filled

Of all the character qualities a person can have, I find humility to be the most attractive. I am a huge fan of Stephen Curry because not only is he a phenomenal athlete but he is also a very humble, loyal man who prioritizes God and family over money and career success. I do not know him on a personal level but from interviews and articles written I can tell by the way he carries himself and acts around others that he is different. It is very easy to tell the difference between a humble person, who has gratitude and respect for others and knows they did not get where they are today on their own and a person who is self-centered, prideful and glory hungry.

When I first got to college, I was quickly humbled and put in my place. I applied for many leadership roles and received “no” for the majority of them. I realized a huge error I was making in not seeking any advice before applying for positions and attending interviews. I had a sister who was a senior and had been through everything I was going through, yet I went in with my head held high and was way too sure of myself. I learned a lot about myself in the first few months of college and I realized that I had developed a bit of a pride issue. I have always hated being around cocky people and I find it rather funny and ironic that I began to struggle with the quality I despised so much. However, after discovering the root problem, I began to work on myself and seek the wisdom of older students who had gone before me and experienced far more than I have. I believe that the Lord said “yes” to some positions and “no” to others so that I could fully invest where I was placed, rather than spread myself thin. Freshman year was the most incredible, life-changing year for me and I look back constantly in awe of the amount of growth it brought about.

However, never have I been so humbled than when I met forty of the most incredible people. A common theme on this trip was that everyone regrets not going out of their way to meet each other throughout the school year. We all found it rather sad that it took this trip to bond us. But, we are all friends now and that it something to celebrate.

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It is hard for me to admit this, but I went into this trip with some false perceptions of certain people and I did not recognize the majority of the faces attending. When I really got to know the people I had thought were kind of odd and quirky, I discovered how amazing they are. I am actually kind of a weird, goofy person and it was fun to bond with people I had’t realized were so similar to me. I think there is something really special about being abroad and disconnected from social media, technology, and common distractions that allows people to engage in deep, meaningful conversations with each other. The cell phone is a device people use to avoid awkward silences and situations rather than get to know the people in front of them. I believe that being away from my cell phone, and all its distractions, I was able to get to know my peers and engage in some truly meaningful conversations. I think that’s huge. There’s a large difference between knowing things about someone and actually knowing that person. There are the shallow, small talk conversations and the meaningful, I-want-to-know-about-you-because-I-genuinely-care conversations.

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When I looked up the definition of what it means to be humble, I found that google states it is “having or showing a modest or low estimate of one’s own importance.” Nothing will show you how small you are than traveling to a completely different area and culture. In a healthy, necessary way, I have realized the insignificance in many of my decisions, fears and views. Life is far too short to sweat the small stuff and to stress over petty things in life. When I saw women on their hands and knees, hoping to be shown love and mercy by small gifts of leftover change, it moved my heart. I have so much to be grateful for and nothing I have ever received is because of myself. I owe it all to the Lord and those He has placed in my life. I felt truly humbled and honored to be in the presence of the Statue of David, to be standing in the colosseum, sitting in the forum, and gazing up at the Sistine Chapel. These were magical moments for me and I will never be able to thank those who gave me this opportunity enough. The art and the people I have gotten to know have moved me and my heart is overwhelmed with love and gratitude.

 

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I know this blog doesn’t make much sense. I am feeling so much right now, joy, gratefulness, humility, loneliness, a longing to relive many special moments on this trip, and much more. It has been hard for me to put everything into words and focus on a specific word when I was taught so much on this trip and saw incredible growth in myself. But, I tried my best to sum up one of the most impactful trips I have been on into a specific word. It may seem jumbled, but the bottom line is I am forever grateful for the people, places, art and history, food :P, and adventures I experienced the past two weeks. As Billy Graham would say, “gratitude is the overflow of a humble heart.” I reflect on my time in Italy and my heart is filled with joy and thankfulness.

 

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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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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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how you gon’ be salty on vacation

Wow. If I could relive any day over and over again, I would have to make a top 3 list of days because I’ve had some pretty incredible experiences in the last 19 years, but I know without a doubt today would be on the list. It was perfect. As a perfectionist who battles daily at learning to go with the flow and accept things the way they are, I do not use that word often. One of the reasons I did not post the link to my blog site on Facebook, unlike most of the other students, is because I am not very confident in my ability to creatively organize my thoughts and build well-written reflections. So, I’m working on learning to accept and love my flaws rather than beat myself up over them.

