The past few weeks have been tremendously busy for me, and it looks like the next couple will be hectic too. I’m enjoying my new full-time position, and I am still writing on the weekends and nights because I physically need to write. If I don’t write… my brain feels sick. I don’t feel validated. It’s a feeling I could never show you and my explanation does not do it justice.
I took my family out to dinner last night, it felt wonderful to do something like that for my parents who have been super-supportive the past couple of weeks. They have done so much to help me reach my goals.
It’s finally starting to warm up here in New York. Despite the little snow flurry we had yesterday, our temperatures are beginning to level off in the 50’s. I am so anxious to spend time in the sun. Just sitting reading or writing at a park or even on my porch would be perfect.
I hope everyone has been having a wonderful spring, the time of year to start afresh. May all my fellow writers feel rejuvenated!
After Valentine’s Day I visited my brother and his fiancé for 10 days. I was originally gonna stay 5-6 days, but I extended it to 10 after having so much fun and bad weather in the New York area. He lives outside of Phoenix. I had visited Arizona first in 2010 and we went up to Sedona, down to Tombstone, the Phoenix Zoo, Superstition Mountain, and a couple other touristy things.
This time around I visited the Out of Africa Wildlife Park, which was one of my favorite experiences. They rescue exotic animals that people have kept as pets or from overcrowded zoos. I got to feed a tiger. I heard hyenas laugh (and moo, yes they moo!). I also fed giraffes by putting a lead between my lips and having them take it from there. A lot of people ended up getting the giraffe’s tongue all over their face but both the giraffes I fed like this were gentlemen.
We went to the Arabian Horse Show and watched a jumping contest which was thrilling. Horses are incredible. My brother took me to the Arizona Renaissance Festival which was amazing. I had never been to a RenFaire before and it was super fun. The shows, turkey leg, mead, and vendors were all cool.
We went horseback riding on the day I was supposed to originally fly out. Our family friend Herb owns them and after letting us walk around the corral we took to the streets. I had never been horseback riding that wasn’t on a trail or premeditated route so it was amazing to have control over the horse. And once again I’ll mention how amazing they are.
It was a wonderful vacation and I enjoyed the warm weather so much. After getting back to New York I bought a Sigma lens for my camera. Sigma lens are a hit or miss, but I tested it out on my Canon and liked it. I bought the 28-200mm lens secondhand for $30, and I cannot wait to take it out on a photowalk one weekend when the weather has cleared up here.
I did a lot of writing in Arizona, bought an ocarina at the RenFaire, and spent the most time I’ve spent with my brother in the eight years he’s been in Arizona. I’m so incredibly proud of him and his fiancé and will be so happy to return next year for their WEDDING.
Hopefully spring is right around the corner as I am beginning to feel stir crazy again. Check out my Featured Publications 2015 page for my most recent clippings, as always!
It is often mentioned that goodbyes are permanent, which is why I chose to entitle what is to be the last installment of me blogging about my Italian travels with the phrase ‘see you later.’
When I first arrived in Italy, the stalks of corn were just below my knees, now my head is tilted back just to see the tops.
When I first arrived in Italy it was an American holiday, Memorial Day, and I return on the eve of another, Independence Day.
I have been shown a piece of Italy that is often looked over in the travel books and in the account of passerby’s. The house that my father grew up in still stands, but only as a shell of the home it used to be. The island where my mother’s family hailed from enchanted my mind.
What had started out as a semi-spontaenous trip to Italy, with plans to explore the alternative life of organic farming under WWOOF, took a turn, and instead I learned what it is like to live day-in and day-out in the suburbs of Italy. There’s hard work to be done but it was always rewarded with spending time with the people who matter in life, eating and drinking delicious foods, and trading stories and ideas into the late nights.
I did things that I do back at home, like bowling and billiards, but also did things I would have never done back in the States such as riding on a scooter and mixing my beer with Coke.
Moments of reflection each day were spent with a fresh cup of hot espresso in hand.
