Monday, June 21, 2010

Mona Lisa

I am officially DONE with art from any time before the 1600s. And half of the art from the 1600s I'm done with, too. I absolutely cannot stomach one more Mannerist, Renaissance, or Ancient work of art for at least another twenty years. At least.

The number one thing on my list of "Shit I've got to do in Paris" was visit the Louvre. I'm an art student. If I walked away from Paris without the Louvre under my belt Michelangelo himself would rise up from the Fields of Elysium and punch me right in the teeth. I ventured into the Louvre on my own, Nicole and Shakira figuring the kids wouldn't be able to handle all such an overwhelming display of fantastic works of art. The Louvre is a palace, renovated for the housing of these works, and as I walked through the archway and into the courtyard where the entrance to the Louvre is, I had a moment with myself. I stared at the glass pyramid that announced my descent into the vast world of that museum and felt my breast swell with pride. I made it to the Louvre. Against all odds, I made it to Paris. And my ultimate triumph in that city was before me. I spent three long hours in that labyrinth of suppossed artistic magnificence, and when I came out I wasn't quite the same.

Because, God damnit!, the Mona Lisa was the biggest disappointment in history. Truly. I love you, Leonardo, but seriously? The Mona Lisa is the size of a fucking place mat. And the closest you can get to it is 10 feet away. Seeing the Mona Lisa was suppossed to be monumental. And it wasn't. That feeling permeated throughout the rest of my visit to the Louvre. I saw some amazing things, sure. Some of the sculptures made me nearly cry, especially Athena. But the rest was all pretty boring. Of all the things I enjoyed the most about the Louvre were the Mesopotamian and Egyptian collections. So sweet. There was an entire room of Egyptian sarcophogi and mummies-I couldn't help myself in there. I did the mummy walk when no one was looking. And gigantic tablets of heiroglyphics hung from the walls. I also really enjoyed walking through the preserved section of the ancient framework of the Louvre. They had all the original blueprints spread out for us to look at as you walk through a hallway made of stones fromthe 1200s. It was really freakin' cool. And thats about it for the Louvre.

In three hours, thats all I've got. Maybe I'm just too fed up with ancient art. Probably. I can't appreciate another piece of Western work that dates up to the Renaissance until I've immersed myself in contemporary art. An immersion so long and deep that I can't even remember the Renaissance. Cause I'm totally over it. And the Mona Lisa was the nail in the coffin.
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby

Hunchbacks aren't the only weirdos in Notre Dame

After my visit to Notre Dame, I was inspired to purchase Victor Hugo's novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame in a futile effort to extend my Parisian experience. For those of you cheaters who've only ever watched the Disney movie, it's a completely different story. That Quasimodo is almost cute. I can assure you, though, that the Quasimodo of the story is the most wretched, horrible human disfiguration ever created, in reality or imagination. The hunchback from the movie 300 doesn't compare. Anyway, my point is, all of the characters in that book are total freaks. Whether they had freakish looks (Quasimodo), freakish imaginations (Esmerelda), freakish life stories (the Hag), or freakish ideas (the Priest), freakiness pervails around the cathedral of Notre Dame. And I realized this before I even read the book.

When I approached the monstrosity that is Notre Dame, my eyes immediately picked out the gargoyles on its facade. I really, really like gargoyles. My eyes roved it's flying butresses and its windows, drinking it in. I waited on a line for ten minutes to get inside, and immediately I was overcome by the eerieness of the inside. There was constant music, whether a recording of a choir or an actual choir I don't know, but the tones were deep and sonorous, reverberating off the cold walls to echo up the rafters. The hues of the stained glass weren't bright, but rather they cast dimly colored hues across the stone floors. The sculptures and paintings that decorate the cathedral are lit dimly by the few tiny lights that dot the church. There are chairs set up in the church that serve as pews, where people sit while the rest of the masses that are touring the cathedral drone by. The flashing of cameras is constant and the noise of tip-toeing feet and small whispers is so loud that there is no peace or serenity to be found anywhere inside. I lit a candle in honor of my loved ones, which I normally don't do. But considering that its Notre Dame, I figure having a candle lit in your name is a kind of a big deal. And after sitting for twenty minutes unable to muster any sort of prayer from my breast, I degectedly left.

