Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A bit of culture shock...

I turned 20 in Venice. Isn't that great? I think so, but that might just be me. I think that my favorite part was waking up and listening to my new favorite song "La Vasca". It's all about a vacation in a bathtub and it's super great. It was also pretty great when the girls pulled out a 5 euro chocolate cake with a stencil thing of space. When you pour the powdered sugar on top you get a great view of the sky! We were amazed by how good it was.

Friday morning three of us stood and watched as our group drove away on a bus towards Rome. We weren't going with them and it was so strange. I have been with those girls for almost three months and now I'm not. It was rather strange, but we had a good time in Venice for the day. Who can complain about being left in Venice? We stayed in Venice for an extra day so that we could take a night train from Venice to Zagreb, Croatia.

Croatia - I'll be honest, being woken up at 3 in the morning to men walking through your train speaking in an extremely strange language may not be my number one choice. Actually, it was kind of scary. It kind of felt like we were prisoners during some war and we were being shipped off somewhere. My favorite line of the event - Sharlie: "What if they don't have public bathrooms?" Kimberly: (Joking, but implying that we really had no idea what we were getting ourselves into and things might just be different than we imagined) "What if they don't use the bathroom at all?" Sharlie honestly looked at me in fear for a bit too long. Everything is amplified in the morning...We got to Croatia at 4:18 in the morning, found a heater, surrounded ourselves with our luggage, and waited for it to get light outside. It was a great adventure in so many ways. The directions to our hostel were translated...we'll say badly. The only reason we found it was because a taxi driver took pity on us after watching us trying really hard for a long time trying to figure out where we were and what was going on. Our hostel was run by these granola, almost scary, really nice guys ("Have you rung the bell? Well you must!") Our walls were bright orange with blue and yellow suns and flames painted on them. We tried to go to a Croatian restaurant the first night. It turned out to be Italian. We were very excited to find the church on Sunday morning. It was at the top of this apartment complex thing and we had to just follow the noise that we were praying was actually the ward. We were greeted by a missionary at the top of the stairs who I assume was speaking Croatian. We replied with a timid "Hi" and then he spoke English. Very helpful. The ward was absolutely amazing. I've never met more friendly people than the Croatians. It was incredible. Church was a bit crazy though. Apparently there is an English Embassy or something nearby so there are a ton of English speakers in the ward As a result, it was half in English and half in Croatian. There was no organization to it though. The lesson itself was in both languages with another person translating into the opposite language, people would respond in both languages, random people would translate for them, then they would start translating for themselves, and then somebody would start speaking English when they had made their last comment in Croatian. There were always at least two people speaking. I think you had to know both languages to follow. Two people came up to us after church and offered to show us around the college on Monday. It was so great. We met them, ate lunch with them in the college food center and then walked around the different colleges. Turns out schools are the same all over the world but we had a great time with them.

Tuesday morning we got up said goodbye to Croatia. We were off to Hungary...

Hungary - We got to take a very Hogwarts Express ish train to Budapest and I loved it. We almost lost Lauren when she couldn't find her passport, but it was eventually found. We had at least three pairs of Hungarian officers check our passports. One person would look at the passport and jabber in Hungarian while the other would either translate for us or stare with no shame. One of them wished me a happy birthday and then in the same breath started asking if we had cigarettes, cocaine, ecstasy, heroine and a number of other things. It sounded like they were asking if we wanted these things...that couldn't have been right. We got here in one piece and so began another adventure. Budapest is HUGE!!! and Hungarian is super crazy. There is no way you could look at something at guess what says. The money is crazy. 200 HUF to 1 USD. Our hostel cost over 33,000 HUF. That is a big number! I pulled money out of the bank and it gave me bills that said 10,000. We try to adjust, but it's hard for the brain to comprehend it being ok to spend thousands on a simple meal for three. We learned a valuable lesson today. The Croatians are always ready to help you and when they tell you how to do something or where to go you can count on getting there. In Hungary the people are just as ready to help you out and love to give instructions, they just all give different ones. When you ask one person for directions they have to get at least four people involved. One to know where you're going, one to know about the transportation options, and one to hopefully speak English. They might throw another one in too just to direct things. Let's just say it took us a few too many hours and buses to get to the Statue park today. We did find a really great Christmas market this evening though. We got there on accident though so I couldn't actually tell you where it is. :)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Oh Siena...

