Sunday, March 21, 2010

So I have Luke predicted when I started this blog. He laughed when I told him I would blog after every trip, knowing me too well. And in fact, he was correct :) I have not written in a very very long time, but time just slips out of your hands when you travel every weekend, teach everyday, do not get home until 6pm, and are in the process of trying to find a job, not to mention planning a wedding! Either way, I apologize and will try, try key word, to blog regularly for the rest of the year. (...and this is where Luke laughs :)

There are many adventures to share from the past three months though. Some involving beautiful places or long awaited trips, but others involving ridiculous incidents and lost toboggans flying down the Austrian slopes. Yet, I still cannot believe I can write about experiences like this. I am SO lucky :)

So once we returned from winter break, I was actually very glad to back (and ENGAGED!!!!) and ready for new travels! Our first trip of the year was to Verona, Italy, which is where the famous Romeo and Juliet is set. Allie, Jess, and I hopped on a train and spent a weekend there, falling in love with the charm and romance of this Italian jew of a city! We saw Juliet's balcony (created in the mid 1900's I might add), posted personal notes on the famous love letter wall, mocked a gladiator battle in the colosseum, and had probably a little too much fun over pizza and many glasses of wine:)

The next trip was to Venice for Carnevale (which is basically is Mardi Gras in Italy) and despite the big crowds, we were so glad we got to partake in that once in a lifetime experience! Italians covered the streets of Venice dressed in the craziest costumes, almost every person's face is covered in some elaborate mask, and there were huge processions banging there way through the streets all day. Of course, the weekend would not be complete with a mask of our own!

Finally vacation arrived and it was February break, or as the Italians call it- Ski week! Although I did not hit the slopes, my sister, Amy, and my best friend (like a sister to me), Bethany, came over to Europe to travel with me! I had been waiting for this week since we first decided they would come in October, so you can imagine how excited and ready I was to have some familiar faces over here! We spent a week working our way through London, Scotland, and Ireland, touring the Irish countryside and driving through the Scottish Highlands. We also go to meet up with our close friend Lindsey, who was studying abroad in London, and Allie, my roommate, in Edinburgh for a day. The trip really could not have been better, well, pause. Let me rephrase that. Despite a few losses- Amy's gloves, Bethany in the first 5 minuets we got to Edinburgh, annddddd my engagement ring for 4 hours (Yes I know. I was in tears, a complete wreck, for the entire 240 minutes), we had such a blast traveling together. Other than our minor setbacks, it could not have been a more fun trip with two people that mean the world to me!

Although it was hard to watch Amy and Bethany go home, and not be able to go with them, it was able to jump back into life in Trieste rather smoothly. This semester I have really realized how much I truly do love living abroad. No matter how hard it is to be away, how much of a strain it puts on Luke and I, how long it seems until I return home....I am LOVING every single minute of it! I can now confidently say coming to Italy is one of the best decisions I ever made. I have opportunities I never thought I would, seeing places I never thought I would see, and missing America so much less than I thought I would. Although it was a difficult leap to take in August, I can clearly see the plan God had when he laid this job in my lap. This has been an absolutely beautiful year :)

Especially, when you get to take weekend trips to Austria, to go toboganning. Yes, sledding in the Alps. UNREAL....and it is only a 4 hour car ride away :) THIS is why I love my life. So yes, two weeks ago Meredith, Allie, Alexis, and I rented a car and made our way through the mountains to a ski town in Austria, because Meredith had heard there was sledding there. Although we got there too late for tobogganing the first day, we managed to make the best of the day with a long dinner over wine, followed by a night at a bar at the bottom of the slopes....a live band playing American music to make the night just perfect. The next morning we we hit the slopes anxiously wondering what sledding down that HUGE mountain in front of us would be like! Once sledding down the hills (no I take that back. They were not hills. We literally sled from the peak of an Alps mountain to the very bottom), I immediately decided this was probably one of the most fun things I had ever done!

and then everything went down hill. literally. Next thing I knew, I zooming down a hill at an ungodly speed, jumping off my toboggan to save my life for fear of a cliff getting increasingly closer to me, and watching my toboggan glide down the mountain without me. We then proceeded to ask some skiers if we could go get the tobbogan, but were disappointed to find out that no one was allowed down that slope because of danger of avalanche. Thank God I jumped off you're thinking, right? YES. Thank God I jumped off. However, the price it cost me to replace my lost toboggan to save my life is a little too painful to write...

BUT I refuse to let that minor detail ruin the weekend, sledding in Austria was definitely one of my favorites trips thus far!

