Bird out of the Cage

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Planes, trains, and automobiles...

 (I just noticed, I'm posting this exactly a year after the day it happened haha how perfect...and sad...what a year.)
Ok, so we woke to the warmth of the sun beaming in through a large wall to wall window which filled the space behind my awesome little couch and to the scent of cigarette smoke and incense burning somewhere around the corner nearing the kitchen and bedrooms. We cleaned up our and quickly dressed enough to walk a couple miles to the market for some fresh bread and fruit for breakfast...oh and of course Nutella :)

From there Megan accompanied us to Stazione Battistini. We embraced. Took some pictures. And shouted plans of future encounters over our shoulders as we set off on our last big adventure.

Today's Itinerary:

12 noon: Train from Roma Termini to Milano Centrale

4pm: Catch a bus from Milano Centrale to some little puddle jumper airport an hour away
We got there and I was like 5 euro cents short of the bus fare and I really wanted to get rid of my change to I ran over the an exchange place and changed all my left over Hungarian coins and cash into euro and pounds and sprinted back in time to get on the last bus out. As we jumped on, literally, we found it mostly empty so we each took a row of two for ourselves. Gradually, unfortunately, it began to fill to it's limit so I offered for an older couple to have my seats and I slide across the isle and sat next to a guy around my age. Brian. He works in pharmaceutical testing and has a pretty sweet gig going for a bachelor. He pretty much get paid to travel around the world to wherever he wants under the nicest of circumstances and go to shows and play. And, it's all expenses paid and he get to rack up the points and flyer miles so then he just goes on incredible trips around the world for like a month at a time and plays with whatever friends could afford their own flight and he takes care of the rest. Insane! The guy's like 24, was waiting tables while deciding whether or not to go to law school having taken the LSAT and totally rocked it, and one of his regulars that happened to own this company took a chance on him and not he and the company are flourishing like never before. By halfway through the drive he offered me a job for when he takes over the company--which is why the old man brought him on. Who knows, we'll see where life takes this point I have dreams but really no idea.

When we got to the airport we then had to go through checking. Standard, right? Ha. Thank you Ryanair on educating me on why so many people hate flying and airports. Ryanair is a total disaster waiting to happen...they charge for everything!!!! Boarding fees, seating fees, infant fees, baggage fees (all depending on size and exact weight of course, but don't worry they help you out by separating these fees one more level into sports, musical instruments, etc. fees), man! You name it they'll charge you for it!! Incredible! Don't believe me?? Check it out here: ...amazing sales but killer red tape...but still couldn't beat the deal...

6:35pm: Board Ryanair (9 euro) flight to from Milano to London

Ok, please tell me at least one of you has flown Ryanair or one of it's affiliates before???...OMGoodness! This was the most interesting flight I've EVER been on in my life!!! We're talking like even down to the accent color (which was everything you looked) being an almost nauseatingly bright, blinding yellow, the seats barely fit me and my knees about hit the row in front of me (for those of you that don't know, I'm like 5'3" somewhere between 125-135 lbs...not really a person EVER described as large in stature--at least physically ;) sorry, cocky moment), oh!!! and don't worry, from the moment the flight took off the flight attendants started up and down the aisle way, mmmm drinks and a little snack, right??? Nope! It was more like we were thrown onto the set of an infomercial or worse yet, it was like we were the live audience for the entire infomercial station!!! And the products???? What the?? They were selling anything from "smokeless cigarettes," to alcohol free but alcohol looking drinks, to stuff that looked like tobacco chew, to magazines, to perfumes and "fine" jewelry, OH! and don't even get me started on the lottery tickets...what the deal!?!? Who knew there were so many different kinds!!! It was insane! And the best part was that it seriously must have been like "Spring Break Party 2011: London" because we were probably the ONLY passengers on board over age 19. So of course as the landing gear went down and we started to descend suddenly I was now in the filming of "Soul Plane" (that MGM movie with Kevin Hart, Method Man, and Snoop Dogg, etc.)...the speakers all around us were throbbing with the base of party thug music. Bahahahaha!!!! Let's just say Janise, Brian, and I couldn't have been happier to get off that thing.

But it was still totally worth the time and money savings :)

8:15pm: Arrive at Gatwick Airport, London, England

The next 2.5ish hours: hop on a National Rail train to the Metro (the "Tube") to another National Rail train to Mill Hill Broadway, our home sweet home away from home just northeast of London proper. This part of the trip went perfectly smoothly.

When we got to Sara and Paul's we got to meet Sara's brother. We had apparently missed a lot in the news of the world while traveling around Italy. Three weeks prior to this Sara and Paul had finally successful smuggled her brother and his wife out of Tripoli...yes, Tripoli, Libya. They described their apartment's location as like living on 5th avenue in New York and the bombings, shootings, and horrible killings are taking place in Times Square or closer. We stayed up with Sara's brother and Paul for an hour or so talking about it all. It's incredible what these people, these children, these innocent human beings are being subjected to and for no reason within their control. It's nauseating. And to think, how often things like this go on around the world and for how long before other countries realize and take a stand. He told us how they weren't just hearing all the things we were hearing about on the news they were watching...out their window. When I was out having the time of my life, living one of my life's dreams, out backpacking around Europe, my little disconnection to the world left me unaware of the travesty that was occurring in and around someone else's homes, down the streets of their neighborhoods where their children are supposed to feel carefree as they dance around barefoot in their imaginary worlds between here and there, now and later, and reality and everywhere else.

With a glazed look, that seemed to have settled in across his eyes months previous to our somber meeting, this beautiful 30 something year old man gently excused himself and slowly trudged up stairs to the loft bedroom only accessible by pull-down ladder.  I will never forget his face. A face life has scared with creases of sorrow and pain far beyond that which I could ever accept as "fair"--and yet, what do I know?  In this life "fair" is considered relative.

What a life.  What a world.  What a day.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

"Just be careful because the couch separates." -Megan, Roma

So, all the time when we were toying with the idea of crashing at Megan and Ali's they kept bringing up how of course one of us could sleep on the couch but that we should be careful because it separates or it's uncomfortable because of that...something like that. And after some of the conditions we've lived and slept through throughout this trip, honestly, nothing could have phased me at this point. And I'm pretty sure, once you've been traveling this long the accommodations become less and less important. At this point, Janise and I had been trying to swap "nicer" accommodations like every time, just to keep things fair. I told her she for sure gets the couch this time because Italian homes, like Taiwan and many of the other more humid countries I've had the incredible opportunity to travel through and experience, traditionally don't have carpet and I didn't want her sleeping on the cold concrete or tile floor. No, I don't know that it's really that I'm that kind or thoughtful or compassionate, but more because I actually don't mind AT ALL sleeping on the floor. Sometimes I even prefer it. No really, I'm being totally serious. I am one of those people that is blessed in an extreme way for being able to sleep pretty much anywhere and pretty much under any conditions. If you want to test me, feel free to comment on this post with places or conditions you can't sleep through, I bet I've either already tackled it or for sure could...within the reason of reality :)

Anyway, so Megan and I get back to her place after sitting outside talking for a couple hours and Janise is on the floor dead asleep wrapped up like a taco in a few blankets and seemingly wearing a few more layers than normal. This left me the couch and a throw blanket. Totally fine. Ha! I said goodnight to Megan as she headed into her room and, after brushing my teeth, I set off to nuzzle on into my little leather couch.

So, I think most of you would agree that I'm a little person, consequently I seem to fit practically anywhere with space to spare. And even if it were to be snug I typically sleep in a tight little ball so I only take up a cushion and some anyway. I moved some pillows around, lay down, grabbed the throw blanket, and proceeded to try and situate myself so that I would be fully covered. I have pretty poor circulation in my feet so I like to tuck them in good, even if that means the covers venture away from my chin and neck. I started to kind of slide my legs around in a manner I've learn so I don't have to sit up and actually use my hands to tuck them in...lazy, I know...well, as I'm doing this--OH! AND I didn't mention that Megan and Ali are basically renting a room from this cutie little Italian couple so we need to be really quiet because they wake easily--so, yeah I'm silently squirming around and suddenly...uuhhhhaaaahhh!!! and next thing I know I'm laying or sinking feet up in the air, head wedged against a cushion as pretty much the only reason my head didn't smash against the ground, and as for my rear...well, let's just say that it was planted firmly on the freezing cold ground directly where the couch is normally covering. Hahahahahaha! It was soooo funny! And not only could I not yelp or scream or whatever from the spontaneous fall but it took everything in me to try and hold my laughter in! I was dying inside and trying so hard to not wake up Janise by either my held in laughter or by fall-rolling on top of her being that she was on the ground nearly right at the foot of this incredible transformers couch. I'm pretty sure I had to look something like those cartoons when they fall into a trashcan and their hands and feet are sticking out all kinda ridiculously like. Oh my goodness.