In typical Kimberly fashion it's 3:15 AM and I just finished up packing. It's been an extremely strange day full of a lot of emotions. Walking around Siena today has made me feel like I'm leaving a close friend behind. This is such an amazing city and I can't even express how sad I am to leave it. I just keep telling myself that I'll be back someday. I don't know how I'm going to do it, but I will. I honestly couldn't have asked for a better experience in my life, but now I'm off to new adventures. We leave in the morning (or rather in about five hours) for Padova and then to Venice on Tuesday. We are in Venice with the group until Friday when Lauren, Sharlie, and I say goodbye and head off onto our own adventure for about a week. After coming up with a few too many options, we have decided to go to Croatia and Hungary. I have absolutely no doubt that I will have some good stories from that adventure. So, for now it's Ciao Italia!

This is me with my host family. Antonella didn't even say anything when I told her I wanted to take a picture with her. She just pulled out a chair and climbed on it. She's so great.

Friday, November 14, 2008

It's Bond, James Bond

If you want to see where I live just go and see the new James Bond movie. Yes, we did go and see it and it was all in Italian. It was a great commentary on multiple things. First of all, I had to laugh at what I understood. Turns out that my Italian won't get me too far in the world. The words that I understood really just didn't help me figure out what was going on. I'm also convinced that I wouldn't have understood a whole lot more if the movie had been in English. I've never been very good at following James Bond movies. It was nice to realize though that most of the plot doesn't revolve around the dialogue but rather the blowing up of people and buildings. I will want to see this one in English though...see how much I really understood. The best part of it all is that the first ten minutes or so was filmed in Siena!! I walk those streets every day and we talk about that horse race on a regular basis. It was so great to see a bit of my life on the screen. Oh, and by the way, Italians have an intermission in movies. I was a bit startled when the movie just stopped halfway through and intermission flashed on the screen. It didn't know people did that.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Where to Start?

It's been a crazy week full of adventures worth writing about every day (especially because it's NaBloPoMo a.k.a. National Blog Post Month as I'm reminded every so often) but I've had a hard time convincing myself to blog the past little while. You see, things have become a bit frantic here between oral exams, multiple garlic drawings, a rather large art final, and going a bit crazy trying to soak in all of Italy. I know these are all just excuses, but here's a taste of what I've been up to...

Just pretend that the apple is red...

~ Any guesses as to where we are? We're in Volterra! If you haven't read the Twilight books you are out of luck. There are quite a few dramatic vampire scenes that take place in this wonderful little city. We were there with our Humanities teacher who is Italian and he couldn't figure out why we all knew about the vampire myths from Volterra. We were a bit disappointed though because Stephenie Meyer obviously hasn't actually been to fountain, the piazza is actually quite small, and it just wouldn't have worked out quite like she described. The day was very fitting though. I've never seen such a large, angry cloud come at me so quickly. It was convenient though because if the sun had been out...

~ After Volterra we went to a great city called Sangimignamo. (Don't ask me to say it because ti never comes out right...there are a few too many m, n, g sounds with a few Italian tricks to throw into the bag.) It was raining but when in Italy you just learn to get over that. We ate the World Champion Gelato while here and it was truly amazing. Who knew that they had worldwide gelato competitions? Well, Sangimignamo won. They also had these great signs all over with Italian phrases on them. I'm not sure what the purpose of them was, but they were great. I'm a bit hesitant to translate this because of those reading this that know more Italian than I do, but i'll give it a shot. "Ma tu mi ami?" = "But you love me?"

~ We spent Saturday and Sunday in Florence. We had stake conference in Florence so we decided to sleep there so that we could go. It was all so great I don't even know what to say. In fact I've been sitting here for a while trying to figure out what to say and I'm at a loss for words. Good moments: buying a jacket from a great Italian man-calling America (4:00 AM their time) to get the address for our hostel-having an entire hostel called Emerald House to ourselves-creating gangster names that we now go by-walking into the kitchen to find Erin cleaning up beer that fell out of the fridge-watching Sharlie put parmasan on her pasta like she was having a seizer-hearing incredibly great music in the middle of a piazza-climbing tons of stairs to see a view well worth the climb-wandering around amazing gardens on Sunday afternoon-racing to eat your waffel with gelato faster than the gelato can melt-........

Sunday, November 2, 2008

It All Started With A Box

Three weeks ago I came home to a large box of love. I took the box into my room and opened it to find Halloween. I pulled out a couple of things and then stopped. Anna (my roommate) couldn't figure out why I wasn't taking everything else out of the box. I explained to her that if I were to take out everything I would never be able to fit it back in. You see, this box was from my mother and she has a way with boxes...she can fit more in them than any person I've ever met. Curiosity eventually got the best of my and I dumped the contents on my bed. Anna quickly understood my rationalization and was very impressed. I sat there staring at my new treasures with visions of Italian Halloween parties drifting through my head.

