just (rome)ing around

ROME!!! Our final destination before we leave Italy :(

For our first day in Rome, we saw quite a bit. Professor Duclaux took us to a few churches, the Trevi Fountain, the Forum and the Colosseum.
The Trevi Fountain was much larger than what I had expected from pictures. I remember clutching my purse the entire time because of the massive amount of people and the many warnings we had been given about pick-pocketing in Rome. The fountain was magnificent, with elegantly detailed and life-like statues gracing the white rocks above crystal blue water. I found it rather funny that you could actually drink the water if you so desired. I decided I didn’t want to fight the crowd to get in a position close enough to drink it.

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I think my favorite part of today was The Forum. We all sat together in the middle of the Forum as Professor Duclaux described the history of the destruction around us. He explained everything in such a fascinating and engaging way that even the random people around him stopped to listen. I watched a mom motion for her family to stay and listen because although the scenery is amazing to behold, it is even more incredible when you understand the story behind it.

I really enjoyed sitting and taking in the beauty of the destroyed architecture around us and picturing what it must have looked like in its original form. I truly cannot imagine living in that time period and being apart of a culture that is so different than my own.

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After the forum, we headed for the highly anticipated colosseum. My favorite book takes place during the Roman Empire when Christians were sent to the arena for refusing to bow down and proclaim the emperor as all-powerful. The book is about a Christian martyr who is so dedicated to the Lord that she lays down her life to proclaim the truth. I was overwhelmed and awe-struck to be in the exact place where thousands of Christians sacrificed their lives for the Savior of the world. It made examine my own faith and think about how I would respond if faced with the decision to denounce the Lord and live or speak the truth and be ruthlessly slaughtered for all to see.

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Today, I realized how selfish I am. I think it would honestly be a hard decision for me if faced with that choice. I know my life is pointless and has no purpose if I am not following in the path the Lord has set for me. But, sometimes I really struggle with understanding what that path is and if I am even on it. I have a lot of doubts and there is so much about this life that I love. It is so hard to not get comfortable and to be open to wherever the Lord takes you when you are encouraged to make plans and declare a major right after high school. I have to constantly remind myself that I am not here for myself but that I am here to serve and love others. I have to consciously think about the things I am prioritizing in my life and if they have become an unhealthy idol. Even my friends can become major distractions and I find myself more upset when distanced from them than when their is distance in my relationship with my heavenly Father. I am thankful for the truth I am seeing on this trip and the growth taking place in my spiritual life. I am feeling a new passion for Him being reignited and that is not something I had thought would happen. What a sweet surprise.

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Working away the day!

June 21st: Since we finished our project at the hospital this morning we went to a local park to just clean it up a little bit! We did not know what we got ourselves into! Our jobs were to clean vines off of rock walls, clean a pond area, and to pick up trash. There was a lot of vines.. A LOT. We were scheduled to be at the sight from 11-4. But we finished at 12:30! Seriously these people are some of the hardest working people that I have ever met. We had time to even go into a Cathedral that was built in the 800’s. These buildings overwhelm me. There is history EVERYWHERE. The house I grew up in was built in 1910, and I thought that was really old. Some of these plac s were built before Christ. Can you imagine if the walls could talk? The stories they would tell? I love thinking about who all has been through the doors, and the lives that have been changed in these churches.

After some food, and showers my roommate and best friend made the journey to the OUA monastery to do laundry! While the laundry was being eased we sat on the terrace and watched the sunset as we blogged, talked, and watched movies. One mini photoshop later I now have multiple ways to remember these happy moments. I know that I keep saying this, but these people are freaking awesome. They have done so much for the community of Arezzo, and for ourselves. I am happy to wake up early to see my friends, and I am so glad that this trip has brought us so much closer. Thanks Italia, I truly thank you.

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Goodbye Roma!