I saw a nation propelled with excitement for the World Cup, and witnessed their devastation with the failure to advance out of group. I made friends with people I could only hold small conversations with. I did and saw so many things that it causes my heart to ache just thinking that it will be a long time before I get to feel the same way again.
Today we visited the Abbey at Monte Cassino. It was a very fitting place to visit on my last day.The abbey has a long history, but in the more recent span of its life it is known for a large World War II battle that took place there.
It was a 20-mile drive which gave me plenty of time to stare out the window and think about the ‘last time.’ With every chapter marked by some big change, usually the end of a year or the time I moved back home from college, I think about the ‘last time,’ I do or see something special or unique. The things I was thinking about had me crying again. It’s the littlest things too, like going to the Conad supermarket or admiring the neatly placed bales of hay on a hillside…
The abbey sits atop a mountain, and the road there had plenty of hairpin turns and overlooking cliffs. But the ride was worth it with the view at top.
We got there a bit late, about a half hour before they close the abbey during the week so we didn’t see everything. What I did see was beautiful. The courtyards were mostly white stone accented with a green garden. There were a few doves perched on the rafters. After our mini-tour of the abbey we went to the nearby Polish cemetery. As mentioned before, there was a big WWII battle here, which you can read all about on the Wikipedia page.
And so, tomorrow I believe before dawn for the airport. Through the next couple of weeks I’ll be editing my blog posts about my trip and probably adding a few posts reminiscing about my time here.
I have spent my whole life looking at pictures hung up on walls or pasted into photo albums of the Isola di Ponza, the small volcano-created island located about 20 miles off the coast between Rome and Naples.
I have spent my whole life hearing stories of its beaches and how soothing its waters are.
And I finally got my chance to live inside the pictures and the stories. And now I have my own to share.
We woke up at 6 a.m. and were on the road by 7. Some traffic set us back and after we found parking, we sped-walked to the docks in Terra Cina (a city close to Sperlonga and Napoli). We quickly purchased our tickets for the ferry and scrambled to make it on board on time. The ferry undocked only five minutes later.
The ride was close to an hour long. It gave me plenty of time to reflect on what today would mean for me. I kept recalling a blog post I read the night before by my favorite musician Gerard Way. It’s entitled ‘The Happy-Sads’, and in it he discusses how his depression gave him a view on life that while he could experience happy occurrences, he still felt sad. I was happy because I had been dreaming about this day for so long, but I felt the sadness too. I was nervous that the island wouldn’t live up to the expectations I had for it. I was nervous that after seeing the island, would I still see my beloved Italy in the enchanting mysterious way I have always seen it? And, could I ever feel this happy again once I returned to New York? Italy has been completely amazing and I fear my life back at home will pale in comparison.
Overwhelmed with these thoughts I teared up a bit and I was very grateful to already have my sunglasses on.
I didn’t have much of a view from the windows of the ferry to see the island before we arrived. I had seen the neighboring uninhabited small islands, but not the lovely spread of Ponza. When I stepped down the plank, it felt like I had to twirl around to take in everything. On my right side were docks and a swimming area, on my left there were bright pastel-colored buildings and homes slowly ascending a hillside, and in front of me was a little bustling street filled with people and taxis and bursting with life.
I could have spent all day standing there and watching the world revolve around me, but my feet knew to follow my cousins along the street until we came about a little shop next to a pedestrian tunnel. There the four of us rented two scooters to easily move about the island. I have never been on a scooter before and I must have looked a little silly clutching the sidebars so tightly, but, my goodness were they so much fun.
We sped up an down the the curvy hilly streets with ease and finally stopped at a set of stairs. We parked the scooters at the side of the rode and then ventured down these stairs. Marked every so often in paint was the word ‘Piscine’ accompanied by an arrow. ‘Piscine’ means ‘pools’ in English, and we followed the arrows to Le Forna. It was quite a walk down all these steps, but it offered some fantastic views of the ocean and some glimpses into the lush wildlife and little lizards of the island.
