Der Amerikanische Urlauber

Saturday, August 13, 2005

La Fin...

Well I made it through French II on speed really well, I found my final grade today... a 98% so I'm quite happy. And I think my vocabulary nearly tripled in the course of six weeks, so that's great as well.

It's wonderful to have two weeks off before I go back for another fifteen, however I seem to be one of those restless type A people that just can't sit idlly and not do anything. I was miserable today. It rained, so I was just pretty much home doing nothing. Well, not exactly anything. Being the enterprising individual I am, I decided to get a head start on fall by reading one of my books for my International Ethics class, Five Uneasy Pieces: American Ethics in a Globalized World, which deals with the ethicality of American foreign policy. It's a really easy read, only 140 something pages, so I figured, why not? For those of you who know me well enough, this kind of stuff is right up my alley.

I figure while I have enough time, I'll get my application and resumé done for Washington. However, I also may be going to Washington for extra time that I didn't yet plan, and here's why.

This class in ethics I'm taking in two weeks is taught by a woman who also happens to be in the top level of administration over at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa; in May, there's going to be an opportunity for 10 students to go with her up to DC (and this counts as a class) for a week that would entail visiting the Pentagon and CIA and meeting with various officials and dignitaries from around the world. And I've been heavily touted as someone to go, which was a surprise to me and of course which is a huge honor. I wish I had more information and when I find out about it I'll definitely write more. But I definitely find that cool. I can only imagine, however, the security clearance checks I'll be going through for this one... They'll probably be calling childhood friends asking for character references for all I know!

At times, like now when things are relatively dull, it's nice to keep the eye on the future.

On another note, I'd like to congratulate Sweety, whose blog I read regularly and who regularly comments here (dank je ;-) ) because she's expecting a baby! I'm so excited to see what cute little Dutch name the baby winds up with! Hartelijke Gelukwensen!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

I Hate Car Dealerships...

If anything best explains why there's been so few updates lately, it's because I just really wish I had more to write about. I guess I have high standards for what passes my litmus-test of being "blog worthy" but I'm making sure until my life picks up I at least provide a weekly update so you all know I'm alive. Oh, and just a note to those of you who really don't care or want to hear about anything automotive-related, just skip down to like the fourth to last paragraph if you want an abridged blog entry, because I see I kinda went long today!

Well last Thursday, as I wrote last week, I brought my Jetta in for servicing at a local Volkswagen dealer. My friend Matt brought his as well. I first of all am very cynical around car dealerships, and I was even more so about this particular one because they tried to screw me and my mother over back when we were actually looking for cars in March.

Nevertheless, everyone said this was the best one to bring it to (whoever "everyone" is they obviously have had their heads up their rear ends) so that's what we did.

My car had a problem concerning the air conditioning, which came with the car and I didn't expect to be covered under warranty since someone had done some hack fix job and rewired it so weird that I couldn't control the temperature of the AC. It just blew cold (which isn't exactly a problem in Florida during the summer, but sometimes it got so cold I'd have to play an on-off game with the switch) Also, recently my horn stopped giving that fun little beep when I locked my car with the remote. And more serious, the car experiences a sharp jolt when coming to a stop. A problem that actually plagues many Volkswagens in North America.

I should have figured I was in for trouble when the guy tells me that that jolt was nothing more than the transmission shifting down. Yeah sure. So basically he was refusing to even look at that under warranty.So we leave the cars in their loving care, and go off to the mall which is like half a mile away to kill time.

Long story short, they refused to even touch my friend's car even though everything should have been covered under warranty (and later was at another dealer) and while I agreed to pay the $200 for them to fix my air conditioning, they refused to look at the alarm, saying it must have been in an accident and so on. Then they tell me the car is going to be ready in fifteen minutes... I wound up waiting an extra hour.

Then after paying $230 with tax, I get in my car and find it absolutely filthy. I bring it there looking showroom new and I get it back looking like crap. Dirt and grease everywhere, pieces of the interior not put back properly (so now my friend has to fix it for me)... what a load of BS.

My friend brings his to another VW dealer yesterday... and they fix over $2500 worth of problems on his car, under warranty. Plus they washed and detailed the entire car.

All I got out of the deal last week was a new dipstick. Whoop dee doo.

