Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Greetings from SMC!

Hello Everyone!
This is Christine's former roommate Sarah updating from campus! I know it's probably not as exciting as hearing about Christine's adventures around Europe, but she didn't want her readers to be without a new blog post this week. (By the way, last time I heard from her, Christine was in Ireland and absolutely loving it!) So things have been quite busy back at SMC lately with midterms last week and Halloween this week. I had a midterm in American Protestantism, a take home essay for Personality Theories, and a presentation for Cultural Anthropology, but it's all done now so I can finally breath. As for this week, the St. Mike's community is getting ready for Halloween! On Friday all of our different mentoring programs are hosting a Halloween party here for their mentees. The kids are coming here in the early evening, with their costumes on, and they get to go around to the townhouses for some trick or treating. After that, mentors take the kids to the Harvest Carnival in the Tarrant Gymnasium. This event is hosted by the M.L.K. Jr. Society and it's a chance for kids to get dressed up, play tons of games, and eat lots of candy in a safe and secure environment. Another Halloween event, sponsored by the M.O.V.E. Office, is happening on Saturday evening. A group of students are going out into the surrounding towns to trick or treat for canned goods. All of the food collected will be weighed and an equal amount of food will be donated by Sodexo (our dining service). Then the food will be given to the Vermont Food Shelf to help feed many people throughout the community. In addition to these opportunities to give back around Halloween, St. Mike's also hosts a dance every year. It only costs $5 to go and everyone wears their costume and dances in the gym all night! So, as you can see, Halloween is a big deal at SMC and it's making me miss Christine even more than usual because it's her favorite holiday!

Aside from school work and Halloween preparations, I've also been busy with cross country. I run on the varsity team here and we just hosted the North East 10 championship meet this past weekend. All 16 teams from our league came for the race on Sunday, which was followed by an awards banquet. We had a tough race because 10 of our 22 runners were either injured or sick (yes, the swine has hit us hard), but we fought to an 11th place finish. Our season is winding down now with just one race left, the NCAA Regional Qualifier in Boston on November 8th. Only our top 7 runners get to race so I won't be there, but I encourage anyone who lives in the Boston area to think about attending. If you do, you'll see hundreds of the fastest runners in all of the Northeast compete for a spot at the NCAA Championship race (held in Indiana this year).

One last piece of my life that I'd like to share with you guys is about a new program at St. Mike's called Fix It With Five. This is a student-led initiative that will take $5 of each student's activity fee, pool the money together and donate the total sum (roughly $10,000!) to an organization in our community. The goal of this program is to bring about systemic change by getting to the root of a problem rather than by simply providing temporary relief. I've been really busy with this new program because I was chosen to be on the committee (made up of 8 students, 2 staff members, and 1 faculty member) that writes the grant application and reviews the entries. Our committee has been meeting every week this semester and we have written a mission statement, designed a grant application, developed a website, and educated the student body on our program. If you're interested in Fix It With Five and want to learn more, check out our website (which is still in the process of being edited) at!

I hope you enjoyed this update from campus, and check back next week for a fun and exciting post from Christine! If you have any questions or comments about anything I talked about, don't hesitate to email me at

Sarah :)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Octoberfest of Chocolate

Hi all!

No, you didn't read that title wrong. This past Friday I went on a class field trip to the Eurochocolate festival in Perugia, Italy. It's been held since 1993 and draws nearly one million Italians and tourists alike every year. It's a 9 day event and many well known chocolate brands (Perugina, owned by Nestle, Lindt, Caffarel, just to name a few) are represented with booths, free samples, and products to buy. For 5 euro, visitors get a chococard, which gets you free samples of chocolate and oher products from specific vendors (I got chocolate vitamins and a hammer made of chocolate, for example). And of course travelers are welcome to buy their own treats as well. I came home with a chunk of crispy chocolate and a chocolate covered apple, and also enjoyed chocolate cake and a chocolate dipped banana while at the festival (who needs lunch).

The festival also had some fun activities at the Milka and Chiobar tents, among others. We raced each other in potato sacks and had "pancake" flipping contests for free chocolate and fun hats. At Chiobar, an Italian hot chocolate brand, we even filmed for a fun add campaign/commercial where we got to dance and sing and wear funny costumes. By the way, like many many manyyyy things here, hot chocolate is a bit different. I've been describing it as more like hot chocolate pudding. It's thick and should be eaten with a spoon because it's better that way. I'm not complaining, by any means, because it's delicious, it's just different.

