Wednesday, July 29, 2009

June 20, 2009

Last night it started raining and never let up.  The storm relentlessly shook our hotel, which didn’t seem that stable to begin with, and kept many of us up for much of the night.  The caffeine in steph’s dessert, left her with insomnia for the next 35 hours and made for a whole lot of silliness.  Sandra did her hair in pin curls to see how curly hair would do in the humidity.  Wow was that a mistake!  Her hair was saved by a well placed scarf.  We headed to the dock for our water taxi to Venice, in wet air and a slight breeze.  We all sported the rain gear, jackets and umbrellas, for this wet day on the 128 islands they call Venice. 

            It covers 4 square miles in total.  Venice is built on large logs that are petrified under water with the lack of oxygen.  The population has dropped from 160,000 to only 60,000 and continues to shrink.  They live on tourism.  The waterways are the draw to Venice.  The bridges are charming and individual.  Without landmarks we got turned around in the tiny walkways.  Each island has its own church, 148 churches in this small area not because they were pious, but because they were lazy.  Our tour guide, Manuella, explained the history and stories of Venice with American humor and sarcasm.  She was a “by far” for the trip. 

            St. Marcos Square:  Piazza, the most recognizable place in Venice.  St. Marcos church, Doge’s Palace, State buildings, and a target for pigeons to dive bomb Amy’s head.  Our tour included a glass blowing demonstration.  We sat fascinated by the speed for which they made a beautiful pitcher with a smancy handle and an arched cat.  Lunchtime came quickly and we found a nice sandwich place with Caprese Sandwiches, which we now call “The Tanya Sandwich” because she ordered everywhere we ate.  Tanya made us memorize the path to this shop so that we could make it back for sandwiches later.  She brought it up several times.  (We made it back without an issue).

            Next our tickets got us into the palace where we walked up and down and through, checking out artifacts and taking pictures where they were allowed.  Steph used her bendy tripod to take a group shot, then we took a picture of the camera because it looked like an insect.  We left gimpy Ali behind to rest while we checked out the next floor.  Tanya, Amber, Sandra, and steph got lost in the dungeons while on a time limit.  While backtracking against traffic steph spoke in French so the other tourists didn’t think we were stupid Americans. 

            After several views of the outside world without access, we found one we could exit.  Whew.  Utah reunited outside the palace, some upset, some grateful to be out, and all ready for their gondola ride with Texas.  Our group split, Tanya, Amy, Ali, Amber, and Amanda went on the first gondola while steph and Sandra joined Texas.  We spent most of the ride on the small waterways, but did take a trip on the Grand Canal.  We walked through the streets and the noise levels were high, but the canals were peaceful and unusually quiet.  Our gondoliers, Angelo, kept to himself except when Theresa asked if one of the buildings was important, “all of our buildings are important in Venice” was his reply. 

            Tanya, steph, and Sandra took a trip through the museum while the other girls spent their free time shopping.  Our meeting place was by the yellow and red chairs in the piazza.  We met up after an hour to head to Tanya’s sandwich place, and it did not disappoint.  Of course we found some gelato and rested our feet on the stairs of a church.  Ali took a photo shoot of steph and of the each of our profiles, some good and some not so flattering.

            The weather cleared up and made for a perfect day.  We met the tour group and rode the water taxi back.  We passed a pirate ship with sails, but we were not attacked.  Back at the hotel we met in Sandra and steph’s room for “by fars” and quotes because the wind made going to the beach unappealing.  The girls lounged in the lobby until dinner time.  Dinner:  pasta with ham and tomato sauce, pork cutlets with mashed potatoes and bread.  Sandra stealthily snuck the oil and vinegar for to dip our bread, though we ended up sharing it with the other ladies of our group.  Dessert in Italy is a fruit cup, so we enjoyed it.  Tanya, steph, and Amanda spent the next hour on the beach stretching in yoga class.  The kids ran past and disappeared into the blackness of the sea.  We kept an eye on them as they played in the darkness and ended up several yards down the coast. 



