Thursday, December 6, 2007

Thanks, Dispatch

This is a "thank The Dispatch" and "please keep reading" post. If they haven't already, The Dispatch travel section will soon be removing my blog promotion (not really "tavelingmaggie" at the moment). I've decided to keep writing, and when I get back to Italy it'll be more frequent, as I'm sure I'll want to document what it's like to live in a small Italian village and attempt to learn that beautiful language.

So I wanted to thank the Dispatch for following my voyage--knowing that it was being promoted through the paper and the website really did motivate me to write as much as possible. Personally, it has been great to look back on where was I was and what I've done. I've gotten wonderful support from both people I know and people I've never met--thank you.

If you usually find my blog through the Dispatch webpage, and are interested in following along, you can just got to:

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Closure...what is this elusive idea?? Some kind of miracle event that will be able to close the door on the past, that will somehow neatly clean up the mess, that will provide you with what you need to move forward?

Whoever came up with this idea obviously has not endured any trauma in his life, or he would know that this idea is just that--ideal...but certainly not a reality.

You always hear about the families of victims of violent crimes, and how once the criminal is in prison for the crime they've committed against the family member, then the family has gotten the closure they needed...


That is simply everyone else telling them that now the bad man is behind bars that it will be easier for them to move on...bullshit. They still have to wake up every morning feeling good, until they remember what's happened; then the nightmare continues--long after justice has been served.

We tend to do that, we tell people things to make ourselves feel better, because we don't like to think about them in pain. Like with me, when I was going through hell, you wouldn't believe how many times I heard "At least you have school to take your mind off things..." riiiight, you try reading Abnormal Psych when you are at your lowest of took me 25 minutes to read one page, and when I was done, I had no idea what I had just read. But yeah, it's a great thing I had school...

A friend of mine lost her husband, and she heard, on a daily basis, "It's great that you have grandchildren that you can spend time with..." as though they could replace her husband of 35 years.

Both of us knew and appreciated that our friends were trying to be helpful and point out the positives in our lives, but really at a time like that, there is nothing that takes the sting off. There is only time. There is no magic potion, secret solution, drug, prayer...nothing that will cure the pain. A switch does not flip--"Oh! I've got closure!" and then you are happy. There is only time.

And even with time, you have forever changed, whether it be for better or worse, you are a little more leery, a little more tentative, protected, guarded, whatever you want to call it. You know the pain of losing someone who is such a major presence in your life, and the thought of it happening again is terrifying...and exhausting. Why would you subject yourself to that again?

But, in time, you can start to understand why. You can start to see colors again, and you slowly, slowly become less numb. Things begin to taste, smell and feel again...a little of the guard begins to melt away. And now, what you can contribute to someone else's life is probably so much more than you could have ever offered them before. Because you have this new layer of understanding, this empathy that you never realized. Not only within a relationship, but also friendships, family, and even working relationships. You just get it a little bit more. And that does help to take the sting off...

But, this new you that emerges is scarred, and will be for a long time. There is no closure, there is no quick fix. Divorce papers, a prison sentence, grandchildren...sure, they may help, they may be a band-aid, or a catalyst for forward progress, but if it's peace-of-mind you are looking for, you will be sorely disappointed. This can only come with time and learning. Learning from the loss, from the pain, from the mistakes. Learning that inside you have happiness, it is just a matter of finding it again. And it may take time--a lot of time. But for right now, all you can do is keep going, keep moving forward, trying not to look back too much in the process. Happiness isn't always easy, sometimes you really have to fight for it. But it's definitely a fight worth fighting.

Monday, October 15, 2007


I've noticed that at home I do not look at the sky half as much as I do when I am traveling. It's funny, when you are traveling you are always looking around you--seeing things that you'd never see at home. Not because they aren't there, but because you aren't looking...or, you aren't seeing. I never get excited about a sunset in Westerville--even tough recently, I am sure we have had great ones. This is something I'd like to get so used to home being home that you become blind to how nice home actually is...

So, Paolo came and went...and we did it all. Literally, I ran the poor guy into the ground, I am afraid. But I wanted to prove to him that my country is just as cool as his, therefore I had to pack it full of all of Ohio's greatest sites and activities. A brief rundown...We walked through uptown Westerville, went to The Burgundy Room (my favorite) and Bar Louie downtown for my friends 30th birthday party. Went to Easton, built a bear for the new baby adorned with an Ohio State tee-shirt of course. And yes, I did get pictures of Paolo "tapping the heart to give it a heartbeat" before it went into the bear.My dad gave us a tour of the Statehouse and the Dispatch, we went to the zoo, we went to my favorite town--Athens, and visited the greatest school ever, OU. We spent 2 nights in a cabin in Hocking Hills, and hiked all around the area (Old Man's Cave, Cedar Falls, etc). For my b-day (30!) we went to Hyde Park and the opening Blue Jackets game. We carved pumpkins, made s'mores, played cornhole, saw some of the OSU game, ate Chinese, Chipotle, and cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory (my b-day cake every year)--you see, in Italy they have wonderful food, but only one kind--Italian.

He loved every minute of it. I knew he would, because that is how Paolo is. He loves seeing new things--it's like the wonderment of a little kid, mixed with the patience and desire to learn. He got along great with my parents, and held his own pretty well in most conversations--very little need for translation. When we were at a bar it was more difficult because it's so loud, it's harder to focus on what people are saying. And as for us, it was like we had never left each other. It came back so easily and naturally that we never really have to focus on the relationship. Do you know what I mean? In some relationships you have to discuss, work on, stress over, the relationship itself--and it takes up a lot of time. It's not like that with him, it is just easy.

And he felt the same way--he said, "even though I am in another country I feel like I am home" which was wonderful for me to hear. Because I know how much he loves his country, and particularly his region, so to hear how much he liked it here was a little bit of a relief for me. I think when a lot of foreigners think about the US, they think of the big cities. And being in Columbus gave him a taste of what more "normal" (if there is such a thing) life is like in America. He liked that Westerville had the feeling of a small town, yet the city was so close.

He was here for 8 days, and is hopefully coming back for Thanksgiving and staying for more of an extended period of time. I am still planning on going back to Italy to study Italian in January, so this is as far as we allow ourselves to look into the future at this point.

As for me and my life here. Well...I read A LOT. Anyone who went through grad school understands what the meaning of a lot is...3 classes, each wanting you to read 2 or more chapters per week and these chapters are not short. I am trying to get another part time job, because I am starting to feel like a recluse in the house all day by myself with only Thundercat and my books. (Plus, a little spending money might be nice...) It's hard when I am only going to be here for 3 more months, who wants to hire for that? But there is no way I could work full-time at this point with this amount of school work. Especially since I still have some very emotionally draining days. In fact, today I am headed to the courthouse to officially file all of the paperwork for the dissolution. Leslie signed and sent everything back to me (being considerate enough not to send them on my birthday), not my idea of a great present. When I am more ready, I'll write about my thoughts on closure (I don't believe there is such a thing).

A couple of random things--I just finished the book "Eat, Pray, Love" in which the author writes about her travels through--get this--Italy, India, and Indonesia...after a really hard divorce. I felt like I was reading my life story. Anyway, the book is hysterical, I found myself laughing out loud at times and that never happens for me with books. I also find myself copying down entire conversations or paragraphs to read again later. Great book--highly recommend it. Second, turning 30 was the most uneventful big event in my life. I'm just hoping that this decade can provide me with some more peace, knowledge and happiness than the last decade. Whew. Can't say I am sad to leave my 20's behind. (The only thing that sucks is actually saying "I'm 30"). I joined a bowling league with my friend Jenn and a bunch of her lawyer friends. And those that have ever seen me bowl are shaking their heads right now. My poor teammates... I am interviewing for internships positions at a few places around Columbus, and am going to try to volunteer in the meantime so I'm not totally green when internship time rolls around.

That's about it. I've been back for just over a month now. And truthfully, haven't been much in the mood to write. Externally there is not a whole lot to write about, and internally, I don't know if I am ready or able to get it down on paper yet. But it's in of these days it'll all come pouring out.

And, on a cute note--a little Paolo story...A week or so before he came to the US, he said "wow Maggie, I just read your blog about 9/11, and it gave me bumps goose..." C'mon. How can you not love him?? Bumps goose. My mom has since told my aunt, and I have a feeling it will make its way around the family so by Thanksgiving time it will be a regular household phrase--"Uncle Joe, can you close the window?? I have bumps goose, it's so cold!"

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Coming to America...and more

Friday is the big day. Watch out Columbus, (or Coloomboos, as it is pronounced in Eye-talian) here comes Senior Paolo...

This time around he is only staying for about 8 days, because his brother is having a baby (well, his brother's wife is having a baby) so he needs to be back to work when Antonio takes some time off to be with the bambino.

We have a lot planned while he is here including a friends 30th b-day party, some time in Hocking Hills, the Blue Jackets home opener, MY 30th birthday (eeek!!), meeting friends, family, and getting the official Maggie tour of Westerville and Columbus--"this is my middle school... this is my dance studio...this is where we would drink illegally before high-school football games..."I'll take him to the Short North, cause it's the coolest, possibly the zoo (I have free passes), Easton, etc, etc.