Three weeks and MANY emails and Skype calls later ("I can't find that ingredient...we need a new recipe") my mother and I had a potentially marvelous Halloween party planned. I spent way too many hours in the grocery store wandering around trying to find things that may not even exist here and pulling out my dictionary to make sure that I was buying what I thought I was. Go ahead and picture it and laugh. Imagine somebody walking around a grocery store in the US with a dictionary in hand and picture the look you would give them. Now multiply that by ten because Italians don't hesitate to show what they are thinking on their face. I also discovered the best way to get the Italians to talk to you. If you spend enough time in the grocery store and have a cart full of food that isn't chocolate or ready-made then everybody just assumes that you are Italian. Ah contraire! (Am I French now?) Despite what it may seem, I do not understand you! People didn't seem to get. I had a lady have a five minute conversation with my while I was staring at the meat trying to figure out what kind animal I was actually buying. I'm pretty sure she asked me a question...something to do with the weight and the meat I was looking at versus the meat she was looking at. That's about all I got. One lady ran into me with he cart twice and felt the need to have a full conversation with me both times. Another woman explained in full detail why I shouldn't go down a certain aisle...I'm still not sure why. Anyway, you get the idea.

I spent the day invading Peter and Leah's house cooking up a large storm for a lot of people. I was very grateful to have Leah around to help. You see, cooking becomes quite a bit harder when you are in a country that doesn't even have measuring devices. Everything is one big fat guess. It was oh so exciting. As usual, everything took longer than expected so we were late to the church so the party started late. It's ok though because I had two things in my favor. Not only was I dealing with Mormon standard time, I was also dealing with Italians. Everything is late in Italy so I figured it was ok that I was as well. Eventually the party began though. We had a rather large American meal and it tasted so good if I do say so myself. After we had eaten our fill and then some we began the true Halloween festivities. It was so great to teach the Italians some of our American games. We had an amazing time with our slightly altered games. We bobbed for apples, had mummy wrapping races, ate crackers (yes crackers) off of a string, had a balloon popping/candy eating relay, and topped it all off with trick-or-treating behind doors. I would have to say that it was a pretty fun evening. When you can't have a Halloween party in Park City why not have one in Italy?

Everybody was awesome and very ready to help me. Good thing too or else the party wouldn't have happened.

I'll admit, I was extremely surprised when the missionaries came out dressed as gangstas'.

I was so glad that some of the Italians were able to make it. They made it so much more fun.

You doubt that eating doughnuts on a string can be changed to crackers on a string? But what if you have really long crackers with big holes?

What's Halloween without sticking your head in a bowl of water?

The trick-or-treating behing doors actually went better than I thought it would. We turned out the light in the hall and made the kids knock on the doors to get their candy. These girls got quite into it...witched through and through.

Oh yes, I was definitely Disco Tiger Lily for Halloween. It just kind happened and it was great. I wish I had a picture of my whole costume, but my head will just have to do for now.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

An Italian Weekend

I'm sitting in my bed feeling extremely full after eating more than my share of Italian minestrone soup. (There were other courses as well, but the minestrone greatly outdid everything.) It has been raining large buckets of rain all day. Usually I don't really mind the rain, but it becomes a different story when you walk everywhere. Our 20 minute walk to school this morning was exciting to say the least. My feet got wet and there was no recovering after that. Cold feet=cold me. When we got to dinner Antonella told us that when it's cold we eat soup. It was a very great idea in my mind. Soup has never tasted so good. Now I'm topping it off with a few hot tamales. Can't get much better. Thanks mom.

It was an exciting weekend full of chocolate festivals and bowling with Italians. On Friday we went to Perugia so that we could participate in a full blown European chocolate festival. It was truly great and I ate quite a few amazing things. It's amazing how many things the world can come up with to make out of chocolate. By the time I got home I was full of many different forms and variations of chocolate and I wasn't going to complain. It might have been the definition of spoiling your dinner though. On Saturday we had a ward activity that was amazing. We went to a town called Poggibonsi in order to go bowling. Turns out that bowling is not an Italian past time. They don't really know how, but that made the activity that much better. I've never had so much fun bowling. The best part was watching the members get bigger and bigger smiles every time they dd well. We started giving them high fives when they did well and they got really into that and began to expect it no matter how well they did. If you ever get the chance, make sure you go bowling with Italians.

