Friday, October 30, 2009

Oh the places she'll go!

I am writing to you once again from Hostel Celica, the former prison turned Slovenian budget getaway. In realty, this hostel should be number one on any vacationer's list. Ok, hostels aren't for everyone, but this place is an experience on its own. I've noticed that it's also a destination within itself and the guests that are staying here now, range in age from 20 something to 80 something. In fact, last night, my roommate was my new friend Michiko, whom I met while traveling in Lake Bled yesterday. She is a phenomenal woman, by any and all standards.

Michiko was born in Tokyo almost 80 years ago and speaks very broken English. Her home is now, and has been for the past 18 years in Honolulu. She has LITERALLY traveled the world on her own. Most notable is the fact that she did not travel at all until she retired at the age of almost 55. She has never married and I believe, from what I have seen that she does not regret this fact. She told me and another person that we met yesterday, Paul from San Fransisco, that she used to take photos of all her travels and now they all sit in a box and in albums at her home. She no longer takes more photos because she believes that not having children or grandchildren, means that no one would be interested in her stories or photos, but boy is she wrong!

Her stories entranced Paul and I all day yesterday! Today she and I traveled together, while Paul went hiking in the Alps. It turns out that Michiko was 12 years old during WWII and at that time, 12 year olds in Japan stopped going to school and started working in the factories, building guns, airplanes, bombs, etc. for the war. Michiko was one of these children. As well, at 2 years old, she was kidnapped by a man who was known for selling children into slavery in Singapore. Luckily, a neighbor saw the man grab her and called for help. Michiko remembers no more after she was grabbed, until she returned home. She has been to every habitable continent at least twice! Tomorrow, she is off to Croatia, because she has never been there. When I asked her why she came to Ljubljana she said that she just wanted to see it. I also asked her if she ever read up on places before going there and she said no. She just goes and whatever happens happens. She believes that she has a guardian angel on her shoulder and I'm inclined to agree.

So, if any of you out there ever thinks about traveling to a new place, but fears it, I encourage you to think of Michiko, because she puts even me to shame. I can only hope to travel to half the places she has been to.

Ok, that's all for now. I will update you all on the rest of my trip...the more scenic elements and touristic delights; such as the best soup I have ever had in my life, when I return to Florence tomorrow!

For now, goodnight from Slovenia!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

So far, so fabulous!

Ok, I have to make this quick, because I do not know how much internet time I have left! I have made it to Slovenia, Ljubljana to be exact. The bus ride was actually quite nice and relaxing. I made sure I did not sleep on the bus though, so I could sleep at the hostel.

Though the location of Hostel Celica leaves a bit to be desired; there are graffiti covered walls all around and not great lighting at night; the hostel itself is incredible. Last night there was an Irish band performing and they played everything from traditional drinking songs to Johnny Cash. Other folks who had brought instruments with them, even jumped in and jammed. There was also a local wine tasting, which was very nice and very cheap. So, I drank two glasses of the red, before I realized that the guidebooks said not to miss out on the white...maybe tonight.

My roommate last night, was a very quiet and timid Japanese guy from Japan...who was here only to sleep. This morning he got up at 5 am and raced out to see the castle in town. Then he came back, checked out and went to rent a car to drive to Croatia. I hope I get a good roommate again tonight! The only other problem with this hostel is that folks are up at all hours. I am so glad that I brought ear plugs with me though!!!

Well I am off to see the city now and will do my best to keep you posted! Sorry, no pics from the road this time is too difficult to manage the uploading at internet cafes! Ciao for now!!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Happy Birthday to me!

As I write today’s blog, my birthday is almost over, at least in Italy. Today I have been overwhelmed by the kindness of my friends and loved ones. I awoke to find countless birthday wishes on my Facebook account as well as emails in my inbox. These messages come on top of the recent influx of cards and letters I have received in the mail and of course the phone calls from those closest to me. Let me tell you there is nothing like spending your birthday in a foreign country to help you take stock, not only of the year that has passed, but of what is important in life. The best gifts I could have received are exactly those that I got; good thoughts and well wishes from all over the United States and Europe.
Today it was easy to spend time reflecting on the past year and also on the last birthday I celebrated in Florence, four years ago. Boy, I was a completely different person then than I am now, and very thankful for it. At the time, I had just left the theatre, which let’s be honest, had been my security blanket for so many years. In Florence, I started over again. I was living in a new place, learning about a new culture, and struggling with a new language, but somehow in that year, I blossomed. It was during that time that I started on the path that led me to the University of Chapel Hill and oddly enough, back to Florence.
When I arrived in Italy four years ago, the only people I knew in this town were the other Americans from my Middlebury program and that is exactly who I spent my birthday with in 2005.
Things are much much different this time around. I arrived here with a confidence that I could not have imagined. I was homesick for a bit, but after just two months, I’m pretty much over it and settling in to my temporary home in Florence. I will mark my 38th birthday tomorrow night at a little restaurant where I have become a regular and I will celebrate, not in the company of other Americans, but surrounded by Italian friends…the same people I first met in 2005-06. I never could have imagined during that year that I would maintain any of these friendships, because I had always heard that Italians have an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. I have found that idea to be completely untrue, at least regarding my friends here.
The beauty of my arrival in Florence this year was that I knew I already had established friendships here.
While these friendships have made the transition this year easier and they will certainly make my birthday party quite fun, I do miss those friends and family from home.
On my birthday, it is hard not to wish for you all to be here with me, but being here, on my own this year is what I need to do. Today, that is clear to me. I know from all your words, thoughts, calls, cards, and letters how much I am loved and that is really all I need.
Of course, today I am reflecting on this past year as well and in that regard, I really do consider myself one of the luckiest people on earth. In the last year, I began graduate school; I met Tim, who continues to be one of the most important people in my life; I presented at my first conference; I introduced several new students to Italian and got them to really love it; and I realized without a doubt that I am meant to be a teacher and that I am now, exactly where I am supposed to be.
I do wonder if this year will result in another big change in me. My Italian IS already getting better! Well it will be fun to ponder that in another four years!
My life is not perfect. I am not perfect. Yes, there are things that I do not have, but I have so much to be happy about that I have no reason to complain about turning 38 or being away from home, as I do so! Distance and age are all relative right? All that matters is that you all are a part of my life and I am so happy for that. So, I say Happy Birthday to me!!! And many more…with you all by my side! I love you all!