Thursday, July 10, 2008

Italy Reflection!

So I realized I haven't really blogged at all about my whole Italy experience. I guess I've put it off for so long because... there was just so much to say. So I think I'll break it down into sections, so I can remember the most important parts, and perhaps use this entry (reformatted, of course) for my GIEU reflection. Sounds good. :)

So... top 6 things from the trip (in no order of importance or significance):

6. The food. Oh my gosh, the food in Italy really is amazing. We were the luckiest GIEU trip in terms of food, I think (and everything else, haha). We cooked in a couple times, and to save money, ate in most days for at least one meal. However, the times that we ate out... wow, the food was simply amazing. Not to mention, Italians take around 2.5 hours to eat every meal, which is awesome for a slow eater like me! We had everything from pesto pasta to seafood pizza to salmon pasta (okay, lots of pasta and pizza) but my absolute favorite - salmon tartar (imagine sashimi ground up and sprinkled with basil and spices - delicious!) and zucchini pasta, both made by the world renowned chef Crista. We stayed at their Bed and Breakfast during the last week, and ate like royalty. It was awesome.

This was our first night in Nice... not Italian, but still delicious. :)

Home-cooked food wasn't all that bad, either.

5. The art. So my internship was an art-related internship, and we worked with a floatmaker named Fabrizio in Viareggio, Italy. In Viareggio, the Carnivale is a big festival/parade that happens every year in the spring. (read more about it here) and Fabrizio is an award-winning floatmaker that has made a career out of floatmaking art. He was fun to work with, but I think he thought we were amateurs (we were) and I often saw him laughing to himself while walking by our work. We ended up making four big cows for the Morinesio parade, and it was really fun. I don't know about the other people in my group, but I learned a lot just from the process and the meticulous steps that it took to get the final product. It was fun to be creative again and to see our finished pieces being used in the parade.

Me, Ali, Alex, and Courtney with the cows.

4. The day trips. Even though we were in the studio for most mornings and some full days during the second week, most of our afternoons were free for us to explore downtown Viareggio, go to the beach to relax, or go on day trips! The thing I liked most about our day trips were that we didn't go to all the touristy areas - of course we hit up Florence and Pisa, because they were very close by (less than an hour-ish), but we also visited smaller, more unknown towns, such as Lucca (birthplace of Puccini), Pietrasanta (birthplace of Michelangelo), Camaiore, Cinque Terre (6 mile hike!), and Cararra (place where all the marble for statues comes from). I loved going into the little towns to see what everyday Italian life was like, and enjoy it for what it really was, instead of having it be so commercialized that it wasn't "authentic" anymore.

Alex, Jenny, me, and Esau in Lucca - in front of Puccini's statue.
Piazza in Pietrasanta.

3. Being out of my comfort zone. I know, strange, right? But I'm really thankful that our professor, Mark, forced us to go out and interact with the community. On the first full day that we were in Viareggio, he sent us out to walk around town for one hour, and to look for 5 things - essentially, the 5 senses. We had to bring back one cool thing we saw, smelled, tasted (and bring some back for the group too!), touched, and heard. We weren't allowed to walk in pairs, and we were forced to go into shops and use whatever Italian we knew. I didn't know much, but it was quite a learning experience for me! I realized that when I was alone, people were friendlier (I guess me by myself is less intimidating than 15 Americans walking together and talking loudly in English!) and more willing to help you out or even just say hello. I also realized that I couldn't be scared to use my Italian - even if I only knew a little bit that day, as long as I made an effort and tried to speak their language, people were very receptive to that and were very willing to help me out. All the streets smelled like jasmine, which was very pleasant. :)

2. The beach. Okay, I know beaches are nice wherever you go... but I got to swim in the Mediterranean Ocean! Definitely a first for me. :) I went to the beach twice - once just to walk in the water and sketch a bit (I drew a horrible picture of the free beach, haha, but I tried!) and the second time Emily and I went swimming in the ocean. The waves were absolutely perfect the second time - it was a little cloudy so the waves were a lot bigger and it looked like it was going to storm but it never did! We lay out and dried off afterwards - it was amazing.

1. The people. It sounds cheesy, but it's true! I made some really great friends on this trip and had a lot of fun learning about everyone's background and interacting with people I probably never would've met if I didn't go on this trip. I had fun living, working, and talking with everyone. :) I had some especially heartfelt convos with some of the girls on this trip, and I won't ever forget those. Here's just a few pictures...
Annelise and I learned how to work a power-drill. We're tough. :)

From meeting last year at the ELI GSI training job to Italy, Robin has always been a great friend to me. :) I'm so glad we went on this trip together!

I know Angelica hates pictures, but this one was a good one. :) I had really good talks with this girl, although some of them were hard. She asks good questions, and really got me to think about a lot of things.

Being "vogue" with Emily and Esau and our new leather purses. Yes, even Esau's. Hahah. He bought one for his mom.

Jenny! :)

The whole group! (I realized we only took two group pictures the whole week... sigh!) You guys were amazing. :) Glad to have been able to share three weeks with all of you!

So yeah! There's the recap of my trip to Italy. There is so much more to say, but here's a condensed version. Ask me next time you see me (if you want to know more) and I'll tell you stories!

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