The GoGlobal Blog

Category: John Felice Rome Center

I Live in Rinaldo’s

I Live in Rinaldo’s

I live in Rinaldo’s. I’ve officially set up shop and am not leaving until spring break starting today. I realize that I’m spending too much time focusing on creating content for work and brainstorming that I haven’t been studying enough. I’ve done research on different and effective ways to use instagram to make sales, while posting 3 times a week, I’m supposed to also be posting 2-3 stories a week,

finding new stories to write about like new restaurants, and the March Events Blog post is due next Monday. I completely bombed my finance test which probably shouldn’t have been as hard as it was. I need to be more focused and balanced in how I’m allocating my time. The rest of my midterms are next week so I’m basically not leaving JFRC until my grades are where I need them to be (or sleeping probably, but that’s college right?). Today I took the 990 Bus to Vatican City to take some pictures for my internship and send out postcards to my friends and family. It was 2,80 euros per stamp. The man who was working at the post office seemed was super rude. I handed him my debit card and he threw my postcards on the

desk and said, “No Card.” Alright, noted. I handed him cash, took my postcards and stamps, and left. It was probably because I spoke English to be honest. On my way back to the bus I stopped at a McCafe. I wish McDonalds had them in the united states like they do here. They have cheesecake, muffins, cornetto, colorful doughnuts, and it’s awesome. I got some decent pictures for the Roman Foodie instagram. I ended up buying a creamolosa al caffee. Its pistachio fudge topped with espresso and vanilla soft serve. I had no idea what I was getting but I figure I should try a new thing every day if I can. My life has been changed. With such easy access

to sweets, I’ve come to the realization that I need to do something to keep me healthy. So, for the past month or so I’ve gone to the gym 5-6 times a week depending how my body feels. I’m finally starting to see the benefit of all the work I’ve put in and I’m really happy about. So, the goal for next week is to sort my life out, but its really hard to say the least.

 

Take a Hike!

Take a Hike!

On Friday I went on a hike around Monte Mario, the big hill that is home to the JFRC and the surrounding Balduina neighborhood. Soon after setting off, JFRC librarian and enthusiastic hiker Ann Wittrick in the lead, I heard murmurings from some other hikers that this trek would be four hours long. Four hours!? I hadn’t seen anything about this on the posters. Apparently, the information was on Facebook. Once again, I was out of the loop because I don’t check Facebook. I was not the only one taken by surprise though, other hikers quickly grew apprehensive, several suddenly regretting their light breakfasts of coffee and cornetti. Nevertheless, we were off! As our feet pounded along wooded trails, up and down the hills of Rome, many of the original bright-eyed travelers fell away, opting to catch a bus home as the rest of us continued. I’d say that about 15 of us stayed for the entire trip. I’m glad I stayed because I got some cool pictures of the city and saw the Olympic Stadium where Rome’s most famous soccer teams play.

We made our way up the trails of Monte Mario Nature Reserve which is 139 meters (456 ft.) high. The hill is home to a lot of biodiversity which is not so easy to find in today’s metropolitan Rome. The ground beneath the oak and maple trees is a mixture of sand and gravel from the ancient days of Rome. Though there was more wildlife there years ago, the area is still home to rodents like house and field mice as well as birds like the Jackdaw, Long-tailed Tit, and Rome’s infamous Starlings. (The last of this group swarm the city every year in November and December, burying the city in buckets of their, umm, gifts) The hill gave us some unique views of the city. From different viewpoints along the trail we could see the Vatican, the Colosseum, and the Olympic Stadium poking out among Rome’s orange and yellow apartments.

After the hilltop, we visited a French cemetery for fallen French soldiers of World War II. Many of the soldiers had German names, evidence of the many changes throughout France’s history between the cultures of Germany and France. There were many graves honoring fallen Muslim soldiers as well. These had gravestones with different shapes, and symbols of a crescent moon and star. One of the JFRC’s theology teachers was with us, and he remarked that the Muslim graves were here because there had been so many Muslim soldiers recruited by the French army during the war. Not too far from the cemetery stands a giant statue of the Virgin Mary, meant as a symbolic praise to God for keeping Rome safe during WWII.