Today was the last day that we were going to be in Rome. We started the day with a meeting with the International Organization of Migrants. This was the most interesting by far. We learned that this week at least 3000 migrants had come to Italian shores and about 800-900 had died. All the facts and information that he gave was so interesting. I didn’t know that there was a higher person involved moving the migrants across the Mediterranean. They don’t really care whether or not of the well-beings of the migrants. The smugglers in fact will only put enough gas to get the boat half way or give the migrants life jackets that the stuffing has been replaced. The meeting was very eye open to me about all the immigration issues that are occurring right before my eyes. It’s pretty cool to be in Italy as it one of the main countries that migrants are coming to from Africa, the Middle East, and other areas.

Later in the day, we had our last class with Dr. Cruise. She asked us if we were changed from our experience on this trip. Personally, this trip has been so eye opening to not only the Italian and European culture, but also of the American culture. This trip was very introspective as I learned that the United States is more influential than I had thought. Every Italian and meeting that we went mentioned the election and Donald Trump. One in particular struck me the most. I was getting a sandwich at this small place when this Italian man began to talk to me. In our discussion, he asked me about if I was going to vote for Hilary or Trump. He then even mentioned that he was scared of the things that can occurred if Trump is elected president.  It is kind of sad to me that us, Americans, do not pay attention to world politics and are ignorant about other countries, when probably know our own country better than us.

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Shhh It’s the Mafia

Day 14- Rome

Today was a busy day as we had two meetings to attend. The first one that we went to was to meet members of the Five Star Movement. The Five Star Movement is not a political party, even though they are involved with Italian politics. They are rather a movement because they are the ones that are voicing the people’s opinions and thoughts in parliament, neither right-winged or left-winged. Members of the Five Star Movement vote on what is right to progress forward and actually make a change in society. I like how members in the Five Star Movement that are in office in the local, national, and the EU government do not do their job for the money, but rather to make a difference and for the people. They also have a high standard of code of honor. If one of their members are going against what the Five Star Movement stands for, he or she will be asked to step down and leave. It is because the Italian government is so corrupted and nothing gets done due to so many political parties and alliances. Most government officials do it for the money. They are pretty much set with free transportation, free food, and a bunch of money. So it makes sense, if someone goes against the Five Star Movement’s code. It was just very interesting to listen to because the Italian government system was so different than the United States. I mean I knew that Italy had a Prime Minister and Parliament, but I thought the systems were similar.

After lunch, we meet with the anti-mafia group, Libera. Before Italy, I didn’t think that the mafia was still involved in Italy. I was clearly very wrong. The mafia influence is very strong in the Southern part of Italy. One of the things that Libera does is they take confiscated mafia property and convert it back to something that helps the community around it. They produce pasta, olive oil, and wine. They also host a summer camp and have educational programs. I think out of all the group we have met, Libera seems the most productive with its activism. Libera are actively fighting against mafia power with education, confiscating mafia owned buildings, and many other things. Even though it seems that Libera is doing very little, it actually is doing a lot. Eventually, all these small actions will create a huge impact within in the mafia community.

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Coffee Roastery

Our tour of Caffe River was far more comprehensive than either of our winery tours so far. Our guide, the company owner, took us through almost the entire process, from testing samples and shipments they get sent to the actual roasting, sorting, and blending sites. We even walked through the warehouse where they package and sort shipments to be sent out. The process of selecting and acquiring the beans was really different than anything I would have thought of. The new efforts to go straight to the farmers to find good beans are really interesting, and the complications with finding a reliable group in Ethiopia or India would make me far too nervous to try to run such a business. But the results are clearly worth it to the people involved in this industry (our host’s excitement at showing us each aspect of his business made that very clear).

Caffe River’s attitude toward coffee was very similar to the attitudes of the wineries we’ve visited toward their wine. Caffe River had their own strategies that they thought worked better than other coffee roasteries’ strategies. They would keep their beans sorted by type when they arrived, and roast each type individually so they could adjust the roasting time for the size and other characteristics of each. Then they would blend them after roasting. Our host talked about how other places liked to blend the beans before roasting because they thought it let them blend the flavors as they roasted. He argued that this didn’t work, that it just made it harder to roast all the beans evenly. While I knew there was a deep culture behind wine and wine production, I really had no idea that so much went into coffee production too, and I really enjoyed getting to see all of it.

