Malta

I chose to go to the country of Malta with a few good friends of mine as my first international trip since arriving in Italy. We took the late night train into Rome and then waited around for our flight that was leaving early the next day. The flight itself wasn’t too long as Malta is a quick hop from the island of Sicily anyway. When we arrived we were picked up by our British Air BNB host and he drove us to our apartment we would be staying in for the weekend. It was a nice apartment, close to a little breakfast place where we went to the next day.

Highlights of the trip include seeing the capitol, going on a cruise to a hidden bay, and exploring the beach side. My favorite thing would have to be the cruise as it was such a sunny day. It took us to a smaller island and we swam in incredibly blue water. It was awesome!

Rome

Another city I had the pleasure of visiting was Rome with the full class. It was about a 3 hours commute from Arezzo so naturally when I got there I was very hungry. I went with some friends of mine to get a sandwich and then we caught back up with the main group. We got to walk by some incredible fountains on the way to our first of a few destinations.

The coliseum was of course a stop for us while we were in the city. The only thing is that we were not able to get into it! It was a very busy day that day and the staff would not be able to handle a group as large as ours and so we decided to leave as opposed to leaving some of our members out.

We then went to the old forum which used to be considered the true center of the empire. Every city in the empire was measured from that central point using a soldier’s stride as a unit of measurement. It was impressive to behold to say the least as it was a wide expanse in a crowded city.

Finally, the last thing we say as a full group was the famed pantheon. It was the largest semi dome structure at the time of antiquity and still has the open ceiling today. We had to leave shortly after because they a pray service was starting but we still got a good look at the inside.

I went with a friend of mine to the Trevi fountain and it was gorgeous. We threw some coins in and then went back to the station to get back to Arezzo!

Naples and Pompeii

The first thing I need to say about Naples is that it is a crazy town. The reason I say this is because the Napoli residents do not have a tendency to obey the traffic laws.  So when I leave the central train station and start crossing the streets, I feel like I’m taking my life into my own hands.  My Air BNB wasn’t too far away so I was able to get off the streets pretty quickly.

While I was in Naples, I knew I wanted to do two things: have pizza and visit the close-by city of Pompeii. Through some online research I’d learned that a lot of the artifacts from the city had been moved to museums in Naples. So I went to the biggest one.

The museum was having a music festival of sorts at the time so the lower floors were quite crowded while the upper floors were not. There were beautiful mosaics and sculptures from the Roman times and I really got a kick out of them.

The next day I went to the city of Pompeii. It took about 40 minutes by train but the time flew right by.  The local station was quite a walk from the actual historical area but I managed to find it okay. I must say I was very impressed with the city. After paying admission, I was allowed to walk through it and go into most of the shells of the buildings. I heard a nearby tour guide tell his group that the most dangerous part of the city was at the intersection of the two main roads because of the rain. Apparently, since the old city had no drainage system, all the water went into the roads and down the hills. Any unsuspecting tourist might get sucked away (which would be scary).

At the end of the day I came back and had pizza at a restaurant near my Air BNB. It was very thin with a lot of seafood. It was unusual but I really enjoyed it!

Verona

I enjoyed Verona very much. The first day was a slow day for when I got in and as a result I did not leave the hotel very much. I bought some snacks for dinner and I watched The Social Network starring Jesse Eisenberg as the then college student, Mark Zuckerberg. It was a good movie and I fell asleep shortly afterward.

The next day I got up and enjoyed the hotel breakfast. I had some cereal and toast. When I left it was a beautiful day with a light breeze. I decided that I wanted to see Juliet’s tomb which was only a few miles away so I began walking there. On the way I saw what I took to be the Coliseum, but then I remembered that the Coliseum couldn’t possibly be here as it was in Rome! I remembered what my parents had said about Verona having an arena worth visiting so I paid the 10 euro admission and went inside. I found it to be  truly gorgeous! I got to walk all the way around the sides and even in the very center on the floor. It was awesome when I saw that someone had previously written “OUA” in the dirt of the arena floor. To my knowledge, no one else had visited Verona this semester so it may have been around last semester. Crazy.

I then went to Juliet’s tomb. I got lost initially but I found it just the same. It was organized as a Shakespeare/fresco museum and it had some nice qualities to it. The fresco’s were nice but I got chills when I saw Juliet’s supposed tomb. There was so much history in that room room and it was just astounding. Truly incredible.

I then woke up early the next day to catch the outbound train. Off to my next city.