I finally maneuver my way back into an upright position, get to my feet, gather up everything else that sunk into the middle of the couch with me, pushed the two ends back together and went for round 2. I was very conscientious, gentle, and slow this time. And yet, not 15 seconds passed and I found myself catching a breeze along my backside. You see, this time as I began to feel the two ends (this is a little two piece couch) starting to part with the grace of the Red Sea, and knowing that my impending doom was for the middle section of my body to go crashing down, I naturally reacted by lifting that part of my body straight up into the air the way we sometimes do as part of our cool down in yoga, pilates, and my kick boxing classes. I'll pause so you can envision what the human bridge I had just popped into... Ha! Yes, hysterical.

Again I slowly, strategically, and as silently as I could pulled myself back together and stood up to observe my arrangements and options. Ahah! My backpack!! It's huge and brick-like. It's the perfect wedge!!! I tip-toed across the room, quietly lifted it, and wedged it against one end of my little roller coaster and kind of the wall and a table leg. I kind of pushed the couch around a little to see if my next try and sleeping would end up with my tush on the ground and it seemed pretty stable.

Now, sometime around 2:30-3am I laid down, tucked my feet in, laughed to myself, reflected on my favorite day in Italy, and fell asleep...finally.

Never underestimate friendly warnings about separating couches from friends...just sayin'.

"Team Cami!!!!!" -Anna Maria, Battipaglia

My day started at 4:30am...and yes, I was being serious in my last post that I went to bed at 3:30am...oops :) I got up, showered, got ready, grabbed the bag I'd prepped the night before and started walking to the metro station.

I knew that today was the Roma Marathon--MARATONA DI ROMA 18. We talked about running it but my plans for today trumped. (Megan, Ali and I are actually planning on reuniting in Roma in the next couple years and running it together...stoked much? yes!); What I didn't know was that ALL of the streets were completely and totally blocked off in every direction once I got to the Colosseum. I panicked just a little, not gonna lie. Luckily a couple cops saw this girl all dolled up with a bag in tow, totally halted in her heeled boots, stuck as though the world has just paused, and in my best Italian I explained my situation and they directed me up this hill and down a ways to an alternate entrance to the Metro. Though I'd always wanted to wander up that hill, 5am and in heels were not the best match for the cobble stone pathway. I managed, found it, and got to Roma Termini only a few minutes behind schedule. I has planned in time to grab hot cocoa and a croissant for breakfast at the station and sat near a window to relax, breath, and enjoy a little people watching over my meal. It was quite delightful.

My train arrived. My destination: Battipaglia, Italy. It's a place south of the Amalfi coast which meant I had about a 3-4 hour train ride with an exchange in Salerno (which was totally planned with time to get out and explore around a little) on the way. My purpose: To meet the Barretta Family, described as 4 sisters 25 and older with a wonderful Mamma that I'm going to love.

Salerno is a really cute little seaside town that, though our adventures in Positano eliminated it for our itinerary for this trip, I will for sure be spending a good day there on my next trip. I love the ocean! There were some really pretty beach side views from both the train ride through and my little walk.

I've decided that the best way to tell you all about this part of my adventure is to cut and paste the letter I wrote to my friend describing my experience. This absolutely and with no contest was the best, most important to me, most treasured part of my entire trip. I have permission from him to post this letter (though I did slightly edit it :) ):

K so, I think by now you know how my Sunday played out. I can't even say practically perfect in every way, because it was literally perfect in every way and then some! The Barretta's are amazing!!! And hey, as far as Denise and Livians are concerned, there's no fun in meeting EVERYONE the first time, gotta leave some excitement and anticipation for the second. [I was supposed to be in Milano with a couple other friend's of his, like that was the plan since February, but it fell through the last week and I decided that I wanted to meet this family more, so there was some confusion in the States as to where I ended up that day because I hadn't emailed or skyped in a bit.]

Gina was at the little train station when I arrived waiting for me. We knew instantly who each other was. She said she'd seen pictures but I hadn't but could just feel her love as I walked up and made eye contact from a distance.

Oh my goodness!!!! I can't even close to figure out how to tell you how much fun I had with the Barretta family!! They are incredible!!! I love them so much! You were so right. We totally hit it off from hello and will probably be good friends and in touch for the rest of our lives. They are one of the most amazing families I've ever met and Anna Maria is a saint if I've ever met one...a quite hysterical saint should have seen/heard us, sometimes she'd just say the best English one liners and we'd all be on the ground crying we were laughing so hard. I guess you've probably experienced that though. I love her. She just...she just treated me like a daughter from the moment they picked me up from the train station...actually, after church while they were teaching me how to make the pasta we had for lunch she just came up to me, a little emotional, and was like, "Cami, you are another one of my daughters I think." Oh, She truly is an angel.

We had a wonderful lunch, all the girls were there and the elders and Angelo [one of her four sons] (p.s. that kid! hahaha he's one of the most funny people I have ever met...and he's so good at joking in English...the whole family is actually), what a blast! The food was incredible, of course, and the company and conversation, wow, I couldn't have asked for a more perfect real, genuine, beautiful, happy, fun, loving, loud Italian family experience. From the early morning when I arrived until late that night when I left I don't think 5 minutes went by when we weren't laughing and there was always someone to the point of tears. My abs were seriously, totally not over exaggerating, sore for two days after I could feel them, you know?

Church. I don't even know how to tell you about church let alone how much I loved it. I mean, when I was in Napoli sitting with Babak in gospel principles class and listening to the elder bear one of the most beautiful and fervent testimonies I've ever felt, then, that afternoon I thought I have never been so close to my mission. It was actually kind of embarrassing because without warning tears started rolling down my cheeks and I just...I don't even know...I absolutely positively LOVED--like obsessively--loved my mission. I loved it! It was one of the best, most fun, most fulfilling times of my life and i wouldn't trade it for the world and strangely...actually as a result of Napoli...I've mulled over the idea of if I would ever consider serving again...I know I know, I'm crazy, but hey, that's just me, I love doing missionary work....anyways, tears. And as i listened I pondered about the warm drops and discovered that probably for the first time since I've been back, the first time in 3+ years, if someone would have been like, "tomorrow I want you to go serve again" I wouldn't have thought twice about it. I mean i miss the work, the people, the food, the adventure, but this was unlike anything I've ever felt before, on a very deep spiritual level I missed the work and in those moments I felt like I was right back in it.

Battipaglia Branch threw me right back there again. I don't know. Maybe it was the tropical setting, the cutie little, totally unique building, the faithful members (regardless of their numbers), the elders translating their little hearts out over the shoulders of the other English speakers, me sitting there, once again listening to the gospel being taught and testified of in a beautiful language and perfectly content just listening with not much more translation other than being truly aware of the topic being discussed, and yet watching and listening--experiencing--to these wonderful brothers and sisters comment, question, and answer according to their heart's desire, understanding, need, and want...following the spirit and inviting Him in more strongly. Watching the elders as an investigator came in late and the light that beams with excitement as we all notice that he has his Book of Mormon in hand. And then watching the love everyone had for him as he courageously participated in the lesson and himself bore strong testimony about the Savior--despite his limited understanding.

Church. The faith of those members. Watching as the Bishop and his wife were asked to share their testimonies about their fears and faith about their upcoming life changing adventure of moving to Mexico to pick up their new family and better yet, listening and watching as it became and more and more evident that it was not just this sweet couple that was gaining a family, but the entire branch as they ALL excitedly would try to explain to me what was going on. Anna Maria got called to be the primary president :)...the kids don't come for another 3 months and there are none currently in the Branch. I know she will start faithfully serving and preparing this week. And then listening and just feeling the willingness of the members to support and follow the guidance of the dear elder that would be the presiding Branch President until further notice. Incredible. The church is true! And I love it! I just can't get enough of it! Sometimes I hear the aunts and uncles and my daddy talk about how church used to be when they had meetings on different days and wish it could still be like that because I love gathering together like that with hearts knit together, you know? Wow.

