Amsterdam and Thick Bacon

I arrived in Amsterdam early Monday morning to spend a week and a half with my friend Natalia. We have decided that Dutch sounds like garbled laughing broken by commercial American words.

‘HAHABAHAGAHA McDonalds BAHAHAMAGA Weed JAHAKAHADA Tourists.’

But nearly everyone speaks English so we don’t make fools of ourselves too often.

I don’t think I’ve ever been this jet lagged before, but we did our best. Between frequent naps, Natalia and I made sure to see the Anne Frank House, Jewish Museum, and to walk the canals. We have yet to see the Van Gogh museum, but are saving that as our finale before I return to the states.

star.JPG

Entrance to the old Jewish Quarter

Before I continue, we must make a distinction that will be crucial to understanding the Netherlands.

Cafes: Serve coffee and pastries

Coffeeshops: Serve coffee and marijuana

As a golden rule, one cannot go to the Netherlands without visiting a coffeeshop. You just have to go to see what it’s like, whether you partake or not. A tourists’ favorite coffeeshop is called Prix d’Ami, and is three floors of hazy lounging.

If you like people watching, coffeeshops are a great places to do so. Patrons come from all walks of life; businessmen, mothers, tourists, and locals. But be sure to pack a coat, shops tend to be a little cold to prevent people from falling asleep.

handkerchief

Christmas Lights!!

Natalia and I stayed at the Shelter Hostel in the red light district. The Shelter Hostels are a chain of clean, well-managed Christian hostels. But it felt very strange to leave that highly religious environment and walk straight into an alley lined with florescent lit windows.

The red light district is most certainly an interesting locale. I knew what I was walking into, I knew what to expect, but I was still surprised. Even more surprised when I realized the zone doesn’t close during the day. Children just run around and the ladies pose and continue working.

Seeing the red light ladies in other contexts is quite humorous. Just like everyone else, they leave work at the end of their shift and hope to go home and relax. But everyone on the street is aware of their profession; blue snakeskin boots are a dead give away.

bacon.JPG

Look at how thick that bacon is!!!!

Finally, Natalia and I arrived in Den Haag (the Hague). Here we are spending time with her family and friends. They even bought us the most amazing bacon I’ve ever had the honor to fry. Bacon, a quarter of an inch thick and barely cured. God’s bookmark indeed.

 

 

 

 

The Homecoming

I am finally home in Newton, Kansas. Today I’m spending my day trying to get back in the swing of my old life. I’ll be moving into a new apartment, starting my old job, adjusting to the time change, and seeing family and friends.

I spent the last few weeks touring Italy and Ireland before coming home. A friend from Kansas joined me and my older sister in Rome before he and I went to Florence, Venice, and Dublin. We successfully ate and drank our way across two countries before taking the eight hour flight across the Atlantic.

IMG_1240.jpg

Swiss guard at the Vatican

 

We did all the things you have to do. In Rome, we saw the Vatican and Colosseum. Venice, we ate fish and saw Il Ponte dei Sospiri. Moving back south to Florence we saw Michelangelo’s David and every other piece of art imaginable. In Ireland, we toured Dublin (Guinness Storehouse included) and the Cliffs of Moher.

IMG_1283.jpg

View of Venice

I was so lucky to have one last tour of Europe before I went home. I felt that visiting the first places I had ever visited abroad was a fitting way to end my six months in Perugia. After living in Italy for so long, it was refreshing to see the country again with people who were experiencing it for the first time.

IMG_1375.jpg

As always: Florence street art

Admittedly, I have very mixed feelings about coming home. I am overjoyed to be home with my family and friends. I am incredibly saddened to leave my surrogate country and new friends in Italy. But in the end, the torn feeling is testament to the wonderful experiences I’ve had in both countries.

IMG_1429.jpg

Carlin stealing the Guinness kangaroo’s beer

 

This fall semester I’ll be working, taking the GRE, and applying to grad school. I’ll be going back to Bethel College in the spring and I hope to graduate in May 2017. To give you all fair warning, I probably won’t stop thinking or talking about Italy till I visit again. Thank you for reading and joining me in my travels. Ciao!

