Ciao tutti - what is there to say? I have been more than terribly negligent and I apologize. Life in Siena post-vacation has been anything but a vacation: still wonderful, but fuller than before. Lately I have been putting a lot more time into a few major projects for various classes, and on top of that I've had a couple presentations, tests, etc. to keep me on my toes. But I've made time for this, so how about an update? I will try to cover as much as possible ...
First of all, vacation. Jamila and I couldn't have been happier with our decision to stay in Italia. Not only were the sights breathtaking and food amazing (I mean, this was southern Italy!), but we met some of the nicest people and got to practice our Italian constantly, which was exactly what we wanted.
The trip began the afternoon of Halloween when we hopped on a bus bound for Napoli. We got there just after 11 (five hours, not bad) and then grabbed a taxi to get to our hostel. Our night in Napoli was anything but idyllic: the hostel was situated above a noisy bar so the music was pounding in our heads until about 4 am, and the mosquitoes were terrible. We had to sleep with the sheets over our heads and despite this precaution I woke up with 10 bites on one side of my face (no exaggeration here - there actually were ten, and in a nice semi-circle too) and dead mosquitoes in the bed with me. Those who know me well can guess how I reacted to this discovery upon waking up!
But despite the bad night and our general sense of anxiety regarding Napoli (did I mention it is the home of the mafia?), Jamila and I ended up loving it. We woke up to a beautiful day with sunshine and ocean breezes wafting from the bay, so looking back it was a great choice for us (minus the hostel). We were a bit preoccupied with our backpacks ("Hello, I'm an American tourist. Please rob me!"), but a few days later we paid Napoli a second visit in the form of a day trip (read: backpackless) and had a much more relaxing time.
Anyway, later that afternoon we took off for Piano di Sorrento, which would be our home for the next week. We had found a bed & breakfast off hostelworld.com and it ended up being the second best decision we had made thus far this semester (the first being to stay in Italy and travel south in the first place). Piano is a tiny little town just off of the main town of Sorrento that became home in no time. Five minutes from the B&B was the Circumvesuvia, a small train that snakes down the coastline between Sorrento and Napoli which made traveling from town to town a breeze - it was remarkably economical too!
Over the next few days we put the Circumvesuvia to use as the hardcore sightseeing began. We saw Pompei on Sunday, Sorrento, Positano and Amalfi on Monday, took a day off to rest and explore Piano on Tuesday (this was the beginning of my three-week cough), returned to Napoli on Wednesday, returned to see more of Sorrento on Thursday, and then spent Friday on the island of Capri. For a taste of all these beautiful places visit my picasa site - I put up hundreds of pictures!
On Saturday we rode the Circumvesuvia for the last time, regretfully saying goodbye to Piano for the train that waited in Napoli. Jamila slept on the train while I hacked up my lungs (I'm still not sure how she slept with me coughing like that). There was a sweet old man in same box as us and he gave me candies to help with the coughing. He asked me if I was a smoker and was relived to hear I had never so much as touched one - although he confessed that he did smoke and that it was a terrible thing to do.
After arriving in Chiusi we transferred to our Siena-bound train and made for home. We tried to use the rest of the weekend to gear up for the hard first week back (because aren't they always hard?), but it was still exhausting to "perform" again after such a relaxing week of doing both nothing and everything.
The weekend post-vacanza my creative writing class spent the day exploring the little towns and gorgeous views found just outside Siena. We were guided by our teacher, Jeff Shapiro, and his wife, Valeria, and their insider insights made the trip all the more rich. Pictures from the day are also up on Picasa now, but they aren't mine! I was stupid and forgot my camera that day (all I could think about were all the days I had remembered it but hadn't used it ...) so my awesomely nice friends shared theirs - grazie Tate and Sol!
