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Matera

Matera Sassi Matera Sassi Sunset Matera Matera

Finally I had the chance to visit Matera and was not at all disappointed. Although I left more confused aout the history of Matera than I started, although it is one of the longest inhabited towns in the world, the only history the town was very interested in pushing was that of the early 1900’s and the poverty of the Sassi.

There are plenty opportunities in the town to see what the Sassi houses looked like, but the best part of the trip was a hike through the Murgia park, where there are many prehistoric caves and rock churches.

If you visit I definitely recommend staying in the Sassi, eating at Ristorante Francesca (greatest staff and ricotta cake ever)!

Why the Italian Response to ISIS is the best response.

In the last week, as you might have read, Italians had some fantastic responses to the ISIS generated hashtag #We_Are_Coming_O_Rome  (seriously guys there are only 160 characters, stop using underscores). You can read more here. Most of these responses were jokes about Italy’s already terrible government, transportation problems, and even some advice on where to eat.

Italian tweets ISIS

Anybody who knows Italy and Rome had a laugh about these. And that, right there, is the reason this was such an amazing response to ISIS: Not fear, but a little humor.

I read about the Italian response while watching Star Wars Ep. V where Yoda tells Luke not to fall to the dark side and be overcome with hate. But back in Ep. 1 , he does reference fear into this mix.

Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.

The world is a constant fight between good and bad. Always on the good side is happiness, love, and trust; and always on the opposite side,  hate, anger and fear.

That’s why joking around with ISIS threats is just a little bit better  response than panic and anxiety.   I’m not saying let’s go Hebdo on this– seriously, learn to also be respectful; Italy’s humorous response was appropriately self-effacing, not de-humanizing. But a little laugh, a smile, is going to go a long way in a time where we are all so driven by sad and hateful news.

Fear leads to hate and is probably even worse. It is fear that drives people to shoot their neighbours, to burn down religious buildings, and cause pain to those who may not deserve it. I am too young to remember pre-9/11 but I know that after that date a new era took over, one completely run by fear. This idea of the post-9/11 world is run by the constant reminders to report any suspicious activity, and to be cautious of every bag left unattended. It’s the constant stares given to the people on the bus with you in the morning, and the  comments made at passers-by, like those in Milan:

 

Obviously you should be reasonably cautious, and take care for the safety of yourself  and your family.But don’t allow the occurrences in Libya, Australia, Denmark and Syria to scare you into not trusting those around you, or into hiding away. If we don’t act as willing consumers  of all this fear that many news channels and all terrorist groups heap on our plates, we don’t feed their power. An organization, a person, a cause is only as powerful as the power that you give it. The less fear we have of these organizations, and the more faith we put in our own armies, governments,  each other, and in the idea this will stop, it will, sooner rather than later.

Hey Berlin, I guess you’re pretty awesome.

011Though I was meant to travel to Berlin as part of a class trip, I decided last minute I would more enjoy the freedom and still went with the class, however not for credit. I stayed in Berlin only from Thursday afternoon to Sunday, and,  well I liked it, but it wasn’t very special. Berlin isn’t like Italy where suddenly you feel in love and can’t stop thinking about anything else. But it was beautiful, it had chai lattes and foliage, it had cute cafes with free wifi, fries with jalapeno cheddar sauce and delicious Indian food. Also, let us not forget,  4euro cocktails at every restaurant and great beer. So yeah, mix all that with the fact that Germany now is offering FREE college tuition, including many a MA program in English, I can do that.

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I stayed in Mitte, on a street surrounded by prostitutes, who look like that girl who turned herself into a Barbie. They all wear knee high heeled boots (with laces), corsets that make their waist the size of my arm, yet somehow huge breasts… all long straight hair, either totally blonde or totally black. These ladies are also apparently not easy. Our first night we bought two 6-packs of delicious Berliner Beer, along with salads and hummus, oh and some fancy wine coolers. Side note: whenever visiting a new country, just buy everything you have never seen before.  Restaurants in Berlin apparently all close by 10:30 so we sat at a closed one and observed the ladies of the night. Well they do say no, quite often, or they try to do that little put up a fight thing for interest, not sure. It was closing in on 1am and only two girls were left, one kept approaching men straight up, but always only if they were in two. She never got a client. Another just turned away everyone. I have never been so amused it takes people watching to a whole new level.297