I went back outside into the cold, which even in the middle of the day during summer was biting in Paris, and waited for my family to come out. They'd got on line to enter after I did and hence took an extra 45 minutes to exit. I sat on a chilly stone stump outside of the church and people watched for those 45 minutes. I discovered more weirdos entering and exiting this cathedral than is possible to mention. Two groups in particular stand out in my mind. First, there were the snake skins. A couple, both decked out in snakeskin EVERYTHING stood next to me taking tacky photo after tacky photo. The girl had long, grimy blonde hair twisted into knots. She wore about 17 earrings and a snakeskin bracelet. Her snakeskin boots pointed up toward the sky and the heels on these beasts were at least 4 inches. The best, though, was her snakeskin belly shirt. In 40 degree weather. The shirt was complemented beautifully by a pair of RIPPED snakeskin pants tighter than they should have been. So tight that what little fat she had was burstig through the rips in her pants in a really unbecoming fashion. Her I'm guessing husband wore a white snakeskin coat that reached his ankles, around which were snakeskin boots that matched his wife's. He had on a snakeskin hat, and his long, grimy blonde hair was even longer than hers. The only thing on him that wasn't snakeskin was his leather pants. And 10 minutes after I tore my eyes from these two, I saw on line to enter the church a huge group of gangstathugs. I haven't seen their like in a long, long time. Baggy pants whose waists are resting at the place where butt meets leg, shirts long enough to be old women's moo-moo dresses, sideways and backwards hats with flat rims, and bling. Lots and lots of bling. I was almost tempted to get up and see if they had gold teeth. I should have. Instead, I chuckled at them on my cold rock thinking to myself how wonderful a profession people-watching would be.

And so I rest my case on the freakishness of Notre Dame.
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby

Disneyland Paris

I remember my first time at Disneyworld. I was eight. For the remainder of my life I've remembered Disneyworld as the most magical place in the world. I'm sure that I'm not the only person who believes in the power of Disney, either. When Nicole, Shakira, and I planned out Paris, we made sure to plan on going to EuroDisney. We wanted to share that same Disney magic with the kids. And we kept it a secret. On our second day in Paris we got up early in the morning and got the kids ready to go. During the entire ride the kids didn't understand why Nicole, Shakira, and I were bouncing up and down in our seats. And when we pulled up to the EuroDisney sign and told them to look out the window, their excitement could have blown off the roof of the car. Which made us three adults even more enthused about the day. Walking into the park was something like a dream. I ran backwards on the little flat escelator things with the kids, spun around in circles with my arms stretched out, and engaged myself in all of the kid-like activities I could. All this before we even entered the park.

When we made it to the Disneyland Paris sign, I could hardly contain myself. I wanted to run right through the gates and give Mickey a big giant hug. Instead, I suffered through all the pictures and browsing the Goofy ears before we made it inside. Even though I royally sucked at the directions around Paris, I designated myself official map holder in the park. First stop: Frontierland. We went through the Wild West in Paris. I ran through an old western townhouse before taking off through Frontierland in search of a ride. While I ran around with the kids I came across a place called "Woody's Roundup". Since as far back as I can remember, my two favorite movies were The Lion Kind and Toy Story. I have a special relationship with Toy Story, though-when I was a kid I shared this movie with two of my very best friends, and we always sang "You've got a friend in me" together all of the time. To my delight, Woody's Roundup was a place with all costumed characters. I got to meet Goofy, Minnie, Mickey, and none other than my favorite cartoon character in history: Woody Himself. My niece Kayla bought a signature book and got all of their autographs, and secretly I was really jealous of her. I was ecstatic to have met and taken a photo with my hero Woody, regardless of my lack of an autograph book. We ran around after this in search of rides again and alas! the kids were too small for the only one we found, so we left and went next to Adventureland. It was like a jungle, and hosted rides like Pirates of the Caribbean, which the kids again were too little for. We were all starting to get a little irritated at the lack of rides available to ride and then it started to rain. So we sat down for some lunch. Disneyland in the U.S.A defintiely does themepark food better. We made our way to Fantasyland next.