Finally, this past weekend I at last got to go to Rome. Coming to Trieste, I knew it was unacceptable to live and Italy and never visit Rome. So I was really excited when Carrie mentioned she wanted to take a quick weekend trip for a Caravaggio exhibit. A few days later we hopped on a somewhat questionable overnight train, and arrived in Roma at 7am the next morning. Somehow we managed to fit all the major sites of the city into one day, and although we were exhausted once returning to Trieste Sunday was well worth it! There are so many sites I wish I could have spent more time at and many museums I missed out on, so I guess that means I just HAVE to go back. Such a shame :)

I am determined that the rest of my adventures will be shared! I said, I'll try :)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year...

Thanksgiving number 1 at the church- Sara serving food to the guests.
IST dinner- our Italian versions of the American classics.
Some of my co-workers and chefs of the night...from the left John, Amanda, Tiffany, and Michael.
Thanksgiving number 3 at Emily, Morgan, and Jessica's. Digging into the delicious and massive amounts of food!
Ahhh the desserts!! Thanks to canned pumpkin brought back on a plane from the states, we were able to enjoy our traditional Thanksgiving sweets from America!

Well, the holiday season has officially started in Trieste! Lights are lining the streets, christmas tree are up in the piazza, and shop windows are set up with "Natale" decorations. Its starting to get me very excited for the holiday season, but also REALLY makes me want to go home!!

This past week we had our own Italian Thanksgiving here in Trieste. Since Thanksgiving is an American holiday, the Italians here obviously do not celebrate the beloved traditions. However, I actually got to have a total of 3 Thanksgivings in a matter of 4 days, so I was very thankful :) On Wednesday night, my church here put on a huge Thanksgiving dinner for the congregation and the students of the English language classes the church provides. When Carrie and I offered our help to set up the feast, Sara warned us it was going to be a 85 people were expected to show up! Haha but little did we know HOW MUCH of a task it was going to be.

Carrie and I showed up at the church Wednesday night ready to lend a hand, and it turns out we needed to prepare and set up almost the entire dinner with just us 3! So after 2 hours of cutting massive amounts of bread, setting up decorations brought from the states, heating mashed potatoes on a tiny stove, making bagged stuffing, and cooking the traditional green bean casserole in a microwave...we were finally ready for the guests! We were actually able to serve all the typical American dishes, because we got food from a local army base here. Otherwise, the green been casserole, sweet potatoes, cranberry,  and stuffing would not have been possible! This really gave the night a feeling of home :)

The night turned out to be a lot more sweat work than I expected, but it felt so good to be able to feel a part of the church. I have been attending the services for a while and going to lunches here and there, but that night I felt like a PART of the church. It was so great to be able to serve people, and offer a friendly smile to strangers. Although, my broken Italian descriptions of the foods were rather humorous...all the guests were very grateful and excited to partake in the American holiday!

On Thursday at school, I made certain that my students got a taste of one of my favorite holidays too! We read them a story about the history of Thanksgiving, then they wrote about what it would be like if Italy had a Thanksgiving and what they are thankful for. I brought in homemade apple pie....yes I made it from scratch!...and leftover pumpkin pie from the night before. My students got a taste of a real American holiday; it was so fun to be able to share one of my traditions with them!

That night we had a big IST Thanksgiving, as about 20 of the staff gathered at one of my co-workers homes in Opicina. We all made our way over right after school on Thursday and indulged in yet another night of delicious food, wine, and an attempt to bring a little bit of our American traditions to Italy :) Although, this night we were only limited to Italian we had all the typical American dishes, but with an Italian twist. Everything turned out great though, as there we NO leftovers that night!

Now my attempts at getting home that night were not as successful. I left the feast fairly early, because I wanted to get home quickly to skype with my Mom, sister, and Luke, who were all celebrating Thanksgiving together at my Mom's house. As I left the house, it was pitch black outside, rainy, and chilly...and I only had a 50 minute commute back to my apartment in the city (or so I thought!). Well after a lonley, cold, and wet walk to the bus station I hopped on a bus...starting to feel the sadness that I was not with my family on Thanksgiving. After a 30 minuet bus ride, I arrived in the city only to slip on the wet concrete and completely wipe out onto by butt!! It was one of those moments where I could not help but start crying- alone on Thanksgiving, many of the people I love are celebrating together at that very moment, its raining on me, and I can already feel the bruise on my tailbone :( And just when I thought it couldn't get worse...I attempt to wait for my second bus of the night to get back to my apartment. However, after 25 minuets of waiting in the dark and rain and no bus in sight, I realized I needed to make yet another 20 minute walk home. So all this to say, Thanksgiving away from the States was hard, and involved more tears than I expected...BUT I had some great company and delicious food!