I seriously hate car dealers and their mechanics. I cannot wait until the day that the internet and other aspects of modern technology eliminates them as the middleman and we can just get the cars direct, because they ruin all aspects of the car buying experience, and it's little wonder why they rank only a few places above panhandlers in a general respectability poll.

So now I get to waste yet another day bringing it down to the other dealer. Though at least I know I'll get it back clean this time.

In other news, I only have four more days left in this semester, and then I'm free of school... for two weeks, and then I start Fall semester. I wonder how many days this year I'll get off thanks to Mother Nature? Last year I wound up getting like 7-8 days off due to the numerous hurricanes that hit the state. Though in actuality this can seriously screw things up for people that think that means you don't have to do any work or anything...

At least in those two weeks I can get a lot accomplished, not the least of which is getting the Washington applications done and over with before the semester begins.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

My Brazilian Cousins

Brasil! Posted by Picasa

I seem to keep finding relatives on all edges of the earth, because recently I connected online with some cousins of mine in Brazil. They happen to share my last name and we share common ancestors back in Italy (Italians made up a huge wave of immigrants in the late 1800s to Brazil, just as they did here in the United States)

It's really amazing to me how the internet has allowed people to connect in ways I don't think anyone would have thought possible. When I consider that the last time these two branches of the family were in contact was over 130 years ago back in Cosenza, a town in the region of Calabria in Italy, that's really incredible.

My one cousin happens to be an English and Portuguese teacher... and she wound up getting me to take the leap into Portuguese.

I've actually wanted to learn Portuguese for a while. And being that I have Brazilian friends and now family, it seems like more than an ideal opportunity to start, I know I'll certainly get enough practice. I'm exceptionally looking forward to being able to go down to Brazil and visit in the not too distant future (but once my Portuguese is to my standards)

I surprise people when they find I'm in regular contact with cousins in the Netherlands, Italy, and now Brazil. And it really makes me feel connected to the world community as a whole, which I couldn't appreciate more.

Portuguese is going to be an interesting experience for me, because I've had little to no exposure to the language, and I still have a hard time distinguishing it when I hear it. But this was how I was when I started French back in January, and I'm really far along into that language now.

In other news, I'm bringing the Jetta down to the Volkswagen dealer tomorrow to get it serviced under warranty. This is the first car I've ever owned to still be covered under warranty, so it's quite a new concept that I may have some minor things fixed at no cost to me. Though I'm exceptionally wary whenever I go to a dealer or mechanic because I'm afraid of them trying to pull one on me, so my guard is always on overdrive.

I can't believe I'm nearly finally done with French II, either. Because this has been one of the most intensive courses I've ever taken. I never thought I'd be able to cram 125-200 new vocabulary words in my head a week... but somehow I do it.

I also need to start on my application essay for my internship in Washington... What's critical is I carefully think out where I want to intern first, because my experience will be very different depending on where I go. I'm doing something in the field of international affairs, but that can range from working for the federal government at the State Department (which I'm actually not quite sure I'd enjoy because so much of it is extreme paper pushing) to working for a foreign embassy or multinational organization, such as the European Commission. So I'll see. I do want it to have something to do with US-European relations, however. So that's on my to do list.

I miss sleeping late.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Good to be in DC

Capitol Hill Posted by Picasa

I've made a big decision to intern next summer in Washington, DC. It wasn't a difficult choice at all, because I've been wanting to do this from when I heard about it, however it was all a matter of proper timing. I wouldn't have felt ready to go anytime before I was done with sophomore year. And I can't leave it past next summer, because for Spring 2007 I'm studying abroad in France, and then I have to stay and complete my senior year, which also involves preparation for the LSAT.
Which I'm not quite looking forward to, but it's one of those things you just have to do... and excel at, especially considering where I'd like to go for law school (Columbia or NYU)

So, I'm preparing my application right now, although I'm not quite yet sure as to what area of international affairs I'd like to intern in. I do know I want it to have something to do with European relations. If it could ultilise a language of mine as well that would be great, but we'll see.

So I'll be writing more on this from time to time, because it's extremely exciting for me. I'd be going from May to August, for roughly 10 weeks (a regular semester is 15) And I've always wanted to live in a huge city. Plus this will be a really nice prep for moving away to Paris, since I'd be used to living in a city, fending for myself, etc. but in my own country first before I move on to tackle the French...