I will also force him to eat Chipotle, watch the OSU game on TV at a bar, drink Bud Light, go to Target, and sing the star-spangled banner (Ok, maybe not the last one).

I can't wait to see him, and I can't wait for him to see MY home. I've been looking at it so differently since I have been back. The other day I was in the car with my mom and blurted out "Wow, the trees here are SO big!" I got the "you are a freak" look, and have since learned to keep those types of epiphanies to myself.

I have been pretty busy since I've returned. School is back in full swing and I am taking 3 classes this semester, including statistics--which is like nuclear physics to me, so it's quite time consuming. I've also started all of the legal paperwork for a dissolution and have been in touch with Leslie, so emotionally, I am also pretty exhausted. I experience such an array of feelings on any given day, that sometimes I wish I could turn them off. In fact, sometimes I feel like I just go numb, because it is exhausting to go from one extreme emotion to another. I got lucky and found a yoga studio within walking distance from my parents house--which is convenient for me considering I live there right now, and I don't have a car (doesn't make sense to have a car payment when I am leaving again in January--oh yeah, and I am unemployed...) I have been talking to my friends at the bank and they are trying to work on a way to get my job back, so I am crossing my fingers. An income would be nice...and necessary.

Some differences I've noticed about myself since my trip...I walk A LOT more. It's funny, for example, here we will go to Target...and park in front of it. Then we want to go to Best Buy, which is 300 yards away. And what do we do? Get in the car and drive to it. Seriously. That's American insanity. Another thing I've noticed is the food. I saw a commercial the other day for Giant Eagle. It was advertising all of your "dinner favorites" and was highlighting a montage of popular dinner choices. ALL of which were in boxes!! Why does everything we eat come out of a box? Is anything fresh?

Things are so wonderfully organized and efficient here, there is a process for everything, therefore things generally run pretty seamlessly. Customer service is hands down the best in the world, and people are really, really friendly.

And fat. People in Columbus are fat (back to the food in a box theory). I've read that we have the 3rd heaviest city in the US, but you don't really notice it until you travel to other places and see that people are not overweight like they are here. I know this is something that is becoming more of a focus for us, so I hope that it's something that begins to change soon. Parents--FORCE your children to play outside. Run, kids, run!!!!

Back to myself, I know that I've changed a lot. But I can't really put my finger on how. It's just like things are different...I take things in differently and in turn, probably respond differently. I do no try to cram 300 things into one day. That's something I've learned. We tend to set unrealistic expectations of all of the things we want to accomplish in a day, and when we can't do it we feel bad about it. It's silly, and it takes so much of the joy out of each day, because we are flying through it, not really thinking about what we are doing because we are focused on what we have to do next. there is my current in-a-nutshell update. I think things are kinda coming to me in spurts, in regards to processing everything. I'm sure the visit from Mr. P will definitely be blog worthy. Otherwise, keep checking back...I'll continue to try to post, it just might be on a little more of an irregular basis.

Ciao, ciao.

Friday, September 14, 2007


This is what I did in the 72 hours it took me to get from Italy to New York. I am taking a statistics class this semester, so I figured I would get a head start...

A statistical breakdown of my trip:

3 Continents
  • Asia
  • Europe
  • Africa
8 Countries
  • Japan
  • Thailand
  • India
  • Italy
  • England
  • Sweden
  • Morocco
  • Spain

26 Cities

  • Japan--Osaka, Kyoto, Toyko, Omi Nagaoka, Kamakurra
  • Thailand--Bangkok, Koh Samui, Koh Phagnan
  • India--Delhi, McLeod Ganj, Bagsu/Upper Bagsu
  • Italy--Rome, Lecce, Viareggio, Florence, Sternatia, Otranto, Santa Cesearia, Gallipoli
  • England--London
  • Sweden--Stockholm
  • Morocco--Casablanca, Asilah, Tangier
  • Spain--Barcelona, Girona

16 Flights (not including connecting flights--only starting destination to ending destination)

  • Ohio-Osaka
  • Osaka-Bangkok
  • Bangkok-Koh Samui
  • Koh Samui-Bangkok
  • Bangkok-Delhi
  • Delhi-Rome (when I met Paolo!)
  • Rome-London
  • London-Stockholm
  • Stockholm-London
  • London-Lecce
  • Rome-Casablanca
  • Tangier-Barcelona
  • Girona-Rome
  • Rome-Casablanca
  • Casablanca-NYC
  • NYC-Columbus

13 DIFFERENT types of transportation

  • taxis-in all 8 countries
  • trains-in 6 countries (including the Shinkensen in Japan and overnight trains in India and Italy)
  • subways-in 5 countries
  • cars-in 3 countries
  • buses- in 3 countries
  • Other--bicycles, ferry, motorbike, tuk-tuk, water taxi, rickshaw, horse-cart, tram

26 Hotels/Hostels/Places to stay

  • Japan- 2 (1 guesthouse and 1 hostel)
  • Thailand- 4 (Tiff's house, 2 hotels, 1 hostel)
  • India- 3 (2 hotels, 1 guesthouse)
  • Italy- 9 (2 hotels, 2 hostels, 4 friend's houses, 1 villa)
  • London- 2 (Tom's house, 1 guesthouse)
  • Sweden- 1 (Micaela's house)
  • Morocco- 3 (2 hotels, 1 guesthouse)
  • Spain- 2 (1 guesthouse, 1 friend's house)

Time spent in each place (approx)

  • Japan- 3 weeks
  • Thailand-2 weeks
  • India- 2.5 weeks
  • Italy-1 month, 1 week
  • England-5 days
  • Sweden-5 days
  • Morocco-10 days
  • Spain- 7 days


  • 2 toenail causalities due to mountain climbing
  • puncture wound in my heel from a sea creature
  • staph infection in my toe
  • kidney stone
  • sinus infection
  • dropped a marble slab on my big toe, and it took the first few layers of skin off (this was shortly before I left, at Paolo's house...I was cleaning his bathroom. From now on he cleans the bathroom...) **ALL toe problems happened on my left foot. It is a wonder I came back with 2 feet.


climbed a scuba licensure...went in an Onsen with a bunch of naked Japanese people...prayed at the Dali Lamas temple...swam in 4 different seas...belly danced...ate ALL KINDS of ethnic cuisine...visited a hospital (as a patient)...slept in bedrooms with total strangers (who often became friends) lost (a lot) found...met amazing people...forgave...walked A LOT...studied...fell in love...

All in all, I think I accomplished what I set out to do. My goal was to come back changed...and after a trip like that there is no way I will ever be the same. My eyes see things differently now, and they can't seem to get enough. The world is so much smaller, the people are so much nicer, going to other countries is NOT difficult. It is nothing to be scared of or nervous about. If you are careful, open to differences and can adapt, seeing the world is the best thing anyone can do.

PS.I am slowly but surely getting all of my pictures posted and writing captions for all of them. It is a tedious and time consuming process. I have finished Morocco and am almost done with Spain. Then I will go back and caption the rest of them.

PPS. Ohio is really nice.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Like many Americans, today is always a difficult day for me. I was in Columbus when it happened, but I can remember it like it was yesterday. For me, 9/11 shaped how the past 6 years of my life have turned out...

Tiffany lived in NYC when the buildings were hit. I was calling her all day, until finally I got a hold of her mom and she said Tiff was fine and she was on her way home. The ad agency in which I worked allowed all of us to go home that morning, and for the next 12 hours I could not rip myself away from the TV. It was at this point that I first thought "I have to be there."

Tiff got home that night. We had our 5 year high school class reunion on Sept 15th--which still took place. As my group of friends were talking, Tiff made the comment about how she didn't know how she was going to get back to NYC, since the airports were closed. She talked about taking the train, or a bus. I blurted out "I'll drive you." And my friend Michele, who was feeling much like I was, said, "I'll come too."

So on Sept. 16, the 3 of us packed my car and drove 10 hours back to New York. I took a week off work, not caring if they would fire me (my boss was so cool though...she understood this was something I HAD to do). My mom freaked out "Maggie they don't NEED you in New York, they have enough volunteers, you will be in the way." (In other words, "Maggie, I am scared to death about you going to New York.) My dad supported her publicly...but would secretly pull me aside and say he wished he could come with me.

We arrived to New Jersey, and had to park at the Newark Airport because all of the bridges into the city were still closed. It was in Jersey that we began to see the missing pictures of the people that were still not accounted for (a vast majority) that covered every wall in the city. At the point the buildings were still on fire, and the smell is something I will never forget. It was a combination of burning metal, paper...and people.

Over the next few days we did a lot of tough stuff. We went to the Armory, where families were waiting to hear any news (it is where they were bringing any bodies or remains) we went to candlelight vigils, a Marshall McClellan memorial service, and a hospital to donate stuff that people sent with us. We watched the fire fighters come out of the wreckage after their 12 hour shifts, covered in ashes, their faces telling the whole horrific story without them having to speak a word. It was easily the worst experience of my life, but at the same time one of the best. New York was a different city. People were looking each other in the eyes, they were helping one another, they slowed down to give each other hugs--perfect strangers. Everyone was so obviously thankful that they were alive, that the feeling of the city was surely one of fear and confusion, but above all it was compassion and love--for each other and for our country.