On Saturday, I went to yet another feast for the holiday! A few of the other girl interns put on a fancy and very impressive party for Thanksgiving over the weekend. It was a small group of us from IST, as well as Emily's friends from Ireland and England. The food was phenomenal (the best of all three of my Thanksgivings I must say :)) and we had a great time enjoying our 3 course meal from 4:30-8:00 pm. My favorite part would definitely have to be the wide array of desserts we had to choose crumble with cream gelato, pumpkin turtle pie with dulce de leche carmel topping, Sacher (a traditional Slovenian chocolate cake), pumpkin cheesecake, and homemade Italian tiramisu!!! I went back for seconds...and then thirds :) By the end of the night and much wine I was ready to hit the sack at 9:30...telling myself I would not be able to eat for 2 days! Haha yet we all know how not true that ever seems to be :)

So overall, my Thanksgiving in Italy and first holiday abroad was more difficult than I expected, as I am starting to miss my family, friends, and Luke terribly during this time. Yet I really cannot complain...3 Thanksgivings, incredibly delicious food, and great people to share in our traditions together in our home away from home?? I am very thankful :)

But VERY VERY ready to go home...2 weekends, 2.5 weeks, and 17 days!! It could not get here any sooner!!!!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

November Break!

Cagliari, Sardegna

Cinque Terre- the edge of Riomaggiore where we stayed. SO GORGEOUS!!

At night in my favorite town in Cinque Terre- Vernazza

Florence- View from the Ponte Vecchio bridge

Carrie and I at Piazza Michelangelo- behind us is a view of the entire city!!

We had an entire week off from school the first week of November for our fall break at IST. This means trying to fit in as much traveling as we can in the short 9 day break! And we did just was a very busy week of non-stop seeing sightseeing, exploring, and new places :) Its weeks like these that are the reason I took this job.

My friend Carrie and I decided a few months ago that we wanted to take a trip together over the November break, so we had been planning this for quite some time. We knew we would travel well together and this trip proved that very true! Our week started off right after school on Friday, October 30th. Once all the kids left, ready for the Halloween weekend, we started our journey to the airport, we had a 9:50 P.M. flight to Cagliari, Sardegna (which is the island off the west coast of Italy. It is a part of Italy though). We finally arrived in Cagliari late Friday night and the journey began! In Sardegna we planned to do Couch Surfing, which for those of you that do not know, is basically a "worldwide network for making connections between travelers and the communities they visit." It connects people all across the world and all its members open up their homes for travelers, providing a "couch" for them to stay on for free. I had found out about this from Luke, because he did Couch Surfing throughout his entire backpacking trip through Europe last summer. Travel to new countries, meet the people that actually live there, and get a couch to stay on for free? Sounded like a great idea! Well once we got to Cagliari we quickly found out our experience was going to be much different! We stayed with a guy in his late 20's, extremely nice, laid back, and generous guy.....BUT has no sense of sanitation or cleanliness haha. We were so grateful that he opened up his home to us, and he really was a very kind person....but we would just prefer not to sleep in his questionably washed sheets! I told myself I would try Couch Surfing at least once while in Europe, and I am so glad and proud of myself that I did. It was a great experience that actually taught me a lot about myself as a traveler. However, as I told Luke, the only time I would ever try Couch Surfing again is with him...and if I get to see pictures of where I will be staying!

So Saturday and part of Sunday we spent exploring Cagliari, Sardegna. The city is known mostly for its beaches during the warmer months, so the Cagliari itself really does not have much to offer. There were some beautiful neighborhoods, monuments, and churches, but nothing overly impressive. I do not think I would go back there again, it just was not memorable enough to visit again. On Sunday we took a train to Alghero, Sardegna, which is in on the northern coast of the island. Now this city I LOVED! It is a gorgeous, seaside town which has a surprising amount of history. The city is so small you really feel relaxed and welcomed by the quaint beach town. Since our experience with Couch Surfing was not as successful as we hoped, we cancelled our last night of Couch Surfing in Alghero and booked a B&B last minute. The place turned out to be SUCH a blessing...La Terranza B&B opened up a room for us on their last night of the season, set out a huge breakfast feast for us, gave us the entire apartment to ourselves, and allowed us to stay until whenever we needed to...not to mention how nice and clean it was! Our trip was going in the right direction now:) In Alghero we just walked around the downtown area, enjoyed the gorgeous views, and had a phenomenal dinner at a hidden Trattoria (restaurant that serves the area's local food) we found- Paella Alghero style, red wine, seafood spaghetti, and a delicious cheese and honey soaked pastry! I would highly recommend going to this city, it is a perfect getaway for a quick weekend of beachs, a B&B, and local cuisine!

