When One Door Closes, Another Opens: Highlighting the Very Best of Maastricht and Beyond

Maastricht's "stadhuis"--or city hall, foreshadowed by the modern and upbeat vibe of a Carnival disco ball. It is an image symbolic of Maastricht's people: committed to age-old tradition and pride while celebrating their passion for what the near future holds.

Maastricht’s “stadhuis”–or city hall, fore­shad­owed by the futur­is­tic vibe of a disco ball. It is an image sym­bolic of Maastricht’s peo­ple: com­mit­ted to age-old tra­di­tion and pride while cel­e­brat­ing their pas­sion for what the near future holds.
(March 2014 — Carnival)

 

Jan­u­ary 19, 2014 — July 11, 2014

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On July 11th, I said good­bye to a city that I called home for the course of six months.  My exchange has now offi­cially come to a close, and it is unthink­able how quickly each day rolled by.  I am now back with my fam­ily and friends in the Seat­tle area, enjoy­ing each and every ounce of much-anticipated sun­light and warm temperatures.

When reflect­ing on my expe­ri­ence abroad, I strug­gle to wrap my mind around all that has hap­pened.  I explored new des­ti­na­tions, met new peo­ple, and encoun­tered new chal­lenges.  Nat­u­rally, this is what going on exchange is all about: putting your­self in an entirely new envi­ron­ment and allow­ing your­self to see the world through a new lens.

As such, I give you the high­lights of Maas­tricht and beyond.  The exchange was a mix of the very Dutch and the very inter­na­tional.  These are the expe­ri­ences which made the exchange the great adven­ture that it was, and what it was meant to be.

Cook­ing at Heuge­mer­weg 

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From left: Adam Robin­son (Eng­land), Fien Decuypere (Bel­gium), Aga Cylna (Poland), Matt Rice (United States), and Joon Kyo Ahn (South Korea)

Heuge­mer­weg is the name of the street that I lived on in Maas­tricht, and in my apart­ment build­ing, I and four other exchange stu­dents would take turns cook­ing dur­ing the week in our com­mu­nal kitchen.  It was a great way to sharpen our cook­ing prowess, and more impor­tantly, it allowed us to wind down after long days at the uni­ver­sity.  Because we all came from dif­fer­ent parts of the world, it comes as no sur­prise that, by form­ing a “cook­ing team,” we always got an excel­lent sam­ple of typ­i­cal foods from our native countries.

Cook­ing din­ner at Heuge­mer­weg allowed us five to get to know one another very well dur­ing the exchange, and it ulti­mately became a tra­di­tion.  In addi­tion, these stu­dents were the back­bone of some amaz­ing Fri­day night parties!

 Blind City Trip 2014: Porto, Portugal

I con­sider myself an advo­cate of spon­ta­neous travel–the abil­ity to be flex­i­ble in one’s itin­er­ary with the goal of seek­ing out qual­ity expe­ri­ences.  Uni­ver­sity Col­lege Maastricht’s (UCM) Excur­sion Com­mit­tee man­aged to do just that: orga­nize a sur­prise week-long trip to Porto dur­ing Reflec­tion Week (the equiv­a­lent of Spring Break).  The sur­prise was a suc­cess, as no one had a clue as to the des­ti­na­tion until it was revealed at the air­port.  Not bad!

So, I and 15 other stu­dents from UCM partook.

A typical residential street in Porto

A typ­i­cal res­i­den­tial street in Porto–something the aver­age vis­i­tor will sel­dom tire of.

The Porto expe­ri­ence con­sisted of excel­lent free walk­ing tours, pro­vided by a tour guide who took great pride in show­ing vis­i­tors all that the city has to offer; beau­ti­ful 360-degree views of the city upon climb­ing the nar­row steps of the Torre dos Cléri­gos (see below); intensely-flavored Port wine (native to Porto); a cruise along the River Douro; and, come sun­down, stops to some of Porto’s best pubs and nightclubs.