Torino

For my first city on my Italian spring break, I visited the great city of Turin! I arrived by train about 2:00 pm on Friday and made it to my Air BNB which was only about 10 or so minutes from the station. I settled in and then I headed off to explore the city.  My first stop was a gelato place and then the cinema museum. Unfortunately,  the cinema museum was quite crowded and I couldn’t get in so I decided to go to the Automobile museum instead. It was a long walk but it was worth it! I really appreciated their use of space and in the end I picked up a t shirt. Then it was back to the BNB with a quick stop for dinner on the way back.

The next day I got up early and headed down to the Egyptian Museum (the best collection of Egyptian artifacts in the entire world). It was busy but I got to see some truly amazing sites like the a mummified man from before the time of the Pharaohs and  a statue of Ramses II. I would have gotten a shirt but at 23 euros ($28), it was a bit too rich for my blood. I then went to the cinema museum late in the evening. The museum is built right inside the Mole Antonelliana which at one point was the tallest brick structure in the world. I was able to go to the top of it so I went ahead and did that. I was absolutely blown away. The sight of the city at night was truly beautiful. I went back down the elevator and explored the rest of the museum. It mostly emphasized the early history of moving pictures and then it transitioned into the influence of music in movies across the 1900’s and early 2000’s. I then went back to the BNB and had pasta and tomato sauce.

My final day was a rainy one and I spent the some of it exploring the inner city with the rest of it being a sleepy recovery day. I bade my goodbyes the day after and onward I went. Next stop: Verona.

Padova/Venice

One of the lovely Venetian canals

Recently , the bulk of OUA students went on an exiting trip to Padova and then Venice! We got up early in the morning in order to make it down to the train station by 7:20 and thankfully, we all made it. The train ride took a few hours. We passed the time primarily by sleeping and gazing outside at the beautiful Italian landscape. When we arrived in Padova, we went to the beautiful Scrovegni chapel which was painted by Giotto, the early Renaissance artist. Kirk was quite passionate as he described how much of an impact Giotto had had on the art movement of the time as he broke away from the traditional gothic style of heavy symbolism and limited sentimental appeal. Throughout his paintings, the people are often engaged in actions and expressing emotion that really helps connect them to the viewer and help them understand what is happening in the scenes.

At this point in time we broke for lunch. I went to a lovely pizza place with a group and then some fine Italian shopping. I just picked up a burgundy hoodie but there were definitely a lot of sales to be had with some items being a full 70% off! We then rejoined the group and we all went to the local university where Galileo taught and many advances in medicine were made. Our tour guide spoke good English and like Kirk, spoke with passion about the importance of her surroundings. The anatomical theater was easily my favorite as it had been persevered very well since the late 1800s when it ceased to be used. At around 7:00 or so we had a lovely dinner at a local restaurant. A funny incident occurred as some students at my table attempted to send a bottle of red wine as a gift to Kirk’s table and he sent it back to our table. We then had the bottle ourselves. Quite funny indeed!

Look at those crowds!

Next was Venice! We all broke up into smaller groups and took the one-hour train trip to Venice. I was awestruck when I had first left the station as it was so full and bustling with Carnevale life. My group walked towards the Piazza San Marco and on the way, we picked up some delightful masks. I was the only one to go with the full mask (which was a bit pricier) but in my defense, it looked freakin’ cool. We had lunch at a lovely outdoor café where we had meat lasagna and pizza whilst overlooking one of the many canals. Piazza San Marco was crowded but it was still enjoyable to see how many thousands of people could fit in one small place. At this point our group split into two smaller groups and mine managed to visit the basilica and do some more exploring away from the crowds. We then took the 6:25 back to Arezzo and after posting to Instagram about my adventures, I went to sleep (albeit at midnight).

Thomas and I in our new carnevale masks (I’m on the right)

Welcome to Arezzo!

I have been in Arezzo for a few weeks now and I thought that now would be an opportune time to write a blog post about my experiences so far!

I came into the airport the day before the official entrance date so I stayed in a little BNB for the night. I was exhausted from the plae ride so I slept and regained energy for the next day. It was nice to see everyone when they came in as I knew I would be getting to know them all a lot better as time went on. After some quick pictures at the airport, we were on our way.

It was a 3 hour bus ride so it was another opportunity to get some sleep. The beautiful Tuscan landscape was breathtaking, but again, sleep was still a pretty big priority. When we arrived we were given our room assignments and everyone seemed to be pretty pleased with who they would be sleeping with. Then orientation week followed and that also went pretty well in my opinion. The classes I am taking are Art History, Modern Europe, Political Islam, and Italian 1. I have a lot of reading to do but I don’t mind too much!