Where, thank God, we finally found some rides. Our first order of business was to go on the merry-go-round. I had a pretend sword fight with my nephew Jazzy ontop of spinning horses. As we were going around I saw a sign for the Alice in Wonderland Maze. And immediately after we stopped spinning we ran into the maze. (Video to come). We ran around that maze for at least an hour. Its seriously trippy in there. When you first walk in, there is a small hedge maze with funny little creatures, including the White Rabbit, roaming about. You make your way through the hedge maze and into a pathway made of purple bubbly fountains that shoot water back and fourth from fountain to fountain. After this you come up to the Catepillar, faithfully smoking his hookah and blowing smoke rings into the air. Directly past the Caterpillar is the Chesire Cat. His gigantic face is an entire garden, made up of purple, white, and pink flowers. They also made him eyes, which spin around and around in an attempt to hypnotize all the small children inside. I wonder what for? Anyway, when you get past the Chesire Cat you go through another small hedge maze, where Cards stand on the alert for people who are about to enter into the Queen of Hearts' Castle. Which is awesome. Kayla, Jazzy, and I climbed to the top and shouted down at Nicole, Shakira, Anaiyah, and Isaiah below. We looked out at the whole park from up there-a magnificent view of the Queen's queendom, full of magic and surprises. The castle was so strange it was almost Dr. Seussy. Or Tim Burtony. It touched the sky in crazy spirals, with alternating puple and pink stairs winding their way to the top. It was fringed by a fence of pikes with hearts on their tips and surrounded on all sides by flowers in full bloom. It was truly an incredible place. From my vantage point on the top of that castle I saw the beginnings of a parade, and so with all haste we ran out of the maze and tried to find a good place to watch the procession go by.

This parade was the Welcome parade for Tiana, the newest addition to the princess family from the Frog Princess. I found that there were tears in my eyes during that parade. All of the princesses (Snow White, Belle, Cinderella, Jasmine, Sleeping Beauty, Arielle, Mulan, and Tiana) all floated by, twirling in the arms of their loves and enchanting the eyes of all the little girls around. Wow! is the same in French as it is in English. I found that all the enchantment that was in the air had a particular effect on me. I've never been a girly-girl, I was actually kind of a tomboy for the majority of my childhood, but I found that among all those dreamy-eyed girls I could be one too for the first time. I had my first out of body experience. I projected my "self" into one princess after the next, until I'd twirled and danced to the French Disney love tunes of each of the Princesses. The only one that was boring was Arielle, cause she didn't have feet but only a flipper so I just sat there and waved my arms around. Whatever, I had a costume flipper for a moment. When the music stopped and the Princesses waved, their floats moving on, I turned and saw behing me my #1 favorite ride of all time and sqeauled like the little girl I'd been pretending I was for the past few minutes. Its A Small World. I saw the Earth sprouting up from the center of a fountain, where little puppets were perched their ethnic habitats. Shakria nor Nicole had ever been on it, and since it was the kids' first time in Disney I was thrilled to share their first Its A Small World Experience. For which there are no words. PLEASE CHECK BACK FOR THE VIDEO. This sign was our departing gift from all of the world. And after this, we rode another of my favorite rides, the Teacups. Mad Hatter Style. I was actually extremely disappointed in them, they haven't been WD-40'd in at least 4 years, so I literally struggled to spin the teacup around 1 time. Meanwhile, my little neice and two little nephews are yelling at me to spin faster.

