Monday, April 26, 2010

Some Last Thoughts, more to come (sorry for the wait)

As I was walking home from the market today, I remembered my local barista invited me for pizza this evening. Since it's my last Saturday as an abroad student, I knew I was unable to make it. I had to let him know so I stopped in to say hello. As I walked in, just like every other day, he's reaction was on target. He threw his arms up and greeted me with two kisses on the cheek. I told him I was not able to make it out tonight, which he understood. But what he did not know was that this was my last weekend here. This news made him quite sad and he asked me if I was to ever return. After saying maybe, maybe not, he offered me a drink- which of course I accepted. As he poured me a glass of sparkling preseco, we began talking about his home that was 20 minutes out of Firenze. (Mind you this conversation was very simple given the fact he barely spoke English and I barely speak Italian.) He told me about his pool, his garden, and the nature around him. He told me about his two daughters and where they live within Italy. He told me about how he lives solo and how his wife and him split ten years ago. After sharing some simple facts about his life with me, more customers came in and he had to begin work once again. As he talked to these two men I stood there and listened. Of course I was unable to understand any of it, but I listened anyways. I listened to the tones in their voices, the preciseness of their pronunciation, and their exaggerated body language. Everything was so soft and particular, I loved it. Once a break took place in the Italian conversation, my barista guy walked over to my side of the counter, kissed me good bye and said, “A’domani!” I hope to see him much more before I leave.

It’s the simple things like this that I will miss the most. I will miss the beautiful dialect with never knowing what they’re saying, but being able to listen to the sound of their language. I’m going to miss the intimate greetings that show love rather than obligation. Italy, despite its’ major flaws, is a beautiful country filled with culture and tradition. I’m so happy I got to experience such difference in the world. And just to think, every country is unique in its’ own way. This reminds me of how large and complex the Earth is and how we all need to keep our minds open and accepting. We are planted here wrapped up in our own little worlds with so much more out there we have yet to see and experience. So many more people to meet who all have their own stories to share. I’m glad to have been able to step outside of my box and into another. I now feel that much closer to understanding the world around me and how it seems to dance.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

SPRING BREAK • Barcelona, Spain

As I'm sitting here working on my third salad and forth cup of cappuccino of the night, I decided it was finally time to update my blog. Much has happened in the last three weeks; some good, some bad. But mostly, very good =) So in this specific blog, I'll just talk about Spring Break! It started on the 11th and ended on the 21st. I was priviledged with the opportunity of going to Barcelona, Spain with Lina & Jeannie. My 1st choice was Ireland & the Netherlands, but that didn't work out so off to Barcelona I happily went!

