We didn’t start the Firenze

I do not know how to sum up the last two cities we went to except to say that they made an incredible impact on my relationships with the people I am now proud to call mi familia. Time seemed to fly by, but the unique culture of each city impacted each of us differently and ultimately brought us much closer together.

I will always look back and miss the art and the views and the food, but all of that pales in comparison to what I will miss most, what I think most of us will miss most: being in these incredible places with each other. Never have I so quickly bonded with 15 strangers on such a deep level in my life, and I sincerely miss each and every one every day.

I will do the briefest summary I can muster of the impact these people have had on my life, because they are all too incredible and unique to not be celebrated individually.

Emma

Emma lived two doors down from me and we hardly spoke a word together until we reached Berlin. This is probably one of my biggest regrets of freshman year, because Emma is a wonderful person. Through CR I learned how incredibly kind and devoted Emma is. Her openness about her struggles inspired me to be more open about my own, and her incredible prevailing faith radiated from her in her amazingly positive attitude. She is hilarious, she is strong, and she stands firm in her beliefs. She has direction; she knows what she’s doing and she guides others through everything; from failure to joy, she’s there for it all.

Audrey

Audrey seriously surprised me when it came to CR. I had been in a class with her and knew her to be quiet and introverted; I didn’t mind that, I consider myself to be an introvert as well so I know how taxing it can be to constantly be around people for 3 and a half weeks. But Audrey never had a moment where she looked like she was struggling; she embraced her struggles and made them clear to us so we could help her through them and in doing so, I think they became less of a burden to her. Audrey taught me that it’s okay to admit you’re introverted so maybe you want to observe and don’t wanna scream on the train all the time, but it’s also okay to get outside your comfort zone and explore as much as possible. She taught me it’s okay to express who I am, because everyone loves you regardless. I am so thankful to her for that, as well as the incredible quote book she kept for all of CR. May the Crecade always live on through those memories.

OC

OC is a wordsmith, and she’s a lot smarter than most people give her credit for. She knows what she’s saying; there’s a reason the quote book is 90% OC quotes, and it’s because she’s hilarious. She says whatever she is thinking, and most of the time it’s funny. When it comes to actually writing, OC is one of the best writers I’ve ever actually met. She can articulate feelings and encapsulate moments in words in a way I don’t understand and honestly, I envy. OC taught me to never be afraid to say a dumb thing out loud, because who cares what other people think? She also taught me the importance of humility; she is absolutely brilliant, but she doesn’t constantly talk about it or brag about her accomplishments. She makes self-deprecating jokes and is always a good sport, but is genuinely one of the smartest and most humble people I know.

Wales

Ahhh, Olivia Wales. You could say we knew each other coming into CR (go Chi-O), but that didn’t stop me from learning more about her as the experience went on. She is enthusiastic about everything and will put 110% effort into everything that she’s doing, which is such an important quality to have. Her energy lifted others up when we were all exhausted and I’m sure she was exhausted too, but she always had a smile on her face and was ready to go to the next thing. Her incredible spirit and love for life inspired me to be more energetic and enthusiastic and made me realize what an impact my own energy and actions could have on the people around me. Olivia also taught me that it’s okay not to be too open; she showed me that there is power and nobility in keeping some things to yourself.

Lauren

Lauren filled every day with more love than I have ever seen in my life. She is a constant light to everyone around her; she is always smiling and always reminding everyone how truly loved they are, not only spiritually but also by those around them. Lauren was open to every conversation and every time I talked to her I came out feeling a thousand percent more loved than when I went in. She has a way of inspiring the best in people, and though I know she struggles with it, I so admire her wonderfully positive outlook on everyday life. Lauren taught me how to start difficult but necessary conversations and make others feel so incredibly loved.

Brittany

I honestly wonder how I made it all year without Brittany Harano. She is goofy, she is caring, she is graceful, and she is my soul sister on about 1000 levels. She spent an entire day doing horrible British accents with me, trying to teach me ballet, and coming up with the weirdest possible poses for the camera, most of which involved both of us almost breaking our backs. She taught me to be unashamedly myself; who cares if German people are staring at how weird you look? You’re never going to see them again. Like, actually never. She also taught me what to do when I felt uncomfortable; there were days when everyone felt stressed and were getting frustrated and it would start to make me panic, but Brittany would just remain at the back of the group with me and goof off, doing ballet in inconvenient places or posing like statues. I’m so very grateful for Brittany Harano and the lessons she taught me.

