Thursday, October 30, 2008


I walked around Siena the other day just to see it. The scenery was breathtaking and the colors warm shades of fall. Each street brought a new view of Italian life. Sheets and clothes hanging to dry, the delicious taste of lunch wafting through the air. It is amazing to me how connected you can feel to a place. I feel as though Siena is a part of me now. I never thought the winding, seemingly similar streets throughout the medieval town would make sense to me. But now as I journey to school every morning I see familiar faces, hear familiar sounds, and feel the familiar rhythm of the city. Each street is unique and offers its own personality. Over the last couple days I have begun to feel somewhat panicked that I am leaving this place I call home in less than 3 weeks. I anticipated coming here for so long and now it is almost over. My time here feels warped as I think of the people I love at home and how I long to see them and feel their warm embraces, but yet I also yearn to stay here and continue my life changing experience in Italy that seems like it has just begun. I know the contours of the sidewalks and the cracks in the cobblestones. The smooth music of the language fills my ears when I walk the streets.

tragic death

So I have some unfortunate news to report--Pipo has died. It was altogether a quite horrible experience. His health began to decline on Saturday with an intestinal blowout downstairs while everyone except Autumn and I were home. We decided to ignore the mess considering it isn't our house or our dog, and I barely had the stomach to side step it to get outside, let alone clean it up. We didn't eat dinner with Fiorella and Giuseppe on Saturday night because we had gone bowling and they had gone to Giuseppe's mother's 80th birthday party. Sunday night at dinner they informed us that Pipo was sick. Obviously the language barrier caused our discussion to be limited but we were able to find out that he was upstairs in the bedroom and wasn't walking around or eating. Apparently he wasn't doing too well. Fiorella was convinced they would have to put him to sleep on Monday and Giuseppe had a little more faith that the doctor could make it better. Upon arriving home from school on Monday I was greeted by a horrible sick dog smell. Unless you have experienced this yourself words cannot describe the stench. Luckily, it was confined to the hallway and hadn't seeped under our door and into our room. It was quite sad that he was so sick but I lacked the vocabulary to find out what was wrong with him. The doctor put a stress collar on him and put him on about 6 different meds for Fiorella to give him. Tuesday night, before Autumn had arrived home, Fiorella knocked on my door to get me for dinner. She had been checking on Pipo and I got my first glance at him since Saturday. He looked like death. He was laying on a blanket on the floor, his collar on, two blankets draped over his body, and he shook all over. Fiorella bent down to fix the bandage on his leg that was covering a wound I am assuming was from the doctor for blood work or something of the sort, and stroked his shaking head. It was such a sad scene and I wished so greatly that I could express any sort of consolation, but I knew that even if I could speak Italian I would probably not be able to say anything that offered comfort. During dinner she periodically went upstairs to check on him and she barely touched her food. After she finished dessert, which consisted of roasted chestnuts, her and Federica went upstairs. After about a 2-3 minutes hysterical sobs funneled down the stairs. I instantly knew the reason for the cries. Giuseppe hollered up to see what was wrong and confirmed what I already knew. Pipo was dead. It was horrible. What do you say to a family who just lost the eyeless black dog that they have loved for the last 14 years? He was like a child to them. Autumn and I cleared the table and tried to think of what we could do for them. We were about to clean off the dishes but Giuseppe stopped us and told us that they would get it later. We decided the next best option would be to retire to our room for the night and let them mourn. We passed by the extra room and there was Pipo, laying lifeless on the floor. What do you do with a dog's body? Wednesday night at dinner we found out that they buried him in Giuseppe's mother's backyard. That is the end of Pipo. No more clinking of his nails down the stairs during dinner, no more coaxing him out of our bedroom with wrapper noises, no more feeding him the chicken bones off my plate.


Over this last weekend we had the opportunity to travel to a nearby city called Poggibonsi to go bowling with the missionaries, branch members-both active and inactive, and even a few investigators. The experience was a wonderful one. The bowling alley was actually very similar to the ones in the States which was nice to have some familiarity. Many of the Italians we were with had never been bowling and they all watched attentively as all the American girls went to see how it was done. There was a flurry of high-fives and other hand and facial expressions to express congratulations to each person that went, no matter how insignificant their success had been. For those two hours the language barrier seemed to be lifted as we all grew closer together unified by the spirit of excitement that filled the air. My face hurt from smiling so much. It was so fun to spend time with the members outside of church and get to know them better. The Spirit was present even in the busy setting of the bowling alley and helped us all to feel unified. I am sad that we only have two Sundays left with them and find it hard to believe how fast the time is going here. Being involved with a ward has never felt so natural or desirable. I look forward to every interaction I have with the faithful members here in Siena. I know that part of me will stay here with them and hopefully I have been able to give them even the tiniest bit of what they have given me.