As we made our way back to campus, we visited the Olympic Stadium which was built to host the 1942 Olympic Games in Rome, but did not because of WWII. The stadium and adjacent Olympic Village was used to host the games in 1960. We saw the buildings that housed the athletes, and a practice field and track next to the actual stadium. The grounds of the stadium are dotted with Greek style statues depicting muscular athletes. Our S.L.A Judy, told us that fascist leader Benito Mussolini had ordered the statues to be built, with the ideal fascist Italian man in mind. These brawny dudes (not a woman in sight of course) were meant to symbolize the way Mussolini wanted every man to look. I thought it was funny then, when Judy also told us that the reason each statue was made to look across the field at the statue opposite it, could be traced back to ancient Greek traditions; specifically, the tradition of young men forming relationships with older men as a way to enter adulthood. We also saw the old headquarters of the fascist party in Italy. It was, an extremely square, plain grey building with no defining features. It looked like it had come out of a Fascists Architecture 101 textbook. In the courtyard outside, there were huge stone blocks inscribed with a highlight reel of Mussolini and, by extension, the fascist party. The blocks at the end of the rows have been left blank, with the idea that they would be filled in as the fascists continued influencing the world.

At the end, though my feet were tired, I was glad the hike was so long. I left with the nice reminder that taking a nice long walk is an effective way to clear one’s head. A hike in the woods, or a walk through the town can boost your mood and bring everything into perspective. I hope to visit the Monte Mario Reserve at least once more before I go.

 

 

 

Some of the Muslim graves in the French WWII cemetery we visite

The public soccer field next to the Olympic Stadium

View from Monte Mario trail

 

 

 

 

 

From the Ground Up

From the Ground Up

On Friday, February 9, I traveled to Napoli (Naples) with 7 members of my science class and our professor Stefania Galdiero. A native to Naples, Stefania studies the chemistry used in producing pharmaceuticals. Our class is titled Science of Italian Art, and in it, we talk about the many ways science and art overlap. (Think: DaVinci using his artistic talents to create accurate diagrams of human anatomy.) Stefania showed us around Naples for a day, taking us on a tour of the university lab where she works, as well as tours of a nearby Accademia di belle arte (really cool college for art students), and the underground caverns that helped shape the city.

The Accademia in Naples is one of the busiest, most prominent of all the accademie in Italy. Every major city has one, they are essentially museums and spaces to hold huge collections of fine art. David, the star of last week’s post, is housed in the Accademia of Firenzi. The one we visited in Naples is not only a home for works of art, but a school for young artists themselves. The walls are lined with sculptures donated by artists for the students to practice sketching and painting. Students at the accademia study there for five years, before going on to become cinematographers, painters, musicians and actors. One of our guides boasted at the workshop adjacent to the stage, where students and professors design and build all of the set pieces for the plays put on in the college. No other college in Europe, according to our guide, builds their own stage materials that they use in their plays. I couldn’t help but imagine what day to day life might be like for the students here. How much fun it must be to study sculpture, restoration, or cinema in a place like this. The few students that were there on Friday afternoon would laugh and share a cigarette with the professors they passed, before bounding down one of the open air hallways on their way to the studio. It was thrilling to see the workshops and spaces where artists of the future were learning and perfecting their crafts.

For lunch, of course, we had pizza. Now, the story goes that impoverished people in Naples were among the first to start adding tomato to their flatbread as a topping. Much of Europe believed the tomato to be poisonous when it was first brought in from the Americas in the 16th century. Once enough people figured out that tomatoes were not killers, pizza was born. As the dish gained popularity, more people traveled to Naples to try it, even venturing into the poorer parts of the city where the food was first created. The pizza I had in Naples was very good, (I had a veggie pizza with spinach, artichoke, and mushroom) but it was nothing life changing or magical as the hype had led me to believe. (Remember, I’m from Chicago)  That being said, if you’re ever on the hunt for the perfect slice, Naples is a great place to start. I only tried it at one restaurant so there is plenty of uncharted cheesy territory left to explore.