I was not sure at first as to what this blog should be primarily about but I think food should be given a priority as it can be just so gosh darn delicious.

A cheap meal form Masterchip that consists of fries with sauce and a big skewer for stabbing. The sauce is barbecue in this picture.
Literally the best gelato in Italy (according to the shop in San Gimignano).

Of course I feel the need to insert pictures of me in here as well so everyone knows I still look good. I expect I’ll be posting fairly regularly so all the good food can have a chance in the limelight.

A rainy day in Siena

Climate Summit in France, U.S. Snubbed

On December 14, President Macron had a meeting in France which many world leaders were in invited to attend. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss overall climate policy and the decision by the United States to pull out of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Despite the fact that President Trump has stated he is in favor of renegotiating the deal, he was not invited to attend.

When the United States chose to pull out of the Paris Climate agreement earlier this year, it joined Nigeria and Syria as countries that did not agree to the deals terms. Since that time, both of the other countries have joined, leaving the United States on its own. It would seem that in President Trump’s efforts to weaken the international deal, he is strengthened it. There are many states and cities within the U.S. that have said that they will attempt to cut as much carbon dioxide emissions as the U.S. was supposed to have done.

Trump not being invited to the talks is not surprising but it is something that should be noticed. The U.S. was not invited to a major talk with much of the world and that weakens the U.S. on the world stage when it comes to how much impact it will have on events. In my opinion this trend of being snubbed will probably continue as long as Donald Trump continues to be our president. There is a good chance he will not be invited to many things including the wedding of British Royalty in May of next year. Funnily, former President Barack Obama may receive an invitation.

Russia Barred from 2018 Olympics

Recently, the IOC has announced a complete ban of Russia participating in the 2018 Pyeongchang  Winter Games. This means that Russian officials are forbidden to attend, its anthem will not be played, and its flag will not be allowed to be present at the competition. If the athletes compete, they will have to compete as individuals. They can win medals but none for Russia.

This ban is the result of a years long investigation into the extent of Russian doping.  It appears that 1/3 of the Russians who won medals in 2014 were involved in the scandal. The doping was hidden for so long as the urine samples of the athletes were doctored and replaced by members of the Russian sports ministry and medical staff operating on their behalf. This swapping out of samples was effective as genuine samples had been taken from the athletes prior to them taking drugs.  It was legitimately their urine, just from an earlier time. This was done in utmost secrecy and with the approval of the Russian state.

Russia entering the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver

I believe that this is fascinating as this is the largest penalty ever imposed on a participating country by the Olympic committee. This can be seen  by the world as a serious effort to reduce the amount of doping that is done in the events. I am confident that if the penalty were lighter, the Russians would likely continue with their abuses of the games as early as 2020, along with several other countries. If the IOC can be seen to have teeth, it may discourage others from following in Russia’s footsteps.

It is likely that I will watch the competition when I am abroad in Italy. With Russia out of the picture, countries like the U.S., Canada, South Korea, Japan, and those around the Baltic Sea will likely pick up quite a few more medals.

Latinist Lunch with Dr. Paulo Moreira

Yesterday, I had the great opportunity to attend one of the Latinist lunches that are held often in Farzaneh Hall.  This one ran from 12:00pm – 1:15pm and it was entitled “Compulsive Memory: Contemporary Brazilian Cinema and the Military Dictatorship” and the talk was given by OU’s first full-time Portuguese instructor, Dr. Paulo Moreira.

This was taken during the lunch. Dr. Moreira can be seen in blue, leaning over to have a conversation with the lady to his left.

The talk centered around the genre of the Brazilian Dictatorship films (of which there are over 40 such movies) but it especially highlighted “4 Days in September” which is loosely based  off of a novel that describes the kidnapping of the American ambassador to Brazil. The ambassador is kidnapped by student revolutionaries who are protesting the recent government takeover by the military. Their plan was to exchange the ambassador with leftist political prisoners.

The movie has encountered some criticism as it is not as historically accurate as one would hope. There were some cases with the characters being the combination of several real people and another where a real women was split into two separate characters. One can imagine why this would cause outcry. The film also tried to humanize both sides of the conflict including the state torturers which really made some people who lost family under the regime quite upset.

However, it has been accepted that this is an important film genre for Brazil to have as it forces them to talk about horrible events that some had hoped would be forgotten. This phase in entertainment has been a catharsis for the people of Brazil who were around during that time and it has gotten young people more involved in Brazilian history.

Overall, I enjoyed the talk and the sandwiches were delightful as well!