Monday, October 27, 2008

eurochocolate '08

Have you ever been to the chocolate capitol of the world? Cause I have. Perugia, Italy!! Let me tell you about it--
The morning began with a jump start when I glanced at the clock and read 10:27. What, 10:27? I jumped out of bed and frantically threw off my pajamas and put on the first pair of jeans I could reach. Why was I in such a hurry you may be wondering... Well my bus was to arrive at the top of my street, Porta Pispini, at 10:40. I proceeded to toss the essentials into my purse, twist my hair in a bun on the top of my head, not even taking the time to make it look cute with my bangs pulled back first or anything. I found a clean shirt in my drawer, grabbed my sweater in case it was cold and made a mad dash for the kitchen. The usual croissant, bread, jam, and juice was awaiting me at the table. I hurried and dumped some jam onto a slice of bread, tossed a croissant for later in my bag, and didn't even bother to clean up like I usually do. In fact, I noticed at last minute that I dripped a little bit of marmalade on the kitchen table cloth but I didn't have time to clean it up--don’t worry, the table cloth was gone when I went down for some water later that evening. Anyways, at this point I am so stressed that I would miss the bus that I grabbed my purse in my hand (to prevent any obstruction while running, leading to unnecessary slowing…) and sprinted up the massive hill. I thought I might die. I don't remember that hill ever being so long but the thought of not making it on that bus kept me going. I reached the bus stop with 3 whole minutes to spare. Record time right there. The rest of the day was a nice one spent in the beautiful city of Perugia, surrounded by massive amounts of chocolate. Lunch was a delicious pita sandwich with freshly grilled zucchini and ham. We were even lucky enough to split a side of fries with ketchup!! It was a great day to say the least. The first stop was at the Milka booth--we all got a purple cow-spot painted on our cheek and a cardboard headband complete with cow horns. Needless to say we were looking quite sexy all day long! We watched a game of chess played with huge knee-high chocolate chess pieces and we even rode on a carousel. The scenery was magnificent, the chocolate divine, and the bus ride there and back filled with philosophical discussion.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

hooked on phonics

So apparently hooked on phonics when you are in college, learning a new language, and in a foreign country is the new modern thing to do. Today all 21 of us in Italian 101 had to take a 3, yes 3, hour "lection" (all the words I place in "" marks from here on out will be words used from Giovanni Beve l'Acqua-drink the water in italian fyi- an italian actor from Rome that came to teach us 3 phonetic lessons while we are here in Siena…) to learn the sounds of the italian "music" (language). The "lection" (his combo for lesson and lecture that I feel is a good addition to my vocabulary…) consisted of the strangest combination of meditation/yoga style exercises to teach us 3 different vowel sounds during the course of the lesson. Wow. I had the chance to visualize myself as a "bland of grass" (blade…) blowing in the wind when making the "eee" sound, a dark, stormy cloud for the "ooo" sound, and a calm sea for the "aaa" sound. Each of my sounds have their own color, and their own movement. At the beginning and end of the "lection" we had to lay down on the floor and feel our "birth" (breath…). Feel the air coming in and out, and the movement of our body. "Feel it in your "ends" (hands…) to your feet" mr. beve l'acqua says. Then we had to visualize in our abdomen a ball that would suck up the air when we inhale and let out the air when we exhale. We needed to visualize the color of our sound filling the ball and feel the change of the color when we switched sounds. It was a very very strange experience. I really wish I had a video camera to tape us all "blowing" in the wind like little "blands" of grass singing italian vowel sounds in unison. During the "lection" we would "play" with each other--making a motion to each other that represented one of the vowel sounds then the other person had to make the sound. We frequently mirrored Giovanni's actions and repeated the sounds he said. We jumped, we sang, we made strange hand motions, we swayed, we laughed-a lot- and we "birthed" a ton. I hope that the above description carries with it to you at least some of the strangeness/ridiculousness of the whole experience. I am off now to practice my sounds while I visualize their "color". I think I will work on my golden "bland" of grass first...

taste buds

So since arriving in Italy my oober sensitive taste buds have been exposed to a wonderful array of foods. Some of them new, disgusting, divine, sweet, bitter, etc, etc. I decided I would compose a list of memorable things I have eaten here, many of which fall into a category of "never eat again" or "refuse to eat unless in Italy" sections. This particular entry might only have significance to those closest to me that know of my troubles with taste and texture, as well as my preferences when eating. The list is as follows:

1)Finocchi-this definitely lands the spot of #1. The best way for me to describe it is an onion on steroids with celery-like shoots coming off the top of it. What about that sounds appetizing? It is one of Fiorella's favorite vegetables to include in dishes, she even makes entire appetizers containing finocchi and only finocchi. One gem of a dish was a finocchi lasagne--baked finocchi and a cheese sauce. The cheese sauce was actually pretty good, the finocchi on the other hand was not.

