Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Thing About Teen Pregnancy

I know. Its a touchy and controversial subject, but its also an important one. Lately my little Italian bambini's have been turning on the TV and watching Teen Mom. Clementina also likes the show and she told me about this movie called 17 Filles, a French film that is based on the other American film called The Pregnancy Pact. This became an interesting discussion between the two of us as well as Yaya, who asked if teen pregnancy is really that common in North America. I told them that The Pregnancy Pact was based on a true story in a high school in Massachusetts, but that it was just a freak idea. I don't personally know anyone who's made pregnancy pacts, but it is true that I do know a lot of people who became parents at a young age.
Before going any further, I will not name names in this post. I don't think its fair, nor is it my business to exploit specific people as to how they've dealt with teen pregnancy. This is just
a generalization on my opinion on teen pregnancy and is not based on any current or historical figure. 
Recently there's been a huge rise of pregnancy among teens. Statistics can tell you that - hearing it from me shouldn't be a big shock. And yet it spreads like wildfire when that girl who was on your soccer team or sat in front of you in science class becomes pregnant. One thing that really upsets me is that in a situation where a young couple becomes pregnant, its always the girl who has to deal with the rumours and judgments from people at school. I 
understand that the baby daddy doesn't have a swelling stomach for people to stare at, but it's pretty unfair, especially when people gossip about how the girl is a "whore" or "foolish" for becoming pregnant at a young age. But what about the father, who is 50% responsible for bringing a new baby into this world? If the girl is foolish and a whore, what does that make him?
Allow me to introduce you to Alfie Patten. Alfie is the British boy who made headlines when at 12 years old, he impregnated his then-14 year old girlfriend. Even at 18 years old, I can never imagine having a baby anytime soon, and I don't want to for a long time. There's too many places I want to travel and things that I want to accomplish before I decide to raise a family, and getting my university degree is one of them. However, there are so many adolescents out there who are starting a family before they even get their high school diploma. I could never imagine having to be one of those people, but I have a lot of respect for the young parents out there who are able to raise their children the right way while still pulling themselves through school. School is difficult enough without having a child, and I applaud those who manage to make it work.
Famous people who have children at a young age (i.e Bristol Palin and Jamie-Lyn Spears) 
make it look so glamorous and easy. But the average teenager I know doesn't have millions of dollars under their belts, nor do they have makeup artists priming them to look beautiful 24/7. Its not as easy as it looks, and shows like 16 And Pregnant and Teen Mom do a good job at showing that. These shows allow us to catch a glimpse into the lives of normal American teenagers who have unplanned pregnancies. The shows uncover how their families have dealt with it and also reveal the ups and downs of their relationships, friendships, school work as well as how they're managing to be financially stable enough to support themselves and their kids. Speaking of finances, when a British reporter asked Alfie how he was going to support the child financially, he replied with wide eyes and asked, "What's financially?" If you don't know how to answer this question or don't know what the word financial means, it probably means you're too young to become a parent.
Being a parent must be the most difficult job in the entire world, especially when you're still young. Having to grow up completely within the span of 9 months and having a baby changes absolutely everything to an extent that I cannot even begin to imagine. It doesn't help when everyone around you is criticising you and sharing their unnecessary opinions such as, "They should've aborted the baby," or, "The smartest thing would have been to put it up for adoption," or "How irresponsible." I don't think that anyone who hasn't become a parent at a young age has the right to tell someone how they should've handled the situation. What's truly 'irresponsible' is spending your time gossiping about someone who did the most responsible thing in a difficult situation. But it doesn't have to be like that. If you aren't sure about contraceptives or haven't been educated by your parents or school system, visit www.itsyoursexlife.com or www.thecandiesfoundation.org
I went to a Catholic school for 9 years and the only information I got from them was to practice abstinence and wait until you find that special someone to marry and get it on after your wedding ceremony. I'm not sure if they've realized whether or not that hardly anyone in Canada or the United States is saving themselves until marriage. If they are, that's their choice, and that's totally fine. But if you're not, its important to know how to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. I'm not sure how the public school boards in Canada operate their health lessons, but to the Catholic school boards out there who refuse to educate their students on birth control and pregnancy and instead preach abstinence, shame on you. I have one thing to say in response to your theory - its not working.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lone Thoughts

