Category Archives: Italy

Parents Abroad

Pete and I have been back for nearly 4 full months! We’ve had plenty going on in these last four months, however, I haven’t seemed to be as interested in blogging.

The biggest news around here is that Pete found a job a few weeks ago. He’s working at a digital marketing company called White Label Marketing. It’s just minutes (walking) from where we used to live in Salt Lake City! It’s a great location, one I’m jealous of. There’s just something great about downtown. Pete is a copywriter there. The two other copywriters are either leaving soon or have already left, so as of this Friday, he’ll be their only copywriter. He likes that it keeps him busy, and that it’s a challenge. It’s writing with a plan; so there is more to it than simply writing something interesting. From what he’s said, he gets along with the rest of the employees there; overall, they’re around the same age as Pete, which is nice. It is so great to have Pete working again. The time with him working freelance was great, but I think the structure of a job is good for him.

On another note, my parents left for Italy yesterday morning! We were so happy to see them off, and I couldn’t be a prouder daughter. After my many trips abroad, they have finally taken the plunge and will be in Italy for two and a half weeks! They flew into Rome, and then are driving from Rome to Florence, the Cinque Terra, and Venice. They are going to see it all! I’m a bit terrified for them, simply because I remember all too well how stressful travelling can be, but I think that the two and a half weeks will be perfect for them. My mom has done an amazing job at planning the entire trip, and I think they will be forever changed. Once the travel bug bites, it’s sure hard to stifle! Pete and I reminded them that this is not a vacation, it’s an adventure. Don’t plan on being relaxed–that’s not likely.

Usually I’m the one leaving! It was weird going to the airport, early in the morning, and then being the one driving back home.

In the meantime, Pete and I are hanging out with Carly and Ellie (my little 12 year old sister and our dog). It’s a blast to hang out with Carly! She and I haven’t spent much time in the same house–I moved out when she was 3 and have only spent one summer living here since. She is a hoot. We can’t wait to make her branch out with eating. So far, we’ve already got her to eat beefalo burgers. Which she loved!

And, I’ve been in charge of cleaning out my stuff that’s in the basement. I found a million pictures of me during my travels in Russia and Ukraine (before I had a digital camera) and have been scanning them into the computer. It’s been years since I’ve seen a lot of the pictures (and luckily, I put post it notes on the backs of pictures with students’ names. I had no idea what some of their names were). What good memories.

A few of the girls from my Russia 2004 group

Girls in my oldest group who I taught at an all-girls’ school in Boyarka, Ukraine. 2006

My bathroom in the apartment I shared with another teacher who was Ukrainian. 2006

Amazing cafe in L’viv, Ukraine. 2006

A few of my younger students. Voronezh, Russia, 2004.

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Filed under Italy, Places, Teaching, Travel

Italia Part II: Trains, Rome, and Venice

Because we had to leave the farm earlier than planned, we had a lot of extra time before we wanted to get to Budapest. We decided to go to Rome for a bit and then on to Venice (with a possible stop in Florence). Exciting, right!? Well, we bought train tickets to Rome (a three hour ride). Italy is gorgeous. I sure do love train rides with beautiful scenery! Here are some things we saw on our way to Rome:

We got to Rome in the early evening. We hadn’t been able to figure out a hostel before leaving the farm, so we went to this tourist info place at the train station. The man there told us that he could find a place for 70 Euro ($100!!!). Uh, no way were we going to pay that. We said that we would try to wander the city and find our own housing. The tourist guy said that there was a huge tennis competition, so nearly all of the hotels and hostels were full. We still wanted to give it a shot, so we still went out and looked. He was right, sadly. We couldn’t find any free hotels. Rather than pay $100 for a room, we went to an internet cafe (no wifi in Rome, weird!) and looked at train tickets (the ticket line at the train station was soooo long). Our goal was to get out of Italy. It was clear that Italy is too expensive for us. Someday, we’ll go back to Western Europe, but until then, Eastern Europe is more affordable and just as awesome. After some frustrating searches, we figured out it would be better to take a morning train to Venice, spend the day in Venice and then take a night train to Budapest (Budapest is a huge transportation hub, randomly). After Budapest, we wanted to go to Romania and around Lake Balaton in Hungary.

As for housing in Rome, we decided to hang out at the train station till it closed and then wander around the city for the rest of the night. While hanging out at the train station, the guy who had talked to us about housing brought by another girl who was spending the night in Rome. He wanted to see if we wanted to split the room three ways, but it wasn’t good enough of a deal for us, so we said we’d have to pass. The girl had to catch a bus at 4 am to the airport, so she chatted with us for a bit and then went to find dinner. A few hours later, she came back to hang out with us. Her name is Brittany and she was from Canada. She stayed with us the rest of the night. She was such a cool girl and it was great to hang out with her! I think she was relieved that she wasn’t spending the night out in Rome by herself.