After lunch, we squeezed down into what some refer to, creepily, as the womb of Naples. 40 meters below the bustling city is a complex labyrinth of tunnels that have been used for various purposes since the Greeks founded the city in the 7th century BC. First, a quarry was dug out to provide materials with which to literally build the city. The stone and metals from the Earth were used during the construction of Naples. The underground passages and caverns have an area larger than the city itself, and it was all carved by hand with chisels, hammers, and muscle. Looking up at the high ceilings, we could see the marks and divots left by the workers’ chisels. Decades later, the caves were filled with water and used as the city’s aqueduct system. Those who lived there used wells to access and bring up the water as they needed it. The smallest workers would climb down the walls of the well to clean the inside of the reservoirs as needed. Our guide told us that wealthy families would sometimes pay the workers extra to make sure their portion of the aqueduct was always full of clean water, often leaving others to deal with empty or dirty wells. For about 60 years, the caverns were used as the city’s garbage dump, but was cleaned up at the beginning of World War II. The space then provided shelter for Neapolitans as thousands of bombs were dropped on the city over the course of the war. In many ways, the caverns underneath Naples allowed for the city’s survival.

Overall, Naples is a very exciting place. The streets are alive with activity like they are in Rome. Motorcycles and scooters whiz by you on what you thought was a sidewalk, and every corner has a vendor selling something that smells delicious. There is graffiti on every building and a lot of garbage around. Some of the people in our group thought it was a bit too dirty, but I liked the artsy creative feel of every alley. I liked that the city doesn’t try to be too neat, or perfect. It just lives. Naples has been doing things differently since it created pizza in the 1700s and they don’t plan on changing their ways any time soon. While most of our group stayed in Naples for the weekend, I decided to make it a day trip. Even though it was only one day, I felt that I had seen and done plenty by the end of it. I realized this week that I don’t have to visit a new country or city every weekend. Planning these trips can be very stressful, especially on a student budget. I almost forgot that Rome alone is full of adventure and things to see. So I came back to Rome that evening, excited to get to know the city I started in.

 

 

Just outside the entrance to La Accademia di Belle Arte

The Courtyard of La Accademia                                                                                                                                         What the ancient aqueducts had looked like

 

The original Pizza!

 

 

 

 

Working Abroad: How to Handle Bad A Week

Working Abroad: How to Handle Bad A Week

Okay. This is getting really difficult.

Granted, working for The Roman Guy is a godsend in comparison to other internships I could have gotten in terms of work environment, the job itself is getting a bit overwhelming. It’s been difficult to gather exactly what I need to be doing because there are so many smaller elements that go together for each task I must complete. For example, I have to learn how to operate MeetEdgar. This is a website in which I plug in posts into separate “buckets” based on type of post.

From there I can schedule which posts go on Facebook and Twitter by plugging that bucket into whatever time slot I want. I’ve used MeetEdgar twice, but now I think I’ve got a much better understanding of how it works. Then there is Instagram where I need to be posting every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at a time I think would reach the most followers. This would be fine if I had images to share. The Roman Guy is a fairly new company so they don’t have a ton of their own pictures. This being said, I need to be going out and taking pictures myself of the various foods and fresh food markets that are in Rome. I’m finding this difficult because I don’t have any income so I can’t always be going out to different places to take amazing food pictures for my posts. With these pictures I do manage to take, I have to create multiple images with polls, quotes, questions, etc. to post at scheduled times. It’s also hard because a lot more time is needed, in my opinion, than the 10-hour average per week that is recommended. It feels heavy especially when also managing school work. This is leaving my content not as amazing as I would like it to be (see attached images). Additionally, it’s my responsibility check on these social media accounts and interact with our followers. I won’t lie, I feel pretty discouraged.

This past week I got a really bad cough and fever. I’m not able to get sleep because of it. My supervisor noticed I seemed ill and was very kind about it which surprised me because people aren’t typically like this in the United States. She sent me home early and allowed me to complete my tasks on campus for the following day. I’m grateful for how accommodating and understanding The Roman Guy is. Though I didn’t go into work, I spent 8 hours on campus in the café this morning completing work so I wouldn’t fall behind. Realizing Rinaldo’s had soy milk was the highlight of my week so staying there for 8 hours did me some good, I’d say. Spending so much time on work today helped me feel like I have a better grip on what I have to do to stay on target. So what am I going to do to get past it? Looking for things to be happy about even if it’s as small as the cafe offering soy milk because I’m lactose intolerant. Additionally, I truly believe that no one should have to think about work and school every moment of every day. It’s healthy to take time to relax especially when getting sick. Tomorrow, JFRC is taking a group of students to a thermal bath for a spa day. Doing something for yourself to not be so overwhelmed can work wonders and improve productivity and sanity. Besides, getting through times like this is what I believe makes it all worth it in the end. I’m trying to stay optimistic because underneath it all I’m happy to be working for a company that shows that they care about my overall well being and is helping me grow into a better Marketer. Sometimes people have bad weeks and that’s alright as long as they bounce back. I just need to push through it.