Here's the group of us that went. When we got there we noticed that some people were wearing these really great Milka horns. It was the first place we went.

Apparently when you're wearing horns charging becomes an instinct. There just happens to be an Italian landscape in the background.

We all decided that it was nice to have an American evening. It was very refreshing.

I wish I had been able to catch him in his first large celebration, but this one was pretty good. He literally jumped for joy and couldn't stop smiling.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I am a Bland of Grass

I had every intention of writing about my adventures from last weekend, but new events have taken place that must be discussed. A while ago somebody decided that it would be a good idea to experiment with new methods of learning Italian and that a group of American girls that haven't even taken Italian would be the perfect group to experiment with. Last week we were informed that a few of our regular Italian classes were going to be replaced with "a great opportunity". A famous actor from Rome was going to come and work with us on our Italian speaking skills. I spent the week trying to imagine what this was going to be like, but nothing I am capable of thinking of could have prepared me for what happened today.

Within the first ten minutes of this "lecture" I found myself lying on the floor listening to an Italian actor tell me to close my eyes and feel my birth. "Feel your birth! Now let your hand feel your birth." I was confused to say the least. Feel my birth? As in when I was born? That's the only birth I know and hate to break it to you, but I don't remember what it felt like. Birth is pretty I supposed to be in pain? I was extremely confused by the whole experience and what the purpose was, but it just got worse. "Now feel a Greek birth." Wait, is a Greek birth different than the rest of the world's? And why am I thinking about this at all? By this point I was laughing a bit uncontrollably, but it was just the beginning. We then stood up ("don't stand up too quickly!"), closed our eyes, and envisioned a bland of grass. I quickly figured out that he was referring to a blade of grass and wondered where we were going with this one. We spent a while creating a detailed image and then we become one with our bland of grass. We then spent the next hour (yes, the whole hour) being a bland of grass. First we just felt the movement of the wind blowing on the bland in our hand, but quickly we began to feel it in our whole body. Just imagine it: twenty girls, Peter, and our Italian teacher in a room with our eyes closed (when you weren't looking around to see if everybody else was swaying back and forth like you) imagining that they were a blade of grass in the wind. We got occasional tips and guidance such as "Change the strength of the wind. Change the direction of the wind. Imagine the color of your bland!" This all went on for an extremely long time and I was prone to burst out in laughter periodically. I spent a lot of time trying to maintain control and actually concentrate on what I was supposed to be doing, but that's usually when it became the funniest. I would just get to the point where I WAS the bland of grass and then I would realize that I was just imagining myself being a blade of grass and I would lose it. It was a vicious cycle.

After we were allowed to open our eyes and come back to reality we were told that this image and color that we created is our color for the letter "i". We then learned how to say it correctly, but I'm not sure i'm capable. I just couldn't get it good enough for him. He always made me say it multiple times and then ended up just walking away with a not so hopeful look on his face. We then spent a few minutes feeling our births again before our break and I finally understood when he told us all to "take a birth together". Birth actually means breath. I almost had to excuse myself as a result of the laughter that followed this realization.

When we came back from our break we became storm clouds and the sea in order to learn our colors for "o" and "a". We tossed balls around to each other saying these vowels. We learned motions we should do with our hands as we said each sound and went around the circle making hand motions and noises at each other. We spent more time being blands of grass and feeling our births just to make sure we still had it down. When he asked me what color my grass was and I told him it was bright green he informed me that I must be young. Was he talking about me or my blade of grass? I guess I won't ever know. I could go on and on about these three hours of my life...they were unlike any experience I've ever had. It kind of felt like a strange version of yoga and i'm just not sure how it's supposed to help me learn Italian. After three hours we learned how to say three vowels. Seems a bit strange to me. It was all very comical though. I honestly couldn't ever stop laughing. It was all made that much better by the fact that the literal translation of this man's name is drink the water. Who does that?

Last week Peter and Leah had some of us over to their house for lunch. It was so nice to be in a house and be completely comfortable with our surroundings. We just sat there for a long time loving having the kids running around and actually being in a home with a family. To make it even better, Leah made us a Mexican meal. It was so great.

I saw the leaning tower last week and I was actually quite bothered. It is definitely leaning, but it is extremely small. I don't know why, but I always envisioned it being really tall. It isn't.

On our way home from Pisa and Luca Elizabeth and I got Happy Meals. It's amazing how good a Happy Meal tastes after a two months in Italy. I'm not about to complain about the food I eat here, but a cheeseburger every once in a while just makes the world complete.