Thus My Exploring Begins

As I still felt very sick with my recent Tuesday diagnosis of pink eye and a swollen throat, I was exhausted and homesick. Getting well in out of the country is slightly more challenging than one could wish, but this experience, however helped me to gain mental strength and will. As cheesy as that sounds…

On Wednesday and Thursday, I was frustrated that I still didn’t feel my best. My throat was in so much pain, I drank so much hot tea and sipped constantly on ramen. Without my friends or family around to help me not even physically, but their encouragement and love always helps so much. I missed having familiar faces around, especially while feeling so crappy. Now that I am better, I realize how proud I am of myself for pushing through this tough time and being able to travel that weekend.

I went to bed early on Thursday, so I would be ready for my school sponsored excursion to Terni, Italy for the St. Valentine’s Chocolate Festival. A bunch of students and I took the train there, and may I add that my voice was almost gone at this point. I sounded like someone who had been chain smoking for decades. My roommate kept telling me how much she loved it… Weirdo. Despite not feeling my very best, I pushed through for the chocolate!!

Going to tiny towns like Terni is one of the best parts of getting to live abroad. I throughly enjoy seeing native Italians in their home town and learning about new beautiful places. It gives me a better sense of immersion and the Italian way of life, set away from the touristy places that can get very difficult to differentiate in Rome. The nooks and crannies of Italy are even beautiful. How can this be possible?? Despite not feeling my best, I was very satisfied with my chocolates and day overall. I was hoping and praying that tomorrow I would feel much better though, since I was supposed to take the day to explore Venice for Carnevale through a student excursion company that I had booked with my friends.

The next morning was challenging trying to get out the door and ready to go at 6:00 in the morning. However, knowing I can figure my way to the train station (Termini), even when not fully awake, makes me feel much more settled in Rome. We then bused to Venice through sleep and movies, finally at least 70 students and I arrived to this surreal city. Before we got off the bus though, the girl across from me (whom looked very familiar prior to this) and I realized that we were actually childhood and family friends back in St. Louis, the wonderful city where I lived until I was 9. I hadn’t seen her since then, it had been at least ten years. What were the odds she would end up in Rome during the same semester, nonetheless decide to head to Venice on this specific day? This was fate at its best.

Nora and I  - still having trouble believing this.
Nora and I – still having trouble believing this happened

Getting there around early afternoon allowed a good amount of time to see Venice, but not as much I would like. Although it was insanely crowded with Italians and tourists for Carnevale, I’m so happy I’ve been able to visit this town once in my lifetime (it is sinking and all) The transportation there, like walking across the bridges to go from block to block, riding a gondola and  taking the water taxi, were all amazing and beautiful, but didn’t seem at all practical for everyday life.

The beautiful and packed streets of Venezia
The beautiful and packed streets of Venezia

Nonetheless, I can’t emphasize enough how magical Venice is. There isn’t another city quite like it. Since we only had a little over a half day there, I would love to return someday. Perhaps when it’s warmer.. Whenever I go to a new city or place, I attempt being more adventurous to learn and try new things. Because the peach bellini and squid ink spaghetti were born in Venice, I had them for dinner. We also wore Carnevale masks, saw a glass blowing demonstration, rode a gondola while being sung to in Italian, ate gelato (which isn’t new for me), and of course practiced my Italian. One of best parts of Venice was after dinner, once we were all stuffed with seafood and wine, we heard loud music coming from a nearby piazza. Between ancient buildings lined with cobblestone, there was a DJ blasting dance music and people dressed in costumes outside in the piazza grooving. My friends and I joined in obviously – at one point one of my friends was even leading the congo line.

Squid-ink pasta; weird, but delicious
Squid-ink pasta; weird, but delicious
My housemate Andi and I with our Carnevale masks!
My housemate Andi and I with our Carnevale masks!
Riding the gondola
Riding the gondola

We wish we could’ve stayed longer, but I always miss Rome. I’ve gotten pretty fond of the Eternal City and its people. I may have longed for Roma, but I didn’t wish to experience another long bus ride. Even if the seats were plush, I don’t think anyone can sleep comfortably in a moving vehicle – bus, car, train or plane.  Getting back to Rome at 5 in the morning was haunting, in addition to taking to the tram back home was as well. Before this I wouldn’t be able to say I’ve seen Piazza Venezia deserted, but now I know what it looks like before the sun comes up.

My Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were filled with more homework, laughter, and a mild amount of homesickness (you’re allowed to talk to your friends and family back home turns out), but mainly I couldn’t wait for the weekend again. Not to party or anything, but because I was leaving that Thursday to visit Belgium to see friends from Hendrix and the beautiful cities of Brussels and Bruges. Until next time! Ciao!

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