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Culinary Reflections: Winery Tour

I thought our tour of Fattoria La Vialla was both an interesting complement to our Bucchia Nera tour, and an interesting source of comparison to it. As a complement, we got to see the cellars and learn about the oaking and aging process, which filled in the next steps after the fermentation process that we talked about at Bucchia Nera. I was really interested in their use of different barrels of varying sizes, materials, and levels of burning on the inside to manipulate how the wine changes as it is aged. The coolest part of the tour was probably trying wine straight from the barrel. The white we tried was probably my favorite white so far. I’ve discovered over the course of this class that I definitely prefer reds, but that white was better to me than any we’d had up to that point. The red (Chianti) we tried was interesting. I really liked it, but it was very dry. When they said that wine had another year or so of aging to go, we had a really interesting conversation about how it may become sweeter by then because it may not be done with malolactic fermentation. That was surprisingly exciting, getting to apply our knowledge from class in an unexpected way like that.

As far as comparison, I noticed that both places started their tours by telling us what made each winery special or individual. Ironically, both claimed to be special because they were organic. La Vialla went the extra mile though, describing all the other farming and ranching processes that they run, and their biggest claim to individuality, their high quality unfiltered wine, was particularly fascinating. They argued that it protected the wine from oxidation, which let them use less sulfur as long as they kept the wine dry. The wines we tried were unfiltered, and I think that may be part of why I liked them better than the previous wines I’ve had. The presence of lees seemed to help cut the alcoholic bite enough that I could actually taste some vanilla and cinnamon in the white, which is more than I’ve managed so far. I had a similar experience with the Chianti; I detected pepper and even some tomato, which seemed unusual. Although this winery seemed a bit less prepared to host us – they selected wines for us as we were there and their vinter wasn’t available for long to talk to us – I actually enjoyed it overall more than I did the previous tour.

First Impressions of South Korea

I arrived in Korea late Friday night feeling tired and anxious about what was to come. Immigration and customs took about an hour and a half, and afterwards I was dropped off at my guesthouse by the owner. The next morning I woke up and prepared to make my way to Daegu, the city my program was located, and had to take 2 trains to make it. I would have to stay the train experience was worst than the long airplane ride. I was constantly anxious that I might get lost or miss my train (I made it to the second train with 5 mins before departure). Upon arriving in Daegu Station I was faced with the other problem of how to get to the school. I chose to take the taxi, which was scary as the driver seemed to not understand what I was saying. My phone had no signal and I could not contact my buddy for help. Luckily I arrived at the school, and with the help of a girl, I was able to find my dorm and meet up with my buddy. Overall, the last few days have been stressful and quite emotional. I find myself thinking about home and family more than I thought I would. I’m hoping that once classes get started and I have established a routine, I will be more comfortable and confident about being in Korea.

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On Oklahoma’s Financial Situation

I received an email from President David L Boren yesterday regarding OU’s financial situation and the effect that the severe lack of state funding will have on students this upcoming year. According to president Boren, since 2008 “the state share of the OU budget has dropped from 46% to 12%.” This lack of funding has resulted in a 7% increase in tuition during the 2016-17 school year that will burden both parents and students. Furthermore, these budget cuts have resulted in the loss of jobs for over 300 university employees.

Higher educations institutions are not the only ones facing these substantial budget cuts; Oklahoma’s public education system is also facing a severe lack of state funding. In the last five years, legislators have cut per-pupil education aid by 20%. Furthermore, many legislators have begun to advocate replacing public schools with private charter schools completely. At first glance, these charter schools seem like a positive alternative. However, what charter school advocates don’t tell you is that these schools are authorized to potentially discriminate against students based on their gender, ethnicity, religion, and even finiancial situation.

Meanwhile, our legislators just recently approved a massive tax incentive for oil companies that will cost the state over 300 million. In order to contend with the budget crisis that this would undoubtedly create, legislators decided to severely reduce a tax credit devised to help Oklahoma’s working poor; this cut will negatively affect over 130,000 households in Oklahoma. In short, big businesses thrive while working families struggle to make ends meet.

It is time that we take a good look at the state of Oklahoma’s financial situation and who it is currently benefitting, because it is certainly not the lower class and it certainly isn’t the education system. It is time that we hold our legislators accountable for their actions, and stop turning a blind eye as they defund programs that benefit OK citizens in order to support big oil companies and their own agendas.

