Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Congratulations!

My new home for the next four years!
"A big, suspicious envelope came in the mail today from King's... Should we open it?" 
This is the text message I received from my mom late last night, soon after I'd published a post about freaking out about being accepted to university. After reading this message, my nerves went from a level five to a gut wrenching level 10. I replied that yes, I would like her to please open the envelope this very second and to please text me back right away. This is where I began to pace around my bedroom.
I would stop every five seconds and stare at my telefonio, hoping to see it light up before the annoying beeping indicating that a new text message was delivered in my inbox. After what felt like the greater part of a decade, my phone finally shook with a vibrate that was to foretell my future. The news I've been dreading/excited about since I applied to school in January. 
I can't wait to meet you.
The news that I've been waiting for forever. The news that every time I think about, has caused my heart to jump up inside my throat and choke me. The news that just determined where I will be living for the next four years of my life. The text message read: "CONGRATULATIONS... You got accepted!!!"  I. Got. In. 
And rightfully so; I worked so hard at this, that it would have been a shock not to get accepted. More than that, it would've been a disappointment. A great, dark cloud of disappointment and rejection that would lead me to staring at the computer screen
blankly for five hours, hoping that if I stared at it long enough, the words would magically go from We're sorry to Congratulations. But it 
Autumn in Nova Scotia.
was congratulations. Which means that in late August, I will once again be leaving my small town in the south of Ontario for Halifax. A city in which I have never been to, but am already dying to explore. 
I haven't felt this excited about something since I decided to move to Italy. In my senior year of high school when my acceptances were pouring in from various universities across Ontario, I felt... nothing. Happy to know that I was recognized for my grades and extra curricular, but confused because I wasn't excited. Wasn't I supposed to be running to my mom's bedroom to tell her the good news and to immediately go shopping online for a new school spirited hoodie and search for one in pink? 
It's exactly how a person should feel upon being accepted to their dream school, and its exactly how I feel right now. I knew this was the right decision for me. 
And just what am I doing to celebrate this monumental moment in my life? With gelato, of course! A big cup from Della Palma, the finest gelateria in the whole world (probably). I walked through the whole city of Rome, licking and enjoying my afternoon treat with the warm sun on my back and a feeling that is so good, I cannot properly describe it. It's something like when you see your crush go from "In a Relationship" to "Single" on
facebook, or when your parents say, "We're getting a new puppy!" or when you win the lottery. I have yet to win the lottery, but once it happens, I'll try to describe that feeling too.
I've spent my entire morning surfing through the universities website, watching video's with information on the school from students and administration, and am in the midst of applying to residence. That's right - residence! I believe that every student should try to go to residence for their first year in order to have the true university experience. Not only that, but it's the best way to meet new people (not that I'm concerned about not making friends). The nice thing as well is that all of my resources are exactly where I need them - at my fingertips.
I want to do everything in Nova Scotia, but I also want to venture elsewhere in the Maritimes. I want to see the house of Anne of Green Gables in P.E.I. I want to stand at the edge of Newfoundland and Labrador so that I can touch the edge of Canada. I want to go whale watching. I want to do everything! I have at least four years of my life to spend there, so I'm sure time won't be much of a problem. As for school, I truly am excited to go back. I feel ready, and that it's the right decision for me. Now that I've done some exploring through Europe and found my "writing voice" through this blog, I'm prepared to get my education so that I can eventually work as a Journalist and fulfil my dreams. I'm happier than ever and this is the best news I could have possibly gotten. And it came when I was least expecting it. But until I endure the 20 or so hour drive there in September, I have people to catch up with and places to revisit that I haven't seen for almost a year. And until then, I still have some traveling to do here in Europe.
 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

MichElle Lately

"I finally got my letter of
acceptance!"
Waiting
truly feels like a lifetime.
Do you know what it feels like to wait for something that takes so long, you feel as though the thing you were waiting for is actually a figment of the imagination, nothing more than a hallucination of desire? That's exactly how I feel waiting for my university acceptance. Something that I do not even know if I will get or not. According to the University of King's College website, all their admission letter's are sent out on Friday, March 30th, and that a letter/e-mail should be received no later than Sunday, April 15th. That means that potentially, I could know if I will be moving to Halifax for the next four years and studying Journalism at my dream school within one week. No pressure.
In the meantime, I really can't complain. After all, I am living in the centre of the universe, surrounded by palm trees, nightlife and the finest of foods. In fact, everything has been great recently. Since today is my day off, I spent the morning shopping and went to the English bookstore, where I picked up a couple new guidebooks on cities I'm planning on visiting. I also bought that cool purple bikini that was in the windows of Yamamay. Then I took the bus 
to my old neighborhood in Rome to tutor and play with Giulia, the little sister I never had. The bus, sensing my happiness, came right on time, landing me in Corso Trieste earlier than expected. I celebrated this by ordering a generous slice of pizza from the local pizzeria. Well, I guess they could sense my good mood as well, because they gave it to me for half the price it should've cost. A huge, floppy, chewy, delicious slice of pizza with fresh tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. It had just come out of the oven as I walked into the shop, and the cheese was still hot and bubbly by the time I bit into
it. Tonight, as I do religiously every Tuesday, I'm going to Scholar's. I'm meeting up with a couple friends for red wine on the steps of a beautiful church nestled in between Largo Argentina and Piazza Venezia. Since they have to work earlier tomorrow, I'm going to head there alone and see who I run into. And then tomorrow, I have a date with some friends to have a picnic at the park near Castle St. Angelo to sit in the hot Roman sun and munch on grapes for the afternoon. At this point, even if I do get rejected from the one school I applied to, I think I'll be just fine. Or maybe that's the red wine talking, because let's face it - as of Friday, every time I check into my e-mail my stomach will be filled with butterflies. Three more days until my anxiety attack begins.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

