Fiorentina Soccer Game

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Today we went to a Fiorentina soccer game! The people of Florence are VERY proud of their team and covered the crowds with purple shirts and jerseys. They played against Udinese and won 2-1. The game was actually really fun and I watched pretty much every moment. We had a lot of fun cheering with the Italians, learning the fight song, and throwing confetti when they scored. I would actually love to go to another one except we leave Italy so soon. :(

Today was also our last day to worship with the Church of Christ in Florence. We left with a bang and had a huge potluck with them consisting of BBQ, pasta and potato salad, and chocolate cake and gelato for dessert. It was a lot of fun, but extremely weird and sad to know we won’t be back.

This post was short and sweet because tomorrow is a free day and Me, Ali, Allie, and Michelle are planing our trip to Venice! We are hoping to make it to the glass and lace islands. We also sign up for classes tomorrow which is always stressful because the system always crashes and there is always a class or two I can’t get into.

Ciao!

Gelato in the Making

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This past week, our group was able to go to a Gelato shop and learn how gelato is made. Our director had to fly to Memphis over spring break and picked up some jars of Good Spread to bring back to Italy. Good Spread is an awesome organization whose motto is:

When you buy a packet of our all-natural peanut butter, a malnourished child will receive an equivalent amount of therapeutic food.

You should definitely look into buying it if you see it in a store. Not only is it helping starving children, but it really does have an excellent taste. Two guys from my university started it after college and the organization is slowly, but efficiently growing.

Anyways, I got to be a part of creating the first Good Spread gelato! If this gelato actually became popular and started selling, that would be such a great break for this organization. We spread it to Italy! A group of us are going to go get some of it today so that it sells fast and they keep making it. :)

It was so neat to watch the process and learn about how fresh and natural gelato is. They use three kinds of sugar in gelato- corn sugar, cane sugar, and grape sugar which is really interesting. Gelato is also made fresh daily and has a lot less fat and preservatives then ice cream, which is made months in advance. Also, the milk fat is a much lower precent in gelato then in ice cream.

We made a plain version and a chocolate version of Good Spread gelato and got to taste-test both. They were really yummy and I hope the Italians agree! So next time you buy peanut butter (or are getting gelato in Italy) choose Good Spread!

Ciao!

Little Italian Joys

 

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Tonight had to be one of my favorite opportunities I’ve been able to do while studying abroad. We had the chance to sign up for “Library” which meant we were assigned a date to go read an English book to elementary Italian students. There were six of us who went tonight and we had 30 kids show up which was the most any group has had! Our assigned story was Goldilocks and the Three Bears. We had pictures to show them to help learn the vocabulary in the book (table, chair, forest, door…etc) and phrases to put motions too. After we did the activities and read the story twice, we gave them paper and markers to color an interpretation of the story. I read the story to them and had so much fun exaggerating, doing motions with them and getting them actively involved. Ali pretended to be Goldilocks and Caleb rocked his Papa bear voice.

All I can say is that I have never felt more in my element. I don’t mean that in a prideful way at all, but I just loved every second of library and loved making the kids laugh. For one whole hour I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t depressed. I wasn’t worrying about my weight. I wasn’t worrying about people’s opinion of me. And I wasn’t worried about the future. I was acting goofy, reading as loud as I could, and doing silly motions to help kids remember the English words for hungry, bed, and forest. I didn’t think about my fear of public speaking because I was in front  of 30 innocent, excited children. While they colored pictures, I went to every group and tried to communicate with them. I said “molto bene” and “bella” about every picture because those are the only words I knew to use to describe their work. I taught them colors and animals in English and they taught me them back in Italian. They told me their names, and asked for mine. We laughed when we couldn’t understand each other and hugged goodbye like we’d known each other all along.

All I can say is that I am really excited to be a teacher.  I’m often flooded with doubts about not being an effective teacher or regretting taking on the task of teaching America’s future. But then, I have moments like these with children, where I feel confident, happy, and fulfilled. And I know I’m in the right field of study and that I am going to make it through the next two years of college, even if it almost kills me.

Ciao, Bellas!

Backpacking around Europe: Austria

Austria was beautiful. I barely knew anything about Austria other than the fact that the Sound of Music was filmed there, so my expectations we not very high. However, I was blown away by its beauty and outdoor activities. We spent our first day is Salzburg, Austria and ended up taking an hour train ride to Berchtesgaden, which is a small town located in the German Bavarian Alps. Our plan was to go up to the Eagles Nest (Hitler’s vacation home) but because of the snow there is no access to it. We saw it from a far though and it looked like it would have an incredible view. We were however able to go into the World War 2 museum and go into Hitlers bunker, which was really neat to explore. I’ve never been in a bunker and had no idea how large and intricate they are.