On Monday night we took an overnight ferry to Genova...finally we were on our way to the Cinque Terre!! The ferry was actually much nicer than we expected, somewhat of a lowscale, one-night cruise, but we slept through most of the 12-hour journey. Once we reached Genova we took a train to the Cinque Terre. Luke and Amy have both raved of this place since they each traveled here, both agreeing it is one of the most gorgeous places they had ever been. So this is one place I knew I HAD to visit in Italy before I left, an area that I had anticipated traveling too for a very long I am sure you can imagine my excitement! And oh my goodness my expectations were nothing but blown away! The Cinque Terre is a stretch of 5 cities along the Italian Riviera, labeled a part of the National Park as known for its breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea and the hiking path connecting all 5 cities together. Carrie had been here many times before while studying abroad in Florence, so she booked us a great apartment in the most Southern city of Riomaggiore.

We stepped off the train for the first time in Monterosso, the first of the 5 cities, and I literally was speechless. The Cinque Terre is truly the MOST beautiful place I have ever seen. Rocky cliffs dropping off into a crystal blue abyss of water, bright colored buildings stacked on top of each other up to the very edge the coastline....oh my goodness, this place truly is PARADISE!!! I never have traveled to anywhere where I just stood in awe of what God has created, I did not understand how something this beautiful exists! So we had a pretty relaxing 2 days in the Cinque Terre, most of our time consisting of purely enjoying the views. Wednesday I hiked through all 5 cities by myself, it ended up being about 13 kilometers of hiking, nearly taking me from 9 to 4- only to stop for gelato of course :) The hike was difficult and long, but such a unexplainable experience- so quiet and peaceful, breathtaking views every time you turn a corner, walking along the edge of a moutain...ah one of the most memorable things I have ever done! Each city is unique and has a character of its own, but every one has just one main cobblestone road lined with eclectic shops, restaurants, markets, and bars. The Cinque Terre, truly is a hidden jem of Italy that EVERYONE must travel to!

Our time there was cut way to short as we had to leave for Florence of Thursday. We had run into a co-worker and his girlfriend in Riomaggiore who had rented a car for the week. Ironically, they were leaving for Firenze Thursday too, so we got to hop in the car with them and drive through Tuscany on the way to our next destination. What a beautiful car ride!! After only 2 hours we arrived in Florence, a huge contrast to the landscape and tranquillity of the Cinque Terre. Florence has much more of an old Europe feel, such history to every piazza and building. The city is self is just so large, filled with so many tourists! I has not heard that much English in such a long time, the city is flooded with young Americans studying abroad. Although, it was refreshing to hear my own language at first, by the end of the three days I had a deep appreciation for Trieste and its lack of tourists and abundance of a language other than Italian. Its funny how much the "American tourist" truly bothers me while traveling now...I can only hope I becomes less and less like this throughout my year here :)

Carrie studied in Florence 6 years ago and revisited a few time since, so she knew that city like the back of her hand. She gave me a tour of the entire city, history and all, I really felt like we walked every street in Florence! And a walking city that it is....the enormity of Florence is overwhelming at first, but by Saturday I was able to navigate the streets and have a vague idea of where I was! We saw all the typical sights- San Lorenzo Market, the Uffizi Gallery, Palazzo Pitti, Ponte Vecchio, Market Centrale, Academia, St Croce Church, the Duomo, and Piazza Michelangelo. Carrie also got to show me a few hidden treasures of Florence though- like Festival del Gelato (70 flavors!!), the Paperback Exchange-an English language bookstore, Mexican restaurants (oh gosh I had been waiting in anticipation for so long...I'm dying without my Mexican food!!), delicious Trattorias, and great local wine bars. My favorite thing we did was Piazza Michelagelo though. You walk up a steep hill, finally to reach this piazza where you can sit on top of the steps and see the ENTIRE city! It was absolutely gorgeous, such a neat city full of history and culture!

