Bloggin’ Bonn: Introduction to Studying Abroad in Germany

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Hey everyone! My name is Michael Kaefer and I am a senior currently studying abroad in Bonn, Germany! I am studying a Bachelor’s in German Language and Literature as well as European History. I’ve been shooting video blogs since I’ve arrived here in September and when I found out that SUNY Oswego had a blog page, I knew I just had to share to everyone about my experience abroad. From Oktoberfest to the Christmas Markets, and my adventures throughout Europe, I want to share with you what my life is like living in Germany for a full year. I know I’m late in the game (I come home in August and I just started publishing my blogs here, even though my video blogs are on YouTube) but that doesn’t mean they won’t be relevant to anyone studying abroad in the future. You can view my older vlogs on my YouTube playlist at http://www.blogginbonn.tk or whenever I post a new one, it should be here on Oswego’s blog page. Here are a few of my personal favorites, as well as videos of what show how the past few months have been for me in Bonn.

Bonn is a wonderful city- just the right size, not too big and not too small- and I can easily go to the larger Cologne thirty minutes away (a.k.a. where the fun is) whenever I want. I’ve met tons of wonderful people (and you will see that through my videos) and have learned and gained so much from my experiences. I just got back from Poland last night, and I’ve already been to various cities in Germany, Austria, and I’ve been in Dublin AND met up with some Oswego students there! Pretty cool. Next week I am researching my genealogy in southern Germany for a few days and then my second semester starts here.

I’ll leave my videos to explain a bit more, hopefully by giving you the ability to visualize, see my personality, and see how I’ve changed since I started vlogging in May, four months before I left, and now. Please leave your comments and suggestions in the comment section below! I would love to hear what I can add, make a video of, and just your questions and whatever. I am very willing to hear from you all!

These are some of my favorite videos:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks for watching-  I am currently working on my videos for a third trip to Munich, Austria (Vienna and Salzburg), and Poland (Warsaw, Krakow, and Auschwitz). Stay tuned for more!

 

A Self Titled Life- Followed With Goodbye (Day 7)

In the past 48 hours I have been on a nine-hour plane ride, an hour and a half bus ride from JFK to port authority and a five and a half hour bus ride from New York City back to Syracuse. That is a massive amount of time for me to have written and posted this blog, but here we are. I’m procrastinating. Not because I don’t want to write it, but because I don’t want this adventure to be over. Yesterday when the airplane landed I wanted it to take right off again and have the announcement say “Just kidding. You don’t want to be here anyways. Please keep your seatbelt fastened while the fasten seatbelt sign is lit. Arrivederci, America.”

That would have been great, but that’s not what happened. I got off the plane and boarded another. We arrived in Italy last night. SURPRISE.

Just kidding. I’m back in Oswego, laying in bed writing this blog because I have one more post to make before I have to say goodbye. I’m hardcore avoiding it. Okay. I’m done procrastinating (I’m definitely not). OKAY, YES IT AM.

One of the trippiest things yesterday was walking in New York City because earlier that day I was walking around in Rome, halfway across the world. Can you even imagine not having airplanes? I’d still be canoeing my way home.

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Me. (Not really. I just googled “person canoeing across the ocean.)

Before I left for this trip this guy I TA with asked me what I was doing for break and I almost lied to him and said I was just going home. That obviously wasn’t true but I was kind of embarrassed to be like “oh, I’m going to Rome.” *Flips hair and looks at manicure* Which is so not true because A. I don’t comb my hair and B. I’ve never had a manicure. I didn’t want to sound like a brat who international travels all the time because it’s no big deal. Well, I think it is a big deal. Now that I am home I can’t want to tell everyone that I was in Rome. Not as a bragging right, but because I feel so lucky to have seen it for myself.

I’ve never seen anything that could compare to Rome or Florence. They were so beautiful in their own ways that everything else seems so dull now. Food here will never be that good again, the scenery is cold and bleak, and hello, there is no gelato. That should be illegal. Someone call Olivia Benson.

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I called her.

I can’t find the words to describe what I took away from all this, but I’ll give it my best shot.

1. The people. I met some of the most incredible people on this trip. Some I knew a little before I got there and others I didn’t know so much as their name before we landed halfway around the world together. I became such fast friends with these people and I wouldn’t have wanted to travel to Italy and have made these memories with anyone else. They were always willing to take an adventure, or stick it out in the rain, or laugh at my corny jokes. Before we even left we already made plans for weekly dinners to catch up and relive our favorite memories. Had it not been for this trip I would have never made the friends I did, and that seems terribly lonely to me.

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I had some pretty solid roommates. 🙂

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Little. Blue. Boots.

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This is my favorite picture of the trip, It just is.

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Colosseum photo shoot…at night.

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The top of St. Peter’s cathedral

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We took like 40 thousand pictures that night.

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One of my favorite humans, for sure.

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Thanks for the pictures, Jess. 🙂

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As a group the rain never stopped us.

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This was the last day with the roommates, but a good day it was.

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The whole week lead up to the Colosseum. Totally worth it.

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This is the White House that’s not the White House.. oh and Jess.

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You guys made this trip so much fun. Thanks so much for that.

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Seriously, some of my favorite people who I didn’t know a week ago.

 

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Shaheib.

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The first night. I had no idea how many pictures we d the after that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. The food. I thought I knew what good food was, then I went to Italy. I’m almost avoiding eating things I used to think were delicious. BUT on the upside I missed vegetables and fruit. There weren’t too many of those there so I’m excited to eat them again. Everything else on the other hand…… moving on.

 

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This makes me upset just looking at it. I want this all day, everyday.

You do not understand how big this was. I wish I could brake off a piece and share it with the world.

You do not understand how big this was. I wish I could break off a piece and share it with the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. The architecture. I will never get over the fact that there are people in Rome who have never seen the Colosseum. It’s kind of like people from Buffalo never seeing Niagara Falls, but that’s not the Colosseum. The buildings, the monuments, the art, the streets, the everything, I could have gawked at it for years. I’ve never seen anything so magnificent or so beautiful. I loved every second of it. Everything just seemed to fit, like there was a thought behind how every detail of the city sat. Every stone had a place and that place was valid. It wasn’t build for functionality, but for beauty. There is an obvious reason why people all over the world want to travel to Italy and see the architecture and paintings. All I want to do is go back and see it all again.

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Santa Maria del Fiore

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Florence

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Rome

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Also Rome

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Also, Also Rome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. The Ally. (Really, it’s just me but all of the other numbers started with ‘the’ so I didn’t want to break the chain.) Traveling to somewhere new whether it’s down the road or around the world changes your perspective. Both your perspective of the world and of yourself. This was actually the first trip I have ever been on without my Mom there to share the experience. When I was sitting on the bus last night I felt so empowered that I did that all on my own. Sure, I was there with a class but I was the only one responsible and relying on me. The night 5 or 6 of us took the subway to see the Colosseum at night, I was so excited that we did that on our own, we just navigated a foreign city by ourselves. We are capable of anything. I think the same thing about myself now, too. My Mom had sent me a message on Facebook when I was trying to figure out how to come home after the plane landed and all she said was “You can figure it out. Use your head, you’re smart.” She’s right. Not to sound conceited but I am smart. I can do whatever I set my mind too, the only thing standing in my way is me. All I know is that I have so much to learn, but I also have already learned an incredible amount of things. I’m excited to see what’s out there next for me to do.

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The doors at St. Maria Degli Amgeli E Del Martiri

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The back set of doors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and finally….

5. Professor Alessia. (This one doesn’t start with ‘the’, so sue me.) I have never been more grateful to spend time and get to know another human being as I am to have met Professor Alessia. He seriously opened my mind to a whole new world that’s out there. He was so sweet and patient and passionate about a place he loves with all his heart. He cares about his students so much that he ditched dinner with his wife one night because he said his students were more important. He stayed around with us in Florence to bargain prices down in the market so we wouldn’t get ripped off. He was always willing to show us something we wanted to see even after the rest of the group left. He was determined to help us have the most amazing trip that we could because he believes you learn by experiencing, not but reading and writing papers. This trip was amazing, but it was really amazing because he was there to make it that away. On the last night we had our huge group dinner and he made a speech that we were one of the best classes he has ever taught and he loved being our professor. The whole room applauded, even the people who were just dining in the restaurant. He deserved the applause and a thousand more after that. I didn’t want to leave Italy but before we went through security he went down the line and hugged us all individually and thanked us for coming. I thanked him too because I honestly will miss him so much and have an incredible amount to thank him for.

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SERIOUSLY.

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THIS.

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MAN.

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IS.

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THE.

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GREATEST.

 

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HUMAN.

I might not ever make it back to Italy with professor Alessia or with the my friends from the trip, but I will make it back to make different memories. I will always be able to look back and smile at all the I have done and learned while I was there. This trip was something special and something that has shaped my life in a new way. It’s shifted my perspective on the world, even if it’s just by knowing how pizza should taste. I’m so thankful to have made the most of everything that I could. I’m no going to be in college forever, but opportunities like that don’t knock on my door everyday, but I have nothing to regret. I only have this one life, and I’ll be damned if I don’t live it for everything it has to offer me.

I have no clue where my next adventure will take me. At the moment I don’t have anything on the back burner, but there will be one. I don’t doubt it. I want to get a map of the world and put a pin in every place that I have been and before I die, do my best to have a pin in every place in the world. No dream is too big. That’s what I believe.

Well, I guess this is it. Thanks to anyone who’s read my blog. One post or all of them, I appreciate you sticking with me through the magical world of the internet. That’s pretty awesome which in turn makes you awesome. I’m not in Italy anymore, but what I have done and seen will always be with me. There is more to learn out there. There is always something new to discover.

Until next time, make the most of your life in any way that makes you happy. Treat yourself, you deserve it.

Stare Strano. (Stay Weird).

Ally Costanza

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Keepin’ it peel since ’93. Until the next adventure, I gotta split.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Current Wish- You know what, I’m pretty content at the moment. You can have my extra wishes.

 

 

A Self Titled Life- I’m Not Ready To Say Goodnight (Day 6)

So there was this crushing weight on my shoulders all day today. One might think it was the crushing dread that today is my last day in Rome but actually I was carrying an elephant on my shoulders all day. Beautiful creatures, but damn are they heavy. Sadly, today was my last day in Rome, but not my last day ever. That is unacceptable. So it is simply my first last day.

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I went into a book store today and found the Diary of a Wimpy Kids books in Italian

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Just a page of the book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first last day started on a walk to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It reminded me of the White House but it is so much more immaculate than the White House that the White House is irrelevant in comparison. How many times can I say White House in one sentence? WHITE HOUSE WHITE HOUSE WHITE HOUSE. There like a bazillion statues that are obviously a total artistic letdown like everywhere else in the city. Obviously.

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This building is massive.

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It seriously reminds me of a cool, detailed, enormous White House.

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This statue sits on top of the building and it’s green but the sun was right in my camera but I like the shadow effect.

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These things were built with none of the technology we have today. It’s unbelievable.

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ANOTHER picture with this great human on the top of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we went to see the Roman Forum which is a collection of ancient Roman ruins. They were pretty interesting. Tip- If you go to the Forum and purchase a ticket to visit inside, you can buy a double ticket that is also a ticket to see the Colosseum which is just down the street. Most important part of the tip- this ticket gives you a skip the line pass at the Colosseum which is at least a two-hour wait. I can’t wrap my head around the fact that these structures were build and then considered ruins before the US was even an idea.

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A temple in the Roman Forum.

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An old sign/rock wall/ I’m not sure what it is but I thought it looked cool.

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Caesar’s ashes are in the Roman Forum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We revisited the Colosseum but this time it was during the daylight. Standing inside the Colosseum is breathtaking. It’s so hard to imagine people used to come there for entertainment that was something other than television. Being there gave me the feeling that this place was more than just an enormous structure. People spent their real lives in there, it’s not just a chapter in a textbook or part of some documentary your teacher makes you watch and then tells you to take notes. It was amazing to stand in something so impactful. Rome is so much more than an average city in the world. It is alive. Through the people, the architecture, and the curious humans all over the world. Rome has this funny way of being old while still influencing lives everyday. It is a city built-in the past but is still present in the future.

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I really had no idea what to expect when I first walked inside.

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I could stare at this for hours. It looks so intricate.

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The upper seating is completely eroded.