 

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Kings Lake 

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After the museum, we went on a hike around Kings Lake. This was my favorite part of free travel and quite possibly one of the top 5 most beautiful places I have ever been. They had some trails but I decided to follow the coast line to get to the waterfall. With each step, the view got more beautiful and the hike became more adventurous. When we got to the waterfall, I climbed up it a bit and realized you could climb up the whole thing! I got about half way up before I realized no one had followed me and I didn’t want to lose the group so I headed back. It was so much fun and you could jump across the waterfall at parts and see the best views. This is the first place on my bucket list to come back to. I wish I could describe in words or pictures the beauty of this lake and it’s mountains, but nothing I say could do it justice.

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Our last day in Salzburg we took a Sound of Music tour with Panorama tours. We had SO much fun!! (Well, the girls did at least.) We saw the gazebo, the family villa, the lake, Maria’s church, and so many other scenes from the movie. While traveling to different sights we sang along to the soundtrack and looked out on the beautiful Austrian countryside. (And learned random facts about the movie and the real Von Trapp family.) We also ate apple strudel outside Maria’s church because she mentions it in one of her songs and Austria is known for it. I cannot wait to watch the movie when I get home and look for all the spots I have been to.

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After the tour we went on another hike to see a view of Austria and the huge castle fortress in the city. The hike was another beautiful one including leaves covering the ground and a cool breeze swirling around us. If we had more time we wanted to go to the castle fortress but alas, we ran out of time. We did get a wonderful view of the outside though and I would have much rather been hiking. ;)

Needless to say, I am a HUGE fan of Austria and so far of all the countries I’ve been in Europe, Austria has been my favorite. It has a remarkable beauty that deserves to be explored and admired.

Backpacking around Europe: Switzerland & Germany

We have been back from second free travel for a couple of days and I’ve taken too much time soaking up our beautiful sunny weather instead of blogging or getting work done. This past free travel I went to Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. I LOVED the places we went this free travel and all we were able to learn and experience. I was more exhausted then the last free travel but it was a good kind of exhausted because we were able to see SO much.

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Our first day was spent in Interlaken, Switzerland. We had planned to do some hiking but it was snowy, foggy, and freezing. So we took a train up to Grindelwald which is a huge ski resort. The train ride up was my favorite part because we saw great views of the countryside. When we got up to the mountains, you couldn’t see any of them because the fog was so thick. So instead we walked around, had a snowball fight, and got some Swiss chocolate (Toblerone is amazing!) to eat on the train. We went down the mountain and walked around the town before we had to catch our 4:00 train to Munich. Switzerland was SO beautiful and I want to go back someday so I can actually see all the mountains.

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While in Germany, our first day was spent at a 5 hour tour of Dachau concentration camp. This picture was of the gate entering the camp which say, “hard work sets you free” which was a big lie in regards to the camp. Our tour guide was Gordon who was from Ireland but had been living Munich for 15 years because of his passion for the Holocaust. He was an amazing tour guide and shed new light on so many aspects of the camp and the Natzis that I did not even realize. If you ever go to Dachau, you have to take a tour. The five hours flew by and my mind was in shock with all the information. Seeing the human ovens and walking in the gas chamber made me nauseous. The gas chamber could kill 150 people- men, women, and children, in 20 minutes. Needless to say, it was a humbling experience but also eye opening and important to here a non biased opinion.

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Our last day in Germany, we took a two hour train to Neuschwanstein castle. I have been wanting to go to this castle for a very long time because it is the castle Walt Disney styled his princess castles after. We took a horse drawn carriage ride up to the castle and it started snowing. :) The outside of the castle was AMAZING and everything I could have imagined. We took pictures and looked at the view for a very long time. Since  we had an hour wait till our tour, we grabbed some soft pretzels to snack on. Our tour of the castle was short because much of the castle in not complete because the king died during its construction. The inside was pretty but nothing compared to the incredible architecture on the outside.

The food we ate in Germany consisted of a lot of meat and potatoes. We went to a couple Beer Houses because those are a popular part of the culture and have cheaper food. We also went to the largest beer house in Europe and the atmosphere was really fun with a live band and so many people.