Anyway, after dinner we basically just spent the evening talking and laughing and getting to know each other and swapping funny stories and testimonies. They were amazing to me. And Vera, don't even get me started on Vera. What a rock. It didn't even take halfway through the day before she and I were regretting not having gotten in contact sooner so we could have spent a week together! Gina and Rita and and and I could go on forever about these girls! Rita is so sweet and really quite adorable and Gina, she was stuck to my side from beginning to end. And the oldest sister Alessandra, I really liked her, too...she's got a little sass to her and though she didn't speak as much she made me feel like I was important to her and whenever she did say something it was always really good and heartfelt. Anna Maria truly is a remarkable woman. Her life has not been easy but I admire her so much for all she has accomplished and done for her family. I mean, you know them, look at those kids. I don't care if they're active or not or whatever, they are all such special spirits. So full of love. Thank you so much for allowing me to be blessed with the opportunity of being touched by them. Thank you for sharing them with me. It's rare, being the oldest girl, that I have...well, I guess like,--while I was there was one of those cherished moments that it felt like I was blessed with the understanding of what it's like to have "big sisters" and they felt the same way. This was obviously a very special experience for me and I'm probably telling you more than you'd ever care to know. But I guess my heart is just brimming with gratitude. We talked about how at first we were both kinda like, "hmm, what's the point for us to meet?" but then within an hour of spending time together and talking we knew. And really, we feel like the Lord wanted us to meet too. So, I guess in the end thank you for being an instrument in the Lord's hands because we were all touched and changed by the testimonies and love of each other.

anyway, have a great night...and I heard you were a little concerned about me that night...please, come on, you should know me better than was only a 4 hour train ride, a 20 or so minute bus ride, and a little walk through some pretty poorly lit streets until I found my tall, blond Rupertite chica who then escorted me the rest of the way home...I was fine, confident, and never felt nervous or in danger or lost thank you. Have a little faith my this point i hope I'd be fine, I did just backpack through Europe, not speaking ANY of the key languages. :) Are you ever going to stop worrying about me?? hahaha You're funny.

welp, night!


SIDENOTE: That last paragraph is referring to my adventure Sunday night back up to Roma. Janise and I were leaving the next morning for Milan so I decided to head back, against all our deepest desires, that night to just make things easier in the morning. My train ended up being 70 minutes late leaving Battipaglia, which was actually great because it gave Vera, Gina, and I a ton more time to talk. But once I got on it was pretty smooth sailing from there...(ha! "sailing" that's like the one mode of transportation that I didn't use that night)

The metro, like I've mentioned before is under construction so I had to find the "metro bus," that was probably the hardest part of the adventure but other than that it was great! I was staying with Megan and Ali at their place out at the end of one of the metro lines, the same one I got off the first time when we went to church in Roma. The reason there was a little chaos and concern, besides the fact that my dear friends were apparently extremely concerned about and thought I was crazy for having traveled all that way by myself, was that the metro buses stop at midnight. Don't worry, I caught the LAST bus of the night and found Megan after having only walked a block or so. If you haven't figured out that I'm serious when I say the Lord loves me, well, it's true and this was one of the best examples yet! Haha! What a night!

Anna Maria Mamma sent me home with sooooo much food and entire container of the famed mozzarella di bufala (oh! Bonissimo!!!!), including a couple forks. So, after Megan and I made the trek back up to her home, we decided we weren't done talking so we sat and enjoyed the rest of our conversation over some of the best treats Italia has to offer. What a perfect way to end my sojourn in Roma and Italy...Europe for that matter.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

"Excuse me can you tell me how to get to...?" -Everyone, Roma

Today was a meravigliosa (marvelous) day! I slept in until I figured out my adventure for tomorrow--my last Sunday in Europe and boy do I have the best and most anticipated day planned out. I went out and walked around a little by myself and then met up with Megan who would be joining us for our last Persian meal of the trip. We said goodbye to Babak who was leaving for Istanbul to meet up with his family for Norouz, Persian New Year. I actually got to skype with Sassan, his older brother, which was again the first time I've ever talked to or seen him. They both look so much like my grandfather it's kind of uncanny. And then Megan, Janise, and I headed out to walk around on the town and explore a little more.

We actually went out at the perfect time because there were all kinds of live entertainers everywhere we turned. In what I think was a mall there was a live band filling the air. On Via Del Corso there were people in between every corner. The best were this cute little lady that was dressed up like a mime in a corsetted antique dress and she danced around with an umbrella. And we're talking like ballroom danced. She had a stand with a couple elaborately decorated vintage looking umbrellas and she passionately graced her selected courtyard with the floating tip toes as the music flowed from light and flirty to deep and love torn. Interesting display, but I have to admit she was talented. One of the others was a street break crew. We stopped and watched for a little while, but just as with most street crews I've seen in different places around the world, they focused a lot more on hyping up the crowd before and after they perform than the actual break dancing itself. I've realized that after having been in charge of the Break Dance Crew on BYU campus for about a year and a half it's hard for me to watch or be impressed by other crews sometimes. I mean, I knew the guys were good, but the more crews I see perform the more I realize, shoot! the BYU Breakers are actually like totally stellar!! Way ta go dudes! (and dudette, there was one girl and she was actually the president's wifey :) ).

Janise was tired and Megan, Ali, and I had a midnight rendezvous awaiting for that evening, so we parted ways at Stazione Colosseo and went home to freshin up and get somethings done. I finished my final prep for Sunday and at around 11:30pm headed back out to meet up with Megan and Ali at Stazione Ottaviano.

Whoever came up with the idea of a 24 hr. bakery was a genius. I applaud you! The bakery was a short walk down a couple now dark streets not too far from the Vatican, and then down a seemingly unfriendly stairwell on the left. Had I not been with Megan and Ali, who had been here once or twice before and knew that this was our desired location, I imagine even my adventurous spirit might not have found me wandering down into this basement gathering place. The streets were scarce of people and those that were lallygagging around did not draw out any of my typical eagerness or fascination to get to know new friends, as they stood, stooped, stared, and whispered from the shadows of the sidewalks.

Once inside it was just like that part in the movie Eat.Pray.Love. where Julia Roberts character walks into a Cafe and is lost in the huddled sea of people yelling over each other to the handful of service ladies running around behind the counter with bread, pastries, and other too incredible to describe wonders flying from plastic glove to bag to patron. Amazing. I wish I would have filmed the scene. That would be the solitary way to do it's description justice.

We each ordered two, three, four items and headed back up the dark stairs to enjoy our devilish ambrosia in the crisp evening's fresh air. We walked around a bit in search of the perfect spot to perch and nibble. As we approached a corner crossing, I climbed up on top of the Metro wall, swung my legs over to hang over it's inner facing edge and with a half smile and a taunting raised eyebrow coaxed my pastry lovin' friends to join me. With the nerves common to one walking across a long suspension bridge, they cautiously climbed up and over, settling in right next to me.

What a sight to see. Here we were, three American girls, each with their own BAG of fresh baked, hot out of the oven delicacies in one hand, munching on another with the guidance of the other hand, chatting up a storm at a volume that could compete with the best gaggle of high school girls Italia has to offer, constantly having to remind each other and wipe off remnants of those heavenly treats from cheeks, lips, noses, and fingers, sitting there on a dark corner in the heart of Roma, glowing with the dim light of a street lamp and the stars above, legs dangling into the dark abyss familiar in day light by thousands as they emerge from it's depths after their arrival from who knows where on the metro to join the world of travelers, tourists, locals, business people, and everything in between on these streets that have existed and seen more history, joy, tears, blood, and love than any one street in our Country, giggling and bursting into laughter every other moment...

Few people passed by over the couple of hours we tarried there, but I bet they had never seen anything like it. Once in a while I would get up and walk the tightrope around the mouth of the metro on this wall. I think Megan would stop breathing every time. I just laughed. And took a couple pictures. Boys, love, religion, heartbreak, life, Italia, home, family, you name it, we talked about it.

I had an early morning approaching me so we finished off the last of the treats we intended to eat together and again parted ways.

I love walking around Roma at night. It has the perfect combination of peaceful and mysterious.

Everyone was still up when I returned. I skyped Seany as soon as I got back and helped him write his mission farewell talk which he would be giving the following morning at church (He's going to be serving a mission for our church in Donetsk, Ukraine...follow his adventures here). I stayed up until around 3:30am Roma time and had to call it a night. I strategically placed my things around the house so as to expedite my getting ready process for the morning and went to sleep.

