Study Abroad: The Come Down, Part I

I, for one, can say that I wasn’t ready. After the long drawn out goodbye to France, I’ve been home all of 3(give-or-take-a-few)hours and already find myself itching to do something. Anything. How was boredom so evitable in France but so quick to find me on my floral duvet in my room in NY? I never thought I’d say this but Lilli’s crazy cultural sheets and sayings may have some truth to them: there’s a huge come down from study abroad. I guess all I keep asking myself is, “what now?”

I guess first and foremost there’s the ever-so-pressing issue of NYE: the frazzled rush to find plans, the dodging of jet lag, the futile attempts not to compare anything you’re doing here with what you could be doing across the pond in say, Aix-en-Provence, France. Then there’s the issue of having 5 days at home and 6 valises of laundry to do before repacking and heading down south (“to the land of the pines/I’m—” Sorry, small tangent). Next, the strangeness of adapting to (again) only having one cell phone. I found it very strange to not turn on my very crappy, yet reliable, portable français upon deboarding the plane today at JFK. It’s going to be strange not to pay as I go and I’m sure I will grow wistful as the soundwaves reaching my ears start to lack that obnoxious ding-ing noise that it makes when it wants to alert you to an SMS or phone call. And finally there’s the most important of all issues: what is the fate of this (a)blog? After all, I’d be lying if I said that keeping it hasn’t been entertaining, but I’d also be lying if I continued an abroad-blog from, well, not abroad. I’ve loved the comments that I’ve received – whether it be from parents, family friends, friends, or just bored readers with nothing better to do who ended up getting a good laugh. I guess we’ll see…considering the number of people who incredulously listen to the events of my day to day and marvel at the fact that MTV hasn’t yet called me for at least an hour episode of True Life because “how does this stuff even happen to you anyway?” Thus, I’m sure there will be more stories to tell. But I would like to say thanks for it while it’s on my mind – for reading and for following along.

Well, judge me for this (or not) but I’m going to go stow away my french phone for mon prochain séjour (because there’s going to be one!) and then watch some Vampire Diaries. The “what now?” now applies to Damon’s evil doings, Stefan’s search for humanity and the Bella-esque heroine who doesn’t bite her lip and actually speaks. Oh, I am coming down and hitting reality fast.


Sweet Lou, in France, demain.

Need I say more? After two days in Lucerne, Switzerland the Vitali girls are returning back to France, a country where we have some idea of what’s going on and how to communicate, and finally finally being rejoined by their fourth member – thus making this Eurotrip complete. All of this in time for the previously loathed and despised holiday called Christmas in Paris! Author’s note: I’m making progress, but play me any Christmas song that doesn’t involve heartbreak and sorry (aka anything other than “Last Christmas”) and I’ll really have to try not to slap you. One can only make so much progress in a few months.

Waking up bright and early tomorrow for a train then a plane back to Paris. If I don’t get around to posting until after: Merry Christmas Eve & Happy Present Opening!

Blogging in public places

Well readers, you’re getting your accounts in somewhat real time. My shaking and badly in need to some heat in the joint body is currently bundled in my not equipped for this weather jacket and Uggs and I am now just passing time until my train to Paris arrives. Rather uneventful morning otherwise but things really are in motion now for the start of the end! Positives to enduring this cold right now: Hannah, snuggling and hot chocolate in less than 4ish hours, Mommy, Lyssy and Lucerne in 1 day, Sweet Lou himself touching down in Paris in only 3 days and then back to Aix for some family fun! Bring. It. On.

Bisous, A very cold Ali

The Real World: Aix-En-Provence

I’ve always said that I would never want to be the last roommate to leave the house on The Real World. And so when I realized yesterday that I would be one of the last AUCP’ers to leave Aix this weekend (only to return and be toute seule aussi!) I suddenly began to sympathize with Snooki and all the last ones who came before her. Regardless, being last has made me start thinking about goodbyes. And a hard, sad, tear-filled goodbye it will be. But I can’t help but think its not all bad. That pit in your stomach means you’re saying goodbye to something that was worth having, worth cultivating, worth smiling and crying at at the same time. Now, coming from me, these sentences must be shocking. Afterall, I’m the person who truly believes that emotional separation from other members of the human race is the best way to avoid sadness – and trust me, goodbyes are made easier.