See you soon with an update on Austria!

Horseback Riding in Tuscany

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Yesterday, me and 5 other students went horseback riding in the Tuscan hills. It was about a thirty minute drive from the villa to get to the stables and head to the hills. My horses name was Chicca (which means “coffee bean” in Italian) and she was great. She was one of the faster horses and I think we had a pretty trusting relationship because I braided her mane before we started. The ride was almost two hours long and it felt great to be riding again. I almost felt like I was back in Colorado with my sister. :) The only weird thing about the ride was that our guide was a young Italian girl who looked like she was going through her rebellious stage and talked on the phone and smoked a pack of cigarettes while we were riding. Not your typical Italian cowgirl haha.

We also pasted by a snail breeding farm (for escargot) which was cool to see because I’ve never though of how they harvested snails. We went up and down hills, past lovely villas, and through creeks. The weather was PERFECT , sunny, high sixties, and a slight breeze. We had a lot of fun riding along, talking, joking and encouraging our horses.

After riding, our assistant director took us to get gelato in town. The name of the place was The Hazelnut Witch (in Italian, of course) and was really neat. It was decorated with witches hats and pictures of movie characters. I got strawberry and chocolate chip all the while thinking I will never be able to eat regular ice cream after three months of fresh gelato.

Tomorrow we leave again for a week of independent travel. No one is ready to leave the villa as we have been home since Sicily for only 3 days and are still exhausted. My group knows where we are going (Switzerland, Germany, and Austria!!) but literally that is it. We don’t have train tickets, hostels, or activities planned and it’s stressing me out but we have so much work to get done tonight that I don’t know when we are going to plan. All the groups feel the same so it’s understandable, however, I would love another couple days at the villa before we take off again. So far I am hoping to hike in Switzerland, go to a concentration camp and Neuschwanstein castle in Germany, and take a Sound of Music tour in Austria.

See y’all in a week!

P.S. This picture is for my family…Mrs. Pam made her cinnamon rolls last night for all the students and we were in heaven. Hope your mouth isn’t watering ;)

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Southern Italy: The Island of Capri

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While we were in Southern Italy we also went to Naples and Sorrento. Off the coast of Sorrento there is an Island called Capri which is about a 30 minute boat ride to get to. When we got to Capri, I could hardly believe my eyes. The island is made of beautiful rocks and cliffs with trees and caves all over. Immediately when we got there, we took a boat tour around the entire island. It was amazing. I don’t even know how to describe it but I could have died a happy women right there. God has placed beauty everywhere in this world.

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The boat had a perfect seat in the back corner and I was able to see everything- the turquoise colored water, jelly fish, caves, coves, buildings, and all the beautiful formations around the island. If you ever go to Capri you HAVE to do a boat tour around the entire island. We were free after the boat tour to explore the island so I went with a group up the mountain where we ate lunch (one of my favorite pastas- marinara spaghetti, eggplant, olive oil, and mozzarella) and explored a little. I also bought a scarf that I was immediatly emotionally attached to. We ended our time on the island at the beach where we had rock throwing competitions (at each other and in the water) and soaked up our last moments in Capri.

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That night our director took us all out for pizza and gelato at one of his favorite places in Sorrento. This is our 3rd time as a group going out for pizza all together and it is so fun. Me and Allie’s record is 12 pieces because when Robbie is paying (with our tuition money…), we eat as much as we can. Italian food will forever be my favorite.

We also went to Naples for a day and went to the National Archieological museum of Naples which holds thousands of artifacts from Pompei. The next day we went to Pompei and explored the ancient ruins for a couple hours. It was so amazing and nothing like I pictured Pompei. The ruins were still greatly intact and the town was HUGE. Plus, a 3rd of the city has not even been uncovered which I did not realize. You could see bakeries, cafes, houses, brothels, the ampatherater and arena and so much more. There were also some bodies they discovered which were very erie but fascinating. Their facial expressions were still evident and most were covering their mouths, as they died from inhaling fatal fumes, not hot lava. I though of my Dad a lot while exploring the city because I think he would love it. Plus people were making jokes that the arc of the covenant was probably in the 1/3rd of the city still burried.

Southern Italy was AWESOME! It was definitely my favorite group trip so far. If you want to know anymore about the places I went, just ask because I left a lot out!

Ciao!

Send me to Sicily

This past week we took a group trip to Southern Italy. We took an overnight train and an overnight ferry which was new to me and pretty fun. We started out in Sicily, so I thought I would dedicate a post to the lovely island. We did so much there and spent a couple days exploring and learning so I will just talk about some highlights.