Stu-dying Abroad

Stu-dying Abroad

I think one of the things I didn’t expect coming here is to actually study. I always heard people saying that they literally didn’t do anything during their study abroad trips. They mentioned the amount of times they’ve traveled all over the world, the amount of times they went out to clubs, the variety of restaurants they went to visit during their study abroad trip, and so on. How many times did they mention they were studying or maybe stressing out a tad bit because of school? Zero. Well folks, I myself was fooled by these stories. I don’t know what these people were talking about, but there definitely is some studying and even some stress involved while you’re in your program. For me, it’s particularly my Italian class. Which I should be studying for, but here I am writing this instead *face palm*.

So, what’s the point of this blog post? Make your own experiences.

Let me be fair, these people I mentioned may have decided to take less classes and be less involved on campus, leading them to have a lighter workload overall. However, let me speak for myself and the experience I have had with the amount of homework I have had so far. I am taking 5 classes this semester, which totals to the amount of 15 credits. I am taking classes that fulfill my graduation requirements such as Literature, Science, and Art. You may be thinking, “What’s so hard about that?”. Well, I had to finish a whole novel for my literature class in a span of 4 days, write a 5 page paper for my science class, and also create a sculpture from scratch for my art class. Oh and top of that, I’m working two jobs. One here in the John Felice Rome Center and one back at home in a mobile manner. Oh! I forgot to mention another thing! I also decided to get involved with Student Activities Committee and now I’m in charge of planning events. Yikes.

I mean it is called studying abroad for a reason right? Don’t worry. I’m here to tell you that regardless if you have a crazy schedule like mine, YOU CAN STILL HAVE FUN. It’s already Week 3 and I feel like I’ve done so much. Yes, there’s homework to be done but as long as you manage your time wisely then you should be good (or how Italians say it, molto bene, which means very good!)

I was getting a little overwhelmed with the workload I was getting in the beginning and was worried I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the study abroad experience like the people I have talked to. But I learned that I have to make the most out of my time. What did I do? I started scheduling times when I wanted to go out. I have a 1PM class, so instead of sleeping in until the class started, I would push myself to wake up bright and early. I actually did my first walk this Monday. I got to know my neighborhood and campus so well and finally got to try a local cafe shop by campus. Have a 4 hour gap between classes? Have a Wednesday off? GO OUT. I did that and I was able to discover one of my favorite bakery spots! Again, just make the most out of your time. Don’t stay in your rooms and don’t get distracted by what’s going on online. That brings me to my second point.

Again, how do I still have fun with a busy schedule? Well first of all, stay off your phone. So much time is wasted using your phone and it’s honestly not even worth it. Yeah you need to talk to your family and your friends back at home, I get that. But it’s a 7 hour difference from Europe to the United States. They won’t even be up during school hours. Finish everything you have to finish and then take some time to actually enjoy your surroundings. Plan trips, make friends, read a book, take a walk in the neighborhood. Just do something productive. Once you have done all of that, then that’s when you can use your phone to catch up with your family and friends. If they truly care about you, they’ll understand why you’re not available on your phone as much as before. You are abroad for a reason. To explore and study. Not to be on your phone.

To make the most out of your experiences, you especially have to not worry about other people’s schedules. Don’t focus on your friend’s schedules being free and yours not. Your schedule is probably busy for a good reason. Even if it’s not, so what? Take this as an experience so you can learn how to become more responsible and manage your time wisely! Be positive and look forward to the things you CAN do while you’re here and honestly just be happy that you got the chance to study abroad in the first place!

Whatever it may be, make your own experiences. It doesn’t matter if others got to go to clubs every day and travel halfway around the world. Their experiences are different from yours. If you do it right, you can make your time here so memorable and have the time of your life. Have fun while you’re here, but also study because you are studying abroad after all.

Until next time! Arrivederci 🙂

P.S Here’s some of the memories I’ve made so far even with my crazy schedule!

That Italian Life!!!

That Italian Life!!!

Its been three weeks as of today living in Italy. Its taken so much adjusting its crazy. I don’t think I’ve truly felt like I live in Italy until today.

I got a job.

Two actually.

