May 30th

Rome…hmm, I’m not sure if it is what I expected. Of course, I had sort of heard two opposing views (really great vs. too crowded/busy). And right now I feel like I’ve seen both sides. Luckily we arrived early enough to have a full day of adventure…But anyway, we also visited the Trevi Fountain, where we threw pennies over our shoulder. It’s supposed to bring you back to the city…We wanted to find a museum that was supposed to be nearby. It’s actually a crypt, where an order of monks took bones from 4000 bodies to make this “artwork”. It’s kind of creepy, but in a very interesting and captivating way. They decorated the walls and ceiling with bones, in addition to building altars, etc. I do wonder, however, how the idea was conceived. So, after one strange place we ended up visiting a really amazing one: the Colosseum. It’s too hard to describe, really. Especially since much of my appreciation came not only from the sheer size, or fact that much of it remains, but instead from the planning and ingenuity necessary to build it. So yeah, all I can say is that it is very cool.

May 31 and June 1

Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum…the ruins were interesting, and it’s amazing to think about how massive it once was. Although, I think I would appreciate it even more if I remembered more from my Latin classes in high school. Unfortunately, I can’t decipher much from the engravings, etc., but the museums usually help… Pantheon…we were excited that something was open since it was Sunday. The building itself was really intact (the historical reason being that after converting to Christianity, Constantine declared it a Catholic church, so looters stayed away for the most part. And that’s pretty interesting in itself.) Oh, and I never knew that Raphael was buried there, either. Otherwise, we’ve been spending time with some of our roommates, particularly a girl named Cybil. She’s from Canada, and I’ve learned a lot (I guess that’s easy when you know very little) about their government, social welfare system, education, etc. From what she’s described it sounds much more liberal than I ever realized (ex: free health care, but higher taxes; still, it seems like social work in that environment might be easier). And she described their education system as being very “honest”, or upfront with the curriculum. That is, there seems to be a lot of comparing Canada with other countries, pointing out both the good and bad of their own. Our own system would probably benefit from a less egocentric, and more worldview approach. (Of course, it would need to be motivated out of objectivity and not cynicism, a problem I’ve experienced from some teachers.) But enough of that for now. I’m probably not making sense, anyway!

June 2nd

Today we battled the crowds at Vatican City in order to see the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica. The museum is huge…I think I read somewhere that if you walk through all exhibits you will have gone about 4 miles. And I believe it, too. I think it was the most diverse museum I have been to so far, because it holds everything from Egyptian mummies to woven tapestries to the Sistine Chapel. I guess that’s why you have to donate a kidney to get in (okay, so it’s not that extreme; but they do charge a lot. But I won’t go off on that now. Let’s just say that after visiting many churches I’ve examined my views on the fine line between bringing glory to God or to man.). Interestingly enough, Vatican City was the only place “open” today because it was a national holiday. Over dinner at our hostel (they made a pasta dinner almost every night), a priest (?) studying church history explained that the d ay actually commemorates the time when the people somewhat revolted and gained separation of the government from the Catholic Church (I hope I’m getting this correct). That’s why today the Vatican is a separate city. Pretty interesting, I thought.

June 3- 4

[Brandon, my friend who had been traveling with me, left to go back to the States. I then went to a town outside of Venice where I will be staying with an American family. They are in the military and have been stationed over here for about 3 years.]…My day got a little brighter when I finally arrived in Sacile to meet the Merrill’s They were waiting for me as I stepped off the train. And they’re great…friendly, sweet kids, and they have made me feel at home.

In fact, I feel caught between living inn Italy and in America. I’ve been able to see a little league baseball game and 5th grade patriotic program, yet still while simultaneously living in a small Italian town. (This stay came at a gr eat time, actually. I needed a little piece of “home”.) One of the best parts is talking to not only the parents, but also the kids who have gone to (now, or during part of their stay) Italian school. Basically, I have been able to hear the perspective of American’s who have assimilated into the Italian culture.

June 5th

Today Mrs. Merrill…and I went to Venice. It was a more laid-back way that we explored the city, but it was really nice. I think I needed a break from seeing another church and museum because I was getting a little overloaded. An d, sadly enough, wonderful things can lose some of their luster, I’ve begun to think, if you allow yourself to get “used to” it. (Does that make sense?) Essentially, I’m trying to make sure I don’t start taking anything for granted. So anyway, back on topic…we explored Venice simply by walking around, going in shops, looking at street artists’ work, etc. Venice is such a beautiful city; the weather was bright and sunny (which also meant really hot!), and the city seemed to be equally bright and colorful.

I finished off the day by learning how to make mushroom risotto. [I like to cook and learning new Italian dishes was something I had hoped to do. So even though that might not sound like fun to some people, I was really glad! 🙂 …

June 6th

The great thing about this area is the fact that it is not only near Venice, but also close to the beach and the mountains. Today, in fact, they Merrill’s took me into the mountains. It was beautiful up there. Later we had dinner at a great restaurant that is known for their Italian mountain cuisine (think ostrich, horse, etc.).

June 7th

Well, I’m about to leave the Merrill’s to go to Vienna. I won’t arrive until about 9pm, so I will probably meet up with John Harris on the following day. I’m looking forward to being in Vienna because I’ve only heard wonderful thing s. But I have to admit that switching to a new language as well as the long train ride isn’t as thrilling! 🙂