Saturday, July 28, 2012

#WhenInRome: Enchanted

Last weekend we took a program trip to Northern Italy, making stops in Florence and Venice.  The expedition quickly turned into my favorite of the summer.  Both cities were incredibly enchanting to me:  Florence with its trove of treasures in the Uffizi Gallery and Accademia and Venice with its maze of small streets and canals guiding you from one jaw-dropper to the next.  If I tried to list all of my favorite things about each city, this post would drag on longer than the Twilight saga, so I’ll try to be as selective as possible.

1) The Uffizi Gallery.  I have never been as continuously gobsmacked by a museum as I was by this one.  It’s MASSIVE – three stories of room after room of priceless paintings and sculptures.  Caravaggio’s famous Medusa head, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, several Leonardo da Vinci pieces, some Raphael and Michaelangelo.  You know, no big deal.  The Gallery was incredible.

2) Michelangelo’s David sculpture.  Ok, WOW.  I almost have no words for this, but it’s me, so let’s be real, I always have something to say.  The amount of emotion portrayed in David’s face is astounding.  He looks so human – you can just imagine the setting, and David’s thoughts and feelings in the moment before he takes on Goliath.  Our professor was lecturing on him, and I just stood there staring up at this massive sculpture in awe.  I cannot get over the David.  Probably my favorite sculpture I’ve seen yet.

3)  What is it that makes cities so incredible at night?  A group of us went exploring after dinner, and we walked into the heart of Florence, soaking in the beauty and life of the bustling city.  We witnessed a hilariously awkward streetshow, several AMAZING chalk artists, and the beautifully lit up riverwalk.  Take me back. 

4) The Duomo.  Whoa.  That is one large dome you might say.  The inside is really cool and takes a lot of inspiration from Dante’s Inferno – nerd moment!  Several of us climbed to the top, and the views from the top were spectacular.  The country surrounding Florence is gorgeous and totally worth the perilously steep trek to the top.

VENEZIA (Ok, this is going to be really hard.  I basically loved everything about Venice…ahhhhh!)
1) St. George’s Campanile.  We climbed up the bell tower at this church and got to look out on the lagoon, the city, and the ALPS.  Yes, you can see the Alps from Venice.  I HAD NO IDEA.  It was incredibly beautiful, and I couldn’t help but imagine what Venice was like in its prime with painted facades along the canals, a bustling port, and beautifully outfitted courtesans. 

2)  Tintoretto’s Crucifixion of Christ in the Scuola Grande di Sant’Rocco.  I’ll be honest – I actually shed tears while looking at this.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  It’s this massive – seriously humongous – painting of Golgotha.  Jesus is at the very center of the canvas hanging on the cross, surrounded by the action of the other characters.  I love how Tintoretto includes so much, but none of the focus is taken from Christ.  Wherever you look in the painting, some detail points your attention back to the cross.  It’s not only an incredible work of art, but it’s also an amazing analogy for life:  I need to fix my eyes on the author and perfecter of my faith, Jesus Christ.  This is definitely my favorite painting.

3)  Teatro La Fenice.  The Venice Opera House.  The royal box, the ballroom, the ornate ceiling, the salon.  I have no words for the beauty of this theater.  It’s my dream in life to go back and attend an actual performance.

4) St. Mark’s Basilica.  Holy cow.  The mosaics inside this church are insane.  It’s so beautiful.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the Byzantine style before I came to Europe this summer, but St. Mark’s has officially won me over.  And it’s not only the inside of the Basilica – the façade is so ornate and just plain massive.  Architecture nowadays cannot hold a flame to these old buildings in my book.

Ok, I’ll stop.  But the next time you see me, you should ask me about Florence and Venice – your ear might fall off, but I’ll love you forever!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

#WhenInRome: Feet

Romans 10:15 “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

While in Rome this summer, I decided to read through the book of Romans.  See what I did there?  Yup.   Anyway, this verse makes me think of Jesus’ washing the disciples’ feet.  I have a whole new appreciation for this story after living in Rome this summer.  I wear sandals or Toms every day here, and let me tell you, my feet get NASTY.  I’m talking visible layer of dirt and grime.  My feet are hot, sweaty, and smelly by noon. I don’t even want to touch my own feet much less someone else’s.  

I can just imagine that Simon Peter’s feet were even worse than mine:  splinters from a lifetime of going barefoot in his fishing boat; broken nails from repeated toe-stubbings on the cobblestones; cracked heals from the wear-and-tear of his Jerusalem cruisers.  But even Peter’s weathered feet couldn’t deter Jesus.  The Son of God got that basin and towel and knelt in front of His disciples.  He scrubbed, washed, and dried those grubby feet.  You know what I also think?  I bet Jesus loved on His disciples’ feet – it wasn’t an “oh-my-gosh-GROSS-let’s-get-this-over-with” washing.  I bet it was more like a parent bathing their precious child:  carefully pouring water over his or her little body while only using the gentlest Johnson&Johnson shampoo.  Showing love with each and every miniscule action.