That Moment In Life


One of my reader's recently asked me what religion I am and if I believe in a heaven. People could easily assume I'm Catholic because for nine years, I went to a Catholic school. I wore 
a uniform, studied the Holy Bible, and prayed every morning that I was at school. It just so happened that during the third grade, it was announced that my school (which was public) was closing due to nickel in the ground and that the nearest school just so happened to be Catholic. When it came time for high school, I chose the Catholic school because it was bigger. It offered more sports, classes, clubs, and opportunities. However, I am by no means religious, and I'm about to tell you why.
I think my parents raised my sister and I the right way. My dad isn't religious at all, while my mom is a little more spiritual than him. However, they never pressured my sister or I into attending church or believing what "they" thought was right. We were both free to explore
A summary of some religions in the world.
Nicely done.
and believe anything we wanted. For a while, I struggled with the idea of religion, but all of my feelings can be summed up in the video posted above, which is a poem called "Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus." I do believe in something, though. I'm content with not having a label for my beliefs, but if it makes you feel better, I guess you could call me Agnostic. But I do believe there's something. I don't believe in the Big Bang Theory (except the television show, which I watch religiously, if that counts). I do believe there's something that exists beyond this universe and that when I die in my sleep (hopefully), I'll go to heaven.
My favourite author Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in Eat, Pray, Love: "It's like this - I used to have this really great dog. She came from the pound. She was a mixture of about ten different breeds, but seemed to have inherited the finest features of them all. She was brown. When people asked me, "What kind of
So holy. So divine. So giving.
dog is that?" I would always give the same answer: "She's a brown dog." Similarly, when the question is raised, "What kind of God do you believe in?" my answer is easy: "I believe in a magnificent God."
I feel the same way, Ms. Gilbert. If I were to attend church once a week, I would choose the Church of Oprah Winfrey, although it hasn't really been established yet. I'll keep you all posted on that one. Another thing is that I don't know if I can believe in a God who lets such terrible things happen in life. Where was he (or she, if that's your theory) during all of these natural disasters and wars? Everyone's suggestion was that during the Holocaust, God was "on vacation." Its hard to imagine that any God could let something so tragic happen.
I respect anyone who is religious, and understand why they feel the need to be. For loyalty to their parents, for security in the afterlife, and to feel like you belong somewhere. But for me, none of those reasons are strong enough for me to commit to just one idea. In my opinion there are far too many beliefs and paths out there to 
just accept one. I would feel ignorant if I chose to follow one religion, because that would mean not being able to question it and that none of the other's have merit to theirs. Let's just skip this argument completely and get to what I'm more eager to talk about - heaven.
I do believe in it. But I'm not expecting golden gates where a man with a beard decides whether or not I make it inside. In fact, if there are gates and a man waiting for me, I'll probably just turn back around because I refuse to believe that the stereotype is true. If heaven is a place where not everyone goes because of homosexuality, divorce, or because I didn't dedicate my Sunday's in obedience to the Lord in church, then I don't really want to go there. My theory is that when everyone dies, they go back to the time they were happiest in their life. You never feel hunger or pain, but of course there is food anyway. Endless tables of anything you would want to eat. And when your plate of pasta is done, another plate magically appears. I guess heaven is kind of like the Olive
Garden. Everything feels happy and light, except for when you see the people you left on earth in sadness. I imagine it's possible to cry in heaven.
I think the colours are more vibrant than anything that exists down here, and that your senses are heightened. Heaven isn't the same for everyone, because heaven is personal. It can look like anything you want it to look like. A field filled with lavender with the sun setting in the background that never actually sets, a river with fruit trees on either side, etc. I hope there aren't any toaster's up there, because I burned my hand on one of those today.
I don't know about hell, and I don't even know if I'm right about heaven. But that's just how I feel, and I don't intend on finding out the truth for a very long time. But a quote from the song The Tide by The Spill Canvas will forever linger in my mind when thinking about heaven:
"Heaven's not a place you go when you die, it's that moment in life when you actually feel alive." Maybe heaven is those moments in life when you feel nothing but true happiness, and maybe we take so much advantage of the beauty in life and those special moments that we don't realize that heaven is really right in front of us.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Life's A Beach