2)Tomatoes. This particular confused red fruit/vegetable lurks in everything I eat here. I even ate it on bread and didn't gag. Mother-you would be so proud. They are starting to grow on me, to the point of tolerance not quite to the point of like, but I am afraid this won't carry on to my taste back home in the states.

3)Beets. Yes, beets. As in the magenta-bleeding vegetable. Not half bad with oil and pepper on top. Definitely wouldn't choose to eat it ever, but I can force myself to eat it to please Fiorella.

4)Cheese of every sort. Italian cheese will change your life. Enough said.

5)Fruit. The fruit in Italy is of the highest quality. Peaches are wonderful, clementines tangy with the perfect amount of sweetness, and apples crisp and delightful. Dinner is accompanied by a piece of fruit almost every night. The only let down is the fact that "seedless" doesn't seem to exist. Who knew grapes had such large seeds? They can create a huge inconvenience, but the fruit is still always juicy and divine.

6)Roasted chesnuts. They have the texture and taste similar to that of mashed potatoes, surprisingly. When they are hot and fresh of the fire it is the best. I actually ate them by choice the other night and got seconds. Yes, grandma, I know you are in shock right now. I was too.

7)Pumpkin. Apparently this orange member of the squash category has more uses than being carved into a scary Halloween face or being added into yummy holiday treats. We have pumpkin risotto frequently (typical rice dish that has variations of added vegetables…Fiorella prefers pumpkin in hers). We even had a dish of olive oil and pumpkin heated on the stove in a pan. I never imagined dishing up spoonfuls of plain pumpkin- it was a little strange if I must say.

8)Raw meat. Like I mentioned before, we have the wonderful blessing of having a meat slicer in our kitchen. Fiorella finds it very useful and our table is quite often blessed with thinly sliced raw meat options.

9)Gelato. Magnificent. Delectable. Creamy. Smooth. Rich. Delicious. End of story.

10)Foccacia. I am not one to just eat a slice of bread when hungry, but man- italians know how to do foccacia well. My favorite was pesto topped foccacia in Cinque Terre--so satisfying.

11)Normal every day bread. Hard as rock on the outside and completely flavorless on the inside. I do feel that my jaw has grown stronger from all the gnawing. Bread and my gums are not friends.

12)Chocolate. The chocolate here is life changing- I think it’s a European thing. Hershey's will never again be completely satisfying. Dang.

13)Pasta. Pasta is life. The pici is wonderful and only found in Tuscany--a thick spaghetti type noodle.

14)Pesto. Who knew that a green creamy sauce made from pine nuts and olive oil could be so delicious?

15)Olive oil. They put it in everything- and I mean EVERYTHING. If something doesn’t taste quite right, just add some oil!

Well I feel as though the above 15 will be good for now, but I will continue to add more as I experience new things. Like I said before, this is just a list of the most memorable, there are a ton of other potential candidates, but if I were to include all of them I might as well write a novel.

Monday, October 20, 2008

art and pop quiz.

so today we had a pop oral exam in italian. let me just say that stress levels were slightly elevated. luckily we all made it through alive and as enzo, our teacher put it, "it is only a conversation!" as i frantically looked over all my notes from the past month of lesson's i started to feel ok about having a "conversation" with him. my partner and i decided to go up and of course when we got up there he decided to have a break and told us that we would have to wait. we waited. the anticipation was killllllling me. it took forever. when we finally got done and took our seats at the front of the classroom in front of him. he asked us (all in italian of course...) to describe our family and what our parents did for occupations. then he asked each of us how to conjugate verbs into the past tense. then we were done. that was it. finished. i couldn't believe it! i had almost had an anxiety attack and crammed all my italian into my brain and then it was fine. no harm done (well maybe a little but i think i will recover from it. )and i am very very pleased with my grade. i don't really know how he came up with it from the short amount of time i spent talking to him but i won't complain. i will admit that if i had known about this oral exam before the fact i would have been so overwhelmed with school work that i might have had a melt down. i spent the last week working on hours and hours of art and i am still not completely done. i have no idea how my art major friends do it. art projects take forever--pretty much a standard amount of time is 5-6 hours. and that is diligent work with probably not a lot of detail. i have totally lost count of how many times i have said "peter" out loud the past weekend due to my lack of any other way to express my utter frustration with some of the homework assignments. for example- i spent an hour walking completely around siena to find the perfect spot to draw atmospheric perspective. "i want you to have the experience of sitting outside" peter says. well thank you- i sat outside. hopefully i get a good grade because my poor little bum got really sore sitting on that park bench for 6 hours and my stomach was pretty hungry afterwards (only to be greeted by not to yummy leftovers from fiorella...). well needless to say the experiences here in siena are always changing and leave me quite frequently out of my comfort zone.

once upon a day...