It made me think:  Jesus wants my feet – dirt, bumps, and all – just like He wants my heart – sin, shame, and all.  He can use any feet:  big feet, small feet, even NO feet!  We with our finite capacity cannot limit God’s infinite resourcefulness just like we cannot limit God’s infinite love.  As I watch the dirt from my feet spiral down the drain with the water from my shower, I realize Jesus’ blood did and does the same exact thing to my heart – His blood cleanses to the core.  And just as I have to wash my feet every night because they are continuously getting dirty, I need to ask my Savior to forgive the sins that smudge my heart each day.  And guess what the amazing thing is?  Jesus’ grace works like the faucet:  His refreshing forgiveness is simply waiting to cascade all over you and me!  He’s waiting to give you the pedicure of a lifetime.  Lord, give me beautiful feet!

Monday, July 16, 2012

#WhenInRome: Paolo

My art history professor here in Rome is probably one of the coolest people I'll ever meet.  I've never laughed harder in a class before, and, let's be real here, folks, I've had my share of pretty hysterical professors (i.e. the psychology professor who lip synced an '80s song in class while jumping around on a table).  Why is Paolo so great you might ask?  Let me tell you.

1) He hates tourists.  A good portion of class consists of Paolo discussing the many ways he'd love to dispose of the tourists that clog up Rome on a daily basis.  He claims to have studied "tourist zoology" and gives examples of typical tourist behavior often.  He's obsessed with Uma Thurman from Kill Bill and wants her to come and help him take back the city. No joke, he references her at least five times each class.  Today, he stated that if he was the mayor of Rome, he would make Uma his prime minister. But then he went on a rant about the corrupt Italian politics and how he believes emperors, consuls, and such are the best governmental system.

2) He nonchalantly revealed that his best friend in Rome is the princess of a prominent Italian family.  WHAT? She was going to give us a private tour of her family's palazzo but ended up being out of town on vacation. Cool, Paolo, you're friends with royalty. No big deal or anything...

3) He legitimately cares about his students.  This is why he despises tourists because they make it so difficult for him to lecture on-site and give his students the best possible experience. We went into Palazzo Barberini for class last week, and the room with the Barberini fresco was being used to throw some sort of electronic gala so our class wasn't allowed inside.  This sent Paolo into a rage about how Italy disrespects its amazing collection of priceless artwork, and at the beginning of class today, he informed us all that he sent a letter to the overseer of Palazzo Barberini expressing his outrage. What a boss.

4) He is the best lecturing professor I've ever had.  He's super organized, ridiculously knowledgeable, and not in the least bit boring. I wish he taught all of my classes!

My entire program loves Paolo, and we swap stories about the new schemes he hatches daily to rid Rome of her tourists.  "Where is Uma..." Hahahahaha.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

#WhenInRome: Gobsmacked

My favorite recent pictures from photo:

Basketball. The sport of the UNIVERSE.

Rome is so full of character. Thursday on our photo walk, our professor found this hidden little park/garden with a basketball court, a soccer pitch, a fake rock fountain, and an old playground. Several men were gardening, and my whole class had a field day taking pictures. Photo is such an amazing opportunity to get to see this alternate face of Rome - wander onto back streets, up hills, through closed gates, into churches. I've gotten a different impression of the city each day we go exploring. I think I'm falling in love with a city, haha.

I continue to be blown away by the Italian generosity and personality. About fourteen of us from the program went out for dinner last night, and this tiny little restaurant accommodated all of us and gave us free samples of a bunch of their different pastas (SO GOOD. Oh my gosh. I'm going back to this place - they succeeded in whatever they were trying to do...), and we're pretty sure the owner (who spoke wonderful English) was our waiter. They were so kind. And they made fun of us and taught us how to order in Italian. They won me over, for sure. Of course, anyone that gives me free samples typically has my approval...

Several of my friends and I took a late night stroll to the Spanish Steps last night. So the Spanish Steps during the day are kind of lame and really crowded, and I've always been a little confused as to why they're so I know - the night wakes them up. It was the coolest atmosphere: locals and tourists just chilling together on the stairs, a guy strumming his guitar for his own entertainment, cool air, Rome lit up at night spreading out before us. It was perfect. These are the things I will miss when I leave.