Brooke

Brooke and I sat right next to each other for an entire semester of Spanish and spoke maybe 10 words to each other the whole time and I am so mad at myself for that. I was mainly embarrassed at how bad I was at Spanish and didn’t want the pretty nice girl sitting next to me to think I was a complete idiot because she was, like, a genius. But Brooke is so much more than an incredibly beautiful genius; she is also kind, and independent, and a leader, and one of the strongest people I’ve come to know. I think I learned the most from Brooke the day we went to San G; I don’t deal with stress well, so when our plans completely fell apart I checked out and just tried my hardest not to have a panic attack. But Brooke thrived under the pressure; she helped people calm down, dictated who needed to call who and when, and got our schedule back on track so that we would make it back on time. It was like watching Wonder Woman work. She didn’t even bat an eye, she just leapt into action, thinking only of how to solve the problem and how to keep everyone as calm as possible and make sure our experience was still enjoyable. Brooke always puts others first and is never afraid of a challenge. She has worked incredibly hard to get where she is and she will continue working incredibly hard to get where she wants to go, and that dedication and work ethic inspires me.

Indigo

Indigo is joy. I don’t know how to describe her other than that. She literally oozes joy wherever she goes; I’m not being hyperbolic when I say it’s nearly impossible to not smile in Indigo’s presence. She sings everywhere she goes, and her voice sounds like an angel; Kyle was right when he gave her the award most likely to sing in the shower and not annoy anyone. Indigo has passion for musical theatre, for bringing joy to the world, and for life. It was amazing to observe her constantly positive attitude; no matter what had happened that day, Indigo would pop in the shower and sing her heart out, and the spirits of the entire room were lifted. She taught me how to bring joy to those around me, and most importantly, she taught me what it looks like when you’re truly in love with what you do. I aspire to love what I do as much as Indigo loves singing, and to do as much good as she does through it.

Taylor

Taylor taught me how to get rid of my discomfort, and as someone who is uncomfortable a lot, I am eternally grateful. Any time there was a lull in conversation, or just quite frankly a really awkward conversation arose, Taylor was there with a hilarious remark or an “Anyways…”. She was never afraid to admit that a situation was awkward, and would always laugh it off or pull me to the side to get out of it. And she wasn’t just funny when things got weird; she was positively hilarious 100% of the time. I believe the quote of the trip comes from when Ryal was flexing and Taylor blurted out “is that the statue of David?!” It’s not just her comments, but her comedic timing, her inflection, her facial expressions; Taylor can have everyone on the floor clutching at their sides within seconds. I loved Taylor’s jokes, her honesty, and her willingness to be open. She inspired me to admit when I was uncomfortable and maybe even find a joke out of it. I’m so glad to have found a friend in Taylor, because she truly is a genuine, sweet, comedic genius and I miss her already.

Ryal

Ahhh, Ryal Reddick. Did someone say high school hero? No? Must’ve been the connotation subconsciously attached to his name. No, but all jokes aside, Ryal might just be one of the best friends I’ve ever found, which was definitely one of the biggest surprises that came out of CR. Sure, I may make fun of him a lot, but that’s just because I’m mean. He inspires me in how much and how deeply he cares for everyone around him. Anytime someone found themselves having an off day, or struggling with something, Ryal was there for them, walking alongside them and helping them find the path to get better. I had my fair share of bad days and he was never impatient; instead, he listened and did his best to tell me what I needed to hear. He truly was Superman on our experience, always being everywhere and taking care of everyone who needed it, and I appreciate it so much. I learned from him how to put others before myself and watched in admiration for his love of all those around him and his need to protect them at all costs. I never expected to come out of CR with Ryal Reddick as one of my role models, but then again I never expected half of what happened on CR to happen. So here we are.

Jacob

Jacob (triple J) is one of the kindest people I know, and watching him interact with everyone was truly a great. He has admirably strong faith and is willing to have an open discussion about it with anyone and he is very comfortable with where he is in his faith and his life. He is not afraid to ask questions that may not go over well or to question aspects of his own life when valid points are made; overall, he remained an open-minded person for the duration of CR. He didn’t know nearly anyone coming in, but his infectious charisma and genuine kindness made him somewhat automatically grow very close to nearly everyone. He cared about everyone on the experience and it showed through his actions and words. I was inspired by his openness, rawness, and overall kindness.