I always joke with friends of mine that I could really handle living in any city on earth, just so long as I have a gym nearby. Because other than that I'm extremely flexible. Of course they also all think I'm insane, but that's a compliment to me!

It is really exciting to think about living there, where you have so much happening around you. Tampa is a nice city, but not much really happens here at the moment (though may I add we're getting a Trump Tower, so we'll have a different skyline eventually, and that's relatively exciting because I like tall buildings!)

Friday, July 15, 2005

Off for the weekend...

After a rather hectic week (which explains the lack of updates, even though I've had plenty to write about) I'm really looking forward to getting away this weekend. We're going to be going to Disney this weekend. For Floridians it can be pretty accessible and affordable, since you figure we don't have airfare or any of that stuff to worry about. Anyway, we usually go three or four weekends a year as sort of mini-weekend getaways.

We haven't actually taken a large vacation in the summer in a few years now, because we started getting in the habit of going at Christmastime (which I like better) The destination of choice this year really floored me, because I didn't expect it at all. We're going to... Hawaii! Aloha!

We just got our confirmations in the mail today, and I'll post more on that when I return from this weekend away, but needless to say that my entire family is incredibly excited. My stepdad is afraid to fly, which is so amusing because he acts like nothing ever bothers him, but you can tell that the thought of 12 hours on an airplane makes him nervous. If anything should give him "sky legs" (ok that really doesn't exist but I don't know of an appropriate counterpart to "sea legs") it's this trip!

As for this weekend, I'm really excited to just get out of town. Even if the weather continues to be godawful, at least we're in a definite change of scenery.

I personally derive my own odd form of entertainment whenever we go over there, because as you know I love languages. Well, Disney is pretty much crawling with foreign tourists at any time of year, but especially the mid to late summer and the winter months. So I love trying to pick out all the different languages I hear, and if I can understand them, that's even better. Spanish is always the most common one... in some cases I've gone and I've heard more Spanish spoken in one day than English!

Oh and how I'm still alive and able to write this right now is probably by the grace of God or something, because it turns out Thursday I wound up driving a round trip total of 100 miles on a flat tire. Apparently while heading to school I ran over debris in the road or something, because when I left the house my tires were all fine. But five minutes into the drive, my car was starting to fishtail, which I attributed to driving at expressway speeds on the wet parkway. But then coming home it was extremely bad, and at one point when I made a turn I nearly slid into a minivan because the rear of the car gave (again I thought it was because the roads were extremely wet because it was pouring... which certainly didn't aid the situation)

But then I pull into the garage and get out, and the rear tire is as flat as a pancake. How I didn't kill anyone or myself is a miracle. And how the rim didn't even get damaged is also amazing. So that saved me from having to buy a new one from Volkswagen for like $250.

I give that car credit, because even with a flat rear tire, it handled better than my old car.

Friday, July 08, 2005

What a week...

Hurricane Dennis Posted by Picasa

If there's a reason I haven't updated this week, it's because I've been so incredibly busy, and it seems I also could have made a bit more effort to write something as well. So you instead get to read about everything in one fun long entry!

Well, I might as well start off with the most pressing issue, and that's Hurricane Dennis (pictured above) which is slated to hit Florida... it's just all a matter of where. I live right near Tampa, which you can see on the map. It's not supposed to come near us, it's supposed to hit in the Panhandle, from anywhere near Mobile, Alabama to Pensacola (which would make a huge difference) However, the key phrase here is supposed to. It's quite apparent, how after last August's fiasco with all of us here in the Tampa Bay area being all prepared for Hurricane Charley, only for it at the last minute to bypass us completely and slam into Southwest Florida, that nobody here is taking their chances.

Case in point, I was pretty much riding on fumes today, so I made a point of going for gas before I did anything else today. I get to the one Hess station, only to find that it's roped off around the gas pumps. At first I had no idea what happened... until I looked across the street at the Mobil station and it suddenly dawned on me that everyone in the county had gone on a gas rush. This happens here every time a hurricane comes. It's now been made an instinctive ritual, thanks to last year. I actually think all of us Floridians are getting eerily adjusted to it now. Sort of like how in the same vein Italians no longer even bat an eye at collapsed governments.