I set two alarms just to be safe. I had an adventure awaiting that I was not going to jeopardize by faulty technology or my personal weakness for sleep.

Sidenote: Today was funny too, in the past week it's become a daily occurance, multiple times a day actually, that people stop me on the street when we're walking around and ask for directions. It's really funny and they all try different languages to ask as well. Everyone here thinks I'm Italian, locals and otherwise, but really I don't know what it is about me that says, "Hey! I know what I'm doing and where you want to go" but it's kinda fun. And the best part is that I've been able to help them 100% of the time even without a map.

Friday, March 18, 2011

"I've been demoted to a cutter!" -Janise, Marilena's Kitchen, Roma

Oh my goodness! I've forgotten how nice a "real," luxuriously clean, beautifully whatever temperature I want, for however long I want shower is. mmm :) So, so good. And the pleasant way to put a serene smile on my face. Perfection.

While I showered I had Janise head off to an adorably quaint little market that was through a beautiful courtyard full of orange trees, out a secret garden like, visibly antique, rod iron gateway crawling with luciously green vines, down or might I say up a whimsical cobble stone passageway lined with unique shops that lead up toward those steep steep stairs that at this time of day and given the weather conditions looked as though they just went on eternally as they disappeared into the dense, low hanging blanket of clouds that lay so thick they may just have been the actual stairway to heaven...but then again, I'm already in Heaven, right?

Breakfast: Hand picked wild strawberries, bananas, bread with that sung the song of fresh baked when crunched and pulled apart and makes you want to lick your finger and dab up every last crumb, incredible (and my new obsession) apricot jam, and of course my European lifeline: Nutella. Divine? Yes. There is no better word.

We descended from our 5 diamond accommodations, paid Christian, said our goodbyes, took the last pictures of paradise, and headed up those stairs to our favorite bus stop and off to Roma--la mia casa Italiana. Oh Roma!

This trip was via Napoli of course and I made sure when planning out our route back that we would have a layover there. I had a special treat up my sleeve for Janise. Upon my arrival to Italy my first time around I remember, with great detail, my first ever experience with Shwarma. I've been hooked ever since. And for the past two and a half years my senses have been tantalized by one of my best friend's descriptions of "the best Shwarma in the world." Unfortunately, for all our other friends back in the states, the hopes of ever trying such unprecidented perfection were as likely as their plans of ever traveling around Europe...sadly slim. You see this masterful creation happened to be in the far of land of Italy, in a little town called Napoli. Luckily for Janise and I we not only were heading straight there, BUT I had some pretty decent directions on how to find the original "Shwarma Shack." We went, we explored, I took a chance on a little alleyway which lead us the back way up just the street that we should be on, and in a moment of near desperation given the wanning time, stepped into the actually shop our director intended us to find. We hurried and purchased and literally ran back to the station in just the nick of time to step onto our train.

We each enjoyed the imfamous shwarma throughout the train ride back and yes, it was as incredible as described and not only blew my previous experience with shwarma out of the water, but I fear, as is the case for my dear friend, that my taste buds will never again be satisfied by any other shwarma. A stiff price to pay but totally worth it. It was a party in my mouth! I also skyped on the way back and confirmed our dinner arrangements. Done and done. Ristorante Marilena e Fabrizio Part 2: The Gnocchi Lesson.

I don't know if I mentioned this in my last post about dinner at Marilena's, but a good portion of the conversation that evening was spent discussing all the future cooking lessons we were going to have. I'm sure you're all thinking about how impossible that would in California, Babak all over the place, Janise in Alaska or Seattle or on some island off the coast of Washington, Megan soon to be heading back to Rupert, ID, and then of course the Master Chef and her faithful sidekick, Marilena and Fabrizio in Roma. Oh, don't worry we got that all worked out real quick like...drum roll please...dun dun dun! Skype. Duh! We started scheduling our little lessons out right then, and once that started so did the cuisine request shout outs. Gnocchi top the charts and so tonight was the night. Oh my amazing!

Once again the Lord totally played that video game just right and Megan walked up right as I was turning down Marilena's street and after we grabbed some flowers and stopped off at a little pasticceria (pastry shop) around the corner, we arrived at their door just as they pulled up smiling, waving, laughing, and cheering loudly in Italian, seemingly having forgotten their motor scooter was stilling humming. It all just added to the beautiful sounds of a bustling Roman Friday evening. We couldn't really hear anything but the body language was clearly,

"I'm so excited you made it! I'm so sorry we're late!"

We headed up stairs, rolled up our sleeves, well, Marilena practically rolled them up for us shortly after helping us take off our coats, hanging our bags, shuffling us ALL into the kitchen, and starting to rattle off directions for each of us--love that woman--and..."hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go!"

Making gnocchi really isn't that difficult, what it is is totally time consuming and slightly manual labor :), well, at least my first assignment was. Ho-ly! I mean, I know I'm a soccer player and therefore lacking in the upper arm or I guess hand strength BUT really really? The potatoes were all cooked and ready to go. I started peeling and then Marilena pointed to a funny little contraption, one of which I totally want now, and the race began. Megan took over peeling and it was my duty to smash them as closely to rate of which she peeled...ha. ha. ha. Let's see if I can shed some light on this little thingy...oooh!!! Ok! So I'm assuming most of my readers have played with play-doh at some point in time in their lives, well, there's always a tool that you could put a ball of play-doh into and it would have a little lid that would cover it with a little handle and it would just send us all giggling to oblivion as you'd push down and the play-doh would slowly ooze out the bottom which was full of little holes. The result was spaghetti-like strands or strings of play-doh. At that time we would usually use it as fake pasta or hair for the little person we were creating. But on this magnificent evening this tool combine with potatoes led us to a brilliantly simple yet delectable fine dining experience.

I made it through about 90% of the potatoes before my forearms and hands just couldn't do it anymore and I passed the task onto the fabulously strong Megan. From there we took the mass of spaghetti noodled potatoes and placed it on the table and added flour and a little water (and a pinch of salt for those that want). We pretty much just eye-balled it, kneaded it up, and were left with the perfect mound of "dough" if you will, ready to be played with. The next assignments were dividing out the mound, rolling out each section into real long quarter of an inch thick snakes, cutting each snake up into inch length segments, and then...and oh was this a trial at first for all of us who tried, the ever elusive two finger roll down the cheese grater (fine grate) for design, texture, and forming into the tradition gnocchi shape.

To start, I rolled and cut with Ali at my opposite doing the same. Marilena then set to the task of instructing Megan and Janise on the finger rolling of the dough as well as the perfect placement on the cook-prep cloth which laid across the entire counter to our side--after rolled you don't want them to touch because they'll stick to eachother. Oh how I love Marilena. So much patience. Such a funny way of showing it :). Megan picked up on it by the time I had finished cutting up my first section, but Janise, oh poor Janise...actually, I don't know if it's "poor Janise" or "poor Marilena," all I know is that I don't know if any of us have ever laughed so hard! Marilena honestly just could not fathom how hard it was for Janise to "master" this art. And Janise, bless her heart, she tried soooooo hard and with a smile the entire time. I think it was probably a good thing that we had already spent a couple days with Marilena by this point so we knew that despite the volume of her voice rapidly increasing and her spontaneous aggressive outbursts of movement and words coupled with some beautifully good old fashion Italian mannerisms as she'd grab the cheese grate right out of Megan or Janise's hands to try for the 5 billionth time (or so it seemed to her) to show Janise just how it's done, often times even grabbing each of her hands herself and trying to work her through the proper movement, that she really wasn't "mad" per say, just really enthusiastic in her demonstration and persistent desire for her to "get it." bahahahahahaha!!!! Janise was such a good sport, and the rest of us all did everything we could to try and stay productive and precise in our assigned tasks so as not to draw any attention to our peripheral glances, uncontrollable raised eyebrows, and cheeks flushing with the strain of trying to not only keep a straight-ish face, but also keep the eruptions into ab workout laughter to a minimum. Eventually, Marilena took the knife from me, hand it off to Janise and I was set to the task of rolling gnocchi...