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We kind of did a triangle in Sicily with the three towns we went to- Taormina, Agrigento, and Palermo. Our first town to visit was Taormina and I fell in love immediately. Our hotel was right on the beach in a cove and the city was the most delicate and preserved beauty. Orange and lemon trees covered the streets, people were friendly everywhere we went, and beauty could be seen with every step. We had a free day on Monday to explore the city and I can honestly say it might have been my favorite day abroad so far. In the morning me and four girls hiked up to some castle ruins on a hill which was the most beautiful hike and had awesome views. We knew when we got to the top the castle would be closed because they no longer allow the public inside. So, I found a large rock to step on and scaled the side wall and get inside. It was so awesome inside and was bursting with flowers and ruins to climb on. We probably spent at least an hour in there soaking up the beauty and sun.

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After the castle we went to the beach where a lot of others from our group were hanging out. The sun had gone away and the water was really cold so I didn’t plan on swimming. It was also jelly fish season and they were everywhere on the shore and water. However, once I saw Allie and Jordan jump off the cliff, I knew I had to go. I didn’t have a swim suite but I knew I couldn’t let that stop me from swimming in the coast of Sicily! So when Jordan said he would buy me gelato if I jumped off in the next 10 seconds, I did it. The water was the coldest I have ever been in and I couldn’t breath for a while. I swam to a rock and we stood there for a while and watched a few other people brave the cold water. It was possibly one of the best feelings of my life. While we were swimming back to the coast, I felt a jelly fish sting on my thigh and then my foot. A second later Allie felt one on her neck and wrist and we realized we swam right through a swarm of them. We swam as fast as we could and got out of the water. It stung a lot, but Allie’s sting on her neck was the worst so I had no reason to complain. BUT IT WAS ALL SO WORTH IT!

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In Agrigento we went to the beach also and found the Turkish steps which were AMAZING. You should google picture of them because they were so neat and beautiful. I climbed to the top of them and it felt sorrel. I also saw an octopus washed up on the shore which was really neat! Another incredible day in Italy. In the evening we went to three temples at the top of Agrigento- The temples of Hera, Concord, and Zeus. We spent 3 hours there learning all about their development and purpose. We got to see the sunset also which was incredible.

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One night in Taormina, me, Ali, and Michelle walked in a clay shop to see what the man was making. Long story short, the owner Antonio and his wife Clair owned the shop and were going to retire soon. I had planned on buying a little clay ornament for 1 euro and 30 minutes later the three of us walked out of the shop with a clay piggy bank, two cups, a whistle, two magnets, the Sicily symbol and my ornament. He gave us all of it for one euro (and there was a euro in the piggy bank so basically it was all free). He was the sweetest man and just kept putting stuff in our hands. They told us about how they met and opened the shop. I teared up a little bit afterwards because of there kindness and sincerity.

Also on the way back to the hotel me and Tucker got lost (shocker) and ended up walking down a curvy highway for an hour. Finally a car pulled over and asked if we needed a ride somewhere. Her name was Rita and she took us right to our hotel and was the sweetest lady. I love Taormina.

I feel like I left so much out and I did, but thats all I have for tonight! I’ll post about the rest of my southern Italy trip as soon as I can.

Ciao!

Backpacking around Europe: Barcelona, Spain

Our independent free travel group spent 2 full days in Barcelona after leaving southern France. Barcelona was a beautiful city (another port city) with history, culture, and a lovely beach. The first day, we took a bike tour around the city and it was the most beautiful and fun way to see the city! I want to make bike tours a new tradition when I go to new cities. Our tour guide took us all around the city and we ended at the beach. The weather was amazing and we all had a wonderful time. They boys also managed to convince our tour guide that the southern states of America will rise and rule again.

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We also visited the Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona designed by Gaudi. Gaudi was a phenomenal architect who designed the church without any straight lines. He loved nature and designed the church to resemble a cave on the outside and a forest with trees on the inside. (I have decided he is my favorite architect.) The church was massive and had the most beautiful stain glass windows everywhere. The church was designed to hold 1,000 singers and the round shapes of the ceiling made for the perfect acoustics. I couldn’t help but think of my mom in this church because she would LOVE it’s beauty and natural elements.

