Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Arezzo e Cortona

Alright...it has been a while so let's get caught up.
Two weekends ago I had yet another romantic Tuscan excursion with the girls. On Saturday we hit up Arezzo and Cortona. First, I had stumbled upon these awesome plane tickets to Paris for like 50 euro the night before, so once we got to Arezzo we were on the prowl for the internet. We found this old library, hiked up a few flights of stairs, and BAM the internet. I had to fill out some sketchy paper work, and of course it was me, I'm the only one who gets things done around here. Then we had to wait for an open computer forever, but we bought our tickets to Paris!!!I am so unbelievably excited. Here are from left to right...Anna, Shannon, and Autumn buying their tickets!After purchasing tickets we ran to some park overlooking Tuscany and celebrated the joys of life.

Arezzo was pretty sweet. This is where they filmed It's a Beautiful Life. My favorite part was the Medici fortress on the top of the mountain and this beautiful park that surrounds it. We wandered through the fortress and ended up on top of it. There was some sort of field on top and Anna and I decided it would be an appropriate place to play cricket in a Jane Austen book. She is currently reading my falling apart copy of Pride and Prejudice and I'm on Mansfield Park. I thought walking through the fortress was scary until I saw what was down below...this creepy graveyard/mausoleum. There are like millions of people buried on top of each other.

Next stop was Cortona. We all decided we should drop out of life and live here. From the train you have to take a bus to the city on top of the mountain. Views of Tuscany here are absolutely amazing. We took some sort of hike on accident through people's yards and then happened upon the main cathedral on the tippy top of the mountain. The inside of this cathedral looked like a circus tent to me. This is just one of many houses that I loved.
If only there wasn't a crane in like every picture I took.
So basically Saturday was an adventure, wandering through forests, parks, and old buildings.

Fiasco of the Day: So basically on all these trips I am somehow in charge and figuring out what to do is close to impossible. While the public transportation system here is awesome and can get you anywhere, actually figuring out times and places is close to impossible, especially with my Italian. However, this results in a carefree, roll with the punches kind of lifestyle that I enjoy.
We've started compiling a list of people who have saved our lives here. Saturday was a big day for this list. I'd like to thank: The Americans at the Cortona bus station, we had no idea how to get on top of the mountain. The bus driver who let us ride his bus for free AND the amazing lady at the Tourist Info desk who helped us get home that night. I would probably still be at the Cortona bus station if it weren't for all of them.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I love my life

So as if my life couldn't get any better than it already is, I now have the internet at home. I have no idea how this happened, or how long it will last, but it is fast and beautiful. All of you snobs you have easy internet access back home just take a moment to realize how awesome that is. Anyways, if this connection stays with me, there are endless possibilities for skyping and downloading pictures, and now I won't have to waste my time using the slow internet at my school or chilling at the pub.
I sent out an email with a link to my Rome pics, if you didn't get it, that means I don't have your email, so email it to me...emilybbaird@gmail.com

So let us continue our trips down memory lane to my first week here in Italy. We'll start off with the Amalfi coast. The bus ride there was definitely a highlight. After reversing a mile down a street after realizing we couldn't fit under a bridge...we made the trek over these beautiful mountains to the coast. I was attempting to sleep, but things got pretty exciting as we wound through the mountains. Here is a picture of one of the dozens of close calls we had with another vehicles. The picture doesn't do the situation justice. 1. The entire time we were close enough to touch a. the wall or b. another vehicle. 2. The road was full of switchbacks, I have NO IDEA how we made those turns. 3. Our driver would lay on the horn as we turned each corner to warn oncoming traffic. (this reminded me of dave flooring it out of the garage in the winter). Most people were actually scared for this hour long drive but I thought it was hilarious, I had faith in Alex(our driver).The Amalfi Coast is just south of Naples and it is a grouping of cute little coastal towns, the biggest being Amalfi. All of these towns are connected by winding roads but the more exciting transportation route is boat. We stayed in Minori for three nights, just up the road 100 yards from the ocean. One day we took a boat to Amalfi. It is a rock beach, nice, but I prefer sand. Of course the whole time we were making comments about how cool we were on our "holiday" on the Amalfi Coast while all of our friends were just starting school again. At the beach one day we were looking at some trashy US Weekly or something and there were pictures of Heidi Klum and Seal with there kids vacationing on the same beach, that says it all. Apparently this is where the end of Under the Tuscan Sun was filmed, I haven't seen it though.So the Amalfi Coast is added to my places to return list. But let's be honest, this kind of place was made for me. Old Italian architecture, cute lively towns, lots of hand painted pottery and leather goods, and beach, beach, beach. Let us also touch on the fact that I could just float on my back out in the middle of the ocean. This is relaxation at its best.