Unfortunately, Saturday finally came and I had to travel back to Trieste. Carrie drove home with some co-workers on Sunday. However, I took the train home alone on Saturday so that I could get back to the apartment and meet Allie's boy that she was dating before she came to Italy. They had just gotten back from a romantic week in Paris and Rome, so it was great to finally meet him and enjoy a dinner together sharing our travels :)

Overall, it was an adventure-filled and relaxing week of traveling to new and beautiful places. Cinque Terre was definitely the highlight of the trip and hands down the most beautiful, magical place I have ever been! These breaks truly are what will make my experience here I think. I am already counting down the days until Bethany and Amy visit during my February break, hopefully we will be seeing Ireland and part of Spain. Then Luke comes in April and we are just going to enjoy actually seeing each other hah...spending part of the week relaxing in Trieste and the other exploring the rest of Spain!!!! I CANNOT WAIT!!! :)

If you want to look through more pictures from the trip, here is the link to my pictures. They are gorgeous, please look at the ones of Cinque Terre!!:

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Canal in Rijeka, Croatia.
The Clock tower in the city center of Rijeka.
Opatija, Croatia...paradise!! Pictures do not do it justice!
Allie and I in Opatija along the coast....the perfect day :)
A street in Opatija, so picturesque!

So after a weekend in Rimini and San Marino, we decided to take it a little easy this past weekend…October 2nd-4th. On Friday night Allie and I were pretty exhausted from the week and she specifically had a rough day, so we decided to have a “make Allie’s day better” night! It was a lot of fun, exactly what we both needed…we drank wine, watched a movie (which we do not have a TV, so my laptop sitting on top of my rolling chair in the middle of the living room has been our TV. It actually works out nicely!), and made a box cake that her mom had sent her in the mail. Funfetti….the best box cake ever! So we had a great relaxing night at home, exactly what we needed J

 Friday afternoon we decided to take a last minute day trip Saturday….I did some research and actually planned a successful trip in Europe! I was so proud of myself! It is actually a lot harder to visit places than I thought from Trieste. It is great location wise, being in the middle of so many great countries, but because it isn’t one of the major cities it really limits the amount of trains, airplanes, and buses that go through the city. But I found a bus that took us from Trieste to Rijeka, Croatia directly….only a 2 hour bus ride and 6 Euro each way!!

 So Saturday morning we hopped on an early bus, having no idea what to expect, and headed to Croatia for the day! While driving to Rijeka though, we passed this INCREDIBLE looking Caribbean/European like town…so we decided we had to get back there somehow! Once getting to Rijeka, it turned out to be a little different than we expected. Rijeka is more of a “big city” feel, it has a canal, but really is not along the water like most well known Croatian towns. The city has a lot of history and you can definitely see it in all the buildings, there was also a lot of graffiti. The city was beautiful though and we managed to navigate our way around the entire city and all its major landmarks with just one map! We saw the famous Croatian National Theater, the Croatia National History Museum, an open air market, the canal, a well-known palace, and old Roman arch, and some gorgeous churches.  We packed our lunches to save money and came across a little park to eat lunch in….it was such a perfect day!!

 Somehow, despite me and Allie’s amazing way to get lost whatever we do, we found out how to catch a bus from Rijeka back to that great city we passed through on the bus ride there, Opatija. We were really proud of ourselves when we realized that we had actually made it to the city we were intending to go and did not get 40 minutes off course! But OH MY GOODNESS Opatija is one of the most beautiful cities I have EVER been too….absolutely GORGEOUS, it really feels like paradise!!! It is this tiny city on a peninsula in Croatia, the water is so clear and crystal blue, all the buildings and homes are these beautiful bright colors, there is one main road in all of Opatija, and it is lined with tons of unique and very picturesque cafés, bars, and restaurants.  The PERFECT place for a relaxing weekend to do nothing but lay on the beach and eat at fun restaurants! J

 We got into the city and were so taken aback by how beautiful it was, we ended up sitting by the coast and taking an unexpected 30 min nap along the water…just laying on the ground with only our backpacks as pillows…it was SO WONDERFUL!! I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day…it was so peaceful and so beautiful! We ended the day by walking around the city and getting a drink at a café along the water. While walking around though we came across a wedding in this tiny, old chapel along the coast….oh my gosh my heart was just melting!!! What a dream??? J Then! 5 minuets later in the building right next door we saw 2 other brides!! We have no idea what was happening, but we got a good laugh out of it…man weddings just really seem to follow me everywhere lately!! I had to laugh! J

 We took the 5pm bus home and got back at 7 to still have a wonderful relaxing evening at home. The next morning I went to church and it was so great!!! Matt spoke all in Italian this week though, but I could follow along somewhat ok with his sermon by looking up the verses he posted. I LOVE the worship part of church though! I just think it is so amazing that you can literally be million miles across the world and people worship the same God you do, in different language…and you can sing to him at the SAME time, in different languages, and in such different ways. It is SUCH a neat experience! It was this one girl’s last day at the church though so they had a celebration and lots of praying for her before leaving church…then we all went to lunch after! And as I am am learning more all the time, Italians take a LONG time to do anything! After church (which started at 10) I ended up getting home at 4pm after a wonderfully long afternoon of church, pizza, gelato and great times with the entire congregation at church (which is about 30 people haha!). Sunday was such a GREAT day! So overall, yet another an incredible weekend!