Things that I love: 
*Ed Sheeran. He is my new musical obsession. I'm a sucker for (good) acoustic soul singers.
*Gelato. Old news. But I had a massive gelato cone last night full of mint, coffee, and cream flavors - it tasted like a mint mocha, and I got to eat it in front of the Pantheon. Even better :)
*Cities, in general. I like that I am not the only one awake at two in the morning!
*Making up narratives to go with my pictures. I have like twenty stories I want to write inspired by my photos. Now, to find the time to do so...
*Bruscheta. 'Nough said.
*Olympic Fever!! 13 daysssss!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

#WhenInRome: South

This past weekend my program ventured south to Naples and Paestum to visit the ancient cities of Pompei and Herculaneum.  Tip #1: GO TO HERCULANEUM. Pompei was cool and all because it's Pompei or whatever, but it was hot, dusty, crowded, and extensive. Herculaneum, on the other hand, was much smaller, we were basically the only people there, and it was much shadier. Just fyi for when you go on your own tour of Italy :)

Pompei Amphitheater

Vesuvius from Pompei

Greek temple ruins in Paestum
In Paestum, we visited the ruins of several Greek temples in another ancient town.  Apparently Italy is home to the best preserved Greek ruins in the world. Huh, somewhat counter-intuitive. It's amazing, though, to see these incredibly old towns that really have very modern layouts and houses. Some things really never do change, I suppose...

Vesuvius from Herculaneum
Herculaneum was incredible. It was buried under 20 meters of ash from Vesuvius until a farmer randomly dug up a bit of it, beginning the excavations in earnest.  Herculaneum is better preserved than Pompei because the ash fell much quicker and more suddenly here, basically cementing the town in a thick layer of volcanic debris. They even found a petrified loaf of bread in one of the houses when they began digging at the sight. Crazy stuff!

We also stayed at a hotel right on the beach and went swimming in the Mediterranean. It was amazing. We were on the beach at sunset, and I soaked in every minute of it!  We went back out that same night, and the stars were perfect. It made me think of Los Alamos - it was so clear and peaceful. The sound of waves lapping up on the beach has to be one of the most relaxing noises in the world.  I've heard the continuous waves of the ocean (or sea in this case) compared to God's grace - just as the waves always roll in, so God's grace never runs out.  Wave after wave, grace after grace. Thank you, Jesus!

Friday, July 6, 2012

#WhenInRome: Literary

You know you're an English major when...

1)  ...your photo teacher points out that a significant portion of your photographs have words/text in them.  For example...

Or your pictures are of bookstores...

2) ...bookstores make you ridiculously happy. I walked into an English bookstore near my apartment today, and I wanted to cry I was so excited. I bought two books and got 10% off because I'm a student. FTW!!

I could probably come up with a million more of these; however, I will spare you.  In other recent news...

My photo class is so cool.  We are basically instructed to get lost (as a group, of course) and simply observe our environment and photograph anything that stands out to us.  This seems to good to be true. Well, so far, it's not. It's just amazing. Also, we take afternoon stops to get coffee. I'm extremely okay with this. Three words: granita con panna. It's like slushy espresso layered with whipped cream. No explanation needed. IT'S DELICIOUS.

Rome is filled with sundry incredible works of art.  Yes, they're amazing to behold but learning about them and all of the meaning even the seemingly minuscule details hold makes them all even more brilliant.  Our professor lectured in the Vatican Museum on Wednesday, ending at the Sistine Chapel.  I spent about 20 minutes just staring at Michelangelo's masterpiece. And when I was done there (can one ever be done staring at this ceiling?), I traipsed back to Raphael's room, passing a Caravaggio and Leonardo da Vinci on my way. This place is a treasure trove! 

Realizations from today...
*I will always need my mama
*I really hope Kindles, etc. don't put REAL books out of print
*Rome is amazing - oh, wait, I realize this EVERY day :)

I'm off to Southern Italy! Ciao!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

#WhenInRome: Venturing

My roommate Anya and I took an evening stroll into the city to take pictures tonight.  We walked along the Tiber which brought us to St. Peter’s – a stunning place for night photography.  It’s completely lit up:  fountains, pillars, obelisk, dome, and façade.  I actually like sightseeing in Rome at night better than during the day because a) it’s way cooler and b) there are not droves of people flocking all of the tourist sights.  Piazza San Pietro was basically deserted compared with the afternoon crowds, and an Italian high school choir was singing in the center of it all.  Anya gave me a lesson in how to use Abby’s camera, and I’ve decided I really like photography.  Fave pictures of the night!!

Fountain in Piazza San Pietro. Did you know Bernini designed this Piazza?

The columns!