Torre dos Clérigos

Torre dos Clérigos

Porto is an awe-inspiring city.  Though it is evi­dent that it and its res­i­dents have been touched by the recent Euro­pean eco­nomic cri­sis, one can observe their sense of opti­mism for the future.  The locals are friendly, the food is fan­tas­tic, and so is the atmos­phere.  Despite this, how­ever, what made the Blind City Trip such a mem­o­rable expe­ri­ence was the peo­ple I spent it with.

UCM is a very international college.  The Blind City Trip group alone (shown here) represents students from the Netherlands, Germany,  Mexico, Slovakia, and Australia

UCM is a very inter­na­tional col­lege. The Blind City Trip group alone (shown here) rep­re­sents stu­dents from the Nether­lands, Ger­many, Mex­ico, Slo­va­kia, and Aus­tralia.  I couldn’t have asked for a bet­ter group!

Easter in Den­mark: An Upbeat Mix of the Dan­ish, Dutch, and Very International

I men­tioned before that my exchange offered the very best of the Dutch and the inter­na­tional; my excur­sion to Aarhus, Den­mark was cer­tainly no excep­tion.  In my eyes, the best adven­tures are those which hap­pen at a spur-of-the-moment.

It all began on the Ger­man Autobahn–a high­way known through­out Europe and the world for hav­ing no speed limit.  This was my route from Leus­den, the Nether­lands: a six-and-a-half hour (overnight) jour­ney directly to Aarhus.  I joined my Dan­ish flat­mate, Maria, who was plan­ning on return­ing to her home coun­try dur­ing the break.  There, we would meet her Dutch boyfriend, Sander.  Sander’s fam­ily also joined Maria and I on the road to Den­mark.  Sander is cur­rently liv­ing and work­ing in Aarhus, and is also a good acquain­tance of mine.

I stayed in Sander and Maria’s apart­ment for the dura­tion of the trip; though small, it imme­di­ately felt like home and over­looked the Aarhus har­bor.  The sun shone, and their was always a gen­tle breeze.  Spring was just emerg­ing in Denmark.

Aarhus as seen from our apartment

Aarhus as seen from our apartment

Many a night, myself, Sander, Maria, and the fam­ily would go out for din­ner to eat.  It doesn’t get more inter­na­tional than an Amer­i­can, a Dane, and a group of Dutch peo­ple, going out for din­ner in Den­mark, sit­ting down and eat­ing Mex­i­can cui­sine in a restau­rant owned by a Moroc­can man.  Par­ties on the mod­ern apart­ment bal­cony had a sim­i­lar feel.  Stu­dents from Aus­tralia, Eng­land, Ger­many, Ice­land, and Den­mark would sit back and relax–casually dis­cussing impor­tant world issues as the sun set.  I was inter­ested to learn the Euro­pean per­spec­tive of the United States–whether that con­cerns reli­gion, pol­i­tics, gun con­trol, and so forth.  Euro­peans are always eager to assert their opin­ions even when unso­licited, and I admire that.  It has allowed me to view both the world and the United States in a dif­fer­ent light.

Sight­see­ing was also on our to-do list.  One day, we vis­ited Aarhus’s Old Town–Den Gamle By.  It’s a con­glom­er­a­tion of Dan­ish archi­tec­ture from days of yore; more specif­i­cally, from the 16th to the 19th cen­turies.  While it is the quin­tes­sen­tial tourist attrac­tion, it serves as a reminder of what once was.

My time spent in Aarhus ended with a tra­di­tional Dan­ish Easter brunch.  Gath­ered in the open, mod­ern, com­mu­nal kitchen of Sander and Maria’s apart­ment, we enjoyed her­ring salad, rye bread, cold cuts, and chopped veg­eta­bles as top­pings.  Dan­ish licorice shots and beer were also on the menu.