I have so many things on my plate right now, and unfortunately, I'm not talking about food. I've been super busy over here, but in a good way. My friend Bill has arrived, and I cannot exaggerate enough on how nice it is to have some company from home. What's also nice is that Bill brought me a box of Cheese Nips and Fruit Roll Ups. I couldn't possibly be any happier to finally have some comfort food to snack on. I've taken him all around Rome already and showed him all the must-see sights of the city. On Tuesday we walked around all day and went to the best pizza and gelato shop in Rome. I don't think there's been a single day of his trip here so far where we haven't found ourselves spending a few Euros in a pizzeria and gelateria. But I'm certainly not complaining - spending your money on food in Italy is a very wise thing to do. 
On Tuesday night while Bill was at his hotel, he sent me a message saying that he wasn't feeling too great and that he wasn't up for our plans to go out to the bar. Something he ate 
Shania throwback!
didn't agree with him and he was feeling tired from all the walking and jet lag, so I went to Scholar's with a bunch of au pairs. I totally understand what it feels like to be sick and uncomfortable in a foreign country, so I advised him to get a good rest so we could go back out again on Wednesday. For the first time I discovered that if you tell the bartender you're a student, you can get shots with either peach or strawberry vodka for just 1 Euro. Why didn't I know this before? Thanks to my liquid courage, some of the other au pairs and I sang Shania Twain's That Don't Impress Me Much and teared the place up. We. Were. Awesome. It was the first thing I remembered when I woke up the next morning.
My favourite thing about Scholar's is that you always meet interesting people to talk to that come from all over the world. For example, I met this guy from Philadelphia who looked 
Future boyfriend?
identical to Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory and spent the end of my night conversing with him and talking about philosophy. The whole time I was hoping he would crack open a can of facts about quantum mechanics and string theory or at the very least say 'Bazinga', but he didn't. He gave me his phone number, but I don't know if I should leave the poor boy alone or see him again so that I can take his picture.
I also met two girls from Canada, which I was really excited about. The one came from British Columbia and the other came from P.E.I. I told her that I was hoping to move to the east coast in September and go to school in Halifax, and she told me so many dreamy things about Halifax that make me want to go even more badly than I did when I originally applied. She told me that Halifax is a big city with a small town feel because everyone is so friendly and hospitable. She also said that its great if you love nature and ocean life, which I do. I want to go
Bill's dinner.
so badly, but I still have a couple more months until I know whether or not I get in. So until then, I just have to enjoy the time I have in Rome and hope that all goes as planned.
Yesterday, Bill and I met up in the afternoon and did some more exploring through Rome. We went out for a really nice dinner at this beautiful restaurant with the money that my dad gave us (if you don't know the story, go back and read Roman Company). To start I ordered a piece of toasted bread with this delicious black olive spread on top. It was the best appetizer I've ever had, but then the gnocchi with fresh tomato sauce came, and I'd forgotten all about my olive bread. The whole time we were eating we both kept agreeing that Canada
needs to get its act together and learn the art of food. We were both full from our meals, but soon enough we found room to go to Fridgidarium for dessert. Then we went on a night tour of Rome conducted by yours truly. I showed him the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, via del Corso, and every other sight in Rome that is twinkled with gold lights by the time it gets dark. 
It brought me to a great sadness last night to know that this experience in my life is just that - an experience. It isn't permanent, and I never want to stop marveling at Rome's beauty and everything that the centre of the world has to offer. While walking home alone last night through the dark alleys and cobblestone streets, I felt so empty. Not in the sense that I was hungry, although most of my 
deep thoughts involve Italian food. But I began thinking about what was going to happen once I go back to Canada. I don't want to, especially if I don't get accepted into my dream school. What am I going to do all summer? Frolic in fountains at midnight while drinking red wine with people from all over the globe? Spend a few careless hours eating homemade pasta and bread with yummy olive sauce on top of it while sitting across the table from one of my other European friends? Dancing and singing and drinking 1 Euro shots at Scholar's? Waltzing around Campo dei Fiori under the hot Roman sun and walk through the markets and take pictures of all the fresh vegetation and funky vintage clothing? No. I will be in Port Colborne.
After I was done putting myself into a deep depression, I made myself a tea and turned on my laptop. I checked my e-mail and a name came up that I've been hoping to see for a while. It was an e-mail from my cousin in Afghanistan. My cousin is 20 years old and flew to 
Afghanistan last Saturday because he's in the Canadian army. I wrote him a long heartfelt e-mail about how proud I am of him, how I hope he's safe, how to deal with homesickness, and kept him updated about my situation over here in Italy. He e-mailed me back and told me everything is well and that he's already feeling lonely. He's been making some friends which he said is helping his situation, and that he's jealous that I'm living in Rome, enjoying food and warm weather. My bad mood pretty much went away after hearing that he's safe and sound.
But here I am again at the end of a long day of roaming the streets will Bill, and I find myself alone once more, left in silence with all my thoughts. I'm going to draw myself a hot bubble bath and read Eat, Pray, Love for the 17th billion time and hope that all my troubles and sad thoughts soak away and vanish down the drain. How is it possible to feel so alone in the centre of the universe?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Roman Company