The week after that (November 17-21) was business as usual with classes, papers, and good food at home. On Monday of that week my American housemates left for the last leg of their Italian adventure so Fulvia and I had to say goodbye (there are pictures of these lovely ladies up on picasa now as well). Thankfully I had plenty to keep me busy while I adjusted to the new empty/quietness of the house. It's different - not better, not worse - without them. Fulvia and I talk a lot more - in Italian of course - and I can tell I've improved some since then. We have also enjoyed having movie nights together and just talking about our days over and after dinner. I can tell she loves the company and I have loved getting to know her better - she's told me some great stories and we never fail to make one another laugh!
On Saturday the 22nd Siena School hosted a conference focusing on space and communication. It was held at what was formerly the Tommaso Pendola School for the Deaf, and the group attending was roughly half hearing and half Deaf. The topics were vastly interesting, covering communication on the verbal, non-verbal, and written levels and also spanning art, poetry, literature, history, and culture along the way. There were presenters from as far as Japan, England, and America and also from as near as the Siena School staff (several of our teachers presented). I learned so much and was thrilled to get more exposure to sign, both Italian, American, and British (LIS, ASL, and BSL). I even met a Deaf couple from Arezzo and learned the sign for Sansepolcro!
The week following included a presentation in my History of Siena class and a test in Italian, so I was kept busy until leaving for Sansepolcro Thursday afternoon, which happened to be Thanksgiving (long weekend, hurray!). Yet what had promised to be a fantastic weekend only proved partially so because I got really sick early Saturday morning (lots of throwing up - not pretty). So poor Sara and Patrizio had a sickie on their hands for a good 24 hours. Thankfully it was one of those fast but furious things. Still not sure what caused it, but I was glad when the end came. The rest of the weekend was fine, and I loved spending time with my Sansepolcro family after being away for so long (it had been over a month!). The next time I see them will be the last (for now at least), so I did my best to drink in each moment with them. For now I'm not thinking about the goodbye part - I can't believe it's just around the corner.
Then came December. Bam! Didn't see it coming. Where did November go? The first week of dicembre brought another presentation, this time in my Deaf studies class. I did a study of Martha's Vineyard and the hereditary deafness that made it a bilingual community for several hundred years. Then before I knew it another week was behind me and our long weekend was here! Monday the 8th is a national holiday, so that gave us one more good weekend for travel.
So where did I go you ask? Padova (Padua in English), with my friend Hillary! She has been in Salzburg, Austria this semester studying German, so Padova (which is located in the north about thirty minutes outside Venice) offered us a good semi-halfway point. It was absolutely wonderful to see her again, and we had the added benefit of an inside connection. My Deaf studies instructor, Rita Sala, lives in Padova, so we got the inside scoop on where to eat, what to do, and how to get there. It was just perfect! Hillary got there a bit later than I did on Friday, so I had the pleasure of meeting up with Rita and one of her friends, Giulia, for lunch. I had some amazing pasta with tomato and tuna and we ended the meal with caffe, naturalmente.
After that Rita showed me to my hotel and said she'd catch up with us later. After freshening up and changing out of my soaked clothing (did I mention it was raining gatti and cani?), I returned to the train station to intercept Hillary and Cally, a friend from Siena School that was staying in Venice that weekend. It was Cally's birthday, so I insisted that she join us for the evening - spending your birthday alone, even if it's in Venice, is just wrong!
The three of us had dinner in a delightful restaurant (which we practically had to ourselves) and were joined by Rita for coffee and dessert. I don't think I can say enough just what an enjoyable person Rita is. She's one of those people that you would love to be like, a modern-day superwoman in my opinion. After eating we all parted ways (except Hillary and me of course), and we went back to the hotel and crashed. The rest of our weekend was spent pursuing leisurely activities: walking, eating, shopping. It was beautiful! For a taste of Padova, as always, see Picasa :) I didn't take too many pictures because we were so busy enjoying doing nothing, but if I get more pictures from Hillary I will add those later.
Whew! And now, I must end this update. I will try to post once more before I leave in TWELVE DAYS. Unbelievable ...
Ciao for now! Molto amore e tantissimi baci!