We left on March 13th at 4:30 that Saturday morning. After an hour long bus ride to Pisa and a 3.5 hour wait (2 hr delay) for the flight to Barcelona, we finally made it. It was beautiful that day. We definitely had some good vibes floatin' around as the three of us walked through the streets looking for our first hostel. Once we did found it, we came to the conclusion that we would barely hang out inside during the duration of the stay. This is mainly because the room, shared with 10 to 11 other people, was way too "janky," if you will. But that was okay! Since we were staying on the main street, however, we were incredibly taken back on how expensive everything was. Our first day was very chill. We got some expensive cheap food, took a long nap, then hit the bars. I didn't buy anything because of how expensive everything was, but I had fun. Some 18 year old Italian boy kept hitting on me... it was odd. I think we took videos that night, actually. I have to ask Lina about that one..
The next day, due to our laid back personalities and lack of accurate planning skills, we didn't have a plan- which was not a problem. We mainly just walked around and hung out in the Piazza della Catalunya soakin' up the sun all day. Too bad I was sick for most of the day so I had to retire early. I don't remember if we did too much that night, but I do know I had some good conversations with this guy named Ramona. He is originally from Miami and has been traveling for like... 5 to 10 years. He spoke five completely different languages and had lived everywhere. Even though he was a "druggie" he was incredibly insightful and had interesting stories to tell.
The following Monday morning we checked out of our oh-so-loved dirty hostel and moved into a much better setting. A lot more strict- but nice. After, if remembering correctly, we took naps (the Barcelona way) and then explored once again. This time I was able to walk out to the ocean, which was not an option the day before because I had to go home early. We walked down La Rambla (main street) and visited the outdoor market. WOW was I in veggie heaven- fruit, too. We got these amazingly yummy juices and I, myself, had a thing of strawberries, too.
Afterwards, we explored the town some more and finally started to make some plans. That night was really fun. Since we didn't know where all the parties where at, a man who worked the hostel, told us to go to Crappy Mondays at the Apollo that night.
So that's just what we did and boy was it entertaining. Not knowing what to expect, we walked in with complete "awe." Everywhere we looked, there was a hot European skater boy. And I'm talking bangin hot. Hehe, but that's besides the point. I guess that night was the premiere of some Vans skater film that had been directed, produced, and featured by several of the people who were there that night. I was really happy I was sober that night, let me tell you. I don't know why, but I have the worst luck in clubs! Not only had I caught a guy in the middle of trying to pick pocket me on the dance floor, but directly after, as I was walking up the stairs, a shit faced guy leans in to kiss me! Confused at first I push him off... but after him asserting himself the second time, I straight knocked him out! Fool tumbled down the stairs as his friends were laughing. Man was I pissed at that point! But after meeting up with the girls and meeting really interesting people, I was very satisfied with how the night turned out. We, again, did it the Barcelona way and got in at 6 the next morning =P
The following day, Tuesday, we went on a city bus tour and visited Parc Guell. I absolutely LOVED it there. The mosaics and architecture, done by Gaudi, was astonishingly beautiful and so unique. We walked through the place for hours and then got lunch at a local restaurant where I had finally tried Sangeri (cold wine mixed with juice). I didn't love it as much as Lina and Jeannie, but it was still alright. That night nothing really happened- we were far too tired.
Wednesday was the delightful Saint Patty's day. Barcelona, well, doesn't care. That holiday is definitely an American celebration. We rented bikes and hit the beaches. That morning as I was packing our sandwiches, I had to reach up on the top counter to get the bread, which required a bit of climbing. As I was in the midst of doing so, one of the English boys, Jay, warned me about how risky it was. In the middle of him doing so I come crashing down. China ware and all! I, being very typical, knocked over and broke four plates and bowls. hahaha Boy was I embarrassed, but they all forgave me. Anyways! It was far too nice and so much fun. We packed lunches, as you know, and had a picnic on one of the beaches then rode around a bit more. I swear, as much as I hate to say it, being on a bike gives you such a child-like mentality.That good kind of mentality though, like the only thing you have to worry about is not getting a bug in your month and as take a deep breath in. I loved being out there in Spain rushing through the crowds at, what, 15 mph? It was so.... relaxing, uplifting, I don't know... you get the point =)
Later that night we hung out with our new best friends. It was four skater boys from England, including Jay who I previously mentioned, who were just the sweetest guys ever. They were just so laid back and innocent. So we tagged along with them as they showed us all the spots in Barcelona. I had so much fun that night, started out slow but surely enough turned out to be great. At about 4 in the morning as we began heading back to the hostel, we ran into some of the guys friends. It was at this moment that I don't think I'll ever forget the feeling I had.
As I observed the situation I was in, I was hit with the realization of being in Spain and hanging out with complete strangers from all over Europe. These strangers, some from England, others from Germany and France, were all so laid back and carried themselves in such, subtle yet obvious, elegance compared to America. I even talked to one of the guys in French! It wasn't until the next morning that I had learned the guys we met were actually famous skaters in Europe. Huh... (I have to ask the names again) but yeah... good feeling.
The following Thursday started out with a slow morning. We then walked around and went to a restaurant that had been previously recommended by some American girls we bunked with. Oh em gee. Was this place the most delicious food I have eaten thus far on that trip. The restaurant was called DosTrese and had a very hippie atmosphere. Since we were unable to sit downstairs during the day, where all the great decorations were and such, we decided to sit outside. The salad given was probably one of the best I have ever had. We then were given plates of chicken laying over a layer of steamed zucchini. AAHHHH amazingness.
After lunch we took the metro back to Parc Guell where we shared a bottle of wine along with cheese and crackers and watched the sunset and hung out for a bit. It was a perfect way to end the night. <3
Friday was the big night. We had planned to buy postcards, write them out in Piazza della Catalunya, mail them, do last minute souvenir, make lunch, take a nap, have a large authentic Spanish dinner at this restaurant we had picked out, then go out to Razzmatazz, the largest club in Barcelona.
Well, I got through the postcard hang out, I got through walking around, I got through drinking another organic juice... but then I hit the seafood and meat stands. It was at this point that I had realized how sick I was. Thinking it was pure hunger, we stop at a grocery store and I buy cold pasta to eat on the walk back. That wasn't it... so then once back at the hostel I make a turkey sandwich then hang out with Jay. It was at this point were I realized just HOW dizzy, dazed, and nauseated I actually was. Let's just say after completely ridding all the food and stomach acid that I possibly could, I was bed ridden for the remainder of the night. The English boys claimed it to be water poisoning. I was really sad I couldn't make it out that night, but at least I saved a lot of money?! .....
The following day was the day to leave. A fellow AIFS student recommended for us to go to Parc de la Ciutadella to see the fountain and stone Mammoth. After getting lost and hearing several moans and groans!! ... we finally found it =) It was definitely worth it and a nice way to end our trip.
All and all I had a lot of fun with Jeannie and Lina in Barcelona. These girls were the perfect people to go with; we took our time with everything and never once got annoyed with one another. We collected many inside jokes and shared MANY hilarious moments. I love them far too much and am glad I got to meet such humorous people. =))) Next post will talk about the bike ride I had on Sunday. If you made it thus far I congratulate you! Shows you find my life somewhat interesting, yeah?