Jake

Sorry, I meant Mr. Lynn*. Mr. Lynn is absolutely one of a kind. He is the man who makes sure everyone is having fun at every event while also being the life of the party, he is the guy who will ask you the most serious question about life very lightly on the way to dinner and then stare you down with his icicle blue dagger eyes, he is simultaneously a dad and in love with Dr. P. He is so constantly happy, and seeing his smile makes it almost impossible to smile back. Mr. Lynn taught me how to balance fun and serious, joking and thought-provoking. He was always down to do whatever spontaneous activity whenever, be it laying in his boxers in the park or buying Amplemann socks, and he was always practically giggling as he did so. But he was also not afraid to ask questions that other people might not, and he would always find a way to get people outside their comfort zone (in a good way). Jake brought so much happiness and so much discussion to the experience, and I’m so glad I could learn from his kindness.

Marat

Marat taught me how to be a true and genuine friend, and I am incredibly grateful. He was often a silent observer, but it was never without reason; he was always looking out for everyone and making sure they were okay. There were several instances in which Marat noticed that I was not having a great day, or that I was thrown off, and he would quietly pull me aside and make sure I was alright. Marat would keep an eye on the men in the streets of Italy to ensure all of our safety, and he pulled me out of the way of moving cars many times. He was a listening ear when I needed one many times and I rarely heard him complain. I aspire to be as true and genuine a friend as Marat.

Nishu

Nishu is a DJ, a doctor, and a great friend rolled into one. He has an infectious laugh, an amazing music taste, and a caring heart. Nishu would thrive every day on 3 hours of sleep and I rarely heard him complain about it. Instead, he’d use the time to work on his music, or journal, or blog, or shower, or do anything productive. Nishu was an expert on not wasting the day; I was getting 7 hours of sleep a night and I was exhausted, he was getting half that and he still managed to produce music. But Nishu is more than a machine; he has an incredible, infectious laugh that makes everyone in the room stare incredulously, and he has a kind and caring heart. I learned so much from Nishu, and I’m so excited for how much more he can teach me.

Kyle

Kyle, or as I prefer to call him, Lentil, is my brother who I was tragically separated at birth from and no one can convince me otherwise. Kyle learned how to push my buttons on this experience; both emotionally and physically. Whether it was calling me “Gail” or getting into elbow fights in the streets of Rome, I found myself resorting to my old sibling rivalry tactics to attempt to win our apparent battle. But Kyle (Lentil) didn’t just push my buttons on a sibling level; he also asked me questions I was in no way prepared to answer. We would be walking down the street, and all of a sudden he would ask one of the most difficult, personal, thought-provoking questions ever, and I would find myself learning more about myself as I answered him. He would always listen carefully and comment and thank me for being so open, and then if there was an awkward lull he would go right back to elbowing me in the side. I admire his deep-thinking, his vulnerability, and his observational skills. Most of all, I’m glad I found out that I have a brother at college.

These 15 strangers lifted me up and helped me through things, be it an emotional breakdown or physically canyoning through the Swiss Alps. What’s truly amazing is they didn’t know they were teaching me these amazing lessons as they did it; they just carried on as they normally would and I learned from the incredible ways they lead their lives. I am proud to call them my best friends and I love them all so much.

“Anyone who ever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot,” -Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

These people gave me so many wonderful things, and confidence may just be the top one. I owe them my whole heart and soul.

Thank you all for the wonderful impact you have had on my life. I will cherish CR10 forever.

Art in Italy

Coming into Italy, I was incredibly excited. Not that Germany and Switzerland weren’t amazing because they surpassed my every expectation, but I had been anticipating Italy for the longest time because of what I was taught in high school. I took latin all throughout high school and had learned about the culture and the Roman customs, heres and Gods. I couldn’t wait to step off the train and geek out to the incredible nation of Italy. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was the incredible art from the Renaissance that defined Italy. 