However, today had no flaws!!! 😀

Last night, all anyone was talking about was what they were going to do on their first free day. During second semester, one of my friends told me that his favorite place in Italy is Cinque Terre. After days of googling and fawning over pictures of the beautiful mediterranean, I had definitely set my hopes on spending a free day in the blue sea.Thankfully, there was a group of PCS pals waking up at 7:30 in the morning and heading for the train station to purchase round tickets to the beautiful island. I asked if I could join and, to no surprise, they all welcomed me without hesitation. I seriously adore every sweet soul that had attended this PCS trip. What an incredible group of people.

This morning, I was so excited that I woke up about 5 minutes before my alarm went off (love when that happens !!) and began packing for the day. I took essentials and nothing I would die without, in case my things were stolen or got lost. 12 of us gathered in the lobby, headed for the train station, bought our tickets, and piled on board with big grins on our faces. The train ride ended up taking longer than we expected and began to drag, causing us to develop a weird combination of restlessness and exhaustion. Then, all of the sudden, we saw a streak of blue before the train went underground. THE OCEAN!! Wow, what a tease. But that brief view of the ocean was all it took. We all started to giggle and smile with excitement, our stomachs growling with hungry and our brains screaming, “Let us off this train and into the beautiful, crystal blue water!”. Screech! The train stopped, doors opened, and we bounded out and hustled for the exit.

The air!! So fresh and salty. It was perfect. We grabbed a bite to eat, asked a local for some insight, and then headed across a large bend that was to the right of the cliffs where most people were swimming. I was so thankful we decided to explore a different location because when we rounded the bend we were hit with the most incredible view. To the left of us, beautiful, multi-colored homes stacked on top of each other, and to the right, bright green mountains and a more isolated area to jump into the water. We hollered and cheered in excitement as we approached the cliff. We chose a spot for our things, snapped a few pics to smile at on way home, threw off our clothes and ran for the water. There was a fun ledge to jump off and into the mediterranean.

 

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That first jump in was my favorite moment from today. I jumped, hit the ocean, felt the cold water envelope me and then I kicked my way up for air. After days of sweating in the heat and humidity of Arezzo, Assisi and Florence, the cold water felt like heaven. After only a couple minutes of swimming, my body adjusted to the temperature. We explored a cave near us, climbed on top of rocks and cliffs, and floated in circles, taking in the view around us. I can feel that moment, the water, the view, the smell, everything as I type this post. It was a perfect moment and one I will cherish forever.

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I remember boarding the train, worried that I had wasted my day because we would end up spending more time on the trains than we would in Cinque Terre. I hate myself for those pointless, negative thoughts. I would do the train rides all over again in a heart beat. Because we swam most of the day, we got tired fairly quickly and were ready to head back when it came time to board. I love how I was worried we wouldn’t get enough time there and it ended up being just the right amount. Silly me :POn the train ride home, Ross and I creatively set his notebook up to connect our small tables together for us to play cards games. It was fun and helped pass the time until we had to board the second train.

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We all grabbed food and played games during our layover before our final train ride to Arezzo. When we reached the train station in Arezzo it was about 12:45 and we had to get back to the hotel by 1. We reached the hotel at 12:47, so we all jumped up and down, embraced each other with our time to spare and then walked in right at 1 :-) ! What a day.

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I really needed today. I had been spending a lot of time with a group of people that I already knew going into this trip so it was nice to take a day trip with people I was still in the process of getting to know. I love my friends but I definitely needed the break from them. I had been wanting to branch out without hurting their feelings and today was the perfect way to because they knew how much I had been wanting to go to Cinque Terre. It makes me want to get to know everyone even more and utilize my time to invest in new friendships while maintaining the original ones.

