24/31 hours

June 8 11:00 pm was vastly different than June 9 11:00 pm.  June 8, we were walking from our last meal all together (the last supper you might say) and June 9 I sat in my bed sleep deprived and missing my familia.  I’ll give you a rundown of those 24 hours (31 if you count the time change).

piggy

At roughly 11:00 that last night, Ryal was giving Marat a piggyback ride to Giulitti’s and all of us were sentimental (#senti) and reminiscing on our time together.  Our last Giulitti’s did not disappoint and we soon found ourselves at the Trevi Fountain.  In classic CR fashion we took endless amounts of pictures then ended up sitting in silence, having yet another deep conversation, singing Stand By Me, busting out dance moves, and laughing at stupid jokes/Monty Python quotes/Vine references.  I felt so much at peace that I just looked around at everyone (sorry if I creeped anyone out by staring) and starting thinking about how close we’d all grown in a mere 3.5 weeks.

img_8312

We made the trek back to the hotel and by then it was around 2 am.  Brooke and Indigo had to leave for the airport at 5:30 am, so naturally, a couple of us decided to pull an all-nighter—with only a few hours of CR left, we wanted to squeeze as many memories in as possible.  Some went to bed around 4, but Indigo pulled a bold move and slept on the floor while those strong/delusional enough to stay awake danced around her head to Footloose and various Frog Camp songs.  The time went by surprisingly quickly with card games & back massages, and the next thing we knew, the sun had risen (and the Son has risen am I right?).  We walked Brooke and Indigo downstairs and said the first goodbyes of CR.  It was hard to believe I wouldn’t see them until August, and to be honest I’m still in denial about it.  Soon enough we said our farewells to the second batch of leavers Emma, Olivia, OC, Audrey, Kyle, and Ryal.  It was weird to be separating from people I’d grown so close to, and I trudged back up the stairs to reluctantly pack.  After I’d shoved everything into my oversize suitcase that had been lugged across 3 countries, Lauren, Marat, Taylor, Nishu, Jake, and I grabbed some breakfast.  It was a strangely silent breakfast due to the mixture of lack of sleep and an overload of emotions.  We grabbed our suitcases and the time came for me to say bye.  Weirdly enough, the song Time to Say Goodbye that had been played by all the street performers in Florence popped into my head and the feels began.  Lauren and I were waiting on the small and questionably secure elevator, and I just had to hug her and fight back tears.  We gave our final hugs and got in the van that would take us to the airport—the moment Lauren and I sat in the van, the tears came back full force and it actually hit me that CR was coming to a close.  Something I had looked forward to since December 17 was ending, and I didn’t want to accept it.

IMG_6414

Once we got to the airport, we parted ways, and for the first time in 3.5 weeks I was truly alone.  After going through excessive amounts of lines and security, I made it to my gate and onto the plane.  I found it weird being surrounded by so many Americans, and I started to realize how annoyed the Europeans probably were by us…we weren’t exactly a quiet bunch and probably disturbed a number of dinners and peaceful walks.  Too late to fix that now, but now I am more conscious of my noise level.  Nothing can dim the volume of my obnoxious laugh though, much to my chagrin.

On the ginormous plane, I was seated next to an angsty tween boy who avoided eye contact with me and didn’t smell too pleasant for 9 hours, and I spent most of it trying to process CR.  I landed in Charlotte and Facetimed my mom and drank enough coffee to make my body shake.  I figured if I hadn’t slept at this point I might as well tough it out until that night so I could try to keep the jet lag to a minimum.  After my final flight, I arrived in Memphis with bloodshot eyes, but was excited to see my family.  The Harano’s were waiting for me holding a neon pink welcome home sign, and we grabbed my bag and trekked into the muggy Memphis heat.  Man, I thought Rome was hot, but Memphis wins the humidity.  We chomped up some dinner and while they peppered me with questions, I had few answers because I still couldn’t articulate how amazing Cultural Routes had been.  How can you go into detail about how much you’ve grown as a person by learning more about your peers and the world when someone is asking you how skydiving felt?  They soon realized how exhausted I was and I fell into my greatly-missed bed and into a deeeeeep sleep.

plane

It was one of the most exhausting days of my life but I have 0 regrets about staying up with my familia to pack in as many mems as possible.  It’s been weird and borderline dreary being so far away from everyone, but I know that when we get back to campus we’ll all jump right back into our same conversations and laughs.  I had the best 3.5 weeks of my life on CR, and I cant wait to see how it impacted everyone else.

