Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Colosseum

Yesterday, I stepped into a place where men and women tested their skills in fights to the death, a place that once represented human blood but now stands as a sort of holy place where Good Friday services are held once a year as a Catholic remembrance. The Colosseum is an incredible structure not necessarily because of it's size or it's worn architecture, but because of the stories that have unfolded within its walls. Did you know that after the gladiator fights, the blood on the floor of the Colosseum would be mopped up and sold as medicine to treat epilepsy?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Photographic Project 1

The past three days, I've been shooting photos outside of Rome's historic area for my first photo assignment. I've been to what you might call the Chinatown of Rome to get away from a typical tourist image and capture a life apart from the Colosseum and capital. I'll be editing and printing photos in the lab today and will post some photos from my series shortly. I've shot over 600 images and plan to make contact sheets for at least 90 today.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Rome: Getting Aquatinted

Today, my roommate Ali and I managed to visit all seven hills of the city. In short, we walked our feet off covering as many possible corners of Rome as we could. We breezed through most all of the tourist sites and tried our best to get aquatinted with the city we will be living in until July. Below are a few photos I snapped along our journey —

Like many tourists, we stopped and looked ...
... and, then ran like crazy across the street to avoid speeding mopeds.
We visited many sites, like the capital, which are constantly undergoing restoration.

Ah, the Colosseum, is an absolutely phenomenal site and it's only a few minutes away from our apartment. It's also home to many fake Roman soldiers and Indian merchants selling postcards.
We pass the Colosseum a lot on our way to and from sites and destinations.

This is my roommate and travel partner in crime, Ali Dean.

Nuns passing a liquor store. Had to take it.

This police officer, like many officials, is dressed to impressed while directing traffic.
Historical monuments are EVERYWHERE.
Amazing four-cheese pizza for lunch. Check out that thin, crispy crust. Yummm.
Home sweet home.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Italian beaches

A beach is a beach pretty much any where in the world you go. There is sand. There is water. And, if the sand and water are clean, and bottles of cold water are served, people in search of relaxation and sun will come. European beaches are also very similar to each other because they often showcase fashionable male speedos, female thongs and occasionally bare-breasted ladies. What makes an Italian beach special? Well, the obvious answer is the language. But, an Italian beach to me is more than that — it's a place to enjoy the paradise of a beach with amazingly fresh, flavorful fruit drinks. Among the Indian hawkers that pace the beach begging tan bodies to buy an item or more, there are a handful of hawkers that dominate the sand — those who sell coconut. They will serve you a piece of fresh coconut to enjoy. But, don't stop there, go buy a fruta drink of pear or pineapple. It's usually fresh squeezed juice that moves slowly from your lips to your tongue in the sweetest flavor.

Welcome to my home

I have spent all of two days living in Rome and while my Italian is still a little rusty, I’d like to think I’m trying the best I can to stay out and about, immersed in the culture. In the meantime, I wanted to introduce you to my apartment by way of a few poorly lit images —

I thought about color-correcting the orange out of these photos, but this is really the feel of our apartment. We have bad light and, yes, there are huge cracks on our smudged-up wall. But, we do have a lot of floor space and the students before us left us tons of useful presents — like Rome guides, spices and cookbooks.

This is my desk and our room fan, which surprisingly we haven't had to use. We don't have air conditioning and our apartment hasn't been humid or hot despite the 90+ degree weather we've been having the past two days. You can't see my full window in this photo very well, but it's probably my favorite part of our room (two beds to a room in a four-person apartment). There is a restaurant smack next to our apartment complex and every night, I hear loud Italian voices, motorbikes, unfamiliar cracks and whistles, and if I'm lucky the accordion player (he's my favorite) will show off his skills for some fortunate diners — and surrounding listeners.

This is our sitting area/dining room and the room deep in the photo is our kitchen.

There are unnecessary doors everywhere.

In our kitchen, we have a washing machine, microwave, gas oven, refrigerator, sink, and tons of storage.