Man oh man am I am going to sleep so well tonight after all that swimming!! Plus, I get to sleep in… hallelujah 😀

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ajousting well

Wow. All I have to say is that I will never forget today. I truly do not believe I have ever been so surprised or thrown off guard than when I saw men dressed in crazy colored leggings walk slowly across an arena. I felt as if I was in an extra in the crowd of a medieval-based movie. There were men in long robes and brown bob wigs. Bob wigs!! I had to post pictures because it is impossible to accurately describe everything exactly how it was.

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I have never seen anything like the joust in my life and I’m not sure if I will ever have the opportunity to experience it again. I hope I do because nothing will make a person laugh harder until they see men in leggings fighting with each other in an outrage over who deserved to be crowned the winner. I am mind blown that jousting is still a tradition and is taken so seriously. The Italians in Arezzo do not hold back. They go all out in celebration for the joust and it is an incredible ceremony, with men trained to throw, flip and catch large flags in an entertaining fashion. It is the Italian version of OU vs Texas, with festivities and celebration throughout the entire weekend. I really enjoyed watching the Italians cheer and celebrate over jousting just as passionately as we do over football. It reminded me that although our traditions, values, and every day habits may be different there is still much that we have in common.

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Towards the end of the joust, two out of the four teams competing were neck-and-neck for the crown. When the blue and yellow team received the victory, the pink and yellow team lashed out in anger and police had to step in to prevent a fight from breaking out. The other team was so upset that when the winner’s rider was trotting down the arena, the men ran up to the horse yelling and terrified both it and it’s rider. I could not keep myself from laughing as these livid Italians dressed in the goofiest costumes I’ve ever seen hollered and lashed out in anger over a joust. I just couldn’t take them seriously. After the joust, the winning team and all of their fans ran to the cathedral to watch the crowning and celebrate their sweet victory.

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Tonight was definitely one of the coolest experiences I’ve had so far and gave me a glance into what the Italians of Arezzo are passionate about and how they like to celebrate. After an interesting conversation with Professor Ducleux, I learned that what some Italians celebrate and enjoy in a town in Italy is not true for other towns. Each part has their own traditions, habits, spin on food and accents.

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Statue of David had me FLOR(ence)D

Day 2 of day tripping!!

I thought I sweat a lot yesterday…

The last time I felt this gross was after I crossed the finish line of my final cross country meet. Today was a constant cycle of sweating, the sweat kind of drying, then sweating again. No lie my dress was soaked at one point so thank God I wore white.

Besides the heat, dehydration, swarm of tourists and having to run from the aggressive scammers who literally wrap their bracelets on your wrist and demand payment, today rocked. I would experience everything over and over again just to admire the amazing pieces of artwork and statues for a minute or two longer. Also, there were the oh so entertaining and creepy men who posed as statues until you got close enough for them to grab you. I really appreciate how Anthony embraced the man with a big smile, so typical, while Camille responded the way I would’ve, freaked out.

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I am sure everyone will blog about the Statue of David so this post is not going to be original, however, it is absolutely necessary.

In all honesty, art and history are not subjects that I have ever been fond of. In high school, science, english and certain mathematics (lol anything other than trig) piqued my interest and I devoted the majority of my time to succeeding in those areas, while doing as little as possible to receive A’s in the classes I found less interesting. There were probably many reasons as to why I struggled to stay awake in history, but the most obvious was the teaching style of my professors. I was not taught in a way that had me creatively visualizing the stories of the past or message behind the artwork. I was given facts, dates, names and geography to memorize, which I would immediately forget after the test. This trip has opened my eyes to art and history. I know that sounds so cheesy but I was truly blind. I believe that a large part of it is because I am seeing the artwork in person rather than on a powerpoint and learning about them through Professor Duclaux and not a history book or wikipedia site. It truly makes a difference.

 
However, there is nothing Professor Duclaux could have said to prepare me for what I was going to see at the end of the Academia Gallery. When I walked into the final room, I was at a loss for words as I stood dumbfounded and tried to picture a man creating the 17 foot masterpiece that is the Statue of David. I cannot even fathom how difficult it must have been to craft such a life-like profile. One mistake and he could have ended up with a pile of stone or a horribly disproportioned young man. Not to mention, he did not have near the equipment that someone today would use to create such a piece. It is truly phenomenal and pictures will never do it justice.