Once upon a day 11 girls were shuttled by their Professor to the Tuscan countryside to a village by the name of Celssa. The winding roads, sometimes paved and sometimes not, took careful maneuvering of the Professor, but was done so nonchalantly with the window rolled halfway down and the aroma of fall enveloping all inside for the ride. Thick woods and medieval rock walls lined the path to the ancient house awaiting it's anticipated guests. Upon arriving to the villa the smell of mexican style food welcomed deprived senses and triggered instant hunger. Cozy, comfy couches in the living room provided the temporary feeling of "home" and allowed for complete and utter relaxation. Lunch was served on the outside patio and all enjoyed the colorful taste of familiarity. Afterwards, with filled stomachs and satisfied souls, the group set out on an adventure. They followed a path through thickets, pastures, and trees to discover ancient structures scattered throughout the hills. They passed a cemetery, long since abandoned, where Italian bodies lay resting. A castle visible on the neighboring hilltop sparked playful fantasies of princes and royalty. A manor with a long gravel pathway and acres of gardens and groomed woods provoked stories linking to wealth, fame, ritz and glamour. Rest was found at a well outside an old Pope's residence where he banished his unrighteous brother to years of repentance. Eventually the feet of the girls' found their way back to where they delightfully found warm rice pudding waiting on the table just outside the front door of the house. The sweet cinnamon taste complimented the view of the rich fall leaves and the smell of Italian October blowing in the breeze. Reluctantly, with lingering desires to stay in the Tuscan fantasy they all found themselves wrapped in, Professor piled them in the car group by group and once again embarked on the winding journey back to reality.


Yesterday brought a wonderful day of Italian sight-seeing. Half of our group traveled with Peter to the ancient town of Assisi to visit some old churches (which is pretty much a given seeing as how that is the vast majority of what we always travel to see…churches and the artwork inside them). The main attraction is the church of San Francesco. He is a Saint of the Catholic church, and in his lifetime during the late 1100's to early 1200's lived a life of humility and servitude. The church that was constructed for him just shortly after his death consists of two levels, the lower level is filled with magnificent frescoes by Giotto and Simone Martini. The upstairs cathedral is also lined with frescoes depicting many different ancient biblical stories and other scenes from the lives of generous saints. In the crypt deep underneath the church we were able to see the tomb of San Francesco as well as various other Friars that have the privilege to be buried with him there. It was very fascinating to go to Assisi because the main group of site seers consists of devout Catholics who feel a deep spiritual connection to San Francesco and the things he taught. The only equivalent that comes to mind (and I don't think that it even really comes that close to the actual relationship) is Temple Square for LDS members. The town was all constructed in a much lighter stone that contrasts the color of Siena drastically. We walked up and down the steep streets wandering in and out of cute boutiques and kitschy souvenir shops, stopping for some lunch that unfortunately turned out to be the saltiest thing I have ever eaten. It tasted as though the dough was soaked in the Mediterranean, topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella then baked in a brick oven. However ,the view of Tuscany from the village was unbelievable as we just sat and relaxed along the city wall and attempted to soak it all in. We all attempted to take photos and capture the moment, but somewhere between the closing shutter of the camera and the picture displayed on the screen all emotion was drained and the simple beauty was drained from the images.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

the wonderful welcoming aroma

First off I would like to thank Peter for the welcoming aroma of GARLIC whenever I enter my bedroom. Apparently he doesn't find the smell of 14 garlic cloves in a confined space that also happens to be a bedroom offensive. I, on the other hand, prefer not to walk into my only living quarters and be greeted by the reeking odor of garlic. You see, Peter gave us this long term art assignment the other day that consists of the following-

1) Each person in art and drawing is to purchase 7 cloves of garlic

2)Complete 4 compositions a week from now until the end of the program of the purchased garlic's

3)Each composition must be on high quality soft paper purchased from the art supply store in town, and not done in your sketch book that is already handy

4)The paper must be torn down to size and might be in the shape of a golden rectangle or a perfect square, whichever you prefer to draw in (no smaller than 16.1x18.0 cm)

5)The compositions might be placed anywhere in the square or also have a separate border drawn inside the sheet to provide extra structure to the piece. (one must keep in mind that presentation of the 'artwork' is taken into consideration when grading…)

