Never Underestimate Italians

After two weeks of resting at the Villa Morghen, I was ready to vacation to Palermo, the capitol of Sicily, Italy.  I wanted to experience the southern Italian cuisine, landscape, attractions, hospitality, and people.

But first, let’s talk transportation; Ryanair. What an experience to fly among the Italians.  Although they are the most economical airline in Europe, this gives them haggle rights. So, I was warned to only bring a small backpack or else the next time I check my bank account I would see a drastic decrease.

On my ticket, it said the gate closed 30 minutes before departure. That is not true. However, I did not know that at that time, so I arrived over an hour for my flight. My boarding pass was stamped and it was security time. What a relief not to have a large, intimidating machine search my entire body. I looked for my gate and for some reason I could not identify it, all I could see were a mob of Italians. I investigated closer and I saw my gate number with a line forming. What? The plane is not leaving for another hour! First come first serve, so I stood in line too. Well, that rule does not apply when the gate opens. I had small, tall, old, and young Italians shuffle their way in front of me. They seemed so nonchalant but my Italian instincts came through and I started to shuffle faster. Never underestimate Italians.

Through this opportunity I realized that Italians are not the most reasonable people. I tried to shuffle faster but the line was not moving that fast in the end. They were measuring each individual bag in a metal frame before entering. Then, everyone had to squish into a bus to be shuttled to the airplane though we could have walked. For a culture who treads every day, that surprised me.

The airplane was narrower and people were trying to walk up and down the aisles to store bags or find a seat. I was shocked that things were shambolic, not like America. I found a seat next to two Italian women, one of which was breast feeding. This seemed so casual for everyone but in America it would feel awkward. Then I noticed everyone was having a conversation in every direction I look. Okay, rule number one on an American flight, do not talk to the person next to you because you will feel obligated to talk the whole 2 hours. But not in Italy, expressing oneself was more important. I enjoyed it and I got to practice my Italian.

So, Sicily. Not many Sicilians spoke English so my Italian was practiced every day. Speaking with the hotel, ordering food, asking for directions, everything was Italian. It was great! I finally received a mini submersion and I couldn’t be happier. How challenging yet exciting it was to not use my native tongue!

My favorite experience was on a journey to a park. Parks are a great place to take portraits for photography class. Little did I know that I would bump into a bunch of old Italian men playing poker in the park. I asked to take their picture and their reaction was astounding. They posed for me and goofed around in front of the camera. I thought I was photographing lively young adults but instead they were old men with as many stories as they had wrinkles. We started to have conversations in Italian and 45 minutes later we talked about life in America and life in Italy. It was the most wonderful experience I have ever encountered all thanks to my photography assignment. 

Veteran of Venice

Venice. Growing up it seemed enigmatical, a city framed with bright, turquoise water. It seemed romantic with gondola rides at sunset. It seemed unreal how there was a place on earth with no automobiles.

  My imagination declared it as the city of Italy. On February 15th, it became a reality.  However, this magical place I would visualize year after year was a lot harder to access physically than mentally. It took hours to research transportation and housing. Which train company? What time? Where to? Where from? How much? Little did we know accommodations were even more complicated. Hostel or hotel? Which is cheaper? Which has the better location? Are the reviews good?  How many beds? Are they private or shared rooms? Are they mixed or same sex rooms? Is there a tourist charge? All of these questions were being revealed as we got closer and closer to our destination. It was a process I have never done before and it was long, exhausting, frustrating at times but extremely exciting.

After our preparations of transportation, housing, money, and food we were on our way to Venice, Italy at 7:30am with full backpacks and immense anticipation. This was my second time on a train and I forgot how awesome it was! The space was more comfortable than an airplane, the landscapes whipping by were beautiful and I felt special riding on a piece of transportation that was used by many before me.  

The moment we got off the train our jaws dropped and stopped in complete awe. The sun was sparkling on the water as boats of every kind rowed up and down. Usually when entering a new city you hear honks, smell smoke, see traffic, but Venice was nothing our eyes have been exposed to before. After introducing our cameras to the spectacle, with no map and very little knowledge of Italian, we decided to charge for the streets of Venice. Were we going to get lost? Yes, but it was Venice, the biggest human maze, and we were ready for the challenge!

A kid in a candy store is what we looked like. So many different landscapes we needed to capture but our feet were going faster than our eyes; we wanted to delve deeper and deeper into the maze. What a journey! There were so many shops of high fashion, blown glass and delicious food. Artists sold their Venetian paintings nearly every outlet there were in this web. We found ourselves lost at every hour, but we didn’t care because that was an adventure in itself that we could not pass up. For example, wandering gave us the knowledge that now we knew the first church we passed two hours ago was only five minutes from our hotel; lessons learned.    