Le Forna is a region of the island and this beach is just one of them in the area. We placed our towels on rocks, changed to our bathing suits, soaked up a little sun before taking a dive into the incredibly beautiful water. Is the water blue, or is the water green? I have no idea how to respond to that. But it’s clear and clean and the water felt unlike any other ocean I’ve dipped it. It was smooth and the water didn’t weigh you down.
We swam right by a grotto and some caves, but I didn’t go too close to them. In the water you could see little fish hanging about in schools and small crabs scuttling about the rocks. It looked so peaceful under the water.
We spent a few hours at this beach sun-bathing, taking short swims, and even ate our pre-packaged lunches.
My cousins asked what I so far thought about Ponza and I stammered in my rugged Italian that I didn’t have the words in either Italian or English to describe its beauty.
A little after midday we packed up our sets, walked up the insane amount of steps, and jumped on the scooters again. We drove to another beach, I believed called Achilles and Lucia. This beach was very rocky and rough but we did manage to find a spot to lay our towels down, although we were a bit uncomfortable. I didn’t go in the water here because there were sea urchins on the rocks and they were difficult to see so I didn’t want to accidentally step on one or brush up on one. We stayed here for about an hour and a half, enjoyed some fruit and then finally returned to our scooters once more.
After we left this beach we took our time driving and stopped intermittently to take pictures of the scenery. The flora and fauna of the island juxtaposed with the multi-colored ocean was unlike anything. Simply divine.
We returned to the port area, brought back our scooters and bought some gelato at a nearby gelateria. I had nocciola and frutta di bosco. A little weird considering nocciola is essentially Nutella and frutta di bosco is mixed fruits but it was delicious. The nocciola flavor was exceptionally savory. We didn’t have any time to look at the other shops before boarding the ferry and I was a little miffed I couldn’t buy any presents for anyone, but I guess my pictures will have to serve as the only tangible souvenirs from the island.
One day is not enough to experience the 2-mile Ponza. But on the other hand, I don’t believe a whole lifetime would fulfill it either. I made a mental note to scold my family later for ever leaving a place like this. I will be back one day Ponza, the island can be sure of it.
So I had another lovely weekend after my visit to Napoli. The only downtrodden thing was Italy losing their match against Costa Rica on Saturday. We’ll rebound against Uruguay tomorrow.
After the match, we had dinner, and then I showered. We took in a trip into Sora to see them setting up l’infiorata, which is a traditional festival before Corpus Christi (Corpus Domini). There were people creating street art with flowers and vegetables depicting biblical scenes. There was also a large stage set up in the piazza and they had little kids singing songs and it was really wonderful. I also got to try Italian frozen yogurt. I chose Nutella syrup and strawberries as toppings. Let me tell you how great of a decision that was.
On Sunday we headed back to the charming seaside town of Sperlonga. I bought a bathing suit right on the beach for 14 Euro. Not a bad price at all. The top fits perfect but the bottom is a little small. That’s okay because I like to mix and match my bathing suits anyway.
My time here is beginning to wind down. I feel it. I leave on July 3rd, so I still have plenty of time to soak in the local sights and culture. But, I already feel that sadness seeping into my mind. We were driving back from the beach and I was looking at the mountains against the sunset and I got a bit teary-eyed. These sights have become so precious to me and I know I will miss getting to stare and revel at their beauty. I am envious of this life.
On the 28th, my cousin and I are going to Ponza for three days. The island of Ponza is where my moms side of the family originated from. They all moved to New York in the early 1900’s. I’ve heard varied stories as to why but the one that interests me most is the one where they were targeted by the fascist party and left to avoid capture by Mussolini’s camp. The island of Ponza and the neighboring island Ventotene served as political prisons for opponents of fascism. Mussolini himself was imprisoned on the island for several weeks after he was overthrown in 1943. But that was much after my family had left.
I’m so excited for this trip. I won’t rush through the week though because I know how short my time is running.
So I’ve just woken up from a nap and feel a bit refreshed and able to think a tad more straight. A tad.