We left Fantasyland after this and made our way to the Discoveryland, the final area of EuroDisney. And I discovered in Discoveryland that Enrique Iglaisias is a skinny, twerpy little guy whose voice reminds me of the voice of a friend I have at home. At least when he sings live. As we walked into Discoveryland, two chicks in red shirts invited us to go and see him because he was performing for a select audience. We walked into a little underground venue where sure enough, he was singing. Shakira and I stayed for a few songs, listening to the shouts of love-struck teenagers and watching Enrique look each of them in the eye, inviting them backstage with his looks. It was really kind of fun to see him perform. I was extremely impressed with the hair of his backup singer, it was this wild crazy afro she had poofed out to match the hair of the bassist, who if I had to guess I would say she is fucking. During one song, Enrique shut up and allowed a guitar solo from his lead guitarist, a puny little white guy with long blond hair that hid a pale, shy face. It was perhaps my favorite part of the performance. We left after he invited a girl onstage to kiss her cheek. When we got outside and met the kids I took everyone to the Buzz Lightyear ride, and together we blasted aliens out of space for two minutes with out Lightyear blasters. I'm a truly sad marksman. I managed to have the worst score out of all of us. And afterwards, while the kids rode on a space-shuttle version of Dumbo the Flying Elephant, I went into a theater where I sat with Isaiah and watched re-runs of the original MickeyMouse show. I have to say, those writers were really strange fellows. And I will forever contend that children's shows were written not for children, but adults. The very first episode I watched (they only last around 7 minutes) was the one where Mickey and Pluto swallow bugspray and trip for 5 minutes. Bugs turn into gigantic crazy creatures that, in various other-worldly ways, try to kill them. Pumpkins grew and walked around, tree limbs attacked them, and caterpillars turned into snakes the size of houses. It was nutty.

By this time our day at EuroDisney was coming to a close quickly, and for one last ride I brought Kayla and Jazzy to Space Mountain to see if they were tall enough. Unfortunately, only Kayla was, and so I shared her first upside-down roller coaster experience with her. Luckily, it was in the dark, else I think she wouldn't have gone on. I forgot how friggin' cool Space Mountain is. We walked past images of constellations and galaxies before boarding our "ship" which blasted off in a hydraulic explosion which propelled us up, down, and around planets, stars, and galaxies which hung suspended from the inside of the mountain. We went through what looked like a red space vortex before finally "landing" back on Earth. Kayla couldn't stop talking about how awesome Space Mountain was, which made me immensely proud to have been the sugguester of said ride. We met up with the rest of our group, hopped on the EuroDisney train, and rode back to the entrance. Where we spent another hour souvenir shopping. I spent too much money. Who cares? When is the next time I'll be in EuroDisney?

I was loathe to leave the park, but my legs were tired and my soul at peace. When we got into the car, I feel asleep and slumbered like a baby until we got back to the hotel. If only I were a kid again and my dad could have carried me inside....
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby

Le Tour Eiffel

Finding the Eiffel Tower may have been the hardest thing in the world, but enjoying it? That was easy. Seeing the Eiffel Tower in person had the same effect on me as seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I didn't know how colossal of an impact it would have on my life until I actually did it. After we parked, we walked the streets of Paris just waiting for that one glimpse of the Tower that we needed to figure out in which direction to head. We turned a bend and there it was, lit up in the nighttime-a beacon to light our way. Dazed, I followed that beacon like a fly towards a lightbulb. And when I got close, the tower started to glitter. Glowing, sparkling, and dancing in my vision readers, was the Eiffel Tower. The honest-to-God Eiffel Tower. How unreal?

Of course we took a bajillion pictures. Thats what you go to the Eiffel Tower to do. Pictures offer proof and I sure as hell wanted to prove that I've been to the Eiffel Tower.

Before we went up the tower, we decided we wanted to go across the street for crepes and french fries. You need them when you're in France, right? I'm not joking even a little bit, the french fries were out of this world. They were perfect. There is no other way to explain it. Golden, crisp, ungreasy, and topped off with Heinz ketchup. Thank you, God. After we enjoyed the frenchiest of french foods, we bought our tickets and went up the tower.

It didn't matter that it was June. IT WAS FREEZING COLD. I'm talking biting cold that burns your ears here. I couldn't believe it was that cold during the middle of summer in Paris. It also didn't matter that it was cold. The top of the tower was spectacular. Being up there and seeing all of Paris laid bare before me made me seriously regret the little time I had there to discover it. If only I could explore every city I wanted the way I did in Florence. I stood on the platform and marveled at this metropolis. So many lives have spent themselves in this place, in love with it and all its treasures. And I was so sad that I may never know them all. I decided up there that I will make it to as many places across the world that I can. I'm gonna explore for the rest of my life. I can't imagine a life without traveling. Its a sorry existence for those who don't explore. I was loathe to leave, but we had literally stayed on the platform until the very last moments it remained opened. We rode a sideways elevator down to the bottom, realizing when we got there that we'd been up there until 1 a.m.