It was probably our 4th night there when Tiffany got a strong sense of New Yorker pride (after all she'd been living there for about a year by this point) and she said "We are going out tonight--we are not letting them control us, we are not letting them control our economy, we are going out in this city. THE BEST CITY IN THE WORLD."

So we did. And that is the night I met Leslie.

The rest of the story plays out with us falling in love, getting married, moving to Atlanta, then to Salt Lake--soccer being the focus of our lives. Then the marriage started falling apart, and I had no idea what I was going to do with the rest of my I decide to start running far and fast around the world, which brings me to where I am today.

Tiffany has somehow been an anchor in every major change in my life. If she had not dragged us out that night, I would not have met Leslie, if I had not met Les, I would have not learned all that I have learned over the past 6 years, and would not have gone on my trip. (At least not in they way I did). Sometimes it takes major life changing events to serves as a catalyst for making the changes you want...or NEED to make.

The same goes for Tiff. She was flying through the ranks at Kate Spade. No one from OU gets a job at Kate Spade right out of college, it's all Fashion Institute people...but Tiffany did. She was on the fast track to high powered success. Then 9/11 happens. And when you are faced with your own mortality...when you see that it can all end in a split second, you begin to evaluate what is REALLY important. And like Tiffany, I think most of us would find that it isn't power, money, status, career, or any material things. She did some reevaluating of what she really wants out of life, and has since been studying yoga, traveling the world and trying to live each day with purpose.

So had 9/11 not happened, Tiff likely would not have been living in Thailand, or be on this big world tour. And if she wasn't I don't know if I would have made these plans by myself. I'd like to think I am that brave...but when I planned the trip, most of it was supposed to be with her.

Tiffany and I are just some of many, many stories about how September 11th has caused very direct or indirect changes in our lives. But there is one thing for sure--it has changed all of us in some way, because it has changed America forever. And each time you go through airport security you remember what happened, and why you have to strip down in public. We were attacked. On our own soil. In our most famous city. With our own airplanes.

9/11 has changed us forever. My prayers go out to the families and friends of the victims.

We will never forget.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

I'm baaaaaack...

I'm in New Jersey now, at my residency at Seton I am finally back on US soil...but getting here was no easy feat...

I left Lecce and Paolo :( on Monday night. I took an overnight train to Rome, and my flight from Rome to Milan was delayed by an hour. When I arrived in Milan, my flight to Casablanca was taking off. So I got on the next flight to Casablanca...which was also delayed. So, I missed my flight from Casablanca to New York. (I was flying from Morocco because I had already booked that ticket from the beginning, when I originally thought I was going to Ghana--so it was supposed to go Accra-Casa-NYC). That night I had to stay in Casablanca by myself. I was frustrated because at this point I just wanted to get to New York--I wanted to shop, cause my clothes were not exactly "business casual" for school, and I wanted to have a day to breathe before diving into school again. The plan now was I was flying out of Casablanca at 10:40 AM, arriving to NYC at 2:45pm on Wednesday, I was supposed to arrive to New York at 5PM on Tuesday.

But I was ok, I figured I still had much of the day to shop, relax, etc. when I arrived. However, when I got to the airport in the morning they tell us that our flight is delayed for 12 hours, and we will not be leaving until 10pm. I was ready to cry. I had been in the same clothes for 2 days, I didn't have hot water in my shower that morning so I took a "sink bath"... and I really just wanted to get back to the US.

The flight finally takes off at 11:30pm. I arrive to NYC at 3am. I get to my hotel, with absolutely nothing left in me, I could barely walk...and they tell me that the air-conditioning in my room broke, there were no more rooms in the hotel, and they had to move me to another hotel. So I FINALLY get to my new hotel and room at about 4:15am.

I left Lecce Monday night at 10pm (4pm EST) and arrived to New York on Thursday morning at 3AM. In the same damn clothes. Gross.

The next day I took a 7 hour shower and made my way to New Jersey where we had our first session of classes. I am loving be back in school, and like each new semester feel really energized for my classes (this usually wears off in a week or two...). It is really great to see all of my classmates and friends, and its REALLY nice to speak in English and have everyone understand me.

Leaving Paolo was tough, but he is coming to visit me soon, so it was easier to just say " I"ll see you soon!" and leave it at that. I haven't yet processed that I am back because I have been so busy since I've arrived. Plus, I am still sleeping in a hotel, so I am not really home yet.

When I get back I will post our pictures from Morocco and Spain, and write a few more blogs about the trip. I am debating about what to do with the blog in I put it on hiatus for now? Do I keep writing? Is it done because I am done with the trip? Should I keep it going when I go back to Italy?

Stuff to think about...but right now my brain is focused on Psychology, internships, licensure, etc, I'll come back to that when I get home...

One more day, Thundercat!!!

Friday, August 31, 2007


I have been wanting to write this blog for a while now. Everyday that I spend in Italy, and spend with Paolo makes me focus more and more on language. In all of the other countries that I went to, although none spoke English as a first language except in London, I was never immersed in the culture enough to start to really try to understand the language. Here it is different, especially being in the south. In Rome, Florence or even Viareggio, I could get by with English relatively easily because they are all popular tourist destinations. In Salento, it is a different story. Although this region is probably one of the most beautiful in all of Italy, it is not a big tourist destination for people outside of Italy. Mainly because the towns are spread apart, and there is no public transportation. So you really need a car to get around here, unless you plan on staying in one little town (or Lecce--which has a population of about 100,000) the entire time.

Sometimes I feel bad, because we are staying at his parents house (they are living at their house near the sea right now) and we spend very little time with them. And the main reason for this is because I can't talk to them. It's really uncomfortable in this particular situation, when you really want to make a good impression, and you cannot have a conversation. So, I can see his mom making assumptions about me--the crazy American girl who takes off around the world by herself...and me about her--the typical Italian mom who wants a woman who will treat her son exactly the same way she does...when in reality, neither is probably the case. But since we can't talk to each other, we will continue to conjure up our own ideas about one least until I learn to speak Italian. I do my best to smile a lot, to help clear the dishes from the table, to offer to help with anything. And Paolo does as much translating as he can, but, until we speak the same language it will be difficult.

The same goes for social interactions. Paolo has a ton of friends, so often we are in a group of people where there might be one other person who speaks English, or a few with limited (very limited) English. I do my best to try to understand the conversations, but they talk so quickly(or at a normal pace, which to me seems like lightening speed.) Slowly I am learning more and more words and phrases, but for the most part, I am completely lost. Again, Paolo does his best to translate...but it's hard for him sometimes because it stops the normal flow of a conversation, and I don't want him to always have to stop what he's talking about to explain it to me.

What's weird is the physical toll it takes on you. By the end of each day, I am exhausted. And I often have a headache. I think it is because my brain never has any quiet time. I am always trying to understand--Paolo, his friends, the radio in the car, billboards, street signs, the TV...even when I zone out, I am still subconsciously taking it all in. Anyone that has lived in another country and learned another language can probably understand what I am talking about--it is a really strange sensation.

When we first got to Morocco, Paolo was having a lot of headaches too, and it was likely because he was only speaking in English, all day every day. And it took a few days for his brain to adjust to it. He's so cute, he tries really hard...and sometimes it is so funny. There are many words in Italian that are very similar to English, so if Paolo doesn't know the word in English, he will say the Italian word but try to Americanize it, in hopes that it's close. We call these "Paolo words" and I could probably write a dictionary of them. And sometimes he learns a new words, but can't recall them perfectly the next time, but he still tries...these are my favorite, and usually I can't help but laugh. A couple that I am particularly fond of are "nerb" (nerd) and "groge" (gross). He sometimes uses "is" and "are" the wrong way, and still has a major problem with "him/her and he/she". But what is interesting is most Italians that speak English have the same problem (at least the ones I have spoken to). He often leaves out the little words (important little words) like "to" and "of" and forgetting the "n't" that turns "can" into "can't". So a normal Paolo sentence might sound like this..."You say me that you can go in the sea because your finger hurts." What he means is "You told me that you can't go in the sea because your toe hurts." (toes in Italian translate directly to "fingers of the feet", so this is why he forgets and calls them fingers). The words "say, told, call, talk" are all synonymous to him. And the can/can't thing can pose a problem, because it changes the sentence to have the exact opposite I always make sure to clarify.

There are things about our language that I've also never thought we use the phrase "take a shower". To Paolo, this makes no sense..."but Maggie, WHERE are you going to take the shower?" The same goes for "taking a walk." In Italian, the direct translation would be "to do a shower." Which to us, sounds really weird. We also say "It drives me crazy" and as you can imagine, it makes no sense to someone who knows the word "drive" to mean either driving a car, or to have determination. And, I've learned that in English we have a word to describe EVERYTHING. In Italian they have a zillion more verb tenses than we do, but we have more adjectives than all other languages combined. For instance--cute, pretty, beautiful, stunning, georgous, nice looking, hot--all basically mean the same thing. In Italian they keep it simple...Bellisimo!