Read more here!

To whatever end,
LK

how the hill are we not there yet

Well, today really did not go as expected..

The day began with a nice morning walk with Lane to get coffee and blog at Bar Stefano. After blogging for a bit, we met up with a group of people at Mariano’s for lunch. During lunch, we got to talking about plans for the day and some people mentioned their interest in going on a hike.

Hiking… I’m there. I come from family that goes hiking at every opportunity. We have hiked or skied on every vacation we go on. You will rarely find us Coatney’s lounging on the beach when there are volcanoes to climb or trails to hike.

After walking back to the hotel, we rounded up the those who were down to go, a whopping 7 people. Adam and Irwin were the ones who would lead the hike because during their free time one day they went on a 9 hour hike all around and past Arezzo. However, they made many mistakes that day and they tried to reach the top and they guaranteed it would not take 9 hours to complete this time.

 

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I should’ve known things were going to be rough after they led us through their self-made trail in the middle of a meadow. However, that was just the beginning. After 4 hours of hiking straight uphill, we were still not even close to the top but we were fresh out of food, water and good spirits. We began to worry that we would not get back until 11 or 12 at the rate we were traveling along with the gradual decrease in energy levels.

 

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We stopped at a fountain where we used google maps to find that it was still over an hour to the top. Man, Adam and Irwin had really undersold this hike. After a pretty brief discussion, we came the conclusion that it would not be worth hiking all the way to the top for a view that would not be much different from the incredible on we already had right where we were. We rested for a bit and proceeded down the trail heading home.

 

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To be honest, I do not know how one of us didn’t fall or tear something as we tried to not lose control when running downhill. It was too steep to walk but hard to maintain a safe, controlled jog with all the lose rocks causing slipping and sliding. After about fifteen minutes, a car drove by and I though well why not stick my thumb out and see if he’ll give us a ride. Sure enough, he stopped his car, introduced himself as Carlo, and with the little English he knew, offered us assistance. He allowed all seven of us to throw our backpacks into the trunk and pile into his very small five seater car. On the way, he called his wife to let her know that he was taking a group of American kids home because they were paying him 1 million euros ? We laughed at his jokes and the occasional remark about how stinky we all smelled.

 

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He stopped the car about five minutes from the hotel and immediately jumped out to help unload our backpacks. When Lane tried to offer him some euros, he laughed, grabbed his wallet and tried to pay us. We were all so shocked by this joyful, generous man who took time out of his day help a group of exhausted, dust and sweat covered teenagers. Carlo never stopped smiling the whole way and I truly felt no language barrier with him because of the way he communicated through his actions.

 

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In the end, we were all so thankful we had gone on that hike and were able to meet such a wonderful man who truly touched us in a way no one else has. When I look back and reminisce on this trip, I will always remember Carlo. Plus, not many people can say they have hitch hiked in Italy so that was pretty cool :]

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On Orlando

First and foremost, I would like to express my deepest condolences to all who were affected by the tragic massacre in Orlando, FL.

We live in a world in which we constantly divide ourselves based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion etc. however, today we stand united against Omar Mateen, ISIS, and any other individual or organization that would promote such violent acts of terrorism.

Now I would like to address a few of the popular comments I have seen floating around for the past two days:

First, I would just like to remind everyone that ISIS is not a true representation of Islam, nor is it a representation of all Muslim people. Do not let this tragedy further divide us based on our different religions. Instead, let’s focus our energy on helping those involved and developing a plan to eliminate events like this from happening in the future.

Second, I think that it is important to dispels the idea that this shooting was “the most deadly in U.S. history.” It wasn’t, and to claim that it was is to ignore the deaths of thousands (primarily Native Americans and Blacks) in our history. However, I have attached a link to NPR’s explanation behind the claim that it was “the most deadly” in order to clarify the reasoning behind such statements.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this is not a time for victim shaming. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the LGBTQ lifestyle, each and every person affected was a human being – a person with friends and a family – and no one deserves to be so violently attacked.

“Hate: it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but it has not solved one yet.”
~Maya Angelou