Now that I’ve been home in Oxford for a few days, I am ready to tell you all about my travel break and other recent events. I usually try not to make this blog sound like a journal or diary but this story is just way too long to focus on just a few things.
Italy was very beautiful. I am so enthralled that I had the opportunity to see four of its major cities in 7 days. Before going onto all of the good things about the trip, let me just list a few things not to do that our group learned from:
don’t sprain your ankle on the first night
don’t stay in a hostel in Florence run by a man who goes by “Mike Tyson”
don’t forget to buy leather in Florence and carnival masks in Venice
don’t lose your passport or other important documents
don’t fill out a police report for your crippled and passportless friend
don’t get frustrated with the language barrier – you are the ones in the foreign country, study up
don’t forget to give yourself plenty of time at the airport (especially if someone needs a wheelchair)
don’t buy a train ticket for the wrong day
don’t forget to print out EVERYTHING beforehand
don’t have the same flavor gelato every day
Needless to say, there were some very stressful moments of our trip. However, it was in these hours of strife that the random girls I met 3 weeks beforehand became my good friends. Struggle most often brings out the best in good people, and we are lucky to find ourselves surrounded by them at difficult times.
After landing in Pisa we by chance hopped on a “free” bus and hopped off unexpectedly at the Leaning Tower. Later that day we took a train over to Florence. In Florence our good luck turned on us and one of my friends spained her ankle at 5am the first night by falling down the stairs of our hostel. The next day we walked around quite a bit and saw a lot of beautiful things. There was an open market and tons of merchants. On Sunday morning we went to mass in the Doumo, a beautifully decorated Italian Catholic church, before heading to Venice. When we arrived in Venice that afternoon we took a water taxi over to our hostel across the canal, which gave us the chance to see the beauty of Venice from the water. The second day in Venice we explored everywhere, took tons of photos, ate pizza and chocolate during a rainstorm at dusk, and ran into some other Americans that we had met in Florence. That night we sprung for a hotel across the street from the train station. This made it much easier on my crippled friend to catch our 545 am train (which we nearly missed anyways and 2 of them didn’t have tickets for) the next morning. We needed that hotel. And we deserved it at that point after so many things had gone wrong. It was wonderful.
The rest of the trip was spent in Rome and it was incredible. Even with the first day being dedicated solely to sorting out my friend’s passport problem, we saw almost everything you can see in Rome as a tourist. Simply by walking around we were surprised around each corner by another breathtaking landmark. We saw the Colosseum, the ruins, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, various other buildings, churches, and fountains, and spent an afternoon at the Vatican. My injured friend was actually able to go out and see most of Rome with us, which was really nice since she stayed behind most of the time in Venice. The last night we were there, we decided to go out dancing. Since we didn’t know where to go, we asked the handsome Italian waiter from the restaurant across the street from our hostel. He gave us directions to an American Irish Karaoke place (he said Italians wouldn’t be out on a Wednesday night). We felt very much at home to hear American music and voices even though we had made a pact to avoid exactly that for the sake of cultural immersion.
Our trip home to Oxford was relatively easy compared to the rest of our travels. We easily got ahold of a wheel chair (which was nearly impossible at the train station in Venice) and were able to cut to the front of the border control line. Our flight was delayed (originally 8pm) an hour which made us worry about missing our airline bus back from the airport to Oxford. When we got off the plane and arrived at border control, there was a massive amount of people rushing to the line. Lucky for us, that line was for UK passports and our passport line was literally empty. We danced and sang our way obnoxiously through the airport. To bring us back to reality, fate decided to continue the bipolarity of our trip to its very end. We missed our bus by 5 minutes and had to wait until 1 am for the next one.
The next day, I had an academic advising meeting at which I found out what my two Oxford tutorials will be for Michaelmas term. I will be taking 6 sessions on WWII history with Dr. Martin Holmes and 6 sessions with Dr. Sebastian Stein on the Philosophy of Law. As both tutors are very highly esteemed in their fields, I am very nervous and excited to work with them.
Yesterday we were given a tour of the Oxford Union Society, into which I will be inducted next week. It is home to a debating society and social center of the whole University. Famous people are invited to come and be subject to both a formal debate and social gathering afterwards. Today I received my Bodleian Library membership card and signed an oath promising not to burn it down or harm it in any other way. Tomorrow I will be formally introduced to Jesus College (my affiliation with the University) and attend a special black tie dinner with other OPUS students, Deepak, and the presidents of various colleges. We are all very excited.
Lastly, today some friends and I started to write down some of our Oxford Problems. We thought about making a Twitter page, but discovered that many already exist. My friend Gabby wrote about them in her blog. She also has a much better and more detailed description of our Italy trip.