Monday I started interning at The Roman Guy in their Marketing and Social Media department. I was so nervous the first day I thought I might die. I didn’t. I had a bit of trouble getting there because the office is located in a part of Travestere Rome that I’ve never explored before. When I got there my boss showed me to my desk where the team had laid out a map of the best places in Rome to go for food, drinks, and fun, three bracelets along with a bag with their logo written on it. She offered me some water and espresso and showed me my schedule for the first week. It was all very pleasant and laid back as long as I get my work done of course. I think I was more so astounded that I’m allowed to listen to music on the job and given a proper work space. My job is essentially to boost internet traffic through their social

media sites by 20% by April. I don’t anticipate that being incredibly difficult since their sites are ideal for finding amazing spots all around Rome. The whole process of dressing business casual, taking the metro, drinking espresso, and working for a Rome based company makes me feel more local than a tourist the longer I’m here. Every Thursday, everyone in the office does Thirsty Thursday and has a glass of wine together to boost morale. It really takes the pressure off working throughout the week. My main task as of now is to create my own schedule to produce content to post in Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook throughout the week. I’m loving the creative freedom and the opportunity to produce unique content to help the company grow.

 

Today, after attending the Papal Audience,my group of friends and I headed to HomeBaked (Via Fratelli Bonnet, 21, 00152 Roma RM) for the second time in two weeks. Its easily becoming my home away from home. Its the only place I’ve found that has coffee I

could cry tears of pure joy. The owner’s name is Jesse and knows me by name now. He’s from Buffalo, Ne

w York. He studied abroad here as an International Studies major and just never left. Its been 15 years. The most important part of living in Rome and adapting to this new lifestyle is getting into the community and forming meaningful relationships with the people you meet. I know that sounds cliche but its true and its the best part of living here. I want to bring Jesse back a Loyola flag to put on the wall with the rest of his university collection from people who’ve visited and loved it there.

After, I began tutoring two Italian children in English. Pier is 7 and Niccolo is 5. Its only an hour and I learn 20 Euro for the hour I’m tutoring. I read them books, play games in english to build their vocabulary, and get them used to hearing English from a native speaker. Its tricky because they’re different ages and have different language competencies. I really enjoy it though. Getting into the community and helping out also makes feel like I’m part of it. Whoever is reading this, if you get the opportunity to tutor, take it.

 

I’m worried I won’t want to go back home by April.

 

The Little Things

The Little Things

The little things seem insignificant yet define our everyday. Like the way the bus jolts or the cold humidity, which I’ve never experienced as a Chicagoian. Or enjoying my choice of three different flavors of gelato in one cone (flavor number one is always cioccolato). That moment of realization that I’m lost, but completely content. Dreading the uphill walk to get to class and making friends with the neighborhood cats. The warm feeling of sunshine coupled with the smell of espresso and fresh air. Awe at the grandeur of Roman art and architecture while weaving through the Saturday afternoon crowds congesting the small cobblestone streets in the city center. The feeling of accomplishment when I successfully navigate home from an adventure.

These are a few of the things that define my first three weeks in Rome, Italy at the John Felice Rome Center. These moments are mine and no one else’s. Before leaving Chicago to come to Rome, I wanted advice from anyone and everyone about being abroad but I’ve come to realize that everyone’s experience is unique. Moving to a new city has exposed me to the little things that I’ve become desensitized to in Chicago. I want to remember all the little things from every place I visit over the next three months, especially the gelato. This weekend I’ll be exploring Florence, Italy, stay tuned for updates of my adventures!

 

 

 

From Home to Rome

From Home to Rome

It’s been a crazy couple of days already. Well it’s actually only been 5 days. Throughout my time here, I have learned a lot. I’ve learned that snacks in airports are crazy expensive. I’ve learned that having a 9-hour flight can suck. I’ve learned that it is possible to get the stomach flu within the first two days abroad ANDD…I’ve technically learned a lot of things. Fun right?

There’s a lot you can expect when studying abroad but you are never truly prepared for it until you make it to your destination. So for those who are curious or want to know what one may go through when studying abroad, let me give you a recap of what I’ve gone through so far.

The first day was hectic and emotional because not only did I not know what to expect, but I was also not ready to say goodbye to my family, friends, and loved ones. It didn’t hit me that I was going to leave all of them for such a long until my final week at home. It was harder because I have never been away from home. Ever. So to study abroad in Rome, somewhere far far away, was a huge step. I started counting down the days and hours until I left and I was honestly dreading the little amount of time I had left. It wasn’t something I was used to.

