Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Old posts but hey I'm catching up with technology

September 7

It’s pretty amazing that you can hop on an airplane in Seattle at 7 O’clock Saturday night, be in Rome just 14 hours later and not even be hungry. And while airline meals aren’t exactly fine dining, at 30 thousand feet these tasted pretty good.

I signed up for this trip hearing constant praise from past participants. The general consensus is that Gonzaga-in-Florence will be the adventure of a lifetime. The most fun, exciting year a college junior could ask for. Me, I have a variety of reasons for going. I’m definitely looking for some excitement, adventure, and fresh new experiences. But another part of it was just wanting to break away from tradition. There’s something about stagnant familiarity, the rut of an overly repetitious schedule that really gets to me. I love Gonzaga and am definitely happy being there with friends and siblings. But I’ve been there two years now, and that seems like long enough start looking for a change of scenery.

So here I am, at the Rome International Airport, waiting for the arrival of a complete stranger with whom I am splitting a motel room. Tomorrow 150 bright, adventurous students will converge here and officially start the program. For now I wait and ponder what my plan is for recognizing this guy when he gets here. Maybe I should have worn my Gonzaga hoodie—truly a universally understood beacon guaranteed to attract other students together. Ah, the glitches of unprepared spontaneity. Pretty Surferist I’d say, even if it means I spend the night on a row of ratty airport chairs dragged together.
I’ll send this when I find some internet over here. Um… could be a while.

September 10

Italy is a country rich with history. As we walked down the streets of Palmero, Sicily our guide chatted nonstop about the power-struggles, the epic battles and all the Henrys and Williams who’ve been king here.  We walked in and out of thousand-year-old churches adorned with solid gold mosaics, saw marble statues and fountains representing entire lifetimes of artistic endeavor, and traversed down the passages of dark, Sicilian catacombs lined with skeletons of ancient citizens. Nothing I’ve seen in the U.S. comes close to these in terms of history and sheer grandeur. The sights here transcend the barriers of time, giving visitors a first-hand glimpse into past centuries.

The food here has been excellent as well. And it can actually be pretty cheap, you just have to know where to look. A sketchy looking, narrow alley can be the perfect place for a little hole-in-the wall restaurant serving amazing pastas. They also have lots of fish here, but I have yet to taste any that compare to a fresh, Washington salmon. The cool thing about eating out here is that tips aren’t expected. On the other hand we always have to pay for water, so it probably balances out.

Meals are definitely taken at a different pace than what’s typical in the States. It’s all about the enjoyment of sitting around a table enjoying the moment with friends and food. Multicourse meals come one dish at a time, and can stretch on for a long time. Even getting a simple meal at an outdoor café is not something to be rushed. Waiters never seem to bring out the bill, even when it’s clear that the table is finished, until everyone has had plenty of time to sit back and let the food settle down. I think restaurants enjoy seeing their tables full of bloated, content customers, even if they’re no longer eating.

So far the experience has been great! Travelling with such a big group (158 kids plus staff) is stressful and inconvenient, but I think it’s a good way to start out. It’s pretty hard to get separated and lost from a group like this. Tomorrow we go to another hotel that apparently has a private beach on the Mediterranean. Totally sweet, even though there’s no surfing.

View from a hill overlooking the city of Firenze

Saw the Trevi Fountain briefly during our stay in Rome