Being down at the bottom, looking up at this massive structure again, the light that guided me through the street of Paris, was quite the romantic moment for me. Sure, I wasn't there holding some boy's hand, but I was having a tender moment with the city of Paris. I could have stood there staring for the rest of that cold night, enduring the harsh winds, so long as that moment lasted. But, alas!, my duties as Aunt Gab called, and the little hands of my newphew Jazzy were wrapped around my neck while I carried him away. When we got back into the car, we drove over the Alexander bridge. This bridge was featured in on of the last episodes of the Sopranos, which I watched during some lonely moments in Florence. It struck me again where I was and how I got there. And I hereby vow that one day I will go back to Le Tour Eiffel and rekindle my love affair with Paris.

Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby

Boulevard Peripherique

Reunited, and it feels so good! I still can't believe how happy I am to be back amongst the members of my family. I was even happier when Shakira and my sister-in-law Nicole approached me with a proposal.

Paris? they asked. FUCK YES! was my reply.

And so off I went to Paris. Ramstein isn't that far from Paris, straight shot, so we decided to rent a car and drive there. I've gotta say, I'm pretty excellent with traveling. Planes? No problem. Trains? A synch. Driving? Well, normally I'm aces at directions. I memorize maps, I can retrace my steps, I've got a perfect record with MapQuest. Paris is the first time in my life where I've ever completely sucked at being the map. And I can tell you why. Boulevard Peripherique. What a shitty, shitty road.

I sat in the front, co-captain of the big metal ship we were driving through Paris, and I think I might be the worst direction giver in history. The directions led us on and off of Boulevard Peripherique a million times. We got lost a million times. We were in traffic that was truly worse than Manhattan traffic, driving in cicles around the city of lights. And none of us knew any French beyond Bonjour. Lets go toward the city center signs, Shakira suggested. But we didn't want to get any more lost. We waved down a bunch of cars, asking them to direct us towards the Eiffel Tower. We had alot of folks roll their windows up at us. We stopped and got directions from a few people. They explained that there wasn't any such thing as The Eiffel Tower. Were we looking for Le Tour Eiffel? Um, yes, we are. So we went in about a hundred differet directions. We saw the city center signs again and Shakira again recommended we take those roads, but felt like we were close. We didn't want to mess anything up. So we wound up staying in that car for about 2 and 1/2 hours more than we needed to be. The kids were pissed off in the back, we were confused and angry in the front. And Shakira kept on telling us to follow the city center signs. When we found ourselves again on Boulevard Peripherique, winding around the outside of the city, we lost it. And we followed Shakira's instructions.

Looming outside out windshield, hours later, was Le Tour Eiffel.

Nicole and I screamed. We were so excited we rolled down the windows and shouted about Le Tour Eiffel. We made it to Paris, Boulevard Peripherique be damned.
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Family Reunion

I was in Germany for a few days before Shakira triumphantly announced that my sister-in-law Nicole would be arriving the week after I left. Juuust my luck. I thought about changing my flight and staying in Germany. I'm was in sore need of family. As I've already mentioned, RyanAir sucks, and due to their suckiness they wouldn't allow me to switch the dates of my flight. So I just bought another round trip ticket and resolvd myself to spend a week back in Italy, agonizingly awaiting the flight from Treviso airport that would bring me back to my favorite country in Europe. The week passed painstakingly slow. I thought every day about how Nicole, my niece Kayla, and my nephews Jazzy and Isaiah were coming, how I'd hear they arrived in Germany and know they were closer than they'd been in 6 whole months and I still had to wait to see them.

The other passengers must have thought I was suffering from a crack addiction. I sat on that plane shifting in my seat. I was wringing my hands like a person in pain, shifting in my seat and looking all uncomfortale even though the flight was only an hour long. I was seconds away from digging trenches in my neck. I was simply that excited. Try to understand my position. I've been living in Italy for 6 months and haven't spoken to any of my family members save my parents, and I'm a girl whose number one priority is family. For the past month in Italy, I've been living with my Italian family. To be amongst a family is refreshing to someone whose lived in a young adult compound for so long, but at the same time it is a constant reminder of the one I've left at home. To sit on that plane and know that part of my own family was about to be reunited with me, something I'd been counting down the days for, was one of the most intensely emotional times of my life. I could picture my little buttheads (niece and nephews) seeing me walk through the terminal doors. They'd run up to me and jump into my arms; I'd cry. Then I'd hug my sister-in-law who'd faithfully reassure me that I don't look any fatter even though I know I've turned into a house. I couldn't wait. Literally. I had to have been freaking out the other passengers with my antsiness.

