Wednesday, November 12, 2008

this is my friend cailey and I overlooking the beautiful san gimignano scenery.

Under the Tuscan Sun

Have you ever seen this movie and thought- holy cow! I wanna go there? Well if you have, because I thought the same thing, it is possible. The movie is filmed in the city of Cortona and I was lucky enough to spend the day there on Saturday. The morning started off early with lots of fog and an early train departure at 8 am. I know it doesn’t sound that early but I had to wake up at 6:30 to be ready to leave for the train station at 7…so still not miserably early but for a Saturday it is a lot earlier than I like! Allora, we had one layover in the most adorable tiny little city, I don't even know what the name was, but it was so cute. We walked down the street and caught a lot of attention. 10 pretty American girls walking down the street at 9 am on a Saturday morning all with backpacks on. Through multiple store windows I saw old men shaving other Italian men, they actually still had barber shops! It was wonderful. The café's were filled with many Italians just waking up to their morning coffee and croissant. We found a grocery store and bought many delicious treats for lunch and made it back just in time for our train to take us on our last leg to Cortona. We arrived at the bottom of Cortona about 10:51, only to miss the 10:55 bus to the actual city of Cortona that is about 3 km up a massive mountain from the train station. Since when does public transportation leave early in ITALY? Never. But wait, this one time it does of course. Just our luck. Our options were to either wait til 12, call 3 taxis for the 10 of us which would cost about 15 euro a taxi to take us up to the city, or walk. Hmm. We decided we would be adventurous and walk to the top. It definitely was a hike, but allowed for us to be right in the amazing scenery of Tuscany. As we made the winding hike along the small paved road to the ancient walled city we passed many locals gathering their olives in their groves. All of them waved and greeted us nicely as we continued on our journey up the hill. When we arrived I felt very proud that we made the massive trek. The view from the top was absolutely breathtaking and the colors of fall were spanning the countryside. We walked around the quite city and were serenaded by middle-aged Italian man playing his guitar and harmonica in the streets. Everything about the day screamed Italy and I tried my best to soak it all up. We ate lunch at a warm, cozy trattoria. We all got Pappa al Pomodoro--a tuscan soup with tomatoes, basil, garlic, and pieces of bread soaked in it. Even though I'm not much of a fan for tomatoes, it was pretty yummy with some olive oil and freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top. It was warm both in physical taste and soulful taste. Afterwards we went to an overlook behind the city, walked through the streets some more, and popped into some little shops. Before catching our bus back down to the train station (as much fun as it was to hike the 3 km up to the city we decided that a bus for the way down was a little more appealing….) we treated ourselves to some gelato. The price was low, the portion perfect, and the flavors delicious. When we got to the train station to head for Firenze for the night 4 minutes before our train was to arrive they made an announcement saying there was a 1 hour delay in arrival time. First our bus leaves early and now our train is an hour late. I think Italy is out to get us sometimes when it comes to planning out our transportation routes and schedules. As we anxiously awaited for the train to arrive we stood on the assigned platform (there were only two at this particular station, it was quite small) and entertained ourselves. Kendis, Alyssa, Lynzie, and I parted our hair down the middle like the 90's and laughed so hard we were crying. In the middle of this whole scenario we heard a train coming and excitedly thought it could be ours. We were wrong. Very wrong. It was a speeding cargo train that when it came flashing by us created such a wind current that I thought I might just be sucked into the train or thrown to the ground at any moment. Our hair was whipping around and as I looked around at the other girls I could see that they were laughing hysterically too in addition to the very stunned look on their faces. We were unable to hear each other over the loud train so it made the whole situation that much funnier, seeing but not hearing everyone's freak out moment. When it was over we were pretty much doubled over in laughter and all expressed the same feelings of shock we had just experienced. Our train eventually came for us and we were then on our way to Florence for the night to be able to attend District Conference on Sunday and spend one last afternoon in the city. The train ride was pretty much uneventful other than the girl that sat across from me with the strangest haircut I have ever seen. Unfortunately she got off the train before I could sneak a photo. Getting off the train was like walking into a whirlwind. The Santa Maria Novella Station in Florence is an absolute madhouse. There are endless platforms with trains coming and going and piles and piles of people and luggage racing from here and there all over the place. It was such a contrast to walk into that station after being in such a serene place all day. The rest of the weekend brought many startling as well as spiritual experiences but I will write about them in a separate entry, for they deserve to be separated from my lovely Saturday journey.

dance partay!