All lit up :) One of my favorite places in Rome

Favorite picture

Favorite statue

I needed one more of the same shot. Haha

Reflection of the light bridge


*Italian Tiger Mosquitoes.  I’m being eaten alive.  My legs are covered in golf ball sized welts…Awesome…

*Coffee and Mint Chocolate Chip gelato mix.  Excellent choice.  And yes, I’m patting myself on the back.

*Anya and I navigated the Roman bus system.  We are champs.  NBD.

*The first lecture of my art history class was held on sight at the Pantheon.  Winning!  The Pantheon is an incredible building.  Factoid of the day:  the light from the oculus in the ceiling of the Pantheon only shines through the doorway of the building on Rome’s birthday according to the old Roman calendar.  WHATTTT?? So cool.

*Spain kicked Italy’s butt in the Eurocup Final.  I was so bummed!  We didn’t get to see the Italians go wild!  But over 70,000 people showed up to watch the game at the Circus Maximus.  Crazy…

*I’m pretty sure I got cursed at by an Italian man who ran a red light on his motorcycle while I was trying to cross at a green crosswalk.  Oh, I’m sorry, sir, that I’m doing something wrong by FOLLOWING THE RULES OF THE ROAD.  

Monday, July 2, 2012

#WhenInRome: Tivoli

On our first program field trip, we visited Hadrian’s Villa and Villa d’Este, both located in or around Tivoli.  I was most impressed by the sheer size of both places:  Hadrian’s Villa is like its own little working village while Villa d’Este consists of several magnificent levels of gardens and fountains.  My favorite factoid of the day:  when the Pope came to visit Villa d’Este, the owners erected a fountain in his honor the night before his arrival.  No big deal.  It was so beautiful and refreshing.  Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the day!

The "mafia" room at Hadrian's Villa

Tivoli on the side of the hill

Hadrian's dining room

Stairway at Villa d'Este

Villa d'Este fountain

The "Roma" Fountain

#WhenInRome: Reunited

It’s very strange to hang out with people out of context.  So spontaneously spending the day with one of my best friends in a city halfway around the world was crazy but extremely refreshing.  Bryn trained down from Florence to Rome, and we explored the Spanish steps, Piazza del Popolo, St. Peter’s Basilica (and Cupola!), the Piazza Navona, and the church of St. Ignatius together.  Highlights and reflections of the day…

1)  A man tried to sell us roses at the foot of the Spanish steps.  We kept telling him we didn’t want them, but he insisted saying we were so beautiful we just had to have flowers!  When he finally realized we weren’t going to give him anything, he snatched the roses from our hands and stalked off without another word.  Bryn and I instantly burst into laughter.  This man thought he was telling us what we wanted to hear…Sir, if you want to get my attention, put gelato in my hand, not roses!

2)  St. Peter’s Basilica was more stunning than I remembered.  The gold engraved roof is beautiful.  The first thought that popped into my head as we walked inside?  “If this is so incredible, and it’s man-made, I cannot wait to see heaven.”  Wow.  Talk about breath-taking.

3)  We climbed to the top of St. Peter’s!  About 550 steps in the sweltering heat through a slanted dome part of the way but totally worth it:  the view from the top was incredible.  We got a 360 degree panorama of the entire city – I could even see my neighborhood from up there!  If you ever get the chance to climb the Cupola, please do it.  It’s an unimaginably beautiful view worth every slippery step and bead of sweat.

4)  I took Bryn to St. Ignatius’ Church.  I’m obsessed with this place and its wild perspective.  There is no way that some of the paintings on the roof are not 3D statues or carvings or something.  It’s outrageous. We spent nigh on five minutes just standing with dropped jaws, gazing at the masterful artistry on the ceiling.

5)  We saw three street performers in Piazza Navona.  They were incredible!  They were bouncing around on their hands while in handstands, one guy spun around on his head, gah!  It was wild.  Can you imagine the life of a street performer?  I want to know how much money they make every day.  It would be so difficult to rely on others’ generosity in order to make a living.  Which brings me to my last thought from this day:  there are so many beggars on the streets of Rome.  It breaks my heart, but I can’t give money to all of them.  I lived such a sheltered existence in Los Alamos, and I don’t trust some of the homeless people in Albuquerque.  But these people are crippled or mothers with children, begging while it’s ridiculously hot, and they’re legitimately helpless.  I feel so bad!  Bryn told me she prays for each of them as she walks by, and I like this idea.  I may not be able to take care of them, but I need to trust that God will.

View from the top of St. Peter's!

In front of Bernini's Four Rivers Fountain in Piazza Navona

I am so thankful Bryn came to Rome for a quick day trip.  Friends have an amazing capacity to produce an entirely new mindset.  I no longer feel too homesick or panicky about living overseas, and I’m ready to continue this incredible adventure!