First off the was the Uffizi Gallery, home of the most famous renaissance pieces owned and endorsed by the Medici family. First of all, these museum is huge, we spent about 2 hours in here and still only scratched the surface. Renaissance geniuses like Botticelli and Caravaggio were showcased all throughout this palace. The Birth of Venus is absolutely striking to behold firsthand. The attention to detail and the incredible portrayal of of the goddess of love served to be a standard of beauty after its crew ion. This only goes to show the influence that these artists had on the public at the time. The most striking piece to me, however was Caravaggio’s Medusa, a grotesque and intricately detailed painting on a shield that seems to take you by the eyes and won’t let you go. Very reminiscent of the ancient legends that staring into Medusa’s eyes will turn you to stone. Caravaggio was able to portray this feeling simply with paint. 

We then visited the famous David by Michelangelo. Even though this complete marble statue does attract fame and tourists from all over, let me tell you it is not overhyped. This towering colossus immediately takes your eyes as you turn the corner to see its majesty. The defined muscles and veins capture you and make you question how it is possible to define such features out of a solid block of marble. I can’t comprehend how Michelangelo was able to accomplish this but according to him he isn’t creating these magnificent statues, he is simply liberating these figures out of the marble to achieve their true form. It’s absolutely breathtaking. 

After enjoying the beauty of Florence, we traveled to Rome: a place just waiting for its magnificence to be explored. We went to the Vatican and were absolutely floored. There was incredible in every corner you searched. From the intricate murals on the ceilings of mere corridors, to the genius of Raphael, you can’t walk 30 seconds without your jaw dropping. In the museum of the Vatican, besides the 3 Salvador Dali paintings hanging in a secluded part of the chambers, my favorite piece by far was Raphael’s School of Athens. The masterpiece done by the genius at the time who was the same age as us, if not younger is incredible. Words cannot do this piece justice. I was most struck by the commentary he included in his painting: by painting this piece that portrays the pursuit of knowledge and dedicating it to the Vatican, he was saying that it is the Catholic Church who controlled knowledge and owned it. This in fact was true at the time because the Catholic Church tried to hide the fact the the world was round and that the universe revolved around it. The fact that Raphael was able to get away with this through his art is absolutely incredible. 

These are only a few of the pieces that struck me so powerfully in Italy. There is so much more beauty that I would love to go back and delve into even deeper than I had. I hope you get the chance to see these magnificent pieces firsthand at some point in your life. 

Sincerely, 

Nishanth Sadagopan

Gondolas Galore

*Note: I know CR has ended, but I still have a few blog posts from the end of the CR that I never got to finish and upload. I don’t want to toss them out, so I’m going to go ahead and post them anyway.*

My new favorite mode of transportation is by gondola.

On our free day in Florence, we were allowed to choose to travel to either San Gimignano or to Venice for the day. At first I struggled to make a decision, but then I remembered that since I was a little girl, I have dreamed of going to the city with rivers for roads. My younger self thought that gondolas floating down the waterways, endless bridges and nothing but sidewalk to walk on was the coolest thing ever. I decided to make my childhood dreams come true – I bought a train ticket to Venice.

Going to Venice was the slightly less popular decision of the two. Of the sixteen of us on the experience, only seven people decided to go. Olivia Wales, Taylor Long, Olivia Chambers, Emma Hofmeister, Jacob James, Jake Lynn, and I chose to wake up super early and hop on a train to see the “City of Bridges”.

Venice was more beautiful than I ever could have expected! We had a surprisingly relaxing day in Venice. We spent the first hour or so taking random alleys and side paths to get to the main square. We somehow managed to avoid most other tourists and locals while strolling through Venice. It was incredibly peaceful and quiet as we walked along the many canals and dozens of bridges. Eventually, we crossed Rialto Bridge, the oldest of the four bridges crossing the Grand Canal and the most grandiose. We took a while to admire the view of the Grand Canal. We were stunned by the realization that instead of parking lots, people in Venice have their own private moorings to tie up their boats! This concept of a “water parking garage” blew our minds.

We kept walking and eventually arrived at Piazza San Marco, or Saint Mark’s Square. This is the largest public square in Venice, and surprisingly, it wasn’t extremely crowded. The Piazza is beautiful! On one side is a breathtaking view of St. Mark’s Basilica. On the other is a wide open space with a museum surrounding the square. There is also a large bell tower and a walkway leading to the water. We wandered around the square for a while, taking in the view. We eventually left the square to get lunch.