So if you plan to study abroad, but you have never been away from home, expect to feel like this. Don’t worry though. That feeling will go away with all the great adventures and long walks you go on (literally). I only knew one person in my program, but with all of the outings I’ve had I’ve been able to make a good group of friends. Don’t be shy and, especially, don’t be sad to be away from home. Go head first and embark yourself in this incredible journey you are in!

Another thing…packing is hard. I literally wear a different set of clothes everyday, so to limit myself to only a suitcase and carry-on for my study abroad trip was a struggle. Right now, I still miss my clothes at home. Packing was hard because you literally want to bring everything, but also because you feel like you are leaving a part of you behind (not to be cheesy). Don’t panic! You will have tons of opportunities to buy stuff over there for a cheaper price and better quality. Also, you will have the opportunity to discover a new you through all the experiences you go through, which may include a new fashion style!

Don’t overpack, but also don’t underpack. Currently, I’ve been wearing the same yoga pants for 4 days because I only brought two pairs (sad times). Also, start packing ahead of time because you’re going to need all the time to weight your suitcases and triple check the clothes you bring. I know somebody here who actually forgot to bring their pajamas. Oh! Leave the heels at home. There is way too many hills and rocks for you to be able to efficiently walk in those.

Once I got through the struggle of packing and dealing with my feeling, I was able to start enjoying my journey. The very first day I got here I went to eat gelato and visit the Trevi Fountain. It was amazing! It didn’t feel like I was in Rome until that moment. It was great and I was low-key having a Lizzie McGuire moment when I threw my coin in the Trevi Fountain.

In that moment, I knew I’d enjoy my three to four months here. I was obviously going to miss home and everybody that was there. I was going to miss my mom’s food, my dog, the Chicago skyline, and everything about home. However, I knew that great experiences would be formed here. After going through so many orientation sessions and making some new friends, I am ready to start off school. I am ready to take on new challenges in a new country, surround myself in a different culture, and create memories that will last a lifetime.

For those of you who are reading this and are thinking about studying abroad…DO IT. Even if it is just a winter or summer term. It will be worth it. For those of you who are reading this for funsies or because you were curious…well now you know what I’ve gone through so far. It’s been a rollercoaster full of emotions, but in between all of that, memories have been made already.

I hope to make even more memories so I can continue updating you, but for now CIAO!

P.S: Here’s a picture of me finally visiting the Colosseum 🙂

Break Spent Exploring Greece

Break Spent Exploring Greece

Where do I even begin? I adventured across Greece for ten days. I walked down streets that fellow Greeks walked as well. Each city I traveled to had ancient roots that went back thousands of years. The things I saw, felt, heard, and tasted made my experience memorable and life-changing. My tour guide, a professor named Ioanna, helped to make all the student’s experiences in Greece amazing. She took us to the old Greek city-states Athens, Delphi, Sparta, and Corinth. One of my favorite parts was seeing the cities and lands in which they ruled.

The sites we visited were very relevant to my current history class I am taking at John Felice Rome Center. It is one thing to learn about history in class, it is another thing to visit the lands in which the Greeks dominated. I have had the wonderful opportunity to live and flourish in the eternal city and have experienced much of Roman history, yet Greece’s history dates back much further. The things I touched and saw were the same things that ancient Greeks saw and touched thousands of years before me. I am very happy to have had the opportunity to take part in such a life changing opportunity.

view looking over Athens

Life is a good, a world filled with happiness, friendship and love. Ioanna taught me that love is good, kind and it is in everything. The Greeks believed in six kinds of love: Eros, Philia, Ludus, Agape, Pragma, and Philautia. I have experienced almost all during my time in Greece. I was taught so much in ten days. A large group of students came together and went on an adventure through Greece. I gained knowledge of Greece and her history. I was gifted the greatest opportunity, to have my dreams turn into reality and have my curiosity and love of art run wild. I flourished in Greece’s culture, beauty, individuality, and history. I lived, walking through the streets of Greece, a city where I made memories that will last a life-time. There were good times and bad, but together with the sites, museums, monuments, and beautiful landscape of Greece, I have found a new place to call home.