What really irritated me, however, was blatant price gouging. I wound up paying $2.19 a gallon at the Mobil station (which usually happens to be most expensive) but the Hess had raised its prices to $2.29, another gas station farther down was charging $2.32... I never paid over $30 for a gallon of gas in the three years I've been driving, so it was quite a shock for my total to come to $31.50. (I'm sure any of you living in Europe are rolling your eyes and/or laughing at this point)

So anyway, if this thing kind of does make a sudden turn east and we get hit or get a large brunt of the storm here in Tampa, we're all kind of screwed since nobody had adequate warning, since we've all been told it's going for the Panhandle. So they'd better be right (unfortunately of course for the people in the Panhadle... but something tells me we'll be dealing with this many times over this season here anyway)

So what else? Well, this week I started my French II course back up at school. It's nice, I'm mainly happy because I got back to the USF gym; the gym up here wasn't doing it for me.

This week brought sad news in that a former friend of mine died on July 4th, coming home from his grandparent's house on his Honda motorbike. I hadn't really talked or been overly friendly with him in several years, but I knew him from when we were like 11, so I was more upset over it than I expected myself to be. This was the very first time anyone I knew from my own generation died. I've dealt with death many times before, including my father, who died when I was 6 in 1993. However, it's something altogether shocking and very different when it's someone your own age, 18, who had nothing wrong with him who suddenly dies in a crash. It's really a reminder of everyone's vulnerability and mortality. And it reminds you, that even when you don't expect it, you shouldn't take your own life for granted. I think too many of us at this age do incredibly stupid things and take incredible risks and abuse themselves with drugs and alcohol and the like because they think nothing will ever happen to them. And then, when you least expect it, something can. We all need to be more appreciative for the opportunity to even live out our dreams. I don't know what his were, but it's tragic he's now never going to be able to see them play out.

Finally, I went and spoke with my study abroad advisor yesterday. It's pretty much akin to pulling teeth to try and get into Sciences Po. I can do it, but it would involve dropping out of USF, enrolling at the University of Florida, which has a program with them, and then applying to study there, then dropping back out of UF (which I then don't think I'd even want to do!) and reapply to USF. That's utterly ridiculous to me. Especially since I think the Sorbonne would be incredible as well.

I would really like to do an entire year, but I don't think it's really economically feasible, and I also want to intern, and that would make it incredibly hard. So I'm planning to try and acquire a summer internship abroad for this upcoming summer, and to then study in France in the following spring 2007 (if I did fall, because the semesters in Europe never align with ours, I'd be coming back halfway into the American spring semester)

I've determined there is no way I'm staying in one of those chambres de bonne that they try and push on foreign students. A maid room the size of a closet for five months really isn't appealing, and I thankfully have scholarships and my parents to help cover the cost of the semester, so I'm going to try and get a small studio for myself for that time, so I can really feel comfortable while I'm there. If any one of you guys from Paris has any suggestions on what arrondissement to look in, what places are good, etc. by all means, I'm really looking for some advice on Paris, and I know I have some great readers who could help me (thank you very much in advance ;-) )

So that's all for now. Hopefully all works out well with Dennis, but nobody here is going to rest easy until that thing actually makes landfall somewhere.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Il pleut... tous les jours

Florida, The Sunshine State! Posted by Picasa

Calling Florida the Sunshine State surely must have been a cruel joke to get everyone to move here, only to realize that from May to October, you're lucky to see the sun at all.

This has to be one of the worst summers I've experienced in the decade-plus I've lived here. Usually our rainy season starts here around late May, with short, yet heavy, thunderstorms in the mid-afternoon which blow over by evening. This year, however, for the past month and a half it has rained all of but 3 or 4 days, and it stays nasty out all day. Today it rained nonstop from 7 AM all the way to 6 PM. It's really not the best weather to promote a good mood. Fortunately, I just happen to be naturally cheery. Smiles all around.

Seriously, it's pretty bad when you have a darker tan in mid-December.

Normally I'd say how bad I feel for the tourists, who have their vacation time ruined by horrible weather. Except I live here and have my day to day life ruined by horrible weather. At least when you're on vacation you're away from the office or school or whatever, so you have that bit to be optimistic about. Plus it's a change of scenery.

The only way this could get any better, of course, is to have another fun hurricane season like we did last year.

I really do apologize for not providing regular updates with exciting material. My life is starting to get a bit more interesting again. I think I feel tainted after being in Italy; my daily life no longer seems as exciting to report about, when you figure a month ago I was talking about my experiences in Rome and sleeping on a chair-bed on the top of a mountain in Cinque Terre.