Blinkers going out left and right - steph

Get all up in there Sandra - steph

Did you say nipples? - amanda

What's the forecast tomorrow:  cold today, hot tamale - pat

Enzone - Ali

I'll let your imaginations work on that one - Manuella

Don't touch me!!!  (bird attack) - Tanya (lasanya)

Hook me up, I want one - Amy Z

I drink water like you eat meat - steph to lasanya

It feels like a lump in your boob - amanda

(its like when you squeeze in a fart) - amanda should listen - sandra to ali


Hot chocolate/croissants at breakfast.  Tanya’s bird friend.  Enzo’s soccer arm.  Enzo’s ta-da bow.  Peaceful gondola ride.  Today’s weather: thunder rain sun wind.  Manuella’s wit and wisdom and big finish (st. Marcos square).  Getting lost in the dungeons.  Bird boy.  Tanya’s sandwich and shop.  Steph’s hair, post boat ride.  Glass blowing demo and sales pitch.  Tanya and steph’s boat ride home.  Steph’s tripod trial photo shoot.  Spring coil in Sandra’s pillow.  Oil and vinegar.  Yoga on the beach.  Steph’s “perfect pillow”.  Ali’s bambino.  

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Calculus is for poopy brains.

I returned from my European trip with a renewed energy to finish my Calculus class.  I thought I had until the end of August and I planned accordingly.  Well, day two of working hard (I really did), I received a letter from BYU notifying me that I had until the 28 of July (this being the first week of July) to accomplish all 13 chapters and the final.  I called to get the 3 month extension.  Denied!  Something about the class no longer existing etc.  

I was on chapter 5.  I have since finished chapter 5 and taken my first mid-term (which I had to take at the UofU - I almost died inside, as if calculus wasn't bad enough!).  I have since finished chapter 6 and begun chapter 7 (thanks to my sister, Angie, who allowed me to sit at her kitchen table for 8 hours today!).  Last week I spent babysitting and girls camp while this week is cheer camp.  This couldn't have happened at a worse time for me.  I will take a midterm on Saturday and another on Monday, all the while spending 8 hours on each chapter for homework.  Sheesh.  This is like a full time job and is ruining my summer.  

I wish I could learn life lessons the easy way (and less expensive), since I'll probably be taking this class again... and its my own fault!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Life's a beach.

June 19, 2009

We had a feeling Maryland wanted our front row seats, so we packed early and made it to the bus first, again.  Amanda, already returning from her water bottle run, met us with “I just got asked out!”  Apparently 36 yr old Enzo had a little crush on Amanda.  She politely refused his offer for drinks and dancing.  This little tour was off to a great start!

The breath-taking landscape could not be captured on film, though that did not stop us from trying.  We dove in and out of tunnels all along the lakefront.  The fog and clouds coated the mountains and made for surreal scenery.  The water is a bright turquoise contrasting the green walls and sheer rock cliffs.   We passed through the longest tunnel (10 miles or 17km).  steph took a picture in the tunnel and momentarily blinded the driver.

Today is steph’s first day of mad-libbing.  She walked around and asked for verbs, nouns, and body parts from random bus members.  Vera happily relinquished the microphone to her to read the finished stories to the bus.  “BONJOUR BUS!”, the birth of the daily greeting.  The mad-lib, about penguins, ended, “They dress for all occasions, especially sit-down screws.” Oh dear!  Laughter erupted and steph blushed before laughing (Maryland probably didn’t laugh).  Luckily Ali had come home to her luggage last night as is now back to her old crazy self.  Welcome back Ali, we missed you.  She busied herself making friends with everyone, of course.