So needless to say, my room will smell of garlic for the next 5 weeks and I pray that it doesn't permeate to everything else I own. I believe I will be quite the garlic drawing expert by the end of this and according to Peter I might even be able to draw them in my sleep! Who would have thought that I would leave Provo a useless artist and come home a garlic expert?! Well watch out Provo cause you have some real masterpieces coming your way!

genealogy work

So I might have previously mentioned that our tiny branch here in Siena happens to have a database of over 600,000 names they need entered into another database so that their temple work can be done for them. Over the past couple weeks I have spent numerous hours at the genealogy center at the church building helping to input these names. We all fight for the opportunity to put our names down on the list when it gets passed around sacrament meeting every Sunday, and it is unfortunate that they only have 5 computers available for use and only 2 nights a week open for the work. But nevertheless, the work is pressing forward and we are making progress. Fertelli Rotelli (don't know how to spell his last name for sure, that is just a guess from how I hear his name spoken…) is the sweetest local man in the branch and is in charge of the genealogy center. This last Sunday he got up and bore his testimony to us and very sincerely thanked us all for the work we have done. He stated that on average each girl inputs 300 names per hour, and with around 30 total work hours being done each week we are really starting to make a dent in the huge amount of names. It feels so good to be able to give back to the branch in any way possible. I love when I have the opportunity to serve them and be able to show my appreciation for all that they do. The members here really go out of their way to accommodate us and with the language barrier it is often difficult to express our gratitude. I am so thankful that through doing this genealogy work we not only have the opportunity to show thanks to the branch members, but we are also able to bring the opportunity for eternal exaltation to many other Italian spirits that anxiously await on the other side of the veil.

Monday, October 13, 2008

scenes from my italian lifestyle

this is the view from the top of an ancient wall in siena overlooking the campo and main clock tower.

the middle picture is after the 3.0 km hike from Corniglia to Vernazza.
this is the view from Corniglia overlooking the mediterranean on other coastal towns.

i am medusa...this is at the boboli gardens in florence.

and this is a kiss to my mother <3

Sunday, October 12, 2008

alimentari lover

I have an admirer. I don't know his name but he frequents visits to the fountain to talk to Autumn and I in broken conversations between english and italian. The other night as I was sitting at the fountain just before dinner he came out a few times to see how I was doing and just take a break from running his little grocery store that he has just a little bit up the street. We often see him in the morning spreading rose pedals outside his doorway which is just a funny little quirk about him that shows just what a sweet and sentimental guy he is. Anyway- he told me to come into the store before I left and he would give me something. Hesitantly I peeped my head in to say "buonasera". He kindly asked if I wanted something to eat but I told him no, so he gave me a pink rose instead and sent me out with a ciao bella! and a blow-kiss goodbye. I laughed all the way home and quickly put it in water on my desk. The whole experience was so italian.

cinque terre

I went Here for the weekend. It was absolutely magnificent. We spent the weekend hiking and enjoying the wonderful scenery. I walked a total of 6 km along the coast of Italy with each path getting progressively more difficult and leading to a total of 5 coastal towns. We enjoyed delicious fresh fruit, pesto with traditional Lugano noodles called Trofie, and fresh baked foccacia bread. The road from Riomagiorre which is the first town to the second called Manarola is called Via dell'Amore (the road of love…). It was a beautiful and leisurely walk that only took about 30 minutes. Manrola was a cute town that was filled with yummy café's and restaurants. We all got a panini for lunch and walked down to the shore line to eat them and I have to say it was utter and complete bliss. The weather was incredible at about 80 with a slight ocean breeze to keep us cool. The next path to Corniglia was a little bit harder than the first and took a total of about 1 and a half but we made a little pit stop on the way. We found a beach area with big rocks and boulders lining the coast and spontaneously decided to take a dip. We were hot and sweaty from the hike and none of us had our swimsuits on but the water was much to tempting to pass up. We hiked down a dirt pathway to the beach and found a semi private area to strategically change into our suits. The water was wonderful and we even saw a small squid that provided a nice reminder of where we were. After our dip we laid on the nice hot rocks and soaked up the sun. The beach proved to be a complete Italian experience complete with a couple nude Europeans laying around and an older Italian man eyeing the 9 of us in our swimsuits for the duration of our time there from 20 feet away. He didn't even try to be discrete about it but blatantly stared for a good hour as he sat in his white nasty underwear that was a little smaller than a speedo on the rocks to the right of us. He even kept his stare locked on us as we made our way back up the steep hillside to the path on onward until he was no longer able to see us due to the vegetation. We arrived to the bottom of Corniglia and were surprised by the massive staircase that awaited us to take us into the tiny town. There were a total of 382 steps that seemed to last forever! We finally got to the top and looked around for a bit before catching the train back to town #1 to get some dinner and take the bus to the hostel. We found a nice Tratoria (family restaurant) and enjoyed some typical pasta for the region and pesto. Absolutely delicious and the man that served us was absolutely sweet and got a kick out of all of us ordering the same dish. 22 of us girls stayed in the same hostel in a city just up the mountain from Riomaggiore about 20 minutes. It was clean enough with the sheets smelling strong of vinegar- but at least we knew they were clean! We got up bright and early- before the sun even- to head back down and continue our hikes to the last two towns. We took the train to Corniglia and again hiked to stairs of death to the top and found the path that would lead us to Vernazza, the fourth town and also my favorite. The hike was strenuous but worth every step. We crossed multiple valley's and got the most breathtaking views of the cliffs, towns, and many vineyards to say the least. Words fail to describe the beauty there and it was even more wonderful to enjoy it at sunrise. Vernazza was the most lively and colorful town we went to and we enjoyed some great foccacia for lunch. From there a few of us road the ferry to the final town and were met by a delightful sandy beach and gorgeous blue sea. The water was refreshing from the morning hike and the sun felt good on my skin. I enjoyed delicious fresh peaches for lunch and tried to enjoy every minute of the beach. We headed home about 4 o'clock and of course were delayed unexpectedly due to a train car getting detached from the train in the middle of the final leg of our journey. We made it back home to Siena around 10:00 pm and headed home. After a quick shower to rinse all the remaining sand away I instantly fell asleep exhausted from the most wonderful weekend getaway anyone could ask for.