Peace and Love,
Erin Willis <3

Friday, March 5, 2010

Around 22:30 (10:30pm) last night I was beginning a walk home from one of the most awkward and just flat out wrong situations I have been in thus far. As I was about 5-6 minutes into it, I felt my ipod would do my crushed and confused little brain some justice. So I began to fumble through my tiny purse looking for it. I was then stopped and talked to by a nicely dressed (top hat included) Italian man. He, of course, started to tell me something in Italian and gestured behind me. Confused but playing it off, I look behind me and these four young teenaged girls smile at me, pick my glove up and hand it to me. After saying my "grazie mila"'s, I continued to walk through the west entrance of the Piazza della Repubblica. My entire mood had lightened by that point. This man's voice was one of the most beautifully spoken Italian I have EVER heard. Those girls had the sweetest smiles. And the piazza was lightly brightened with a live band playing throughout the streets, mixed with a younger lady singing Opera on the street corner.I would have never experienced this if I had put my ipod on. I would have slumped home feeling sorry for myself on the entire 25 minute walk home. Instead, I walked the rest of the way thinking about how I needed to start growing up. I thought about how small things others do can no longer get to me. I thought about how I needed to begin talking softer in general and lose that "bitch" tone I get at times. I thought about how I needed to become even more independent than I already am, and mostly, I thought about how I needed to come home as a different, more matured person. I came to Italy to better myself. Emotionally and intellectually. And that's all that I really can do. =)
Other than that, these past two weeks have been full of fun activities. I went wine tasting, took a cooking class, and climbed the Duomo with my two favorites! Even though this past week as been, by far, my busiest school wise, it all paid off. Last night, after that whole mishap/defining moment, I went karaoking with my NICE group of friends!
When Jeannie, Lina, and I climbed the Duomo last Friday, the weather was gorgeous. The steps seemed to of been far more easy than last time I went with my family, so that's a good thing. Once we got up there and took a series of photos, we took a seat on one of the benches and sat there looking over Florence for about 45 minutes. I was so relaxing and so nice out. It was actually the first day I didn't need to wear a sweater.
The wine tasting class was pretty fun, they even let us drink the glass (hehe) so now whenever Spencer and I go out, we always do the wine test. Becoming a true wino! The cooking class, however, was even more fun!
I learned how to cook Crespelle di Ricotta e Melanzane (eggplant and ricotta crepes), Risotto Primavera, and Dolce al Cioccolato (chocolate cake) and O.M.G was it amazing. The rice pasta was okay but the crepes and cake? OOh lordy. Let's just say after the pictures were taken, the food was gone in a matter of seconds.
The next night we went back to Space (the SPIT show) and had SOO much fun. Lina and I danced the entire night away, literally, we went home at 4 =P
Tonight, I am attending one of my girlfriend's "all girls dinner party" at her apartment. This should be pretty fun. We'll be cooking a big dinner, sharing wine, and watching, I believe, Gray's Anatomy. Yupp! So I must actually go and get ready for that.I truly love it here. And I thank my parents all that I can for giving me this opportunity. GRAZIE MILA!!!! I love you all and you'll be hearing from me soon. Ciao.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Week III: High's and Low's