Welcome to Italy!  George Clooney has a villa in the town we passed through and we all looked for him as we ate lunch at our first rest stop break.  No George.  L Tanya panicked as her turn came to order her, what we now call the “Tanya Sandwich”.  She practiced the pronunciation, but we stayed by just in case.  The cashier, flirting with flustered Tanya, pretended he didn’t understand her and asked her to repeat it, then asked her to spell it.  I thought she just might faint right there, but he laughed and rung her up, speaking in English.  Those Italians are so funny.

Enzo yelled incoherently, as we approached the bus.  steph repeatedly asked him “What?!” until she realized he was on his blue-tooth.  Just then he, with arms in the air, called out, “it’s jean-franco, my colleague”  Why that was so funny to us, I’m not sure, but we still laugh about it.  He then proceeded to make steph talk to jean-franco.  “I don’t speak Italian Enzo...oh oh um, hello, hello...hi jean-franco... good yeah....oh...bye”  That was the beginning of the true Enzo-Utah relationship on the bus. 

First Italian stop, Verona.  Verona’s focal point, an arena (meaning sand) used in 30 A.D.  It is one of four still standing today and is used for concerts to this day.  We took an EF group photo infront of the arena, joined by a roman guard from this roman colony.  He later chastised steph for 20 years of bad manners because she didn’t ask nicely to take his photo with Amanda and Sandra.  She apologized to the toothless man and left without a photo.

Onto Juliet’s balcony, from Romeo and Juliet, for more luck and another photoshoot.  We learned that Shakespeare stole his play from a hundred year old Italian legend.  The Capulets and Montigues were real families in Verona, though it is unclear if the facts are truly how their lives unfolded.  “I thought he was a total genius, but now I know he’s just a thief” was steph’s reaction to the news.  Juliet’s right breast is shinier than the rest or her body because it is rumored that rubbing it brings luck, thus we rubbed.  The walkway to her balcony is dedicated to LOVE.  Everyone is invited to leave notes or tagging dedicated to love.  We wrote our individual love notes, “I love lamp” or “I love you, I love you, I love you, where the H are you?!” 

We were enthralled with the embroidery machine at the shop on the Juliet courtyard corner.  The cute Italian boy offered steph a free bookmark, he embroidered her name with a flower in 15 seconds, she sported the Traveling Pants today so things were automatically going to go well for her (he later gave her a 10% discount, just ‘cause).  After that demonstration each of us purchased at least one item embroidered because we felt they earned it.  Aprons, bags, hats, slippers, you name it!  Sandra’s apron says queen of the kitchen in Italian, so Ali got her sous-chef apron to match.  The Szymanskis got an apron for their mom and “Master Z” put on a satchel bag.  Tanya put Escobar on a work apron for school.  steph chose a risqué apron for her missionary mom (in Geneva).  Love in the kitchen, but in the bedroom, compassion.  Luckily it’s in Italian and no one will understand it.

Amanda already missed Switzerland, though she and Sandra enjoyed a moment soaking their feet in the fountain.  Today the sun unrelentingly beat down on our worn-out bodies, sucking our energy like a vacuum.  The gelati called to us and saved our lives again.  We needed cash, so we found a bank/ATM near the fountain.  Amanda went inside, through a 2 small doors that only opens one at a time, leaving you between them for a claustrophobic moment before the second one opens.  We thought we’d lost her forever. 

The time passed and the sun smothered us until time to meet the group in front of the arena.  Sandra and  Amanda bolted straight for the WCs, with all that water drinking it’s no wonder.  It cost $.50 and had a row of regular toilets, urinals and a row of holes in the ground...hmmm... tough decision.  As Amanda posed infront of a urinal, it sprayed her.  She screamed and the bathroom attendant came to the rescue.  Too bad they were overcome with laughter.