One Chap­ter Ends, Another Begins

Now that I am back in the United States, it is strange to think just how much I have learned and gained.  I have real­ized how much I am going to miss the peo­ple that I have met, the places that I have vis­ited, and the expe­ri­ences that I would not have had oth­er­wise.  As a result of my time abroad, I have become more inde­pen­dent, more out­go­ing, more relaxed, and more con­fi­dent as a solo trav­eler.  These all go hand-in-hand with step­ping out­side of what I was ini­tially com­fort­able with.  What I am espe­cially look­ing for­ward to to being back in the States is apply­ing these ele­ments.  For exam­ple, using pub­lic trans­porta­tion has become sec­ond nature.  Cook­ing is now a more enjoy­able pas­time.  At the same time, I now view the United States with a bit more skep­ti­cism, but also with more pride.  One of the great­est expe­ri­ences of my life took place when I was in the Nether­lands and Europe, and I am look­ing for­ward to the day that I can visit again.

The Naive German’s First Adventure! (Dispatch 1)

7/24/2014 Blog by Sta­cie Rajkovics, CSS, Ger­man­ics Ger­many: Beyond the Berlin Wall

My very first study abroad trip — wow!  I’m soo excited!  I can hardly wait to get to Ger­many to see all the cool things that I’ve only ever seen in mag­a­zines and pic­tures. I won­der what it will feel like to stroll down the boule­vards? Or gala­vant around the coun­try­side? Or just sim­ply enjoy the art, cul­ture, and of course, my per­sonal favorite — food!

German Government Building

But wait!! Today is July 24th. My trip begins August 1st. There is only seven days left until I’m sup­posed to fly out, and I don’t have a flight. What do I do now? How do I get to Germany?

Well, let’s see… First I go online to Expe­dia, Cheaptick­ets, United Air­lines, and Lon­don Air­ways to see what the going price is for a plane ticket to Ger­many. Ok, so I quickly dis­cover that last minute plane tick­ets are VERY expen­sive. Hmmm… Now what?

I know!  I sprint to the Finan­cial Aid office where I learn that I can apply for a short-term loan. It only takes three days to get an approval and dis­burse the funds. Yay! I’m saved!!

But wait! If the plane ticket is too expen­sive, then how do I pay my rent?  And what about food? And where am I going? I haven’t even stud­ied the map yet. This is no easy task! What was I thinking?!

Will I make it to Ger­many? Stay tuned my fel­low inquirers…

 

Roman Reflections

This trip has been an eye open­ing expe­ri­ence for me in many ways. I had never done any trav­el­ing inter­na­tion­ally, any art or ever had a group of women as room­mates so I didn’t have any clue what was going to hap­pen. I feel like I have grown from this trip. As I write this blog entry on a train at 7am head­ing to Venice with some of my friends, I am shocked at how nor­mal it feels to just hop on a train and go some­where awe­some, whereas two months ago I would never have had the nerve. I feel like I have grown up more and can han­dle more things by myself. This trip has also rein­forced my instinct to pro­tect and care for the younger girls around me in any way I can. Most of the time they don’t need it because they are strong and capa­ble but they know I enjoy it so they indulge me.

Romans, while not liv­ing in the clean­est city I’ve ever seen, seem to live cleaner lives. They eat bet­ter food with­out all the preser­v­a­tives and chem­i­cals, they buy from mar­kets so their pro­duce is always fresh and healthy and they eat well. They eat slowly and don’t stuff them­selves, which is a trait I have embraced. The food here is exquis­ite! It’s sim­ple, fresh and I can eat gluten here with­out the intense body pain which is not some­thing I can get away with at home. The Roman peo­ple also walk every­where so they get more exer­cise which is some­thing that I will be attempt­ing to get into (within rea­son) back home also. I shock­ingly ate like a queen and still lost weight here.

Rome is a beau­ti­ful place and it seems to be at its most beau­ti­ful in the early morn­ing, before the traf­fic and the hordes of tourists. This is Rome at its most peace­ful. When the his­tory of the place really hits home and a cen­tury seems like a blip on the radar of his­tory. Even dur­ing the day, with the mass of peo­ple invad­ing them, Rome’s his­toric sites shine like lanterns encour­ag­ing us to remem­ber who we are and where we’ve come from. Per­haps it is to help show us where we are going.