When the plane landed I was smiling. When I walked off the plane I was beaming. And when I walked through the terminal doors I could hardly contain myself. I looked around, anticipating the arms of my buttheads around my legs. I scanned the small crowd at Frankfurt Hahn. My smile slowly drooped off of my face. They werent there. Instantly, the anxiety started. It came on in waves, probably because I'd been so excited on the plane. I thought they forgot me. Maybe they just forgot I wasn't there. Maybe they knew and rethought visiting with me; maybe they didn't want me there. I resolved myself to sit and wait on the steps, hoping they were just late. I waited, and waited, and waited. I got a pretzel and waited some more. I didn't want to be the annoying person who called to check up and see where they were. I was afraid to call and remind them if they forgot. I was nervous, but after about 45 minutes of waiting I knew I couldn't sit on those stairs much longer. I went to the stupid airport payphones I've had trouble with before. After it ate 3 of my Euro I finally got through to Shakira's house. Heaing my sister-in-law's voice made me almost want to cry. She was sleeping, but the rest of them were supposed to have been there already, she said. And a few minutes later, they came.

I hugged my niece and nephew and kissed them on their little butt heads so hard I gave myself a fat lip. I cried. I've had some serious ups and some serious downs on this trip. The ups were realllllly far up there. But seeing my family... I haven't been happier yet.
Arrivederci, for now.

Monday, June 14, 2010

La Cena Sotto il Baldacchino di Natura

If there is one thing I am going to go home and remember about living with an Italian family for a month and half, its going to be dinnertime. I've worked myself into a routine here at my Italian family's home. I wake up around 10 a.m., take a shower, and read or write until 1:30. At 1:30 I go downstairs for lunch. By 2:30 we finish with lunch and I go back upstairs. Until around 5 or 6 p.m., I read, write, or paint. Then, I'll normally take a short drive with my Italian mother to run errands of some sort or another. By the time we get home, she busies herself with cooking dinner and I take up whatever activity I was doing before I left until 8:30. Then, its dinner time. And I enjoy that dinner time more than anything. We sit together until 10:30 and even 11 at night sometimes, talking and eating and enjoying the simplest, most peaceful of activites.

Every night I go downstairs and can expect to eat one of my Italian mother's heavenly creations. Some nights she makes homemade pesto, my single favorite Italian dish. Other nights she makes zucchini zeppoles. She makes barbeques on their homemade grill, she knows how to cook about 100 different pasta dishes, her vegetables are sometimes more delicious than the main course. I can't explain how excellent of a chef this woman is. If she came to America, she'd make billions. This is my every night. And every night she prepares a dinner table outside, underneath a canopy they'd been growing for years. The llimbs of this tree twist around and around overhead until they reach the side of the house. In the summer and fall, this tree flowers; delicate blues and whites blossom forth and grace the moonlight. I sit underneath this canopy of nature and enjoy the life I'm living. My little glass of wine is always full, my satisfied stomach groans with pleasure-for those two hours underneath that fabulous canopy I enjoy the company, my life, and myself.

I'm in my own world. I talk spend that time with my Italian family, but I'm always musing in my own head. I may not pray, but over dinner I certainly count my blessings. Of which there are quite a few. I think about the fact that I've been living in Italy, one of the most picturesque countries in the entire world. I think about how I was lucky enough to live with a family so wonderful and kind. I think about how amazing it was to have such fun in Florence. I think about how blessed I am to have traveled through five countries, and how blessed I am that I've got time to do more. All of these things occur to me underneath the canopy I love so much. And then I take another bite out of whatever my Italian mother has cooked up that night, and I count my blessings all over again.
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Kamikazee Italian mosquitoes are dive-bombing me in my sleep. They are everywhere. I wish I could say that the mosquitoes were biting me outside, but they find their ways indoors and they swarm me in there, too. And they're fucking eating my flesh. Just now I counted fifteen mosquito bites on the lower half of my body. There is nothing I hate more in the world than mosquito bites. Especially right now. I want to smash them all.

