Friday, December 11, 2015


Ciao friends!!

I know I haven't blogged in a while, and I would say it's because I have had a lot going on but that simply isn't true.  I have had a rough go of it these last few weeks.  I sort of isolated myself and spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself because I feel isolated.  It's a vicious circle and one that I probably shouldn't be having when I am in Italy, but my heart knows now that I have soaked up every ounce of this experience and that it is now ready to head full force into the next chapter and the next adventure.  Teaching these last few weeks has been amazing.  I finally have learned how to navigate the classroom, I know what level each class is at, and I have activities and games that I know work the best with each of them.  Of course, right as I am leaving!!  This is my last day in Macerata.  This last week has been filled with so much love from fellow teachers, staff, and students.  It filled my eyes with tears to know just how much they appreciated me and I just hope that they understand just how much they have changed my life.  I know that I will miss this place dearly, and that a piece of my heart will always remain here.  This is the place where I have grown.  This is the place where I have found myself and what makes me come alive.  I have grown in every facet of life, and I have been able to enjoy the company of some of the most amazing, inspiring, and kind people I have ever come to know.  I have learned to adapt, I have learned that I am a biased individual, I have learned that I have so much more to learn.  Every part of this solo journey has been all I hoped it would be and more.  I walk away with no regrets and a vast new understanding of the world.  Wow, how lucky am I?  So as I say goodbye to Macerata, I now get to say hello to my love, Brent.  We are going to meet about 24 hours from now in the Rome airport!  We are taking a whirlwind 10 day trip all over Italy and I can't wait to share my love for this country with him and to have someone truly understand me for the first time in what seems like forever!  We are heading to Rome, Naples, Sorrento and the Almalfi coast, Florence, and then back to Rome where we fly out.  This is the fun part my friends so stay tuned for more amazing pictures and updates.  My heart is singing and it is full.  Until we meet again, Macerata.  Thank you for everything you have given me and showed me about the world, but more importantly about myself.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What Moves Me?

Buon Giornio!  Wow... What has been on my mind you might ask?  So very much.  In the last week the American government has issued a travel alert to all American citizens to be conscientious of all the terrorist threats throughout the world.  It has my head spinning.  I honestly am at a loss for words.  Should I let a fear tactic dictate my decisions moving forward?  Is that how I want to live my life?  Isn't that what they want?  Is that stupid of me?  I exhaust myself with thoughts on this subject and what I should do with the info moving forward.  I want to be smart but I don't want this to ruin a once in a lifetime experience for Brent and I.  I still haven't come to a conclusion but hopefully with the help of my family and my program I can make an informed decision.  I don't mean to worry you all, I am very safe where I am it's just when I start my travels back to Rome in a few weeks that's where it gets a bit tricky.  I have been trying to not dwell on it too much and trying my best to stay AWAY from the news because none of it is ever good or uplifting.  I needed something uplifting this week, and I'm sure many of you saw the extremely gorgeous flowers that were delivered to my room by a local flower shop.  Brent sent me flowers in a foreign country!!  I couldn't believe it!  The love from him and my family is so palpable to me.  I feel it coursing through me with every breath I take and it provides me with so much courage and reassurance to live fearlessly.  The more I think of all this the more I realize that the ultimate question is "Am I moved by fear or hope and faith?" It's so hard when you are in the midst of fear to remove yourself from the situation and have a rational perspective but that is what I am trying so hard to do during my time here.  This question permeates other parts of my life as well, and I remind myself of these similarities.  Everything we do in life is a calculated risk: I crossed the street today, I could have been hit by a car but I wasn't.  I have risked something fearful every day of my life, whether that be intangible things such as failure, or very tangible things such as the tower in Bologna.  Fear is a powerful driving force.  It is one of the most powerful motivators known to man, and the fact that people use this against the masses is absolutely despicable and evil.  Sorry, I just had to get that off my chest as it had been heavy on my heart recently.  The flowers are not the only things which has lifted me up this week.  The staff at the hotel took pity on me and let me stay until the school opened on Sunday evening, which was a blessing.  I decided to bring games into the classroom not only to allow the students to be kids, but because I needed to see the pure joy they exude when they do something so fun in the classroom.  I try to use their child-like joy to inspire my heart to lighten the load that it accumulates in the "adult world".  It is so healing to laugh with them and to join in their excitement only elicited when I ask Justin Beiber related jeopardy questions :) I have also been running and going to the gym a lot more.  This week is Thanksgiving in the states and I am so sad I will be missing that time with my family.  I plan on kissing the worn, famous PDX carpet when I land in a few weeks, until then I am praying for peace, and a little less stress.  Did I mention I am a chronic worrier?  Ya, I am.  I am searching for the remedy.  If anyone has something something that isn't Xanax I would appreciate it, I am open for suggestions!  Haha