The Col­i­seum with its grand arches and its maze of cor­ri­dors reminds us of when fight­ing to the death, be it ani­mal or human, was con­sid­ered glo­ri­ous and was cel­e­brated up to the high­est lev­els of soci­ety.  The Roman Forum sits qui­etly as a reminder of day’s past when Rome was a grand exper­i­ment of a repub­lic and what hap­pens when cor­rup­tion infects our gov­ern­men­tal insti­tu­tions. The majesty of the Pan­theon remind­ing us that regard­less of what we specif­i­cally believe in, spir­i­tu­al­ity can never be fully quashed because peo­ple always need some­thing to believe in.  The mul­ti­tude of art every­where remind­ing us to find beauty in every­day things so we can really see the truth within the extra­or­di­nary ones. The crypts and tombs remind­ing us of our own mor­tal­ity and to not for­get to live.  These are the lessons I will take home from Rome.

As we roll through the coun­try­side of Italy it feels like home. The rolling fields of crops don’t look much dif­fer­ent than those in Sno­homish or Skagit coun­ties and the work is the same it’s just the archi­tec­ture that’s dif­fer­ent. It really draws me into the truth that we are all the same peo­ple, with the same strug­gles and the same joys as every­one else. Here in Italy just as at home, there is poverty and plenty, rain storms and sun­shine, life and death. We are all one human­ity and it is reflected in our art, our his­tory and our daily lives. I think that is the other les­son I will take home with me from this trip. That, for me, the world is just a lit­tle bit smaller than it used to be.

Little Town… It’s a Quiet Village” (7/10–11/14)

The town of Gaeta… It was so beau­ti­ful!!! It was a lit­tle town on the coast of Italy. We trav­eled there as a class and had din­ner together and went on a few walks, but other than that we were free to do what we wanted. We stayed at a really nice hotel; I had dif­fer­ent room­mates there than I nor­mally do. I love my room­mates in Rome, but it was nice to have a change of pace with dif­fer­ent room­mates, even just for a night.

We got there at about 1:00 in the after­noon after tak­ing a bus to the train sta­tion and then trav­el­ing on a train. This was my first train ride by the way; besides the Dis­ney­land Rail­road. Once we got there and got into our rooms, we went straight to the pool. It was so refresh­ing and relax­ing! That is the coolest I have felt since get­ting her; it has just been so hot for so long. After the pool a bunch of us went and got dressed to go for a walk with our pro­fes­sor who went to school there and grew up in a town near there. We were all dressed nice because as a class we decided to get dressed up because we hadn’t had a chance to do that yet. Our walk around to see the town was really nice. It was a sweet lit­tle town. It is actu­ally the place Ital­ians go on vaca­tion… So basi­cally every­one there were tourists.

After the walk, we did a huge group din­ner in the restau­rant of the hotel. Our din­ner was really good. We had good con­ver­sa­tion and a ton of laugh­ing (that hap­pens a lot with our group). The meals here are much longer than they are at home. Here they sit and enjoy the com­pany and the food, at home we rush through both. It didn’t end there. A huge group of us decided we still wanted to hang out so we tried to get on the beach but it was dark and we couldn’t fig­ure out where we were going so we just sat where we could see the moon and hear the ocean and called it good. At the beaches here you have to pay to get in/sit in a chair or under an umbrella so they close at night. (Prob­a­bly safer.)

The next day a group went on this long hike. It is prob­a­bly the most beau­ti­ful place I have EVER seen. The sky and the water were the bluest blues that exist. We vis­ited this chapel that was built in a crack in the rock that is sup­posed to have split when Jesus died. Then we went down to the grotto to see the water in that same crack. It really makes me real­ize the beauty in this world! Here I am rant­ing about beau­ti­ful it was and can’t seem to get pic­tures uploaded. Sorry about that.