Advertisements

Veni. Vidi. Vici

Rome. A city rebuilt upon itself. Layer upon layer of ancient history, stacked on top of more ancient ruins. Not to be too stereotypically Italian, but it really is like a homemade lasagna with its layers of pasta, ricotta, and sauce, layered again and again over hundreds of years. Walking through Rome, it is so easy to just stumble upon old ruins. What I found to be most interesting was that some of those ruins didn’t even have a plaque explaining its significance. It is simply an uncovered piece of history laying between a few contemporary buildings. Its beauty was almost too much to comprehend. On our final day in Rome, my small group stopped to take a look around a church. On our walk back, Brittany said to me, “I love how we are just taking a casual stroll by the Colosseum.” She was so right! It almost becomes too easy to take all of this majestic history for granted after all that we have seen and done in the last 3.5 weeks.

As our time in Rome comes to a close, I realize how much I will miss this city. I will miss strolling through the ancient Forum where an entire civilization used to “hang”. I will miss making wishes in the Trevi Fountain. I will miss learning so much within the walls of Vatican City. I will miss standing outside Russell Crowe’s hotel, waiting for a gladiator sighting. But most importantly, I will miss our evening walks past the Pantheon headed straight for Giolitti’s.

More than missing Rome and the gelato, I will miss Europe as a whole. Traveling has allowed me to examine the American culture from a distance. I found plenty of differences between our culture versus the Europeans, some negative and some positive. One thing I certainly appreciate about the Europeans, especially Italians, is the way they take a nice long time to sit and enjoy their dinner. So often in America, we barely sit down to scarf down our food before we run off to our next task. Forget having time to converse with family or friends. The dinners of CR were one of my favorite parts of the day. They would often linger on for 2-3 hours. During this time, we would share with each other every aspect of our day and the interesting things we learned about the city and ourselves. I think Americans could learn a great lesson on the tradition of coming together at the end of the day and having great conversations over a meal.

But what I will miss most is not spending every waking minute with the CR familia. I could probably write an entire blog post over each individual on CR and how they impacted my experience and how much their friendship means to me. Writing this blog now, I am suddenly aware of how close we have all become. We could laugh, cry, or make the silliest jokes, all with full confidence that another person would be right there in the moment with us. While CR has come to a close, I am so eager to see what the future holds for CR10. But what is most exciting is that we still have three years together to strengthen our relationships and build on top of what we have started.

CR10… We came. We saw. We conquered.

Veni. Vidi. Vici.

blogrom.png

Trading Gelato for Peaches

Heading back to Georgia

June 12, 2018

I am currently in an airplane, heading from London Heathrowe to the Hartsfield Jackson airport in Atlanta. After spending three and a half weeks with my Cultural Routes 10 familia, I’m not sure what being home will feel like. Part of me is eager to get some r&r and time to process… But a big part of my heart feels like I’m gonna be wishing I was back in Europe, preparing for a day of brand new adventures. Each day of CR was full of discoveries, conversations, smiles, challenges, and growth. Some days were more challenging than others (check out Marat’s blog about transportation…),  but I can assure you there was not a single day that was boring or predictable. I appreciate that Dr. P didn’t reveal to us the full itinerary ahead of time. He usually didn’t even give us a hint at what the next day would look like. We were encouraged to enjoy the present moment and trust that tomorrow would come at just the right time–not worth worrying about it! Reminds me of a verse in the book of Matthew that tells us not to worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring about its own troubles. Basically, since worrying is not productive even in the slightest, the best thing we can do for ourselves is focus on the moment we are in and trust that we will have all we need for tomorrow. With that in mind, CR10 helped me realize how truly special each and every day is. If I become so preoccupied with tomorrow, I miss out on the wonders of today. Skydiving happened and was fantastic, but I’m so glad I didn’t spend the first week of CR thinking about it. I got to enjoy Germany and then experience the beauty and adventure of Interlaken all in its own time. And then I got to move on and be present in Italy.

This mindset of being present and enjoying where I am carried over into my two days in Dublin with my family, right after CR10 ended. Instead of asking, “Where are we going next?” or “What are we doing for dinner?” a hundred times like I’m more accustomed to, I caught myself before I asked and reminded myself to enjoy the moment before it was gone. I admit, I may have asked about dinner a couple of times, but I’m certainly getting better. It’s all about the process.