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We went to two parks in Barcelona, Mount Juic and Park Guell. Both were on large hills that we climbed up and saw beautiful views of the city. Mount Juic had a castle at the top and a beautiful view of the port. Park Guell was my favorite because there were so many neat elements of the park. First we climbed to the top and watched the sunset (my favorite view in the world) then we explored the park. The hike down from the park was like walking through the secret garden. The landscape was beautiful and there were large pillars and marble canopies that felt like a step back in time.

The park is known for a long bench designed by Gaudi that is in the shape of a sea serpent (cause he did not like straight lines).  The bench is covered in the most beautiful designs and I’m pretty sure I would go there everyday if I lived there. (You should look up a picture because it’s hard to explain.) Next to the bench was a house designed by Gaudi that he lived in for 20 years. The minute I saw the house I fell in love. It looked like the house from a story book I would have loved as a child. I wanted to tour the house but it was already closed. However, if the inside was as cute as the outside, I have found my dream home.

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We also had a girls night in Barcelona which was very fun and much needed. We got Paellas for dinner, walked around town, ate ice cream, and had girl talk all night long. (That’s why you should just have sisters, because it’s girls night every night.)

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Spain was beautiful and a lot different then I expected, but in a good way. I really loved having nothing to do that day but explore the city. I am really trying to soak up all the moments on this trip even if it is hard for my type A personality to accept. (For instance, I wrote a speech last night at midnight over a book I didn’t read.) We stayed in hostels the whole trip which was new to me but I really enjoyed them and the cheap price. In Barcelona all eight of us shared a hostel with a community bathroom with the rest of the hostel which got a little hard but it was only three nights. Each night we shared our daily happies and crappies around a candle, cuddled, stayed up way to late, and ate Mars bars and gummy bears.

Our next independent travel is in two weeks which is CRAZY to think about already planning. I’m hoping to make it to Germany, Switzerland, and possibly the Czech Republic, we shall see.

Ciao!

Backpacking around Europe: Southern France

During my semester abroad in Italy, we have three weeks of independent travel where you form a group and plan trips around Europe. This past week was our first free travel and I went to Southern France and Barcelona, Spain. My group consisted of four boys and four girls ready to tackle our first independent travel with only a backpack to our name.

It was a great week full of fun, memories, and several cultural lessons. The boys handled booking trains and planes, booking hostels and mapping out our day. The girls were in charge of snacks and planning the days activities. I liked our job better. ;) We learned so many things on this trip from how expensive it is to how horrible I really am at directions and that staying positive is the best thing you can do for your group.

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In southern France we went to Monaco, Nice, and Marseille. We spent a day in Monte Carlo which is a port city where the Grand Prix race is held. It is a beautiful and extremely wealthy city (the boys were so excited about all the fancy cars we saw). I liked the city but definitely wouldn’t want to live there. We all felt like we did not belong at all in our jeans, boots, and t-shirts. We walked around the city, ate Nutella crepes, went to a castle to see a beautiful view, went ice skating, and ate pizza for dinner. We left early the next morning for Nice, France.

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I LOVED Nice. It was also a port city that was beyond beautiful. The coast stretched for miles and couldn’t have been more inviting. While planning activities, I suggested a picnic at the beach and everyone was actually really excited about it. Well, it turned out to be mine and others favorite part of independent travel. We went to the markets and got fresh bread, gouda cheese, and fresh fruit and headed to the beach. We got there and screamed when we saw its the beautiful ocean and coast. We sat close to the water, got our clothes soaking wet as we ran through the waves, searched for sea class, took pictures, soaked up the sun, and enjoyed the best moment of the week. We were there for a couple hours but I could have stayed all day long.

After the beach we hiked to a lookout point that also exceeded our expectations. The view got better and better the higher we climbed and some great conversations came about. If you ever are in France, I highly recommend the quaint and lovely town of Nice.

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Next we went to Marseille, France for half a day before we had to catch a train to Barcelona. I don’t want to be too hasty to judge this town but it was our least favorite place. The streets were dirty, rats ran in the road, people were not very nice, and there were several encounters with creepy people. The weather was also cold, rainy, and windy so I am sure that didn’t help. I don’t regret going there, I’m just glad we only spent a couple hours in Marseille.

Tomorrow we are leaving for southern Italy and Sicily! I am hoping to post about Barcelona before I leave, but no promises. Today we had classes and tonight we are heading to a pizza restaurant to eat and hear live music. If the sun comes back out soon, I’m also hoping to go on a walk up the hill- the views are incredible.

Ciao!