 
While we stood with heads back and awestruck eyes, Professor Duclaux asked us the question that will never have a correct answer, “Is the statue a representation of David before or after he threw the stone?”. Personally, I believe it was before because of the emotion in the eyes, the position of his brows, and the obvious tension emanating from his anatomy. His diaphragm is sucked in, his right butt cheek is clenched and his eyes make me think he may have had a moment of doubt before he threw the stone. David had the Lord on his side but he was still human and I believe I that if I were him I too would question my ability to defeat a man who was so large he was considered inhuman, a giant.

 

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I enjoyed observing the statue, its small, intimate details like the structure of the veins on the left hand versus the right hand and the curve of the flexed calf in his left leg. I think that maybe the reason Michelangelo never stated whether he crafted him before or after the stone was thrown is because he wanted there to be mystery behind the work of art. He left a permanent mark by created a piece that would be debated and discussed by thousands long after he passed on. I believe Michelangelo knew exactly what he was doing before each chip and carve made on the stone and he wanted his name and legacy to be remembered forever and unlike any other artist. One may say he was many negative things: greedy, rude, selfish; but I do not believe one can say he was not devilishly brilliant.

 

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Oh and I couldn’t leave out the pictures of Ross as he aspires to be like the tourists of Florence. Gotta love it!

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I see, you see, we all see Assisi

DAY TRIPPPIN! Now, the real sweating begins…

Today, we took a nice 2 hour bus ride to the beautiful city of Assisi. Not gonna lie, till today I had never even heard of Assisi. I was thoroughly surprised and impressed by the town’s art, architecture and atmosphere. The city is very quaint and has a homey feel to it with it’s rustic buildings and daily hum of people chatting on the streets or sharing a meal at a cafe.

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When we arrived, everyone immediately bolted out of the bus and to the nearest restroom. No surprise there! Two and half hours on a bus will do that to ya. Those who were ready stretched their stiff limbs and patiently waited to begin the day’s ventures. When everyone had gathered around, Professor Ducleaux set the pace for the day and headed toward the Basilica of Saint Francis. Not only was I amazed by the giant, brilliantly white building, but I was also surprised at the amount of fully armed and ready Italian officers there to check our pockets and purses before entering. I remember whispering to Rhett, “They all look the exact same..”. I have yet to see an Italian officer that isn’t at least 6 feet tall with a buzz cut, facial hair and an intimidating stare.

After passing through security, Professor Ducleaux handed us ear pieces and began to tell us about the history of the building we were about to enter. However, with Professor Ducleaux it is more like he is weaving stories together and connecting dots as he fills our heads with new information. I have found listening to our professor lecture a much more enjoyable experience than reading The Italians (sorry John Hooper ¯_(ツ)_/¯).
Professor Duclaux describes the life of Saint Franics and draws a parallel between his life and the life of Jesus Christ. The pivotal moment of Saint Francis’s life was when an angel appeared to him and gave his life purpose, telling him he must rebuild the church. He went through a process of conversion and spent monumental time in prayer. He dressed as a poor man and decided to do all he could to give to those in need, even if that meant he had to steal from his father to do so. When we entered the Basilica, there was artwork all along the walls that gave a person a visual of the legend of Saint Francis.

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As Professor Duclaux began to describe the aspects of Franciscan art, to draw emotion and connectivity to its observer, I began to view the paintings in a more life-like way. The artist painted the story in a way where you feel as if you can relate to Saint Francis during some point in his life, whether it’s when his father rejected him or when his spiritual transformation begins. You can see the emotion in the eyes of those pictured and it gives you a bit more clarity in understanding the gravity of his decision to completely alter his lifestyle.
Saint Francis did not live a selfish life, but he lived one of sacrifice, generosity, kindness and love. I found lecture very moving and a reminder that I am here for a purpose, to serve others and show them Christ’s love through my actions rather than words. I truly believe that the best kind of leader is a servant leader, and Saint Francis was just that. Today made me realize that I need to be more aware of the lives of those around me and I need to look for ways to bless others. Saint Francis did not wait for opportunities for generosity and love to present themselves to him, he sought them out. I should be doing the same thing in my own life and especially for the remainder of this trip.