By the end of the day our little bellies were so full of chocolate that it was time to go home. Since then it's been a pretty chill weekend. We're looking into the details of our fall break trip (It's 5 days away!!!!) and simultaneously studying for midterms. Meanwhile, the temperature has started to warm back up (it was freezing here last week) and the entire weekend has been absolutely gorgeous. We're hoping it stays this way for this week because Florence, as a city, doesn't turn it's heat on until November 1st. It's one way they conserve energy, in addition to having some showers on a "push button" system so water doesn't constantly run (like when you're soaping up your hair) or having "off" buttons on toilet flushes, or options for a little flush when you need it. These things were weird at first, but now we're used to them and I'm starting to think they're a good idea.

In other news my training's been going pretty much as planned. Every so often I feel sick and don't run, or it's raining and I don't run so I don't get sick, but other than that I still run 4 days a week, following my normal training plan. I've gotten up to 16 miles already. I have only 4 or 5 weeks left until the marathon, which I can't believe, but that's exciting because my family is coming to visit me then too. My cousin is actually coming to visit tomorrow and I'm SO EXCITED! My time here is already half over, which is crazy and shocking. I'm not sure where all the time went but I know I'm loving it, and learning so much! (even though nobody thinks you learn anything while abroad).

So I'm not sure if I'll be able to update again before I leave for my adventures in Ireland, Spain, and France, but I hope I am. I've got an idea planned to keep everyone company while I'm gone too, so hopefully that works out. Remember, you can always check up on me on facebook (I'll have limited access to internet while traveling) and as always, check out my albums there too. I'll leave you with some pictures from Eurochocolate and talk to you soon!

Buona Notte,

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pics and Vids

Photos and video from Venice and Verona. Enjoy! Next up: Eurochocolate Festival!

as always, for more photos check my facebook albums

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Venice and Verona

Ciao ciao!

Once again I'm a little behind on how often I'd like to be posting, but I'll chock it up to next week's impending midterms and move on. Meanwhile, what have I been up to, you ask?

Last weekend we took another API sponsered weekend trip to Venice and Verona. It was a long, dark, dreary ride to Verona and, of course, as soon as we arrived in the city the rain started to pour. Cinque Terre all over again, but at least we didn't have to sit outside on a boat for extended periods of time. We took a 2 hour walking tour of the city, obviously making time to visit Juliet's balcony, from Romeo and Juliet, my FAVORITE work of Shakespeare (I know, how cliche). Fun Fact: Shakespeare never actually visited Italy in his life, though so many of his plays are set there. After that we stopped for a tasty lunch and moved on from the city to a wine tasting nearby.

The villa we went to for the wine tasting was huge, and super old. It had 4 giant fireplaces that progressed from an evil monster to a good beast (a unicorn, apparently). According to our tour guide, the point of visiting the villa was to go through the process of "cleansing" yourself from sins and being reborn again. The backyard had a dark cave that was supposed to symbolize hell, with little caves inside (7, for the 7 deadly sins). After spending time in the "hell" cave, we moved on through the progression of the 4 fireplaces, like a typical visitor would, then finished in the villa's own personal church. In addition to the tour we had a real, professional wine tasting where they taught us exactly what to do and why we did it that way. I hate to say I wasn't really crazy about any of the wines, but it was still a great experience.

After a night in the hotel (complete with delicious dinner and breakfast) we set out the next morning for Venice. We arrived in Venice by boat, because that's the only way to get there from the mainland. The ride was gorgeous and the city was absolutely astonishing. It's like nothing else in the world and it's definitely my favorite place we've been so far. We got a tour of "the real Venice" by a guide who took us through all the backstreets, and then we were left away from where we started to fend for ourselves for 5 hours of free time. I LOVED having this much time to wander and get lost (this is the only real way to discover venice). We grabbed lunch and shopped around/explored for the rest of the day. I got some awesome glass treats (what Venice is known for) and we met up with API to return home later that night.

Since then it's been pretty much all work and no play (though I did a good job working on the bus so this week is much lighter than last). As is said before, midterms are coming up, so we're preparing for these and finalizing our itinerary for fall break (Ireland, Spain, and France, in case you forgot!) The weather has finally cooled down (some people are even saying it's too cold) but I'm loving it. I miss fall at SMC and the colors and such, so it's nice to have that start happening here. The leaves in the parks I run through are even changing colors and falling!

