Ciao from Roma! I planned on starting this blog right before I left, which clearly didn’t happen, but better late than never I suppose! Of course I have to start from the beginning and catch up on three very action packed weeks of my life so please forgive me in advance for the ridiculous length of this blog entry, and feel free to read it over several days as you have the time.
I have now been in Italy a little over three weeks and it has been an incredible, crazy experience since word go. My journey started off on a pretty great note … a first class flight to Madrid! As the flight attendants brought me a warm towel for my hands and a table cloth for my tray table (yes, that really happens), I truly felt like a princess. I could never thank Diana enough for making such a thing possible. We flew through the night and arrived in Madrid early in the morning, for my less than 24 hour layover. After a very quick, much needed cat nap, Diana began to give me a personal tour of the city. I imagined that when I arrived in Europe I would feel so incredibly far from home, literally and figuratively, but somehow it didn’t feel that way. It felt a lot like being in a big city in the US, but mixed in with the normal city buildings were lovely old, multicolored buildings. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and even though it was very warm, there was no humidity, so it was a perfect day for exploring!
One of the things that stands out most in my mind about Madrid was the people and the way of life which, even in just being there for a few hours, I could see was noticeably different from home. Everyone I saw had a super cool, laid back vibe … no one seemed to be rushing around in a hurry to get anywhere. It was a weekday and everywhere you looked there were people just strolling around, or sitting at a cafe enjoying the lovely day, as if it were the weekend. I was also blown away by the people of Madrid for their overall awesome, yet effortless sense of style and the fact that the majority of the people I saw were incredibly good looking. And when I say good looking, I mean to the point that even the construction workers on the street, looked like they should be starring on a soap opera. No joke. Another highlight was getting to see a massive protest in the street. It was incredible because there were surely thousands of people in this one area, yet there was a great sense of control, and it was the epitome of a peaceful protest. I really wanted to make my mom proud and join in, but it was getting kind of late, and we needed to get some dinner and head back to the hotel to get ready for my early morning flight to Roma.
While I was only able to explore Madrid for about seven hours, I think I got a pretty good feel for it. I’m glad I experienced it the way I did because I feel like I got to see the city through the eyes of a local since Diana spends so much time there. I would absolutely love to go back in the future to see more of the city. Filled with excitement, anxiety, jet lag, and who knows what else, I was up all night in anticipation of the next morning. At 5 a.m. Diana put me in a cab and I was off to the airport. It was funny/not really very funny, I had felt so comfortable in Madrid, like I could easily navigate it on my own with the little Spanish I remember from high school. It wasn’t until I was alone at the airport that I realized the reason I felt that way actually had nothing to do with my own Spanish speaking skills, and completely to do with Diana’s. I never thought it would bother me, but there is something incredibly unsettling about not being able to communicate with anyone because of a language barrier. I got through it just fine though, and boarded my two hour flight to Italy.
Immediately upon arriving in Roma I set out to find the rest of the group. Once again facing the fact that I couldn’t communicate with anyone, it took me about 45 minutes to find my luggage (of which I had far too much of) and the rest of the girls. It was such a relief to finally find everyone and get a chance to sit down and relax. I’d like to preface the rest of this section by saying how very lucky and blessed I feel to be on this trip, there are literally no words to explain it. Nonetheless, things got a little rough for a minute, and it would be misleading for me to not include the bad as well as the good in this blog. Let me just say, the last thing anyone wants to do after traveling for over 24 hours, and little to no sleep, is to sit in an airport, on the ground, for 5 hours waiting for everyone to arrive. As soon as everyone got there, we threw most of our luggage on a truck which headed to our hotel in Roma, and then we boarded the bus to take us to Assisi for our orientation weekend. We were told time and time again not to fall asleep on this bus ride, so I was one of a few who forced myself to stay awake for the three hour ride through Italy’s countryside. At this point I’ve been up for close to two days, and I feel like I was seeing everything through a hazy, dreaming, but still awake state. I was in no condition to be making observations on the scenery, but what I remember of it was very pretty. When we finally arrived in Assisi, feeling more exhausted than ever before, we realized things were about to go from bad to worse. We had been told that Assisi was a hilltop city, but upon arriving we realized that by “hill’ they meant “mountain”, and our bus was unable to take us to the top. I would have paid a great deal of money to be a fly on the wall, watching the group of 46 of us, exhausted, lugging our suitcases and bags up the the cobbled streets and stairs that lead the way to our hotel. I have never hated stairs more in my life, and with each corner we rounded, thinking we were finally there, we found more stairs. Not to mention, we were in the midst of Italy’s warmest September in I believe 50 years. In hindsight, this is hysterical, in the moment however, it was absolutely one of the most miserable things imaginable. Regardless, we were so relieved to finally arrive at our destination, and it was one of the most picturesque places I have ever seen, straight out of a travel book. It was so worth the effort of getting to the top. When I arrived in Assisi I was randomly placed in a room with three other girls, who were all really, really wonderful, and we got settled in, before heading out to try and find a some sort of way to contact our families and explore a little.
To be continued…