While we were down in the South we also went to Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Paestum. Those will have to wait for another blog.

Fiasco of the day: So this is definitely the best fiasco thus far. Last night I was walking home with Rachel and she fell, catching herself with her right hand. Things were looking bad, so when we got home she asked for some ice. They thought she burned her hand but I explain that she fell. Marco proceeds to tell us how one time he twisted his ankle and Paola fixed it with some special treatment. Next thing we know Paola is busting out all sorts of ointments and bandages. Then she cracks an egg white into a bowl and starts to whip it. As she is whipping up some crazy egg-foam she is telling us how this is an ancient Italian remedy. She then proceeds to squeeze tubes and tubes of different creams onto Rachel's hand. Already I am holding back laughter. 1. what are these mystery creams 2. Does she really need to use full tubes of it? Keep in mind during this whole process Marco is reading the Health section of Rachel's Italian phrase book and he randomly shouts things like "Call an ambulance" or "Inflammation" with a strong Italian accent. Anyways, Paola proceeds to pile a mountain of egg foam on top of Rachel's creamy hand and covers it with some sort of wipe. Then she does the same thing on the bottom of her hand. At this point I have taken the dictionary and I'm trying to focus on that b/c any eye contact with Rachel or the egg foam results in intense laughter. This whole thing is topped off by wrapping it with layers of gauze. Rachel's hand now resembles a large Q-tip. Paola tells her she has to sleep with this sucker on her hand. Apparently the egg foam is supposed to harden and create a cast. Once we made it back to the room I collapsed on the floor laughing...here is photographic evidence. I wish I could have recorded the application.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pisa Slash Lucca

Ciao! So first of all, thanks for all of you who are emailing me. I appreciate hearing from you and what is going on in your life. It’s hard for me to keep up on everything, so even if I don’t ask you, I want to know how you are!

So last weekend we did a little trip to Pisa and Lucca. Due to a series of fiascoes I was somehow put in charge, funny, since I was the only one in my group who has never been to Europe before. Semi stressful, but all went well. There were four of us; Autumn, Cailey, Anna, and I left Friday morning at 7 am, on a bus, in the rain. It proceeded to rain until like 4 in the afternoon...sucky. Pisa consisted of seeing the “Field of Miracles” and then peacing out. I would have been fine wandering around some, but they all said it was worthless. So I saw the tower and took some classic tourist pictures holding it up. We did a little variation with the umbrella. I’d like to thank SAC for the 80's rain jacket, it was well received by my friends here.

We took the train to Lucca and hit up some sweet churches and a museum. All the cities in Tuscany have huge medieval walls surrounding the original city. Lucca’s wall is probably 100 feet wide and has been turned into kind of a huge park. The first day we got to Italy my friends and I determined that we would be sharing many romantic moments together on this trip. We are constantly commenting on how we’ll have to come back here will husbands or amanti (lovers, just learned that word today). Lucca has officially been added to the list of places to visit when I come back.

On Saturday we hit up the antique fair that is held there every third weekend, it’s the largest in Italy. It was awesome. I wish Mom and Dad had been there, you guys would have loved it. I bought some old jewelry, it was fantastic, but I wish I could have sent home furniture and other huge things. Basically Lucca consisted of exploring, absorbing beautiful things, and shopping. Perfect.

The missionaries here are really excited about us being here. One of them mentioned that they “want to take advantage of us” while we are here...which sounded a little scandalous and received a good laugh, but seriously they are really trying to get us to do a lot of crap. So I finally gave in and went to sing with them last night. This is totally the kind of cheesy activity I stray away from, and it seemed eerily similar to tunnel singing at BYU but it turned out to be really cool. There were probably ten of us girls and I know we butchered every word of every song, but it was a good time. One missionary kept making comments like “we were almost on tune that time”. I finally announced to him that being on tune was the least of our worries. Millions of people stopped to take pictures of the American girls trying to sing in Italian with four guys in white shirts. The missionaries would then proceed to take advantage of them pausing to watch the freak show...good times. It definitely helped my Italian though.