But I’ve come to see that this belief is, well, dumb. I adore the people I’ve met here. In fact, I owe most of them huge thank you’s for opening my eyes to the world around me. I’ve (re)learned that you can, and should, let people in and that being dark and twisty can also be coupled with lots of bright moments filled with laughter and smiles. And from this lesson, I’ve gained the most wonderful souvenirs of the people who have been here in Aix with me. I’ll even go so far as to say this: I don’t HATE christmas and I have emotions. God that was difficult. But I now find myself in the same place as when I got here: eyes teary, next to my desk, sweatpants on, bags half-packed, squinting at a screen writing this entry bc (after 4 months of trying) I still have no internet in my little bedroom corner of Provence. Save for this time, I’m crying for a different reason, my desk has had many nights of studying upon it, and my eyes have seen the most amazing 4 months that I never even imagined.

So I may be leaving…but only for a short while! And with this weather, maybe not at all. If European blizzards have nothing to say about it, I’m off to Paris tomorrow, Switzerland til Friday and then Aix on Monday! And while it’ll be weird to not call Audrey or Laura or Jamie or anyone else to boire une verre on the Cours with me, I’ll have my family here and I guess some French kid to keep me company 🙂

The final countdown: Amsterdam Edition

Wow, that sounded way more final than I meant it to. But nonetheless, it is true. I am in my last week of classes here in Aix and being the considerate friend and blogger that I am, I decided to give all of you study-holics and insomniacs who are in finals mode a new way to procrastinate that doesn’t include Robot Unicorn Attack or likealittle.com (it’s just creepy). A new blog post! (applause)

So before the final week of classes began, I had my final trip. And what better way to end 4 months of Euro-fun than AMSTERDAM. In an effort to keep this blog readable for all ages, I’ll omit many of the morally questionable events of the weekend (not that there were any, Mom and Dad but hypothetically). I arrived with my fellow voyagers, Audrey and Laura, around 4 on Friday. We made sure to profit from the free drinks policy on the plane (Author’s note: US, please try to adopt this policy. Flyers would be MUCH happier and I’m pretty sure this would’ve avoided the Jet Blue worker freak out circa Aug/Sept 2010) and even created a flight sensative drinking game: most important rule being that when Ali freaks out, Ali has to drink. Mom, I”ve been flying without Dramamine these past few months and so the freakout have been plentiful. They lessened as the flight went on grace à our little game. Lesson learned: All these years of sleep-inducing Dramamine should’ve been replaced by white wine, rum, vodka or – most recently tested – gin. Who knew?

After arriving on Friday, I could officially start answering the question “Whatcha doin’?” with “Nothing, chillin’ at the Holiday Inn.” The 10th grader inside of me felt a great deal of pride being that since the first time I heard Chingy utter this phrase, I had – for some reason – a huge urge to use it in my day to day life. Mission accomplished. We then left our Holiday Inn and went to a coffee shop to, ya know, get some coffee. When in Rome, right? There we rendez-vous’ed with our, for lack of better phrasing, French entourage. Cultural lesson here, readers: We Americans are used to very specific directions when trying to meet up or get somewhere. And after an entire semester of reading chapter after chapter of Raymond Carrol’s “L’etrangete Francais” I thought it was all bull$hit. Turns out, she may have been right on this one: directions can be culturally based. Example: “Meet at the church.” People, this is Europe. If you didn’t know, there are churchs everywhere. The Europeans of days past were verrry adament about churches on every street just as we seem to be determind to place a Starbucks on every street corner. Thus, meet at the church gets a little confusing. Still, we managed to get by and find our way through the cobbled and snow covered streets of the ‘Dam.

Saturday: huge ititerary (how badly did I butcher that spelling?) With only 48 hours in Amsterdam, Audrey made sure to wake us up at the crack of dawn to really take advantage of our time. Her shrill, morning-person voice still echoes in my ears…at least she followed through on her promise of coffee within 5 mins of waking up. Nonetheless, we started early and got a lot done! First stop: Van Gogh museum – which turned out to be a great way to pass time in a culturally educational fashion because it was blizzarding outside. Then IAMSTERDAM sign, then a park (see Facebook for photos) and then the Heineken Brewery, all while trudging through the continually falling and ever so slippery Amsterdam snow. The rest of the night went in typical Amsterdam fashion – coffee shop, Red Light District, general loss of morals and my soul. No big deal.