IMG_1560.jpg

Cliffs of Moher

Last Solo Flight

Yesterday, I completed my last solo vacation here in Italy. Palermo, located way down south in Sicilia, was the furthest and final destination on my “bucket list”. I feel that Palermo truly represents the historic and modern cultures of Sicilia and sincerely suggest a visit to any tourist.

Here are some of the most noteworthy and photogenic things I had the opportunity to see.

Il Teatro Massimo is europe’s third largest opera house (exterior pictured above). I watched three Soiree Roland ballets: Le Jeune Homme et la Mort, L’Arlésienne, and La Mer, which were all accompanied by a live orchestra. The main drawback was that Italian culture doesn’t prescribe behavior for cultural events. The house was full of chatter and *gasp* flash photography.

IMG_20160617_210020378_HDR.jpg

View from the box

I visited three famous oratorios – Oratorio del Rosario di San Domenica, Oratorio di San Lorenzo, and Oratorio di Santa Cita. These three are famous for the sculptures and interior design done by Giacomo Serpotto. Baroque art tends to be highly detailed and has a transformative quality of simple, small spaces like an oratorio. That being said, I’ve never seen those qualities as expertly executed as in Santa Cita.

IMG_1039.jpg

Oratorio di Santa Cita

I’m going to start the following section with this statement: Palermo is very safe. But that doesn’t mean the people aren’t still fighting the Mafia’s presence and influence. The pizzo, or Mafia tax, is still being levied against most businesses. To combat this, the Addiopizzo foundation was formed to bring support to businesses that refuse to pay the pizzo. This cool bar proudly displays their membership to Addiopizzo.

IMG_20160619_245314333.jpg

Nearby Mondello Beach shows off the bluest Mediterranean water, mountains, and wildfires of Sicilia. These wildfires are actually the work of arsonists (Mafia) and have spread throughout northern Sicilia. Though I got to enjoyed the beach, other’s were being evacuated from their homes.

IMG_20160618_161130384.jpg

Sunbathers and wildfires

I truly enjoyed my time in Palermo and could keep writing for quite a while longer. But I need quit and wash dishes. Please enjoy the rest of my photos!

Palermo’s open air fish market shows off some of Sicilia’s handsomer bottom feeders.

IMG_1104

The meat is actually red. Delicious!

Orto Bontanico di Palermo is the city’s botanical garden.

IMG_0985

Water lilies!

Cappella Palatina – byzantine chapel

IMG_1137.jpg

“We are Climbing Jacob’s ladder”

Palazzo dei Normanni – former palace of Sicilian kings, former seat of Sicilian Parliment, and now home of the Sicilian Regional Assembly.

IMG_1173.jpg

Fancy paintings and chandeliers

“Hi, Grammy!”

IMG_20160617_205918584_HDR.jpg

A Day in Marche

Marche is the region next to door to Umbria. Like Bari, Marche is bordered by the Adriatic Sea. So this Saturday, my friend from Arezzo and I spent the day in Portonovo and Ancona.

IMG_0892.jpg

We have arrived!!

Perugia was rainy and grey while the beach was less grey. We braved the cold water, ate bread and meat with a good beer, and fell asleep on the beach. I never thought I would reach that point in life when a good day is defined by a good nap.

IMG_0925.jpg

Il Monumento ai Caduti

After the the beaches of Portonovo we got back in the car and went to Ancona. Ancona is a big port city, so the water isn’t as clean or the beaches as scenic. But built on the cliffs is Il Monumento ai Caduti. The Monument to the Fallen commemorates the life of soldiers who died in combat. Below the monument are stairs leading to palazzos facing the wide, open sea.

IMG_0933.jpg

This place needs thematic music

This past week I’ve been saying good-bye. I’ve been making an effort to see several friends one last time before I leave. Admittedly, I cried when I got home after the day in Ancona. I leave Italy in just a few weeks. I can’t wait to come home, but there are so many people I’m going to miss.