I must admit it took me a few times, and I likewise drew the unsatisfied attention of my dear Master Chef, but eventually I think I really got the hang of it. I even got a couple of loud applauses and cheerful kitchen dances from Marilena in praise of a couple of my inch by half an inch pieces of texturized dough. Mostly probably because of her relief that it was almost done. :)

We each grabbed a corner of the cooking cloth and slowly poured the gnocchi into a steaming pot of water. From here we just waited for them to bob up to the surface then we'd scoop them into a strainer, bounce them over the sink until every last drop was gone (to the best of our ability...we gave that job to Fabrizio because that job got the most criticism and little temper tantrums of them all). We'd made the sauce simultaneously with the gnocchi making process as well as the stuffed egg plant course, so from here it was off to the table to enjoy, flour covered and all.

Let's just say we indulged the bulge. And the bulge hurt. I was pretty much at about a third trimester food baby by the time she allowed us to stop eating. Boy oh boy was I glad we didn't have a dance after party after all that. There was a fruit course and two dessert courses as well. Which reminds me, I really need to get the recipe for the one desserts she made--apparently it's how she won over Fabrizio, and after one bite we all understood why.

Over all I think it was an incredibly successful, fun filled, fulfilling evening. As they say about a good movie, we laughed, we cried, there was suspense, and there was joy. We went, we made, we ate, we loved, we learned, we lived. And oh how glorious it was!!!

We said near tearful goodbyes as well as plotted our next possible opportunities to squeeze in future encounters before Janise and I had to catch our train, plane, and automobile out of not only this majestically mystifying country, but out of this beloved continent.

The metro is under construction for a while so being that it was after 11pm we had to catch a bus back to Piazza Venezia and then walk home from there. The four of us left together and as soon as we hit the streets and were clearly out of sight or sound of our favorite Roma Mamma we all about doubled over on the street and had to stop a second and take a breather because of how stuffed we all were. We regain composure, all embraced, and waddled off in opposite directions.

Maybe for the first time in my life I was actually on the verge of sharing my dinner with the sidewalk while we waited for the bus. Gratefully my stomach decided it wanted to keep it all to itself. I am shocked and amazed to say that other than around Chinese New Year during my mission I don't think I have EVER eaten so much food in my life! Oh but it was soooo good :)

We made it back safely and stayed up a few more hours catching up with Sepideh and the girls, skyping, chatting, emailing, calling, and me, blogging about the past week's adventures.

Roma is not over for me yet so I didn't have to say goodbye...but who am I the rate I'm going, despite it being round two for me here, I don't believe you can ever take Roma out of this girl's heart. Part of me just is completely at home here...

...maybe I've been doing some research about moving and living here for an extended period of time...

...ah, time. Only it truly knows what my future holds.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

"No really he lives in a cave and his car is like the flinstones." -Alberto, Positano

So like I said, we grabbed our stuff and quite literally RAN away. Oh but don't worry we took a picture of the what would probably become one of the most infamous spots for our entire trip. Duh! In fact, for all your eye candy are some pics...

how quaint.

Anyway, so like I said, we ran. The thing was pretty much only knew how to get to the market and to the bus stop, but the those were both likely places that we could run into Jess and Dave so the night before I had seen Dave run down some stairs by the market when he tried to chase down that stupid high dude that stole my pack. So we headed that way. And yes, we were still basically running. What? We were seriously like so paranoid about running into them but also super hungry and had NO CLUE what time the next bus was coming through so I figured as long as the stairs kept going down the mountain we would eventually end up at the beach. hmmm, the beach. I love the beach. It's. Like. Heaven.

We made it. And in good time too. Unfortunately, remember how I said it was like 7am or whatever, yeah...nothing was open. We put our stuff down...IN A REALLY GOOD VISIBLE PLACE :) And I walked around looking at the menus at the couple of nice restaurants right there on the beach. Oh and by the way...don't even get me was absolutely gorgeous. It was breath taking...or giving...something about clean, fresh, crisp ocean breeze seems to just make everything seem brighter and peaceful. Hmmm...I need to go to the beach...Anyway, we ended up at a bar for some classic Italian hot cocoa and a pastry. mmm, mmm, good.

By this point we'd already walked by these guys a couple times and by the time we were done with our breakfast, maybe they joined us at the bar. Convenient. They were definitely locals and definitely speaking Napoletano and giggling an awful lot. I had to pee so I made eye contact with one of them a couple times and then I started chatting with them. They actually had great English. So, after some other girls squeezed onto the bar as well, I asked them to watch our bags so we could run to the restroom. The one that we would come to know as Alberto just rose his brow, cracked a mischievous smile and said, "Oh of course and don't worry we'll take everything."

"Perfect!" I exclaimed and ran off.

I know you're all really starting to think, "ok, who let this girl backpack around the world basically alone??" or probably, "Didn't she learn her lesson last night??" hahaha, I getcha but, I just knew they were fine...I could feel it. And really really, it was probably one of the best decisions of the entire trip :)

We came back, thanked them, and were off to enjoy an absolutely fabulously relaxing day on the beaches of Positano. It was ahhh, so wonderful. So needed. So perfect. There was hardly anyone along the coast and the sky was beyond big, bright, and beautiful. I honestly don't know what was more clear, the water or the sky. And the forecast for today was a huge storm. Ha! (this happened almost everywhere we went our entire trip actually...we bring and take the sun everywhere we went in Italia)

I found a great place to stash our stuff, when I walked down along the southern end of the beach I found an old rusted stairwell that lead up to a rod iron door to who knows where. It was lightly chained off and well hidden from view by a serious amount of over grown trees and budding bushes. It was pretty easy for me to climb over and under and park our stuff up there. Shoes included of course.

We spent the next few hours mostly separate doing as we pleased. Janise playing travel photographer and me...I just did the beach thing. There were some cliffs off to the north and though there were some pretty huge waves crashing into them I was pretty sure there had to be a way up the cliff so I watched the sets rolling in for a little and picked up on the pattern and then just went for it. I'm starting to sense a pattern with this day. Yes, I ran.

and...just as I assumed...A dug out staired path leading to the seemingly ever elusive UP. Ooh, I love up. I climbed up, mostly with ease. There were only a couple spots that I had to make it up as I went. What I didn't know to be the halfway point at the time was a white stained by time and the spirit of adventure peace sign spray painted on the rocks. Love it. A man after my own heart...and I say man because I've never seen a chick walking around with a spray bottle tagging...yes, I'm totally stereotyping...although, now that I think about it...I've totally done that. ha! funny.

The staired path ended a little abruptly but there was a path a hop over a fence away. So I hopped. Left or right? Right would most likely send me back down and into the town center. And left, well I had no clue where left went and the path quickly disappear around a bend and behind more over reaching trees.

Left it is.

I was passed by a family at one point and judging by the looks on their faces you'd think they'd never seen a girl barefoot in a little white dress walking with a light bounce in her step humming some song as she went. Weird. Maybe it was the bright scarf tied in my hair or my best retro big sunglasses. Who knows. Who cares.

My journey lead me to a couple remarkable views and then...the pearl...a solitary little cover with nothing but the soothing sound of the water washing up and down the shore and splashing along the rocks. hmmm, perfect.

I skipped back to my stuff, grabbed my book of choice for this part of the trip having read nearly all the other, found Janise and beckoned to her to join me. She was a little sketched out by the initial race to beat the crashing walls of water to get to the first few steps of the climb up, but from there it was great. She went through this little open ended cave that lead to another long stretch of beach and disappeared with her camera. I stuffed my Book of Mormon down the front of my dressed and starting climbing the face of the rocks on the north side of my magical little cove. I found the perfect perch just high enough that only my feet would get wet by some of the big waves and where the constant ocean spray was enough to refresh but not too much to saturate my book or blur my vision.

and, I said a little prayer and just opened and read. I don't know why I was surprised but I opened to the same chapter that I'd been opening to for the entire trip. And it wasn't because I've been using the same BOM every time. Interesting.

I could have sat up there, basking in the sun, reading, pondering, and just experiencing every moment forever. Unfortunately, we had a date to keep. You see, on my way back to find Janise I passed those guys again and Janise and I were hungry and not really wanting a feast of granola bars and trail mix. But, we also didn't have a clue where else to eat other than the expensive spots right on the water. We needed local help. Good thing I just smiled at one.

Janise about died when I walked back with a satisfied smiled from ear to ear.

Janise: "So did you find a place to eat?"

Me: "Yup."

Janise: "Awesome, where?"

Me: "Alberto's."

Janise: "Hmm, is it supposed to be real good? Where is it?"

Me: "Oh I don't know. He said it is and I'm assuming it's his house."

Janise: "Wait what?"