Despite all of the things Paolo still has to learn, he is obviously leaps and bounds ahead of me. And I try to tell him everyday how much I appreciate him talking in my language because I know it is equally exhausting for him. And for all the times I have laughed at a "Paolo word" I know he is waiting patiently for me to start learning Italian...

Which is what I am going to try to do. There is a class at Upper Arlington High School on Thursday nights, that I am going to take (and maybe try to get my parents to take it with me). And in January, I am thinking about coming back to Italy for a few months and living in a small town called Otranto where there is an Italian school that has very intensive courses. I don't think you can truly learn a language unless you are living in a country in which it is spoken--because if you aren't around people who speak it, how will you practice?

Paolo's family has a condo on the sea in Otranto, which will not be occupied throughout the winter, so it would make my living expenses really cheap. And being in the south for an extended period of time would leave me no choice but to speak Italian. The school I am look into into is

Paolo is also going to try to spend some time in the US in the fall, to hopefully pick up some more English...and to meet my friends and parents, and see how I live...

My trip is almost over, but I feel like I have more to look forward to now. I have some hard things to take care of when I get home...but I am really looking forward to seeing my parents, friends (and their new babies!)...and thundercat!

I don't think I can write a reflections blog until I get home, and it sinks in that I am finished with this life altering trip...but I will try to squeeze out a couple more before that.

But, now I must "take a boat ride" with Paolo and his friends for the afternoon...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

My big fat Italian wedding

Not MY big fat wedding, but the first Italian wedding that I attended...

It was yesterday, and it began at 10AM. It ended at 9PM. Yes, 11 hours of wedding bliss. Paolo's cousin Lulu warned me that it was going to be that long, but I thought she was joking. The wedding was beautiful, the bride was beautiful and she and the groom were so happy. (Incidentally, in Italy they do not have words for "Bride" and Groom"--they use "Sposa and Sposo--or plural, Sposi") therefor they do not know what the significance of "Here comes the bride" is, which might be why they played it at the end of the wedding...

Before the wedding, everyone gathered outside the bride's house, and the groom is already at the church. (It was in a really little town) The bride walks out of her house, everyone cheers, and then follows her to the church. The townspeople were gathered on the street to see the bride. The people invited to the wedding enter the church before the bride and from there it is pretty similar to wedding ceremonies in the US.

Anyway, the wedding was Catholic, and what I would consider standard for a Catholic wedding. Actually, maybe shorter than Catholic weddings in the US, because only the bride, groom, wedding party and parents received communion instead of all of the people at the church. After the wedding, everyone waits outside for them and throws rice, and in this case, the bride, groom and wedding party (two men and two women) ride away from the church on white Vespas with balloons on them--very cute.

The wedding started at about 10:45 (Italian time is pretty relaxed...) and ended close to noon. We went straight to the reception place, and arrived there about 12:30...and sat there, in the sun, with no food until the bride and groom showed up at 2:30. The good thing was that Paolo got to see a lot of his high school friends that he had not seen for a while, so it wasn't just him and I waiting by ourselves. The couple that got married were in his class in high school-- and when I say "class" I mean it literally, like classroom. In Italy, in high school, you stay in one classroom with the same people all day, for all 5 years, and the teachers move from room to room, so needless to say, you become pretty close the the people in your class.

We were starving by that time because we had only had tea and some cookies for breakfast. But need not fear, this is an Italian wedding, and there is never a shortage of food, in fact, the food is the reason I decided to write this blog.

We began with antipasti, or what we consider appetizers. This was not a buffet, it was all served to the tables. The first round of antipasti consisted of: little fried crab puff things, another fried ball of meat and olives, two types of ham, sausages in little croissants, some type of potato quiche thing, and cheese plates. Then we took a break. The next round of antipasti was all seafood. Calamari salad (raw), octopus (raw), octopus in tomato sauce, baby fried squid, and clams with some type of cheese and breadcrumbs. Then we took a break. (And by this time I was full) then came the "first plate" which is generally pasta. The pasta was a pasta that is specific to this region (kind of in the shape of ears) with some type of meat, and tomato sauce. Then we took a break. Then came the salad, and the first of TWO "second plates". This was the seafood second plate and had some kind of whitefish in a sauce and giant prawns. Then we took a break. We were then served lemon sorbet to clean our pallets to prepare for the second, second plate, which was beef and french fries. After the beef and french fries we took another break, and returned to find that the fruit had been served--pineapple, grapes and melon.

In between each course, we would usually go outside because the reception place was pretty hot (it is August in the south of Italy, after all). So you add the heat to the amount of food, and people were basically ready to sleep on the tables. In between each course, there would also be some wedding-y type of thing, like thank yous to all of the people who helped, a poem, pictures with the bride and groom, etc. After the fruit, came the bouquet and garter toss. I of course, had to go and stand in the group for the bouquet toss, and you can bet I was in the very back making zero effort to fight for that thing...a tall girl in the front caught it. The guys were funny about the garter--the first time she (the bride) went to throw it they all ducked. The second time, they all jumped to the sides away from it...but, it still happened to touch one guy. Can you guess who that was? Yeah, Paolo. Of course.

There was a little dancing (some traditional dancing called "pizzica" and then a few slow songs) Then it was time for the cake--which was HUGE. So they cut the cake, we had one more thing to eat that night (you HAVE to eat at least a bite of cake at a wedding, or its bad luck, right?) And it was time to give gifts to the couple and say goodbye. 11 hours later. We literally ate for 6 hours straight.

Paolo's friends were all so sweet to me, even though most of them do not speak any English. His really close friend, Daniela, can speak English perfectly, so it was great to have her around. My brain hurt by the time we were getting ready to leave from taking in some much Italian--language and culture. And I was exhausted. Everyone was. It was a very long day...but no one left hungry, and the newlyweds were very, very happy...which is the most important part.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Spagna, Italia, e NO Ghana

For some reason lately I haven't been in much of a blogging mood. I think truthfully, it has to do with the fact that there is not a lot going on--travel wise...personally, that is another story.

Paolo and I left Asilah for Tangier on August 8, and then went to Barcelona on the 9th. Our last day in Asilah we took a horse ride (the horse pulled us on a flat wooden cart) to a beach called Paradise Beach. It took about a hour to get to, and by the time we arrived we could barely walk because our butts hurt so badly, but it was definitely an experience and that is what its all about, right? The beach was beautiful--huge, with cliffs and caves and waves to play in. We took the horse back to town, and during our stay at the beach apparently the horse ate something that did not agree with it's stomach. This was very unfortunate for me because I was sitting directly behind it all the way back. Every few minutes I would get a major toxic blast straight to my face. I couldn't move because the cart was full of people. I was green and ready to pass out, Paolo on the other hand thought this was hysterical...

We took a taxi to Tangier (only cost us 20 euro) and got extremely lost trying to find out hotel (the taxi dropped us off outside the medina, because some of it is only foot traffic). Finally an un-official "guide" led us there, after about an hour of different (wrong) directions from all kinds of people. The guide tried to demand 10 euro for his services, we gave him 2, and the hotel manager shooed him away. The hotel in Tangier was hands down the nicest hotel I have stayed in on this trip. It was located in the medina (the old part of the city) and was decorated with beautiful authentic Moroccan motif. I'll post pictures soon, so you can see this place. It was wonderful. We met a nice Canadian couple and had mint tea with them on the rooftop that night. From one side of the roof you could look over the port to Spain, and from the other side you could see the entire medina which was lit up beautifully at night. We did not eat dinner there but we heard the food was great, and the man that ran the place was super nice. If you ever find yourself in Tangier for any reason, I highly recommend Hotel Dar Jameel.

We had to get up at 3am for our flight to Barcelona. We arrived to our hotel at about 11am and slept for a few hours. It was nice because the place had a kitchen, so we could cook, keep water/drinks cold, have snacks, etc. It saved us some money to not have to eat out ever night. And, Paolo discovered an American delicacy that he is now addicted to--grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. He thought I was quite the chef and wants me to teach his mom and sister how to make this fancy foreign dish...

