Cinco de Mayo

Friday, May 5, 2017

Happy Cinco de Mayo! I can’t say many American college students celebrate this holiday for the ‘correct’ reasons… But it is a very important holiday in Mexico (May 5 is the date Mexico was surprisingly victorious of the French at the Battle of Puebla). In the U.S., Cinco de Mayo signifies a celebration of Mexican-American culture which should be celebrated!

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Sasha and I finally had coffee at this local cafe (Caffè Rosanò) on our street

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Due caffè latte per noi

We had classes today to make up for missed classes on Monday (Labor Day). For history, we walked to the train station to see Jewish memorials. I had no idea they were located there, and I’m sure many passing people are oblivious to them. I can understand why the memorials are at the train station, because that’s where Jews left their homes during the Holocaust. However, I don’t think they gain the respect and admiration they deserve in such a crowded transportation hub. I’m glad my professor pointed them out to us though.

A strange encounter happened when we stood outside the train station. A man (I don’t think he was completely there mentally) walked passed us and said, “Mussolini” while performing the Nazi salute. I don’t know if it was just an odd coincidence or if he knew he passed a class dedicated to the Holocaust and wanted to screw with us. We tried our best not to react, even though it took us by surprise and was very disrespectful– horrific even.

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Italian Jewish memorial at Firenze Santa Maria Novella

Nine of us went to Tijuana’s for margaritas tonight. There were so many kids I saw from my classes! It was really fun all being together, talking about our summer plans, and reflecting on our year. There will be lots of that in the remaining time here. Sasha and I shared a medio (medium) plate of nachos, and they were delicious! Tomorrow we are taking a day trip (planned by our RAs) to hot springs. Last free weekend of the school year, since next weekend is a study weekend! xo ~ e.

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Two hours after our reservation… 

Oui, Oui Paris!

Monday, March 27, 2017
We made it to Paris! 3 hours and 44 minutes via train from Amsterdam. Traveling on the ground feels more like passing through instead of soaring over; I like it. Our hostel with a private room is a ten minute walk from the Sacré-Cœur. We walked over three miles to the Eiffel Tower! There we sun bathed and played frisbee with two strangers. One was a young Italian man (we practiced our Italian) and the other was a girl “traveling aimlessly” from Canada. She was also just in Amsterdam! She told us “I hope you find love. If not here [in Paris], somewhere.” That was one of the most memorable experiences I’ll have of Paris. We ate Indian for dinner and had a long walk back to our place. We are exhausted but love Paris so far! It’s much bigger than any European city I’ve been to. More to check out tomorrow! xo ~ e.

*There’s romance seeping throughout the city. We couldn’t get over the adorable, posh, elderly couples and the young loves hanging out in the park together. 

Permesseo di Soggiorno

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The day has come. I finally have my Italian permit to stay (permesso) that lives in my passport cover. It only took nearly a year! The process of obtaining a study abroad visa and permit to stay in Italy started last summer. I clearly remember frantically gathering all required materials after careful hours at Staples (copies of identification documents, acceptance letters, financial statements) by myself; it was stressful then, and it was stressful here. I’ve sat at the immigration office in Florence for more than eight hours total, and we have had several appointments at locations throughout the city for the initial meeting, fingerprints, etc… I am certainly happy it is over!

Although the process was lengthy, time consuming, and frustrating at points, it has positively added to my study abroad experience. Every time I was in the immigration office, I felt like I had yet another glimpse of the world. This glimpse didn’t require a plane ticket or visa. Within a ten-minute walk, I was surrounded by people of different skin colors, languages, and stories. We were united in one office all for similar reasons. As gray and dull as the interior is, there is still warmth. There are always joyful children, making friends with each other, running around the wide hallway with their light up shoes, irritating the heck out of their parents. The peaceful babies in their strollers remind me of the days when I heavily depended on others to care for me. I especially admire the young Chinese girls laughing without a care in the world.