I just smiled and nodded. "I asked them where the best place for lunch was in Positano and the one with the green eyes and the baseball cap stepped forward and said, 'My house.' And that my dear Janise, is that. Free lunch and cute company with awesome English."

"How do you do that???" Shock and awe is the best way to describe her at that point.

So, that's the appointment that pulled me off my heaven sent rock escape. We had to meet them on the beach at 1pm.

From there we spent a few hours just hanging out on the steps in the center of town with a bunch of Alberto's friends. Pablo and Christian and and and. They knew everyone and I swear Alberto was related to half the town. Everyone that walked up was either a relative or a neighbor which for a town of a little over 3000 I guess isn't too hard but still. It was so much fun. And seriously, I swear there are like NO women in that entire town. And they actually kept telling us that it was like a holiday that women aren't supposed to go outside day or something...but

a. they were remarkably good at joking around and,
b. there's no way!

...but really really, I still couldn't tell you if they were being serious or not. Like they would try and prove it to us by asking random dudes that walked by and they all seemed to be in on it.

Oh yeah, I guess I probably don't need to mention that we didn't have a plan for where to stay that night. But don't worry, after like hours of chatting I had my little Alberto Russo and his motley crew wrapped around my finger. We got really great gelato, a night over drinks, and the top FLOOR of a sea front hotel which included the entire roof terrace and princess accommodations at an extremely discounted we're talking ridiculous. I had stopped at the restroom again and on my way back he grabbed my arm, pulling me to the gelato counter, hands me his favorite and says pick my price. I totally low hostel rate level...and he got Christian to give it to us. The hotel wasn't even open for the season until the next day so he just gave us the key to the front door of the hotel and insisted no men were allowed in our room unless they pay me 100 euro and a bottle of wine. hahahaha.

There was only about an hour and a half that night that we didn't spend with them where we went to this pretty little spot they recommended for dinner and then we got all dolled up for drinks, etc. later that night. The waiter of course knew the guys and we had actually met his son and one of his workers through Alberto. The whole restaurant treated us like family after that. There was even this funny little old artist that had just finished painting an interesting depiction of beauty on the main wall that came and joined us for a while.

The bar tender was really funny that night too. He obviously also knew Pablo and Alberto so he'd walk over and chat with us every once in a while. The other thing they were trying to convince us of was that Pablo lives in a cave. Everyone confirmed it but really really? I still don't know. hahaha But the bar tender, when he brought our drinks back he tried to offer me another...alcoholic perhaps?? I told him I don't drink at all and that I never have and never will and they all just stopped and stared...they may have even stopped breathing. I continued and said, "Yeah, I don't drink, don't smoke, or do drugs." and that's when the bar tender said,

"What? She doesn't drink. She doesn't smoke. She doesn't do drugs. And she's beautiful," then he kinda smacked Alberto on the back and goes, "She's the perfect woman!"

We all laughed and I don't know who's face was closure to the color of a wild strawberry...mine or Alberto's.

We headed back up to our room and all sat on our king size bed and watched "Dark Knight" in Italian.

The night ended with Alberto trying to explain to us that in Italia they say hello and goodbye with due baci (a kiss usually on each cheek...which yes we not only knew but were very accustom to by that point). And then asking if he could. umm and yeah, we let them ;)..though I apparently had been doing it wrong all this time, because I was always under the impression that they were two cheek kisses. Haha cute little country boy...although he's 30 so I guess he's not really a boy...but he sure acted like one sometimes. For example, they refused to let us take pictures of them. Silly silly boys.

We slept really well that night.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"I'm really glad your friend Cami came tonight, oh and you too of course. Would it be ok if I took her on a scooter ride, you too of course." Dave

Ok so I've gone back and forth on whether or not I was going to share the next 12+ hours of our trip experience with you all. I even thought maybe I would just email the details to those that I thought would "appreciate" it more than others--though I don't know if that's a good choice of word. But in the end, what's a good travel story if it spares some of the gory details?? I'm gonna stick to my full disclosure policy and run with that. Just don't judge.

So the night with Dave and Jess begun eventful but there was nothing to that point that could have foreshadowed what would come next.
This is Dave and Jess
It started out with us all just sitting around and then Dave suggested we go pick some of the lemons from the tree in front of the villa and squeeze them with the oranges Emilia the shopkeeper had just given us to make some yummy juice. Ok. Being the public health dork I am, when he asked for some help with a flashlight outside (he was cutting with his army knife and the moonlight wasn't quite bright enough), I offered to help so Jess could keep her foot up.

Harmless, right? Yeah, sure.

This one of the oversized lemons that the Amalfi Coast are famous for: Cedro (pronounced Che-dro)

From there he had me follow him into the kitchen and we started hand squeezing the fruit. It totally took me back to my days living in the "909"...we used to have an orange tree and I think a lemon too and I loved picking them and getting out that little bowl thing with the dully pointed part that sticks up in the middle and squishing and spinning the orange halves around and around until every last drop was out. This was much the same. And we just casually chatted as we took turns.

Janise sat on the couch to keep Jess company. I guess we would have all been talking together but they had music playing so we would have been was like loud, hard rock, hater, army man music.

Our conversation went everywhere from army stuff to music to family to traveling to fashion to Italia to them to us to college and majors to life get the picture...and you all know I can talk and be engaged in almost any topic of conversation.

Every once in a while I felt like, "hmm, ok that was a little close," or like "ok, I think you just popped my personal bubble," or "hmm, was that 'graze' on accident?? Yeah, of course it was."

The evening progressed and he just kept drinking that limoncella...another one of those things I'm glad I was warned about because otherwise I would probably have gotten drunk by now because of how often it was offered...and don't worry, I definitely accidentally bought chocolates with it in them and the fam didn't realize it until daddy tried them...oops! Sorry Bishop :) Limoncella is basically an alcoholic lemonade that the coast is famous for. And the more he drank the more...well, let's just say I made panicked eye contact with Janise not even halfway through the night and she asked if she could help at that point. I know how to make pretty stellar bruschetta. I didn't need to be taught. Nor did I need him to try and "get to know me" any more than he already had.

I took a breath of relief and joined Jess in the living room.

Then out came the cards and the camera.

"BS!!!" was the game of choice. We dove in. By this point he was getting super obvious in his gestures, attempts, looks, stares, and comments. Actually, I think the camera had already come out while we were cutting lemons and in the kitchen. That's right, that was the first time I thought he tried to kiss me...what?!?! oh yeah! kiss!! I had to literally duck out of it...he'd cornered me up again the kitchen sink area...oh but he was just joking of course...he just stumbled a little...riiiggghhhtttt.

Right off the bat he chose to sit as far from Jess as possible and next to I was sitting between them. And within 5 minutes he straight up turned his chair so that his natural gaze and entire body were directly facing me. Then he's like totally distracted looking at the pictures...and drinking...and he started randomly taking pictures of me...or at least trying to. I just kept putting my hand up and stuff to ruin the pictures. He started getting like legitimately frustrated with me. And then of course he would take pictures of the other girls too so he could justify it. 4 of me 1 of them. 2 of me 1 of them. 3 of me 1 of them.

Janise and I were DYING!

When the game was over he wanted to go get cappuccino. So everyone was going to go. But then he just wanted to take the scooter but only two people could be on it. And then like Jess can't really walk. Oh and this was after he made this profound was more like a speech actually but he uh, he offered for us to stay there with them for the remainder of our trip. Janise and I looked at eachother not knowing what to think. Jess just smiled real big and was all excited too. So strange. So, I volunteered to stay with Jess and he and Janise could go get drinks. We had all already said we wanted hot chocolate. He just kept trying to make eye contact and bringing it up again and again how only two people could go and like asking, "So wait, what do you all want?"

3 Hot Chocolates. That's it. It's not rocket science buddy.

And then like he was either so drunk that he couldn't hear us or he'd just straight up gone deaf, he almost frantically searched out a notepad and pen and asks again,

"So, Janise what do you want (ummm...she's going with you dude) chocolate (writing it down)...and you Jess?...h-o-t c-h-o-c-o-l-a-t-e...and cami (crossing the room and handing me the pen and pad) can you just write down what you want?"


Holding the pen I go to write under the list he'd already made and...what the? I see this instead of his so-called list:

"I really wish it was you coming on this walk with me..."

WHAT!!!!!! Who are you dude!!?!?!???!?