This part of the trip included a TON of touristy things. I think Paolo and I walked 100 miles while we were in Barcelona. And I think Paolo ate 100 lbs of Paella and drank 100 gallons of Sangria...the city probably went on a Paella shortage after we left. The first night we went to a nice (kinda expensive) restaurant and walked around Placa de Cataluna and La Rambla. The next day we decided to start with a bus tour. I recommend doing this in most large European cities. You get an idea of how the city is laid out, and you go by a lot of the important sites. You can decide from the bus where you would like to spend time. And with most of them, you can get of at any stop, walk around, take a tour, whatever, and another bus will be there for you to hop on when you are done and you can finish your bus tour. That day we took a tour of FC Barcelona's enormous soccer stadium and museum. It was really cool, it was about the size of OSU's football stadium and equally as impressive. We walked through the locker rooms, the press seats, and down on to the field. I handled it better than I thought I would, but it did stir up some tough emotions. But, I think putting myself in situations like that and learning to detach the past from things I experience now is good for me. (For those of you who haven't figured it out, Leslie played soccer professionally so that is why being in a soccer stadium was strange...same with going to the soccer match in Stockholm...). Paolo loved it. Italy and Spain have arguably the best soccer leagues in the world, so naturally he is a huge soccer fan. We were hoping there was going to be an exhibition game of some sort while we were there (The European season has not yet started) but no such luck. Had we been there this week, Barcelona is playing Inter Milan--which would have been a great game. After that, we walked down by the port, and through La Ramblas, stopping to watch some of the best breakdancers I've ever seen. It was a group of about 10 guys, all from different countries. 4 or 5 of them introduced themselves and the other dancers, and none of them spoke in their native languages to do so. It was really impressive. And they weren't just from Europe--there were 2 Americans, a Russian guy and an African guy. Very cool. We at dinner on La Ramblas that night and it was pretty bad. Over priced and not good food. Disappointing. The next few days are all jumbled in my head, but they consist of lots of walking, lots of Paella, a tram ride over the port, a couple of tours, lots of Gaudi and a Flamenco show.

I really knew nothing about Antoni Gaudi until I got to Barcelona and now I cannot get enough. He is probably the most famous artist of the modernistic movement. We went into one of the houses he designed, and I felt like I was in a real live Dr. Seuss book. It was amazing. He was a brilliant architect and artist, and he has left his mark all over Barcelona. La Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, and Casa Batlló were three of his most famous works and Paolo and I took tours of all of them. Hi most famous structure, the church--La Sagrada Familia, is still not complete. It is being constructed only on money through donations and is expected to be finished around 2020. It was started in 1882.

Barcelona is located on the coast, so there is a large beach, a lot of great food (seafood) and a TON of tourists. It was almost like New York. Each restaurant has their menu in about 6 different languages. There is a great night life, a lot of Catalunyan culture (the native language in Barcelona is not Spanish, it is actually Catalunyan) good shopping and a lot of history. It is easy to travel in because everyone speaks English, and the city is relatively easy to navigate (even if you are like me and have no sense of direction). The last night we were there we went to see Tablao de Carmen, an authentic Flamenco show. I love all kinds of dance, and I remember watching flamenco in my Spanish classes, but wow. The TV does not even begin to capture the passion of these dancers. And their feet move so fast I don't know how they do not catch on fire...

Our last day in Spain we went to visit one of Paolo's cousins in Girona. A beautiful coastal town about an hour train ride from Barcelona. Erica, his cousin is married to a Spanish man that she met in London. The two of them speak Italian, Spanish, Catalunyan and does their 2 year old daughter. It was really humbling to ask a toddler a question in English, have her understand me and answer me in either Spanish or Italian and have to have someone else translate it for me. I REALLY need to learn another language...

Which I think I am going to have to do. I am back in Italy, and have a feeling this will not be my last time. Ghana fell though, and I have been having a really hard time with that. I feel like I am letting myself down by not going to West Africa, because it has been something I wanted to do for years. Tiff and I had a minor problem about it too, because since she decided not to go, I am out about $900 for plane tickets. It is just not some place I feel comfortable traveling to alone--at least without a plan--which is why I attempted to go through the volunteer organization. I had been sending email after email to the place, and not getting any response. When I finally did get a response, my last day in Morocco, they told me they had lost all of my application info and asked me to resend it. Which I did, along with a note saying I HAD to know by the next day if there was a placement for me because I had to get a visa right when I got to Spain. The next day--nothing. I emailed them one last time...and nothing. Until August 13th. When they told me they did NOT have a placement for me. Thank God I did not pay for the visa or book a ticket back to Casablanca (which is where I was flying to Accra from). So I am back in Southern Italy now, with Paolo. Tiffany and I have talked about the moneysituation...because had she not changed her mind we would be in Ghana right now (it was Tiff who originally wanted to go to Ghana so badly--to study drumming...I had been looking into going to Tanzania.) And she is going to reimburse me when she has the money. Which unfortunately could be a while because she has just enrolled in a Masters program in Italy in Tibetan Buddhism ( I know, Tibetan Buddhism in Italy??) so she is a broke college student again.

This blog is beginning to get long...and there is more to write. About Paolo, my thoughts about coming home, what the next steps are, and a sad conversation I had with a Pakistani guy that was staying in my hostel in Rome a couple of nights ago.

But, now that I am here, I have more access to a computer and more time to write, so I promise I will be better. Only 2 more weeks of this adventure...

I have to make the most of it.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


I tried to write this blog my last day in Asilah but apparently it did not post correctly. I wanted to mention 3 things that I had forgot in my last blog...

First, in Casablanca we went to the Hassan II mosque. Wow. Of all of the religous sites I have seen on this trip, this was by far the most impressive. It is huge...25,000 can pray at one time. It cost 1 billion dollars to build, and it was paid for stictly through donations from the Moroccan people. 30,000 artisans contributed to the handiwork and 10,000 workers built it. It took 6 years. I will try to post pictures soon.

Next, Paolo and I saw Kofi Annan, the last president of the UN, while we were in Asilah. He stopped to watch the drummers from Ghana for a bit.

And finally, when Tiff and I were in Florence, we sat a few tables away from Sean Lennon, the sone of John Lennon and Yoko Ono at a restaurant one night.

Thats it for now. We are in Barcelona and it is wonderful. We have done/seen a lot. More on that later...and more on the rest of my trip. Plans changed again and I am not going to Ghana (the organization kinda dropped the ball...)

So when I get back to Italy I will fill you in. Now we are going to seem some of Gaudi's amazing art and architecture...


Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Asilah...and more

I have to try and write quickly because Paolo is sitting next to me, bored out of his head...but it is hard since the keyboard I am using is French and the letters are all in different places. We are in the beautiful town of Asilah, and have been here for the past 5 days. We flew into Casablanca, and spent 2 nights there. I dont really know what to say about Casablanca. It really isn't much of a tourist place, it is more of a real Moroccan city. It is quite dirty, but nothing like Delhi. The first night we walked through the market, Paolo bought a pair of sandals, we went to dinner, and Paolo left his shoes at the restaraunt...he did not realize this until we walked all the way back to our hotel--Hotel Central (which was so cute...very traditional Moroccan decor, and a terrace on the roof with a nice view) we decided to wait until the next day to go back to see if they were still there. In my mind I was quite certain they would be gone, but when we went back the next morning, the restaurant owner happily retrieved the shoes from behind the counter--and this confirmed what I had been suspecting since I had arrived...Moroccans are really lovely people. They have been so hospitable, both in Casablanca and here in Asilah. They are friendly, funny, and very helpful--especially for the two of us. You see, in Morocco they speak Aribic and French. This is a bit difficult for the English and Italian speaking couple...however, its amazing how we can always communicate what we want or need, and can understand their responses. This was one of my biggest fears before leaving on this trip, but I have come to realize that there are so many more ways of communicating than speaking alone.

In Asilah they also speak Spanish because it's so close to the border of Spain, so with my limited Spanish, Paolo's limited French, his Italian and my English we usually have most conversations in 4 languages, where we can greet people in Spanish or French, talk about the weather, or ask for the bill, but everything else is mostly in English or bits of Italiano. It is actually kinda fun.

Asilah is wonderful. It is quaint, authentic, and calm (compared to Casablanca). It is on the Atlantic Ocean, and has a huge beach. Right now there is an international arts festival going on, so there are a lot of tourists in town (mostly Moroccan, Spanish or French). We spend most days relaxing--eatich a late breakfast, having some traditional Moroccan mint tea (which is fabulous), going to the beach, reading, playing paddle ball, talking, resting, watching amazing sunsets, and looking at the new art that is being painted on the white walls of the city buildings each day. In Morocco, there is a section of each city called the Medina, which is usually the older part of town with a giant wall around it. Inside the Medina you will find all of the craft work, which is unbelievable--I could fill 2 suitcases full of art, shoes (they make leather sandals by hand along the streets of the Medina) hand painted dishes, and the coolest lamps in the world. I am trying to figure out how to get one home...I think maybe I will send it home with Paolo and have him deliver it to me in the US... ;)

I did not even think about Morocco being a muslim country and how different going to the beach would be. Many women are still completely covered, and even swim in all of their clothes. I have yet to figure out how it is decided how covered a muslim woman is. There are some that you only see their eyes, others who you see their entire faces, others who are wearing jeans but have their hair covered...and young girls and teenagers dress very western. Some even more provocatively than girls in the US. It is really interesting to see a family, the dad and children in clothes like ours, and the mother in traditinal Islamic clothing. It is like the family is living in 2 different centuries.

But, like every other country I have been to, you just have to watch the interaction amongst families or friends to see that we really are all the same. And here in Asilah, it is even easier to see with so many children around. Children do not see differences...its like they look straight into your heart, or your character, to decide if you are someone they like. It has nothing to do with religion, dress, etc. And by watching families with kids it is really easy to see that they do exactly what we do...and kids will be kids everywhere you go.