After lunch, we explored Venice a little more and eventually ran into a couple of gondoliers. Gondoliers are professional gondola drivers, easily recognizable by their striped shirts and wide-brimmed hats. We split into two groups and hopped in. The view from a gondola puts Venice in an entirely new perspective because you see the city from the water! Our gondolier pointed out the more well-known areas of Venice as we cruised along the water. He even showed Emma, a huge James Bond fan, the areas of Venice where a James Bond movie was filmed. We floated along the Grand Canal and went under the Rialto Bridge, learning about the city from our gondoliers the whole way.

After the gondola ride, we got gelato and talked as we continued exploring the city. Jacob, Jake, and I eventually decided that we wanted to climb the bell tower and check out the view of Venice from above. The others went to find a spot by the water to sit as we rode the elevator to the top. Our jaws dropped as soon as we stepped out of the elevator. Venice from the air is beautiful! We could see the water on one side, the multicolored buildings on the other. Seagulls circled lazily in the air, the water twinkled in the light, and the sound of a clarinet player in the street below floated up to us as we took in the view. We took pictures and admired the city. We had wonderful, thoughtful conversation and came down from the tower with new perspectives.

After our whole group reconvened, we sat by the water and talked for a long time. Eventually, we decided it was time to head back. We took our time to appreciate the channels and bridges and bright colors of the buildings one last time as we made our way back to the train station. On the way, I looked down and realized that there were a couple stolpersteine on the ground. We first discovered these “stumbling stones” in Berlin. They are small, brass plates put into the cobblestone streets with names of Jewish people that lived in the buildings in front of the stones inscribed into them. The stones mark the names, the date of deportation and the name of the concentration camp that they were deported to. They are a direct reminder of the loss that incurred during World War II and the massive impact of the Nazis. It was eye-opening to see a direct reminder about how people were impacted by the Nazis all the way in Venice. We left that place with a little more to think about.

We ended the evening with dinner and a long train ride back to Florence. The final activity of the night was a hike to the Piazzale Michelangelo, where we admired the sparkling Florence at night. Reflecting on the day I had, I couldn’t have been more thankful for how the day went. We had a peaceful day in a city I had only dreamed about going to as a little girl. Not only that, but I got to experience it with some of my best friends. I was so thankful for CR10 as I gazed out over the Arno that night.

Close Calls

So far, transportation has been much more difficult to navigate than I first expected. From diverted flights, close calls on trains, and missed busses, our group has had our fair share of transportation problems. Through it all, I have grown a sense of appreciation for the people who navigate the tricky transportation systems daily. Even after three and a half weeks attempting to figure it out, I’m still befuddled at times when I stare at the intermixed train and bus maps (luckily, there are some people who are quite adept at it). Despite difficulties, transportation has surprisingly taught me a lot, from being wearier of my actions to learning more about myself.

Looking all the way back to our time in Berlin, I realize how spoiled we were with the transportation system. You could get almost anywhere with the train system. At first, I struggled to see where all the trains were going and had no clue how to differentiate between a U-Bahn and S-Bahn train. Thankfully we had an expert navigator in our group, Ryal Reddick. Ryal had been to Berlin before and was able to easily lead our group anywhere and everywhere with his expertise. I’d say by the second or third day in Berlin, I felt like I had a better grasp of how to navigate Berlin. But just when our group thought we were getting good, we hopped onto a train going the completely wrong way. Although only a minor mistake and easily redeemable, on a different train our mistake could potentially lead to a more severe problem. We were able to manage transportation pretty well in Berlin, but that did not necessarily reveal how the rest of our transportation experiences would go.