Ladies and gentlemen, that time of year is coming up. You know what I'm talking about - bikini season. The season that everyone seems to dread, no matter what kind of shape they're in. I, for one, can't wait to get my hands on a new Italian bikini and hit the sandy white beaches while rolling around eating gelato. Speaking of gelato... I've been eating it. Like... Lot's of it. And while that's delicious and everything, I'm cutting back to just one cup a day (wink, wink) and putting my energy towards running every other morning and working out so that I can fit into that super cute bikini in the windows at Yamamay.
The one I have my eyes on is the one featured left, the mostly purple but intertwined with cool colours and a fiesta print (I say this because its kind of got a Mexican style, you know?). What I especially love about it is the cool gold jewel thing dangling south of the halter. I imagine that if I wear one of my gold belly rings and an assortment of bangles on my wrists, I will look something like a belly dancer on the beach. At least that's the look I'm going for.
According to some of my friends and female acquaintances I have, these are the top thoughts running through their head's in preparation of bikini season:
1. OMG. What if my ex sees me at the beach and notices the 2 pounds I put on over winter?
2. OMG. What if my exes new girlfriend sees me at the beach and notices the 2 pounds I put on over the winter?
3. OMG. What if my old friends from high school see me at the beach and notices the 2 pounds I put on since graduation?
4. What if I have a nip slip? I so don't want to pull a Janet Jackson.
5. What if my ass looks too big in this?
6. What if my ass looks too flat in this?
7. What if my bathing suit doesn't emphasize my boobs enough?
8. Is this bikini too similar to the one I had the year before?
9. I want to wear it... But this bag of chips... So... Good...
10. I'll never look as good in it as that Victoria's Secret model does.
You're right. You won't look as good in the bathing suit as the model does. You know why? Because it's her f*cking job to look hot in it. This is how she makes her money. By eating healthy, healthy, healthy and working with a personal trainer every single day to fit into it. She was also photo shopped by a group of professionals who tucked away any flaws so that you can sit there in the dressing room hating that girl because she just made it look so good. That's why.
To tell you the truth, I'm mostly excited to just get to the beach. I live for 40 degree weather, and all I want to do is live at the beach (with
sunscreen as my permanent uniform, of course). But for everyone out there who is worried about other people judging them while on the beach because you have some belly pudge rather than rock hard abs, don't sweat it. Chances are, all the other girls are too busy worrying about themselves and regretting their "itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow poka dot bikini" to bother worrying about what you look like, and the boys are just happy to see half naked girls lying around. So have fun picking out this year's knockout bikini and enjoy the time you have playing in the sand, sun and surf. And after you work really, really hard and finally find the perfect-and-absolutely-to-die-for-swimsuit, walk over to the food court in the mall and order a large ice cream cone. See you at the beach!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Dating Game

Ok, so you know that scene in No Strings Attached where Ashton Kutcher brings Natalie Portman a “Congratulations” balloon for doing such a good job in bed? Yeah. My date was not getting one of those from me.
The beginning of this blog is inspired by one of my favourite columnists from Cosmopolitan Magazine, and has inspired me to talk to you all about a hot topic - dating. First dates can be totally and completely awkward. Blind dates? Even worse. 
I actually enjoy dates - they can be a lot of fun. Anything involving getting dressed up, flirting, and talking about myself is ok with me. I'm really outgoing, and find it easy talking to people I've met for the first time. But having a conversation with someone whom, when the ball is in their court does not bounce back with an interesting story about themselves, what do you do?! It turns out being a Disaster Date, that's what.
Every woman (and man) does not need to think hard when someone asks, "What's the worst date you've ever been on?" The question does not require a whole lot of head-scratching (or ball scratching), because no matter how hard you try to forget or how much you drink, the 
"Gr8 time. LOL at all my
  jokes. Hows ur day?"
memory of the guy who used bad pick up lines or the girl who spent the entire date showing off pictures of her cat just doesn't go away.
Lucky for you, I'm about to spill some stories and share tips on dating. The following list applies to both men and women.
MichElle's DO NOT do list on a date:

Bring this with you and the
relationship will be over
before it even begins.
1. Do not pick up the cell phone. Keep it on silent and in your purse/pocket. If you pull it out onto the table or to text someone, its just bad manners. And worse, the person you're with no longer feels that your attention is on them. If necessary, go to the bathroom to send a quick text.
2. Do not talk about your ex. Period.
3. Do not talk about your bowel movements (the blogger Confessions Of A Shoe Addict and personal friend of my sister's once had a date who once did this. Obviously, things didn't work out.) 
4. Do not talk about your future kid's names.
5. Do not treat your waiter/taxi driver/person-of-service badly. You can tell a lot about a person who isn't nice to these people.
Those are my five main dating do-not's, but some of my own bad dates are contributing to a larger list that I scribble in my mental notepad whenever I'm sitting across a table from someone who thinks his idea of a good story is "the time my friends and I went streaking and were caught by the cops." FYI, this story is only good if you have a hot bod, its an Indian summer, and the cops handcuffed you and put you under arrest
That's funny, I thought
it was "douche bag."
for being "too damn sexy." If it was just you and your dropout college buddies with beer guts and you actually got in trouble with the law, I don't want to hear about it.
I once went on a date with this guy *Ryan (names have been changed to protect the idiotic). He seemed (keyword: seemed) smart, was on the hockey team, and had blonde hair. Usually, I like to be the blonde one in the relationship, but I could deal. See? I know how to compromise.
My suitor of the night had refused to take any of my date suggestions because "he wanted to plan things." Ok, fine. I'm a planning kind of person but I certainly won't complain if a man has a cool idea and wants to take care of things. This made getting dressed a little tricky as I didn't know what we were doing, but I eventually decided on a pair of dark skinny jeans, a cool flowy top, a leather jacket borrowed from a friend, and finished my look with a pair of heeled anklet boots (also borrowed from a friend). Well... He showed up wearing a pair of grass stained jeans and a black band T-shirt. The fact that he had a picture of