Rimini, Italy and San Marino

4 of the 6 of us girls that were on the trip...eating lunch right off the side of a mountain! I cannot believe I am getting to do this stuff...I am so blessed!
Me and Allie, my roomate, in San Marino.
A fun street in Rimini, Italy...exploring the city!

The First Tower of San Marino- we got to climb all the way to the top, beautiful views!
View from the top of the first Tower- you can see the Second castle in the distance...does not even look real!

Two weekends ago we went to Rimini, Italy and San Marino (which is a tiny country in the middle of Italy…yes, it is its own country!!) for a few days. The trip definitely had some bumps in the road, but overall it was a great weekend!

 We decided very last minuet Thursday night to go ahead and join some other girls on the trip…I figured why not? I am only here once right! So we brought our stuff to school with us Friday and left straight from school for the train station in Trieste. It took us about 5 hours total to get to Rimini, with 2 stops in between.  Friday night we FINALLY got to Rimini at midnight. We though we could easily get to the hotel, but it turns out, as usual, it was more difficult than expected! Thankfully we found the two nicest ladies that spoke a tiny bit of English, and they literally walked us across the entire city directly to our hotel!

 Rimini is a great beach town off the East Coast of Italy, one of the most popular beach towns in Italy. We stayed at Hotel Bahama, this very nice, tiny hotel right by the water.  There was a mix up with our reservation when we got in so late, so we had to wait for about another hour at the hotel for them to sort things out…mind you this is us trying to communicate in very broken English and Italian to somehow come to an agreement.  They ended up giving us 2 rooms instead of 1 though, which turned out GREAT! So the next morning, after our complimentary breakfast J, we headed off for a quick day trip to San Marino. It is actually its own country right in the middle of Italy…how cool is that?!!? I am so so glad we decided to go there, it was by far my favorite part of the weekend! The city is absolutely gorgeous and has such great character. It is on the top of a mountain with 3 castles and towers along the very top; all the streets are cobblestone with rustic shops and cafés lining every road. It was the most beautiful and quaint city…my new favorite country! Then, we had an incredible lunch literally right off the side of a cliff….visiting all these places truly feels like a dream!

 Once we got back to Rimini, we went straight to the beach! It was a little chilly out, but perfect weather for a nap on the beach J Everyone got into the water but me haha, those Northern girls said the water felt like a bathtub…I thought my hand was going to fall off from the icey water! So I opted for a more enjoyable nap on the sand J But it was a great, relaxing afternoon by the water. Later that night we went to a late dinner, which always takes about 3 hours in Italy. Never expect to get out of a dinner any sooner than 3 hours after you get there! This is one of the things I love about the Italian culture though, meals are an event- meant to spend time with people and enjoy each other’s company. It really makes me realize how rushed American people are, always thinking about the next place to be the next person to see. This is one of the things I LOVE about living abroad! I definitely think that living overseas had slowed me down a little….I am so thankful, I can be pretty fast paced, not stopping to REALLY enjoy things, so this is so good for me J

 Now this is when everything started to go down hill….after dinner….oh goodness. Allie, Kelly, and I decided to head back from dinner early, a few of the girls went to a few bars...we decided to opt out.  So we are in this city we JUST got to yesterday and obviously still learning our way around! Well we got on the 4 bus, which the hotel told us would get us back there. Well little did we know that this bus was the 4 slash (4/)….and unfortunately Allie and me had just learned the hard way back in Trieste the week before- never get on a slash bus!!!! Well, it happened again, by accident, and somehow we ended up 40 minuets outside of Rimini with the bus driver having to call us a Cab. 45 Euros and 2 hours later we were safe back at the hotel, but wow that was an adventure! That was the first and only time I have ever felt unsafe while over here though…so it was a learning experience to say the least!