During free time, I went exploring and got lunch with Rhett, Anthony, Ross and Lane. We went inside a stunning church with blue walls and gold designs and trim around it. It was a very different styled church than others I have seen thus far and I enjoyed sitting for many minutes and taking in the details. Not to mention there was air conditioning so who knows how long we really sat there :))

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Also, today I thought it would be pretty funny to take pictures of tourists who are dressed in only the finest travel attire :P. I got Ross in on my idea and he tries to get close enough to look like he is apart of the group or friends with the person. It is honestly hilarious and we have seen some pretty extreme outfits.

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I am very thankful for today, for the insight it gave me into my own life, the areas in need of improvement, and the giggles as I get to know my fellow peers more everyday. I feel refreshed, inspired and filled :]

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nothing is impastable

lol these “punny” titles get worse and worse 😛 Anyways..

WHOOP WHOOP!!! The service project is complete and turned out far better than anyone had envisioned! I am so proud of all my fellow PCS members for consistently working hard every day and maintaining positive attitudes regardless of what they were doing or how significant they felt their role was. Even though many people were not feeling 100% healthy every day and were pretty tired due to the time change, no one complained or let those factors prevent them from completing their job well. We each signed one side of the wall and will forever have a permanent mark in that hospital.

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However, our service project didn’t end when the painting ended. We then proceeded to pick weeds for the remainder of that morning at the archeology site, the Hill of Pionta in Arezzo, Italy. I’m sure that after completing the mural, some people were not too thrilled to be picking weeds and cleaning up what looked like an endless wall. However, everyone remained in good spirits and continued to work until the job was complete. I was very surprised with the results because when I approached the wall I did not think that picking the weeds would have a very significant effect. However, I could not have been more wrong and this picture is proof that our hard work made a difference. I am humbled to write that as a group we were able to play a small role in the beginning stages of restoring the Hill of Pionta, which has monumental historical significance as the birthplace of Europe.

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As a team, we completed both jobs to the best of our ability and should be very proud of the outcome. Plus we bonded the whole time 😀

After our successful morning, we were all rewarded with trips to either the vineyard or the pasta making class. My group had already been to the vineyard so we made our way to the restaurant. I was really excited for this part of our day because I have always enjoyed cooking. My mom began teaching me, at a young age, how to follow a recipe and which pots, pans and other utensils are necessary for the dinner-making process. I was eager to learn how to make different types of pastas so that when I am home I will be able to show her.

 

The first pasta we made was called fettuccine and the shape and size reminded me of long strands of ribbon. We began by placing flour onto the table and making a small circle in the middle of it. Then, we cracked our egg and began to slowly whisk the egg and flour in a smooth fashion so as to not allow the egg to spill over the sides. After thoroughly mixing the egg, we began to knead the dough with our palms by flattening and folding it over. Then, we took rollers and rolled the dough until it was so thin that when you picked it up you could see your hand through it. Next, we split our dough in two and folded one half in a specific fashion. We cut the pasta and used the knife to pick it up so it all hung down where we could see how long each strand was.

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For our second pasta, we made ravioli. We took the second half of our dough and placed a spinach and cheese mixture evenly along the top. Then, we folded it over and took a rigged cutting utensil to cut our pieces of ravioli. This pasta was very simple to make since we used the same dough from the first pasta.

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They prepared the dough for the final pasta, gnocchi, and we only had to roll and cut it into small circular pieces. I had never tried gnocchi until I got to Italy and it is now one of my favorite pastas. I really love the texture with the added potatoes. Just fantastic 😀

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One of my favorite parts about pasta making was the very sweet older woman who would go around and help anyone who was struggling to knead their dough properly. She couldn’t speak any english so she would just smile and motion with her hands. She would give a loving pat on the back or thumbs up if our dough was good and always had a cheerful smile on her face. I love people who are so joyful that it is contagious. She did not allow the language barrier to prevent her from trying to communicate with us and you could see in her eyes how happy she was to have us there. I feel inspired to reach out and try to communicate with the locals because of the effort she made with us.

Solid day. Great project, great people and great food.