Another thing I noticed: German people are so unhappy, and mean. Seriously, except for the guy who owned (we think, or at least worked at) Espresso Ambulanz, who was so happy to explain every type of Chai to us. Listen if you are one of these grumpy Germans you need to stop taking what you have for granted. You have FREE education, do you understand? You have yummy beer and soup. You have legit cafes. You have bio stores on every block, and right next to that a delicious currywurst, kebab or fries place! See, there is something for everyone. You also don’t necessarily have to pay for your metro, oh yeah, you have a legit metro. You don’t have a gypsy problem (side story: the only gypsy was outside the monument to Roma people who died in the holocaust….she was attempting to trick  two guys next to me…hmmm). You have DUNKIN DONUTS AND BEN AND JERRYS. Ok so it is a lot about the food.  But also you have the potential for jobs, a functioning government and economy, fall weather, and lots of pretty museums, oh and great style by the way.  So please, cheer up.317

A few examples of grumpy Berlin residents, let us start with the Museum Workers. Listen, I am an archaeology and art history, I understand the fear of hurting your precious colonist trophies.  But the museums are hot, obviously I have a jacket which I want to take off, in fact it’s only a cardigan, I don’t think I can hurt anything by carrying it in my arm, so stop yelling at me. Also, you paid for that expensive  glass protection, I do believe my standing a little close in order to see the artifact, which is a foot behind glass, will hurt anyone. And I still say your Nefertiti is fake. And what is your obsession with taking whole buildings, can’t you be happy with a few artifacts. What would the Middle East be with the Ishtar Gate, the Temple of Inanna, or the Palace from Samarra?

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Next, The Old Lady on the Street: It was a quiet Sunday morning, no one on the giant sidewalk, when a friend and I stopped to admire a sign. At the same time a woman was walking in the same path of us, she stopped directly in front of my friend, sassed her in german, my friend then surprised moved to the side, to which the woman responded Danke, and continued walking in a straight path.

So although Germany was a bit strange, I think I could live there, and by that I mean if there is free education and jobs in English, at least I don’t have to go back to the States just yet.209

Oh and if you go, GO TO THE DDR MUSEUM, you will not regret it, but more on that later.

Goals for 2014!

I don’t much like the word resolution, but goals sounds better. Especially because a resolution there seems to be no direct achievement, more of a change which some may or may not acknowledge. But a goal has a set achievement, which then makes you feel better and accomplished, it gives you something to cross off a list.

So for this year I came up with a few goals and travel spots I would like to cross off my list.

Goals

  • Perfect Italian enough to have a whole conversation (with someone other than my teacher or boyfriend)
  • Be able to speak enough simple Arabic to order, have a small talk conversation (hello, how are you, what did you do today etc.) With the hope to do more than this.
  • Get my CELTA
  • Come up with a final idea for my Capstone.
  • Try a Persimmon (I always point them out in the grocery store and wonder about them, so I want to try!)

Books to Read

  • Candide (Well, finish it!)
  • The Illiad & The Odyssey
  • The Rosie Project

Places to Visit!

  • Alexandria (not to mention, Cairo for a second time!)
  • Venice( in March!)
  • Paris
  • Spain

Of course I have plans to do much more travelling but I am not so sure where to!

Checking in in time for Christmas

Well after taking a car, a plane, a train, a boat and another long car ride, I have made it home to Christmas in Vermont. Actually we arrived a few days ago, but between seeing New York City, making tons of food, and prepping the tree there wasn’t much time to stop in and check wordpress.

So Merry Christmas to everyone! Even though by the time I publish this it will be the 26th, I just wanted to say I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and are getting ready for a new year.

I was blessed to have made it home for Christmas, and to be able to have my family and boyfriend here with me, as far as I can tell it is possible this is my last visit to the States for a very long time, and I am so glad to have been here for Christmas festivities.

You can expect more posts about adjusting back to America (i forgot how big things were and how much sugar there is…) as well as plenty of new photos (with a brand new Nikon D5300!). throughout the week. Also I have decided to keep my travel posts and various personal and review posts separate,so come the new year, I will have a second blog for all of you to check out!