 The next morning Allie and me went for a run along the beach and it was great! I have been running a lot more since I got here, just because I do not want to spend money on a gym. Allie is the perfect running partner; she really is getting me into shape! I really have gotten back into routine though and I am LOVING it! We decided this weekend that we are going to run the Trieste Half Marathon in May…we are really excited! So after breakfast we go to check out from the hotel. Unfortunately it turns out that the man that quoted us our price on the rooms Friday night was not there. Long story short- Italians are VERY temperamental people and we have a few feisty girls in our group, that DID not make for a good combination. So a few of the girls ended up getting into a screaming match with the hotel because they refused to honor our price that was online and the man agreed to. We ended up compromising and paying a little extra, but not as much as they were asking. So all ended well, but it definitely made for a weekend of many mishaps!

 Overall, I am really glad we went, San Marino was definitely worth it, but I do not think I would go back to Rimini again…especially after how GORGEOUS the beaches are in Croatia this week! (more on that to come J)  So many lessons learned in another Italian adventure  J

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Beginning of September

I have not been updating the blog nearly as much as I should I am so sorry! I’m finding it hard to find a block of time to actually sit down and write everything I want to. So where did I leave off?

 Settling in here in Trieste has been going fairly smoothly. I still do not feel like I have experienced any culture shock at all. The little things I was worried about have not been hard to adjust to at all, like the time difference, a 24-hour clock, using Euros instead of dollars, ect. The language really is still the hardest thing for me. Church is actually the biggest help with that right now though. Even this week they did the sermon in Italian and English, so that was really helpful. I am picking up words and phrases here and there, but I couldn’t hold a conversation if my life depended on it hah! It is just much harder to pick up than I thought, because I work with English speaking people, my kids at school speak English, my roommate speaks English…so really the only Italian I interact with is when going to the grocery store, gelato, restaurants, things like that.

 Really the hardest part of moving overseas has been how much I miss the PEOPLE back in America. I really do not miss the US AT ALL actually…the only thing I am longing for is the people L So if everyone could just move over here with me, haha my life would be PERFECT!!

 Let’s see-last weekend was very busy…on Saturday Carrie, another teacher at IST and me, went to Slovenia, which little did we know is absolutely GORGEOUS. She has a European friend that does tours throughout Europe, so he invited her to join in on this wine tasting in Slovenia for free. So we tagged along for the day with a group of old Danish people and got an incredible tour of the biggest wine manufacturer is Slovenia, Vinakoper. We stopped in Isola for lunch…had an incredible seafood feast! Then, we went to Piran for the rest of the day and Claus (Carrie’s friend that lead the tour) gave us a personal tour through the city! He lead us up to this city wall, the highest point in the city, where we saw some incredible views, then he took us to this hidden wine bar off the beaten path, then we sat in Piazza Tartini for a while enjoying some music and the beautiful day. It was an incredible day!!

 The next day a group of us took a day trip to Venice…I LOVE that I can do things like that because I live in ITALY!! Trieste really is an incredible location, because its so far north, we can travel to so many places in such a short amount of time! Venice was incredible though, I LOVE that city…for many reasons J We went there for the Regatta Storica, a boat racing festival, but we walked around for most of the day enjoying the city, having a nice long lunch…followed by gelato of course! (which oh my goodness, this is NOT good for me to live in a city that is known for its ice cream….its not even ice cream though its better than ice cream!!! Im trying to limit myself to a few times a week, hmmmm however so far that has not been very successful J) Venice was incredible though…I really would love to go back again in low season when there are not so many people though. GREAT day J

 Then this past week was the first week of school! My gosh they have long school days at IST though…the kids are there 8:30-4:00, and that’s with very little time for specials. So add an hour commute both ways (we take the bus or walk to the tram, which is a 30 min ride, then we have a 10 minuet walk to the school) and with staying after to school to run sometimes…its makes for a VERY long day. I really am going to have to build up endurance; I was absolutely exhausted everyday when we finally got back to the house at 7pm. But I am in third grade this year; there are 2 third grade classes with 18 kids in each, so I am splitting my time between two teachers. I’ll be in charge of teaching history; since there are 3 of us, we are able to really spread the workload out, which is really nice and means more time to be able to enjoy the city and traveling! My kids are adorable though, I have never had a class of more beautiful children….ahhh and they all have the cutest little accents!!! Its so great! I really do LOVE the way you can teach here, no standardized tests…and we can actually do art projects and have time to read stories!!! Its great, makes me remember the teacher I really want to be J Although they do things veryyyy differently here, so that is going to take a lot of getting used to. But already it has been such an opportunity for learning and seeing new ways of doing things.