Rise Against on his torso was not my idea of sexy at all, and it didn't help that the shirt had HOLES in it. He also had a trucker hat. Yes. A trucker hat, something that only looks good on the hottie pictured right. And didn't he know that the only person who could pull off the grunge Johnny Depp look was... Well, Johnny Depp?!
This fool's plan was to dine at a STEAKHOUSE. Why is this so ridiculous, you ask? I'll tell you why. I'm a vegetarian, and he definitely knew it, because I'd told him before. I honestly don't mind when other people eat meat and men absolutely should not feel obligated to eat veggies around me, but just a tip... If you're going on a first date with a vegetarian, you're probably not going to impress her by taking her to a place whose motto is "Eat Meat" and where dead carcus is plastered to the walls. And you're probably not going to impress her by saying, "Oh, so you're one of those girls who doesn't eat much" (insert dumb jock laugh) when she orders the salad because, duh, the salad is the only thing in this place that doesn't have meat in it. IDIOT. I was half expecting Ashton Kutcher to pop out and
tell me I got Punk'd. I was also hoping he'd sweep me off my feet, carry me to the nearest bedroom and let me have my way with him, but that didn't happen either...
I have a friend who we'll call *Charlotte. She once had a serial killer for a date. Not really, but... Well, anything was possible with this weirdo:
Charlotte: So what do you like to do in your spare time?
Date: I like to colour.
Charlotte: Oh, so you're an artist?
Date: No. I just like colouring. You know. With like... Crayons and stuff.
*Awkward silence*
Date: Do you like to colour?
*Crickets*
Was there ever a point in history where a date had spiraled down so quickly? They had only met 10 minutes prior to his proclamation of love for the art of colouring with crayons, and she already knew the monstrosity that the rest of the date was to come. She says she wishes she had either faked sick or jumped out of the bathroom window, but was hungry and was waiting
The world's not ending. She just saw the ghost of bad
date's past across the room at the same party as her.
for her meal to come. She also knew that this would be a good story to tell me after this real-life horror film ended. She was right. 
For the past year I haven't really been interested in dating at all. Its true - there are a rare breed of women who do feel this way, but we do exist. Because of my current living situation, its really hard to find the time to commit to one person. I don't want to. I've been having fun, enjoying myself, traveling, making friends, working hard and learning a new language for the past six months. That leaves little time to start a successful relationship. And now I have a mere two and a half months left until I go back to my homeland, and then what? I'm home for another three months until I (hopefully) move to the opposite side of the country. So any 'relationship' isn't actually going to work out until next fall, leaving me 100% single, which is exactly where I want to be right now. 
I suggest having a night in with one of your coolest single girlfriends while cracking open a bottle of wine and do nothing all night but eat junk food, reminisce on bad dates, and watch MTV's Disaster Date. And one last thing... It isn't just my current living situation that makes it difficult to date right now, but I'm content with who I am and think that I'm a pretty awesome person. I'm just waiting out for someone equally as awesome, too.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