My journey started yesterday when I left for the airport in New York- Monday at noon. My plane took off almost an hour late due to a mechanical problem. I was fortunate to snag a seat in business class which was very comfy for traveling. I wish I slept more on the plane but my excitement had a better grasp of my brain then my practicality did. I watched The Wolverine and The Amazing Spider-Man. I was served dinner and breakfast as well, but I probably only got three hours tops of sleep. Silly girl.
I arrived in Rome about 8:30 in the morning on Tuesday. Customs went smoothly and I didn’t have to wait long for my checked luggage. Unfortunately my phone isn’t working right even though I opted for an international plan and I couldn’t call my cousin to let him know where I was. He eventually found me and we trekked our way to Castelliri.
I got situated in and after a while we had a filling lunch and enjoyed some sunshine. I had two espressos. We then went for a drive all around Castelliri, Isola di Liri, Carnello, Sora and the surrounding area. I saw the famous waterfall in Isola del Liri, known for being the only centered waterfall in the world. Then we ventured on to find a place that was on my must-see list. It was really important for me visit the house where my dad was born and lived. It is abandoned but the moment for me was intense. I couldn’t help but think that this is where it started for me. This is a hallowed ground in my history.
After, we stopped in Sora which is the larger city in the area and enjoyed a beer in the town square. There weren’t many people around but they were setting up for a feast of their Padronale for later in the day. Their was something so heavenly about the juxtaposition of palm trees bristling in the wind with an old church in the back drop. In another life I could have been here on a daily basis. Sipping cappuccinos and truly being apart of la dolce vita.
We then headed back to the house where I soon took a little nap because my lack of sleep began to grind me down. Tomorrow I think we’re going to Rome for a bit. On Friday I leave for Viterbo and start my three-week WWOOF program.
My italian is a little bit rusty, I haven’t taken a class in it in almost five years and I don’t have much opportunity to speak it at home (despite it being my father’s first tongue, but it’s hard to understand him at times). My cousin and I had a whole conversation using Google translate, it’s pretty miraculous how much that little piece of technology can help people get by.
I still really need to figure out my phone business, I don’t feel safe not having the capability to make a phone call. I can’t even make a phone call when I have WiFi. At least I can go on Facebook, check email, and straighten out some plans.
As I sat in the terminal yesterday awaiting departure, I had a silly thought that maybe after my stay in Viterbo I could travel down the coast and visit L’Isola di Ponza, where my mother’s family is. My father was uneasy about this idea because it is a bit difficult to travel to, but I’ll start looking deeper into. Otherwise I may want to stay a few days in Roma and focus on writing and sightseeing and just blending in with my surroundings. It should be an exciting time to be in Rome with the World Cup starting in a few weeks.
And so concludes my first day in Italy, or at least for now. I’ve taken a couple of pictures of my big D-SLR and only two on the camera in my phone. I don’t feel like uploading my D-LR pictures yet, so for now enjoy the two shots I took in transit somewhere in the Sora region.
If you’re still reading, congrats! Now I’m going to amble on about the little things that interest me. Growing up in an Italian-American household, I’ve always been surrounded by a rich culture. My family is big on speaking, eating, and keeping traditions alive from when they lived here. And now a part of me that has made me unique my entire life has found its connection. I always wondered where my ability to drive fast but not rush anything different from most of my fellow Americans. Driving down l’autostrada you realize everyone is zipping in and out of lanes, texting and speaking on their phone with fervent hand gestures. A lot of rules that are strict in America aren’t as tight here. Heck, I saw a passenger holding a baby in their lap. That would definitely warrant public outcry for negligence and such back in the states. But here it seems that people have a respect for each other that is just dying elsewhere. We’re all distracted in our lives, but Italians watch out for each other, almost bearing the sentiment that ‘we may not do everything perfect, but we know what we do effects others.’ I suppose I see that in my dad everyday, he always says ‘it’s nice to be important, but more important to be nice.’
I am absolutely loving it here in Italy. It is a dream, tranquil and bustling in its own small way. I cannot wait to share with you the rest of my adventure!