My friend Bill told me a story the other day that put a smile on my face and really made me think. But before I tell you the story, let me first give you a little introduction to Bill. Bill has been a close family friend for years, due to the fact that his father and my father are best friends. In fact, my parents are his God parents, so there's really no getting rid of him (not 

that I would ever want to). Anyway, Bill is studying history at Brock University in St. Catharines and for the last few terms, has focused on ancient history and the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, which made him very excited to know someone who was going to be living on top of the ruins he was currently studying. We talked back and forth about how great it would be for him to come to Rome, and before either of us knew it, he had a plane ticket booked for Sunday, February 26th. Earlier today, my friend flew all the way from Canada to explore Rome and allow me to have some familiar company. And in exactly one week from tomorrow, my parents arrive. I could really use some friendly faces and food smuggled in from overseas, but I'm also excited to act as a personal tour guide around the Eternal City. 
My dad decided to pay a visit to Bill's house to wish him a safe flight and spend some time with him before leaving for his trip. Bill told me that he came into the house with a huge, 
heavy box and handed it over to him. "I need you to bring this to MichElle," my dad said. Not wanting to be rude, Bill went along with it and agreed to bring it to me. Then my dad opened the box, and what was it that appeared inside? A rock. "Listen. MichElle really likes this rock and has a special attachment to it, so I need you to get it to her," my dad insisted. "It'll make her feel more at home." Bill bought the entire story, and was just nodding his head and saying, "Ok..." Then my cool, creative dad picks up the rock where 60 Euros is lying underneath it and says, "How about you just take the
To further prove my families creativity, this was this
past autumn's Pressé pumpkin display.
money instead and have a nice dinner on me?" If that isn't creative thinking, then I don't know what is.
Do you recall me complaining about what its like to be sick overseas? Well, I'm not going to go into another detailed account of how I want to lay on my couch while watching Oprah with a bowl of vegetable soup, but I am going to tell you some news I received from my doctor here in Italy. I had to go see him Thursday morning because for the past week, my throat has been in severe pain. It hurt to cough, yawn, drink, sneeze, eat, etc. I've been suffering each time I attempt to eat solid food, and had trouble falling asleep due to the extreme discomfort. Every movement I made with my mouth felt like my throat was scrapping against broken glass, and every yawn felt as though my jaw was splitting in two. Not a very fun situation. 
The doctor checked me out and did the standard stick-down-the-throat bit. Italians are sometimes dramatic at the wrong times, and this was one of them. "Oh, dear... This is not good," he said. This is never something you want to hear from your doctor. Ever. I
could feel my blood pressure rising, tears stinging my eyes, and I thought he was about to tell me I have a rare throat disease that is incurable and that I should fly home to Canada immediately to write my will. What he actually told me is that I didn't have strep throat, but something a little more serious called acute purulent tonsillitis. Its a bacterial throat infection that is more painful than anything I've ever experienced in my entire life. I broke down in tears right there in his office, and I guess he felt pretty sorry for me, because he only made me pay 40 Euros when it should've costed 60 to see him. He told me that I can't go swimming or kiss anyone for a week, which is fine. I'm not exactly feeling hot enough for a hookup right now and I definitely didn't have any plans to hit the beach anytime soon. So now, I have to take antibiotics for a week, as well as this spray for my throat that I have to puff into my mouth several times a day that, by the way, tastes like cheap perfume. I will be so happy when everything is healed, but until then, I'm instructed to get plenty of rest and not go out too much because I'm contagious. So if anyone is looking to lose a little weight, I will be accepting a minimum of 10 Euros to cough all over your pillow. Throwing up until you cry and not being able to eat solid foods for a week guaranteed.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hot Off The Press

Photo courtesy of the lovely Emily Kalynuik
Guess who wrote an article about traveling to Italy instead of pursuing university and had it published in her local newspaper? Can't guess...? Ok, ok. I'll tell you... It was me! The editor of the InPort News was proud to run an article I wrote about my experience over here in Europe and I'm even prouder to announce the feedback I've received from it. A lot of my friends and family have already read it back home and congratulated me on a job well done. In case you haven't had the chance to read it yourself, here's the link for you all to check out. The article is on page 31 and is titled, "To Travel, Or Not To Travel.' There is a picture of my happy self standing outside of the Pantheon that was taken on the Canadian Thanksgiving Day.
http://eedition.inportnews.ca/doc/InPort-News/InportNews/2012020901/#30 
Fortunately for me, the editor of the paper was really impressed and encouraged me to 
I would really love to own one of these bad boys.
continue writing articles for them. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to build my Journalism portfolio and get my foot in the door, so I don't want to waste a single opportunity. Instead of taking a more personal approach, I'm going to begin coming up with new subjects and ideas from a third person point of view as a good Journalist should. What will my next article be about? I'm constructing an interview with the eldest daughter in my Italian house, Clementina. Beautiful, artistic, sweet Clementina, who is mature beyond her years and has spent two summers at a camp in 
Pennsylvania. Which makes her perfect for the subject of my article. The interview will reveal an Italian's perspective on the culture difference between the Italians and North Americans. I remember a conversation Clemi and I had in the kitchen once about how much the girls at her camp used the microwave and ate "weird, Chinese noodles in a box." She also laughed about how everything comes in a can and how we have "this really strange box with noodles and you just put cheese on top." She meant Kraft Dinner. I definitely think this is going to be an interesting interview.
In more news, guess who had a baby? This time it wasn't me. My cousin Jen and her husband Mike recently gave birth to their first child, a daughter named Jayla Maddison 
Perfection achieved.
Keller. She's of course adorable, as all babies are. Its times like these that make being far away from home an obstacle. Even though everyone else in my family is meeting her next weekend, I still have to wait another four months to see her. I know that there's a lot of things I'm missing out on, and sometimes that makes things really hard. But I know I'll see her eventually, and the other things can wait. I wouldn't give up anything in the world for the experience that I'm having here, and even though life is moving on while I'm away, I know that I've changed a lot too. Have you heard the expression, "You can never step into the same river twice"? Its definitely true. Every time you leave your home, something about it will change. I'm kind of excited to see what has changed about Port Colborne. Every time I ask about it, everyone claims that nothing has changed in Port Colborne, and in fact, nothing ever will. But these are the people who have been in Port Colborne for a long time, who haven't left and, therefore, haven't noticed the changes about the city, no matter how big or small. Not everything can stay the same forever. And you shouldn't want it to, unless we're talking about the new Facebook timeline. Anyway. You really don't know how much things change until you leave it alone for a while. I remember picking up Eat, Pray, Love the other day and noticing something that made me laugh that didn't make me laugh before. Even though the book itself obviously hadn't changed, its my mind that has, and picked up on something it hadn't before.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Big V