If I escape Europe West Nile free, Providence has deigned fit to bless me with a miracle.
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Fields of Elysium

Suffering behind the glass
With yearning
Burning in me to stretch my limbs
To span this range, this boundless stretch
Of green?

Shooting, sprouting, stemming ____
Green cell unseen by you or me
Breeds cultured rows
And wild tufts
And seeds to seek the perpetual sky.

Blocks that change in hue and tone
Of green
Or gold or brown or lavender,
Wrought by those cracked hands, of leather
Sown by greed.

These green Fields of Elysium,
Reserved only for those that see,
For those that live,
For those that die,
With hands outstretched toward green.


Italy is famous for its foods: cheeses, wines, pastas, pizzas. So is Germany: wurtzels, beers, pretzels, and CHOCOLATE! Some of the most accomplished chocolatetiers in the world who've made the most famous chocolate delicacies are from Germany. While in Germany for the second time, Shakira asked me if there was something specific I had in mind to during my week vacation from Italy. Truth be told, I didn't really want to do anything but enjoy the comforts of a friend and of a home so far away. I told her so, but she insisted that there must be something that I wanted to do while I was staying with her. So I thought about it. What did I want to be able to tell my family and friends about Germany when I return to America? Of course I want to tell them about the perfect meadows and fields, the hills and valleys where the green grass grew uninterrupted, where yellow and purple-flowering weeds sprung up without fear of being ripped away. Of course I want to talk about Beerfest and about the friendly people I met, and of course I want to explain how the German homes are the most charming, quaint little cabins in all of the world. But I realized that the best way to explain Germany would be to bring them back a little piece of it, and what better thing to bring from Germany than some famous German chocolate?

We researched. We found a chocolate factory with a tour, free samples, and a gift shop. They would even make you chocolate bars on request. We went there on the day before I left to go back to Italy-a chocoate icing on my German cake. And when we got there, we kind of laughed a little. The warehouse we showed up to was really rather small, the unguided "tour" was a brief walk past a few photographs whose descriptions were in German, and the factory itself was manned by three ladies who were bustling about in an effort to clean up before their shifts ended. I watched a ten minute film about chocolate production, purchased 65 euro cent chocolate bars as souvenirs for friends, and left the way I came. Turns out, the chocolate bars on request means you pick out an already formed chocolate bar which they melt and shape into a chocolate bar again with nuts in it or into little lollipops. The free sample were broken up pieces of a strange chocolate with rice puffs that the cashier took off the shelf. At least it tasted good.
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby

Monday, June 7, 2010

Over the Hill

I've only got 50 days left in Italy. My time here is totally Over The Hill. I can't even believe that time has run out so fast. I've been here for 132 days. I've lived one whole forever in a space of time condensed into 132 days. And my forever is almost at its end. Is it horrible to say that I'm kind of excited, readers?

I guess the general progression of my posts has reflected my homesickness. I've been feeling displaced, lonely, and uncomfortable. When the pace of the outrageously fun times I was having back home in Firenze started to diminish, so did the feeling that I was living in a dream. When I woke up and realized I was still 4,000 miles away from home in New Jersey, it was a little bit terrifying. Being 19, alone, and abroad is scary. And I'm an anxious person. So I reconciled myself with the fact that my family would be here in July. I thought that I could make it through one more month and a half without them, and then the time would start to fly. But the time has begun to pass by ever so slowly. Much slower than it ever passed in Florence, and truly there were times in Florence when I felt the days were creeping by. Time has drawn itself out so much that I feel like I can hear my fingernails growing. And while time passes by so slowly for me, I feel like everyone else is speeding through their lives the same way these Italians zip by in their Fiats.