I contained all the disgust on my face and blatantly wrote, in all caps:
I promptly handed it back to him, still avoiding eye contact (I could see him starring at me with those "need you" eyes...oh and did I mention he ripped out, crumpled up, and pocketed the note after reading...that's always a trust promoting gesture). I started talking with Jess after shooting Janise an, "I'm so sorry but thank you!" glance and they left with him dragging his feet.

, you might be wondering why I hadn't just stormed out by that point or raised you know what...well, you see at this point Janise and I were having a really difficult time trying to figure out whether or not Jess had picked up on any of this yet. No, like really though. She's such a nice little girl but she seems to be a little disconnected in places, if you will. Which also made us question why he was marrying her...let's just say they were on different planets from what we witnessed. We were just afraid of the off chance that we were like way off base and he really wasn't coming on to me ever chance he got and then ruining their perfect little fairytale...and they still had like 10 days left of their time there. And secondly, honestly, we really didn't have anywhere else to go. It was pretty late by the time the bag fiasco was over and the buses were done, everything was closed, there wasn't a human being out and about, we weren't near the touristy part of town (which honestly at that point we didn't even know where that was), and it was stormy and cold and beyond dark outside with the only light coming dimly from the moon. Beautiful, yes, but not very...grab your stuff and run!!! friendly.

Even during the time we were together she showed no sign of awareness and even hoped right on facebook and added me and just chatted it up.

They got back. Cold, soaked, tired, and empty handed. The place was closed...probably due to the weather...or time.

From there things just went downhill...if you can imagine there being any further down to go. Oh it did.

By this point he was totally sloshed and was trying everything he could come up with to get me alone. He tried to give me a personal tour of their villa. He would try and send the other girls away. I would move across the room and sit as far away from him as possible and in a spot that there really wasn't enough room for another person and he would come squish next to me and lean into me with his whole body...I got up and moved nearly immediately. He even followed me up to the bathroom one time. CREEPER!!!

And still, Jess didn't even least on the outside...

...I was dying...soooooo uncomfortable!!!!

Well, after about 20 more minutes of trying to get them to go up stairs Janise and I came up with a brilliant plan and we didn't even have to talk verbally about it to be on the same page instantly! Claim to be beyond exhausted and pulled out the futon bed and started making it!!! Duh!!!! Why didn't we think about that sooner??? Dumb!

So we get goin on that and they head up stairs. Our bags were up against the wall that the head of our little bed was smashed up against as well. Really what we did was put the cushions of the couch (they were all connected) on the ground and so I was on my hands and knees with my back to the stairs that led up to their room. I was laying the blankets and sheets out to cover them and meanwhile Janise had the grand idea of heading up stairs to brush her teeth (SHE COULD HAVE DONE IT IN THE KITCHEN SINK IN CLEAR VIEW OF ME!!!). She left me alone and I didn't realize it until next thing I hear is HIM! He's already halfway down the stairs and my brief glance over my shoulder proved the feeling of being intently watched to be fact.

Ahhh!!! What to do? What to do? Freaking out much? Yes! That was the least of the thoughts going through my head. Just look busy. Look busy and whatever you do don't look back. Just look busy. Ummm....straighten the totally already straightened covers...ummm, dig through your bag for something...come up with any reason to not have to stand up, cross the room, make eye contact, or give him any way to strike up conversation. What the? Ahhh!!! He's crawling across my bed at me! He's right behind me! I don't understand! I don't understand!!! Make it stop! What the heck is he doing. If he gets any closer I swear I'm gonna kung fu kick him so hard he'll never be able to make babies! With anyone!

"Hey, so I'm sorry I couldn't take you on a scooter ride tonight. I just...I'm sooo grateful that you came tonight. You have no idea what this has meant to me. I hope that you guys will take us up on our offer to stay here with us for the rest of your trip. I really have enjoyed having you here. I really like talking to you...So, I was thinking, tomorrow I'm gonna get up early and make this amazing breakfast. But I think I'm going to need a little assistance. I would love if you'd get up early with me and help (by this point he had so much alcohol in him I could smell it with every word...there was NO WAY I wasn't just gonna agree with everything he said...within in reason and morals)?? Ok good. Great. I was also thinking, I really really want to take you on a scooter ride, and the other girls too of course, but since we're making breakfast how about I set my alarm real early and I can take you for a ride all around the town. You know, before everyone else wakes up. Just you and me. It'll just make more time for me to take the other girls later. So what do you think?"

uhhhh...there were so many words I would like to say and yell and scream and chastise and..."are you asking me on a date?" followed by a slap was certainly among them...this is by no means flattering Sr. Don't even fool yourself for a second!!

I just went with, "Yeah sure. I uh, will probably not wake up very early but maybe, yeah, we'll see. I'm like so tired so, Night!"

get out of here, get out of here...seriously....and then the most beautiful sound I have ever heard...

"Hey guys! What's up?"

I have never been so excited to hear Janise's voice in my life!!!!

Let's just say we turned off the light like right away...after I brushed my teeth in the kitchen sink and we whisper-mostly-kidding-yelled at each other about our different experiences with him and restrained with all we had to keep our belly laughter down to the lowest volume humanly possible.

What on earth did we get ourselves into!?!?!? What is this??

I feel asleep pretty quick...standard...but Janise apparently not only took a while to fall asleep but also woke up early which both turned out to be really tragic circumstances. Yikes! Sooooo glad I sleep so well. I did wake up for a little bit early in the morning but I thought I heard them yelling at each other so I quickly made myself fall back to sleep. I did also see him walk outside sometime after that and maybe come back in later and look at me but I never let him know I was awake in the least. I think at one point I even pulled the covers over my head completely.

Eventually, Janise and I just couldn't handle "it" anymore and despite the fact that it was like, oh I don't know sometime around 7am, we silently packed up our stuff, cleaned up the room, put the furniture back to it's proper place, I did the unbelievable...I ripped a piece of paper out of the PB (yeah I know), scribbled some totally believable reason for how we had to go meet up with some friends and had to skip out early, sorry for leaving before saying goodbye, thanks, and good luck!


arguing, ha!

"Look out ladies of the world...I am God's gift to women."


Jess is like super insistent on being Facebook friends with us. I accepted and have been wanting to write and tell her what a horrible person her dude was but don't worry first she posted all these pictures of us all together and then she tells me that they're over and then she starts spilling some of what went down that night/morning and I'm not going to explain what this means but lets just say his excuse was that he was trying to get a threesome together.

OMGoodness!!! So glad that's over. Ha! Oh and did I mention that now she like wants my number so she can come out and visit me??? What's with people like this!?? I don't even understand.

Dave in my eyes.

Ladies: If any of you ever sight this lame excuse for a man...Run away!!!...maybe slap him once for me and than run away.

Gents: I don't think I need to spell out what I'd expect from you all...all I gotta say is the more permanent the better. :P

"How are you laughin about this?" -Everyone to me

So, here's how Positano got real exciting.

First, Dave it like 30-40 minutes late to come pick us up. Like by the time he came and had walked halfway up this major road that leads to the north end of the village. He just trotted down like nothing happened.

Ok, that's fine. They are taking care of us to I'm not gonna complain. By that point the wind had eased up and the rain had stopped so other than the pitch darkness that we were surrounded by we were totally fine.

Have I mentioned I'm like totally afraid of the dark?

He leads us up the road and we stop off at an adorable little market to grab a couple items to add to our evening. He had insisted on carrying my pack but it didn't exactly fit through the doorway of the grocery store so being that we were in like the safest little town in the world, no one was out, it was super dark, and we weren't really in a touristy part of the town we just left it at the know, like 5 steps away from where we were standing. We were greeted almost with cheers by the owners. (It was interesting to me that he'd been in Italy for like a week and he didn't even know like "thank you" and "you're welcome" or some of the other like super basic stuff...we've been so blessed to have been staying with people that speak with Italian so we could learn...I spoke with them a little and understood basically everything they were saying. it was fun). The store didn't have the specific wild strawberries that he wanted so the lady, Emilia, took us down the street about 20 yards to her brother's fresh produce store and picked out a bunch of fruits to send us home with...and she definitely didn't charge us for them. On the way over I checked for my bag. Still there. And again on the way back...check.

We brought our stuff to the counter, they rung us up, we paid, and of course I had to go and keep talking with them. They were just so nice and cute and friendly I couldn't help it. Next thing I know Dave has walked back in and looks at me with wide eyes and says, "You picked up your bag right?" I was like "what?" And he said, "You came and moved your bag from the entrance right? "

ummm, no.