I’m really glad I made it into work today, it was such a struggle. We were once again pelted with another snowstorm. These legendary Nor-Easters bring the region to a halt. Yesterday we were sent home early from work because the conditions were so bad.
I planned to drive in to work today because I figure the roads would be plowed, but my family talked me out of it. I also live 30 miles from my job. I shoveled my driveway and was warming up my car when my mom intervened. Instead my dad dropped me off at the train station, but I was a minute late for the train, and we pulled up as it chugged out of station. Bummer. The next train wasn’t until an hour later, but I had no choice, and stuck it out in the freezing temperature. Since the trains were running on their weekend schedules I had to transfer and wait twenty minutes for my transfer train. When I finally got to my station I hopped in a cab and made it to work. Only about five other people in my department made it in today.
I’m feeling a bit under the weather, unfortunately. I wore two pairs of socks and plastic bags in my snow boots, fleece leggings underneath my work pants, thermals, a t-shirt, and a a faux-fur lined sweater and I was still cold underneath my winter coat, scarf, gloves, etc. Water must have seeped into my boots when I had shoveled snow because my feet were wet the whole time I was waiting for the train. I cannot wait to take a hot shower/bath when I get home tonight. My commute home will be a pain in the neck too, no doubt.
But I like my job, and it’s important. I just wished the transportation worked out better…
Well it looks like my first NaNoWriMo is going swimmingly. I just reached 35k. Remember the goal to reach by November 30th is 50k.
I charged through today writing six thousand words. Tomorrow (technically today but it is only a little after midnight) is a busy day for me. So I won’t have much time to write.
Sunday I might actually be leaving for Arizona to visit my brother, his gf, and their pets! I hope my travel plans work out! My brother moved out of there about six years ago for college and he’s anchored down there. I’ve never been there.
That’s why I blitzed out 6k today! I need to be ahead of writing. I may print out the last few pages of my story and bring a notebook to add on a bit, but I don’t know if I can fit it in my carry-on.
Perhaps I’ll get a little more down tomorrow night before I leave on Sunday morning. If you do not hear from me all week it is because I am enjoying the beautiful 80 degree Phoenix weather. Oh yeah, be jealous! It will be nice to revel in the warmth while in New York we are teetering on 40/50 degree days, and very chilly nights!
For my Spring 2012 Ottoway Seminar class at New Paltz, with New York Times investigative reporter Andrew Lehren, a group of classmates and I worked on and article about retiring NYS Representative Maurice Hinchey and his earmarks.
The East Side Access Tunnel trip was incredibly fascinating and I learned so much. To reiterate, the East Side Access is a project connecting the LIRR to Grand Central Station. The LIRR only goes to Penn Station, which leaves many commuters with a long journey to work. Creating this project by adding three new tracks that will use the 63rd street tunnel, which was built in the late 60s and 70s and nicknamed the ‘tunnel to nowhere,’ even though it will be serving this project. The F train uses the two upper tracks of the tunnel, while the lower two tracks have been unused. They will be used by the East Side Access trains once this project is completed.
We first toured the Queens side, which is less complete. The Queens side is more complicated then the Manhattan side because they water table is only 10 feet below ground, which Manhattan is solid rock. They are working on finishing excavating the tunnels and then connecting them in the break section. We didn’t get a chance to see an actual tunnel boring machine (TBM) since our tour was running late. The TBM’s are apparently ginormous and its job is to excavate a circular cross-section. The excavation is then lined with gigantic concrete slabs, which serve as the basis of the tunnel. There’s about 2,400 workers and the project has been in progress for 10 years. Completion is not expected until 2019, mostly due to financial and budgeting problems. There has only been 1 death in
When we went to the Manhattan side, my best comparison is to an alien planet. It’s super dark and dusty, and completely muddy. The temporary lights only illuminate sections being worked on, and in every direction you can see the eerie glow of them, and some huge machine tearing through dirt, or drilling, or something else that needs to be done.