I really hope you all had a wonderful holiday, and are planning a fantastic Capodanno 🙂

 

Dan Brown’s Inferno (Trying something new)

This past semester has ended with nothing exciting to speak of, I am going home to the States at the end of this week and I was trying to think of some things I could publish. I have been reading a lot so I decided to switch it up a bit and try out some new things writing wise. I have been reading a lot and i decided to share with you why you really shouldn’t buy or bother with Dan Browns new novel….

Dan Brown’s latest Robert Langdon “mystery thriller”, takes place for the most part in Florence. It is again another puzzle with clues hidden in old sources, . But this time they have no real connection to Dante, they are simply clues left by a modern madman who is obsessed with Dante. The main plot is that there is a very rich man who wants to release a plague in order to cut the population, as human population is growing at an exceeding rate and destroying our earth. Robert Langdon, being the highly qualified man that he is gets pulled into figuring out the madman puzzle and saving the world,

 

Robert Langdon awakes in Florence in a hospital with no memory of how he got there, and immediately a chase scene begins where he and his Doctor, Sienna Brooks, must escape two groups of people attempting to capture, and potentially kill them. From then on it is just a chase scene all the way till the end of the book. 

The book switches point’s of view every few pages, or chapters, from Robert, to flashback scenes, to the head of the secret society Dan Brown chose to include in this book, to the head of both groups trying to capture Langdon and various other characters. Not one characters thought process lasts more than 2 or 3 pages. 

I don’t want to give away too many details in case you do choose to read the book, however I will mention the only interesting part of the book is quite a twist near the end of the book, it will catch you off guard, but yet doesn’t add up.

The book is written as a movie, simply a long chase scene, with constant action and no real explanation for anything. It is also a complete advertisement for Florence, naming museum’s hours, companies for attractions, specific bars, and not to mention The Great Alitalia (if you have ever flown Alitalia this mention of them will make you laugh, acting like a great rich professor with connections would ever fly them). Robert Langdons thoughts often go off topic for as long as a page to go indepth on his personal opinions about various bars, or museums, art or artists. It is quite factual however, I don’t read a novel to hear about these opinions, if Dan Brown wanted to share his opinions on art he could start a blog himself. 

Of course my opinion could be skewed a bit, as I really did not like Florence, and in this book it is described as the greatest place on earth. 

The truth is if you are looking for a mindless book just to take time for vacation, or a long trip, it’s not that bad, you can finish it quickly. But I wouldn’t spend the money on it, try just to borrow it from a friend, or even better wait for the movie as I am sure one will be coming out. Also if you do read this book, please know that all opinions of artists and art pieces come from Dan Brown, and you should probably go research the pieces before forming opinion.

If you have read this book, or are reading it let me know! I would love to hear others opinions!

Midterms Over, Break Time and Torino

Well our Fall break is finally beginning! I do not know if I will be able to keep up with the daily posts these next few days as I will be travelling to Torino! I am so excited, we will be visiting the Juventus Stadium as well as the Egyptian Museum. This is apparently the second best, and second largest collection of Egyptian artifacts, with British museums being the first and Cairo Museum being the third. It is basically home to all the artifacts Napoleon took out of Egypt which was then given to the Savoy family. I will post more about it when I return!

I have been doing some research and finding what food I should try up in Torino, apparently they are home to the largest street market in Europe! I will have to check that out!  Other than that I hear  agnolotti and hot chocolate are what I must try during my visit.

Has anyone else been to Torino, and know any good places to visit or dishes to try?

Well I will return soon with photos and stories to tell, hopefully involving running into Sebastion Giovinco or Fabio Quagliarella….

To the Teachers that changed my life.