Whats worse is that, can you believe it, I'm getting really sick of Italy. I'm over the pasta and pizza every day, I scoff at espresso because its the most unsatisfying coffee in the world, and I've discovered that I can't stand most of the people I meet. They've got their noses so far in the air that I want to get some fish hooks, stick em' through, and reel these snobs right back down to reality. The thing that makes me the most angry, though, is siesta. From around 1 in the afternoon until 4:30this country is a ghost town. Everything closes so the Italians can take a nap. Seriously? It seems really nice at first. To spend four hours midday napping seems kind of nice, right? The truth is that nothing gets done in this country because people spend too much time relaxing and not enough time working. I tried to adopt this when I moved from Florence to Pordenone. I tried to spend my days reading, writing, painting, and relaxing. After one week of doing nothing I found myself desperately searching for something to do. All I want is to go back to work at Barnes and Noble or be in school studying. Anything but sitting. Anything but siesta. I found out that Italian students go to school from 8 a.m. til 1 p.m. until high school ends and college students have the liesure to choose when they feel like going to class. Mostly all of them don't work. I went to school from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. every week, and sometimes on the weekends I went for all my clubs. I worked from 5 til 11 at night, and 8 hours shifts Saturday and Sunday. I never missed an honor roll and I managed even to have free time for friends and reading. I'm loosing my mind with all of the nothing!

I think about it often. I'm living the dream. I'm experiencing another country, bravely facing this world on my own, and traveling to other countries besides. What kind of spoiled, stuck up brat must I be if I'm not appreciating and making the most of every minute? Who am I to be so judgemental? I've been living the dream for too long, I guess. With only 50 days left here in Italy I find that I have never been more excited to get the fuck back home.
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cheese Its and Dr. Pepper

I haven't been to every country in Europe yet, but I'm pretty sure that I like Germany and its natives the best. Maybe it was because they were all so friendly during Beerfest and maybe its because I thought the countryside was stunningly beautiful, but I've dreamt of Germany since I left there in April. Luckily for me, my sister-in-law Nicole and I share a close bond in sisterhood and friendship; she told me that if I wanted to I should go and visit her sister who was stationed on an airforce base in Germany. I'd met her sister a bunch of times before and thought she was just as fun and wonderful a person as Nicole. Nicole and I are two of the biggest goofballs together and the prospect of letting out the GoofTroop inside me was tempting. I thought to myself: you're gonna be in Europe on your own til July when your parents get here. Why not see a friendly face, get out of Italy, and visit Germany and piece of America at the same time? So I contacted Shakira and she was more than happy to have me come and visit. I booked a flight on RyanAir (worst European airline. EasyJet is just as cheap and way less annoying) and flew into Frankfurt-Hahn, where Shakira met me with a gigantic hug. I can't explain the feeling I had when I saw her. The first familiar American face I'd seen in all of five months made the strings of my heart that are connected to home tug in a ferocious way. She brought her one year old daughter Anaiya and I can't explain how cute she is. Shes got these little balls of poofy black hair that stick up on her head and bobble when she runs; her little smiley face made me want to cry with happiness.

We joked and laughed in the car the entire ride home. After nearly a month of total submersion into an Italian family, speaking plain English with someone felt much the same as drinking a glass of ice cold water after running in 100 degree weather for an hour. It was nighttime by the time we made it to the Ramstein airforce base. She took me into the Shopette so I could buy a few things for myself. I had my first real wave of culture shock. Not only was I suprised at how strangely long the American dollar bills are, I was overwhelmed by the vast selection of items the Shopette had for sale, and the Shopette is a military convenience store about the size of a 7-11. I stood staring at all the food while Shakira urged me to pick some things for myself. I just couldn't, though. I had to walk down every single aisle and look at every single item on sale before I could choose anything, and I completely forgot to buy the neccesaries I'd been denied by RyanAir, i.e. soap, contact solution, and disposable razors.

I chose my favorite snack in the entire world: Cheese Its. I also bought myself my first soda since I've been in Europe, a Dr. Pepper. I normally don't drink soda but Dr. Pepper is liquid candy and I love it. Being in that Shopette, completely indecisive and unable to purchase more than two things for myself because I was so overwhelmed, made me 100% certain that I will suffer culture shock full force back in America. I don't want my time here in Europe to end, but I sure can't wait for Walmart.
Arrivederci, for now.
Love, Gabby.