Sunday: Anne Frank house. Truly one of the best experiences I’ve had since in Europe. We went the four of us and I’m pretty sure not more than 4 words were uttered upon entering the half-museum, half-memorial to the writer of one of the most celebrated journal’s of all time. I found myself holding back tears, many times without even knowing I was about to cry, upon re-reading the lines of the Diary I had read so many years ago. I found it only fitting to finish the visit with a copy of the book that came from the Annexe itself. But to me, the best part of this visit was the way that they made the issues relevant today. Interactive features that created ties to present societal issues of persecution and prejudice help the legacy of Anne Frank to live on in a capacity that isn’t just a remembrance, but a precedence and an applicable example. In this way, Otto Frank’s dreams and wishes have been acheived: tolerance will forever be relevant and in this way, we can use Anne Frank – her words, thoughts, wishes – today. I will always find it amazing how much relevance history has (and always will have) in contemporary society not just from a political and economic standpoint, but from a moral point of view as well.

We left Amsterdam Sunday afternoon – tired but well-toured; praying for sleep but instead receiving a death-defying flight home. I swear, I was preparing in my head for where I would exit in the case of a water landing. Still, we arrived – safe and generally sound – just in time for our last week of classes here at AUCP. And speaking of, I now have my last art class. Author’s note: Art classes generally tend to be more trouble than they’re worth – especially if you’re someone who just really isn’t an artist and, honestly, just took the class because you didn’t want to take anything that would involve using your brain. I now know for next time.

Hope this provided sufficient procrastination! Now get back to work – most of you have finals to take and I don’t want to come back and hear you crying about how you failed. Good luck little Smarties! À bientôt!

And we’re off (again)!

Figured I’d post a quick blog before heading out to the Gare Routiere to catch our bus to the airport. PRAGUE THIS WEEKEND!! I have the great fortune of being able to stay with none other than the lovely Suzy Appel who has taken up residence in this land of, well, I actually don’t know what exactly Prague is famous for…but I will soon! Oh, the joys of learning while abroad. I return late Sunday night with much homework to do, as I am pretty sure that none will get done this weekend. Eh, tant pis.

In Tulane news, the demons that consistently plague the Tulane system have struck again. While having my mother register me for my courses (I lost internet….again) I found my account had been randomly disabled! Two hours of long distance calling later, they fixed the problem. Nothing is ever easy, really. Either way, schedule done and MWFs start at noon for me! This makes up for the 9h30 start on Tues and Thurs but hey, whats a little give and take once in a while?

OK off we go! Story time on Monday, readers!

“Did we just get oinked at?”

So, I’m currently in the process of reflecting on the past 10 days of vacation. And I type this reflection to you from my bed which means, yes readers, I have finally found the solution to my internet problem. Thank you, Nathan Eberhart…and SFR. But mostly Nathan Eberhart. Anyway, my meandering thoughts brought me to one of my favorite moments in the Italy Extravaganza: the oinking 60+ year old man at the Vatican. As we 6 Americans thoroughly enjoyed our gelatos (and crepe) a little old man hobbled over, peered at us over his tortoise brimmed, oversized bifocals and then started snorting at us. Yes, I’m serious. And this wasn’t just any snort – for those of you who have heard me laugh, you know that’s saying something. Picture the most horrendous noise that you can think of, a mix of week 3 of a never ending cold/stuffy nose and Shakira’s voice when she does that tribal thing in “Whereever, Whenever.” It was absolutely, for no better word, gross! At first, we just stood there confused. Tongues poised for the next lick, the snorting noise came again – this time louder and with a vengeance. It reached our ears as the cherry and chocolate met on my taste buds. We all stopped – incredulous. Was he snorting at us!? Now, keep in mind that all of us are studying in France and, the French have a habit of commenting on those who take their food, snacks and – worst of all for me – coffees, to go. Thus, it’s not uncommon for us to overhear a “bon appetit” as we walk through the street eating our freshly prepped and bought sandwiches from the Greek stand just 5 minutes away from school. Hey, we’re busy! Still, in all of the snide remarks thrown my way by my host-countrymen, never had I encountered such a way to say “hey, Americans, get a table!”

Dana’s first response, of course: “Guys, he’s calling us fat.” And considering the amounts of pasta and gelato consumed by us on a daily basis, it was a possibility. Maybe he saw the mounds of ice cream and saw it as his window of opportunity to live us to the “Mean Old Man” stereotype. Maybe he was envious but had forgotten his wallet at home and thus, had to remain gelato-less for the afternoon. Maybe..who the hell knows. Regardless, I can say I’ve been oinked at in one of the holiest places in the world. AND that gelato was some of the best I’ve ever had. So take that Evil Oinking Man! I’m sure my reflections will breed more stories later, but my newly acquired Internet just seems to keep navigating to Ch131.com and the 3rd episode of Gossip Girl. I can’t fight with it so early in our relationship, so I should probably suck it up and watch some more absolutely horrible, but totally guilty pleasure TV. *sigh of satisfaction* Finally.