Day Twenty Three: A letter to someone. Anyone. Alright I might have to do two…

To you, somewhere, up there or wherever you are,

I really miss you all the time. You still cross my mind daily, and those moments I forget something I hate myself for doing so. When I get mad or act stupid or do anything I know you might have disapproved of, I get even more angry wishing you were there to help me. I wish that I had more time to spend with you and get to know you even better. But for the short time, you really changed my life.  You changed and allowed me to at least try to see the good in people. I don’t like staying positive all the time, but when I think about you I know I can try harder. You loved everyone despite what background they came from, even despite how they acted. If you had never come into my life I don’t think I would have even given positivity and peace in my life a chance. I don’t think i could have ever loved life this much if you had never been a part of it. You brought together such an incredible group of kids and even though to be honest, we didn’t really all really enjoy each other, but we could agree when it came to you. We could put aside our anger when it came to you.  I wish I could see you again and catch up, I would love to tell you everything about my life now, I would love to sit out in the trailer and sew all day with you, laugh at all your stupid puns, and at your bad jokes.  I’d love to show you the life I have found, although I am pretty sure you are here with me. Little things pop up all around and I know you are actually still here. I am sure a little part of you has stuck with anyone who ever crossed your path.

One of the last times I saw you, you told us all that when something ends we must find something new to love, but never to stop. Although that is true, and I live everyday with that in mind, I think you’re the one love we can’t leave behind. You are truly irreplaceable, I hope one day to be even a fraction of how amazing and full of life you were. You are my one true hero.

I know you are happy wherever you are, but I really wish we all could have had more time with you, and that you could have touched even more lives than you already have.

And now my second,

To the second teacher that changed my life,

Thank you so much for forcing me to care, for refusing to give up on me, and for telling me when I had more work to do, but also when I had done well. Thank you for giving me all the opportunities I needed and for teaching me the truth, as well as so many things that made me appreciate life.

In sophomore year I thought you were just another annoying teacher forcing me to do stupid work that really wouldn’t matter in a few years and making me read stupid books that had no point. Of course I argued this in class (that part of me still has not changed), but the difference between you and other teachers was that you argued back, and of course were much smarter than me. From then on I realized your opinion was actually relevant and I looked for your advice in anything. If not for your stories of Italy, I don’t think I ever would have really had that final push to come here. Whenever I had a question or needed advice you were there to help. Taking Western Heritage with you was the best decision of my entire life. I use lessons of JB, the Alchemist, Sophie’s World and Dante everyday. You taught me to never stop learning, and to appreciate learning as a whole, no matter what form it came it.

I have never tried to hard to impress a teacher as I did you, and it was really good for me, I finally put effort and interest into my learning and into my work.

I thank you so much for pushing me throughout high school, without you I would not be here today, and I would probably still hate everything about school and learning. I now compare every teacher to you and I have yet to find one as good. I wish you could be with me throughout college and I miss having a teacher and a friend as close as you. I look forward to seeing you every time I visit and telling you all about what Italy has taught me.

I’ll see you in November.

-Evelyn.

 

Is Childhood Necessary?

Recently I was reading the June issue of Vogue (yes a bit late but I just got it sent to me in Italy), and I found the article written by Molly Ringwald about her time as a young woman in Paris. She talks about how the experience truly changed her and is what she describes as the time she grew up.  The main thing that caught my eye was her saying she never really had a childhood because she was constantly under the pressure to work and keep looking towards furthering her acting career. Because of this she decides to attempt university and a normal life, but instead finds herself living in Paris. There is more to the story and if you can find the issue around I suggest you go read it.

But my main point is really childhood. Childhood is a new concept, along with “teen years”.  And the question is; is childhood really important?

Through most of history babies were born, taken care of through infancy but then become adults expected to contribute to the family, to work and to help out. There is no room for enjoying youth, hanging out with large groups of friends, going out and playing. You are an infant then an adult. More recently there has become the idea of childhood and adolescence. This idea seems to have arisen when children were no longer sent to work but to school to learn, then go out into the world and find a job, rather than follow the family job. The thought might have been that by sending to children to school we further their education and allow them to ease into the world, by socially connecting. However really in school though it furthers your knowledge so you can tell people all that you know, it isn’t as helpful for real world issues. Also by trying to put this ease on children by letting them take 12+ years to get used to the world, it appears we just cater to their every need and we actually just turn them into a bunch of wimps.  By the time college comes around and teenagers are thrown into the world away from home, or when they leave college and suddenly are completely on their own with no meal plan or advisor or peers to assist them, they are completely lost and often have no idea what to do with themselves.

However, if a child would enter the adult world immediately with no “childhood” they might know more about the working world, but they would not have a social interaction basis and they would not have had the happy (or not) experiences of growing up. There would be no “coming of age” no “middle school angst phase”.