I miss that chair bed. I never thought I'd say that.

I actually was quite annoyed the other day, however, when I came across pictures taken by the first group, Group 1. See, 80 people in all were chosen to go on this trip, and they divided us into two groups of 40. We were group 2. Group 1 left about a week earlier than us, and we did our trip in reverse from theirs; we did Rome first, then Cinque Terre. They did Cinque Terre, then finished it off in Rome.

Well, apparently they did everything we were supposed to do, but didn't. For instance, they went to Florence, like we were supposed to, yet didn't. They stayed in a clean hostel in La Spezia, while we stayed at the top of the mountain in the Italian boonies.

However, as odd as it sounds, I'm almost kind of happy we had such a crazy experience. Because I can go and have a great time and be comfortable in Italy anytime. But I never would have had the experiences I had if not for that trip. It made for great bonding moments, and funny pictures.

After people offered me encouragement, I think I am going to pursue my dream of studying at Sciences Po in Paris. I don't know if I'll get in, but I'll try. It's amazing how it works there; if I got into their year-long international students program for international exchange students, I would actually get a diplôme from Sciences Po. That just seems amazing.

I had initially wanted to study at Sciences Po to begin with, but some professor tried talking me out of it, saying I wouldn't enjoy it, shouldn't overburden myself, blah blah blah. Nevermind the fact that my international affairs professors all supported me, I let that one bit of gloomy advice derail my plans. But now I'm planning to see about how to go about doing this. I already researched everything about Sciences Po as much as possible, now it's just a matter of finding out how USF would deal with it, and how to actually apply.

Thank God I have a French friend. Merci beaucoup, Syl. Tu es mon ami très secourable.

If anything, this trip to Italy was a godsend because I also know I'll be able to handle living in a foreign country. I already went through the anxiousness of being away from the family for an extended period of time with Italy. Modern communication also is a wonderful thing. It makes life so much easier when you can talk to your family clear on the other side of the world. It makes you less homesick. Though I do wish it were free...

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Le Futur...

La Sorbonne Posted by Hello

Inevitaby, as soon as I got back from Italy, my thoughts turned to my next likely sojourn to Europe... this time it's more likely than not going to be France. And not just for two weeks, no, for about five or six months!

I've been having to seriously consider from now where I'd like to study abroad and when. It's extremely important that I do so, because when you go through another institution other than USF it takes a while. USF's programs in France are abysmal, so needless to say I'm not going through them. However, one girl I happen to know from my major (both my majors actually, as she's an international affairs and French language major like I am) studied in France this past semester at L'Université Paris III, which is part of the elite university system of Paris better known as La Sorbonne.

So I pretty much decided that's what I'd like to do. Actually, my ultimate dream has been to study at L'Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po), but that's very difficult to get into. But we shall see, I'll give that a shot as well.

I'm aiming to go abroad fall of my junior year, which would mean next fall 2006. I need to ensure that I'm pretty much highly proficient/near fluent/most preferrably fluent in French by then. I believe I can achieve this, as my course load is pretty much slated for me to complete all French language courses by Spring. Following that it's then actual courses in the language, like French civilization, Composition, Literature (which includes more French classics than I've ever seen... I've never even read that many classical works in English, and that's my mother tongue!)

So as far as linguistic necessities go, I should be set by then. This is necessary, because all the courses I would be taking at the Sorbonne would be in French, or perhaps another foreign language like German or Italian which I also would speak. The girl I know took two classes in Spanish besides her courses in French.

Anyway, I'll be making an appointment with an advisor for study abroad when I get back to class on July 5... for French II no less. I need to thoroughly review all the previous 7 chapitres we did in French I, plus all the vocabulary sometime tomorrow, so I can be like I never took a moment off from French at all.

It's quite exciting to me, to imagine living in Europe, in Paris no less. I believe Syl told me that the school was located in the XIII arrondissement... which when I google I get a picture of the Louvre. So that's incredible. I'll be in the same neighborhood as the Louvre. That really floors me. I have no idea at this point how you go about housing in Paris when you're a student. It's not at all like in the US where they have dorms. So I guess I'll have to find an apartment. Does your awesome landlord have any vacancies, Auntie?? I'm not worried about that anyway, because I'd find that out when I made the plans (but ask him anyway... I'd be a great tenant!)