Since we have been here, I got a henna tattoo on my hand and talked Paolo into getting one on his arm (which he was not thrilled about). We also watched a drum troup from Ghana perform the other night. Wow, wow, wow. It was six guys, probably in thier early 20s, and they we so much fun to watch, it made me want to go to Ghana even more.

...But, I don't know if that is going to happen anymore. I have not heard from the volunteer organization for over 2 weeks despite numerous attempts to contact them. They have not sent me any info about where I will be staying, working, etc. If I do not hear from them by the time I get to Barcelona I will likemy not be able to go. I have to get a visa for Ghana, which I can do from Spain, but it will have to be expidited...and will cost a couple hundred dollars. I also have to book a ticket from Barcelona to Casablanca (which is where I will be flying to Accra from), but I hesitqte to do any of this if the volunteer organization does not have space for me or cannot organize things in time. So I guess I will know in the next 2 or 3 days. My other option is to go back to Southern Italy with Paolo, and meet Tiffany there. Not a bad second choice...but going to Ghana is really important to me, so I hope everything can work out. dirt.

Despite the fact that poor Paolo has been visited by our friend Montazuma (I think I have enough bacteria in my stomach from India and Thailand that foreign food/water does not affect me as much), we have been having such a great time together. It is so strange how easy and natural it is...and for me, it is scary as hell. It has stirred up a lot of unexpected emotions, and has actually caused me to think about Leslie more than I have in a long time. It is clear that the feelings I am having tell me that that chapter in my life is officially ending, and a new one is beginning. So, it is somewhat bittersweet...I am saying goodbye at the same time as I discover this amazing man that is here with me. Lucky for me, Paolo is so understanding, and I can tell him exactly what I am going through. He understands that a 6 year relationship is not going to be forgotten overnight, and that there will be residule emotions that arise.

The feelings that I feel now, I have only ever felt once before, but this time I know (hopefully) how to do things differently. Paolo and I do not know what the future holds, and we know that no matter what it is it won't be easy. So we can only go step by step (which he tells me on a daily basis) and see where it takes us. All I know is, I feel the happiest and most peaceful that I have in a long time. We laugh a lot, we can have quiet moments, we talk a lot--we make a good team. We will see where this leads, but I think I should probably start to learn to speak Italian...

Sorry....Paolo writing, ok now i 'm tired to wait here ........( I'm waiting for, maybe, 2 hours) i' m really apologise for you ( i know that you wanna know bunches and bunches things about us) but we'll see next days........
ciao ciao

Paolo took over the computer...and Lisa, he learned "bunches" from you thank you very much...

So I guess this is my cue to end the blog. See ya en Espana...

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Never a dull moment...

Last time I wrote I was in Viareggio finishing my last day there, Tiff and I went to the beach, got massages (on the beach for only 15 euro), and had a nice dinner. The entire day, I had a strange pain in my back, which I attributed to my backpack--a pinched nerve or something. The next evening we headed to Florence, to meet up with Paolo the following day. We checked into our hotel in Florence, went to dinner and crashed early. My back was still hurting, but I had been carrying my heavy pack, so I assumed thats what it was...

The next morning I woke up, still in pain. I tried to tell myself it was all in my head, but it was getting worse by the minute, and it had moved from my right lower back to my right lower abdomen. Finally it got so bad that I told Tiff I needed to go to a doctor. We looked up english speaking doctors on the internet...and both that we found were on holiday--till September! By this time it was so bad, and it was a Saturday, that we decided to go to the nearest hospital. On the way there Tiffany called Paolo to tell him we would not be able to meet him at the train station, instead, we would meet him at the hospital. He knew immediately that it was bad when I did not get on the phone (I hurt too bad to talk). We got to the hospital and did our best to explain the problem to a nurse (thank God Tiffany speaks Italian). They checked me in, and put me in a waiting room with an old woman who was sobbing. Apparently she fell and hurt her arm. And, apparently she is a regular at the hospital...the nurses all knew her by name, and everyone kinda gently ignored her. I think more than medical attention, she just needed some attention in I held her hand for a minute, and Tiffany spoke to her about the US.

After about an hour of waiting I finally saw a doctor. I (through Tiff) explained my symptoms, and the doc did some karate chops to my back and stomach. She then told Tiff to leave, that I would be getting an ultrasound and some x-rays. In the meantime they stuck an IV in my arm and started pumping some really good pain medicine into me, that made me nice and loopy--in moments I became fluent in Italian...even if I was the only one who could understand.

The hospital was not as nice as hospitals in the US, but Italy is known for its great healthcare, and the doctor seemed to know what she was doing. The weird part was waiting to be taken to get my tests done. I was put in a room with about 5 other people with various ailments, and there were no curtains between us, like in an American emergency room. So I could see the old man filling his bedpan, the woman talking to God as though he was right there in front of her, and another man, who was in so much pain that he paced back ands forth and groaned nonstop. Seeing sick people does two things to me...makes me more scared and makes me feel more sick. So I tried to not let my mind run away with itself as I waited for the nurse to call me (the pain medicine helped keep me calm).

I finally went for the ultrasound and x-ray. The woman who preformed the ultrasound saw some interesting things in my kidney, which she told me the doctor would explain. So after 2 hours of testing, the doctor, Tiffany and PAOLO come back to explain to me what was wrong. You can imagine my mortification, Paolo seeing me for the first time in weeks, in a wheelchair with an IV in my arm, practically drooling (not really), but definitely a little out of it. He translated that I had passed a kidney stone (not sure when, either earlier that day, or the day before), and my kidney, bladder and everything in that general vicinity was really inflammed; I was shocked, because I had not felt the stone when it came out, and I have always heard that they are excruciating when they pass. But the doc said it was likely a couple of really tiny ones that wreaked havoc as they made their way through me. She gave me some more really strong pain medicine, an anti-inflammatory and an antibiotic. She also said that when I was sick in Lecce (throwing up) was likely when it started.

The next two days I didnt do much except sleep and drink a ton of water...and Paolo, the angel that he is, did not leave my side. He kicked into doctor mode, and made sure I took my medicine on time, drank lots of water, rested, etc. He made me lunch, rubbed my back...was an absolute saint. We debated changing the Morocco plans, but I did not want to change my trip again, and I felt better each day, so despite not seeing much of Florence except the hospital and Paolos friends house, I was ready for Morocco 2 days later.

We are now in Asilah, and the town is amazing. It deserves a blog all of its own, so I will try to write again tomorrow--about Casablanca, Asilah, traveling with Paolo, the emotional rollercoaster of starting to fall in love again, and the closing of one chapter in my life and the beginning of a new one...its terrifying, wonderful, sad, exciting...all at the same time. But Paolo is so understanding, he allows me to feel all that I am feeling without being nervous, overbearing or jealous.

Is this really happening?

Oh! And I will also write about the muslim beaches. It is fascinating to see women swim in the ocean completely covered, even their faces...

Friday, July 27, 2007

To the ladies at CSB...

I just mailed my final-final exam to my professor (he had to have a hard copy mailed to his house, it cost me $50...ahhh) and I shipped my books home (about $100)...but, I am over 20lbs lighter, and mentally a huge weight has been I can relax for the next couple weeks, enjoy my time with Paolo, and prepare myself for Ghana...(working on figuring out how to get a visa when I am in Spain)

We are headed to Florence in an hour or so. Italy has been amazing, I love the pace of life here. Tiff and I have had a good time together, as usual. I didn't take many pictures, but the few I did take I will try to post soon...and add captions to the ones I've put up most recently.

I wanted to say hi to all of my friends at Commercial Savings Bank, in Westerville. I've been thinking about you...Ladies (and Bob), I can't wait to fill you in on the REAL details... ;)

Baci mille.

Until Morocco...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Study break...

So sorry for the blogging deficiency, I am working like a crazy lady on these finals. I might be able to pull off an "A" in my theories class, so I am really, really trying. In Abnormal Psych, I think I'll probably get a "B"...ahhh well, I guess this experience is worth the depleating GPA. The good news is, I will be ALL DONE today! I finished a 15-pager yesterday, and the one I am writing today only has to be 6-10 pages. I've spent my entire time in Viareggio in the internet cafe. It's good that I am here...less distractions (specifically, the hot, Italian distraction that starts with a "P") It's tough though, because Viareggio is a beautiful town--think, an Italian version of Hilton Head; expansive beaches, lots and lots of shopping, restaraunts, gelato (!!), people, dogs--you get the picture. And it is becoming more crowded by the day, as it is a popular vacation destination for Italians and many of them have much of August off for a holiday.

So, my plans have changed slightly again. Surprised? The itinerary is basically the same but with a slight modification. The new plan...Tiff and I are meeting Paolo in Florence on the 28th (we are going on the 27th) and will spend 3 nights there, so Tiff gets to meet and hang out with him for a bit. I have to get a second opinion of this guy...maybe she can pull me back to the ground from the cloud I've been floating on. (But I have a feeling she'll be smitten too). He's really good--he called HER the other day just to say hello, he said "I've been talking to Maggie online all day, and felt bad that I haven't said ciao to you today"...Talk about earning some major brownie points. See? He's knows what to do, he's Italian. Watch out, mom...