After the train station closed at 1 am, we went to find some food. We found a gyros place that was open till 2. The food was amazing and pretty affordable! We also bought a 2 liter bottle of Coke a Cola (to help to stay awake). While we had been wandering the city earlier in the day, we had seen this cool fountain. The three of us decided to go back there and sit on the steps. Once we got there, we found an outside cafe that was closed but their tables and chairs were still out. So, we got comfortable and kept talking. Rome is beautiful, but we felt it was appropriate to save all of the photo ops for when we could actually visit Rome. We did, however, take one picture during our night in Rome:

At 4 am, Brittany left for the bus. Not much later, this 30 year old guy from New York came up and started talking to us. He said he was “kinda intoxicated, which is why I’m babbling.” He talked to us for an hour or so. Mostly him talking about how intense life is working on Wall Street. He came to Rome for a week by himself. In his few days he’d been in Rome, he’d done all kinds of crazy things like going to a rave and taking some drug he didn’t know, bar hopping, buying beer for some teenagers so they’d hang out with him, etc. I dare say, I was not jealous of his trip! Finally, he left to go to sleep.

Time passed fairly quickly, and the next thing we knew, the sun was coming up! We headed over to the train station around 7 to go to the travel agency to buy our train tickets. We got on a train to Venice and tried to sleep in the seats. It didn’t really work, but that’s ok.

We got to Venice and had 4 hours to spend! We checked our huge bags at the train station (so worth the $6) and wandered around the city. Venice was a great little city. I would say that a day is all you really need there.

A sweet band from Spain played in the streets. They had so much energy!

We both look really tired in this pic, but keep in mind, we hadn’t slept the night before. We were getting really excited for our overnight train with a bed. 🙂

A guy from our old ward in Salt Lake gave us a cool sticker to put up while travelling. I think we found the perfect place. These two guys will make great friends!

Thanks for reading! Next up is Hungary…. as backpackers, before the internship/working.

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Filed under Italy, Photography, Places, Plans, This should not be funny

Italia Part I: A Week on an “Organic” “Farm”

Have you ever heard of Workaway? It’s this great site that connects you with people who need help at their place of business (mostly farms, hostels, and touristy places). You can go work for them for 25ish hours per week and in return, they’ll provide food and housing. Sweet deal, right? You get an essentially free experience and at the same time, you get exposure to culture and a new way of life. Pete and I signed up for a workaway experience in Abruzzo, Italy at a little organic farm. We didn’t know much about the farm other than they had bees, some animals, and that they are also a guesthouse where people can stay for a relaxing break in the national park. We committed to 2 weeks, but were open to staying up to 3 weeks (if we liked it).

After taking an overnight ferry from Greece, we arrived in Italy and took a couple trains to the city of Torre d’Passerie. Elida, one of the farm owners, picked us up. Elida was very sweet and spoke English quite well. We drove 16 km to the farm. The drive was beautiful! Rolling hills dotted with farms and small cities, huge mountains in the background, and everything was very green. At this point, she told us that Torre d’Passerie was the closest town. I was a little worried because that meant we were realllllly far from any sort of store or city. I am not particularly fond of being so disconnected. But, the scenery was beautiful and there was not turning back.

We arrived at the farm and met Marino. Marino was a lot older than I expected! He was in his late 60s. Elida was probably 50 or so. They are married and lived in the main house:

Here are some other pics of the farm:

Incredible, right!? I could never get used to a view so beautiful.

We got settled into a very cute little room and then went back to the main house for dinner. Incredible pasta! It is so simple and minimal sauce. I feel like the US puts a ton more sauce than necessary. We got to know Elida and Marino a little better. They were very nice and easy to talk to.

The next morning, we slept in a little bit because we didn’t sleep at all on the overnight ferry. We had bread (that must have been really “healthy” because it was super stale and hard) and jam for breakfast. They offered us tea for breakfast, but I didn’t like any of their teas, so I just said I preferred cold water. Marino thought this was crazy because they never have cold drinks in the morning. I explained that we always have cold drinks in the morning (juice, milk, etc). He never really accepted this idea of having cold drinks in the morning. Every morning, we had this for breakfast.

Workaway is a little awkward because you’re working for these people you don’t know and you have no idea what’s expected. Starting new jobs is a lot easier because there is at least some expectation and explanation of what’s going on. We never really knew what was going on on the farm, but hey, we don’t speak Italian and things never completely make sense in foreign countries.