The immigration office also is a reminder of how grateful I am to be an American. A navy blue passport symbolizes a whole lot of significance—freedom, equality, democracy. It takes somewhere like an immigration office in Florence to acknowledge how so many people would do anything for an American passport. There’s no doubt the United States is currently faced with political struggles and the consequences of those struggles; however, Americans should never forget how lucky they are to be holders of those navy passports. Unfortunately, there are many who aren’t as lucky. xo ~ e.

Hello from Budapest

Friday, December 23, 2016

We made it to Budapest from Pisa! Took a bus and metro to our Air BnB. It’s 30 degrees but feels like winter! From what we have seen so far, it’s pretty BUDAful. Our apartment is on a street with lots of stores, and we are going to go to the Christmas market and get dinner shortly. Check out the photos of our cute apartment below and stay tuned for our Hungarian adventures! xo ~ e.

Classic Pisa photo


Obsessed with this old fashion subway

First Year Seminar Final Exam

Monday, December 12, 2016

I just finished my final exam and thought I would share it on my blog. The prompt was to discuss what travels means to you. I wrote it in 1 hour and 40 minutes, so there may be a few typos, but my prof. said not to worry too much about the fine tuning since it was an in-class essay. I’m on day three of my cold, and things are looking better! xo ~e.

Emma LeMay

December 12, 2016

First Year Seminar

Dr. Graham

Final Exam

 

Before boarding my Alitalia AZ0603 flight from JFK to Rome, I knew I had lost a sense of innocence. I was no longer a high school senior; I was a freshman in college about to embark on a once in a lifetime opportunity to study abroad in Italy. I would not see my parents for five months, my dog, friends, and other family members for nine, and I would return with a higher level of maturity and independence. I clearly remember being in the long security line in JFK and constantly looking behind me at my proud parents who hid their anxiousness and sadness with a tame smile. When it came time for me to put my shoes, backpack, and iPhone in one of the grey bins, my parents sat directly in front of me at an airport café. I could not see them through the blurry glass unless I bent down. I did for a final wave goodbye. I did not have the time or courage to shed a tear because the security workers moved us through the line swiftly. I also was too excited to achieve my dream of traveling the world. It was a longing I desired to be fulfilled. Before stepping on that plane, I viewed travel as a way to escape reality and experience things I would not at home. Flash forward four months later, and I still view travel as an escape and opportunity to try new things and learn about a new culture. However, I have learned that travel is so much more. Travel is the ultimate platform to utilize transportation, get lost, take a pilgrimage, and most importantly, fall in love.

Before arriving in Italy, I expected to use the European’s famous mode of transportation: trains. Every person I talked to in the United States told me I had to take advantage of the European train system during my year abroad because they are so cheap and accessible. The only trains I took in the United States (for a pretty penny I might add) were from Albany-Rensselaer station to Penn station. I could not fathom taking a train from a major city to the next or even entering a different country via train. After being in Florence and departing from Firenze Santa Maria Novella stazione to places like Riommagiore, Venice, Rome, and Lucca, I have realized how important trains are. They are fast, reliable, and convenient. I feel at peace on the train staring out at the smaller Italian towns, the mountains in the distance that remind me of the Green Mountains at home, or the rain droplets on the window.

Trains are also the perfect place for avid people watchers like me. Tim Parks, author of Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milano to Palermo, describes how trains are “snake[s] of carriages through a maze of switches… the passengers hurtled from one town to the next while he reads a book or chats to friends or simply dozes, entirely freed… from any necessary engagement with the world he’s passing through” (Parks xiii). No matter what train I am on or where the destination is, I constantly admire the strangers surrounding me. Where are the African men who loudly pass through all the carriages going to? Does the little Italian girl in pigtails enjoy the ride as much as her parents do? What is the Italian book the gentleman sitting diagonally from me about? Is the Middle Eastern man with a hood and headphones on actually sleeping or simply resting? Parks suggests that passengers either read, chat, or doze on trains. I cannot help but agree with him because there is not much else to do on a train, especially when you are by yourself. His observation about being free of engagement with the world is one of the most important values of riding on a train. You are temporarily free from deadlines, assignments and immediate stress because they only thing you can do is sit there and wait until the train halts at your destination. As soon as it does, your freedom of engagement with the world terminates because you are not protected by the isolation and serenity of the train. Stepping off the train at Venezia Santa Lucia station is a perfect example, for I was on my own in Venice for the first time; I was forced to engage with the city I would be spending two days in alone.

Aside from trains, planes, boats, buses, and automobiles are just as important modes of transportation. They get you from one destination to the next in a timely fashion, and they are essential when it comes to travel. I personally enjoy the main hubs for transportation (terminals, airports, docks, etc…) rather than the transportation experience itself because you feel the buzz and energy of the thousands of travelers you are with. There is never a dull scene. I could sit all day in an airport and be content just watching. During my time thus far in Italy, I have been on trains, planes, automobiles, and boats more than I ever have in my life. These forms of transportation remind me that transportation is the building block to travel. Instead of complaining about the hassles of getting to the gate or platform on time, I have focused my energy on the experience and scenes around me.

In Rebecca Solnit’s “A Field Guide to Getting Lost”, Solnit expands on the importance of getting lost both at home and during travel. Although the idea of being physically lost is one that is normally feared, it is inevitable in a new environment. I remember trying to get to a bank in Florence I had been at the day before, and I could not for the life of me figure out how to get there. I tried so hard to think about where I was and where the bank was close to. I knew it was near the Duomo, so I tried every street branching off of Piazza del Duomo. After half an hour, I finally caved and turned on my Data Roaming so Google Maps could direct me. I was prepared for this little excursion since I had a GPS; other times I have not been so lucky. Solnit reminds us that “you should be prepared to be out for any amount of time, since plans go astray and the one certain thing about weather is that is changes” (Solnit 12). Fall break in Ibiza is a paragon of how being prepared is crucial and how making mistakes is part of the traveler’s experience.

Olivia Vollaro and I took a ferry from Ibiza to Formentera, an island in close proximity, on Monday, October 24. In our bags we had a towel, change of clothes, sunscreen, camera, wallet, phone, and one bottle of water. When we got off the boat, there was a bus waiting for us. We immediately saw one of the beaches we recognized plastered on its exterior, so we hopped on after paying the eight-euro fee. The fast bus took us through the windy roads and stopped at Playa des Ses Illetes. We got off the bus and walked a good ten minutes to the boardwalk overlooking the crystal clear waters. We were so excited to spend six hours relaxing on the beach. However, it did not take us long to discover we were in the middle of nowhere, and we did not bring any food with us. For some odd reason, packing snacks and plenty of water did not occur to us. Although we had an amazing time on the beach and in the warm water, we suffered from fatigue, dehydration, and some degree of starvation. It resulted in a very early night and me throwing up on the ferry back to Ibiza. We were not physically lost because we knew where we were, yet we were still lost because we were not prepared and did not know where we could access places that had two of the most basic things needed for survival. This story is an unforgettable one and a friendly reminder that Solnit is absolutely correct; be prepared during travel and pack efficiently because there will be times when plans go astray.

Prior to Dr. Graham’s First Year Seminar class, I did not think much about pilgrimages. I associated them with religion, and as someone who is not very religious, I never had the urge or desire to embark on one. With that said, Graham taught me not to fear pilgrimage and instead encouraged (and assigned) one. My pilgrimage to Venice is one of my most precious experiences I have had. Going to the Rialto Market, drinking a glass of prosecco, and eating fried fish next to the Venetian canals were “thrilling moment[s] when [my] longing [was] finally fulfilled” (Cousineau 23). I fulfilled my desire of solo, ‘authentic’ travel, and I felt like I was on a real pilgrimage. Cousineau defines a pilgrim as someone who “will risk everything to get back in touch with life” (Cousineau 18). In a lot of ways, I did get back in touch with life over just two days. The solitude allowed me to reflect on my study abroad experience and think deeply about life. Venice was an escape of my life in Florence and provided me with confidence to travel successfully by myself. In a way, it was spiritual and led to self-discovery about authenticity.

Cousineau claims “pilgrimage can also occur just down the road” (Cousineau 15). I can attest to that because I have realized how daily routines and tasks involve the different stages of pilgrimage according to Cousineau (perhaps in simpler and less spiritual form). For example, going to Conad every Sunday is a pilgrimage literally down the road of Via San Gallo. My stomach resembles ‘the longing’, Sunday morning acts as ‘the calling’, getting my wallet and tote bag describe ‘departure’, walking can be perceived as ‘the pilgrim’s way’, budgeting is certainly a ‘labyrinth’, picking up a blue basket is the first thing I do upon ‘arrival’, and unpacking the recently bought products is ‘bringing back the boon.’ The whole idea of a pilgrimage is not limited to a trip for finding yourself or discovering a revelation, like in Venice. It can also be thought of when thinking about my daily life in Florence: going to the grocery store, getting a cappuccino, going to class, checking my mail, buying stamps, etc… Cousineau’s reflection on pilgrimage has taught me to experience the small thing sand the big things in full circle. That has added to my thoughts about travel tremendously.

The phrase “I have fallen in love” has commonly appeared on pages of my journal because I have learned through travel how easy it is to fall in love. I have fallen in love with scenes like overlooking the coast at Monterosso, staring in awe at the Duomo every day, jogging along the Arno, and appreciating Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo. I have also fallen in love with the Italian ways of riding trains, drinking cappuccinos every morning, shopping with locals at the Mercato Centrale, listening to live music at Piazza Repubblica, and bringing dogs everywhere.

Florence has forced me to fall in love with walking since it is my main mode of transportation in this breathtaking city. I used to not be very excited about taking walks in Sandgate, Vermont due to the lack of excitement found on the dirt roads or walking from building to building on campus at Emma Willard during the freezing winter. However, being here has made me excited about walking because there are not only lots of things to look at but also the serenity to think. Rebecca Solnit describes how walking “leaves us free to think without being wholly lost in our thoughts” (Solnit 5). I have had unlimited opportunities to think on walks in Florence. I think about home, classes, my weekend plans, what is beyond the horizon, what will happen when the world explodes, what I would do if I saw Taylor Swift walking past me, in addition to a variety of other random thoughts. Walking has become an outlet for stress because it gives me the air to breathe and think. I have incorporated daily walks into my schedule aside from my mandatory walks to class.

My walks remind me of Frank O’Hara’s poem “A Step Away from Them” because I constantly observe and note my surroundings of the people and places I pass. His details about “laborers feed their dirty / glistening torsos / … skirts are flipping / above heels and blow up over / grates. / The sun is hot, but the / cabs stir up the air” are the kinds of details I note during my walks (O’Hara). I avoid eye contact with the beggar I pass every morning on my street and shamefully ignore him when he says “Ciao” in a deep, monotone manner. I smile at the waiters in La Ménagère wearing their jean jumpers. I admire the woman in flowy pants who walks her dog that for some strange reason looks exactly like her (they both need haircuts). I have fallen in love with walking not just because it is how I get around but because it gets me to think and be a traveler in my temporary home city.

Pico Iyer sums up in his opening paragraph of “Why We Travel” why I travel. He states, “We travel, in essence, to become young fools again –– to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more” (Iyer 1). I am young, but I do not think of myself as a ‘young fool’ often. It takes moments like running in the pouring rain up a hill in Rome with my newfound friends to feel like one. It takes train rides and hours in the VIP Lounge at Pisa International Airport for me to slow time down and be completely absorbed in travel. It takes eating paella in Spain, riding bikes and honking at friendly strangers at Villa Borghese, climbing the tower in Lucca, seeing the tree lighting at the Duomo, and being scolded at for kicking a pigeon in Manarola for me to fall in love.

These past four months have shifted what travel means to me in a much more abstract and complex fashion. Travel is more than just transporting from one place to another. It is about the lessons learned, the challenges overcome, the personal revelations and self-discovery found, the food and drink consumed, the unforgettable memories. The great thing about travel is that it means something different to every person; that is what makes travels and experiences unique to each and every individual. Travel is something that occurs every day in Florence and the special days when it occurs outside of Florence. I am excited for my upcoming travels to Rome, Budapest, Munich, Athens, Crete, and Kiev in the next month and a half. I have concluded that travel is not simply a passion of mine. It is a lifestyle I will long for throughout the rest of my life.

Immaculate Conception

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Happy Immaculate Conception! According to the Catholic Church, today is the day when Mary was conceived. It’s a national holiday in Italy, so the entire city of Florence was out and about filling the cobblestone streets. We obviously didn’t have class today, but we had today’s classes last Friday. Yay for a four day weekend!

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Nana & Pop: This photo is for you

I slept in till 10 today (a rarity) and submitted my final writing for college paper. One more paper to go in the semester!

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Sasha, Olivia, and I went to Ditta Artigianale on Via dello Sprone to do some journaling and cappuccino consuming. Sasha captured this shot of me in my element by the elegant Christmas tree.

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Tonight there was the lighting of the Christmas tree in Piazza del Duomo. There were also parades throughout the city! I took my camera out (finally). I have never seen the city so crowded and full of holiday spirit. _dsc0018

Moments after the tree was lit! It was so cool being there and counting down in Italian with thousands of other people. I felt like someone in Times Square on New Year’s Eve only luckier.

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We are so happy to be celebrating the holidays in Firenze!

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The cutest roommates (Sash & Liv)

After the tree lighting, we walked around the city, ate dumplings at Beijing 8, and checked out some of the Christmas markets. We most likely will never witness the tree lighting in Florence again, so it was really special we got to together. It’s a shame everyone around us was recording the tree lighting on their phones! A moment like that should be fully appreciated in the present without technology.

It was an Italian holiday well celebrated. I am counting down the days until Rome and Budapest! It’s been quite the experience celebrating a holiday season abroad. xo ~e.

PS* Check out my most recent FlockU post about my experience drinking in Europe.

ZàZà

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

I woke up this morning in shock from what I read on my phone at 7:30 AM. It’s hard to comprehend that Americans elected Donald J. Trump to be our president. I had more faith than I should have. It would have meant so much to have elected the first female president in our nation’s history during my first election. Like I have said time and time again, life’s full of surprises. There’s already so much hate in the world that now we have to move away from hating and keep moving forward and take it day by day. We have to have hope that our government will maintain balance and order. Some of my classmates were visibly upset in First Year Seminar at 9 AM. My professor expressed her disappointment and sadness regarding the election. All of us felt pretty down today. Our Italian teacher seemed perplexed and just as nervous as we are about Trump’s victory. It is definitely going to affect our country; time will only tell.

Anyways, tonight we had girls night! It was nice to get out and do something fun and relaxing. We (Lauren, Sonia, Isabel, Sarah, Jill, Rebecca, and I) went to Trattatoria ZàZà to celebrate Lauren’s 19th birthday a few days early! We laughed, told stories, and ate delicious, Italian comfort food. Of course we went to get dessert after in Piazza del Duomo! I ate gelato, and I haven’t had gelato in several days. It was a chilly and rainy evening, but we all shared umbrellas to keep our hearts warm.

Tonight I also booked my flight and Air BnB to Budapest! I am going to spend Christmas with my friends, Sonia and Olivia, in Hungary! We will be there December 23-26. I can’t wait to go to the Christmas Markets and experience a European holiday. Something to look forward to! If you’ve been to Budapest, please comment suggestions. xo ~e.

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Girls night at ZàZà

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Gnocchi with tomato and basil