IMG_0937

Ancona city center

Puglia for the Weekend

This past weekend I went way down south. My goals were to spend time on the beach, eat seafood, and see some history. Not only did I accomplish those goals but I also got sunburnt and covered in mosquito bites! Nothing says summer like sun, sand, and red itchy skin.

I spent most of my weekend in Bari, but took a day trip to see the sites of Lecce. The above picture is of the Porta Napoli. Besides a big gate, Lecce is the home of several Baroque cathedrals and two roman amphitheaters.

IMG_20160602_141937816

Monopoli Beach

I stayed at a hostel in Bari that provided tours to Monopoli, Polignano a Mare, and Alberbello. Though the water in Monopoli was a little cold for swimming, it was most certainly the clearest water I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ve never seen anything so blue.

IMG_20160602_110311083_HDR.jpg

Trulli Houses in Alberbello

The district of Alberbello where all the Trulli houses are located is a UNESCO world heritage site. These distinct houses were built in 1400 and are still homes and shops today. Some of the cones are painted with pagan symbols that were later incorporated into the Catholic faith with the spread of Christianity. These symbols are doves, crosses, and pierced hearts.

IMG_0810

The Beach of Polignano a Mare

Polignano a Mare is a beautiful, whitewashed town surrounded by the Adriatic Sea. The most famous location in Polignano is a restaurant built into a cave overlooking the sea. It’s famous for a few reasons, like the view, but mostly because a reservation costs ninety five euros per person. Needless to say, I didn’t get to go inside.

IMG_0845.jpg

Bari itself is a relatively small city full of fishermen and tourists. I bravely ate raw octopus, calamari, mussels, and clams. I liked all of them, but certainly prefer them battered and fried. You can put the American in Italy, but can’t expect them to want anything but fried butter!

Now that I’m only a month from coming home, I was glad that I had the time to visit Bari. The Baresi people would tell me that after five months in Italy, and speaking with at least a certain level of fluency, that I’m practically Italian. I don’t quite believe them, I’m still a little unsure about men in speedos, but I certainly know how to take a compliment.

Home Cured Prosciutto

This weekend I went to Arezzo to visit a friend and his family. I’ve spent the last several years of my life living in college dorms, decrepit rental homes, and basements. So I was very excited to be invited into a home with a jacuzzi bath tub! There was also a bidet, which I’m sorry Italians, I just will not use.

We spent most of our time with the family out in the countryside, but also spent part of the weekend in the city center. Several celebrations for first communions and weddings, two important Catholic milestones, were being held all around the city. We didn’t get to see the bride, but the groom wore a silk top hat and a coat with tails.

cathedral Arezzo (1).jpg

Getting ready for a wedding!

Sunday afternoon, my friend, his father, and I watched the Monaco Grand Prix via spotty, satellite tv. Though I was certainly impressed by the track, the blowouts, and the speed; I couldn’t help but think I was watching fancy Nascar. The comparison didn’t improve when the head of the household fell asleep mid way, just like my dad does during Nascar.

Arezzo.jpg

View from the Prato park

I was treated to some very fine meals by my hosts. The simplest and yet most satisfying dish was plain, unsalted bread with home cured prosciutto. The only preservative used was salt with pepper for taste. Though the family only spoke Italian, and communication was often difficult, they were anxious to teach me about the culture of the Italian kitchen. They were also very interested to learn about American culinary traditions, such as the famous biscuits and gravy.

Life is beautiful

Historic square of Arezzo

The piazza pictured above can be seen in stills from the movie, La Vita è Bella. The 1997 film was filmed in Arezzo and many places around the city can be recognized in the movie. And at the closing of this weekend, I have to agree, that life truly is beautiful.

Let’s Address This

At the Universita per Stranieri di Perugia, classes are not only meant to teach you the language, but also about culture and structure of Italy. This includes topics such as the introduction of democracy into Italy in 1946, Italian economy and exports (FIAT – Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino)decreasing birth rates, and other important issues. Though I have found no evidence that Italy deals with higher prevalence than other western cultures, our teachers addressed the increasing problem of eating disorders among young Italians.