The thing is, then when I come home I know I'll be bored out of my mind again, just as I am now. Tampa is a beautiful city, but after the excitement of Rome I almost feel tainted. I've always been a city boy. I don't plan at all to live in a suburb when I leave home, I can't stand them. But then, you really miss your family, which is the nice part about coming back home.

Anyway, until such time, I'm going to plan and dream...

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Il mio posto...

When will it ever end? Posted by Hello

First, I'd like to apologize for not writing anything in nearly a week. It's partly from a drought of interesting things to write about, partly from being incredibly tied up. But I'm back on track now. And I have new material!

Well, I've been working for my mother's boss's medical practice. The company is greatly expanding, but at the same time my mother has been in charge of cleaning up much of the mess that was there before she arrived (this seems to be her forté) This mess also includes getting rid of the previous billing agency, who failed to collect over $100,000. Which we now need to find. So what this entails is paperwork. Lots and lots and lots of paperwork. I've had to photocopy receipts, check charts, and make files. And what's worse is it seems almost endless. But at least the pay is great. And I only have to do it until I start school again in July. It's nice to have a job there for when you have time, such as winter break and so on. And it's not that bad, because of the company I have, but I do wish I didn't get stuck in the office with mold growing in the air ducts.

I'm a bit of a hypochondriac, I think, because when I was told there was a bit of a mold problem, I felt my sinuses clogging up and my eyes watering. Actually, I think that was real. Everyone else at that office has a similar problem. I had a pounding migraine yesterday, but I attribute that to the wonderful Florida weather. It has rained and been unbearably humid every single day since I've been home from Italy.

I'm looking forward to starting French II in two weeks. I just need to quickly review the material and vocabulary from French I, which should take me a weekend.

On top of this, I'm preparing to start studying Dutch in a week or so. No, I'm not crazy, I kind of have it so it should work out fine; but it obviously comes after my other languages. I'm excited that I'll finally be able to communicate with my Dutch family and friends in their own language. Personally, being able to pronounce it properly will be a proud enough accomplishment for me.

My family has been trying to figure out where we'd like to go for Christmas vacation. It's the most opportune time for us to all travel. We're going away for a weekend this summer, but I still don't know where. But the winter trip is to be our big trip. My mother originally had wanted to go to Aruba, as did I; I don't know, however, if that missing girl thing in Aruba put a psychological damper on her plans or what, but she became less enthusiastic and now is throwing around Grand Cayman. I think it may have more to do with airfare. Aruba can run up to around $600-700 at that time of year. That's the only real barrier to ever traveling anywhere, is the airfare. You can find cheap fares, but it can sometimes be as fun as pulling teeth, and a lot more difficult.

I do know though that I am never willingly getting on another Continental plane... my poor posterior won't let me. 20 hours total of sitting in excruciating pain from the incredibly uncomfortable seats really put a damper on my flight experience. Though these days with airlines folding left and right, you also want to make sure you're not on one that seems likely to go bankrupt within the next six months. I don't know, it seems that international airlines tend to run better on service than the American ones. The large American carriers have gotten extremely stingy on domestic service. Continental's Tampa-Newark flights were on pathetically small and ancient aircraft; meanwhile had I had the option of flying from New York, I could have flown JetBlue and had a leather seat and satellite TV, and it's cheaper too.

Monday, June 13, 2005

The Story of the Chair-Bed

I figured I should really tell this tale, because every time people see my picture of my chair-bed in Cinque Terre, their interest is piqued. Plus I promised I'd explain from when I took the picture on my cell phone two weeks ago, so here we go:

We arrived from Rome on Thursday, May 26, at about 12 AM (so it was pretty much the 27th) Why we got there so late is a story in itself. We arrived at the base of the mountain in the pitch darkness, after having stopped 20 minutes before further down the mountain because of a couple of passionate-filled young Italians who were, um, well let's just say they were naked in their car, which they parked in the middle of the road. The bus driver had a great deal of fun, shining his brights on the car and nearly 3/4 of the group piling out onto the road to see the couple get out of there faster than you can say Andiamo!

So we had to load up all our luggage onto this little lawnmower powered tram-thing which brought everyone's bags up to the top. After a 3/4 mile hike up to the top, we found that we then had a further hike to wherever our cabins/villas/cottages/whatever you want to call them were. The main Sanctuary building, which was the cleanest and nicest, went to a majority of the girls (who later dubbed it The Convent, because at 11:30 the doors were padlocked. Not exactly an ideal situation should a fire arise or anything...