This Is What Dreams Are Made Of…” (7/6/14)

(I had a really great pic­ture of me that was going to go here, but all of my pic­ture files are too large to upload on this site…)

Today was our trip to the Colos­seum. I learned so much about the his­tory of it and its inner work­ings. Did you know, back in the day it was called The Fla­vian Amphithe­atre? Well it was. The Coles­seum is actu­ally a ref­er­ence to the colos­sal statue that used to stand next to it. The emperor that had the amphithe­ater con­structed also had the large statue of the old emperor moved to be near it. He was try­ing to do it out of spite to the pre­vi­ous emperor that he had taken power from. Basi­cally, his plan backfired.

I am already full of lit­tle fun facts about Rome. (Sorry Sarah!) I have learned so much in just the short time I have been here. I am in love with the his­tory of this city! Every­thing here is drip­ping with the past. In fact, the build­ing we have school in was appar­ently once a part of the build­ing where Julius Cae­sar was mur­dered. Can you imag­ine? Peo­ple have been walk­ing on these streets and liv­ing in these build­ings since basi­cally the begin­ning of civ­i­liza­tion. That is mind blow­ing to me.

Well back to the Coles­seum… We had our own tour guide who walked us around and told us all about its his­tory. Then after the tour was over we were allowed to walk around on our own for a while, until we had to meet up with the group and go to the Roman Forum and Pala­tine Hill where were once again set loose to explore on our own. It was so amaz­ing to be in those places. I love the his­tory that is tied up in the Coles­seum and the sur­round­ing area. It is mind bog­gling that a struc­ture like this has been able to with­stand every­thing that comes at it and still be mostly whole.

For those of you who are my age, all I could think about while was there was the Lizzie McGuire Movie and the song was play­ing in my head all day. This entire trip we have been talk­ing and think­ing about that movie because we are all basi­cally the same age. Some­thing will hap­pen and some­one will say, that’s what Lizzie McGuire did…

This has been my favorite thing to see so far this entire trip; and it was the thing I was most excited about when I first learned I was com­ing here. The Coles­seum is like a 20–30 minute walk from the Rome Cen­ter (Where we have class). I know because, even though we took a bus as a class to the Coles­seum, my group walked back to save a bus ticket and to get some exercise.

When in Rome…Actually not in Rome…In the Vatican!

7/15/14

Today was crazy. We got up and met the group at the Musei Vat­i­cani at 10 am and began what would end up being just over a 4 hour tour of the Vat­i­can Museum, the Sis­tine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basil­ica.  The art was incred­i­ble and awe inspir­ing. Every­where you turned there was price­less pieces of art that you see in art books and we got to see them in per­son. Amaz­ing. Our tour guide Fran­cisco has been giv­ing tours there for 38 years so he was incred­i­bly knowl­edge­able in every­thing we were look­ing at. We went through and saw Rafael’s fres­coes and Michelangelo’s sculp­tures and then sud­denly we were herded in to the Sis­tine chapel where I was expect­ing to be in total awe but frankly found it to be too crowded, hot and with­out seats to be fully appre­ci­ated. I did get to see that scene where man and God are almost touch­ing fin­gers which  was pretty cool. That was about 2 and a half hours in and I was pretty ready for a break which never came. So after that we went down to St. Peter’s which is also stun­ning. There was gold and mar­ble every­where and the art was mag­nif­i­cent. I’m gonna go back there at some point because by the time we got to the church I was hurt­ing really badly from my fibro act­ing up and I didn’t absorb as much as I would have liked too. Maybe that should be 2 days of tour­ing next time. LOL  So a good lunch, 4 ibupro­fen and a nap later I seem to be human again, still hurt­ing but human and ready to study for my finals for Ital­ian class and Roam­ing Rome class.  Man I could use an acupunc­ture treat­ment. LOL

Love you guys and miss you.

Pics are on Facebook.