MichElle Pressé: Vogue Italia

Recently I received a message from my Writer's Craft teacher who taught me during my senior year of high school. Now that I am no longer her student, having each other on facebook isn't an issue, so we keep in touch from time to time. She has a fabulous collection of shoes that I would be in awe of every time she walked into the classroom. She has excellent fashion taste, which is why it came as no surprise when she gave me a little assignment for old time's sake: What is the fashion in Italy like? I'm about to tell you everything that I also told her in an articulate format. If you're Russian, please do not be offended. If you wear your pajamas in public, be offended.
Fashion is to an Italian woman as good manners are to a Canadian. No one knows why it is the way it is; it just happens naturally.
In Italian culture, it is molto importante to be wafer thin and walk slowly down the streets, arm and arm with your amici, and refuse to look any passerby in the eyes as that is not what a good model – erm, Italian does.
The biggest fashion faux pas in Italian culture is wearing sweatpants. They do not exist here. Pencil skirts, A-lines, skinny jeans and designer trousers are the way to go for dressing your bottom half. And a T-shirt supporting your favourite sports team won’t do, either.
Italian women have that certain je ne sais quoi about them that makes them so impeccably interesting and perfect to the rest of the world.
It seems as though good fashion sense is inherited the same way that huskies have blue 
Unacceptable. Even
if it is Juicy Couture.
eyes. It’s just something you’re born with.
I recall a trip I made to the supermarket one day when I wasn’t feeling my best. It was after dinner, I wasn’t feeling well, and I needed some tea. I didn’t think anything of my outfit. It wasn’t Vogue worthy, but I certainly wasn’t dressed like those awful people in Port Colborne who, for a reason unknown, find it acceptable to ride their bikes, walk into Tim Hortons, and even go to school wearing their pajamas.
I solemnly swore to my mother from the day I could form sentences that I would absolutely, positively, never leave the house wearing my pajamas.
To this day, I have proudly kept that promise.
Anyway, the supermarket. It took less than five minutes to walk there, and I was donning a pair of navy blue sweatpants with a white V-neck top and a grey cardigan on top. I didn’t look that bad, especially considering that it was late and I had a cold. Also, the cardigan was Ralph Lauren.
The cashier at the supermarket was less than impressed. She raised one perfectly plucked eyebrow as if to say, “You are in Italy. You do not wear that in public in this country.”
I ran out of there as fast as my Payless tennis shoes would take me.
Italian women take pride in their clothes and use fashion as a way to express themselves. It
You know what they say... Friends who
wear fur together... Um...
Look bad together. Forever.
is a way to tell other’s how much money they have and whether or not you earn more than they do. It is a way to shout to the rest of the world, “I AM ITALIAN,” without actually saying a word. They are fashionable, they know it, and they want you to know it as well.
It is important not to confuse the Italian women with the Russian women.
To the tourist eye, one may not be able to spot the difference between the Italians and the Russians (except for those who possess the Roman and southern darker features). After living here for six months, I can smell a Russian woman a mile away.  And not just because of the overwhelming amount of perfume they seem to bathe in.
Russian women flock to Italy and steal all the old, rich men. I don’t recall a single occasion where I’ve wandered into a piazza and haven’t seen a short, stocky Italian man with a tall, thin, and perfectly groomed Russian woman on his arm.
The Russians have a love for fur and rhinestones that go as far as the eye can see. If I had seen a Russian woman in my native country of Canada, I would mistake her for a glitzed-up grizzly bear.
The thing that Russians and Italians have in common is that they both refuse to leave the
house looking anything but perfect. There is the worrisome thought of running into someone you know, and the pleasure in being eyed with jealousy from women and the pleasure of being eyed with lust from men.
It’s also just what they do. They were taught to dress well because they believe that what they wear reflects their personality.
Of course high heels are always in style here. The Italian woman I work for has a drool-worthy collection of stilettos and high heeled boots, some of which cost more than my flight home to Canada.
The thing of the moment right now is plaid. Milan, one of the fashion capitals of the world and one of Italy’s largest cities, is full of talented and brilliant designers such as Donatella Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, and Prada. All I’ve been seeing in the magazines lately is plaid, plaid, and more plaid. I like to think that I’m ahead of Italian fashion, as I wore a green kilt as part of my uniform at my Catholic high school for four years.
Perhaps good manners aren’t the only thing that Canadians inherit after all.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Keep Calm & Work Hard

Can someone please remind me what relaxation and
tranquility is? Because I totally forget right now.
Life has never been so busy for me than it is right now at this very moment. My list of things-to-do is longer than the Tiber River and I have never had so many things on my plate. Don't be fooled, though. I'm not stressed - I'm totally and completely happy. For now.
If you read my last post Princess Of China, you'll know that my friend and I have collaborated in hosting Rome's Cover The Night event. Although its still more than a month away, Ronja and I have been creating posters together while sharing pizza in the midst of our planning and organizing. Because we decided to take the responsibility and plan this event, we've also been the ones doing all the legwork. We've been 
running all over Rome asking shops and businesses if they would so kindly allow us to put our posters inside and outside of their properties. Some have declined, while others got excited about two young girls having a passion for doing good deeds. Its a lot of work, but in my opinion, well worth investing my time in.
On top of that, I'm busily writing essays and applying to scholarships to hopefully chop down the $7,746 price tag on my tuition. I'm not a patient person and it isn't exactly fun having to apply to all these scholarships, but let's face it - neither of my parents are doctors or lawyers. And a lot of these scholarships only seem to be eligible to people who are disabled or of Aboriginal decent. I don't mean to offend anyone by asking for money, but I'm just a young white woman with working limbs who comes from a middle class family. All I want is to be able to live comfortably. 
Me.
Oh, but you still haven't heard it all... I'm not sure if I've mentioned that I'm writing my own weekly column in the InPort News. This is a newspaper that is published every Friday in my hometown and thanks to the help of a fellow Journalist Eddie Chau and editor Dave Johnson, I have my own section titled, "Canadian Girl, Italian Living." I'm having a lot of fun with it because not only is it more pieces to add to my portfolio, but its also an eye opener to the industry I'm getting into. Any kind of published work is a way to get my foot in the door, and it isn't as though the work is boring. I love doing what I do. I have two articles that I'm in the process of working on, and I don't want to see either as something to knock off my To Do list once I'm finished. I never want to stop loving this.
I'm attempting to successfully finish all of this while still enjoying Rome and working as an au 
Me again.
pair and English tutor on the side. But... I might get a third job as well. The money I'm making over here isn't much, and I want to help contribute to my education as much as possible. Last Tuesday night was my parents last evening in Rome, and so we went to a restaurant together right around the corner from my house in Campo dei Fiori. The waiter fell head over heels in love with me and gave my family free wine and limoncello shots. He took a picture with me, asked my parents if he could marry me, the works. It was all in good fun and our night was a lot more interesting thanks to him, but I was wonderfully surprised when he told us something that might make my wallet a little thicker. It turns out that he was the manager of the restaurant, and that he's looking for some new employees to waitress and work as bartenders. He suggested that later on this week I go in and sit down with him to if I was 
Its times like these when I wish I
enjoyed coffee so I could get that
sudden burst of energy.
interested in working part time there after my au pair job. Can I really handle three jobs while still being able to enjoy Rome, complete all my scholarship applications and run around interviewing people and sit down at my desk in order to meet my weekly deadlines for my column? And then the other question lingers - what about my blog? 
Now you can see what I meant by saying I'm busier than ever. But I seem to be good at multitasking and hope that I can learn to balance everything. I'm not asking anyone to feel sorry for me, but the reason why I'm telling you this is because I don't want people to wonder if I don't update my blog as much as usual. Right now my life is very busy, and I hope that most of my reader's will understand and respect that.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Princess Of China