 And this Thursday I leave to come HOME!!!!!! I could not be more excited to come back for the wedding…I am literally going home for 48 hours, so I am going to be incredibly exhausted…but it will be MORE than worth it! Yayaya!!! I am so excited!!!! Ill try to write again soon. We already are planning on going to Croatia the weekend after I come home…so I will have much to write about! There is possible talk of Oktoberfest too…so we will see. I love living abroadJ If only everyone could just come live here with me, I’d be the happiest girl in the world!! J

Monday, August 31, 2009

First week

So I have finally been in Italy for about a week now, and I love it already! Things are much better than I ever expected, considering how nervous I was before I left.  God has been so GOOD, answering so many prayers and really giving me a peace ever since I got here.

 My apartment is incredible though, BRAND NEW…which I was not expecting at all!! Me and my roommate Allie, who I really get along with and is great, each have our own room, then the place has a huge living room and balcony. It is missing some American luxuries such as air conditioning, a dish washer, and a dryer…but I am excited about living this way for a year! We really lucked out though, and the school is spoiling us (I guess last year they had some problems with the apartments, so they made sure that did not happen again). Trieste is a great city though, much more city like than I expected. The people are very nice though, it is an older population; however, the language barrier is very difficult, so I will definitely be trying to learn Italian as fast as possible. I have barley seen any Americans though, if even one, so it is not a very touristy town which I love!

 There are about 12 Teaching Associates working at IST this year, 2 boys and the rest girls, and I am actually one of the youngest ones. Everyone is very fun though, most all of the new hires being from the East Coast…but we are all sticking together, which has made things a lot easier. The whole staff at IST is really great though, very helpful and welcoming! Things are very different here, education wise, much more laid back and not structured, so that will definitely take some time to get used to….but it will be so good for me to loosen up a bit J Italians as a whole really have a different lifestyle, which has been interesting to experience- much more laid back, relaxed, not in such a hurry all the time, not as focused on efficiency as Americans. It seems as though at any time you see so many people at a bar/café enjoying wine or gelato in the middle of a “work day”…I’m wondering what these people do for a living! Meals last 3 hours, if someone says something starts at 9 it usually does not begin until 10, and a lot of time is spent just hanging around enjoying each others’ company. So all of this is great…and for most of you who know me, know this will be a change…asI like my plans and things on time hah. But its going to be a great learning experience and I know I will come back happily changed and more relaxed!

 We have spent the first week mostly settling in and exploring the city, trying to find our bearings. Our apartment is pretty much all set up, electricity and internet are finally ON (the first 3 days we had neither, so that was an experience!). The apartment is very stark, as we don’t have too many resources to decorate with (nor want to spend the money hah), but we are trying to make it as homey as we can. The group of interns has been hanging out- cooking dinner at the boy’s apartment, swimming in the Adriatic Sea and eating dinner at a pizzeria along the water (my favorite things so far!), and getting drinks at bars in the piazza. Even as I right this, I cannot believe this is my life…cannot believe I get the opportunity to live in such a beautiful country, I am so so blessed.

 GREAT NEWS though….I found a church…and other Christians! This is so so encouraging, as a lot of you know this was one of my biggest concerns and prayers ever since I accepted the job. One of the directors at IST is actually a pastor too, so him and another teacher at the school attend this church (her husband came over to Italy to help with the church). One day I overheard conversation they were having with another New Hire (who I also found out is a Christian!) and asked about the church. They invited me to go this past Sunday and were so so welcoming!! The church is a tiny congregation that meets in a small bulinding close to my house….but its GREAT! Most of the people there speak some English, so that was encouraging…however the sermon and most of the service is all in Italian, so that will definitely be challenging. For this reason, please be praying that I can pick up the language quickly. The church itself is so neat though…the first hour we worshiped with guitar and a jimbe J, after each song anyone had the chance to pick the next song or pray or speak…it was so neat to see worship like this! Then we took communion and the pastor spoke (in Italian, but I caught a few words here and there and could read in my bible). I am really excited about getting more plugged in and hopefully being able to understanding more and more each week. But God has proven his faithfulness YET AGAIN, and I am SO excited to know I have found fellowship and a church to plug into…I would not be able to survive this year without it.

 It looks as though God is doing big things at the school this year…lots of new staff and changes being implemented, so I cannot wait to see how he works this year! I am transitioning fairly well…I just had my first day of really hard homesickness and missing people today. I know there is much more hard to come too, but I also know I am EXACTLY where I am suppose to be right now J I already CANNOT WAIT to come back in 3 weeks for Matt and Jessica’s wedding!!! But I wish so badly EVERYONE could come visit….really anytime if anyone would like a vacation to Italy come on out! We have 2 extra beds and a couch!! Love you all very very much J