Monday night held the most magnificent FHE I have ever experienced. It included the following:

  • 14 girls
  • Music
  • Darkness
  • Laughter
  • No-shame dancing

Having a dance party in the art room in the uppermost classroom of Dante Alighieri was such a blast. We played all our favorite songs, including some that have been labeled our "theme" songs. We had countless circles alternating who was in the center showing off their unique, original dance moves. Each girl brought their own spunkiness to the room and we had so much fun laughing and enjoying all the different styles of dance. We decided that it was a good way to celebrate our good times here in Italy and it definitely was.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

tuscan fieldtrip

Today brought a most wonderful trip to two beautiful Tuscan cities. The first stop was Volterra. Yes, all Twilight fans, this is where the Volturri live and where Edward threatens to reveal himself in the sunlight. The town was small and quite and there were many threatening rain clouds overhead. We walked through the small streets, surrounded by golden colored stone buildings. As we stood outside the old church it began to drizzle slightly, so we took cover in the baptistery for a few minutes so we could all situate our things and get out our umbrella's. Afterwards, we made a little journey to the opposite side of the town-which only took about 5 minutes- to see old ancient roman ruins. As we observed from above the ancient amphitheatre and the charming Tuscan countryside, massive dark rain clouds came rapidly rolling in and over us. As they reached to valley we were overlooking they automatically moved to fill in the space and it began to rain. The city was dark and cold fast. We decided to find a café and enjoy a nice delicious cup of hot chocolate together. After our yummy treat we explored the quaint boutiques and shops that filled the city. Volterra is know for its Alabaster so many places were filled with different items carved from the soft, white stone. After a lovely afternoon we were off to see our second destination of the day, San Gimignano. This ancient tuscan city was founded in the middle ages and has 17 remaining towers throughout the city. The main piazza was beautiful and picturesque. It radiated images of Tuscany and in the middle was a very large, very old well. We visited the church in the city and were able to see many magnificent and well preserved frescoes from the 1320's. My favorite was a fresco done in one of the private chapels by Ghirlandaio. I love his color palate of warm gold's and reds. After seeing the frescoes we had about and hour to explore the city. It turns out that San Gimignano is the home of the worlds most famous Gelateria so we of course had to try some, even though it was quite bleak and frigid outside. The gelato was delicious and did not disappoint. Afterwards we hurriedly walked down the main street and ducked in and out of shops. The last one I stopped in was the cutest little antique store filled with things that resemble Shabby Shic and endless amounts of old jewelry and household items I wish I would have been able to purchase everything and bring it home with me. I came away with a special treat that I cannot name because it is a gift for my mother. After my purchase the day was over and we all went to get back on the bus to head home to Siena. We were all crammed in to a little mini tourist bus and every seat was taken- even the lonely one that folds up next to the stairs in the front. Alessandro, our humanities teacher who accompanied us on the trip to give us tidbits of history along the way, was the lucky one who got to sit there. All the turns and bumps made a great majority of us sick the whole day, which was unfortunate cause it made enjoying the gorgeous scenes of the Tuscan countryside a lot harder to enjoy. Nevertheless, the day was a magnificent one and it just made me wish I could stay in Italy forever. Tuscany is a wonderful place with a somewhat slow and relaxed rhythm to it that I love. The rolling hills are patched with green pastures, fields of grey clay-like dirt, and now, golden yellow vineyards. My eyes drink up the warm scenery happily and I long to be surrounded by this beauty forever.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

final projects

As our time here in Siena is winding down, the art projects are piling up. Luckily, I was productive today and got the first of a three part series done for my drawing class. I had a hard time trying to figure out what I was going to do and finally decided I would do a series of value-only drawings. Meaning, that I only use shading to represent an object and no lines. I went to the fruit store just down the street from my school to pick out a few items and my eye was caught by some pretty intriguing peppers. I purchased two and I am very pleased with them. My first picture is of only one of them nice and big and I have yet to arrange how I will do the next two. I spent a good 5 hours working on it and I am finally satisfied with the outcome. It feels good to have a start on them and hopefully Peter likes them, considering these final three pieces are worth a huge chunk of my grade. Now I only have 4 watercolors, 8 garlics, a critique/analyses of a work of art, and the 2 remaining pepper drawings. Not to mention any extra credit I might work on or re-works. I don’t really know where I am going to find the time to fit this all in on top of studying for my Italian and Humanities finals as well as doing some last minute traveling, sight seeing, souvenir shopping, and a whole list of various activities yet to be crossed off my to-do list. Obviously they will all get done, I am just going to have to utilize my time efficiently during the next 2 weeks. I sometimes wish I could freeze time, or at least slow it down a little. But even when I tell Time to slow down he doesn't obey ,turns out he isn’t a very good listener.