Anyway, back to the schedule. Paolo and I fly to Casablanca from Rome on the 31st. We spend 2 nights in Casablanca, then go to a small coastal town in northern Morocco called Asilah...its going to be hosting a big international arts festival while we are there...should be cool. We will be there for 5 nights, and will probably spend a night in Tangier before we take the ferry over to Spain. We are planning on a few days in Valencia, then heading to Barcelona. We will stay with a friend of his in Barcelona.

On August 16th, I fly to Accra, Ghana. By myself.

No worries, though- I am soooo excited....I have found a volunteer program based out of the UK where I will be working at a refugee camp in Ghana counseling children with HIV/AIDS. They will pick me up at the airport, provide me with housing and all of my meals, give me an introduciton to Ghana, and take me back to the airport on Sept 4th. Here is the link to their site:

It is a very reputable organization, I will be with other volunteers from all over the world, and hopefully it will be good experience for the new career I am pursuing. I have been talking about doing something like this in Africa for a while now, so the fact that I've found this organization and I can set up all of the details in such short notice tells me that this was meant to happen. I'm not sure what I want to do with my degree when I graduate, but working for an organization like this is definitely on the list, so this will give me a real taste of what it is like.

Tiffany is no longer keen on going to Africa, but I am determined...and I've learned something about myself on this trip...when I set my mind on something (like having a "travel buddy" in Rome) I will do everything in my power to make it happen :)

I also booked my ticket from New Jersey to Columbus on September 9th. I can't believe it. I can't believe the end is in sight. I can't think about it yet. What am I gonna do when I return to reality?!?! (Literally--I have NO IDEA what my next steps will be).

That will be a blog all of it's own. Written from Columbus after I have had time to process the last 4 months...all I know thus far, is that I would not trade a second of this experience for anything. And I still have 6 weeks left, so aside from booking the ticket and this small paragraph, it is getting no more thought. Things will work out as they should. They always do...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Mamma Mia!

One thing I wrestle with when writing this blog is how much personal stuff I feel comfortable disclosing. So far, I've pretty much laid it all out there. But with Paolo, for some reason it is different. Almost like if I talk about it too much I will break the spell. But, I've gotten some emails lately asking about my slacking on blogging, so I will do my best to report about my time in Lecce.

I think I left off after Paolo's birthday party. I began to feel better the following day, and it was a good thing because his great-aunt came over to the villa for a proper Italian lunch. The lunch began with pasta (a type that is specific to the region-Salento), which was fabulous. Then came the meat... they kept telling me was horse, but I still think it was beef and we were mixing up the translation (at least that is what I keep telling myself...because it tasted an awful lot like potroast, and I don't like thinking that I could have actually injested horse meat). Next was the fish that his brother had caught the day before. Then the fruit. Then the cake. Then the coffee and grappa. I thought he was going to need a wheelbarrow to roll me out of the dining room when we were finished. How are they all not morbidly obese? Lunch took close to 3 hours...which is necessary for that amount of food to digest. If someone had to return to work immediately after a lunch like that, productivity would be at an all time low. His aunt was adorable. She spoke as much English as I do Italiano (NONE) but I think she thought if she spoke louder and louder I would suddenly begin to understand. This unfortunately was not the case.

Most days, Paolo would go into work from 8 until about 1, and I would study, sleep (I was still feeling pretty crappy) and then he'd spend the rest of the day with me. Often we would go to the sea, where the biologist in him would come out. Instead of beaches, usually we would go to rocky (as in boulders) areas with crystal clear, very deep water. We'd be swimming and he would dive down, pick up some kind of sea creature and give me a lesson. At night we'd usually go to explore the nearby towns and cities and he would walk me around the squares, showing me beautiful old churches, castles, shops, restraunts, etc.

We had such a good time together. He really is a neat man. He is the type of guy that makes everyone smile. He talks to everyone...and althought I do not know what is being said, they always wind up laughing. I love that. He is interested in my studies and we have great conversations about the chapters I am reading. He is very in tune with how I am feeling (rare for a man) so if he could tell I was exhausted from being sick, or overwhelmed by being surrounded by people I cannot communicate with, he would change the situation to ensure I was comfortable. The language barrier was sometimes hard, because when we were both tired, it was hard to constantly focus on speaking. You do not realize how draining it can be to have to think about each word that comes out of your mouth. And I'm sure it was twice as exhausting for him becuas ea lot of the times he doesn't know the words he is looking for.

Once in a while I would get frustrated because I cannot communicate with anyone. For instance, I bought his mother a small gift to thank them for having me at their villa. I felt so silly when I gave it to her, because all I could do was hand it to her, smile, and say "grazie" while Paolo told her how appreciative I was. I wanted to be able to talk and joke with his friends without him having to stop the conversation to explain everything to me. But, he would always comment on how he appreciated how I handled the situation, so again, he recognized that it was difficult, and that alone meant the world to me.

I think sometimes in relationships we tend to over-talk (at least I do) and with this situation that is definitely not the case. It's really amazing what other type of connection you build when you do not solely rely on verbal communication but also body language and intuition. There are times when I feel like we were reading each others minds...

Watching him interact with his family, his little cousins, his friends, even waiters or the coffee shop workers made me like him even more. He is genuine, caring, funny, smart...I could keep going. But, like I mentioned earlier, some things I would rather keep to myself...and I don't want to jinx it.

As for the future...who knows. All we can do is take it step by step. Which is a big breakthrough for me. I used to NEED to know that everything was going to work out and be ok. Now, I know that no matter what I will be ok...and that gives me the ability to explore this situation wholeheartedly without fear taking over. He and I are going to Morocco by ourselves, and then to Spain for a week before I meet Tiffany in Ghana. I am really looking forward to traveling with him, because you learn a lot about a person when they are taken out of their comfort zone. It should be good...

But, before that I have 2 finals to finish by July 27th...ugh. So I apologize if I am not as good at blogging. I am spending so much time in front of the computer that its hard to motivate myself to stay any longer than absolutely necessary. I am now in Viareggio, a beautiful coastal town almost directly east of Florence. I'm here with Tiffany, and it's so great to see her again. I think I needed a break from the intensity of being with Paolo so much, and also to be able to speak English at a normal pace, using my full vocabulary. :)

Oh, and speaking of vocabularly, and Paolo thinks my thesis should be on why people retain "bad words" in other languages quicker than any other words. It is so true. I can barely remember how to say hello, but I can swear with the best of them. Why is that? Psychology friends-- thoughts?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

7 is NOT my lucky number...

I wrote the last blog from the airport in London, on 7/7/07, awaiting my flight to come to southern Italy to visit Paolo. I had gotten up at 3am for a 6:40 flight, had tons of time at the airport and my next flight was at 17:15. Ok...since we do not use the 24 hour clock in the states it confuses me sometimes, so the entire time I was thinking that my flight was at 7:15pm.

Wrong. My flight was a 5:15pm. guessed it. I was sitting in the damn airport and missed my flight. I was actually talking to Paolo on instant messenger, and he said "What time is your flight" I said don't worry it's not until 17:15...and thats when it dawned on me. I sprinted to the departures board and saw that it was 17:18. My flight had left 3 minutes before. I was in the airport for 6 hours before the flight and MISSED IT. How does that happen? So, after my two previous days of bad luck, this topped it all. Not only was I not getting to Italy that night, I could not get another flight until the following evening...for 185 pounds (or roughly $370). Then, I also had to find a place to stay. I could have tried to contact Tom again, but I didnt want to inconvienence him, plus to get into London and back to the airport would have cost me about the same as one night in a guesthouse. So I opted for a 70 pound guesthouse that was close to the airport. So $500 later and a missed day in Italy, I learned the hard way how to tell time like the rest of the world does...

Throughout all of it, Paolo was a saint. He was a little shocked when I told him--his response..."but Maggie, how do you lose your airplane?" So cute.

He picked me up at the airport after 2 of the longest days of my life. (A total of 17 hours in the airport) and brought me to his beautiful villa where we are staying. My first day here, I met a bazillion cousins, brothers, friends, uncles, etc...and I met his mom (nerve wracking). It is really hard meeting all of these people because I want to make a good impression, however this is difficult to do when I cannot speak to them aside from saying "hello, nice to meet you." He drove me around the area and we went to the beach--which was wonderful. We were also planning and preparing for his 30th birthday party the next day. We ate dinner on the roof of the villa with his friend Liza and her date, and then called it a night...

Until about 4am when I woke up feeling like total crap. I started getting sick at about 7am (as in vomiting, sick) and did not stop until the afternoon. I dont know if I have ever slept so much in a single day. I had no energy at all, I could barely lift myself out of bed to run to the bathroom. I felt soooo terrible, because he was running around trying to take care of last minute party stuff, and at the same time he wanted to take care of me. Yesterday was the first day that I really felt homesick--you know when you are sick and all you want is to be someplace you are comfortable and do not have to worry about anything? That is how I was feeling. I think the non-stop, India-Rome-London-Stockholm-London-2 days in an airport-Lecce, took a major toll on my body, and it all came to a head yesterday. Today I am feeling much better. Not 100%, but I managed to eat some pasta, and fruit, which is a vast improvement from yesterday when I choked down a couple crackers and an apple.