As I’m sure you’ve heard from blogs before, our night train to Munich was disastrous. I’m not sure what it was, but our conductor had a vendetta against us. Maybe we were too loud getting on the train or he was annoyed because we weren’t sleeping and instead enjoying quality conversation with each other in the different compartments. Whatever the conductor’s reasoning, his treatment towards us was quite cruel. Our entire coach was awoken to his cries of “it is finished,” “it isn’t my problem,” and most terrifying, “two minutes, two minutes.” Don’t forget that this was all expressed in a heavy, thick German accent. We all started scrambling, fearful that we wouldn’t get off in time. In the process of scrambling, food trays and drinks were dropped, items were left (IYKYK), and adrenaline levels were through the roof. When we finally did get off, we stood on the platform and watched the train stay motionless for another ten minutes. I fully believe that the conductor was in glee while watching us struggle to get off the train. Not a great start to Munich, but we were blessed by not going through any further problems with trains in Munich (or at least any I can think of). During and right after our night train to Munich, our group was anxious and exhausted, but I think we can now all agree that it’s a great story to tell, despite the emotional scarring at the time.

Our next transportation problem occurred on the way to Interlaken. This was not due to difficulty in navigating but rather our lack of train etiquette. Right before an announcement came over the speaker, our group increased our volume so that we could hear each other over the loudspeaker. By the grace of God and Dr. P’s many apologies to the train staff, we avoided a catastrophe. Because we had been so loud, we had missed the announcement that everyone going to Interlaken needed to get off at the next stop. As Dr. P was apologizing to the last train attendant, she mentioned that the next stop was the correct one. About ninety percent of us were standing on the platform. In other words, all of us on the platform were wrong and in danger of the doors closing and the train leaving us far from our final destination. Dr. P’s much better train etiquette saved us from the rest of our terrible train etiquette. Our Interlaken train situation has definitely taught me to be more cautious about how loud I am in public and in public transit. I often wince now whenever I hear our group’s raucousness wherever we go. I am not devoid of blame in all cases, but Interlaken has caused me to think more about how loudly I speak.

Interlaken would go on to provide more headaches. When Nishu and I headed out for the day to go kayaking, we stood at a bus stop for a while waiting and waiting, until we figured something must’ve gone wrong. We walked forty minutes to get to our destination. Our attempt to catch the bus on the way back to the hostel would be just as fruitless. Nishu and I speed walked back to the hostel and because of the time crunch, ran the last half mile. I’d find out later more specifically how the busses ran. With that information, sprinting and long treks could have been avoided. But shoot me for not just asking and trying to do it on my own. My refusal to ask the citizens of Interlaken with help in figuring out the bus system led to us missing our busses. This do-it-myself attitude shows up in more than just not asking for directions, but in how I work with others. As much as I hate admitting it, I like being in control, so when others try and take charge, I sometimes respond negatively, which is a fault. It’s funny how much was revealed in missing a couple of busses. In the future, I hope to be more willing to ask for and readily receive help. That includes help in accomplishing a task or help when I’m emotionally drained.

Although Italy doesn’t utilize trains as much as Germany does, our group still found a way to make life difficult by almost missing our train and even missing one on a certain occasion. One morning, our group had to jog all the way to the train station (no mere feat) to catch our train to Pisa. We had time to get on the train easily and sit down and relax (not quite as exaggerating as it sounds). However, two days later, a smaller group of us found ourselves almost sprinting to the train station to catch the train to San Gimignano. Nine of us decided to travel to the Tuscan countryside town for our free travel day in Florence. Our arrival to the train was much closer than the train to Pisa and it started rolling only a minute after we boarded. Thank goodness we decided to sprint, or we would have certainly been left behind.

We arrived at the Poggibonsi train station about an hour later and proceeded to buy bus tickets to get us to San Gimignano, only to miss our bus due to confusion of where we were supposed to be picked up. Eventually we made it to the small countryside town. The town was small and rustic and reminded me of a medieval town with its high walls. We ate some world-famous gelato (twice), got a picture with the store owner, walked around a bit, and sat on some steps so people could journal and converse. The plot thickened when we walked down to our bus stop and our bus decided to no show. Because it was Sunday (or a “holiday”), the busses didn’t run until 5:40, six minutes before our train departed for Florence. Even attempting to call a taxi proved pointless because they, too, weren’t running till 5:40. At this point, I remember feeling so frustrated and many members in our group were on a similar wavelength. This is when one member of our group, Brooke, decided to intervene and have us all sit down and try to calm down and figure out the situation. She found another train that would only have us arriving about thirty minutes later than originally planned. Problem solved. Yet, I was still so frustrated. It was our third bad run in with transportation that day. Full of anger, I sat in the grass close to ten minutes. As I sat there thinking about all that had gone wrong that day and how stressed I was, I asked myself why. Why was I mad? Why was I stressed? Why was I harping on the negative? Everything was fine; we had devised a successful plan to get back. This is something I struggle with so much: focusing on the negative even when the situation turns out fine. In that moment, I decided to smell the roses. Instead of continuing to mope in the grass, I got up and walked over to sit next to my friends on a wall with a great overlook of the valleys surrounding the town. I attribute my action to Brooke’s logical words, Lauren’s positive outlook, and Indigo’s joy in the situation. All three handled the situation in a way that I want to be able to regularly act out. This seemingly frustrating travel day turned into a valuable lesson for me.