Michele

Gaeta.…

7/13/14

Gaeta blew my mind. I have been to the beach before and rarely had much fun but this trip was way dif­fer­ent.  We reserved two umbrel­las and 6 beach chairs for the 6 of us who hung out and we just chilled.…or baked, whichever you pre­fer. We took  turns going down to the bluest water I have ever seen and play­ing like lit­tle kids in the surf then when we went back to the chairs a cou­ple  girls bought 2 bot­tles of wine and brought them plus an ice bucket over. Best beach trip EVER! Gaeta isn’t just a beach though. Fri­day night there was a San­tana cover band play­ing in the park by the hotel and we danced the night away with each other and any Ital­ian guy bold enough to approach the cir­cle of gig­gling Amer­i­can girls. It was awe­some. This is the town I want to bring my mom too for a week just so she can see that blue ocean. Blue is one of her favorite col­ors and this water was many stun­ning shades of it. It inspired me to paint one of the pic­tures I took there and I think it’s pretty good for a newbie.

Gotta go peeps.

Ciao!

when still in Rome…among other places.…

7/9/14

Rome is amaz­ing. I am sur­rounded by things older then I can really com­pre­hend and I am in awe.  The walk­ing every­where and the stairs to my apart­ment have been a chal­lenge because of my fibromyal­gia pain but the young peo­ple on this trip with me have been amaz­ing and they are look­ing out for me on the good days and the bad. But truth­fully a bad day for me on this trip can­not be truly bad because I’m in Rome. This trip is almost over and I still can­not believe that I am in Rome. I have walked the Roman forum, the pan­theon, the Colos­seum, Ostia Antica and the tomb of the Unknown Sol­dier, many of the churches and muse­ums. Tomor­row we go to Gaeta and get to hang there overnight. I’m excited to see the beaches there and learn about the his­tory of the place.

Catch ya later,

Michele

When in Rome.…

6/27/14

Hey Every­body!

The young ones have gone off for the evening and I’m sup­posed to write this thing called a blog while I’m here so here goes.

First things first, for all my close peeps, I miss you guys so much it’s crazy. This place is amaz­ing and you all should be here with me and if I ever win the lotto…. It’s on like don­key kong.

This city is…stunning. The only way I can truly describe it is stun­ning.  Its older than any land­mark in the US by a mil­len­nia.  That is a con­cept that didn’t really enter my con­scious­ness until I wrapped my arms around one of the pil­lars of the Pan­theon. This is seri­ously old stuff. Back when peo­ple openly wor­shiped Hera and Athena these stones stood. Amaz­ing.  Erin has said that when we visit the col­i­seum she is going to cry and hug the build­ing and I think I will join her. I may be in too much shock to cry but hug I will.

This trip has been life chang­ing for me in so many ways.  I am expe­ri­enc­ing what col­lege would have been like with room­mates. So far it’s been awe­some. I was paired with peo­ple I was famil­iar with and have found a fel­low music lover in Brynn who has a FANTASTIC voice and has already writ­ten an amaz­ing song at 19. She’s gonna be famous some­day because her art is amaz­ing too. Every­body I am here with is tal­ented at some­thing. Erin and Sylvia are delight­ful and incred­i­bly intel­li­gent. I am older than all but two of my trip­mates by at least 5 years and the more time I spend with them the more in awe I am. They are all qual­ity people.

Tonight is my first Fri­day night in Rome. We walked a lot today for class so I am rest­ing my poor ankles and feet. I swelled up like a bal­loon until the Far­ma­cia down the street gave me some home­o­pathic oint­ment and a pow­der to take in the morn­ing.  It has helped my ankles not swell but I keep them ele­vated every chance I get. The kids on the trip keep remind­ing me to ele­vate my feet every time it’s pos­si­ble. Those who I am close to have begun call­ing me Mama Bear because I am instinc­tively tak­ing care of them and mak­ing sure they have every­thing they need. Wet Wipes, Sun­screen, water, Advil, Vit­a­mins, you name it, I carry it. Not so fun for my back but hav­ing what some­one needs is help­ful and the only guy (22 years old) on the trip has vol­un­teered (as any gen­tle­man would) to carry my pack for me if I need help…. It may be par­tially due to the fact that I keep hear­ing out of his mouth, “Hey Mom can I put my notepad in your back­pack?” He always com­pen­sates me in caf­feine, wine or him car­ry­ing the bag if it gets heavy so I always say yes. Will is com­pletely adorable. I hope we can be friends even after this trip because I am enjoy­ing the bond we’ve formed. They all joke that they are my duck­lings…. Sound famil­iar?… LOL.