San giorgios Modern Art.jpg

San Giorgio – a young girl with a braid

I’m twenty years old and spent eleven years learning classical ballet. The world of classical ballet is a place where a few pounds or inches can destroy careers. Though I would never give up that experience for anything, I spent my early teens agonizing over my weight. Only this year have I realized that what I’ve been measuring my “ideal weight” against, is completely bogus. I remember being 146 lbs. and always think if I just worked harder and dieted better, I’d get there again. That memory is from five years ago, when I was fifteen, and three inches shorter. Not completely unrealistic, but really, Lila, you’d never eat a french fry again.

Arch Jerusalem 8.jpg

Arch of Titus

A psychologist friend of mine specialized in eating disorders and preventative intervention. In her research, predictors of eating disorders can be observed in kindergarten age children. While children are learning to add 17 and 8 (numbers too big to use fingers!) western culture is teaching children unrealistic physical expectations, i.e. Barbie.

Ponte Vecchio 1.jpg

The Ponte Vecchio

Maintaining proper weight through diet and exercise – is just that. The goal should not be to fit into a smaller number pair of jeans. We should be more concerned about our health than our fashionably knobby knees.

Coming Home with White Girl Dreads

The above monument is called the Altare della Patria or Altar of the Fatherland and was built in celebration of the Italian king, Victor Emmanuel. I like this photo because you can actually sense the size of this monstrosity. The horse and his rider are fearfully large in real life.

IMG_0702.jpg

Roman Ghetto

This week I’ve been trying to get things in line for my return to the States. I need to find a new apartment for the coming school year and send in paperwork to start working again in the Dillons pharmacy. It’s sobering to see the end of my time abroad approaching. That being said, I still have two months to learn and explore.

I’ve set in my mind that May is a month for studying and June is a month for traveling. I’ll be visiting Puglia and Sicilia before a brief farewell tour of Italy and my flight to Ireland. I’ll be in Ireland for four days before returning to Kansas on the 12th of July.

IMG_0720.jpg

IMG_0721.jpg

An eerily beautiful statue cresting above the tree line.

There is one thing that has been preoccupying my mind about coming home. In Italy, it’s not uncommon for me to receive random, neither complimentary or derogatory, comments about my hair. People in general just seem to find it strange or exotic. With recent conversations about cultural appropriation in the United States, I feel that “white people dreads” have become much more controversial since I came to Italy in January.

I got dreads in 2010 when I was fourteen years old. My hair is curly and frizzy, defies gravity, and was an everyday pain. My goal in getting dreads was to destroy my hair while maintaining it’s length. Dreads were the best solution to maximize the usefulness of curls and frizz while creating something more manageable.

fuzzies

Baby Lila and Baby Dreads

Recently, there has been an assumption that dreads culturally “belong” to those of African descent. Usually this is proceeded by statements that dreadlocks naturally occur among this racial group and not in others. This ignores the fact that all hair types can form dreadlocks. Once that argument is deflated, it is posed that dreads are historically African. This argument is also based upon false assumptions. Dreads were historically worn by Asians, Africans, and Europeans.

But if we were all honest, this argument (made by a white women) seems to state that cultural appropriation doesn’t exist. I do believe that cultural appropriation occurs. I just don’t know if demonizing your local pothead as a racist is the appropriate application of the phrase.

IMG_0633.jpg

Lower Right: Junk Food

Cultural appropriation, as I understand the phrase, signifies when an exploitative culture adopts characteristics of an exploited culture without recognition of origin or traditional usage. I think a good example of cultural appropriation goes to our beloved Katy Perry. Songs can be inspired by Japanese culture and performers are completely free to perform while wearing kimonos. But being an obvious person of affluence, it is in bad taste that the back up dancers were caucasian and performing rather mocking choreography instead of more traditional dances.