Halloweekend in Roma

Well pink bob wigs translate the same in any language: you’ll always catch some looks in them. And that we did – especially walking into Tony’s Ristorante (recommended by none other than Steven) which makes me realize that most any food I’d eaten to this point in my life was nothing in comparison. This realization will probably aid me on my diet because all food really does pale in comparison after last night’s fried calamari and pollo parmeggiano.

Anyway, tonight’s our last night in Rome before heading back to France (sad) so we’re going to spend it eating some pasta, gelato, cannoli and singing kareokee – because why wouldn’t i know where to find some good old fashioned Monday night open mike nights? photos to follow – keep an eye out on Facebook!

Warning: This post may cause jealousy, drooling or just an overall want to book a flight to Rome.

In the event of the last one happening, do it – we’re here til Tuesday. It’s been a jam packed two days in Rome so far, and nothing short of amazing. After arriving around dinner time Thursday night to a room of 6 beds packed into a room, the size of which can only be described as Polly Pocket-esque, we decided to ease our pain at a cafe down the street with some good (much needed) wine and pasta – tagliatelle to be exact. We awoke the next morning, rectified the room sitch and were off to our 1pm Coliseum reservation where Dana and I clearly got into the whole gladiator, Gate of Life, kill or be killed thing. Hey, when in Rome…

After that, we crossed the street (traversiamo for all you Italian/”Eat Pray Love” enthusiasts out there!) to the ruins of the Roman Forum where we spent time in Cesar’s old stomping grounds – his living room really provided us with a great view of the rest of the Senate area.

Cesar’s old coffee table? Anyway, Hannah’s years spent in Mr. Scott’s Latin class really came in handy here and we sat and listened as she regaled us with tales of Sextius and Cesar, Romulus and Remus, Optimus Prime and – dammit, that’s Transformers. We then walked through Rome to buy our tickets to the Roma vs. Lecce soccer game. Because the world is so absolutely small and it’s so insanely normal to see a kid from your graduating high school class of 161 people – we would of course literally walk into our old classmate Gideon and his parents, freshly arrived from the 914!

We proceeded on to a wonderful dinner, made for us by some new friends in their Rome apartment. Pasta tastes better in Italy, even when it is out of a box and made by Americans. We then went to the Ice Bar (gloves and futuristic jackets included!) for our first real night out in Rome. Sadly, my camera didn’t make the trip to this winter wonderland with us – I learned my lesson about water and technology in Munich – but I’m sure these pictures will appear on Facebook soon enough. From what I’ve seen of the photo archives, these are shots to be on the look out for.

Needless to say, waking up was a bit difficult this morning. But we managed to turn our 12:30 start time into a jam packed day of Roman conquering. We started at the Vatican and saw, of course, the Sistine Chapel and the Basilica. I’ve been lucky enough that this trip is a series of 2nds and 3rds for me and when my friend Jamie asked me if it was boring to re-do all of these landmarks and tourist sites, I didn’t even hesitate to say ‘no’ because, honestly, who can scoff at seeing the Sistine Chapel twice? It’s been fantastic for me to get to revisit these things, not only with a new group of people, but (selfishly) with no pressure to have to see everything because, well, I already did. It’s like getting to eat the whole cake and then being told you can lick the spoon – and don’t even pretend you’re too cool to lick the spoon.

After this ever so attractive shot in front of the fountain in St. Peter’s we made a quick-change and headed out to the Roma vs. Lecce game that we were tipped off about by our resident trip planner, Steve Antenucci. Quick aside: Steve, if we could’ve bought you a plane ticket, we would’ve. THANK YOU SO MUCH for everything. And I’m sure we’ll be kissing your feet after dinner at Tony’s tomorrow night.

Our view from our seats!

(Sorry for the size! This one’s a mobile upload) We were oh so spirited in our Roma tee’s and jersey’s – #10, Totti for me! After the game we hopped the Metro and headed to the Trevi Fountain. My wish for amazing pizza was obviously granted because we stumbled upon a great restaurant a few blocks away. Oh the magic of throwing coins into Italian fountain water!

And now, I am one exhausted Italian. Well toured, well fed and teetering on the brink of food/gelato coma, I sign off happy and exhausted but completely and totally ready for Halloween in Rome tomorrow night (YAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYYAYA). I’d get ready for stories and photos. One word teaser: pinkbobwig. Okay, maybe that was a phrase where I took the spaces out but still, the point stands.