I did end up going to the party. Needless to say, I wasnt doing much partying. I did my best to appear really happy and to be having a great time, because I did not want Paolo to be worried about me, but all I really wanted was to be back in bed. It was nice to meet all of his friends, and had I been able to drink some of the sangria, then conversations might have been even better. (Its funny how when Italian people start drinking their english gets much better...opposite of us, our english gets worse!) There are very few people here that can speak english, and the ones that do are often nervous because they do not practice much, so they are embarrassed or worried about making mistakes. However, what they don't understand is that I appreciate any effort and totally admire the fact that they can speak another language--this is something that this trip has really inspired me to do...I feel bad about people always having to communicate with me in MY language. Although, realistically if I were to learn to speak another language, the most sensible would be Spanish. (plus, I've had 5 years of it in school) But, these days Italian is the most appealing...

Oh, I forgot to mention what else Paolo showed me on my first day here. As we were driving to the villa, we drove through the little town where his family lives and their business is located. As we approached one corner he said "my parents house starts here" and then we drove for 30 more seconds, and at the end of the block he said "and it ends here". Ahhhhh....ok. Your parents house spans an entire block. We make a stop at his office (where he works with his dad, brother and uncle) and after that he grabbed a garage door opener and led me to a large garage by the office...where they keep their 2 Maseratis, a Porsche, a Jaguar, some kind of old-fashioned car, and Paolo's very own Ferrari. Not to mention the Audi we were driving in and the other 2 or 3 street cars they have for "regular" driving. Uh, yeah. My cars have served one purpose--to get me from point A to point I did not know what to make of this. I asked him when I was going to get to see his airplane...

Aside from the constant shock I have been experiencing, we have had a really good time together. He is an absolute sweetheart, always worried about my well being. I really wish that we spoke the same language because I can tell when he is with his friends he is really funny--and dorky (which I love). But with us, the language barrier is still being worked on, so making sarcastic remarks or teasing, sometimes has to be explained. (not always, though.) There are certain things that he cannot seem to register no matter how many times we go over it, for instance, the words "say and tell." He will say "I will say him that we will meet at 5." And sometimes when he doesn't understand a word, I try to use another word to describe it and he doesn't understand that word either--so there is definitely a lot of charades going on. But, most of the time we communicate just fine. And I love that he still cannot figure out when to use he/she and will often refer to his mother or female friends as "him" or "he".

I think by tomorrow I should be back to normal--I am still exhausted, but I slept well, and I took a nap today. I should have figured this pace would eventually catch up with me, and carrying a huge backpack and my school books does not help the fatigue.

I am officially into the second half of my trip, and it has not been quite as smooth as the first half, but I was expecting days like the dreadful 7/7/07 to arise. (I didnt think it was going to be that expensive of a lesson to learn...) But, I have been able to keep my perspective, and realize that days like that happen, and I am very lucky to be able to be doing what I am doing.

Ok, back to homework, which I have been neglecting a bit. (oops...) Its hard to focus on homework when you are with prince charming at a villa in southern Italy...

Saturday, July 7, 2007

It's been one of those days...

...and it just keeps getting better. I just wrote an entire blog, tried to copy it in case it did not post correctly, and it erased the entire thing...

It all began yesterday. The weather was kind of overcast, but it was still nice enough to walk through the city. I went shopping with the plan to buy something for Micaela as a thank you for letting me stay with her. I was in a very expensive department store--equivalent to Saks--and was looking at candles and gift-ish things. I opened one of the candle boxes to smell the candle, and the bottom of the box was facing sideways. It was like slow-motion, as I watched the candle slowly slide out of the box. All I could do was wait for the CRASH as it smashed into the ground...which was quite loud.

It was about a $60 candle that lay shattered at my feet. And to make things even better, I got a piece of glass stuck in my leg, so it was bleeding pretty badly (little cut, but lots of blood). I stood there with pink glass at my feet, blood dripping down my leg and watched everyone near me pretend they didn't see it happen and quickly scurry away, thinking "that poor, dumb America girl". Luckily, the woman who worked there was really nice. She brought me a cloth and a band-aid and told me not to worry about the candle, accidents happen. I of course offered to pay, and did end up buying Micaela a similar candle (not so big and expensive). I quickly paid for my guilt-purchase and hurried out of the store avoiding all eye-contact.

I was relieved to get back to Micaela's...but as I mentioned yesterday was one of those days, so nothing could be easy. I put the key in the door, turned it counter clockwise twice, like I was taught... and nothing. The door was completely stuck. I pulled, pushed, shook, twisted, pounded. My stuff was scattered all over the hallway, I had worked up a sweat...and nada. Normally, this would not have been that big of a deal...if I had a cell phone. But, I don't. The only way I had to get a hold of people was via the internet. And, you would have thought I'd keep Micaela's and Khari's phone numbers in my purse...but I didn't. On top of it all, Micaela was on a shoot in Norway (she was working on a documentary film) so I had no idea when she was getting home.

I had to find a computer. I walked down the street to a hair salon and asked if there were any internet cafes nearby. I explained my situation and again got the "that girl" look. They told me that there were no computer places close, and asked if I had a number to call...again, I got the look. Finally, they just allowed me to use their computer to get Micaela's number and send an emergency email to her friend Karin, letting her know about my dilemma and seeing if there was anything she could do. Then I had to ask the hair salon people if I can use their phone. I called Micaela, and immediately got a recording--in Swedish. So I had to call back and have the salon receptionist listen to it and translate for me. She said "Her phone is either off or you wrote down the wrong number."


I thanked them profusely for their help and decided to go back and try the dreaded door again. This time, I decided to try my burglary skills (I used to lock myself out pretty regularly in Salt Lake, so I got good at the credit card- pop-a- lock trick). I was sliding my passport up and down around the lock to see if it would catch. Thank God none of the neighbors were home, or the police definitely would have been called. Just as I was about to give up and head to a bar for a beer or five, I heard someone coming up the stairs. It was Micaela. She must have thought I really missed her when she saw how excited I was to see her. You see, there are 2 locks on Micaela's door. I only had a key to the bottom lock, and apparently when I left the top lock had somehow locked. So she opened the door and I ran in and emailed Karin telling her that no rescue units needed to be sent out. (Micaela had forgotten her phone charger on her trip, so no one was able to get a hold of her...)

After that ordeal, we decided to have a quiet night. I had to get up at 3am because I had a taxi to the train station to get a bus to the airport (1.5 hour ride) to make my 6:40 flight. And now I am in the airport for 9 hours before I fly to Italy. I am going to be a zombie by the time I see Paolo. And probably a pretty scary-looking one at that. We got home from dinner at midnight, so I thought I would get 3 hours of sleep. But, no such luck. It was one of those nights where I could not shut my brain off (I hate that), and I never fell asleep.

Micaela and I had a really nice time together. It was good to spend the last night with her--she is really an amazing woman. I sat and listened to her speak in 3 different languages effortlessly in a matter of 2 minutes. She is super talented, and just a ton of fun to be around. I hope it isn't too long before we get to spend time together again...I'd love to travel with her. South America, Micaela??!?

So, to keep yesterday's theme going, today I've lost one of my favorite earrings somewhere between Stockholm and London, and a little girl spilled her chocolate milk all over my WHITE pants. Like I said, I am going to look like a princess for Paolo...

Oh, and Tiff is changing the plans again. Actually it's her dad this time. He has booked a trip to Italy beginning on August 8th. She is planning on meeting him there meaning she is cutting her time in Morocco by a week. She said she will probably meet me in Ghana--which I really, really hope happens because I have been looking so foward to going to Africa, I'd hate to have to change it. It is just not somewhere I feel comfortable traveling by myself. I know I'd be fine, but I won't go alone.

Paolo and his cousin are planning on going to Morocco with us, so we'll see how it all plays out. I am hoping that Tiff comes to Morocco from July 31-Aug 8, then goes and hangs with her dad and meets me in Ghana as planned on Aug 16th. I am feeling a little bit frustrated because plans keep changing. But, I keep trying to remember how lucky I am to just be on this trip, and go with the flow--no point in crying over spilt milk. (ha! clever, Maggie--I am proud of that one considering my brain is in no way functioning on all cylinders right now)

Stockholm was great...and as per usual, I met a really nice guy--Lars (yes, he's Swedish...did the name give it away?) He was very smart, cute, funny...where do these guys come from??! (Europe obviously...oh, and Australia) Lars is getting his PhD right now in some kind of space (like outer space) physics stuff. So any rocket scientist jokes do not apply to him...cause he's like a real one. If there are any single women out there that feel like traveling, come join me--there seem to be plenty of eligible (and worthwhile) guys in this part of the world!

So I guess I'll go do some more duty free shopping now and try to pass the time...don't worry Paolo, I will stay out of the sunglasses store this time :) Which is probably a good idea anyways, with the way I'm moving these days I'd probably break a £500 pair of glasses...

Sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep. Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeease.