Archive for May, 2014

The Ultimate Challenge – Explaining Myself To People

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

是,我是加纳 人可是我也是美国人。“I am Ghanaian, but I am also American.” ghana-us-flags

When I was in Taiwan, I found that this was the most complicated thing to explain to people. In the beginning, I would always say that I am American because I did not know how to say “Ghanaian.” Also, I didn’t think it was too pressing to learn how to say it. I figured, “I’ll just say I’m American, no big deal.”

Ha! That became a joke real quick.

I remember the very first time that I told a taxi cab driver that I was American. He asked me where I was from. The absolute look of confusion that he gave me in the rearview mirror was something! Heck, even more ‘something’ was the confused look that I gave him right back… In that moment, I had completely forgotten that there are perceptions of what it means to be American that are very different than what I was used to. On another occasion, I was with some of my American and Taiwanese friends. The taxi cab driver asked my Taiwanese friend if I was from Africa. By this time, I was long used to being perceived as African.

I remember asking Wei Shen, my Chinese language tutor, how to say that I am Ghanaian so that I could start explaining myself better to people. From the taxi driver to the unexpected conversations that I would have on the street on several of my “get lost in Taiwan” moments…the question would always come up about where I came from. When I told most people that I was American, I received many confused looks. Practically EVERYONE thought I was from Africa and that I had nothing to do with America. Period!

I remember, at the mango stand in Taiwan, (because that was practically my home – haha! 我爱芒果!”I love mango!” Ah…don’t get me started on that, this blog will never end)… a woman there who I got to know… For about a month, she very quiet but very kind towards me. I would say 早!你好!(“Good Morning! How are you!”) She would nod or reply back with a “hello!” After about a month of seeing me at the mango stand every single evening to stock up on several packages of sliced mango, she finally asked me if there is no mango where I am from. I remember that made me laugh because I was soon becoming known as the mango addict among my classmates at the university. I said to her “我是美國人. 美國的芒果太貴了! 還台灣的芒果比美國的芒果很好吃! 台灣的芒果比中國的芒果很便宜。在美國我不喜歡吃芒果可是在台灣我常常愛吃芒果.” (“I’m from America. Mango in America is extremely expensive! Taiwan’s mango compared to American mango is extremely delicious. Mango in Taiwan compared to mango in America is very cheap! In America, I do not like to eat mango but in Taiwan, I love to eat it often.”)

As you can see…there is a lot to ‘remember’…and these situations are really just a few of the many instances that I found myself in. There is a perception that Americans are only white and not everyone is truly aware of how much of a melting pot America really is. I found that the best conversations with locals came from that question of where I am from and what I am in Taiwan to do. Many of the people were really just extremely curious and were interested in hearing about America and the types of people there.

I got better at explaining. In the beginning, I struggled… not because I didn’t know what to say it, but because I struggled with HOW to say it and learning to listen to people speak at a certain speed. Just because I understand how something works doesn’t mean I can articulate that to someone else…and in a different language at that!

“我妈妈,爸爸都是 加纳人。我弟弟,妹妹,和我都是美国人。。。可是因为我的妈妈爸爸都是 加纳人,他们听说我们也是加纳 和美国人.” (My mother and father are both from Ghana. My little brother, sister, and myself are both American…but because my parents are both Ghanaian, they told us we are also Ghanaian and American.”

I found that that explanation worked the best. The “ohhhhh!!!” look crossed some faces. I was so proud of myself, haha! Anything is better than the look of confusion.

Anyway, it’s going to be fun to be in this position again. A good amount of people spoke English in Taiwan but China will be significantly different. I will have to be 100% reliant on speaking the language so it should be an experience to remember, that’s for sure.

There are other people who face my same situation… Indian American, Korean American etc etc. The good thing about going to study Chinese language is that I can get better and better at throwing out more details about the complexities of identifying as both Ghanaian and American. Whew! Can’t wait to figure out how to say “first- generation American.”

It’s a great situation to be in. Although I am there to develop long-term linguistic and cultural competencies, people are also going to learn from me JUST by talking to me. When I really think about that fact, it’s fascinating!

At the end of the day, I feel that I should always keep in mind … I will likely never become perfect at explaining myself to people. It’s always going to be complex and challenging to try and bridge that gap between two different cultures to understand one another. The reality that I find, though, is that even though many people are different, we connect because we have similarities. This perspective helps me to think about the challenge of explaining myself to people in a more open way rather than to focus on how different I would be to other people and likewise.


Goodbyes

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

I am still catching up on Italy and Greece posts, but as today I fly back home to Virginia (with only a small delay) I wanted to jump ahead and give you my thoughts on the end of my time in Ireland, and mostly about the friends I have made here.
hostel

Last Week in Cork

I will readily admit I spent the last week in Cork in deep denial (although does it really count as denial if I realize it is denial?). Even as I shed tears over more goodbyes than I wanted to ever say, and made last stops at all my favorite haunts, went to the UCC campus for the last time…I was determined to plow ahead. Avoid thinking of now and focusing on everything good that I was coming home to. That more than anything has helped me keep it together this last week. All the things I missed from home; from Reese’s cups to my boyfriend to regularly washing all my clothes (and for free).

1959348_10152376315315446_6726544756534270168_n

I have focused on all the positives of going home and tried my best to ignore what I will miss most about Cork.

1535601_10152191753872790_514784243_n

I have said goodbye to all my favorite spots. Had last meals, last drinks, last shopping excursions at all the most memorable parts of the city center. I have stocked up on Butler’s hot chocolate, eaten more O’Flynn’s sausages than I care to admit to, wandered through Topshop and the English Market. Eaten my last Gino’s extra cheese and pepperoni pizza and scoop of gelato while reading a book. Had a last drink at the Washington Inn. Had my last homemade pot of spiked hot chocolate with friends. My last trip to Penny’s. My last time on the UCC campus, to print my plane tickets.

1530486_10152157499860446_1893711041_n

I love my friends back home, and I have missed them. These friends from high school, college, and even elementary school who I am so glad to be coming home to finally see after five months. But my college career has been filled with friends fluttering in and out of my life within a semester or two. Now I have made some of the best friends of my life, and the pattern is continued.

marine, zoe and i

Already we have been flung across the world without any set date of a reunion. Real life will take hold of us, and Skype dates and letters will be the best we can do after five months of constantly being in one another’s presence, traveling together, practically living together. These women had knit themselves into my life faster than I could have imagined, and I can only think myself better for each of their unique influences.

I have learned to be spontaneous, a hard lesson for me and one I needed. I have pushed my boundaries and done things I could not have pictured myself doing a few months ago. This experience has been a time of growth and personal reflection that could not have been nearly as rewarding without these friends.

Soo-li Amy and I

We plan to visit, anywhere in the world we can manage, and as often as we can. We have talked into the wee hours of the night about our lives, and our plans to travel together in the future. We have supported one another through more than you might think in such a short time together. We have said again and again how lucky we were to meet on that first day. How lucky I am to have met these ladies, to have experienced so much life with them.

IMG_156140652205585

It is difficult to relate these feelings, particularly in blog format. Particularly because I have done all I can to deny that I must say goodbye to these amazing people, to this city that has adopted me. I have done my best to look forward to this summer, to being in Virginia, to being back at UMW. I have not put enough thought into the fact that this chapter is ending and I cannot stop its closure. But I seem to be unable to properly express how happy I am to have gone on this adventure, and with such perfect friends along for the ride. I have appreciated all of these friends I have made here, and find myself better for knowing you all.

1898213_10152253163800446_1104776137_n


The Eighteenth Week Part 2 Florence

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

IMG_1441

Florence was much less stressful that Venice, the train was fairly easy to figure out and I got a cab to my hostel. The hostel was in a perfect location. It was on the same street as the museum where Michelangelo’s David is housed, and I could see the Duomo from the lobby window, so I could walk everywhere. Everywhere I wanted to go into the lines were horrible so I spent most of my two days in Florence walking around and seeing as much as I could of the outside of buildings and people watching at the many plazas.

IMG_1451

Michelangelo’s David
I opted to get reservations to see this, as I didn’t want to waste half the day in line. There’s not much else in that museum, except for several unfinished statues by Michelangelo which were interesting. David is huge, much bigger than I had imagined the statue to be. It made me feel very small, not just because of this hulking marble statue but the enormous skill that took to create it.

By some stroke of luck, I managed to run into the only people I 9sort of not really0 knew in Florence at the museum. These two really lovely women, also from America, helped me find my train platform when I was in Venice trying to get to Florence. I saw one of them next to me at the museum but couldn’t place her, but she remembered me. Traveling alone, even for a short time, makes seeing anyone you might have the briefest connection with particularly enjoyable simply because it’s someone to talk to. I’ve noticed it’s only when traveling alone I meet people in hostels, and it’s usually other solo travelers looking for someone to chat with about the sights you explored that day.

IMG_1483 This obviously is not a picture of David, but it is a statue of Hercules who is a personal favorite myth of mine that I wanted to include

Duomo
I did not go inside the church, but it was my landmark for the days I spent in Florence as you can see it from just about everywhere. I got the most delicious gelato at this little shop right out front three different times. It would just keep hitting me, as I sat on the steps of the Duomo eating chocolate gelato and reading Pride and Prejudice that I was in Florence amongst all this fabulous art and history.

IMG_1435

IMG_1436

On my last night, after I got yet another gelato at the Duomo, they were having some sort of charity race. They were playing music and warming up and they left right in front of the church.

IMG_1502

Ponte Vecchio
I’m going to be honest, I have no idea why this bridge is so famous but I can only imagine what an incredible view those rickety (and I’m sure multimillion euro) apartments have. All the shops lining the bridge were expensive jewelry stores for some reason, maybe that’s what connects to the history of the bridge? But most importantly the river was beautiful and peaceful despite the horrible driving and constantly honking horns.

IMG_1471

IMG_1484

Piazza Michelangelo
My best friend, who did her study abroad in Florence, recommended this spot to me. It gives the best view of the city and is most definitely worth the walk up the hill.

IMG_1499view


加油-ing Through It: Nervousness Turned Into A New Perspective

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Ah! Goodness…I am leaving next week! Next Wednesday! Goodness! A part of me can’t believe it and another part wonders if I am going to end up crying on my mother’s shoulder in the airport.

For the past week, I have been extremely nervous — EXTREMELY nervous…about this new adventure that I am about to begin.Forced-Perspective-Photography-4

I would say that most would think of me as a person who is very focused and who understands the importance of being able to overcome challenges in order to maximize one’s potential. I remember when I was planning to go abroad and thinking, “I am READY!”  and “I got this!” Of course, at the time, I was drowning under 19 credits of college work and wishing I was anywhere but on campus.

It didn’t factor in at ALL that I would be nervous. Shirley? Nervous? Please! Shirley overcomes nervousness in three seconds! Yet…this time, it was beginning to sink in that I was actually nervous and that just…”加油”ing… through it wasn’t going to cut it this time.

I wouldn’t be seeing my mother and brother for thirteen entire months. I’d be in a place where there are barely any people who look like me. The whole hyperawareness that I would have to learn to deal with again…to a MUCH higher degree this time? That was definitely a shock in Taiwan last summer.  Thankfully, I was informed about this before I went. Even so, nothing prepares you for the actual feel of it! And, AND, AND… I was SO nervous about my goal to attain fluency in Chinese! I though things like, “What if I can’t learn it???” and “What if I make NO progress!?” “What if ” this, that, and everything else!

I understand that it is an invaluable skill to be able to prove that you can live in different environments for an extended period of time. It is even better, as my professor told me, to show that you can live in areas that reflect the regional diversity of China. I know that the ability to do so will serve me extremely well in the future.  I KNOW that I have to be fluent in Chinese. I KNOW this whole thing is essential to my future. I KNOW I have to stick it out and I DO NOT see myself AT ALL running back home PERIOD…but none of that means this is going to be easy.

I realized that I was actually going to have to sort through I am feeling about this. It was extremely helpful to speak to people who understand my nervousness. I received an excellent perspective…everything should be thought of in terms of curiosity. That is true!  People are going to want to take photos with me because they will be excited to see a foreigner. Being black in China is going to be even more significant a sight than seeing any other foreigner. For me, I will have millions of opportunities to practice Chinese because of that fact. See! There are a lot of plus sides to this! :-)

angelou_freeI lost focus, I became so consumed by my nervousness that I forgot… it is going to serve me well that I am such an outgoing and humorous person. Laughter is going to get me through a lot.  I am prepared to face the coming challenges! As I always say…”I got this!” These feelings of nervousness taught me that I need to sort through them when the feeling comes…not everything is about charging through. I think it was good that I was honest with myself. I am sure that I am going to have culture shock and it will be a process transitioning to the culture. Even so, I seek to make China my home! Maya Angelou’s quote is appropriate here… in my nervousness, I focused too much on whether or not I would “belong” in China, but I belong there just as I would belong anyplace that I set my sights on. It’s going to be great to get to know people, travel, and see how I grow from such an experience.

A quote comes to mind from Ruchir Sharma’s “Breakout Nations,” a book that I read in my Developing Countries class in college: “To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” I am sure that firsthand experience will teach me a lot about the reality of China, making my initial concerns amusing. :-)

This is MY time! It will be amazing to see how far I can take this! :-D

加油!!!

 


The Eighteenth Week Part 1 Venice

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

I decided to travel for about five days on my own in Italy, before meeting a friend in Crete the following week. My first stop was Venice

IMG_1406 IMG_1425

My flight out of Dublin was at 6am, so I essentially pulled an all nighter, taking the 1am bus to the airport from Cork and doing my best to doze off whenever possible, on the bus, the flight, the airport. Dublin airport has these cool little padded circular holes in the walls of this one room to curl up and sleep in that are comfy. When I planned it I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal and would give me a whole day in Venice (where I was going to have the least amount of time).

IMG_1422 IMG_1404

I arrived in Italy, weirdly not tired and got the bus to Venice. It was one of those weird times where I’d rather just sit and think while riding around on the bus than anxious to get off and start exploring. Anyway, I found a tourist office because I brilliantly did not plan on how to get from the bus to my hostel. Instead of a bus system, Venice uses a boat system. Pretty cool right? Well I ended up lost on those boats for over three hours, riding back and forth, switching from line 4 to line 1 to line 2 trying to find the right island, and then the right stop, and then walking directions from there. Paying a ridiculous €30 for this boat ticket and never actually being asked to check my ticket. 30 hours without sleep or food. I was determined to find this hostel before doing anything else. The hostel, when I eventually found it, was beautiful. It faced San Marco Piazza, and I saw the sun set right over the water that evening.

hostel view

After dropping off my bags I bought the most delicious and overpriced can of coke and wandered around the piazza, and tried to find Vodophone to buy a new cell phone charger (I brought the European adapter, but not the charger itself because that was the kind of day I was having). Mostly though I just got a feel for the city and I got an early dinner, pizza of course, and turned in early (I slept almost 12 hours that night). It all started to sink in as I strolled through the streets that even though today hadn’t gone at all to plan, and I was tired and cranky and doubtful of the whole trip, I was in Italy and how bad could it really be? You know how they say a bad day at the beach is better than a good day anywhere else? Same goes for Italy.

Venice was where it finally hit me that I have to go home in a few short weeks and say goodbye to all these wonderful people and a place that has so quickly become my home. Trying to come to terms with this change while also struggling to literally find my way in a new place was difficult, and set a mood for my whole time in Italy. That isn’t to say I did not enjoy myself immensely, simply that going on this solo adventure in such a transitional time was not ideal.

IMG_1415


In Bruges

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

medieval

I’m so tired of the damn architecture here.  Everything looks like it’s a half-assed preservation of what it looked like in the God damn middle ages.  Why?  To preserve “culture” or whatever?  What does that even mean?

I just watched a movie called, “In Bruges” since it’s a Sunday night and I have class at 8 AM tomorrow, so I really can’t do anything tonight, and I was so pissed off at just what Bruges looks like.  No doubt, if sight seeing is your cup of tea, you’ll love it, but it isn’t for me.  No doubt, there is a thing such as landmarks that need to be protected and preserved for for future generations.  But I’m tired of walking about this damn city and it looking like a bunch of woodland elves are about to come out of their weird ass forest hubble and make me some shoes.  It’s depressing.

It’s these buildings that all look the same, but they change the color scheme to make it stand out from the rest of the city.  But I can tell you, on my 4 1/2 hour train ride from Frankfurt to Erfurt, all I saw was the same building, built with about 28359235 different colors.  It’s ridiculous.

I don’t know why it annoys me.  Granted, there are places in the US that like to preserve that silly “colonial” style that everyone seems to have such a hard on for, like Williamsburg, but that’s a major minority of the States.  You have suburbs.  You have cities.  You have…  Idiosyncrasies wherever you go.  I just feel like here, Europe is so caught up on being the cultural epicenter of the world for so long, that they have to memorialize everything in order to make themselves appear more grand than they are.

“It’s a fucking fairy tale city.”  That’s what they say all of the time in “In Bruges.”  Yet the main character hates it.  And I would hate it, too.  I’m starting to realize that maybe study abroad wasn’t for me.  And yeah, I’ve had a lot of shit going on in my life.  I’ve had financial instability back home that doesn’t allow me to truly experience Europe, I’ve had a girlfriend I wanted to marry dump me, I’ve had a good friend die.  But I feel like they’re more symptoms of the problem than the cause of it.  The cause is here.

It’s all about who you’re with abroad.  If you make friends, and you have a good time with them, you’ll be happy.  But I have friends, and I like them, and I’m still not happy.  That’s not to say I’m miserable.  I’m telling you right now, I was miserable about 2 weeks ago.  But I’m not anymore.  I’m just…  So content.  And I’m tired of being content.  I want to be happy.  I want that amazing adventure that all of my friends tell me about when they come back from Scotland, or Spain, or France.  I haven’t gotten that.  And I don’t know if that’s MY fault, or the fact that I really am not the kind of guy that was made to love being abroad.

I’ve been trying to study abroad for 3 years, since the end of my senior year of high school.  And I’m past the point of “culture shock” where I am depressed because I’m not home where I’m comfortable.  I think it’s time that maybe I realize that I just made a mistake.

Dice “buonasera” non “arrivederci”

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

I always knew that this was going to be the hardest post to write.  Most people put off writing their final blog post or journal entry or scrapbook page for as long as possible because putting the words down on paper makes the experience officially over; but that’s not what’s kept me from writing this.  I know that Italy is just the beginning for me.  I know that this particular trip is over, but I also know that it has awakened in my a zeal for life that will always now be a part of me.  The hard part, for me, isn’t saying goodbye.  It’s trying to explain, trying to put into words what Italy has meant to me.  I don’t know how to begin to tell you the ways that Italy has changed me, but this is the blog post where I try to do just that.  I started this blog with a list; it only seems appropriate that I end it the same way.

IMG_7065

Top Ten Things that I Learned from Study Abroad:

  1. I am brave.  I don’t have to be the timid, homesick little girl that I used to be.  I can travel to foreign countries, talk to strangers in a foreign language, and try new foods.  I can run to catch trains in Naples, try octopus, and venture Paris at night.
  2. I am strong.  I can take care of myself.  I can wait on a train platform late at night.  I can go four months without seeing my family.  I can overcome the day-to-day struggles of interacting with other people with very different ideas, habits, and viewpoints than my own.
  3. I am capable.  I can navigate a map of Rome, and Paris without one.  I can book trips and plan excursions.  I can translate from English to Italian and back.
  4. I am mature.  I can let the immature people that sometimes populate my life scoff, roll their eyes, slam doors in my face, and whisper as I walk past without retaliating.  I can acknowledge that such people do not need the reality check I’d like to give them, but instead my sympathy for whatever in life has influenced them to be so weak that they feel the need to lash out at others in order to justify their own emotions and actions.
  5. I am confident.  I know that I am a worthwhile human being, and anyone who treats me otherwise is not worth my time.  I am no more or less important than anyone else in this world, and I recognize that for the most part people are far more concerned with their own lives than scrutinizing mine; yet even if they did, I’m proud of who I am.
  6. I am worthwhile.  My friend who I met in Italy, who also attended my program, Morgan, told me one afternoon as we sat in the shadow of Vesuvius that I deserve to have friends who are nice to me.  Truly, completely kind.  I am worth that much.  I finally believe her.
  7. I am talented.  I’m not great at everything; I have just as many, if not more, faults as the average person.  But I can speak Italian.  I can function in the Italian workplace, travel safely and successfully, and score a goal in an unofficial soccer match.
  8. I am happy.  This is a big one.  I tend to always be looking for something to worry about.  Italy taught me that I’m allowed to be happy; to be truly, ridiculously joyful.  To run into the salty water of the Bay of Naples, laughing the whole way, the sun glistening off my wet, blonde hair, and know that I am blessed.
  9. I am I am spontaneous.  I bought a flight at the last minute to a place I’d never researched where they speak a language I don’t know on a whim after missing my flight home.  Lisbon pulled a spontaneity out of me that I didn’t know existed.
  10. I have so much still to learn.

IMG_7603

Of course I learned about the history of the area.  Obviously I improved my Italian.  There’s no doubt that I became more comfortable in airports and on public transportation.  These were the things that I expected to learn abroad.  What I didn’t expect was to feel so at home, to feel so free, and to grow so much.  I didn’t expect to meet people that would change the way I viewed myself, life, and the world.  I didn’t expect to find so much of myself in a place that I’d never knew I’d go.  But I did.

IMG_6016

People kept asking me, as May 10th approached, when I would return to Sorrento.  This is my response:

Prima di venire in Italia, ho pensato che la mia vita era completa.  Ma, in questo momento, dopo quattro mese in questo bellissimo posto, con queste bravissime persone, con il mare, con il sole, e con tutte le cose che imparavo, non posso immaginare di non ritornare.

IMG_7768

So, in this final blog post, as I close the book (or perhaps the webpage) on this great adventure, I’d like to thank a few people:

Mom and Dad, for their financial and emotional support.

Will for picking up my FaceTime calls, and talking about nothing, like everything was the same when I needed a bit of normalcy.

Kyle for being the friend that I needed to desperately in this time of great change.

Morgan for teaching me to love myself and the world and that there’s beauty in every moment of every day.

Haley for teaching me that no matter what decision I make, it will be the right one.

IMG_5487

Melissa, for listening and understanding when I didn’t think I could handle the world around me.

Nick for being my big brother and bringing a bit of home to Italy.

Doug for your infectious laugh and spirit.

Giacomo for inspiring in me a zeal for life and making me try new things.

Mama Teresa for all of the coffee, cookies, and five course dinners I could handle.

Viviana, for showing me that who you were born doesn’t have to be who you are.

Domenico, for showing me how to incorporate the lessons that the great writers can teach us into real life.

Serena, for being my Italian big sister, and always knowing when all I needed was un abbraccio.

IMG_6751

All the staff at seven hostel, all of my friend in Sorrento, and all of the other study abroad students for teaching me that age is but a number, people are genuinely good, and family can extend beyond blood.

Ciao, Sorrento.  Ci vediamo ancora.
IMG_7364

Mykonos, Greece!!

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

010 (4) 038 (4) 055 (3) 025 (4) 083 (2) 037 (4) 062 (3)Suzy and I traveled to the island of Mykonos for about four days a week ago. When we arrived in Mykonos on our first day, we were picked up from the airport and delivered to our hotel, Hotel Milena. We settled into our quaint, white-washed twin room and made our way down to the town, which was only about a 15 minute walk away. The town itself was gorgeous! Located on the edge of the sea, the brilliant white buildings appeared almost blinding in the hot sun. When we were there, we visited the town’s famous windmills and slowly made our way over to ‘Little Venice’. The streets in the town were so close together with cute, little shops on either side. We stayed and shopped in the town for awhile before bringing some baklava back to the hotel.

 

The next day, we went into town and rented a four-wheeler to explore the island. It took awhile to figure out how to turn on the ATV, but when I finally got the hang of it, we were able to set off. We decided to go toward the northern part of the island, past the island’s dam. On our journey to the northern coast, we past many arid fields that had grazing goats and sheep. The roads themselves were quite narrow, and because I was driving the entire time, I kept close attention to the road ahead. Several times, I was glad I wasn’t looking off because on one occasion, a bulldozer was coming right at us and I had to veer off the road to avoid being crushed..eeek! Anyways, we made our way to a beautiful beach that had virtually no people on it! We parked our quad and made our way to a little spot in the dunes, set up camp, and went in the water. The water was pretty cold, but Suzy and I are use to cold water because we vacation on Cape Cod every summer and the water temperature was no different. The sea was so blue and clear, we swam out to about 20-25 feet in depth. No where around the US would I swim out that deep, but I’ve heard that the Aegean Sea has no sharks…hopefully lol..Closer to shore, I found this little sea anemone that would cling to my toe if I touched it lol…looked like the sea anemone in Finding Nemo that the clown fish live in…except beige. There were also very prickly anemone that I tried to avoid lol. After swimming, we laid out on the beach and listened to some music. A curious, little lizard in the dunes kept touching us and running away….happened about 6 times while we were sunbathing haha. Later, after we had dried off, we left the beach and made our way to a grocery store, got some chips, and drove to another beach. The beach was less crowded, but we sat near some nude people…and decided that we were  suddently very hungry lol. We drove back into the white-washed town and had gyros, which were a whopping 2 euros…yay! We ordered vegetarian gyros, which were stuffed with french fries…bellisimo! With our stomach full, we drove off to our last destination…Paradise Beach. On the way, we stopped at an abandoned church located atop a hill, which was very beautiful and provided excellent panoramic views of that side of the island. When we finally got to the road going down the beach, we saw how steep it was, so we pulled off halfway and just sat on a cliff overlooking the beach. On our way back, we tried to make it up the hill, but because of the steep incline and both of our weight on the bike, we began to roll backward on the bike….ahhhh!!!! We only rolled backward down the hill for about 10 feet because Suzy was able to jump off in a driveway that was near the bike and help me with the brakes, which didn’t seem to work completely. At that moment, I realized that maybe I should have worn the helmet..(but it was so dirty, yucky)

On our third day, we went to the island of Tinos, which is the island closest to Mykonos. When we got there, we tried to find a place that rented quad bikes…but unlike Mykonos, which had about 2 dozen places to rent ATVs…there was only one, and it was twice as expensive as the bike we rented the day before! Whaaaaaaatttt booo! So, we decided not to rent a four wheeler, and just meander around the small town. The town had many white buildings like Mykonos, but it wasn’t as pretty. On our way over to a beach, we saw an abandoned house that had lots of feral cats. They looked very hungry, so Suzy and I parted with a piece of our precious baklava, and gave it to them….BUT THEY DIDN’T WANT THE BAKLAVA AHHHHHHH AND SPIT IT OUT?!?!?!?! A piece of gold wasted, mehh :’(  When we got to the beach, we set down our stuff and read for about 2 hours. When the sun began to set, we made our way up to a cliff that overlooked the town and sat for awhile there….Lots of sitting on this excursion haha…Then we went into town and sat down for dinner at this small cafe… A little kitty sat near our table and mewed for our food the entire time…lol. She definitely preferred our cod over the eggplant, but I personally thought the fried eggplant was deliciouso!

On our final day in Mykonos, we went into town and bought a hand painted plate for our momma….she likes those things. I also bought myself a greek necklace with the symbol for prosperity…and something else…as the pendant.Then we went to a beach and sunbathed/read until the sun began to set. We went into town for some of our last gyros :’( and more greek desserts haha.  The next day, we flew out and went back to Milan…

I thought Greece was beyond wonderful! The land was gorgeous, the weather fantastic, and the people very kind. Mykonos and Sicily have probably been my favorite vacations so far…and I hope one day I’ll visit Mykonos again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fondue Night!

Monday, May 19th, 2014

As I am on vacation currently, I wanted to write up a little extra post about the last Ladies’ Fondue Night, mostly consisting of pictures. My post about Italy and Greece when I return to my laptop!

fondue night8

Fondue Night!

Thursday night three of my closest friends here had what is probably our last night just the four of us in Ireland. We celebrated with cheese fondue for dinner and chocolate fondue for dessert. I may never eat again, I’m still full.

fondue night6 fondue night5

I had meant to take pictures of the process…but we got distracted and it wasn’t until we sat down with the cheese that it occurred to me I wanted to document it.

fondue night7

As luck would have it, the exact same thing happened an hour later with the chocolate fondue, although when I remembered we had already eaten most of the marshmallows, cookies, and strawberries.

fondue night1

I had never made fondue before coming here, but I made it once for a little dinner party in February and the tradition stuck, I think this was probably the fourth or fifth time we’ve done it.

fondue night3

But this time we were particularly decadent, having both cheese and chocolate.

fondue night4


Cadrezzate and Mykonos

Sunday, May 18th, 2014

These last two weeks have been better. I guess i’m just getting use to being alone again in Milan..with just Sabrina, so things are going back to normal…:)

Last week Sabrina and I made a pilgrammage to our great grandfather’s hometown of Cadrezzate, near Lago Maggiore! Our great grandfather’s name was Luigi Piscia, and he and two his brothers, Andrea and Pietro, immigrated to Milford Massachusetts in the early 1920s. There they raised their own families and farmed and masoned.

Prior to getting to Cadrezzate, we werent really sure which house they lived in. My mom did some research and figured out the address, which we later ventured to. The town itself is very small, perched on a hill overlooking the mountains and Lago Maggiore…it’s quite pretty. It also has its own lake called Monate. The main piazza is tiny and the only church in town was built in the early 1900s. When we finally visited my greatgrandfather’s old house, which he and his family built, we were greeted by later generation of Piscias who stilled lived there! They were so nice and friendly. They showed us around the town, the old cemetary where two of Luigi’s brothers, (who had died in WW1) were buried, and where their father, my great great grandfather, Angelo Piscia was buried, next to his wife.

IMG_2618

(far left is Luigi)

 

We then spent the afternoon back at the old home, where we all had lunch with wine,pizza, pasta, and an amazing pear cheese pie, followed by gelato. I am so thankful to have met some of my relatives, who were so warming and hospitable. We basically just showed up at the door, and they spent the whole day around us. They really are great people, who I’m proud to call family:)

 

 

This past week, Sabrina and I spent in Mykonos. The island is beautiful, and the Aegean Sea is so blue. We spent the 4 days there exploring the town, going to the beach, ATVing and shopping…oh and eating (greek deserts are the best) It was a very relaxing trip…and i believe i spent too much money on presents for myself and family:/!! Also the island is covered in cats haha. When we wwalked into the terminal there was a little black cat outside, and when we had gotten through security and were waiting at our gate, the same little black cat was meandering around the lounge area haha.IMG_2995 IMG_2985