San Gimignano groupInterlaken Jake and OliviaTower of Pisa with AudreySkydiving RUNBerlin Wall Team Charlie

Because I know I’ll be giving advice to future CR members, I figure I may as well start now while it’s fresh. I’m sure I’ll have more to add as time goes by, but here’s what I would tell future members of the familia at this point:

  1. Some or all of my advice may not apply to you, and that’s okay. I found that some of the advice I received before CR helped me, and some did not necessarily help me. But none of it hurt me. My advice is to not rely too heavily on the advice you receive. Take that as you will. I do appreciate all of the words of wisdom from mi familia. But I urge you not to let our advice hinder you from going into CR free of specific expectations. I think part of the beauty of CR is that you are not in control of your experience. You are in control of your reaction to your experience. But, in a large capacity, your ultimate growth is not entirely up to you. Just let it happen. So when you are told to make sure you do this or that, take it all with a grain of salt!
  2. Pack lightly if you can. I brought a pretty large backpack and a fairly small carry-on sized roller suitcase. I re-wore a few t-shirts, but traveling was so easy. I don’t regret my packing choices at all.
  3. Drink lots of water. It’s not always free, but it’s always worth it… Your body will thank you!
  4. If you have a sensitive gut, maybe don’t eat gelato three times in one day. Just a warning, but do as you will……. Gelato is delicious….
  5. Give yourself grace. You’re gonna mess up and you’re gonna have rough days. I promise you, everyone does. I struggled a lot with energy. I’m typically a very bubbly, energetic gal, but I have found that when I run low on energy, it’s noticeable. I can go from about 75 to 15 mph in a matter of seconds. People would ask me if I was okay, and I’d be like, “Yep! Just tired.” But after a while, I started to question myself. Eventually, I got so frustrated with myself for “not being me.” I thought I had to be energetic to be the most authentic version of myself. Then, after sharing some of my feelings and struggles with a close CR10 buddy, Audrey Payne, and listening to her words of wisdom, I started to get it. I learned that I am someone who needs a bit of quiet, laid-back time to re-charge. Though I didn’t get much alone time on this experience, I did learn how to stand back and quietly observe for a little bit, when necessary. For me, it was less about my energy levels and more about embracing grace.
  6. Bring your TCU student ID. Many times in museums and memorials, we were offered a student discount with our IDs.

Ultimately, this has been the most exciting three and a half weeks of my life, and I can’t express how grateful I am for this experience and new friendships. I’m quite sure I will continue to make many personal discoveries over my next three years at TCU and beyond because of CR10 and these people. Thank you Dr. P, Lindsey, Audrey, Kyle, Abby, Jacob, Jake, Ryal, Brooke, Emma, Brittany, Nishu, Lauren, Taylor, OC, Olivia W, and Marat. I have learned so much from each of you, and I can’t wait to be back on campus with y’all! And special thanks to Kaity Butcher and Davis Donaldson for making this happen.

So much love,

Indigo

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.

One Last time

I am unsure of where to even begin when it comes to describing my experience at CR. Usually my first sentence when talking to people goes “We just did so much in 3.5 weeks, I can’t wrap my head around it”. I am going to stand by that statement, but I will do the best I can to sum it up, even though thats not entirely possible.

There is nothing like CR. From the cities of Germany, to the mountain tops of Switzerland, then to seaside Rio Maggiore, to finish back in the cities of Rome, we truly covered it all. My abroad experience beforehand was brief and involved a lot of handholding, this however, was far from handholding. We dissected each city with our team members and gained more knowledge than could ever be done in a classroom setting. We had the opportunity to dive into each culture and make the city our own as we grew together as a group. I did things on this experience that I did not think I would ever do. I am pretty positive that I conquered my fear of heights after jumping off rocks, hurling myself out of a plane, and being tricked into doing the thrill walk in the Swiss Alps. I could not have done any of it without the support of my friends. They made every aspect of the trip so fun and I know that I can trust them and count on them to support me for the rest of my life.

As amazing as all the things we did are, what CR really boils down to is the people. I cannot thank Dr. P enough for finding such genuine, supportive, and caring people to go on CR and then somehow deciding to put me with them ;). For three and a half weeks I talked to and experienced life with the same 17 people and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It becomes pretty clear how amazing the people you are with are when you are constantly asking yourself how on earth you did life without them before. I am so grateful that from this point forward, I don’t ever have to do life without them again. Each and every one of them has impacted me greatly and my love for them runs so incredibly deep. Thank you all for showing me what makes you, you, and I am beyond grateful for you.  Thank you for the memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.

Looking back on my experience, words cannot describe how much I miss it and how badly I want to go back a do it again. As sad as I sound, there is an upside. I now have 15 best friends that I get to do life with for the rest of college and for the rest of my life. Now that, that makes me happy.