Monday, October 6, 2008

conference the italian way

Sunday brought a wonderful morning of sleep followed by a fabulous feast at the church building. Autumn and I arrived to find a row of tables set up in the main hallway of the church and mixture of investigators, members, and other byu girls all awaiting the wonderful meal we were about to partake in together before settling in for a spiritual feast that would follow. The local members provided the lasagna (which I have to say was to die for…) and us girls all brought either salad or a dessert. The atmosphere in the church was warm and filled my soul with spiritual nourishment. The words that were spoken in the Saturday afternoon session and the Sunday morning session were all words that are applicable to my life. This October was a very different conference experience, usually I spend it at home bundled on the couch with a blanket and family surrounding or occasionally up at the conference center. Being in Siena at the Chapel is not something I ever would have envisioned in my life, but nevertheless I am so grateful for the opportunity. The members here get a kick out of us I think, one made the comment that "you are still eating?!" when she found us still gathered in the kitchen for over an hour snacking on leftovers from lunch between sessions. Nothing makes a conference experience better than a bunch of girls and snack food! The missionaries shared fun stories with us and we all enjoyed watching the film about Pres. Monson's life between sessions and it was fun to get to know him better. His words in the Sunday morning session were so wonderful and sweet--I just love him so much. It is so apparent that he is a Prophet and receives direct revelation from our Heavenly Father. Another exciting experience on sunday was that Kendis and Alyssa brought their host family to eat with us and watch the first session! It was so fun to have them there and such a great day to have them be introduced to our church. The dad, who is so nice and friendly and always remembers me and shakes my hand, seems genuinly interested and the missionaries are going to teach them the first discussion soon as a fhe activity with them. I hope that he is able to feel the spirit and realize the truthfulness of their words.