I hope these stories don’t sound negative or as if I’m complaining. I just want to tell it how it was and how I felt in that moment. It’s weird to think that such a minute thing as transportation revealed to me so much of my character and personality and even pushed me to look at life from an unfamiliar perspective. Often times, it’s the little things that can have such a great impact.

-Marat Rosencrants

Out of Chaos

One of the most spectacular things to see in Florence, perhaps in the world, is the statue of David, sculpted by Michelangelo. The location of the sculpture is in the Academia museum, sort of in the back. The rest of the museum is filled with lots of paintings of the saints and of Madonna and Child. In fact this was one of the museums that made Madonna and Child a meme on CR10. Any painting we didn’t understand of a woman instantly was labeled as “Madonna and Child” by our group. But I can talk about CR10 memes in another post.

Once we emerged in the hall with David at the end, our jaws dropped. This was it. This was the masterpiece. But there were several other sculptures on the sides of the hall. These sculptures are less famous, probably because they’re incomplete. However, I enjoyed them as much, if not more than the actual statue of David. These incomplete sculptures allowed us to see how Michelangelo’s vision was transferred into marble, how one single slab of rock could be turned into a man. They show humans emerging from the stone, rather than the finished product.

Once we made it to the feet of David and he stood towering over us, we understood how Michelangelo transferred his vision to the piece of rock. It’s amazing how the story of that statue relates to our own lives. Michelangelo was told time and time again that the slab of marble he wanted to use was worthless; that it would never become anything beautiful. But he saw David inside that rock, and new he just had to carve it out.

How many times in our lives do we believe the lie that we’re not good enough? That we won’t reach the beauty we are striving for? I know in my own life, it’s really easy to fall into that trap. But I believe that there is a master sculpture out there that takes one good look at the mess I’ve made of my life and carves out a work of art. I recognize that not everyone believes the same things I do, but isn’t it nice to know that our most disgusting messes can be cleaned up and made beautiful with no more than the vision of that beauty? That’s a thought I find comforting, and the I think that museum was set up the way it was to show us exactly that. We don’t have to be perfect right now; no one expects that. But we all have the potential to be great and to make a lasting impact on the world, even if everything else tells us otherwise. Something spectacular can be made out of the chaos of our lives.

Rivers for Roads

Venice has rivers for roads. They also have gondolas for cars, kind gondola drivers named Paolo who can throw up the frog, and alleys that are easy to get lost in.

Jake, Jacob, Audrey, Emma, Olivia, and I took a train to Venice a few days ago on our own, ready to explore the city that could be underwater soon. I knew that Venice was built on the water, but I didn’t really understand until I walked out of the train station. Boats and gondolas were casually floating down a massive canal that served as their main street. We imagined what it would be like to take a boat to work, or cross the bridge instead of crossing the street every day. We meandered through the back alleys along the side canals away from the bustle of the large crowds. It was peaceful away from the beaten path. The narrow alleys and canals of Venice are bordered by colorful buildings and we sat watching gondolas pass us by.

As we were walking aimlessly through Venice, a man working in a restaurant pointed at Olivia Chambers and said “California?” We were stunned. He was right! Then he goes, “Los Angeles?” He was right again! Who knew there were psychics in Venice? Joking, but it was funny that a waiter could spot where she was out of anywhere in the world. This got me thinking.

Soon after I barely escaped a plunge into the canal by Jake Lynn, we decided to sit on the edge of a canal and soak in the atmosphere of Venice. While I sat on the edge, my feet dangling over the ledge above the canal / street, I thought about homes and the song rivers and roads.