Love and light,

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Fearfulness and Faithfulness

Ciao Friends.  My heart has been hurting since Friday about the tragedy in France.  For some reason it really affected me. It has invaded my thoughts and contemplating such evil acts have kept me awake at night.  I know I am safe and I know that I am at risk for bad things happening anywhere in the world, but it's hard for me to rationalize these thoughts especially when I am by myself for the most part here with limited people I am able to have full conversations with.  This emotional climate, combined with being pretty much homeless on Sundays (because the school is closed until 9 pm and my hotel kicks me out at 10 am) has made my homesickness spike big time.  I know I always write about the things that are great about this experience and how much it has changed me for the good (which it has) but it wouldn't be completely truthful to say it is always easy to do this all on my own.  I crave to talk to my family and give them a hug and have them tell me everything will be okay.  A girl needs her mommy sometimes and there is no shame in that :).  Love you mommy!  Anyway, I was able to reach out to a friend over the weekend who agreed to meet up with me and walk around her town on Sunday and I sat and talked with her host family. It was so nice and I am so glad to have all these other tutors in the region and to compare experiences, mostly to make sure all the things I'm going through match their experiences.  Also on Sunday I was in a cafe' killing time and I found out the barista is a language major at the local university.  Her English was perfect!! It was so refreshing and she was very funny.  I feel like every time I have a down turn in spirits I always run into people who make me laugh and make me feel better.  I am so thankful for her!  When I came back from my friend's house I was able to get into my dorm no problem.  Yesterday I went on another adventure with my friend Ariana.  We went to the republic of San Marino.  It's the world's oldest surviving sovereign state.  It is not part of Italy technically, and it's situated on top of a beautiful mountain surrounded by hills and valleys.  It is legitimately the most magical place I've ever been.  We thought the day was going to be mediocre because it was cold and foggy, but when we got above the clouds it was nothing but breathtaking and sunny.  The fog made the sights so mystical and the fact we were there on a Monday made the streets empty.  It was the perfect day.  We had to take the train from Macerata to Rimini and then take a bus from Rimini to San Marino.  The travelling was definitely worth it.  I told myself one day some how I will make it back there because it just evoked a feeling I have only felt in a few places in my life.  Such awe.  It is the feeling all of us travelers live for.  It's what makes all the hard parts worth it.  It is exactly what I needed this week.  Today I started my lessons which so far have been very successful.  I decided to do my lessons this week on restaurants in America, which is always a hit because Italians are all about food.  It was interesting to think about the fact that most of the food we eat is inspired by other cultures. When I ask myself what food I miss the most I have to say any sort of Mexican food.  Ugh I would sell my left kidney for a fajita or a burrito.  I think one of the main differences between food here and in America is just the amount of time we are willing to spend making our food.  For us it's all about convenience.  What is going to be easiest to make? The majority of Americans don't spend time investing in good quality meals.  Convenience is killing our country one fast food purchase at a time.  The students already understand this at such a young age just because of their culture, and the fact that they are on the outside looking in whereas it has taken me 20+ years to figure it out.  I have become more conscience of the food I eat in the last year, losing 40 lbs.  I think these perspectives now will give me a balanced and well rounded relationship with food for the rest of my life which is all I think what we are striving for.  I am so looking forward to Brent getting here in 24 days!  It's getting so close and I've already started booking our trip.  To share my love for this country with someone I love is gong to be the most amazing thing in my life.  I am so blessed.  I am so blessed.  And I will continue to remind myself of this fact until my heart is at peace.