Temple of Poseidon
Beautiful Egypt

Beautiful Egypt

This year for fall break (which was a glorious 10 days long) my father and I traveled to Egypt and Turkey. Why those countries, you ask? They’d been at the top of my bucket list for years. Before, my dad used to say that we couldn’t go, which was probably right with all the political happenings. But this year the trip was planned and booked by June.

My dad met me in the Cairo airport. I landed first and late, so it wasn’t very crowded. I wandered around baggage claim waiting for him, trying to find WiFi to let him know where I was. He got in two hours after me, and then we met our driver and transit guide (from EMO Tours) outside. This was our first major interaction with an Egyptian person, and he was nothing but kind.

The drive was about an hour, and we must’ve driven for about five minutes before we left the secure airport area. The “highway” was surprising clear, as I’d learn later, and we drove past signs for New Cairo, Maadi, and Giza. There were no lines on the road to separate lanes, and there were tons of billboards lit up with English and Arabic words. People were gathered on the side of the highway, waiting for a bus of sorts to come pick them up.

Our hotel was gated and the car was scanned before it was allowed to pass. Dad tipped our driver and guide in Egyptian lira. One of the most heartbreaking things about Egypt is that 1 USD equals 17 Egyptian lira/pounds. We ate at the hotel restaurant a few times, and our bill would say 98 pounds, which in reality is just under $6. And it was good food too, no detail missed.

The next morning we saw the pyramids for the first time from our hotel window. They were just as grand and I had to pinch myself to make sure that I was actually there. When dad and I went downstairs to meet our guide for the day, a woman holding a sign with EMO Tours on it met us. Her name was Ola and she wore a long black skirt that swished around her ankles, a warm-looking green long sleeve, and a black hijab. Over the day, we would learn much about and from her, and she would come to feel much like family.

Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan, the first mosque we visited.
A busy street in downtown Cairo.
The building on the right is what the majority of buildings in Cairo look like. Some are even empty, and you can tell which ones those are because they don’t have windows yet.

Over the first day we visited mosques, the Step Pyramid in Sakkara, the three major pyramids, the Sphinx, a major historic street, and so many other gorgeous sites. At every site, we went through a metal detector. There were usually multiple armed guards, and tons of salesmen trying to sell cheap little Pyramids, scarves, and other souvenirs from China. And of course, a good number of tourists and Egyptian people alike.

The Great Pyramid of Giza was one of my favorite sites. First of all, it’s one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and probably the only one I’ll get to visit in my lifetime. Second, the view from up there was amazing, and it was my first time seeing the sandy and dark brown city from above. The air was warm and dry, and the sun was baking. Third, I got to stand on the Pyramid! (We didn’t go in because we’d heard that there wasn’t much to see and that it was just cramped.) The blocks that made up the Pyramid itself were huge, and the ones we walked on were worn from shoes. It towered over us, and put history in perspective. Ola was very kind and let us explore on our own a little bit because she knew my dad and I both loved photography. She waited patiently for us and gave us tips on how to avoid getting scammed out of our money, one of which was don’t take a picture of a camel because the rider will charge you money for it! Another bit of advice was avoid the people in bathrooms trying to turn the faucet on for you or give you paper towels because they will ask you for money too.

The view while standing on the side of the Great Pyramid of Giza.
The Great Pyramid of Giza with the Pyramid of Khafre in the foreground.

We ate lunch at a local shop, where Ola ordered us food that she thought we should try at my dad’s request. It was amazing. My dad asked Ola tons of questions, some on the etiquette of men and women in Egyptian society. Ola told us that if I hadn’t been with them, another woman, people would have frowned upon Ola because she was with an unfamiliar man (my dad) who wasn’t her husband. When we first met her, she shook our hands, which she later explained wasn’t normal because she wasn’t supposed to touch a man. She greeted/said goodbye to me by “kissing” both cheeks, which I came to expect while in Egypt and Turkey. We stopped at a papyrus shop on the way back to our hotel where we learned how papyrus paper is made, and purchased a small bit to take home.

The next morning, we left for the airport at 3:30am. We were flying to Luxor, Egypt, which is about 400 miles south of Cairo. Our second tour guide, Shimaa, met us at Luxor Airport. Our driver for that day had a car with a bright, lime green interior. It constantly baffles me that although the average income in Egypt is $300, the majority own cars.