Fiasco of the day: So everyone told me before I came to beware of the old men trying to hit on me. This rumor, like most, has turned out to be completely false. However, there IS something weird going on with the older men here(as shown in my last fiasco of the day) . In Lucca on Saturday I saw, for the second time here, a man going to the bathroom completely out in the open. We were relaxing on the city wall and noticed this man acting suspicious out in the middle of the field in front of us. Turns out he was going to the bathroom, and totally looking at us the whole time. Obviously I took a picture. Minutes later he was again spotted doing the same activity on the other side of the river. Explain to me how this wide open space is a logical place for this?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

For the Love of Internet

So I FINALLY found some decent internet, which is why I have like three posts today. I'm currently sitting in a smokey pub listening to some students from England chat over a beer. Here is a link to my pics from Rome. I tried to edit because I took soooooooo many, and there are so many that I need to get from my friends, but here are some. If you can handle waiting, I'll add some captions for explanation in a few days, if not, have at it. I'll continue to put up albums. I'm off to Pisa and Lucca tomorrow at 7 am!! Okay some creepy man is talking to me...I'm out.


For the Love of Food

So I'm sure you're all wondering about what I'm eating these days. Here it goes:
First things first, you should be jealous of my food situation. Here’s the lowdown. Breakfast: Paola puts breakfast out for us the night before because she and Marco go to sleep after us, and get up after us...I am obviously jealous of their schedule. Breakfast is: Yogurt; semi sketch because it is more liquid than in the U.S. and let’s be honest, the ‘live cultures’ bit about yogurt has always left me in confusion about if I should like it or not...but I eat it. Cereal: Some kind of Special K that I would never purchase on my own, but hey, it’s cold cereal and I’m not complaining...a banana spruces it up. Milk: totally sketch but once again I’m not deterred. It is in a box and may or not be refrigerated. It is also thicker, but we all know that I like my milk fat. Sadly I’m not brave enough to drink the milk straight, only in cereal. (My Italian teacher thought I was crazy when I told her I drank milk at dinner...these people don’t understand their dairy. I take that back...they have cheese down.) Then some sort of pastry and fruit: So much fruit and it is AWESOME. Plums, peaches, nectarines, grapes, bananas.

Lunch: I usually starve or get some sort of cheap baguette, fruit, or cookies.

Dinner: Served at 8:30, a little too late for not eating lunch, but whatever. This is where it gets really good. First course: Pasta. Absolutely delicious spaghetti, pesto, ravioli, you name it. They give us so much that at this point I’ve already eaten what would normally be two dinners. Then we have our main dish: Some sort of delicious meat as well as a salad or tomatoes. I haven’t had to eat fish yet...but it has been spoken of and I’ll be a man about it. Last night we did have some sketchy meat, I was too afraid to ask what it was but it looked like stomach lining. Luckily any taste was masked by peppers. This was really my first sketch experience and it was still pretty good.

Keep in mind that Paola and Marco don’t eat the pasta and they always give us twice as much of the meat as they eat. They claim they are on diets. We all know I can eat a lot of food, but the issue is that everyone has to wait for you to finish before they get the next course, and the speed of my eating is just not up to par. But I am getting better. Oh and there is always bread going around. After meat we always eat fruit, and usually dessert. However, they have picked up on the fact that I don’t really care for dessert. They always have coffee after, and Marco drinks out of a Gli Incredibli (The Incredibles) mug...I love it.

Last Friday we went out for my friend Autumn's birthday. This is the delicious boar that Autumn and I shared. It is apparently a Sienese specialty and it was delicious, very similar to pot roast. Highly recommended.

After dinner we of course hit up the gelato. It's a good thing, or maybe a bad thing, that ice cream is the one dessert that I'm always up for. Many people get it daily, or twice daily, I usually only splurge 3 or 4 times a week. In order to fully celebrate Autumn's birthday, a few of us decided to go all out and get three scoops. I wasn't very clean about it, but it was delicious. Pistachio is my favorite gusti. Also note my purse in this picture. This is my first and only purchase so far, I'm really holding back. It's a totally sweet purse that I discovered in Amalfi and the guy was making them right in front of me...couldn't resist.

