Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The moment we've all been waiting for! Well, at least I was....

Hello again and happy December! It's becoming a crisp but beautiful winter setting here, with snow capping all the mountains around us. Temperatures have been fairly high for this time of year, but we've had morning frost quite a bit. I've taken some pictures and another field trip, which I will post and share soon, but for the moment, I've got something else exciting...

I finally got a of a video from ACLE, the company I worked for this summer! It's a promo for the general high school program, but it's got a lot of footage from our camp. It's not the compilation of just our camp as I had wanted to show you (I hope to post that one tomorrow), but it's still great, and it will give you a little taste of my work here. Hope you guys enjoy, and sending warm thoughts to you all. Ciao!
Here's the link (yeah, it's on You Tube):

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Field trip: Lago di Garda

So I made a promise to myself that I was going to take a field trip to a different town every week once I got back from Egypt. Weather and germs prevented that-until today. It was a spectacular, sunny day, completely uncharacteristic for an impending winter. A friend of mine has a girl visiting who is from Brazil, but her great-grandparents were Italian. Her great-grandfather comes from a small village on Lago di Garda, just outside of Verona, so today we headed off not just to make the most of this incredible day, but also to spend a few moments in her history.

My friend took us to a town called Sirmione, a wealthy and strategically-located village on a peninsula in the south of the lake. The castle still stands strong and stately today, and the town seems to hold it's head high with pride for it's beauty. We wandered through the streets, ate lunch on the shore, and found one of the hot springs-the city's biggest tourist draw-right on the beach. The sun shone so bright, but the crisp air and perfectly empty streets reminded you that it wasn't August anymore. There are days when I forget that I'm in Italy, a new, different, and amazing place that I have so much more to discover in. But days like today make me so grateful for this opportunity and every moment that it lasts.

We then headed over to Castelnuovo, a small village just up the shore, to see what we could find about my friend's family history. We didn't discover much today (everything is closed on Wednesday afternoons, it's like Italian law or something crazy), but I love that in Italy you can realistically walk into a town, find the oldest generation still there, and reasonably ask them about a person who lived there three generations ago, and they may actually know quite a bit. I'm learning a new sense of family and community, and while I covet my wings and world-traveler spirit with much pride and independence, I hope someday to be in a community that strong and long-lasting.

Here is Sirmione and Lago di Garda:

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Mount Sinai

Okay, ridiculous again, I know. I've been home for two weeks and still haven't told you I lived to make it off Mt. Sinai? Well, all drama aside, it's been a crazy couple weeks at home, lots of sick kids (and sick me), parents working a here I am on a Wednesday night two weeks after my return to tell you: Sinai was AMAZING. Religious or not, the idea of climbing up a mountain in the middle of the night and watching the sunrise is a defining moment. It's so worth it, if you ever feel the crazy notion yourself to try it. I think any mountain will impress you, but this one certainly was breathtaking. I befriended a lovely young lady from London, Lisa, who was in the same bus as me to go to Sinai. We had a group of about 9, but we ditched the rest to climb at our own pace. 2000 meters and about 2 hours later, we were standing on the top of darkness, breathless from the hike and the unbelievable amount of stars. There's really nothing on the entire Sinai peninsula bright enough to diminish the sky, so you have 180 degrees of stars.

We settled ourselves in a little niche in the rock, and waited for another hour and a half for the sun to come up. It's really cool to do highly memorable things with absolute strangers; you find out a lot about yourself and others too. There's a pic of me and Lisa (in case you couldn't guess) and a couple of the sunrise. Pictures can't possibly do it justice though, so I highly recommend you try the experience for yourself. After the sun had fully crested the horizon, we began the equally-long trek down. It's a little disenchanting seeing as there are probably a couple hundred other people on any given day, and some of them have very poor manners, but we waited them out at the top, and headed down the slippery, dusty road slowly. By the time you reach the bottom the sun is scathingly hot, and it's hard to believe that three hours before you were gratefully bundled under a wool blanket with five layers wrapped tightly around you. Like I said, highly memorable.

The rest of my time in Egypt was fairly uneventful. I spent my afternoon wandering calmly around Dahab, chatting with my new friends (people in Dahab are SO hospitable), and soaking in the peace. Another night bus back to Cairo, a tough fight with the scandalous taxi drivers to get to the airport, a four hour delay for our flight (that only took four hours as it was), and I was back to Italy, and feeling more at home than ever before. Truly a trip I will never forget. I hope this year never ends...