Victoria's Secret says Happy V-Day!
Everyone seems to have different opinions on Valentines Day. For people in love, its a day to celebrate romance. Its a day in which you're expected to buy your significant other a bouquet of flowers, an expensive box of chocolates, and diamonds. Its a day where you shell out your last paycheck and drop the money on a ritzy hotel with a heart shaped bed and rose petals strewn about while Marvin Gaye's Sexual Healing is stuck in your head. Its a day to dig out that sexy pink and black frilly, lacy, silky sheer and maybe even leather bustier with the matching stockings and garter belt to remind your significant other as to how lucky he is to be with you. And if he doesn't do these things, then he must not love you. Right?
However, its a whole different story for single people. For the independent, Valentines Day is a day to reminisce on all of your exes and curl up on the couch with a box of Kleenex and think, Why doesn't he love me? and Should I have forgiven him for cheating? or If only he wasn't convicted of murder, he would be here with me right now so that 
"Fluffy, pass me another tissue."
wouldn't have to spend this holiday alone... Its a day to second guess every break up you've ever had in your entire life while watching The Notebook and shamefully eating Kraft Dinner out of the pot. Your cat on the opposite end of the couch notices this behaviour and even it becomes repulsed by your absurd howls of sadness. You make a promise to yourself that tomorrow you'll go to the mall to buy a new wardrobe, some pretty new makeup, and make a date with another one of your other single friends to hit a hot spot in town to find a new potential boyfriend. That way, you won't have to spend next Valentines Day alone. There's a lot of arguments against it, such as believing that couples should celebrate their love for each other every day, not just on February 14th. There are single sad people out
there, and it doesn't make them feel any better when the world creates a day for happy couples to rub it in their faces that they're alone. Also, couples have their anniversary to celebrate their love, damn it. Valentines Day is like a national, money grabbing second anniversary for every couple out there.
When I was younger, it used to be so much fun and uncomplicated. My sister and I would wake up extra early to find presents on the dining room table wrapped by my parents. There would also be three vases of flowers (pink for my sister and I; red for mom, of course). There would be an abundance of chocolates in from Laura Secord, cinnamon hearts, and my personal favourite - the pastel coloured hearts with messages written on them like U + Me = Kiss. Urs 4Ever. Luv U Baby. There would be a new Valentines themed outfit for us in either red or pink with a combination of hearts and the top always featured an 
Anything involving candy is ok with me.
adorable puppy or kitten in a basket or with a bow in arrow in its han - um, its paw. Clifford, Arthur and every other show would have a Valentines Day special and would hype us up for the festivities at school that day. There would be cupcakes sold in the front hall, and we would spend a large portion of our time walking around everyones desks handing out our Lizzie McGuire, Snoopy or Power Rangers cards. Or if you were extra artsy and creative, you would make them yourself. If you had a crush on someone in the class you would write I love you in the card and sign it with a question mark dotted with a heart in fear of being rejected by the person you had a crush on. I never did this, by the way.
In the past, I've had boyfriends shower me with candy and jewelry and take me out for dinner for Valentines. But now that I'm single, where do I stand? Well, my feelings are the same every year, whether I've spent this romantic holiday alone or not. I totally agree that this is
just a holiday responsible for Halmark's success. But I also think the idea is sweet, and especially fun when you're a child. But on the next Valentines Day that I'm in a relationship, I wouldn't expect said boyfriend to spend an entire paycheck to spoil me. I think if you truly believe in the idea behind this holiday, you shouldn't give in to its expectations. I personally would be satisfied with a home cooked meal and an original poem proclaiming his either serious or sweet feelings for me. I hope my next boyfriend is artistic and thoughtful. 
One of my favourite things about this holiday is seeing embarrassed men casually standing outside of La Senza and Victoria's Secret pretending to adjust their shoe laces or send a text
message, when really they're trying to gain enough courage to walk inside of the shop to pick out some sexy lingerie for their wife/mistress/girlfriend/friend with benefits. I can just imagine the struggle in his head wondering what the difference is between a thong and a G string, which colours would look more flattering on her skin tone, and dear God, what's her cup size? His face will continue to grow more and more red and eventually, one of the helpful sales ladies will walk up to him, help him out, and wrap it in beautiful, expensive paper. He will pay and then walk out of the shop as quickly as possible, embarrassed to have a hot pink bag swinging in his hand, but happy to treat his lover to something beautiful. And even happier to see her wearing it just for him.
Its too bad that couple's only treat each other romantically on special holidays like Valentines Day. The very handsome, very hysterical and very brilliant Adam Sandler said something that should make men everywhere stop and think for a minute. He said, "Any guy who waits for Valentines Day to treat his woman like a queen is failing 364 days a year."
So what am I going to do this Valentines? Even though I have the day off, I'm still going to wake the girls up and give them each a homemade Valentine and a little box of chocolates to share from that beautiful shop in Trastevere. Then I'm going to go for a walk around Rome and admire all the dolled up window displays and visit my favourite bakery to get myself some treats. I'm going to spend part of the day writing another blog post and end the day with a hot bubble bath completed with a lavender scented bath bomb, a handful of those amazing bath salts I bought from a boutique off of Piazza Barberini, a glass of red wine, one of my treats from the bakery, and my last copy of Cosmopolitan magazine. 
For all you other single people out there, don't worry or take this day too seriously. And just because I'm single doesn't mean I'm going to be bitter about this romantic holiday. Valentines is cute, and I'm perfectly content with spending it tout seul. And if I'm single again next year, that's ok too. And if you still hate Valentines Day, just keep this in mind - it was established in Rome. Yes, Rome. And we all know that a bad thing and a Roman thing cannot be placed in the same category.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