A special thank you to Dr. P and Lindsey. They are remarkable. This experience is planned so perfectly, every moment of everyday has been thought out and it is out of them love that they have for their students. Dr. P left his wife and kids, Lindsey left her husband, to spend 3.5 weeks with 16 super loud, always hungry college kids. I am not sure why they wanted to do that but they just love us that much and want to invest in students and I cannot thank them enough for that. I have grown in numerous ways through this experience and none of that could have happened without the help of CR. I was pushed out of my comfort zone and learned how to live in the uncomfortable, its pretty fun I have to admit.

I also want to thank my wonderful parents for allowing me to start off my summer away from them and allowing me to go see the world. I love you and I can’t thank you enough for all you do for me, I am truly blessed to have you as parents.

Thank you CR!

Unexplainable Beauty

I have been home for three days and have yet to find the right words to explain CR. As I read back through my journal, the word beautiful is written all over it. 

I feel like my words don’t do it justice. My words can’t capture the breathtaking feeling looking out over the Swiss Alps from the top of Europe, or the laughs shared by everyone when Jake Lynn wouldn’t move from the path of Russell Crowe’s car after being yelled at in three different languages. My words can’t capture the feeling of skydiving, or the chaos of the trains, or how hard my head hit the pillow each night. My words can’t fully explain how much each of these people mean to me. 

DSC_0829.JPG

I have used pictures and videos to explain. They have the laughter of the group, the background noises of the cities, and the scenery of each place. However, my video of the first night in Florence will never recreate the exact feeling that I had. We were floating down the Arno River in a gondola, eating fruit, and laughing. The sun was setting, and the lights were sparkling on the river. This was a beautiful introduction to Florence. We were the only ones on the river, and this moment was pristine. It was beautiful.

 

C996FF40-7FBE-4912-B7E8-C5F5BD050AFB.JPG

Beauty took many different forms throughout the past three and a half weeks. I saw beauty in Germany. Their remembrance of their dark, complicated history is beautiful. I first saw the beauty in the Memorial for the Murdered Jews. It was beautiful how the people came together after the Holocaust to remember the people who were senselessly murdered, and give a voice to prevent anything of this nature to occur ever again. I also saw beauty in the people who stood up for the injustice. In Bayern Munchen, the soccer team who refused to align with the Nazis because there were Jews on their team. Also, in Otto Weidt who employed blind and deaf Jews and saved hundreds of lives. 

Seeing the beauty in Interlaken was easy. The moment the train turned the corner to overlook the scenery of Interlaken, I decided that was what heaven might look like. The sparkling, blue lakes surrounded by fresh green grass with the Swiss Alps touching the sky behind them. It was beautiful to see people overcome their fear of heights, to sing together in the bus, to celebrate together after we touched the ground. It was beautiful to rest and soak in the scenery. 

In Riomaggiore, we saw beauty in the simplicity of life. In every day routines by locals, small shops, and long dinners. We saw beauty in the bright colors that dotted the mountainside, and the small alleys winding down to the sea. I saw beauty in the expanse of the sea stretching as far as the eye could see, and in the water splashing against the rocks. I saw beauty at the top of the mountain, and within the conversations during the climb. There was beauty in gelato, in laughs, in the youth in Asia, and even in the crowded hostel. 

Florence brought beauty in many forms. In art: the David, Birth of Venus, the Duomo, and in street artists who played for us in the Uffitzi courtyard each night. In the gondola ride the first night that I could relive over and over again. We also saw beauty in long dinners full of belly-aching laughter, carousels, and mine and Olivia Chambers’ duet with a random couple. However, the real beauty in Florence was Ryal Reddick’s dinner attire, due to which he became known as scarf boy. 

IMG_4026.JPG

In Rome, we saw beauty in the Trevi Fountain as we attempted to be Lizzie McGuire, the Vatican City, St. Peter’s Basilica and the incredible history behind each place. Also, we saw lots of beauty in Giolitti’s each night, and I’m sure Jacob James saw the beauty of success in eating 25 scoops of gelato to break Matt Williams’ record. Rome also held bittersweet emotional beauty. Each day was exciting in the discoveries that it held, but brought the impending end to CR even closer. I saw beauty in my streaming tears while CR members stood up and celebrated each other with awards, in Dr. P’s last speech affirming each of us, and in the all nighter that some of us pulled before waking up to a 12 hour flight home. I was able to see the beauty in each person’s heart throughout the past three and a half weeks and love them better.

CR – thank you for showing me that there is beauty in everything, and in everyone. I will never be able to fully explain this beauty in words, but I think that is what makes it beautiful.

IMG_8154 2.JPG