Der Amerikanische Urlauber

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.