I have made friends with a cou­ple shop own­ers near the Rome cen­ter because I keep bring­ing peo­ple in and if it’s busy I bus my own table, which sur­pris­ingly, peo­ple don’t do here. Yes­ter­day and today I got hugs and cheek kisses from own­ers thank­ing me for things that I do nat­u­rally but which are a nov­elty here appar­ently. The girls tease me that these delight­ful men, both in their mid 60’s, are my boyfriends in Rome.  I am ok with this as they are adorable and they both feed me. Bonus.

Appar­ently my Ital­ian is actu­ally pretty good for a begin­ner. My abil­ity to pick up accents and the fact that half my husband’s fam­ily is Ital­ian has helped me be under­stood by those I am speak­ing too. Today after a halt­ing con­ver­sa­tion about my sup­port of fam­ily busi­nesses and pur­chas­ing some DEEEELISH red pesto from a vender in the Campo Di Fiori she said good­bye with the words Ciao Amore which means Bye Love. I feel very at home here. I feel like I have lived here before in a pre­vi­ous life.

The food is AMAZING! There are even Chi­nese restau­rants! I eat when­ever I need too and I don’t ever stuff myself and run like in the US. I am also not in as much pain from the Fibromyal­gia as I am in the US. I think that the wheat being processed dif­fer­ently and the heat of the days is help­ing my mus­cles relax and loosen even if its mak­ing me sweat.

I wish my hus­band could be here. These are our peo­ple and he needs to see this beau­ti­ful coun­try too. I miss him and my mom sooooooo bad. Rome is some­thing that EVERYBODY should see once in their life­times. It’s feel­ing like a pil­grim­age now. I want to come back and I haven’t even left yet.

The only things both­er­ing me so far are the fact that in this lovely apart­ment we have been assigned, our toi­let doesn’t like to flush solids and we have no wifi so keep­ing in touch with peo­ple is HARD!  We were promised both of those so It’s a bit frus­trat­ing that we aren’t get­ting what the Rome cen­ter has paid for. We will call the land­lord asap to see if we can fix the impor­tant stuff soon.

I miss every­body but am hav­ing a blast…. Although I may need a ship­ment of more Chi­nese Cur­ing pills for the tummy (I have been help­ing as best I can with my friends and teacher’s tummy upsets) and a t-shirt with Rob’s Deodor­ant for my pil­low. A month is a LOOOOONG time to miss my husband.

On that note, I’m going to take myself to bed so I can get some sleep and pre­pare for the upcom­ing week.  Miss every­body.  Love you guys.

Michele

Hey Everybody!

6/30/2014 Blog by Michele Bartle­son, NURS, When in Rome: Inter­dis­ci­pli­nary Stu­dio Art and Ital­ian Culture

The young ones have gone off for the evening and I’m sup­posed to write this thing called a blog while I’m here so here goes.

First things first, for all my close peeps, I miss you guys so much it’s crazy. This place is amaz­ing and you all should be here with me and if I ever win the lotto…. It’s on like don­key kong.

This city is…stunning. The only way I can truly describe it is stun­ning.  Its older than any land­mark in the US by a mil­len­nia.  That is a con­cept that didn’t really enter my con­scious­ness until I wrapped my arms around one of the pil­lars of the Pan­theon. This is seri­ously old stuff. Back when peo­ple openly wor­shiped Hera and Athena these stones stood. Amaz­ing.  Erin has said that when we visit the col­i­seum she is going to cry and hug the build­ing and I think I will join her. I may be in too much shock to cry but hug I will.

This trip has been life chang­ing for me in so many ways.  I am expe­ri­enc­ing what col­lege would have been like with room­mates. So far it’s been awe­some. I was paired with peo­ple I was famil­iar with and have found a fel­low music lover in Brynn who has a FANTASTIC voice and has already writ­ten an amaz­ing song at 19. She’s gonna be famous some­day because her art is amaz­ing too. Every­body I am here with is tal­ented at some­thing. Erin and Sylvia are delight­ful and incred­i­bly intel­li­gent. I am older than all but two of my trip­mates by at least 5 years and the more time I spend with them the more in awe I am. They are all qual­ity people.