This post is going to be short, but certainly not so sweet. Before I begin, let me just say that I'm not actually moving to China. I just wanted to grab everyone's attention to talk about an important subject. Now that I do have your attention (please don't punch me), I have two questions for you.
1) What kind of world do you want to see before you die?
2) Do you know who Joseph Kony is?
If you don't know the answer to question # 2, please educate yourself by watching this video on the world's #1 most wanted war criminal. For those of you who do know who Kony is, please check and see if your city is participating in Cover The Night. The reason for this event is to make Kony famous - not in celebration of him, but so that everyone spreads the message and supports his arrest. Because Rome had not yet taken action in creating this event, I did so myself through facebook and am organizing with a Swedish friend of mine to 
help make poster's and flyer's to put all over the city for Rome to see and tell people who Joseph Kony is. Other cities such as London and even my small town back home are getting together to adorn their cities with his face featuring the words, "KONY 2012. Stop at nothing." Please 'like' Invisible Children on facebook and send this video to everyone you know. But if you truly care, please do more than just click the 'like' button on facebook. Participate in your cities Cover The Night event or create one yourself if no
one has yet done so. All it takes is some art supplies and paper to make flyer's and posters, gather some friends who have big hearts, and create an event on the night of Friday, April 20th, beginning at 9 pm. For everyone who is publishing negative feedback on he situation, I know that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I understand that a lot of charities, including Invisible Children, do not send 100% of people's donations to single individuals. But I like to see the best in everyone and believe that the more people who know who Kony is, the more likely it is that justice will be served, and rightfully so.
A short summary of the situation will be provided that was not written by me. I do not take credit for the following write up:
"Joseph Kony is currently the #1 world’s most wanted war criminal. In 1987, he reigned leadership of an existing rebel group and renamed it the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
The LRA has earned a reputation for its cruel and brutal tactics. When Joseph Kony found himself running out of soldiers, he started abducting children to work in his army or “wives” for his officers. The LRA is encouraged to rape, mutilate, and kill civilians for no greater purpose than to rise Kony's personal power.
The LRA is no longer active in northern Uganda (where it originated) but it continues its campaign of violence in Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, and South Sudan. In its 26-year history, the LRA has abducted more than 30,000 children and displaced at least 2.1 million people."

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

"F" Is For "Falling In Love"