hAlLoWeEn PaRtY

Today we had the most magnificent Halloween party at the church, all planned by Kimberly. It was complete with orange and black streamers, candy corn, chili and baked potatoes with the most divine cheese sauce, chocolate chip cookies, and caramel popcorn!!! We played some really fun games like bobbing for apples- yes, I bobbed and I won! It was such a blast. My face got drenched with water but it was well worth it. We had a fun wrap-the-mummy relay race with toilet paper. I couldn't suppress my laughter when Anziono Welch was wrapping Anziono White with toilet paper and he was making him spin around and around and A. White kept saying "I'm getting really dizzy man!" As he hopped to the finish line I really thought he would just topple over into the wall instead of actually crossing it. After the relay we had an eat-a-biscotti-from-the-string race and needless to say Antonio, the only boy in the competition, blew everyone else out of the water. He ate his biscotti in two huge bites. If you are wondering why we were eating biscotti instead of donuts its because they don't have donuts in Italy, so we used the only thing that we could think of that would stay on a string nicely. After that we played another relay game that consisted of running down the hall, popping a balloon, eating the candy inside, then racing to tag the next person in line. All the games were so much fun and got all of the members that were there involved and interacting with the rest of us. There were some very creative costumes that spiced up the night as well. To name a few were: sale & pepe (salt and pepper, very clever), witches, lauren dressed up as a garlic (quite hilarious, she even had a sign on her back that said "draw me"), elizabeth was a piece of contemporary art, a referee, angels (whose wings were white purses with silver sequence and their paper halos were held up by a wooden spoon…), and eve-peter's 7 year old daughter- was the cutest little red riding hood you have ever seen. As you can see most of the costumes were very resourceful and quite entertaining. I lacked anything special and dressed up in black and orange--I know I am pretty lame in comparison but there were two others that followed suit so we all fit in with each other. After playing games the BYU girls all split up and went into different classrooms so that the members and all the little kids could trick-or-treat to the 5 doors. It was fun to give out candy to them and I think they all enjoyed it very much. Kimberly's mom had sent her little grab bags of american candy to her that she graciously handed out to the rest of us. Included inside were warheads, pop rocks, chup-chups, starbursts, and caramel apple suckers. We made Antonio (a very attractive, single, Italian guy about 25ish, dressed in the sexiest black and orange outfit- complete with Levi's, who is studying in Florence but lives in Siena, who just happens to have just started taking english lessons at the church on Tuesday nights and wanted to come to our sweet party…) try some of the warheads and pop rocks. Priceless faces were produced. He was shocked of the level of sourness the blue warhead brought to his mouth and even more surprised by the popping of the pop rocks on his tongue. Gotta love american candy! Afterwards the missionaries shared a nice spiritual thought and the clean up began. It surprisingly only took about 10 minutes to clean up, which I guess makes sense when you have 50 pairs of hands all working at the same time in such a concentrated area. The rain was pouring and Autumn and I were not looking forward to the 40 minute walk we had ahead of us. Then the most magnificent thing happened. As we were standing and talking with Antonio (or Italian Hottie as I would like to refer to him as…) offered to give some of us rides home. None of us really responded for fear of what Peter would say but as he walked away to say Ciao to the Elders and other people at the party, Autumn and I took the initiative and asked Peter how he felt about it. The second miracle happened of the evening and he said yes!! It was a great moment. Upon returning to our area of the building he asked again if anyone needed a ride home and the two of us took him up on the offer. Not only was this going to save us tons of time and getting soaked from the rain, but we would get to ride in a car with Italian Hottie! It was so great. The three of us ventured out in the rain, which he so graciously shared his umbrella with us on the way to the corner where he told us to wait for him while he went farther down the street to pick up his car. A couple minutes later he pulls up in a black VW bug and let us in. I cannot express the excitement I felt when I saw his cute little bug. I miss mine tremendously and very enthusiastically told him that I had the same car as him back home. He got a kick out of that and kept saying "its true?!" The smell inside was similar to mine and he even had a flower in his vase (a red rose if you were curious…). He asked me what kind of flower I had in mine…I love that the vase is a universal "bug" thing. We listened to some pretty sweet house-techno music as we drove through the wet and winding streets just on the outside of the old city wall. The drive was fast and only took about 7 minutes. We thanked him very graciously and hurried inside when he dropped us off 5 feet from our door. I was so grateful when I walked into our bedroom after only 10 minutes of leaving the church, dry, warm, and completely and utterly happy. The night was a blast, the food delicious, company delightful, games exciting, and the ride home- bliss. Autumn and I immediately changed into our comfies and climbed into bed to work on our journals before bedtime. After about 30 minutes there was a knock on the door and Giuseppe informed me, "sibley", that I had a phone call. It was none other than Peter calling to check on us. He wanted to "make sure we got home safely after sending us off with some strange italian man". Haha it was so funny. He is totally a worrier and completely fills the role of father for all of us here. He thought it was pretty funny they call me Sibley, I wish I could have heard the conversation that he had with Giuseppe while trying to get one of us on the phone. Overall it was a great halloween despite my lack of costume and I am going to bed one happy, satisfied girl.