25 Things I Want To Do Before I Turn 25


Waiting for spring which has still not sprung.
After spending the last several days inside, today I finally ventured out into the slush-free streets of Rome to get some fresh air (and gelato). The family tells me that next month it will get a lot warmer and that the Spanish Steps will be flourishing with big, beautiful pots of multicoloured flowers. I can't wait for spring so that I can go outside wearing nothing but a colourful dress with leggings, a cardigan and ballet flats so that I can continue to enjoy the city of Rome without my teeth chattering. It seems like a far cry from today, especially when I saw a miserable looking mom dragging her son through the streets. He was no older than four and was happily holding his moms hand while trying to let go
and jump into the puddles, while she kept tugging at him. She was carrying a couple shopping bags in the other hand and barking at someone through her cell phone.
I watched them for a bit and had a sudden spark of inspiration on what I wanted to blog about next. I'm going to compose a list of things I want to do before I have children. No, let's go bigger than that. A list of things I want to do before I have children and get married. What do I want to do during the years I have left as a young, independent woman? No other question could thrill me as much. Women today aren't expected to marry young and pop five kids out before she hits 30. I do want to get married and have kids eventually (3 is a nice number), but I still have so many things I want to accomplish before then. What exactly, you ask? Well, I'm about to tell you. Feel free to make your own list and steal ideas from me!
1. Spend an entire day hiking alone. Just me, mother nature, and a backpack full of water bottles and granola bars.
2. Live alone. Except for the company of a dog, of course.
3. Become fluent in Italian. 
4. Get my degree in Journalism.
5. Travel back to Europe for the third time.
6. Learn to play the harmonica (already a working progress).
7. Write a book.
8. Visit New York City.
9. Find my signature cocktail drink.
10. Have a professional portrait done of me.
11. Go canoing across Lake Erie.
12. Take a road trip somewhere - anywhere - with good company.
13. Plant a tree and visit it every year to see how much 'my tree' grows.
14. Teach someone how to read
15. Be a bridesmaid.
16. Ride in a hot air balloon.
17. Meet the one, the only, the truly inspiration and wonder woman extraordinaire - Elizabeth Gilbert.
18. Date someone who's totally not my type.
19. Make enough money from a job that I love so that I can actually afford to cross things off this list.
20. Visit the island of Santorini in Greece
21. Win something big like a fridge or the lottery. 
22. Find my own personal paradise.
23. Learn to cook. You know, real food. That doesn't come in a can.
24. Witness a miracle.
25. Become more fit with age, not less.
Santorini, Greece. Also potentially my own personal paradise?