"I say I am stronger than fear." -Malala Yousafzai        

So much love,

Friday, November 13, 2015

Culture Shock

Buon Giorno my lovely friends!  Another week has come and gone in Italy.  This week in the classroom I taught lessons on the workings of the American public education system.  It was so interesting to share this with the students and to see their reaction when I told them that the students change classrooms, and that students in America stay at school until after 3:00 p.m. The horror!  Classes in Italy are done at 1:00.  It was then their assignment for next week to explain the public education system in Italy, and to answer the question "do you think you would enjoy going to school in America, why?"  I am excited to read their insights!  I have one class that has been particularly challenging throughout the weeks, it's one 2 hour class in the afternoon with the younger students (probably about 5th grade) and I get one half of the class for an hour and the other half for another hour by myself. It was a nightmare the first time because I had no knowledge of what they already knew and what activities would work best for them.  Through a lot of trial and error I have discovered that games are too exciting, most grammar activities are too difficult, but incorporating art and SONGS has been surprisingly successful!  It's a great tool to use with them, and it's great to see them get so excited and leaving the classroom singing :) The other really challenging part of teaching the younger students is the disciplinary structure of the school (or really the lack thereof).  There is no principal to send them to, and the really disruptive students seem to rule the classrooms.  It has me thinking of other way to get them settled down and engaged, I think this is one of the most challenging part of teaching and if any of you have ideas please share!  Anyway, this weekend is going to be pretty low key for me again, I am trying my best to conserve my funds since I am here for another 5 weeks.  I however am planning a trip to one of the coastal towns close by with a few other tutors, so I am looking forward to that.  As I have started to slow down a bit and everything has become a bit more routine I have been noticing an increase in homesickness.  I crave to feel the comforts of home and to snuggle up in my own warm bed and be able to speak to anyone I wish with ease.  Don't get me wrong, I am soaking up every bit of this beautiful experience, but as Judy Garland reminds us, there truly is no place like home.  On my morning walks to the gym I have discovered a beautiful park where I have been reading the last few days.  The warm sunshine hits my face, I watch children play soccer on the dirt field, and joggers run by me.  I so enjoy that time and look forward to it.  It is sinking in to me that my time here is really coming to an end quickly.  Days feel long and weeks feel very very short. Emanuela, the teacher I have been helping, took me too the track where she and her team train and she even got out a javelin for me to throw!  I had one of those big "Ok God, I hear you, I understand" moments which are always so powerful for me.  When I start to really feel homesick or I am just feeling down something always happens and I am reminded how very lucky I am to be here and how much I was meant to experience this.  I don't know that I will ever be famous for anything (I would rather not truly) but I know that above all else I havce an exponentially blessed life, full of people with so much love in their heart.  I have found that no matter where I go I am able to find people whose heart speaks to me and to connect on a level that I understand and appreciate.  I haven't traveled so much in the last few weeks but I have found so many things I enjoy here in Macerata.  For example, Katie and I climbed to the top of the clock tower in the city center and I was able to see this beautiful city in a 360 degree view.  It truly took my breath away!  It was Katie's last week here with me and she left this morning to complete her travels in Europe and  head home.  I was sad to see her go, she was the only one who I could talk to and know she understands me but I feel so lucky to have had that support for my first 6 weeks here.  More than anything, this week has made me appreciate my passions (for example track) and made me realize how much I take for granted the fact that I live in the greatest place in the world for the things I love to do, and I am surrounded by the people I love on top of that.  I know most of the revelations I've had have been about my career, but I am starting to look at the U.S. and all of our lives a little differently.  It's so interesting to be completely taken out of the culture I know and have been submerged in all of my life, and get the opportunity to view it from an outsiders perspective.  I see things a little differently, and I think more than anything that has been the culture shock I have experienced, realizing that not everything we do in the U.S. is  the only or best way of doing things.  I am so glad to have obtained this perspective and I hope to let that empower me and when I get home even to take a step back and remember my own biases.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Changing Minds, Changing Hearts