As for now, I'm feeling a little under the weather and am going to get back in bed for a bit. Check back soon for photos and video from this weekend (are people liking how i separate them from the posts to save space or no?) Talk to you soon!


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

some more photos and video

Hello all,

Here are some videos and a photo stream from my most recent adventures in Bologna and Chianti country. Remember you can see all of my photos an facebook too (each trip has it's own album). I'm super busy with work this week (5 more days of classes until midterms!) but I'll try to get back with an update ASAP. Until then, enjoy!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

vinegar, vinyards, and 499 steps

Ciao tutti!

I apologize that it's been a whole week since my past update. The "study" part of study abroad has picked up quite a bit and I've been swamped in work (this is probably going to continue for the next two weeks until midterms). But here we are, full swing in October, and despite my alarming workload I'm obviously still having some great adventures.

Yesterday, Saturday, we spent the day with API in Bologna. We left in the morning on the bus and first took a tour of the city. We saw churches and old buildings, as well as the 2 leaning towers Bologna has. Our tour guide bragged a few times about how Bologna has 2 leaning towers and Pisa only has one, even though Pisa's is more well know. I, however, didn't really think it was good advertisement to brag about twice the amount of architectural failure, but who am I to judge. Regardless, after the tour we stopped for lunch, obviously a traditional pasta with bolognese sauce. It was delicious AND inexpensive, so that was a win-win.

After eating (and in hindsight maybe this wasn't great planning) we headed back to the two towers and climbed to the VERY TOP of the higher one. We climbed and climbed and thought we'd never make it up, but we did and the view from the top was breathtaking. On the way down we decided to count the steps (Liz fell at step 26) and we counted 499 all the way to the bottom. Our first thoughts? Why not 500, honestly? Our second thoughts: that's fewer steps than the Duomo, AWESOME!

After exploring a little more, stopping in at a children's bookstore and buying The Little Prince in Italian, il Piccolo Principe (literally the best day of my life) we returned to the group and headed off to our next adventure: A Balsamic Vinegar tour and tasting. What we learned was that most of the cheaper Balsamic Vinegars that we buy in the store, here and in the US, are produced in large scale factories where the process involves fermentation and results in vinegar being able to eat after just one day. However, the family owned places, like where we went, involves at least 7 to 12 years of prep before the vinegar can be consumed. It's done the real, old fashioned way that it's been done for centuries before. We got the process explained to us and a tour of the house where they make it, as well as to look at all the barrels of vinegar. Then, of course, we got to taste. We tasted 7, 17, 25, 30, and 50 year old balsamic! And let me say, each one was more delicious than the one before. We even saw barrels full of 100 year old balsamic. It was crazy. Aftef tasting just the vinegar we were given a full spread of foods to taste with it, as well as desserts made with the homemade jam the family had. It was a delicious day and I made it out with some balsamic for myself too.

Saturday was a long day but we didn't let that keep us down today. We woke up early and set off on our horseback riding adventure in the Chianti Countryside. I know, no big deal. First we met our horses and got comfortable riding them, then we took them out for a 2 hour ride through vineyards and olive groves. Everything was so beautiful, especially since the leaves are finally starting to turn here. After riding, we got to feed the horses and play with them (it was so nice to play with animals, I miss my dog). We then headed off to a restaurant on a lake where we ate at least 3 courses of food and of course some delicious wine (in fact, everything I've described so far was accompanied by's great to get to try so many kinds!) And if that wine wasn't enough, we got to go to a nearby vineyard for a huge wine tasting! We tried 5 whites, 3 dessert wines, and at least 10 reds before I left with 3 different delicious types to bring home and share with my family.

Upon getting dropped off back in Florence, our guide (the nicest and most helpful guy on earth) apologized for having such a large group today and us having to wait around a while between activities (we hadn't minded at all). He offered to take us back to the farm tomorrow so we can run with the horses and stuff (no fancy lunches this time, of course) for free! So we're going back tomorrow. My life is crazy amazing.

Anyway I'm still pretty swamped with work and should really get back to it before bed. Hope you enjoyed this week's account of my life here in Firenze. Check back soon for pictures and video!

Buona Notte,