spiritually fed

Today we had the wonderful opportunity to spend 4 hours at the branch meetinghouse in Siena and listen to our Prophet and his counselors and other church leaders. The first hour and a half was a re-broadcast of the general relief society meeting. The words that were spoken were so uplifting and comforting. It is so amazing how much love is poured out to the sisters of the church. The relief society blesses and enriches so many lives of not only the women of the church, but others that benefit from the service the LDS sisters give. I loved Pres. Uchtdorf's talk and his words of encouragement. It is so easy sometimes to underestimate ourselves and let that hold us back from accomplishing great things. However, I loved his instruction to use our creativity to beautify the things around us. He defined creating as "bringing to existence something that wasn't in existence before". He also said that "the more you rely on the Spirit the more creativity you will possess". Sometimes I struggle with my lack of "creativity" but Pres. Uchtdorf's words brought to my soul impressions of ways that I can use compassion and creativity to help those around me in ways that are simple but meaningful. Through his words I was able to better understand the spiritual meaning of being "creative" and what that means in relation to my life.
The next 2 hours we were able to watch a live stream of the first session of Conference. In the opening talk given by Pres. Monson it was announced that there will be 5 more temples built, one of which will be in Rome, Italy. The italian members were across the hall watching a translated version of Conference and were ahead of our english session by about 45 seconds. When the announcement was made the quite Senor Fertelli began shouting exclamations of joy and running up and down the halls of the chapel. My ears are not attuned to the emotional outbursts of Italian's yet so I had a hard time deciphering what the racket in the hall was about- at first I thought it sounded like screams of pain or horror, then sadness, then possibly happiness. However, when I heard the announcement in english that there would be a temple built in Italy I instantly knew what was behind the hollers in the hallway. The joy and Spirit that filled the building was unlike anything I have ever experienced. The tears that came instantly to my eyes were from the Spirit overwhelming me and my heart was filled with such a great happiness for the members here. Never before have I had any comprehension of how hard members, outside of strong ward units and mormon communities, sacrifice in order to be faithful church members. The closest temple to the members here is in Switzerland, which from Siena means an expensive travel by a ten hour train ride or some other form of transportation to the neighboring country. I am so excited for the wonderful blessing this will be for all the members here in Italy. I have fallen in love with the people here and know how much the Lord must love them as well. Having a temple here will bring so much happiness to the members here and I am so glad they get to receive this blessing. I take for granted that I live in such close proximity to not only one temple, but to countless temples in my area. This conference experience will be one that I hopefully will never forget. The feelings I experienced today were so rich and special. I am so grateful for the Spirit of the Lord and how wonderfully it communicates to each of us personally. I look forward to the next three sessions we will watch on Sunday and for the words inspired by the Lord, being taught through his servants.

Friday, October 3, 2008

so many footsteps...

the last two days have brought quite a bit of traveling for my poor little feet. yesterday was filled with wonderful florence and today was marked with quaint monte olivieto and buonconvento. what a tiring, but wonderful two days. from time to time i feel myself have these "aha" moments where it hits me..."i'm walking up a hill, through cyprus trees, leaving an abbey settled by saint benedict, in oh ya-ITALY!" or "hmm i like these leather gloves, alot, i wonder if its italian leather? oh wait i'm here, in italy, shopping at a handmade leather glove shop with the factory right down the street on the corner." it seriously is so incredible being here and i love when i realize just a little bit more that i am here. this week will hit the half way mark and i just have to say that i really don't want to leave. the people, the scenery, the food, the friends, everything. its so different from life in provo and i am loving getting to know things that i have never experienced or been exposed to. it's so crazy to feel perfectly content with this much that is going on in my seems that this is all too good to be true- but yet it is true. and it is good. but not too good.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

wait- you're fining us for what?

The train system in Italy can be an interesting experience. I feel as though I need to document our experience we had last week on our excursion from Siena to Lucca. The morning started out quite early for me as I walked briskly up to Piazza Gramschi. The streets were filled with delicious scents of freshly baked pastries and bread, the early morning air not yet polluted by smoke and garbage. I arrived to meet the other girls at 7:30 am and we purchased our bus tickets to get to the train station. We got nervous we were going to get on the wrong bus seeing as how we were instructed we could take the 3 or the 10 bus to the station…whichever came first. We saw a 10 come but on the other side of the street…so us, being the smart girls we are, ran across the street and a little bit down to the 10 and were told that we had, in fact, been standing on the right corner if we were wanting to get to the train station and to go back and wait for the next bus to come. Laughing we sauntered back to the corner and waited. The bus came and we piled on, all validating our tickets, and made it unremarkably to the train station. We all purchased our €8.20 ticket to Lucca and went out to the platforms to await our train that was to be there in about 20 minutes. After a somewhat embarrassing moment of having to be told that you have to go underground to get to the far platforms instead of walking across the tracks we made it to the correct waiting place. The train came a little early and we found our seats in the boxcar. A little while later a man in a green suit coat came to check our tickets. We all pulled them out and politely handed them over to him as proof that we did purchase seats on the train. He examined them for a minute then looked up and started speaking in english but with a heavy accent and I was only able to catch a few words. Something about validation, fine, and €40 stood out from all the other words he said. I speant the next couple minutes discussing with this man about what validating your ticket even meant, where you were supposed to do it, and why we were getting fined. He agreed to only charge us €5 a piece instead and wrote us up each a nice yellow ticket and made us fork over the cash. Lame. Who knew that the tiny yellow boxes on the platforms that aren't even marked are actually of vital importance? To me it seems like some sort of conspiracy they have going here that gives them a great opportunity to impose fines on innocent travelers. Well anyway- after we got over our fine we arrived at the station in Empoli to transfer trains to get to the Pisa station. We awaited the trains arrival and decided to run to the end of it to try and get seats together. Ha- bright idea. There were no seats anywhere on the train that a group of 8 could sit remotely close to each other, seeing as how Pisa is a major train hub, and so we were forced to stand. However, luckily for us we noticed an empty car to our right (probably meant for cargo of some sort…) so we took advantage of the situation and took a seat on the floor of the train. It was quite and enjoyable ride with Lynzie and Alyssa playing speed and the rest of us enjoying the scenery. Well anyway--we made it safely after that to Lucca and absolutely loved it. On the way home we ran into some more exciting train adventures. It seemed that every time we arrived on a platform the train we were meant to be on was already pulling away! The first one we missed by mere seconds because who knew that the platform #1 would be behind the building going the opposite numerical order? Hmm. Then because we missed the first one we were all of track for our connections…so each consecutive transfer we had no idea what to train to get on next. Hence the confusion of platforms and missing of trains by seconds even more times! By the time we got home to Siena it had been three hours of train travel and we were all so exhausted and just wanted to get on the bus to get back within walking distance to our houses. Oh but wait--the buses were done running for the day cause it was Saturday! Thanks to the unscheduled smoke break by the driver of our last train we got to walk back to the city! I thought we might die. Nevertheless, obviously we made it and our day filled with wonderful train experiences was finally over. Tomorrow will bring a group travel day to Florence so we can all learn how to use the train system--however I think our group of 8 is pretty set!