One minute I'm walking down the street appreciating every breathe I take in and am completely high off life, the next minute I step directly into the biggest pile of crap I have ever witnessed. (based on a true account)
Luckly, I laughed it off. It was the first time I looked directly up into the sky while walking. So I got what was coming. Even though this happened just once (well twice with the crap thing in one day), this sort of metaphor represents my entire week.
One minute I love the life I'm currently living, the next I feel vulnerable and trapped. I miss my home, I miss my boyfriend, and I miss my friends- but those are all physical beings that will be there when I return. I need to keep reminding myself that this trip isn't about the social aspect of meeting new people and making a good impression. This trip is about who I am and what I'm capable of doing/thinking. Because in the end, I'm going to return home and we will all go our separate ways. And when I go to sleep, all that will be there is me, so why not just work on ME?
Anyways, I am in my third week of Study Abroad and all that I have gained, so far, are buddies and weight! By no means am I complaining, I am just rethinking my outlook on this trip- which is a very good thing. I think I now know what it feels like to be the freshmen at a four year college. I have freedom! And boy does it feel good. No I am not going all out and partying everynight, but I am letting myself go (not just physically). Does that make sense? I'm forgetting what I represent, I am forgetting who I am trying to become. A genuine, humble, and kind soul!
Funny this is though, I was told the other day by one of my buddies, "man Erin, I was wrong about you, you're chill as hell and just like one of the guys." hahaha okay, maybe I am the same person I was before I left- but I want more than that. I seriously need to do more reflecting. I need to write, draw, type, paint. I need to do more reflecting! My mind constantly runs with new ideas, thoughts, and opinions, but are never shown into the light. I swear I have ADHD, but that's besides the point. Anyways I need to start doing more of these things but I am just way too lazy. Maybe I can finally get my postcards written and mailed out this weekend. All and all I just need some more alone time. I already have a shit ton, but you know
me, I always need more than the average person! haha I don't know if I can call that independence, but whatever it is I'm completely satisfied with it.
After I clean up today, while trapped inside from the rain, I will take pictures of my new place. I know many of you are dying to see. Well I apologize, or not, for having this blog be more about thoughts than action. It all just depends on my mood, really. And nothing too insane has been going on to report about. Just thoughts =) Alright well I'm off to... uh do something. Who knows what. Love you all very much, and you'll be hearing from me soon! Ciao!!

- Erin Willis

(in this bottom photo, doubt you can tell, I tried to capute the beautiful snow fall that hit us last week)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Not feelin' too amazing, guys...

"I wish that I could say what it is I like to say
Instead I got my tongue twisted up and tied away
I’m tryin’ to do my best
Yes I know that failure is a lesson
I’ve been guessin’ and stressin’ and tryin to make up my decision and
Oh…guess that’s how life goes"

- Rebelution, Out of Control

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Bonjuorno! (no clue if that's how you spell it, but I definitely know how to say it!!) Today is the 11th of February and I am as busy as I have ever been! I cannot believe how much reading us students have in these courses! It has literally been the talk of the week. Everyone has been piled with so much that we cannot actually go out and enjoy our surroundings!! It is very, very annoying but I suppose part of life. Other than the long days and sleepless nights, I have become much more comfortable with living in such a new world. Italian men and women are beginning to recognize my face rather instantly as I walk into their local cafes and grocery stores. I feel like I am looking less and less like a tourist, as well. (It may be the new leather jacket I purchased two days ago?) You'll love it Mom!
Now that we've got to witness the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the green surroundings of Luca, the crazy passionate football fans of Firenze, and the beautiful sounds of the local Opera, we will be hoisted off to the Carnevale in Venice on Valentine's Day this Sunday! I am far too excited for first finding an outfit and and then having all the crazy fun I can get my hands on! So, wish me luck. ;)
But back to the Opera, I went to go see La Traviata on Tuesday night. I felt so pretty with my new dress, necklace, heels, and coat. I felt this experience was beautiful. It reminded me, especially seeing the two little girls sitting in the front row, of when my parents would take me to these small performing arts theatres all over the Bay Area. This church wasn't at all like I pictured. It was held in a very small and cozy room with the audience surrounding the stage like a U shape. Very up close and personal. Even though the amazingly angelic voices nearly put me to sleep, it was still a wonderful experience that I can't wait to try again.
Well it's time for me to pack everything up and walk around in the rain so i can find objects for my "scanvenger hunt". Ugh. Ciao!! Love you most! :o)

(I move into my actual apartment tonight so pictures WILL be posted accordingly annnddd may have hopes in internet connection in this location)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

FINALLY a posta! ;)

(This blog was written on, I believe, the 8th of February! Would not load until now)