"F" is also for "Florence", which I did end up falling in love with. It was pretty irresponsible of me, really. The city was a lot smaller than I expected it to be, which made navigating a simple task. When my parents and I arrived at the train station, it only took us 15 minutes to walk to our apartment that we'd rented for three days. Three wonderful, perfect days that I never wanted to end. Our apartment was on the third floor and situated next to a curious old Italian couple who we chatted with every time we waited for the elevator, and we could only communicate with the small amount of English they knew combined with my Italian vocabulary. They invited us into their apartment for more small talk while I wandered about and appreciated the floor length mirrors and beautiful fresco's. Later on the same day, my mom and I picked out a big bag of homemade biscotti and a pouch with lavender to put in a drawer from the markets as a thank you.
Now. The marks in Florence. I could spend an eternity there, wandering around while admiring the tourists and locals as they pick out their fresh finds. In fact, there wasn't a single day where we didn't spend a good chunk of time hanging out there. I got to try honey biscotti,
Perfection at its finest.
red white, olive oil with fresh bread (dear God, the olive oil...) and cheese. For free. I must have done something good in a past life to have deserved this experience. Everything was homemade and grown in Tuscany. I have to admit that I had over my fair share of cheese and olive oil, but no one seemed to mind. The Italians were more than happy to shove their beautifuly crafted food in my mouth.
Then there are also the shopping markets where you can buy clothes, souvenirs, and accessories. Here you can bargain with the shop owners about how much you want to spend. I got a cool ring for both myself and my sister as well as a fantastic purse that I swear I've seen before in a dream. Its a large bag with a long strap and is decorated like a patchwork quilt. The best part about it was that while it was originally priced for 25 Euros, I got it knocked down to just 12.The markets stretch down several streets and all you can smell is fine Italian leather while walking about.
After spending time in Florence, I learned that there is no greater feeling in life than walking through an Italian city with good company while eating free food and getting tipsy off of Tuscan wine. Every day the sun was shining and somehow, I felt like I was home. Not that Florence was anything at all like Port Colborne. What I mean is that I feel as though 
I could actually live in Florence. Forever.  I was comfortable and at ease there, and I think that if I were to ever settle down in Italy, it would be in Florence. Yes, the economy is 
eternally unstable. Yes, the government is completely corrupt and, yes, there is a train, bus or postal strike almost every week, but I do love Italy. Whether or not I would actually want to be this far from my family and deprive my future children of a Canadian education, I don't know. But if I do, I will be in Florence living happily ever after.
Il Porcellino (Italian for the piglet) is in the neighbourhood just behind the markets where a famous statue of a boar is. It was completed in 1612 and tourists from all over the world flock to this little piggy to rub its nose for good luck. It also promises a return back to Florence one day, and just to make sure this does happen, I rubbed the nose twice. The nose has been touched so many times, in fact, that the grey colouring has rubbed off, revealing the gold underneath.
The Duomo is the very famous and very beautiful Catholic basilica located in the centre of the city. It was nearly impossible for me to get a picture of the entire thing because it really is that big. Not only that, but the many buildings surrounding it make it difficult to get a clear shot of it. For a steep price, you can climb to the top of the dome that offers a spectacular 
Mom and I on the Ponte Vecchio bridge.
view of the entire city. However, thanks to the knowledge of a friend who previously visited, I learned that you can get the same view from the Bell Tower which is right beside the Duomo for less than half the price. Just something to think about if you ever decide to visit yourself. 
Ponte Vecchio is the famous bridge that stretches across the river separating the south from the north. It was filled with shops selling gold, silver and diamonds and was a bit of a nightmare. Not because of the high prices of jewelry that I couldn't afford, but because of all the tourists pushing and shoving to shuffle from one side to the other. Even though I technically was one myself, I hate tourists.
On our last night in the city, my parents and I ventured back into the empty markets and rode the carousel that runs 24/7. We behaved like children and found a large bookstore not too far
away which I was very excited about. The shop was three stories high and offered a "pasta bar" on the first level. My parents kept themselves occupied with that while I wandered about, picking up Italian novels and running my fingers along their spines, wishing that when I opened the books they would magically make sense to me, as if I spoke fluent Italian all along. Of course this didn't happen, but there was an English section that I got lost in. I ended up buying a book called Between Shades Of Gray, and spent the rest of the night reading it while drinking a hot chocolate.
On the train back to Rome, my dad was seated in a different cart than my mom and I. Our company was a tiny, wrinkled old Italian woman who talked non stop and was oblivious to the
Enjoying lunch with my parents in front of the museum
where the statue of David resides.
fact that neither of us were fluent in her beautiful language. I was able to pick up some of what she said, but this woman talked so fast that her words were speeding by faster than the train itself. My mom asked her if she spoke English, and when she kept babbling on in Italian, she said aloud, "Honey... I think this woman is nuts." This woman told us that she was taking the train all the way to Napoli, and that she couldn't wait to get back to her casa. That explained so much. I told my mom that this woman wasn't crazy, but rather that she was from Naples. Everyone knows that people from Naples are loud and ballsy and don't have any fears whatsoever. As I listened to her rant about cheese (I heard the word formaggio in there somewhere), I drifted off while the olive tree fields and rustic houses blurred by.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Venice The Menice