Luxor was much quieter than Cairo, with far fewer cars, and much warmer. We drove alongside the river, past a herd of sheep, tied up horses and donkeys, and gatherings of kids on the tall bank above the water. Trees sprouted at the edge of the water and on the higher banks. Both in Cairo and Luxor people still use horses/donkeys to pull carts of produce. It’s definitely a unique cross of developed and undeveloped.

The herd of sheep we passed while on our way to the Temple of Hatshepsut.

Our first stop in Luxor was the Temple of Hatshepsut. It’s carved directly out of the side of the mountain, with three layered terraces each with an impressive set of columns. It has a “modern” feel, that was not repeated in that time. Shimaa, our tour guide, told us the story of why the temple was built so large, which was because Hatshepsut was unhappy each time the designer added another layer. On its walls it featured beautifully painted walls that were mostly faded, but some held their color.

The great Temple of Hatshepsut.

Next up was Karnak Temple, a huge temple that’s still largely intact. It had absolutely gorgeous columns carved with Egyptian symbols. Then we ate lunch at one of the open restaurants, which was rice and stew. We also met a family of six that was originally from America, but were living in Saudi Arabia. After lunch we went to our last place of the day: Luxor Temple. It is a good sized temple with huge statues of Egyptian kings and pharos, such as King Ramses II and King Tut. It has giant columns like other temples, and at sunset the light shining through them was beautiful. That night we returned to Cairo.

Karnak Temple.
The Temple of Luxor at sunset.
A typical fruit market in Luxor, Egypt.

On our third day in Egypt, Ola was our guide again. She took us to the Egyptian Museum, which we breezed through. We saw hundreds of artifacts from King Tut’s tomb, which must’ve taken up half a floor of the museum. We spent only an hour there, when we could’ve spent five. Next we visited a series of religious buildings, which included a Catholic Church, two mosques, and an old synagogue. The last hour of the time we had with Ola she took us on a cruise on the Nile River. We got on a huge sailboat and ate koshari, which is a traditional Egyptian dish made up of rice, lentils, pasta noodles, and topped with tomato sauce. It was delicious! Dad asked Ola if we could make it at home, and she laughed and said no because it would take a long time because there were so many parts. When it came time to say goodbye to Ola, we tipped her 50 Egyptian pounds (about $3) and €20, which for her would go a long way. We wanted to help her out, even though we knew that it wouldn’t go very far for long.

View of Cairo from the Mosque of Muhammad Ali.
The Nile River at sundown.
The Mosque of Amr.

We spent a lot of time in traffic on the last day, but the first two days were fairly easy. Friday and Saturday are holy days, so nobody works. Sunday is a work day, which caused every single car it seemed to be on the road. Cairo, and Egypt in general, is a country that never sleeps. We were out at 12am and a decent number of people would still be out. A interesting part of Egyptian culture is that they eat breakfast around 10am, lunch around 4pm, and then dinner around 10pm and sometimes even later. Traditionally, only men are “allowed” out at late hours. Families hope for boys to be born because they have much more freedom than women do. Egypt is a country tied to their traditions, although some are trying to change the norms. The difference between Ola (living in Cairo) and Shimaa (living in Luxor) was vast. Shimaa said that she believed that believing in her religion was enough; that she didn’t need to pray the allotted five times a day because Allah already knows that she believes in him. Ola, on the other hand, prays as much as she can. She finds comfort in it, and at one of the mosques we visited, my dad and I explored while she went to prayer. Ola also told us that she doesn’t listen to music because it’s forbidden, while Shimaa talked openly about what music she liked.

Walking around Cairo people stared at us. My dad asked Ola if she noticed it once, and she said yes. She said it was because he was there, and that I had my head uncovered and was wearing a short sleeve t-shirt. Ola said that they appreciated us being there because we were tourists. After the revolution in 2011, the tourism at some monuments dropped 95%. Its made a slow recovery, but nothing like it used to be pre-revolution. That is evident in the “average” life of Egyptians, where they work hard if they have a job and work hard if they don’t. This was the closest to poverty that I have ever come. Ola worked incredibly hard and suffers from neck and back pain. She doesn’t complain because she has to work to help support her family (husband + two kids). I hope someday that I can return to Egypt and see her. I’ve never had a friend in a country like Egypt, and it tugs at my heart when I think of her.

Me and our wonderful, amazing tour guide Ola. I hope to see her again one day!

P.S. Turkey is blogged about in a different post. Happy Halloween!