Venice (Venezia)

Venice. A city I never thought I would go to, but go I have. And it was incredible. It is strange, the beauty of that city. Full of canals, the sea, bridges and gondolas, art and glass, masks and history. And yet, it is a tourist city. Unlike any city I have ever been to, it is a city of tourists, full of English and French speakers to a near universal capacity. Shops with masks and Murano glass line nearly every street. And yet the beauty remains and the pride of the lion continues to reign.


We went to the Basilica San Marco and inside it was incredible. Gold plated frescos and massive, square columns.


And the Dowager Palace. Full of art, the “golden stairway” and beautiful examples of architechture. Including the prisons, in which we managed to get lost briefly. Don’t worry, we made it out.


There was Murano, the island of glasswork. That place was cool. It was independent from Venice for much of it’s history and was the old master of glass production, the secrets passed through time from father to son. We saw a glass-blowing demonstration there.


We also went to the Glass Museum “Museo [Viterio].” Aside from some of the most beautiful examples of glasswork chandeliers and table “centerpieces” so extensive they were patterned after castle gardens, they also had glass from the 1st century there. That’s right. Glasswork nearly two millennia old.


We took a water bus as well and that was interesting and strange. Floating bus stations. So cool.


We did manage to get stuck on the wrong side of the canal once, and then were faced with the interesting realization that you can’t just walk across the street when you’re on the wrong side.

It’s a city of dreams. A city from the books my father read me as a child, full of the kind of beauty made more beautiful because of its dying.

And when you see the lion. There seems no animal more appropriate. Fierce, protective, oftentimes lying down. As if even in its fatigue, it carries its full power and pride yet.




Before this weekend, I had never been to Italy. I spoke less Italian than Spanish and German (in which I can count to four and am strugglebussing with five), and had never eaten a canoli.

Sicily was beautiful. Quite simply and in many meanings of the term.


We traveled with a group of nine and, luckily, one of us spoke effective (if not fluent) Italien. I’m not sure what we would have done without him because our hotel manager dude didn’t speak English.

We ate pasta at a small diner and I experienced pasta carbonara for the first time. It was wonderful. There was wine too and that was like nothing I had ever come across. First of all, the red was cooled. Second, it was radically different from any wine I’d ever had. Like it had come from some wine cloud instead of the earth.

It's in Italian!
It’s in Italian!

We explored the city of Palermo, finding the sea and a café. That was where I first experienced Italian espresso (aka café). I call that wonder heaven condensed into a space the size of my thumb. My only regret in drinking it was that because it is so concentrated, drinking a lot of it is…inadvisable.

I should also mention the wonder of gelato. It is fantastic. So fantastic, in fact, that some random guy on the street literally stopped and stared at my little gelato bowl.

Yeah, I’m not really sure why he did that either.

And this is the wonder that is the Mediterranean in all its true glory. I don’t think the sheer beauty of this region hit me until I saw this.


The Theatre Massimo is another beauty I did not expect to find. It was stunning with a tilted stage and everything made from Mahogany. Beautiful.


While we did a lot, and while a lot of that activity was eating and exploring, I won’t bore you with any more gritty details. So here are my last two bits:

The cathedral . Looks like a castle from the outside, but the inside is very much in the style of a (what I’m going to call) normal cathedral.


And my canoli. Which was a roll of heaven placed right next to a thumb of heaven.


I’ve Been Learning About “Lenses”

I recently read an article by Donella Meadows for my major that was all about how to enact change in a system. That could be from a system as simple as filling a bathtub to the global economy, but for the moment what really struck me was her last point. Because the last way to change a system is to recognize that there exists no one paradigm that is absolutely right, or good, or whatever. We as humans simply can’t understand the entire nature of the universe. We just can’t. What we have instead are lenses. Ways of viewing and thinking about the world.

So last night, while at a birthday party with other people from my program, we exchanged love life histories. Most of it was pretty basic. Most within the “ordinary” or “average” range of dating experiences. But there was this one girl who was explaining everything. And it was so different from everyone else. So different. And while I can’t say  I “got” it, I think I’m starting to see more of the world.

And I think that’s what study abroad is ultimately about. Expanding your worldview.

Last night my cousins’ dad passed away during open heart surgery. He was a great man, full of joy and smiles. Today I’m counting my blessings, because I know they are so many even on my worst days. My heart is with them, two of my best friends, and I pray for all the beauty of the world for them today and in the days to come. God bless them and their father.

The Results Are In

Yep. About a month later I’ve got my grades back. Somehow I managed to pull a 14/20 in History and, rather magically, pulled a 12.5/20 in my sociology class. You know. The one where I went to Marseille and did interviews with residents, then typed up the transcripts for said interviews, then sorted and analyzed them. And then complied it all into a document that was 51 pages long. Did we do well? Well considering the fact that the two Americans in that class got in the top three grades for that “dossier,” I’d say we did pretty well!

I also got a 6/20 in cognitive psychology. That is not good. However, this is going to give me a perfect opportunity to explain what the French grading system is like.

14=A at my home university. Granted I think they give us a bit of lee-way with the fact that we’re, you know, learning in French. BUT, you should also realize that the French grade more or less on an actual bell-curve.

12.5 shifts up to 13, A- and finally. The 6. 6/20 is a 30%. And it’s also a C. Yep. Welcome to my academic life.

In other news, the rest of trip planning begins. Calander to come soon. I will show you the insanity. haha