On that first day, he had us move some firewood from behind one house to the side of the main house. He told us to go “slow, slow” and “take it easy.” So we did. Marino had to lay down because his back was hurting, so we took an hour to make 3 small trips. At one point, we sat down to “rest” and stay out of the sun. Suddenly, Marino came out and was all weird about us sitting down and he rushed us to finish the job. It was so strange because we never knew what he expected.

Then I trimmed some vines that went on to the sidewalk while Pete raked some leaves. Then it was time for lunch. Meals are so.dang.long. in Italy! Like at least an hour and a half!

We didn’t really work more the rest of the day. We had an amazing dinner with some guests (Marino’s son, the son’s wife, and their two friends). Dinner with Italians is hilarious. They would be yelling at each other intensely for the entire time! I loved it. Having the four new people was a blast. A day or so later, an Australian guy came (he was born in Italy and moved to Australia at 2 years). It was great to speak English with a native speaker.

One day, we were told that dinner would be very special. It was going to be a very nice fish soup. The two chefs were going to come and make the dinner especially for everyone there. I got nervous. I don’t like fish. But, the night before, they served two fish dishes and they were incredible, so I tried not to be too worried. And Pete said that he’d had fish soup in Hungary and it’s no big deal.

Well. The chefs came and I had to run into the kitchen for a bit (they had another bigger kitchen in the other building). I checked on the cooking. Shoot–the stuff they were cooking was crazy! I was so, so, so scared. And Pete was scared too, which made me even more nervous if Pete’s not excited about what they’re cooking! My main concern was the fact that we had no access to another store to get back-up food. This fish soup was my only option for dinner. If I didn’t eat it, I’d have to go hungry till the morning! They brought out the soup:

Everyone clapped and dug in. I was sitting by the Australian and Marino’s daughter (who is so incredibly nice). Pete and I explained that we are from the desert, so they don’t have food even close to this. And then we looked at each other, and then looked at everyone else and said, “What do we do?” And they helped us “choose” which pieces to eat. They also laughed when we asked how to eat certain things. I don’t know how to eat muscles or scampi! But I did! We both did! Pete and I both ate everything they gave us. And guess what? It was delicious! Absolutely amazing! The sauce had a great kick and everything was perfect. Honestly, I would eat anything an Italian makes. I trust them completely.

The night was a ton of fun. A lot of yelling, joking and stories. None of which we understood. But it’s still a lot of fun to watch people. Here’s one side of the table. Marino and Elida are on the far right. The guy leaning forward was one of the cooks and the man on the far left was one of the guests (friends of Marino’s son). He (the man on the left) was hilarious and had one of the most classic Italian voices!

More of the table. I never got a pic of Marino’s daughter, the Australian, or Marino’s daughter-in-law. Oh well.

One morning, we woke up to the most incredible fog! I don’t have much experience with fog, so this made me very excited. Because everything was really wet, we couldn’t work (no working when things are wet or when it’s raining). I was able to get some great pictures of the fog. I don’t think they capture how thick it was, but that’s ok.

One day, Marino let us go on a walk around the area. What a beautiful part of the world!

Geez, I feel like this post is getting crazy long (A+ to those who are actually reading all of this!). There is so much more to say. But I’ll just end the story now and hope that Pete comes up with a better post about what really happened during our stay on this farm. We ended up only staying for one week because Marino had back problems and couldn’t show us how to do the things we needed to do. I’ll leave you with a list of the kind of ridiculous moments that occurred during that week:

– We spent about 3 days cutting up branches from trees that had been cut down. We bundled them up and set them aside. These branches were cut up for the specific purpose of using them to cook the pizzas.

– It took 3 people to mow the lawn (Pete doing the mowing and Marino and the Australian to “supervise”). It was a normal lawn mower and Pete knows how to mow a lawn.

– We had to clean out the grossest chicken coop ever. 3″ of poop.

– Marino loved to tell us to do things slowly, but then he’d expect things to be done faster. We could never figure out how to read him.

– Their internet was connected to their phone so we could only use it at night. I had to have internet because I’m in online classes. They got a little internet stick thing (kind of like a pay as you go flash drive). We used it one night and they said we had used too much. On the day that they told us that we needed to go early because of Marino’s back, we asked to use the internet to find a place to stay in Rome. Elida told us we could use the internet, but not as much as the night before. So we never did find housing in Rome (story to come later).

– They used to have bees, but they all died. We never got to work with the bees. That was the part Pete was most excited about. Bummer.

Anyway, I think that’s good for now! Next up will be (if Pete doesn’t do a more detailed post about the funny things on the farm) Rome and Venice and how Italy is way to expensive for us.

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Filed under Culture, Food, Italy, Photography, Places