Monday, February 06, 2012

Home Is Where The Stomach Is

Canadian living.
Italians are a bit of a strange breed. They do some weird things that I don't totally understand or agree with, even after living here for five months. Hitting the five month mark means that my journey in Italy is past the halfway point, and now I have just under four more to go. A lot of people are asking me if I'll be excited to go home, and I actually can say that yes, I will be. Of course I'm going to be sad to leave Rome with its hot weather, extraordinary gelato, fantastic art and fashion and history, the friends I've made and of course the city itself. But I've been away from home for a really long time now, and it'll be nice to return to my natural habitat. For the past couple of days I've really been missing it, which might have something to do with the fact that I'm stuck inside of the house. Until the snow melts, I can't really go anywhere because I don't have any proper boots. 
I don't want to say that I'm homesick, because I haven't been crying or having vivid dreams of Canada. But I miss sleeping in my comfortable, familiar bed. I miss being able to walk around my house in a pair of Victoria's Secret boxer shorts and a white T shirt without  worrying
Cleo the model.
A.K.A Kitty Purry.
about feeling under dressed. I miss happily chatting about Tyra Banks with my super cool Cuban hairdresser every other month. I miss my friends and family. I miss having a bike to ride down the trails and country roads in my area. I miss lying on the couch and watching Oprah. I miss being able to pick up the phone and know that someone actually might be calling to talk to me. I miss my big yard filled with acres of green grass and trampoline. I miss being able to drive my car. I miss having all of my clothes and belongings in one place. I miss inexpensive prices on clothes and food. I miss my diva cat Cleo and my other cat, fatso-but-unconditionally-loves-me Boo. I miss being able to speak English 24/7. And most significantly... I miss home food.
Every time I get the munchies (which is a lot), I so badly want to go to the kitchen and grab
some smartfood popcorn, goldfish crackers, crispy minis, veggies and dip, or fix myself a plate of multigrain tortillas with
wholesome salsa. If I'm really hungry, I'll make some KD, Campbell's vegetable soup or Zoodles. But oh, no... Italians don't do that. Nothing that comes in a can or a box works over here. And Italian's don't snack. At least not the way that I do. They do have chips at the supermarkets, but they come in one flavour - original. Um, boring. Who even likes original chips when you have fabulous, delicious salty and crunchy options like salt & vinegar, dill pickle, sour cream & onion and ketchup? And let's not forget the phenomenon of raw cookie dough. 
I feel a bit unconfident saying the word supermarket when defying where Italians do their 
One true love.
groceries because there's really nothing super about them. They're tiny, expensive, and have about two aisles. While Skyping with my friend the other night I told her that the morning after I come home, I am hopping in my car and driving straight to Sobey's where I can splurge on food. I already told my parents that when I come home, I hope the kitchen is empty so that I can enjoy shopping for groceries. Call me crazy, but I actually love doing groceries. I mean, what's more satisfying than a gigantic store filled with food?! NOTHING.
Another thing I miss is salad. When I say salad, I mean healthy, romaine lettuce done up in a variety of themes. It can be an Asian theme with Asian dressing, chai main noodles, and almonds. It can be a Greek salad with cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, black olives and a vinaigrette dressing. It can be a summer salad with poppy seed dressing with diced 
mandarin oranges and raspberry's. Or it can be an 'Italian' salad with Caesar dressing, croutons, and vegetables. The options of salads in my life go as far as the eye can see. But in Italy, a salad consists of small leaves, olive oil, and salt. That's it. What the hell kind of a 'salad' is that? Italians also peel the skin off of all their fruit. This is how they do it:
Step 1: Put a plate on the table. You need a plate no matter what fruit it is.
Step 2: Take the fruit, and set it on the plate. Go get a knife.
Step 3: While holding the fruit in one hand and the knife in the other, slowly and precisely cut the skin off the fruit. Banana? You need a knife. Orange? You need a knife. Apple? You betcha.
I had a discussion with my host family about it and told them how strange I thought it was 
that they didn't eat the skin on the apple. The skin is the healthiest part - its where all the nutrients and vitamins are. I expressed my feelings so greatly and told them that this is not how fruit was meant to be eaten. If worried about pesticides, you run the damn apple under the tap and voila - edible. No knife or plate needed. Of course they probably thought I was a savage beast and continued eating with their three step process. In Canada, the steps to eating fruit is to pick it up, and then bring it to your mouth. That's pretty much it.
Although this final slam isn't about food, it is another strange behaviour that Italians endorse in. Before giving away what it is, let me first ask you a question. Where do you keep your PJ's? Probably tucked away neatly in your closet or dresser, right? The pyjamas that the Italians plan on wearing that night (probably the only thing they plan ever) are kept underneath their pillows. Which is actually a really cute concept, if you think about it.
PJ's under your pillow? Ok. 

Not supplying Kraft Dinner or Lays Chips in your 'super'markets? Not ok.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Inside MichElle's Bedroom