In conclusion, not everything is cultural appropriation. But I must also admit that white people are not great at the cultural appreciation. We are much more likely to appropriate through a sense of entitlement fostered by generations of insensitivity.

Rome/Backstreet Boys

What happens when a Guatemalan woman, a British gentleman, and a dreadlocked American stop in front of a restaurant? The carabinieri (fashionably dressed police people) are going to ask who they’re waiting for. Thanks to Italian lessons, I was able to explain we were not waiting for our dealer but simply trying to find food. Evidently our little, hungry group looked very suspicious.

Last week I went to Rome with two very good friends, Natalia and Atif, where we had a bunch of crazy adventures. I took the above photo on the bridge that crosses the Tiber to Castel Sant’Angelo. We also visited the Trevi Fountain (which has just reopened after renovation), the Colosseum, and the Palatine Hill.

IMG_0673

Trevi Fountain

I love the Palatine Hill for multiple reasons. Not only is it an incredibly green and peaceful location with a great panorama of the Roman Forum, but you really feel as if you are stepping back in time. You can visit remnants of the the imperial palace, the homes of Caesar Augustus and his wife Livia, the royal stadium, and supporting structures of the Aqua Claudia (an aqueduct started by Caligula and finished by Claudius).

IMG_0640.jpg

Aqua Claudia

IMG_0643.jpg

The Royal Stadium

This past weekend was Passover and Monday was Liberation Day.  This is a coincidental combination of a centuries old Jewish holiday and the fall of a government that allowed 8,500 Jews to be deported out of Italy and exterminated in nazi concentration camps. With this in mind, it felt appropriate to not only visit archaeological sites but to also visit the old Jewish ghetto in Rome.

The placard below hangs on the wall of a historic Jewish school.

IMG_0691.jpg

Translation:

“Hear oh people! See my pain. My young women and my young men have been deported” – Lamentations 1:18

“In perpetual memory of the one hundred and twelve students of this school killed in Nazi extermination camps.”

I think little needs to be said to encourage our continued reflection and contemplation of the past. Though, I did feel that it was especially appropriate this weekend.

To change themes completely. . .

That evening Natalia, Atif, and I walked for two and a half hours for Mexican food. As we walked through some of Rome’s rougher neighborhoods I told Natalia that, “If we die, I’m telling your mother it’s your fault”. The next day, back home in Perugia, I sat with my friends in their car listening to the Backstreet Boys.

I don’t know if I’ve ever had a more Italian experience. One day I’m in the capital appreciating history, both ancient and modern. The next day I’m wondering why my Italian friends have such a durable fascination with boy bands. Italy, never change.

3.jpg

La seconda guerra mondiale

I attend classes every day to try and speak Italian with a little more fluency than the day before. I’m learning that there are numerous ways to speak about the past: Passato prossima, passato imperfetto, and trapassato. Each relates to a specific chronological relationship. Sometimes it’s the past in relation to the present and other times it’s further past in relation to the past. Headache inducing stuff.

invasive.jpg

A beautiful invasive species takes over a conifer.

Thinking about my family’s past, my paternal grandfather “Daddy Neil” Tibbets was stationed in Italy late in the second World War. His opinion of the Italians was (in a very slow Texas drawl), “Well, we had ’em the first time (WWI) and they had ’em the next time (WWII)”. Pretty sure Daddy Neil didn’t think about the Italians very much. . . When he was in Texas or in Italy.

No matter how little Daddy Neil thought about Italy’s role in WWII, Italy is preparing for Liberation Day on the 25th of this month. This day marks the end of Nazi power in Italy. A permanent commemoration to the travesties of war is located in Piazza Italia in the city center of Perugia.

liberation

I am sure my translation is flawed, but I believe the inscription reads, “Umbria remembers her five hundred children in arms interned in Nazi concentration camps – they were detained by tyranny and fell for peace and liberty.”

I’m trying to find my point in all this information. Seventy years after my grandfather, I’m living in Italy. Reflecting on the enduring destruction of war, effecting nations on both sides, I’m excited to celebrate liberation later this month.

Rome Stuff12.jpg