Buon Giorno!!  This weekend has been a whirlwind adventure! We started out by heading to Bologna by train.  I didn’t really know what to expect because the only thing I knew about the city was that it is the home to the oldest university in Europe.  I love the atmosphere!  As opposed to crowded, tourist-filled Venice and Florence, Bologna is a breath of fresh air.  Culturally, it is 100% Italian and I love cities that are less influenced by tourism.  We ate at a quaint Italian restaurant, explored some shops and markets, visited ancient churches, and finally we climbed to the top of a frighteningly tall tower.  You guys, I don’t think I could describe how scary it was to climb the centuries-old stairs.  Some of the wooden structure was worn so much that it had holes in it.  Part of it was even tilted!!  I had to sing to myself to keep from passing out or throwing up.  And I don’t even have a legitimate fear of heights, but unstable structures apparently cause me a little anxiety.  Anyway, it was a beautiful view from the top, and totally (kinda) worth it I suppose. Ha!  After we were done exploring and got a great meal at a local restaurant and caught a train back to Ancona.  Our first train got delayed so we missed our second train.  We then decided to take another route, but thought since they never check for tickets on a regional train we just weren’t going to buy a ticket.  I talked about this in my post about the things I have learned in Italy, and this experience proved one of my other lessons to be true.  That would be “I don’t know half of the things I thought I knew to be true” because of course this was the one time our tickets got checked.  The nice conductor seemed confused, but understood that we knew nothing about what we were doing when we started talking in English.  Lesson number 31 I’ve learned:  I am a really bad liar and I should not test my own luck.  Long story short we made it to Genga where we stayed the night at an adorable hotel that was set up so that the downstairs was a restaurant and the upstairs was a hotel.  It made it very easy for us to get some pizza and not have to walk far to our roomJ.  We saw some children dressed up in their Halloween costumes and it made me yearn to be home with my family and especially with my niece for her first Halloween.  She was the most beautiful Ariel in the world.  My sister was flounder, Chad was Sebastian and Brent was skuttle from The Little Mermaid.  It was truly precious and very hard for me to watch and not be able to be a part of.  This Halloweekend for me has been all about the physical adventures and I absolutely love it.  First in Bologna was the tower, and in Genga we went “caving”.  For those of you who don’t know what that is, caving is literally going into a cave and risking the possibility of finding out you have claustrophobia.  We jumped over cliffs, navigated around water pools, and took in the incredible beauty of the sulfuric formations that surrounded us.  It was an absolutely incredible sight!!  I so wish they had allowed cameras into the caves because I can’t even explain with words how amazing it was.  At one point in the adventure we got so deep in the caves that there were no sources of light except for that of our headlamps.  The guide, who only spoke in Italian, told us to turn off our lamps and to remain completely silent.  It was the most eerie experience of my life.  I heard everything so much more clearly. All of my senses were heightened and it all felt so surreal.  I feel like in some way or another on this trip I have been put in situations where I get to experience what it is like to have a disability.  I say it’s too much of a coincidence to truly be one.  As I sat in complete darkness and silence I took a deep breath and thought to myself, what a healing experience this all is.  All we have in this world is each other.  It is love that lights our world, and even in darkness I felt a sort of calm and contentness that I have never felt in my life.  I realized I am getting good at this whole “change” deal, something I have struggled with my entire life.  Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you I am not a fan of change.  I fight it, I avoid it, and I cry when it happens.  Somehow though I make it through every time.  I’m sure everyone has heard the saying “the only constant in life is change” and its true!  Whether it be exciting, terrifying, or anything in between, change is something one must master in order to be a successful (or even just functioning) human being.  Life hands us things sometimes that we think we cannot handle.  It throws us curveballs and sometimes throws a fastball when we were expecting a change-up (all my softball friends please appreciate my terminology).  And all we can do is try to adjust the best way we can.  I feel like for the majority of my life I’ve just been trying to keep up, and fooling myself into thinking I could handle anything.  And you know what?  I can. I’m not pretending anymore.  I know how to settle into my batting position and adjust so I can hit one out of the park. Every time.  You want to know my secret? Well to be honest it is a big helping of self-confidence.  I know I can do it, I know I’ve done it before, and my muscle memory is accustomed to knocking it out of the park.  So, as I stood at the entrance to these terrifying adventures, I stood there, I took a deep breath of gratitude, and I took a confident step forward towards who I want and am meant to be.