My bedroom here in Rome is far more interesting than meets the eye. Sure, its beautiful and rustic. The walls are painted a gentle shade of cream with a pale green door and hardwood flooring. I have old wooden beams stretching across my 15 foot high ceilings with a bronze and crystal chandelier hanging proudly in the centre. I have a bookshelf, a cozy bed, and a double-white wood closet with my own little snack cupboard. I have a desk with a chair and a lamp where I can read and write comfortably while having a view of the family courtyard. Its a nice room.
But one thing that really intrigued me about the room were the five drawings and paintings of Rome that featured parts of the city that I've never seen before. I asked the mom because I have a curious mind, but also because I know she loves it when I show interest in history. If I hadn't mentioned before, she's a professor in the history of architecture, so she knows a lot about Rome. I asked her this on a car ride the other day, and I got a very interesting lesson 
Beatrice Cenci
on my house and bedroom. She told me that our house was built in at least the 14th century, if not older. The house sits on top of the old Roman markets which is now where the ping pong table and wine is kept. The cobblestone in the courtyard is original and so on and so on. 
And then she introduced me to a woman named Beatrice Cenci. Figuratively speaking - she didn't actually introduce me to the real Beatrice Cenci, because she died in 1599. She was a famous Italian noblewoman who was executed for murdering her father in Rome. My bedroom and the parents bedroom (which are side by side and used to be connected to each other) is where she was imprisoned while awaiting her punishment. 
Beatrice was born to Francesco Cenci who was an aristocrat. He was known throughout Italy for his violent temper and extreme behaviour. The Cenci family lived in Rome in the Rione Regola, which was then called Palazzo Cenci. These are now the ruins built under the modern day Jewish ghetto. The residents of Palazzo Cenci included Francesco, Beatrice, her younger brother Giacomo, Francesco's second wife, Lucrezia Petroni, and a young boy named Bernardo who was the child born between Francesco and Lucrezia. The Cenci family possesses a castle called La Rocca, in a small village north of Rome.
Francesco abused his wife and sons on a daily basis, and of course Beatrice, whom he had even committed incest with. Previous to this, he was punished for other crimes, but due to 
his noble title, was released early. Although Beatrice had attempted to speak to the authorities about the situation on several occasions, nothing had happened, even though all of Rome knew what a cruel person her father was. When he found out that she had spoken out against him, he sent his family to live in the country castle. There, they all plotted to murder Francesco.
In 1558, during one of Francesco's rare visits to the castle, two vassals (one of which eventually became Beatrice's secret lover) helped the Cenci family to drug him, although this failed in killing him. Upon this, they all took turns sledging his body with a hammer and tossed his body over the balcony to make his death look like an accident. Eventually, police noticed he was missing and investigated. Beatrice's lover was held captive and died from 
One of the many retellings
of Beatrice's tragic story.
torture without ever revealing the truth. Somehow the police were able to figure out that Beatrice, the two sons and Lucrezia were guilty, and were all sentenced to death. Because the citizens of Rome knew how vial the father was, they protested against the decision of execution. However, the current pope at the time (Pope Clement VIII) showed no mercy for their lives. At dawn on September 11th of 1599, the four were taken to Sant'Angelo Bridge to be killed.
On the way to Sant'Angelo, Giacomo was tortured inside of the cart where his skull was smashed with a mallet, and afterwards, his corpse was quartered. Then both Lucrezia and Beatrice were sent to the block where they were beheaded with a sword. Only the 12 year old son shared between Francesco and Lucrezia was given mercy, although he was forced to watch the execution of his family. The belongings of the Cenci's were then possessed by the pope's own family, and Bernardo was sentenced to work as a slave for the rest of his life, although he was actually released the following year. Beatrice became a symbol of resistance against the crudeness of aristocracy to the people of Rome, and a legend began in which every year on the night before her death, she visits the bridge while carrying her bloody head.
So Beatrice Cenci, symbol of resistance, once slept in the same room as I. Which might seem creepy and unsettling to some, but interesting to me. Because how many bedrooms will one have in their life in which a famous Italian noblewoman/murder was once imprisoned? Probably not many. Anyway, that's the history of my bedroom. What about yours?

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Dear 16 Year Old Me


Since as long as I can remember, there's been this weird pressure on what colour ones skin tone should look like. Whether you have naturally dark hair and eyes or red hair and green eyes, the hottest look is to look like you just exploded from a Miss Hawaii Tropix contest, 
Healthy and natural? Don't think so.
even in the dead of winter. Tanned, golden brown skin on even the most naturally cream complexioned human beings. We all know that this can be achieved by laying on the beach underneath the summer sun, or even safer, by using a tanning spray or lotion to darken your skin. But a lot of people do something that I never have and never will do - go to a tanning bed. I promised my mom and also myself that I would never be foolish enough to step into a salon for as long as I live.
The most obvious reason is because I don't want to get skin cancer. Cancer is a word too close for comfort, a word too familiar to me. So why would I voluntarily pay for it? "Malignant," says the beautiful women in the video wearing the teal coloured turtleneck. "That's not a very friendly word." No, its not. The risk of getting melanoma is enough to keep me out of the tanning beds, but here's another point - I have blue eyes and blonde hair, which would mean that a deep tan would make me look more artificial than Splenda. My estimate is that 99.9% of the girls who have bleached blonde hair and a Beyoncé-inspired tan is faking at least either the hair or skin colour, if not both. Also - what's up with this recent orange tone? The two
greatest examples of this pumpkin trend is Lindsay Lohan and Snooki, and its safe to say that neither of those women should be sought after as role models in the first place. This look doesn't suit anyone - I repeat, ANYONE.
Have you ever seen a person with white hair and orange skin and thought, Huh, she's really beautiful... If you have, here's news for you - that isn't beautiful, and you won't be either when you're lying on the surgery table in five years while doctors attempt to remove the cancer from your skin. Sometimes, a 'healthy' glow is really the least healthy thing for your skin. What's wrong with appreciating the colour you were born with? I can't be a hypocrite and say that I necessarily like being pale. I wish I was naturally darker, but I'm not. And I'm not going to go to a tanning bed to change 
Meet your new
best friend.
that. Its ok because I love myself and how I look, and I'm not going to risk my life to alter anything. In the summer, of course I tan at the beach. I walk around and ride my bike wearing shorts and a tank top, and yes, I hope to get a bit of colour. But I always, always, always wear sunscreen. And you should, too.
Everyone who goes tanning seems to have a bad case of "It Won't Happen To Me" syndrome. Please don't be one of these people. I don't know anyone who's ever had melanoma, and I want to keep it that way. I don't want one of my young friends or relatives to begin a battle in the fight of their life because of a tanning bed. So please do your part in spreading the video Dear 16 Year Old Me, give yourself an examination to check for discoloured moles every so often, and practice safe sun.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Practical Tips For Productive Living