Rivers and Roads is a song about separation from the people that you love by rivers and roads. It’s about physical distance that creates emotional distance, and the resulting change. This song is a tear jerker for any college student who has gone to school away from home. As I watched the people float by in gondolas, and I said “Ciao” to each person in an attempt to become a local, it hit me that everyone has a home. The gondolas held people of all races, nationalities, and ages. They spoke many different languages, and still saw right through my southern accented ciao. Everyone has a place that they go back to where they are comfortable, known, and loved. For some, it is Venice. All Paolo had ever known was rivers for roads and incredible gelato. For others, it is Interlaken, only knowing the Swiss Alps and crystal clear lake as a backdrop for extreme sports. Still for others, it is Germany, where the Ausgangs are hard to find, the schnitzel is good, and the night train conductors are….well…not the nicest.

Home makes people who they are. It shapes us indefinitely, although we have no control over it. Our home will always leave a mark on us no matter where we explore to. I realized in Venice that knowing about someone’s home helps us to understand them and to love them better. It is so important to see new places, to get out of your home and what is comfortable to truly see the world. While I have often said that I wish that my home was in each city we have been to, I’m thankful for the ways my home (the great state of Arkansas) has shaped me forever. It has influenced the great cheese dip vs queso debate (to all the haters- it’s called cheese dip!!) and my family back in Arkansas are the reason I am able to learn abundantly through these amazing experiences.

While homes give us underlying differences, we are united through a universal language. We are able to communicate through major language barriers in smiles, hugs, and handshakes. We transcend differences with the universal language of love. Loving people doesn’t change between cultures and homes and is not limited by borders. I have learned that loving people, no matter where their home is, is the most important.

So whether I walk out of my home to rivers, or I am separated from my home by roads, may I never forget its importance in spreading love.

Firenze by Day, Venezia and Pisa by Night

Well… not exactly by night. Day trips to be exact.

 

Right as we got off of the train and had arrived in Florence, I knew that there would be amazing things in store. On the walk from the train station to our hotel, we casually passed by the Duomo which was breathtakingly gorgeous. But day 1 in Florence did not stop there. Dr. P arranged a gondola down the Arno River and we floated down under the Ponte Vecchio bridge accompanied with fruit and sandwiches, as if the experience wasn’t already perfect. This ride down the Arno was truly a moment I will never forget. We all laughed and talked while taking in the city from the best perspective.

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But the good times in Florence did stop there. We were then split into our groups for the city and were given our new set of tasks. The city did not stop impressing me the entire time we were exploring. Every corner you turned, something beautiful appeared. We explored the Uffizi Gallery and the Galileo museum. Even though many members of my group, myself included, would not consider themselves scientifically inclined, we can all agree seeing Galileo’s finger made it worth it. My favorite thing we saw, however, had to be the statue of David, and not just because of the jokes that have arisen (sorry Ryal). We had seen other replicas of the statue, but none would compare to the original David. I sat looking at the stature trying to comprehend how Michelangelo managed to carve a 17 foot statue out of marble while making the features look so real. The veins on his arm and the way his muscles were flexing were extremely realistic to a human body, so to imagine him chiseling this by hand blew my mind. Not to mention that Michelangelo was only in his early twenties when he sculpted David, further emphasizing his true genius.
Next came the day trips. Our first was to Pisa. Pictures don’t do the dramatic tilt of the building justice. We climbed all the way to the top of the tower and, of course, took some very cliché photos.

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The next day trip was a favorite of mine. Venice. I had always wanted to Venice and had no idea I would get the opportunity to visit. Plus when I found out the city is slowly sinking, I knew it was now or never. A group of 7 traveled to Venice. We made our way to the train station and purchased our tickets and, surprisingly, we weren’t late for our train. After we made it to Venice without a hitch, we navigated our way throughout the city without ever having to buy a map. I loved how the group took the day slowly and wandered around the streets without a real plan. We would take about what the group would want to do next with no stress at all. We had amazing pasta, stopped for gelato, and of course, took a gondola ride.

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As we arrived back in Florence, we met up with the rest of the group and headed to Piazza de Michelangelo to say our goodbyes to the city.
Florence brought some of my favorite experiences along with it, and while I was sad to see it go, the memories that were made were absolutely amazing. From gondolas to eating at Fabio’s restaurant multiple times, we did Florence right.