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what a grape time

I swear each day only gets better here in Arezzo. Besides a few days of rain, the weather has been beautiful and made the constant walking very enjoyable. I wish I could go home and walk everywhere like the people do here. It is so rejuvenating and refreshing and has triggered some great conversations among my fellow PCS members. One of my favorite parts about this trip is that I have been able to become friends with some people that I barely knew in college. Ross and I joke at how we lived on the same floor and would sometimes not even say hi. I wish I would have made a better effort to become friends with the other students in PCS because the ones on this trip are truly incredible. I do realize it is rather difficult to get to know 120 other kids while keeping up with school and other demands in college. However, this realization has only made me that much more grateful to be on this trip with these great people.

Today we worked on our service project all morning and then took a trip to a beautiful vineyard in Tuscany. It was a fun 25 minute walk filled with good conversations and story telling. When we arrived at the vineyard, the owner greeted us, placed our bags in his house, and took us down a path leading to the vineyard. Turning the corner, we then saw the most beautiful, bright green, never-ending vineyard. It was massive and it’s green color popped against the baby blue sky. The owner has been in the business for over 13 years and is very proud of his accomplishments. He really enjoys his job and knows how to properly care for the plants to get the most use out of them.

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After walking along the vineyard and admiring it’s beauty, he took us to the cellar where the wine barrels are kept. He explained to us the wine making process and that after a certain amount of time the wine from a barrel must be transferred to another to prevent it from seeping into the wood.

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Then came the moment we all had been waiting for. It was time to try the wine. I have not had the best experience with wine and have failed thus far at acquiring a taste for it. Most of the time, I take a sip, cringe, and swallow it. Therefore, my expectations were not very high but I remained excited to give wine another chance.

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The first wine he presented to us was Chianti D.O.C.G. Bernardino and was at least eight months old. Honestly, it was not as bad as some other wine I have had. Since I do not particularly find the flavor of wine pleasing, I did not love it but it didn’t make me cringe.

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The second wine Vino I.G.T. Rosso Toscano Occhini and was at least eighteen months old. This wine was a bit more expensive than the first one due to the fact that it has been fermented longer and had additional spices. However, I did not really enjoy it but I did enjoy learning about it, how it was made, and why they created it that way.

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The final wine was Vino I.G.T. Merlot Lastricia and was almost two years old. This was my least favorite wine because it had the highest alcohol content and was very bitter. Even though acquiring the taste for wine is taking longer than hoped, I will not give up. I want to be able to drink it when I am older during fancy dinners without cringing and forcing it down every time.

After today, my interest in learning and understanding Italian culture and traditions has increased. I find it fascinating and am going to continue to ask questions from those around me, like Professor Ducleux and Dean Grillot, that are willing to share their knowledge.

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just a pizza my day

What a day! So far, I have really been enjoying my time in Arezzo and am eager to experience and learn more about their culture and traditions. Each day I am seeing more and more things that Italians and Americans both do, but do very differently.

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This morning, we went to the Arezzo farmer’s market that is held every Saturday. Unlike the markets I have been to in America, the Arezzo market had a never ending line of vans and tables set up along the street. Some groups didn’t even make it to end. The market had a wide variety of items for sale, ranging from clothing to pots and pans to grilled shrimp kabobs. The atmosphere at the market was pleasantly busy with Italians of all ages on the hunt for bargains. I received friendly smiles from the vendors and enjoyed roaming around and to see what each stand had to offer.

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There was a second street next the main one that had several trucks with fresh fruit, candy, a variety of meat and cheeses, and other delicious options. The vendors would offer a peach, plum, handful of cherries or anything I had my eye on and allow me to try it before deciding what to purchase. Everything tasted as if it was fresh off the tree or out of the ground and had my taste buds dancing. I left with a large bag of grapes and cherries for only one euro, which I guarantee would have cost around eight to ten dollars back home. I am really hoping to return to the market next Saturday and get a sweet pair of shoes for a good deal. We only had an hour and half at the market today and it took at least 15-20 minutes to walk through the entire thing, so there are definitely some items I had my eye on that I didn’t get the chance to further examine or purchase. The market gave me a huge appreciation for fresh, authentic food and just the entire environment in general. I could have easily spent half the day there shopping and taking in the overall atmosphere and steady buzz of the shoppers.

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