Fiasco of the Day: So the other day my friend and I were walking to get some fruit and I noticed the man walking very close to me. All of a sudden he starts leaning in towards me and i looked down and he is trying to show me this picture. Let's break down the picture: it is LAMINATED, early 90's, black and white, featuring a woman in only and bra and underwear. I can't seem to think what his purpose in getting me to look at it was, as if I haven't seen that a million times. I keep talking like nothing happened. Then he goes over to my friend and does the same thing to her, but she looks over at me right when he does it so she misses it. Then seconds later he does it a second time and this time she sees. Choking through laughter she tries to start up a conversation and says something like "So about Florence..." and then we just start dying laughing and walk super fast. When we returned to school he was waiting for us in the doorway. We ran in right behind an old lady and he left us alone. He was obviously not totally there mentally. Mom...I promise it is safe here :)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Alright, everyone is asking me about school. Obviously this is my least favorite part of Italy, but it’s still pretty sweet.
This is a view from my classroom window. Not bad right? My school is called Dante Alighieri. There are people of all ages and from all over the world here to take intensive language classes. We are the rebels and only have five hours of language a week. I’m in my own Italian class, just me and my teacher, Simona. She is from Siena and totally awesome. Hopefully I can pull out a good grade in this class since it is completely catered to me. 95% of the time I understand what is going on, but that doesn’t mean I can actually speak it.

Our “Humanities” class is really a culture class starting with ancient Greece, and it appears that compared to BYU Civ. classes it is going to be a piece of cake. There are 23 of us in this class and not a single one of us knows what is going on. Our teacher, Alessandro, is some sort of genius/mad scientist who knows SO MUCH but doesn’t know how to teach it to other people. I have a constant headache in that class just trying to understand what he is saying, and the amount of info we get in the 2 hours of class could be said in ten minutes if he could speak English well. He is also constantly tripping, spilling water, and getting marker all over himself. I have to try really hard to contain my laughter.

My art classes are pretty sweet. My director, Peter, teaches them, and he is crazy, as are most artists, but cool. Yesterday we went to Florence for class...no big deal. I love Florence, more to come on that.
This is the Piazza Del Campo where everything in Siena goes down. It's kind of like "The Max" in Saved by the Bell...the after school hangout I always wanted in high school. Since we don't have cell phones here I just head to the Campo and usually find someone I know hanging out there.

Fiasco of the Day: Our toilet is in the shower. I feel like I could stop there, but I will explain more. Our shower consists of a shower head, toilet, and bidet. Besides the fact that this is strange, it is very wet. Toilet and toilet paper get soaking wet every time you shower...awesome.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Little Tastey of Roma

So as much as I love beautiful countryside, the city is a part of my soul. Therefore, Rome is amazing. As Chauncey would say: "I highly recommend it." A quick synopsis of of why...

1. Free drinking water. Okay, so Italy may charge you for water in restaurants, but there is delicious free water flowing all over the place. The best part is that we aren't talking sketchy metal drinking fountains spotted with gum, but totally awesome stone statues. If you look closely you can see Peter Panna. He is my 1.5 L water bottle that I took everywhere.

2. There are things in this city that are insanely famous, precious, and amazing just laying around for anyone to see, for free! Example: This is a Caravaggio, if you don't know what that means, Wikipedia him. He is one of my favorite artists and ther are numerous paintings of his just hanging out in random churches in Rome for anyone to see, if they know where to go. Luckily my director is an art freak and knows the hot spots. This one was hidden in a back, dark, corner of a church, hence the bad picture.

3. Old and New. So I got sick of trying to upload this picture and failing, but it was of a McDonalds in this really old building...It's ridiculous how there are buildings that are centuries old right next to modern apartments, etc. The fact that someone can say: "I live just across the street from the Pantheon." or "Meet me at the McDonald's just south of the Forum" is awesome. Close...cheap!

4. Segway tours. Okay, i don't know if this only goes down in Rome or if it's just some new phenomenon I've just never heard of. However, we all know that one of my dreams is to ride a Segway-- this dream was intensified after getting to know Gob in Arrested Development. I will now edit this dream to not just ride a Segway but take Segway tour. I found this little gem while wandering around the Villa Borghese one afternoon.

Since living in a foreign country is synonmous with frequent weird experiences, I've decided to do a little fiasco of the day on each post. Here it goes:

Quickly upon arrival here in Siena, it was apparent that Paola could not say Rachel's name. something about the 'R' and the 'ch' made a 'Gr' sound--not sure what that is about.. Anyways, Paola announces that she is just going to call Rachel, Greta. Not only is that a ridiculous name in general, but she just straight up renamed her. Ssadly withing 48 hours they had figured out that Rachel was actually Raquel in Italian, but those two days I lived with Greta were awesome.
Side note: One of the host families mixed up first and last names, so two girls in my group are currently going by Lyman and Sibley. No matter how much they stress that their names are actually Autumn and Karli, they just arent getting it.