The wonderfully talented and wise Elizabeth Gilbert had an interesting point of view on Venezia. She wrote in Eat, Pray, Love: "Venice seems like a wonderful city in which to die a slow and alcoholic death, or to lose a loved one, or to lose the murder weapon with which the loved one was lost in the first place. Seeing Venice, I'm grateful that I chose to live in Rome instead. I don't think I would have gotten off the antidepressants quite so quick here. Venice is beautiful, but like a Bergman movie is beautiful; you can admire it, but you don't really want to live in it."
I can see where Mrs. Gilbert is coming from, although for the first time, I disagree with her opinion. On the one hand, I, too, am glad I chose to live in Rome for a handful of reasons
MichElle in wonderland.
that I have already expressed throughout my blog. However, I didn't find Venice to be depressing even though it is sinking, murky, dirty and crumbling. I was too distracted by the magic of it to be bothered with any depression that might be associated with it. I fell in love with this fantastical city, and felt as though I was living inside of a storybook that some creative genius came up with. Someone must have written a story about this far away land, and I fell into it down the rabbits hole Alice In Wonderland style.
The question that I think we all want to know the answer to is who decided to build an entire city on water. I mean entirely! The whole thing is sitting on top of water and every year, the water level rises, which means that eventually this fairytale city will be lost beneath the cold, clear waters of the Adriatic sea. When I told my host father about my parents and I taking a trip to Venice, his eyes lit up with excitement as he said, "Venice?" He paused for a minute. "That's my favourite city in the world, you know." These are the words of a man who has travelled across almost every continent on the face of the earth. He told me to get a really good map
and find some off-the-beaten paths so that I could see the city's true beauty. Of course I took his advice, and of course he was right.
The most beautiful spots in Venice are the ones that no one knows about. There are alleys leading this way and that, some to townhouses that look as though they're toppling over one another with a tattered Italian flag dancing in the wind as well as clean bedsheets and soccer jerseys. Other alley's lead you to untamed gardens filled with wildflowers and stray cats, but most lead to dead end canals, which I'm sure makes being blind in Venice even more dangerous than it already is. And Venice would not be complete of course without the hundreds of thousands of pigeons and their loyal companions of crazy old ladies who spend the rest of eternity feeding them pieces of stale bread.
Luckily for me, my friend Rhianne used to live in Venice and sent me some tips and tricks on what to do and see in the City of Romance. She described Venice as "a strange, wonderful place that you just really need to go out and walk around in order to get an impression of how beautiful it is." Another lucky thing was that
One of the best meals I've ever had.
my friend Jordan who used to be an au pair in Rome was currently living in Venice as an au pair on the island of Lido. First of all, it was fantastic to see Jordan who is hands down the most adorable person I have ever met in my entire life. She has a sweet little British accent and looks like a prettier version of Snow White. She has dark brown hair, ice blue eyes, and red lips. Jordan also has a fabulous collection of floral, lace, and all-around beautiful dresses that she wears in even in the dead of winter. I love Jordan.
We met in the middle of the Rialto Bridge that crosses over the Grand Canal. I introduced her to my parents and she took us to an area where all the locals hangout. Although Venice is obviously a very famous city, there aren't many people who are actually residents. Its mostly made up of tourists due to the inconvenience of the city. Personally, I could never actually imagine myself living in Venice. There are absolutely no cars, which means that whenever you want to get anywhere, you have to either walk or rely on a boat. It isn't that walking is a problem (except when winter comes). Its just that if I wanted to do groceries, how
Italian living.
would I get them home? If I wanted to take a long drive with just myself and the radio for company, I couldn't. If I want to get somewhere in the middle of the night or far away from mio casa, I would have to wait for the water bus. Which is much like a real bus, but fortunately much less crowded with more seats and a breeze. If you need an ambulance or a cop, they would arrive in their own boats, as well. I just can't imagine living that way forever, although it was nice to be a tourist. One of the most interesting places I went to in Venice was the Jewish Ghetto, where The Merchant Of Venice was filmed. At the beginning of the 16th century, it was declared that Jews were allowed to live in Venice, but were confined in a small area. The only thing they could do to live comfortably was to build up, which is now why the tallest buildings in Venice exist here.
We spent our last day licking gelato on bridges, walking through San Marco's square, and enjoying the last Venetian cuisine we could get our hands on. The famous drink in Venice is
called the Spritz and is typically an appertivo. It consists of white wine, sparkling water, and your choice of either Aperol or Campari. I personally like Aperol because its sweeter where as the Campari is more bitter, and there is also a slice or chunk of orange floating around in the glass. Another traditional Venetian treat is the fritole, the prized dessert that is served at the Venezia Carnival. Fritole is a sweet, doughy little cake that is almost the size of a timbit (I'm sorry if you're not a Canadian and
don't understand what this is). Its fried dough that is decorated with candied fruits, most commonly raisins. Its also delicious.
Upon leaving this fairytale land, I had some time to think on the boat ride to the train station. It was kind of funny, this feeling I had swimming deep inside of me. I knew in my head that I should be sad to be leaving this lovely place, and that I didn't know when I would see it again. Yet at the same time, I knew it wasn't goodbye. I will absolutely visit Venice again and return to this city that cannot be compared to any other place in the world. A city that is really so much like a maze, where one can get lost with just one wrong turn. I used to think I was intelligent when it came to directions, and after visiting Venice, I know I'm a genius at it. I really impressed myself with how easily I managed to memorize the streets, alley's and bridge points. I'll find my way back.
If anyone is planning or ever considering taking a trip to Venice, I recommend for you to read the document that Rhianne sent me that is full of interesting facts and information on the city. http://word.office.live.com/wv/WordView.aspx?FBsrc=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fattachments%2Fdoc_preview.php%3Fmid%3Did.360710163949296%26id%3D838fbb651d9d8493c9fbc9d499acb760%26metadata&access_token=767740857%3AAQBZG_8Atyx2QOC5&title=Venice+for+Michelle