more photos.

outside the cathedral in siena with kendis. it has the most beautiful floor mosaics inside!

this is the view from the top of the museo dell'opera. need i say more?


we love the geese at the park. and of course black and white photos.
this is the view from just up the street of my apartment--absolutely breathtaking.

they gave us tickets on the train to lucca for not validating our boarding pass. lame.


Yesterday was a day that should have happened in b&w. On my camera it did--its funny how when you take pictures in black and white your mind starts to think in black and white as well. It began with a stressful morning filled with anxiety over our italian oral exams. It was 21 of us girls cooped up in the library wing of the school anticipating our turn to prove to Enzo that we actually know something. Last minute cramming was in abundance, as well as songs from 90's boy bands and a bunch of girls singing at the tops of their lungs. It took a total of about 2 hours for us to complete the task with the final minutes spent with Enzo actually announcing our scores aloud in front of everyone! Luckily most of us got A's--I scored a 92 and was absolutely thrilled--then it was off to see the sites of Siena! First stop was the Duomo. Absolutely i.n.c.r.e.d.i.b.l.e. The floor mosaics and the details of the stone had the equivalent of the magnificence of the outside of the Duomo in Firenze. I decided that it is my most favorite church we have gone inside of thus far on the trip and feel as though it will remain that way. It was also a very special experience because only 2 days previous we had a special guest lecture from a man named Paul, who I have become quite good friends with, who is a Theologian from Australia (who is about to get his Ph.D. from the University of Rome). He talked to us about the significance of all the Old Testament stories that are depicted on the Cathedral floor and it was cool to then be able to see them in person. After the Duomo we headed over to the Baptistry and then the Crypt underneath the Cathedral. At this point we were feeling a little fatigued and so we decided to pit stop for pizza and pasta at a restaurant near our final destination. The food was delicious but was ruined when we realized we all were going to be charged a €2.50 sitting fee. We were a little disappointed. Nevertheless, we continued on with our adventure and went stopped in the last museum and gazed at all the paintings of Christ and Mary. Its amazing how many different ways the same scene can be depicted. I feel like it is rare when I see art that doesn't contain either the crucifixion, Christ as a baby being held my Mary, or some sort of annunciation scene of either Christ or Mary. It is curious to me how much the Catholic church idolizes Mary. She is such a key point obviously in bringing Christ into this world but it is odd for me to think about worshiping her in the same way that I worship Christ and my Heavenly Father.

After we left the museum the true fun began!
Kendis, Alyssa, Lynzie, and I have made it our personal mission to find the best hot chocolate in Siena so we picked Café Fiorella to be our first taste. It was fabulous! They don't mix theirs with milk here it is basically straight chocolate heated up…so yummy. Since the day was a bit chilly outside enjoying our cup of rich goodness was oober enjoyable. After our little treat we wrapped up in our scarves and went in search of a park. We found one :) complete with ducks, swans, and even a carousel. The four of us had a blast feeding the ducks, snapping photos, and making mini films together. Everything was documented in b&w which added a fun theme to the day. We had a fun time in a hat shop trying on some priceless italian hats and even slipped in a few emails by pit stopping at the irish pub for a few moments. So much happened that in a way can't be put into words based on the fact that they weren't things that were tangible, more just moments that fill my soul with happiness. It is days like this when I get to have a little brain pushing combined with rich, sweet memories of Italy and friends that make me appreciate why I am here.