Tonight is my first Fri­day night in Rome. We walked a lot today for class so I am rest­ing my poor ankles and feet. I swelled up like a bal­loon until the Far­ma­cia down the street gave me some home­o­pathic oint­ment and a pow­der to take in the morn­ing.  It has helped my ankles not swell but I keep them ele­vated every chance I get. The kids on the trip keep remind­ing me to ele­vate my feet every time it’s pos­si­ble. Those who I am close to have begun call­ing me Mama Bear because I am instinc­tively tak­ing care of them and mak­ing sure they have every­thing they need. Wet Wipes, Sun­screen, water, Advil, Vit­a­mins, you name it, I carry it. Not so fun for my back but hav­ing what some­one needs is help­ful and the only guy (22 years old) on the trip has vol­un­teered (as any gen­tle­man would) to carry my pack for me if I need help…. It may be par­tially due to the fact that I keep hear­ing out of his mouth, “Hey Mom can I put my notepad in your back­pack?” He always com­pen­sates me in caf­feine, wine or him car­ry­ing the bag if it gets heavy so I always say yes. Will is com­pletely adorable. I hope we can be friends even after this trip because I am enjoy­ing the bond we’ve formed. They all joke that they are my duck­lings…. Sound famil­iar?… LOL.

I have made friends with a cou­ple shop own­ers near the Rome cen­ter because I keep bring­ing peo­ple in and if it’s busy I bus my own table, which sur­pris­ingly, peo­ple don’t do here. Yes­ter­day and today I got hugs and cheek kisses from own­ers thank­ing me for things that I do nat­u­rally but which are a nov­elty here appar­ently. The girls tease me that these delight­ful men, both in their mid 60’s, are my boyfriends in Rome.  I am ok with this as they are adorable and they both feed me. Bonus.

Appar­ently my Ital­ian is actu­ally pretty good for a begin­ner. My abil­ity to pick up accents and the fact that half my husband’s fam­ily is Ital­ian has helped me be under­stood by those I am speak­ing too. Today after a halt­ing con­ver­sa­tion about my sup­port of fam­ily busi­nesses and pur­chas­ing some DEEEELISH red pesto from a vender in the Campo Di Fiori she said good­bye with the words Ciao Amore which means Bye Love. I feel very at home here. I feel like I have lived here before in a pre­vi­ous life.

The food is AMAZING! There are even Chi­nese restau­rants! I eat when­ever I need too and I don’t ever stuff myself and run like in the US. I am also not in as much pain from the Fibromyal­gia as I am in the US. I think that the wheat being processed dif­fer­ently and the heat of the days is help­ing my mus­cles relax and loosen even if its mak­ing me sweat.

I wish my hus­band could be here. These are our peo­ple and he needs to see this beau­ti­ful coun­try too. I miss him and my mom sooooooo bad. Rome is some­thing that EVERYBODY should see once in their life­times. It’s feel­ing like a pil­grim­age now. I want to come back and I haven’t even left yet.

The only things both­er­ing me so far are the fact that in this lovely apart­ment we have been assigned, our toi­let doesn’t like to flush solids and we have no wifi so keep­ing in touch with peo­ple is HARD!  We were promised both of those so It’s a bit frus­trat­ing that we aren’t get­ting what the Rome Cen­ter has paid for. We will call the land­lord asap to see if we can fix the impor­tant stuff soon.

I miss every­body but am hav­ing a blast…. Although I may need a ship­ment of more Chi­nese Cur­ing pills for the tummy (I have been help­ing as best I can with my friends and teacher’s tummy upsets) and a t-shirt with Rob’s Deodor­ant for my pil­low. A month is a LOOOOONG time to miss my husband.

On that note, I’m going to take myself to bed so I can get some sleep and pre­pare for the upcom­ing week.  Miss every­body.  Love you guys.

Michele