So far I have been in Firenze, Italia for 9 1/2 days. I feel right here. I feel, well, good. There are, of course, a few differences here compared to California. For instance, their doors are to be pushed in rather then pulled out (I had to learn the hard way.) Another difference is the bathrooms. Each “stall” is it’s own room that is equipped with a toilet, a sink with a foot pedal, and individual trash bags. There are usually no mirrors, but not to worry because even though everything is personalized, you still have the main lobby with a mirror and a couple more sinks. Wonderful, I know. Another huge difference would be the volume we, Americans, carry our voices at. Oh em gee! I never realized how loud we talked until I moved to Florence. The Italians speak so softly to one another. If not softly than definitely at indoor voices. Man I never once thought I was generally a loud person until now- especially when I get excited (hehe)
My first day here I was a happy camper (<----- looking at my first picture taken, it was really sunny too!). As I walked the streets with my new buddies Addy and Sarah, I noticed my smiles were reaching no one- and I mean no one! Not one person smiled back at me when I shared a smile with him or her. I took it personal, of course. It’s a different culture here in Florence, I thought. I thought that maybe everyone was a little too reserved and a little too aggressive. But when I asked about it, it made much more sense. In any city you go to people will act as if they have a time limit, at least in the city streets. So the very next day I stuck my nose in the air, walked fast, and walked with aggression- and boy did I fit right in. I wish I brought nicer clothes... I may have been the girl who literally packed the lightest, but I am also the only girl in this program who lacks the style. I look as if I’m camping! Ugh. Maybe this just means I have to buy nicer clothing. Especially for the Opera tomorrow night. =) I gotta say though, having one third of your money being lost in the exchange rate is a bit discouraging while out shopping. When it comes to living on my own, I got used to it pretty quickly.
I have two wonderful roommates with the names of Jessica and Sarah (the one in the picture with me). We are all pretty compatible yet can still do our own thing. Sarah and I are the closest of the three. This is mainly because Jessica’s boyfriend,
Blake lives on the floor under ours so she is usually with him and Sarah is my roommate (for the time being then we all will be). I find myself mostly hanging out with Sarah, Spencer, and Addy. Jeannie, Lina, Avi, and “the other” Sarah are my other girlfriends but I barely see them since we live in different areas. All the rest of the kids here are super chill, too. I’ve only been here for a week though so I haven’t been fully able to get to know everyone just yet. One major downside to living here is the lack of communication I have with my family and friends back home. I miss you all so much and the internet connection, or lack there of, really doesn’t help. I’m supposed to find out if I got a promotion today but now I won’t know until the next morning (and it’s only 10:30am where you guys are!) I didn’t even realize how much I would worry about the ones back home- especially my mom and Drew. I’ve actually been having some pretty scary dreams while I’ve been here, but I finally had a nice, yet still emotional, one last night. Could I be getting more acquaint with living so far away? Hm... maybe.
I have had some really fun nights so far this week. Some of the best would be the ones where we would all just hang out at a friend’s apartment. I love getting to know people, especially the ones I am surrounded by in this program. I had no idea I’d click with so many different personalities!
Now even though I have had many many many fun moments so far, I have definitely had my share of real shitty ones too. About two nights ago Spencer, Addy, Lina, Avi, and I went to Discoquec Space, which is a nightclub down the street from Spenc’s place. Towards the end of the night I was dancing near a ramp minding my own business until all of a sudden I was pushed out of someone’s way incredibly hard. My initial reaction was to turn around and call the boy a jackass. And oh man... was that the wrong thing to do. Right after doing so the kid turned around and spit in my face. Yeah, SPIT directly into my face. And ha, oh man, was that the wrong thing to do. Right away I pushed the kid as hard as I could and he went tumbling. I haven’t been so disrespected and so completely and hysterically pissed off as I was at this point. Spencer right away held me back and tried to get me out of there as fast as he could. I was so mad I couldn’t even be touched so apparently I elbowed Addy pretty hard (sorry Addy!) while he tried to get me. Seriously though, who does that? Who spits in a FEMALE’S face. After you push her first? Well, you got me but it did happen. I started to actually hypervenilate while trying to somehow find revenge on this little boy. So they took me back to Spencer’s, I was put in a cold shower, and Avi gave me a massage. Wonderful people they are =) All and all the only good thing about that night was that I ended up getting in for free (you pay at the exit) and that I was reminded of how much I was cared for. PHEW.
Last night was the soccer game. FIRENZE versus ROMA. And holy sh!t were these fans crazy! I wasn’t even watching the game as so much the fans. Two men, by the end of the night, literally pulled out a stadium chair when Firenze was called off sides while the other one kicked in a chair when Roma made their winning goal. Worse than the Raider’s, I must say. It was a pretty fun experience. Alright well I just wrote way too much but I needed to inform you anxious kids. I am doing well and I am very happy to be here. Having no internet does suck, but I am much too busy for it anywho. ;) I think I am just going to write it in a document the night before then post it once at school (like what I am doing right now) Well ciao now! Talk to you soon ;)

(NOTE: I have to add photos to this blog later because they won't load right now, or for the past couple days, but words are more important so bare with me!!)