The rest of the five girls got the closest cottage, which was about 100 feet from the main building and the ideal location. Everyone else got to start hiking up the mountain some more.

Well, long story short, I wound up getting placed in the farthest, most remote cottage, and had to carry two bulky pieces of luggage about another mile up the mountain in the pitch black of night, on tiny narrow pathways that had no ledge, so if you tripped, down the mountain you went.

So we open the door to supposed home sweet home, and the first thing greeting me is a 4 inch long scorpion crawling on the wall. So I had the honors of getting a pan out of the cupboard and exterminating it. The scorpion seemed to be sharing the cabin with a healthy population of moths, mosquitoes, and various other bugs. It also for some weird reason was like 90 degrees in there, presumably because the entire building had one single 12 inch window.

By the time I showered, it was about 2 AM, and I certainly wasn't tired; one other roomate of mine had gone up to see the guys in the nearest cabin, whose cabin apparently was just as bad, and they refused to sleep in it; so being that I wasn't tired, I joined my friends Josh and John in going down the mountain to see how everyone else was faring.

Long story short, the girls in the one cottage took mercy on us and let us stay there. John didn't want to, so he went back up to his cabin. But Josh and I stayed; and came up with the chair bed idea. Which actually was more comfortable than it looked, I must add; and even if it wasn't it was far better and more comfortable than being at the tip top of the mountain in a 90 degree cabin with monster scorpions.

No, in this one we instead had two dead pet scorpions in the flourescent light fixture, who the girls had already named Rocco and Stanley...

And people have asked why I didn't sleep on the floor instead. Well, I would have, provided that the floor wasn't crawling with bugs of other kinds (including scorpions) and wasn't a concrete floor that was filthy from the dirt everyone tracked in on their shoes!

So there you have it! I put an end to the undying question of why I slept for five days on a chair!

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Some More Pictures

These are some more different pictures that I took while I was in Italy; I finally got my photo album completed, so you can now see these and all 424 of my pictures (actually I took more but many of them were similar) online. Get a big drink and a comfy chair! (Or just view it in multiple sittings!)

Il Miei Foti d'Italia 23 maggio 2005- 05 giugno 2005

A crazy guy in Piazza Navona, he stood like this for about 3 hours before finally having to give up and take a drink of water. They'll do anything for money over in Piazza Navona... Posted by Hello

I thought this poster was so funny, because what it says is this woman here was a former World Fitness Champion, and she had run in the Lazio regional elections the end of April. (She didn't win)  Posted by Hello

When I saw there was a town called St. �tienne in France, I had to take this picture for �tienne  Posted by Hello

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Some Pictures

This is one of my absolute favorite shots; taken in VernazzaPosted by Hello

Me and my Alfa... I was courteous enough to actually not touch this person's car, because I knew I wouldn't want any stranger touching MY car Posted by Hello

Who needs Brinks when you have this? No burglar can get over this wall; taken outside Carrara Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

My Surprise!

My car! Well, just like mine... I need to get my pics loaded up... Posted by Hello

I had wanted to wait and get my own personal pictures up, but since everyone has been inquiring...

Yes, my surprise was a Volkswagen Jetta! A car I had wanted for 3.5 years now... and I finally get it while I'm in Italy. Here's how my family wound up pulling this surprise off.

My car, or rather my former car, was a 1998 Mitsubishi Mirage sedan, which I got 3 years ago. My sister had just gotten her license in April and she needed a car as well. So I was told I was going to have to share mine for the time being. Which really didn't make me happy because I pampered that little car, but I figured that's OK, I guess I'll have to deal with that.

While I was in Italy, my parents decided to surprise me when I came home with the Jetta, which they knew I loved. I love European cars (I was in heaven in Italy seeing all the cars they don't have here) and particularly German cars. I really have a special affinity for Volkswagens and Audis. But I'll cut to the chase.

So they bought this car, a 2002 Volkswagen Jetta GLS (by the way for any European readers, it's known as the Bora there), reflex silver with gray interior, with sunroof, Monsoon sound system... basically it has everything except the leather package. When I got home Sunday, they had done an extensive number of things around the house and yard, and one of these things was they had the garage door fixed. It had broken in 2002, and we had never been able to open it again since then. So my mom hands me the garage door opener, and says to open it.