After a long walk around town and translating of Italian directions, we found our hotel, Hotel Iris. We handed the receptionist our Euros and passports and in return received the key to a very simple hotel room. Three twin beds, a few shelves, a wardrobe, and a bathroom fit for one. It was convenient, safe and just what we needed to live in the city of Venice for the weekend.

Absorbing the view and the culture was our way of getting to know Venice. We explored the whole city from every direction. We experienced the city life, the ocean life, the residential life and everything in between. We got caught up in the tourist traffic in San Marco with picture taking and shopping. We became familiar with the peacefulness of the ocean, sitting on the dock for hours watching the gondoliers, taxis, and fishermen rowing across God’s big, blue creation. We observed life from the outskirts of town; cotton sheets hung across from building to building. Among these experiences we also ran into the park where we saw the tranquil old man taking a stroll, the hidden restaurant where we had our first Italian sit-down dinner, and the night life experience at the local bar… One does not need to go through tour guides to completely see a city.

An imagination turned into existence as a veteran of Venice.  What a learning experience this was to make this dream come to life. My independence was discovered further presenting more of what the world has to offer me… Ciao World!        

#CarlosMeliaBlog on TV. Reporting on #TravelExperiences Worldwide for the leading TV #Network in #Spanish Backstage LIVE w/ @RashelDiaz - Early morning at the studios of NBC Universal in #NYC #NewYork for my collaboration live at the morning show @UnNuevoDia on @Telemundo as #TravelExpert // Madrugando en los estudios de NBC Universal #NuevaYork para my participacion como Experto de #Viajes para el programa matutino de #Telemundo #UnNuevoDia en vivo. #Travel #Hospitality #Lifestyle #Hoteles (at NBC New York)

One of the most outlandish celebrations I’ve found…
Isla de Janitzio, Mexico – Dia de los Muertos: (Oct. 31st - Nov 2nd, 2014)

Join locals on the Island of Janitzio, Mexico for Day of the Dead celebration involving duck hunting… Using spears!

The hunted ducks are prepared with whitefish from the lake and local chilies for traditional fare. The following day involves an altar decorating contest, a butterfly net dance, and a beautiful procession of torches.

#travelexperiences #travel #adventure #bucketlist #mexico #dayofthedead #diadelosmuertos #travelblog #festival (at Island of Janitzio)

not your typical spring break

Spring break is two words that usually mean relaxing on the beach with a Corona. This was not the case for me as I started my spring break in Krakow, Poland and ended in Rome. It was kind of refreshing going to a place a little different than Italy.

Food: MEAT! A break from pasta was glorious as we indulged in goulash, dumplings, perogies and duck!

Weather: Snow! By the end of the week our feet were like prunes as they were in swamps from the wet conditions. No complaints just a larger adventure.

Hostel: Pink Panther Hostel is the place to stay in Krakow. They had an event every night for fellow travelers to mingle and relax. I hung out with people from Canada, Belgium, Brazil, Mexico, USA, Spain, Ireland, Italy, and England.

People: The Polish are very open, friendly and genuine. They appreciated just a ‘thank you’ in polish, dziękuję (jen-koo-ya).

Krakow: The Easter festival was being held all week with shops selling everything Polish. On the plus side everything was so cheap, after I figured out that 50 zloty is really only 10 euro. That frightened me many times. Shops include amber jewelry, tapestries, pottery, traditional Polish garments, painted eggs, sausage, flowers, and so much more! Easter is a big event for the Polish culture where all families participate. I saw young and old, single and married people carrying baskets of Easter goodies to be blessed in the churches of Krakow.

Attractions: The first day we took a free walking tour around Krakow to see sites like where Bl. JPII received an education and the Jewish district. The history was overwhelming sometimes, especially after visiting Auschwitz. That impacted how we viewed the world, how precious everyone’s lives are and how we cannot take anything for granted. It was beautiful seeing people around the world coming together to remember, reflect, and commiserate what happened 70 years ago.

Poland was an amazing experience but it was time to pack up and head for Rome to celebrate Easter Sunday with Papa Francesco. No hostel was booked since we had to wake up early to wait in line outside Saint Peter’s Square to retrieve a good seat. So, an all-nighter had begun under Rome’s night sky. It started off exciting until the rain poured and no bars were open. We found a dry place to settle for the night under the Vatican’s pillars and took shifts sleeping. What an experience! Eventually other pilgrims arrived and we got to meet people from Argentina and Germany. Six hours later the gates opened and the Catholics flooded the Square to all celebrate Easter. Many languages and cultures came together that morning and became one.

Once mass ended we got home as fast as possible to let our feet breath and bodies rest. No regrets for the whole weekend because even though it was not your typical spring break, it opened my mind to so many new and exciting treasures. 

Obstacles, Epiphany, and Pope Francesco I

Don’t you ever need low-key weekends for catching up on things that were passed over during the week? Well, that was my last weekend. For that reason, I did not go anywhere outside of Florence and Settignano giving me time to relax and recoup. However, this allowed my mind to wonder a little too far and I caught myself feeling more homesick, frustrated and lazy than usual. How could this be if I was blessed with living in Italy for three months? Shouldn’t I be happy all day, every day!