Childhood allows for the growth of our personalities, for us to become who we really are, through experiences with making friends, losing friends, finding part time jobs, joining clubs. All these experiences shape our interests, style and opinions. Without the 12+ years to figure this out, we would become more a standardized reflection of our work. For example a child grows up on a farm, he’s thrown into work  never goes to school, all he will know is what his family tells him, his opinions will be shaped by what they say, not by multiple inputs. Same with interests and style.

Do we really grow though, through these years of school or is it when we are thrown into the world alone that we finally grow? Is leaving home the beginning of truly growing up or is it the final point?

I personally think my ending of childhood and the end to my technical “growing up” (of course we are always still learning, but in a child to adult way) was when I stopped making decisions based on others. When I found out what my goals were, and did what I needed to get there.

Ringwald brings up this idea of being under pressure with no childhood; she left for Paris and learned the harsh ways of the world herself. Isn’t this the problem with all childhood stars? Molly had a positive output, by pushing herself to a goal in order to prove she was all grown up. But other childhood stars, who make it big young then are constantly pushed into work, they do not experience a childhood, they do not have time to grow into who they are truly but more they grow into what their work turns them into. For example Miley Cyrus, who seems to finally be coming to this point in her life, realizing that she is not who she’d thought she’d be. She thinks (stated on twitter and various other medias) that her Hannah Montana-pilates-brunette-average girl is not who she is but rather who her job and family has shaped her as. She did not have a childhood to grow so she suddenly has decided that “who she really is” is whatever that thing that got up on stage at the VMA’s is.  She ran into the problem that since she had no time to grow she created a whole persona for her, that maybe is just a rebelling of a lack of childhood (NOW that could also really be her and this may all be wrong, this is just a theory, and as you can tell I don’t like her).

I think that really childhood is important in creating a wide range of personalities and interesting people, but that maybe the way we are doing it these days, is wrong. Childhood should be experiences but it should not be a spoiled and overly catered time. Children need to grow, not for their every need and want to be met.

 

How going to an international school has changed me

Suddenly, a whole lot more foreign issues, affect you personally. Where in the past, back home in the states, we would hear about protests, fights, issues in other countries. But they would simply be that just news, we would maybe say something along the lines of “oh how awful” and then going along with our daily lives. After attending school here, and meeting many people from all over the world including the Balkans, Turkey, Syria and Egypt, I have acquired a whole new level of concern. It is no longer simply news. When I hear about something going on I immediately go and try to contact those friends or acquaintances and make sure they are alright. Especially with the Egyptian situation, where I have a number of close friends, it was no longer some interesting current affair on the news, it was real, and I spent the day worrying hoping they would be alright and get home safely every night. Though of course they all were safe, it was still a much more real situation.  Every international news head line means so much more, and suddenly it’s more understandable, because rather than just the media view, I get to hear the view of the people, and see these issues in a whole new light.

This is great, because it shows I am learning a range of cultures and viewpoints. Though there are days I wish I didn’t have to know. I wish I had remained without this knowledge because it keeps me worrying, especially with the last few days.  However in the long run, and especially when deciding political opinions, I think this is someone everyone needs, to experience other countries politics through the people. It’s truly amazing what you will learn, because the official statements of the presidents or parliaments are not always exactly what everyone thinks.

What I have also noticed through meeting such a diverse group of people, and through traveling, is that though most online statistics, including Forbes, says America is the most patriotic country…I have not seen the evidence. Through my travels I have seen that America is nowhere near as patriotic, they are happy, and content with the way things are but not necessarily as proud. Every country I have visited flies many more flags and talk about their countries with much more pride than Americans do. I think a large reason for this is those who do feel strongly about their country, seem to be from ones who have recently or are continuing to suffer. In our living generations, the US has never experienced issues on home ground, other than one time terrorist attacks; there has never been ongoing war or suffering of the masses. These other countries, have overcome, or stayed strong through hard times, and that seems to make them a much prouder people. It’s hard to see ones country as its strongest, unless you’ve seen it at its weakest. As Americans I think what is important for us to realize how lucky we are, and to notice how well off we are in comparison to other countries. Be proud of your own country, but understand how amazing it is we live with a citizenship of so many freedoms and such a good level of living.