Also, I'm working on the picture situation...hopefully more to come.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

What Have I Gotten Myself Into...

So for all of you who check this hourly wondering when I’m going to write again...here it is!! I did fall off the face of the earth for about a week but I am alive. We were in Rome until Wednesday morning and then went to Minori until Saturday. Now that I’m settled in Siena and will have internet more regularly, I will dedicate some future blogs to my favorite things about Rome and Minori, but first let me just give you some details on my new life here...

Saturday night we rolled into Siena via an eight hour bus ride. I would not recommend this method of travel. However, I did have the pleasure of watching The Newsies and Cool Runnings, both fantastic films. My 'parents' arrived shortly thereafter and were very excited to see us. It seemed an impossible feat to get all of our luggage into their teeny car, but it worked out. We quickly established that they don’t speak any English. Rachel is not too keen on this, however, I was excited. #1a. I decided that if I’m going on this adventure let’s just go all out; might as well put in a huge language barrier, it adds excitement. And #2b. I can actually understand a lot of what they say while Rachel cannot.

Here’s the down low on my family.
Paola and Marco are both 60. They don’t have any kids and they flipped out when Rachel and I told them we both had five kids in our family. Marco has been retired for two years but he was in banking before that. (Side note: They tried to say that they are way too old to work and I informed them that my father is older than them and still works...shocked again.) As far as we can tell they just go out all day and shop. Yesterday they brought home some pastries-which they literally force fed me at dinner, and today they brought home some vases. Looks like a pretty good life.

Marco is maybe my favorite older man ever. He is so animated and is set on teaching us Italian. If we speak in English he says “NO! Italian!” and then I spit out some odd grouping of Italian words that he somehow understands. Last night at the dinner table we busted out a dictionary and he looked up fifty million words to teach us. We are slowly starting to understand each other. Last night I gave them the present that Mom sent for them; a book of pictures of Arizona. They were VERY excited about it. Marco proceeded to whip out literally 15 photo albums of their trips to the U.S. and told me all about the places they went. They’ve seen more of the U.S. than I have. Lastly, a key fact about Marco: He frequently wears polo shirts and pops the collar; obviously a good sign.

I'll continue to post whenever I can, the internet here at school is hit or miss, but I have lots to tell you about!!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

When In Roma

Hello! So people keep yelling at me for not writing on this yet. I apologize but #1a. I pay for my internet time #2b. There is a rapisty 30-something man who hits on me every time I'm here and #3c. The keyboard here is not that different, but just different enough, to be super annoying. Example: the enter key is half the size so i have to reach extra far and frequently miss it.

Okay soooo...
My flight here was so smooth, absolutely no fiascoes whatsoever. I was a little bit upset about that because I'm working on getting some good stories for all of you. However, I did sit next to foreigners on every leg, so there was very little speaking to humans for 26 hours, and I also almost fainted from lack of sleep and an overload of plane food. Anyways, three other girls arrived around my same time, actually two had been waiting for threeish hours, but we took a taxi to our hotel. I was put in charge because I "speak Italian". I had no seat belt and he was driving 500 miles an hour. Lesson one: Italian driving is a little bit fast, but they drive small cars that stop quickly. They aren't actually that crazy, everyone exaggerates this. I'm also a pro at just walking out in the middle of the road confidently...they will stop. To avoid falling asleep at 4 in the afternoon we went downtown and got lost in Rome. We could have used a map but it was more fun to stumble upon things...including the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain(no big deal).

Basically to sum up Rome: Everything here is beautiful. Each building is so sweet, old, and unique and I could stare at each one for an hour, but there are thousands. Every church is so ornate I don't even know where to look. I have seen so many paintings, sculptures, and buildings that I have studied in school and it is soooo weird to be that close to the real thing. Basically my brain is on overload...but I love it!! We come back to our hotel everyday on the edge of death from walking so much. We frequently starve ourselves to avoid paying for food, but the food I do eat is absolutely delicious(minus a pizza my friend and I ordered last night that we named seaweed pizza...it IS what you are imagining).

Just so all of you know, an attorney at Dad's office, Luis, made a bet with Dad that I will come back and live here. They're only betting on a nice lunch so I don't feel much pressure. But I could definitely live here, not forever, but it is sooo my kind of city.

We leave tomorrow morning, Wednesday, for Naples and Minori. I'm way excited for that!!
When I get to Siena I'll be able to put up picures and show you specific things...promise! I've taken probably 400 pictures already. Loving life...wish you could all be here with me!!