepared for my students' arrival next week and I feel so ahead of the game that I am a little nervous that I've forgotten something major!

Though I've been back in Rome, I have spent most of my days behind my desk and computer as I prepare for the coming semester. Signs have been printed, the handbook has been updated, hotels have been reserved...so efficient. Who am I becoming? EEK.

In the midst of all this, though, there have been pockets of connecting with friends. I met a friend for un cafe freddo e un cornetto on Saturday, went to church on Sunday and had lunch with some friends afterwards, explored the Center with Sean and Joy, experienced the Baths of Caracalla for the first time yesterday, and had a fabulous evening of food and fellowship at a friend's house last night.

All in all, the week back has been a good one...it continued to be a hot one....but a good one nonetheless. I know that the Lord has some big plans in store for me this year---I can feel it in my bones. So, maybe that's why I'm so on top of things so early on...I just want to be prepared for whatever He has for me. Bring it on.
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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Posso parlare in Italiano! (Kind of...)

I arrived back in Rome on Monday night to stifling heat. I mean, it is August in Rome--what else would you expect? Anywho, back to my story. I got in and headed to bed. It was late, it was hot, and I was tired. The next day I got up and greeted my new colleagues and showed them around their new house. I also said hello to Roberto---the ridiculously attractive young man who repairs odds and ends around here. Again, I digress...we all settled in and then, I got a call from our labor consultant asking us to please come to his office on Wed. for a meeting regarding our stay permits. Ok, here we go. The man speaks no English. I know I can do this! I've been studying all semester for Pete's sake. Italiano: SI!

So, we made our way to his office today (it hit 100 and the humidity was somewhere in the 50% range....uhhhhh) and I played tour guide for Sean and Joy, pointing out the sights along the way. We arrived at his office and for the next hour we talked about what he needed and what I had for him with respect to our stay permits. Guess what?!? I understood 85-90% of what he said!! And the other 15-10%? I understood the context and could glean from that what he meant. You have no idea what a victory this was for me. I mean, for the most part I have felt fairly comfortable with my Italian since last year, but this...this was huge. This was a whole 'nother experience. I belong! I fit in! I can do this! And it only took me 2 years!!!

I am excited by this revelation because that means that as I go through this year, my Italian will only get better and better. This means that I won't stare at people with a blank look and then reply: Si, even though I have no clue what they've just said/asked for...which is scary because who knows what they want!?
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Friday, August 19, 2011

Getting back into it....life in Rome

Huh. What happened to me last semester? It seems I dropped off the face of the blog world seeing as my last post was in January! Since then I have started and finished the spring semester, traveled throughout Italy and Athens, dealt with a student stay in an Italian hospital, dealt with a family medical emergency in the States, celebrated the birth of my niece in April to my baby sister and her husband, said a tearful goodbye to Lynda while she stayed in Rome for the end of April and first half of May, returned home for four months, celebrated my other sister's wedding in June, traveled to WI to see family, traveled to Philly for my visa, and am currently preparing to return to Rome. Sheesh. I'm tired even thinking about all of that!

Still, I want to be better about keeping up with my blog---though I fear that has become a frequent hope and desire of mine only to fail at executing it! There is a lot to look forward to in the coming year---new colleagues, new students, a new visa which means lots of new travel destinations (watch out Paris cause I'm coming for you in October!!!), a visit from the folks for my 3rd Italian Thanksgiving, and whatever else the Lord has in store for me in Rome.

You'd think by now, the beginning of my third year living in Rome, I would be used to the transition, the change. Ha! It's still tricky and hard to say goodbye. And yet, I am excited knowing that this year will be challenging as it will be different from the previous two. I look forward to what God has for me and I am hoping to use this year to work on my writing and finally feel as if I've mastered Italian. (Hoping and praying for that one!)

As we say in Rome, "In bocca al lupo!" To which I reply: "Crepi!"
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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The final journey...

The spring semester has started and it is somewhat bittersweet. It is sweet because I am back in Rome and journeying with students throughout Italia and it is bitter because it is my last semester with Lynda as she will be returning to Geneva's main campus after this semester.

I am trusting that God has many more adventures ahead for the two of us this semester and I am excited to see where we go and what we do. Here we go again!
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