Monday, May 28, 2012

Italy Days 1 & 2 - Rome

 Sites Seen

Vatican Museums
These include a gigantic collection of art and sculptures. The buildings themselves are as pretty as the art. The tour ended at the Sistine Chapel. It was cool to see something so famous, but, honestly, after seeing all of the other ceilings, it didn't seem too special.

St. Peter's Square and Basilica
I wasn't particularly looking forward to seeing this, but it was actually really impressive.The basilica was so huge and ornate.

Trevi Fountain 

Villa Borghese/Borghese Gallery
This art gallery within a mansion is located in a giant park. We had to check our bags, so I didn't have my camera with me, but here's a picture of the gallery I found online.

Spanish Steps 

We paid for a guided tour of the Colosseum, and it turned out to be well worth the money. Our guide was a stereotypical "macho" Italian (I'm sure it was mostly an act), and the tour was hilarious as well as informative.

Palatine Hill/Roman Forum
To me, this area is what I always thought of when I imagined Rome (other than the Colosseum, of course). I loved looking at all of the ruins.

I had no idea that the Pantheon has been turned into a church. It was cool to see, but the most interesting thing was the protest going on outside. Based on the pictures they were holding, we think it might have been an anti-vasectomy protest?? 

 (Also found online)

Piazza Navona

Lessons Learned
  •  If someone offers to take your picture for you, don't let them, unless they look like a tourist, too. We ended up paying over $10 for 2 stupid Polaroids. Ah, well. 
  • The street names in Rome are on the buildings, not on signs. 
  • Don't linger too long at the posted outside menu of a restaurant unless you want to be forced to a table.
 Favorite Memories
  • Enjoying our first big Italian meal, complete with complimentary limoncello, biscotti, and a rose for me.
  • Eating our lunch on the Spanish steps. We finished seconds before guards told another couple that there was no food allowed. 
  • Stepping off the Metra and seeing the Colosseum right there in front of us.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Catching Up

Wow, so much has happened since I last posted. The last three weeks have been CRAZY but very fun. Of course, I have a lot to post about our Italy trip, but I don't want to forget the things that happened before that. So, a quick recap.

  1. Mom and Dad visited. I mentioned this before, but I didn't get to post this picture or talk about the awesome time my mom and I had getting pedicures, going shopping, and doing Pinterest crafts while my dad was at his conference. I loved getting to spend so much time with her. 

  2. I got a job TAing summer school. This was a huge relief, as I was unsure for a while whether I would have any job this summer. I'm excited about meeting a new group of students in June. 
  3. The school year ended. This was very bittersweet. I was definitely ready for summer. But, most of my classmates graduated and are moving away. So, there were many end-of-year get-togethers. And, since I was never really sure if a certain get-together would be the last time I would see people, there were many, many goodbyes.
Making joomok bap, a yummy Korean dish, at Narae's baby shower. I, obviously, just followed directions from the true Korean chefs.
My MATESL classmates: Cassandra, Jenna, Mica, and Katy. Mica's sticking around with me next year (yay!).
I messed something up, and now it won't let me change the number on the next item to 4. Just pretend, ok?
  1. My little brother graduated from college. How can he be a grown-up? It was so great to see all of my family, including grandma, aunts, and frousins (and especially little Samuel). While I was in Abilene, I was able to eat breakfast and enjoy a wonderful chat with my friend Laura, which is always a treat.

Matthew, Amy, Samuel, Darby, me, Matt, Tori, Hannah

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

April Books

Halfway Heaven: Diary of a Harvard Murder by Melanie Thernstrom
This is the true story of a murder-suicide that happened at Harvard in the mid-90s. Both the victim and the murderer were female international students. The author explores the isolation that many international students experience when they come to the U.S., which is interesting to me as an ESL teacher, and exposes how ill-prepared Harvard was to handle serious mental illness. It was very sad, obviously, but a worthwhile read.

Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans
I recently started reading Rachel's blog and wondered how I had gone this long without reading her. Her thinking on faith-related issues is very similar to mine. Plus, she's a great writer and very funny. This memoir is about her journey from the fundamentalist certainty of her childhood through doubt to a new kind of faith. I could relate very well to her story (although my upbringing and college experience weren't as extreme), and I found this book very encouraging. I'll probably do a separate post about it in the future.

The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter
I picked up this book on a whim and wasn't too impressed by it. It is the story of a lonely, twice-divorced middle-aged man, the relationships he forms, and how all of those people eventually become interconnected. The author is very skilled at writing in several different voices, but I just couldn't connect to the characters.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
I've loved all of Atwood's books that I've read, and this one did not disappoint. Like many of her other books, this one has an unreliable female narrator, and Atwood keeps you turning the pages with her gradual revelation of  key details of the story. I can't say much about the plot without giving some of the surprises away, but it's set in a cult-like dystopian U.S. in the near future (technically now the past, as this was published in 1986). Very thought-provoking.

The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball 
If I had to pick my favorite genre of book, it would be memoirs about food. So, of course, I loved this story of a city girl who falls in love with a farmer and rehabilitates a run-down farm with him. They had a dream to establish a "whole diet" CSA (a farm that provides its paying members with all of the food they need, including meat, grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, etc.), and it's amazing the amount of work they put in to realize that dream. Almost made me want to move to a farm (except for all the passages describing how they slaughtered pigs or castrated bulls). Even if you don't completely buy in to the local foods movement, this book will encourage you to be intentional about the way you spend your time and the products you buy.