Hotel 2 is located in Lido di Lusolo.  We don’t believe it is a real hotel, it used to be but we think we’re actually just squatting here because it’s pretty...mmm..stinky.  Everyone’s balcony looks out over the beach vista, the hotel’s one redeeming quality.  The shower is just a shower head on a hose in the corner of the bathroom.  We refused to shower without shoes on.  You really had to focus on not soaking the toilet paper or your towel, but having access to the sink and mirror was kind of nice.  None of us have been brave enough to use any of the bidets yet.  Amanda stayed with Jo Ann here, the Szymanskis were reunited and everyone else stayed the same.  Tanya and Ali did not appreciate the disgusting smell and mold in their room.  Two tragedy rooms in a row, oops. 

The beach.  The water is warm and beautiful.  The sand is downy soft (no exaggeration) and cool to the touch.  Too bad we won’t be here during daylight hours to appreciate all it has to offer.  We dressed for dinner and waited with Texas in the lobby.  They are our tour soul mates. 

Italian food is to die for, but their bread is iffy.  They begin with pasta then the meal.  We started with a lasagna and bread, which we oohed and aaahhed over, then chicken and beans.  Yum.  It melts in your mouth.  Our table out louded the other tables, but we had some funny things to say and good stories to share, as we did every night.  Dinner ended with a delicious tiramisu ice cream, which steph claims kept her awake for 30 straight hours.  That made for crazy funny steph.

Yoga on the beach over looking the Adriatic Sea - picture perfect.  Amanda led us in some yoga on the beach.  The crashing waves and the soft sand lulled us into breathing and stretching, centering us with the universe.  The Chelan WA boys (Brogan, Will, Ian, Schyler) joined us in yoga as Enzo watched while smoking... creepy!   The boys entertained us with their efforts to do anything Amanda would give them, while the WA girls stood by wishing they were as cool as Utah.  Ha ha.

We met in steph and Sandra’s room for quotes and by fars.  These nightly meetings were some of the highlights of this trip, as it also highlighted the trip.  We each collapsed in our rooms, exhausted.  A few minutes after by fars, steph and Sandra hear some noise coming down the hall, Tanya crashes into the room.  She falls to the floor in hysterics and uncontrollable laughter.  She waves her hand in the air, “I have a by far!! I have a by far!!” then collapses again.  Soon after her comes Ali gasping for air.  She crumbles into a chair and convulses with laughter, neither of them able to talk.  steph and Sandra wait in amazement for the news.  The Szymanskis heard a little commotion and came down the hall to see what was up.  By this time they had relaxed a bit and were able to talk.  Apparently Enzo’s balcony is connected with theirs.  Tanya went out to the balcony looking for something with she came face to face with Enzo in his undies smoking not 2 feet away!  She smiled politely, though completely unraveling inside, taken by surprise that way, and exited the balcony quickly.  We still laugh. steph, unable to sleep, stayed up all night playing tetris at the end of the bed, reading in the bathroom, and watching the waves crash from the balcony. 


Quotes:  “hoooo-Ray for nicknames”  - Z

“Pick a number between 10 and 20”  - Pat  “7” - ali

“Where were you?” - Sandra (“the fox”)

“Keep your horns to yourself, lets have tea” - steph

“Lille means bitch?  What?!”  - steph

“Tomato, tomatoe, crepe, crap...whatever”  - Amanda

“I love you, I love you, I love you, where the H are you?!” - Sandra

“I thought he was a total genius, now I know he’s just a thief” - steph

 By Fars:  Embroidery men.  Bank doors and Amanda.  20 years of bad manners.  Thrown journal down stairs at Enzo.  Ali being friends with everyone.  Full bathroom shower.  Yoga on the beach.  Boys joining yoga.  Creepy Enzo.  Lasagna!  Gelato.  Feet in the fountain.  Touching juliet’s boob.  Nice boy from Dallas.  Wading in the Adriatic Sea.  Italian singing “Living in America” = Rocky.  Tanya on the floor - “I have a by far, I have a by far!”  Enzo smoking on the balcony in his undies.  Amanda’s hair getting stuck to the Velcro on the bus seats.