Lots of times we write about our wonderful adventures and experiences, making it seem that studying abroad is peachy, or rather, a dream. But this past week I experienced that it is not a fairytale 24/7. So, this week’s reflection I decided to write a couple obstacles while studying abroad and the instabilities I encountered.

There are not many moments in one’s life where you eat, sleep, learn, experience new things and grow as a person through those experiences with the same 42 people within a 12 weeks span.  Don’t get me wrong, I have formed many friendships while being trapped with these people that I probably would have never cultivated at BC. But sometimes it is hard to be around the same personalities all the time and I think everyone can sympathize with that. There were times where I had to take a walk alone around town or into the city.

I miss burgers! I miss big, American breakfasts’. I miss talking in English without getting stares. I miss my family who knows how I am and what I need. I miss washers and dryers instead of spending 4 hours Saturday night washing and ringing out every piece of clothing I own.  I remember being told at orientation that missing American things is expected, and for some reason, I thought being immersed into a different culture for a long period of time was going to be easy.    

When I look back, I needed that time to realize what I am writing now and how I can go beyond some of these minute frustrations to make no regrets from now on. This is also helping me learn about myself more and what I need to do to stay a peaceful, positive person no matter what situation I face. Also, this encouraged me to appreciate the little things, like clean clothes and being able to Skype my family because no one was on the internet to slow it down.  It was not until I heard Habemus Papam followed by a humble man when I realized that life is too wonderful to let hindrances get in the way of my happiness. 

#dafareasassari Al #museosanna di #sassari la mostra “La Sardegna di Thomas Ashby”, 83 fotografie dei primi del ‘900 sulla vita quotidiana in Sardegna, nell’allestimento degli architetti Dejana e Fiamma. Sino al 15 gennaio.

#museum #museo #exhibition #history #photography #blackandwhite #architecture #sardegna #sardinia #sardiniaexperience #sardolicesimo #ilikeitaly #igersassari #igersardegna #igersitalia #instasardegna #vivosardegna #dejanafiamma #igtravel #instatravel #travel #travelexperience (presso Museo Nazionale Sanna)

Sometimes A Guitar and Accordion Are All You Need.

My first metro ride in Rome, Italy definitely makes my first blog. Before leaving for my trip to Europe many people warned me multiple times about pick-pocketers. Yes, I have been to Italy before and aware of this issue. However, the first day my “antennas” were not accustomed and very much aware. I am sure I had “nervous American” written across my façade as well. 

My eyes were on autopilot scanning from side to side that morning. I observed many people with serious expressions, almost like robots, walking in and out of the subway train. The Italians standing kept their eyes peeled for the next orange seat available. It was not too crowded like sardines, but enough to have half of the people in the cart standing. The Italians did not converse in small, friendly chats among each other. We, the Americans, were the only people talking that echoed throughout the whole subway.

I noticed they wore lots of neutral, low-key colors, nothing to have them stand out more than the average person. Every now and then you would see that flashy lady in heels and a fur coat but most were ordinary looking.

What interested me the most was their body language. Although crossed legs, tight arms, curled shoulders, and a downward gaze showed confinement, they were not shy about staring. Curious and mysterious vibes came from the stares I stopped in their tracks. One of which really shocked me. I turned around to look at a man shoved against the door after feeling hands sneaking across my back-pants pocket. At first I thought I was bumping someone from the sway of the strong train engine but no, they were definitely fingers! I moved sideways so to glance over my shoulder often. My antennas were on high alert now! I felt so violated.

After learning not to scream TOURIST on the metro, it soon became an everyday routine where I probably turned into one of the robots: on, off, on, off. What gave me some comfort were the stereotypical  Italian men playing guitar and accordion a couple carts down from where I was standing. This gave me the security that Italian people are not all sneaky thieves looking for fast money. Some live with leisure, seeking positivity and laughter. One petrifying experience cannot freak me out but use in my toolbox of life. Look up, because you never know when the next Italian duo will be ahead of you.       

Lac de Serre-Ponçon - France

#france #lac #lago #lake #serreponcon #alps #alpi #mountain #landscape #panorama #aerial #paesaggio #cloud #cloudporn #travel #travelgram #travelexperience #igersitalia #igtravel #instatravel #instanature #52wp51 #skyporn #sky #water

Halong Bay, Vietnam - Hop Aboard a Junk Boat Where Dragons Descend into the Sea.

Drift lazily aboard a junk boat past endless karst pinnacles rising from an emerald sea and explore grottos and caves by kayak.

#travelexperiences #travel #adventure #bucketlist #vietnam #halongbay #halong #travelpics #travelblog #cruise (at Cat Ba island, Halong Bay, Vietnam.)