Oh yeah, it's exactly what you think. My bad was gone. Totally stolen. Yes, the entire thing. Like EVERYTHING. My whole life, money, cards, clothes, scriptures, driver's license, books, gifts, everything. Luckily I had all my electronics, my laptop, camera, chargers (randomly), and glasses with me in my messenger bag which was still slung across my chest. I yes, I had a panic moment about my passport because there's this secret compartment that I have kept it in EVERYDAY of my trip up What the random?!?! Heavenly Father loves me! For some reason I took it out...oh yeah! When we checked out of the hostel in Sorrento the guy needed it for something and I had let Janise hold it in her little passport pouch that she hangs around her neck 24 hour/day. This one day. Wow. Talk about divine intervention. Dave felt so badly. The entire store and neighborhood came out to help look for it. To no avail.

You see, as Dave was paying there was this creepy, stoned looking, 6'6", broad shouldered, prematurely graying, almost handsome but not because of how sketch he looked...and the vulgar aroma of being doused in alcohol didn't help either, that just kinda stood there and was staring at me--very intently and strangely actually. I noticed him right away and even before I saw him staring at me I felt a really bad vibe coming from him. I actually had walked away to the other side of the store until he left because he had such a dark spirit about him. He walked out, walked back in, staring the whole time, and then left just before us. And actually had I not been chatting it up with the store keepers we would have walked out ahead of him, but no, I had to go and run my mouth in my broken Italian and get to know the lady selling me my eggs and water and find out about their Easter traditions and the large chocolate egg sitting next to me that I could fit inside.

We headed up to their villa and Dave just apologized the entire way up. I tried to assure him I was fine, and really I totally was. I mean come on, so I have to buy some new clothes when I get home and make what I was wearing last for like 5 more days. Big deal. So I lose some money and my driver's licence and a couple credit cards. I can earn more money. Buy another pack. Report and cancel my credit cards. And everyone wants and excuse to take a new DL picture. I might have had a bit of fatigue and joint pains and I would probably have to invest in some new sunscreen but otherwise, I really didn't need anything in there. I wasn't stressed about it at all. I had the PB, my passport, the laptop, my other credit cards, and my camera. What else do you need when traveling. This just meant that my load just got way!!! lighter.

But seriously, now this trip is like so perfect and cliche. I mean come on of course my bag get stolen while I'm backpacking through Europe. That's totally normal. People have been telling that's gonna happen all the time. Shoot, if I'm gonna to this, I'm gonna do this right! No halfway for this little adventure seeker.

We got there and explained everything that to Jess, who by the way was sitting with an ice pack on her foot because she "rolled her ankle on their way out of the restaurant"--which turned out to be a lie, she later told me that he wasn't being careful and they slide out on their way back from dinner and she got thrown and wrecked her ankle...and I actually talked to her today and she said it turned out to be broken when she got home...but she lied about it because he made her swear she wouldn't tell us...weird.

Then...wonder of wonders! a miracle! a miracle!! We get this phone call. It was Emilia, the store lady...they found my bag!!! We're still not too sure how they got the number for the villa but whatevs, we wrote it off as "small town" and Dave ran down and got it and the story.

Apparently some old lady found it on tossed on the side of the road somewhere near around the corner or something. It was opened and gone through but not very well. He must have just been looking for money and valuables and only found clothes. Haha! Had he looked harder, like in my toiletry bag he'd have hit the jackpot but alas, he really was just a dumb oaf.

See? I'm telling you, Heavenly Father loves me! You all need to just stop worrying about me so much. I got this :)

"Just before I got here a missile turned my truck into swiss cheese." -Dave, Iraq

We walked back, I stopped in on a little market and bought some fruit and a bag of chips and we headed off to the bus.

You see there aren't any trains that run along the Amalfi Coast so we get to take a bus. It goes literally right along the coastline. OMGoodness! It is breath taking! First stop, Positano.

Now, my this point we had a pretty good grasp on where we wanted to go and stop along the coast and for weeks now I had been anxiously looking forward to a beautiful day spent lounging on the beach in Positano. Like, I almost just wore by bathing suit there...

good thing we didn't.
We get there just fine. It's absolutely more than I could have imagined. We set out to find somewhere to stay and...the most incredible wind storm OF MY LIFE blew in!! Oh my. I almost died trying to walk up this ridiculously slopped sidewalk. Like we're talkin' I had my pack on and I just about went bounding down the mountain face village...if I hadn't caught myself I probably would have rolled all the way down into the village center by the sand!

It was so intense. After like 20 minutes of that plus not seeing a soul! and every thing's closed...we took our lives into our hands and made it back to the bus stop to take shelter. Even there though we were being blown around...granted the shelter was like 1/4 inch or less diameter sticks held together with string on a tree limb cemented into the ground vertically.

"We're getting on the next bus out of here. I don't care where it's going!" (me)

And that's what we did.

Luckily the next bus, though it took like 30 minutes, was heading in the direction of the actually town Amalfi. I had some information for a hostel there and it was definitely on our "must spend significant time" in list. By the time we got there the good ole weather man had thrown some rain into the mix.

We got off the bus and literally just stood there for a few seconds. We found out that the hostel closes at 2pm everyday for check-in...awesome, it was 4pm by the time we got there...there goes that option. I looked around a little and spotted a travel shop off to the northeast of the bus stop. Perfect! I skipped over there...closed. Like really really closed. Perfect.

Our tummies decided it was time to take decision making into their own hands and grumbled their way into our heads. Time for food. We decided to just find somewhere to eat and think about housing after that. Maybe there we could ask some locals too.

I picked an alley and we head up it, enjoying the scenery as we went. This little jaunt lead us to an adorable little spot with a really nice mama cooking away. Bruschetta, lasagna, spaghetti, and hot chocolate was the order of the evening and boy was it good.

At some point the lady's brother came in and he owns a hotel so he said he'd take us there whenever we were done. Meanwhile this American guy walks away from his table looking kinda lost but with camera in hand...classic, "uh, I need someone to take a picture but I'm nervous to ask." I made eye contact with him and offered. They couple invited us to join them for the remainder of our meals. We moved to the table right next to their and enjoyed really good conversation about military issues, life, and mentality.

Dave and Jess. Both military. He is currently serving in Iraq and was on his mid-point leave. She flew out to meet him in Rome and they were spending the rest of their time together in Positano in some little villa. They got engaged two days before that night.

It was really interesting talking with them about their experiences with the military and hearing their thoughts and perceptions of the politics going on in the States with reference to the military. Jess's ENTIRE family is military. I guess her dad is pretty high up too in the Army and so he's gone all the time. Like she said when Sept. 11 happened he left like that day and was gone for two years! That's insane! I really don't think I'm built like that. Uniforms are hot but I don't know if I'm as strong as those women. Shoot, she spent a year in wherever...I don't remember...but somewhere in the Middle East herself when she was like 19. Wow. That's all I can really say.

It really made me reflect on some of my dear friends that are out there right now. Devan, Christian, Christopher, one of Seany's best buds from high school, oh and Danny. Geez, I really don't like this but I am very grateful to the men and women that are willing to serve their country in that manner.

By the time dinner had rapped up they were aware of our situation and offered for us to stay with the at their villa. They said there was plenty of room being that it was just the two of them. We had felt very comfortable with them for the past two hours so we excitedly accepted the invitation and Dave and I figure out a place to meet that I had noticed on the bus ride.

They took off on their scooter and we waited and then hopped on the bus. This'll be fun!...ha! that's what we thought.

"A picture is worth a thousand words." -Napoleon Bonaparte

I think today in Sorrento is much easier to describe by picture...

Don't worry, this is all handcarved precious wood in-lay...

as a carpenter's daughter this was just remarkable and beautiful to me...and this the wonderful father-son duo that are carrying on their family tradition.

they are apparently collecting pictures of people from around the world and after we spent some time chatting and exploring their work they decided to add me to the wall.

I didn't really know where we were going but Janise has gotten pretty good at trusting my instincts and knowing I'll get us back to origin eventually :)

sometimes pictures still don't do a scene justice...this hillside was completely covered by flowers of every was like rainbow mountain

I love docks.

Sherbet ice cream anyone??

here kitty kitty kitty...livin' the dream!

I'm without words...

like I said, was even raining...though I don't know if this one would be stable enough to dance on...given the right circumstance I might have tried...oh memories...

this one was for Kimi...and just because I love other country's English sometimes...

for more awesome English check out this is killer :)