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” –Alan Watts


Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Answer

Good Afternoon Friends!  My mind has been buzzing with thoughts and ideas since my last post.  When I was stuck on coming up with an even thirty "Things I Have Learned" in Italy the last one came to me out of no where and struck me as special.  I said "I am of service to the world."  Now why, why did this have such a profound impact on my thoughts the last few days?  I think it's because I have finally answered the question I think all 20-somethings are trying to figure out.  It is a conundrum that confounds even the smartest people, even people who have every opportunity open to them.  Having every opportunity open might even make it harder on someone because the question I am referring to is "What is my passion, and how can I allow that passion to make a difference in the world?"  I feel like we are all striving to find our place in a world were there are so many opportunities to do things that will bring positivity and light to the world, but there are also so many temptations of youth that bring the highs of temporary "happiness".  Temporary happiness is not sustainable and is usually accompanied by substances or people who have a false sense of joy and pleasure.  I feel like having this time has made me realize that I finally know the answer to this question.  I finally know where I belong, what my passions are, and I have the tools and work ethic to get me there.    School is only a piece of the puzzle.  So many people I know have gone years of their life trying to answer the ultimate question of young adulthood, and are a lot of the time disappointed when they find out they are either not passionate enough about the work, they didn't have the confidence in themselves to push for something they truly wanted, or they just don't have enough experience to realize any passion.  If I know anything it's that doing anything without passion, or half-heartedly will always bring about mediocre results.  My advice for those people who are struggling is this: Don't settle for dedicating your life to something that doesn't make your heart sing.  Whether that be parenthood, a job, or even a hobby just make sure it makes you come alive.  Wait for it.  You will know when you find it.  I have been lucky enough to find mine in the form of teaching.  Teaching and helping students with language, hearing, and other delays or difficulties is what makes me come alive.  It makes me feel empowered, helpful, and passionate.  For example, today in class there is a student who has Cerebral Palsy, and he is in one of my classes.  He always has an assistant with him and does his own work in class.  I hadn't tried to speak with him yet, but today I asked a staff member what his name was, and so I went up to him and said "Ciao, Alex!!" And he responded with a muffled "Ciao."  The staff around him were in shock that he had responded in such a way.  I think he is non verbal, but I'm not 100% sure because I didn't have a translator.  It gave me the greatest joy since I've been here, and made me cry happy tears.  This happiness is not the temporary form, this happiness is all encompassing.  It is one that I expect to fill me up and leave me feeling whole for the rest of my life.  I love Italy, and I love this life.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Things I Have Learned

Ciao All!

This blog post is going to be more like a list of things I either have been reminded of or I have learned in Italy so far on this trip.  Here we go...

1.  I actually like my natural hair color. (Who would have thought!)
2.  I don't need the "essentials" I thought I did to feel beautiful.
3.  You don't need to speak the same language as someone to know the essence of that person.  Kindness is a language the deaf can hear and the blind can see.
4.  You will find overwhelmingly kind and helpful people everywhere you go.
5.  Italians are LOUD.
6.  No matter what country you are in, middle schoolers are middle schoolers.
7.  Conductors do not check if you have in fact bought a ticket on a regional train.  I have now gotten one free ride.
8.  I am much better at improvisation than I ever thought, I am able to come up with an activity on the spot in class.
9.  I love black tea.
10. Exercise will always be a necessary outlet for me, and the investment in my gym membership has been one of the best decisions I've made since being here.
11.  Food is not the enemy.
12.  Carbs are not the enemy.
13.  Pizza is it's own food group.
14.  Trying to explain English grammar rules sometimes feels like teaching a fish to walk.
15.  Italian teachers never kick their students out of class, no matter how disruptive they are. They just yell louder.
16.   I am my mother when I get frustrated.
17.  Special needs kids will always have a very special place in my heart.
18.  Travelling alone as a woman can be both the most empowering thing in the world and the most terrifying.
19.  Italians do in fact eat an ungodly amount of pasta... EVERY DAY.
20.  My family will always be number one to me, and have such a giant piece of my heart.
21.  I am much more introverted and self-sufficient than I ever gave myself credit for.
22.  Positive affirmations can strengthen belief in yourself.
23.  I talk fast?
24.  I rely too much on my phone for entertainment purposes at home.
25.  I don't know half the things I thought I knew to be true.
26.  Just because people do something differently doesn't mean it's wrong.
27.  Almost everything bought in Italy is made in Italy, which is why they are able to be so successful as a country and the reason why there are civilizations who have been here for centuries.  They have to be doing something right.
28.  I do not need even a quarter of the clothes I own.
29.  The things that were important in my adolescence were so very superficial.
30.  I am of service to the world.

Ok that's it for now.  Love you all!!