So I press the little button, and when the thing opens... and there it was. And I, having come off of traveling like halfway around the world and going on 24 hours by then with no sleep (it was already like 5 AM Rome time, which I was still running on) I really was just in shock. It honestly didn't even hit me until Monday.

And since then I've been really getting a kick out of driving it. My old car would shimmy like a tin can when I drove over 50 mph. This thing is so incredibly solid that I've found myself going 20 mph over the speed limit and not realizing it! So I have to be careful, because Floridian State Troopers like to hand out tickets as much as Santa Claus likes to hand out toys.

It's just really remarkable, and I can't even express how appreciative and happy I've been. And it just looks, runs, and feels brand new. This is certainly going to make the commute to Tampa come July when I start summer classes that much more pleasant!

I honestly had so much excitement on Sunday, I think that had to be the most eventful day I've had in some time! I'll also post some pictures up of my car when I get my Italian pictures up tomorrow.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Home Again

I have so much to say, but I'll spring it on everyone little by little (waiting especially to load all my pictures on my computer from my digital camera... but first I need to get a new EasyShare dock because I blew it out in Italy; apparently, the EasyShare dock is not compatible outside North America... though I swore it said it was, but whatever)

Yesterday just was one big bag of excitement, really. I was up at 6 AM Rome time, and I wound up getting to sleep at 10 PM Eastern, meaning it was really 4 AM for me. By this time I was pretty delirious with lack of sleep.

Anyway, what a long flight I had. We had to avoid the Gulf Stream on this flight, so returning home it was an 8h 55min flight, and we wound up going in this huge arc north, over France, Britain, Ireland, coming extremely close to Iceland and Greenland, back down over Canada, going pretty much over Québec and Montréal, down then in a straight line to Newark. I thought Continental actually was a very good airline, the service was quite good given the horror stories you hear about flying these days; but the seats were extremely uncomfortable. This happened to me on my trip from Newark-Rome, and both trips back; I got a very sharp pain in my back near my tailbone because it was like the cushion was weak in the back and I felt like I was sitting on a metal bar.

Coach of course is never exactly hailed as comfortable... But I remember American Airlines' seats being more comfortable.

I had an extremely huge surprise when I arrived home, but that's for my next entry!

I had quite a busy time at Newark that almost turned into a nightmare; nowadays, and I didn't know this, when you get off in the US from an international flight, you need to reclaim your bags even if you're connecting elsewhere. So now it's a huge production where you get off Plane A, go through Immigration and get your passport and Customs form stamped, then to the huge baggage area where you have to pray to God your luggage comes off first because you have a connecting flight, get the baggage, go through Customs, and then recheck your bags through the TSA screeners, then go through yet another security screening, and run like mad to your next gate.

Fittingly, the carousel in Newark jammed in the middle of an Iberia flight's baggage that was coming off before us. It took five minutes for them to summon the guy whose duty it seems is to turn the key to restart the machine. This, of course, was preceded by heckling and yelling from a variety of ticked-off passengers, including one older man who actually started to climb on top of the carousel because his baggage was halfway down.

I had thirty minutes to spare to make it to my connecting flight, but it was way too down to the wire for me. There was an older couple on my flight to Tampa who also were on my Rome flight, who made it on with a minute before takeoff.

I do have to say, I received really nice treatment from one official who, when seeing my flight time, opened a barrier and let me drop my bag and run to the gate.

To top it all off, boarding the final plane, I get stuck behind some Cheshire Cat family, who stopped to say hello to people in every single row, asking about if we got pillows (we don't), why don't they have pillows (because those people took theirs from an international flight) and then to take a picture of their son in the aisle...

Thank you all who have read my blog while I was away; I really loved doing it, and I wish my cell phone would have let me write a bit more per email; but it was awesome. And to everyone who commented, I loved reading your comments, and I'm going to be adressing them in posts to come.

In all, it's nice to be home; I was surprised, though, at how weird and different everything looked to me, after being away for just two weeks. It felt like I was away for over a month!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Arrivederci Roma!

In about 20 minutes we can board. I know I'll be back (I tossed a coin in the Trevi, after all) so I'm not sad; and next time I may even be fluent in Italian!
On another note, I hate Rome Fiumicino. What a confusing mess! Though they earn points for having Armani and Fendi in the terminal...