Meet our gas pipe. This is probably the scariest part of our kitchen. We have to turn this knob to flow gas to our stove. Then, we push a button to ignite the flame... sometimes the flame doesn't ignite in our oven which requires long matches, but that's a whole other scary story. We have to remember to turn this knob off or our entire apartment could become extremely flammable.

It might not be five-star accommodations, but it's got Italian charm.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Photographic Projects in Rome

Living in post-Semester at Sea mode has been less jarring than expected, but I can still say that my fall traveling experience changed me in ways I never knew possible. To keep the memories alive, I’ve been fortunate enough to stay in contact with close friends from the ship. For two dinners this past spring, I met up with a few Semester at Sea students and lifelong learners who live or go to school in Ithaca. I was even able to meet up with some of my absolute best friends from the ship — Maria (from Venezuela), Anjali and Aman (from Mumbai) in Boston over a weekend in May. My roommate Leah and I constantly reminisce about our travels around the world and I can honestly say, I’m so glad we were able to take the Semester at Sea journey together.

While I’ve enjoyed a semi-normal student routine since December, I have to admit I’ve been aching to travel again. I figured my budget probably couldn’t handle another plane ticket with an international itinerary, but I’ve learned the travel-hungry student gets creative.

So, here’s my status:

I’m currently finagling my college plans to try and graduate a semester early, in December, to save money. I just need to complete a photography class this summer to stay on track with my still-photography minor. Incredibly, my spring History of Photography class professor Nicholas Muellner is teaching a class in Rome from June 2 to July 3. I was offered a scholarship. My travel bug has latched. I’m signed up to leave Thursday.

I’ll be armed with my camera and will most definitely be blogging as much as possible. Talk to you soon from Italy.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Life at home

Christmas break: Top, my parents with a snowman we all created at my house. Below, my boyfriend and I at Longwood Gardens in PA.

It's been two months since I walked off the MV Explorer in California, headed back to New Freedom, PA and ultimately, back to college in Ithaca, NY.

When I first arrived home, I felt extremely disconnected from things I once associated myself with and I still feel a sense of isolation, carrying my experience like a secret that I wish I could explain, but can't.

Saying "I traveled the world last semester" hasn't gotten as many questions as it has been my answer to why I don't know the progress of the new Ithaca College Athletics and Events Center on campus or the lyrics to "Whip My Hair" or the new restaurants downtown or why I've missed the deadlines to internship applications I should have completed.

Of course, a lot of people have been genuinely interested in the Semester at Sea program and my voyage last fall. Several people have asked me "What is your favorite place?" or "Was the program awesome?" or "Did you love it?" ... still, these questions have been difficult for me to answer. If I start talking about some of the raw realities I faced like the poverty, I feel like I'm letting people's expectations down. But, if I talk about the luxurious aspects of the voyage, I'm really not explaining the meaning behind the voyage. I've learned that the simpliest answers are usually the best in passing conversation. And, if people really want to know about the voyage, they'll sit down and talk with me about it. After all, it's hard to explain in a sentence.

Has the trip affected the way I live now? Yes and no. I'd like to think that I am often reminded of my trip through daily activities — like running the water to brush my teeth sometimes causes me to think of the townships in Africa that don't have anything close to this privilege. The trip has also given me a lot to think about in terms of how I should live my life, how to weigh what's really important and how to be thankful for the luxuries I frequently overlook.

Semester at Sea ignites a passion in students, like myself, to radically make a change, a difference in the world. But, when I moved back on campus, started going to classes, and got back into a schedule I've known for three years now, radically changing the world seemed and still seems like a bit of an unorganized dream.

The American bubble seems so far away from Ghana, South Africa, Vietnam, India and many of the cultures I encountered. I'm still searching for a genuine way to connect my life here to my goals last semester.

In a way, it's frustrating that I still haven't figured everything out — that I haven't solved world hunger, stopped the sex-trade or provided an education for all children worldwide. But, maybe it's not about understanding everything right now ... maybe it's just about keeping the conversation alive and staying dedicated to finding the answer one day soon.