Feelin' good.
I'm happy to say that I'm feeling almost 100% better, and that my fever of 317 degrees has gone down. Today, Kelsey came over and we watched Gladiator, and the whole time we couldn't believe that we were watching a movie that was based minutes away from where we sitting. We reminisced on missing good old fashioned home food like Campbell's vegetable soup and Kraft Dinner, which poses a question - is it ok to miss home food while in Italy? I know. It seems unfair, considering that this is the country in which pasta, pizza and gelato was invented. But I have to admit that sometimes, all I want is something as simple as boiling water, opening a can, and pouring its contents into the pot. 
I definitely don't miss the weather at home, but even if I did, that would be ok, since Canada and Italy have clearly swapped weather roles. There is, in fact, snow in Rome. Pretty, fat 
In Rome we have the real deal.
snow flakes that are unfortunately intertwining with the rain, which means that of course it won't stay for long. But that's ok - my wish came true after all. When I first arrived in the overwhelming heat of September, I remember telling Giulia, the girl I first was an au pair for, that I hoped it would snow at least once during my stay in Rome. She was convinced that it wasn't going to happen, but today, it did. She even called me this morning to share the excitement and said, "MichElle! You told me so!"

But last night when I still had my super high fever I got a wonderful surprise call from my grandparents which was perfect, since my nana is a retired nurse and my papa is a retired a doctor. They gave me tips on how to perk myself up, but I felt better just hearing their voices. My nana told me the sweetest thing that really made me think. She said, "Your mom has been sharing your pictures with us on the computer. We're so happy to see you having fun in Europe, but its hard to look at the pictures because every time we see them you look older." I do? Well, duh. I am older. I haven't seen my family in almost five months. But has my appearance really changed that much since September? 
I guess one doesn't really notice these things about themselves because it happens slowly over a period of time. I don't notice these changes because I can look in the mirror at any given time and say, "Hey. Its me." Not that I actually talk to myself when standing in front of the mirror, or ever, for that matter. What I mean is that because I'm obviously me 24/7, I don't notice any major physical differences. But I noticed that I have gotten a little taller and leaner, thanks to all this healthy eating, daily two hour walks and recent sickness that's caused me 
Marc and Angel.
to bring up whatever food I've attempted to keep down. And my hair's gotten longer, since every hairdresser in Rome charges an unmentionable amount that I cannot bear to shell out of my wallet. But hearing my nana say that I look older and different really makes me think about how much I've actually changed since being in Italy, and not just physically. 
My nana also gave me the name of this incredible blog that she's been reading lately, and I'm also going to share it with you. Its called Marc and Angel Hack Life: Practical Tips For Productive Living. I recommend it to absolutely every person on the face of the planet who has a brain. I spent my entire rainy-sick day in bed reading it and I can honestly say that I have never gained so much knowledge about life, love and choices in the course of one day. Why don't they teach this stuff in high school? Articles include things like, "30 Books You Should Read Before You Turn 30", "12 Ways To Get A Second Chance In Life", and "16 Harsh Truths That Make Us Stronger". 
In case you don't have the time to check it out right now, I'm going to share some of my favourite questions that Marc and Angel ask their readers. This blog will completely change 
your way of thinking and I encourage everyone to treat this blog and the articles within it as your own personal life class and bible/torah/qur'an.
1. How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?
2. Which is worse: failing or never trying?
3. If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don't like and like so many things we don't do?
4. (My personal favourite question) If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?
5. If the average human life span was 40 years, how would you live your life differently?
6. If not now, then when?
7. What would you do differently if you knew that nobody would judge you?
8. Have you done something lately worth remembering?
9. When you're the same age as your grandparents, what will matter the most to you?
10. Do you ask enough questions? Or do you settle for what you know?
11. When was the last time you tried something new?
12. What is the difference between living and existing?
13. Do you feel like you've lived this day 100 times before?
14. In five years from now, will you remember what you did yesterday?
15. In one sentence, who are you?
http://www.marcandangel.com/