 

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Panoramic taken by Sarah

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From the bottom up.

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Katie was the first new person I met in this class and I know she reads these blogs so shout out to you for being great and having the guts to do this trip! I think that’s incredibly awesome.

After my life was changed forever, we had a free day to wonder/shop/pretend tomorrow wasn’t crushing my soul. At 7:45 pm we met Professor Alessia at Repubblica station on the subway. He took all 32 of us students and his wife to a really nice restaurant for dinner. It is a tradition. The first day of class he told us that on the last day everybody comes together to celebrate the last day and everybody gets drunk. Every time I ate something on this trip I was convinced it was the greatest thing I had ever eaten. Boy was I wrong. We had a fourteen course meal. Let me emphasize that for a dramatic flare. A. Fourteen. Course. Meal. It started with 7 appetizers which were salami, chickpeas, beans, peppers, baked zucchini, vegetables in sauce, and fresh mozzarella that was so good I will not eat mozzarella again unless it tastes like it did tonight.

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The meat basket.

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Things look a little scarce but I was eating as they were coming one at a time. 

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The BEST and most FRESH mozzarella I have ever eaten.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then was the pasta courses and there were three. The first was a spicy pasta (it was delicious), the second was spaghetti with mushrooms (it was delicious), and the third was ravioli (which was, you guessed it, disgusting. Gotcha. It was delicious.) Then was the meat plate which was baked chicken. Then salad which seemed ironic after all the foot I was just offered. Then was dessert and finally drinks. The meal was four hours long but really it felt no more than twenty minutes. I was surrounded by so many wonderful people that I could have stayed for days before I even realized how long I was there for. As much as I don’t want to go home I feel like there wasn’t a better note to close this trip on then this dinner. Plus- I will never have to eat American food again because I’ll probably be full for the rest of my life. It’s a win-win for everyone.

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The place that ruined all food that is not Italian for me.

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It’s like the Michelangelo painting that I am obsessed with.

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Picture with the Roomies, Prof. Alessia and his wife after dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a really special place. I’ve learned so much here in such a short amount of time. For someone who hates history- to was fascinating. All of it. Utterly amazing.

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I’m not sure what this building is but it’s right on the subway exit and it’s one of my favorites.

Since tomorrow is technically my last day I will be posting my sentimental post tomorrow. My plane leaves here at 10 am which is 5 am US time. I don’t want to leave. It is going to be excruciating to go back to Oswego because 1. I don’t want to 2. My classes are irrelevant and 3. I don’t want to 4 I can’t get out of bed and 5. I aggressively don’t want to. We averaged 7 miles of walking each day. My feet are going to fall off on the flight. I’ve accepted it. I’ll have to crawl to class. People will look out the window’s and “say oh my god is she hurt? No.. that’s just Ally dragging herself to class on her knees. What’s that? Oh that’s the puddle of her tears.”

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Have a Vespa that matches your personality.

Well this has been a great first last day. I’ve done and seen so much. I’m trying to figure out a way to “accidentally” hide in the overhead compartments and fly back to Rome with the plane. Oh! ‘m moving to Florence! NEGATIVE ATTITUDES AREN’T INVITED, MOM.

I guess that’s all for now. We’re getting down to the wire. I’m not a fan.

Stay Weird.

Ally

Current Wish- the semester would be cancelled because no one wanted to teach anymore or aliens took over the school. Either one works for me. Your choice.

PS- I have to be awake in an hour and I should have been asleep an hour ago but right when I finished the blog and went to add the pictures the whole thing got deleted. I had to start over but I’m determined to finish it. DO IT FOR THE BLOG.

A Self Titled Life- Right All The Wrongs (Day 2)

Day two started off a little rocky but ended up being a pretty solid day all together. The weather is still rainy but I packed an umbrella for a reason. We started at St. Peter’s Basilica which was both enormous and amazing. There is like a million statues all around the top of the Basilica and ten million pillars surrounding it. Each statue is hand carved and uniquely different from all the rest. People with talent are the worst. The lay out of the Basilica looks like the scene from Hercules when he’s a teenager and goes with his father into town and destroys the whole market because he knocks all of the pillars down while trying to catch a frisbee. Then he crushes the man with the pottery (but sadly, there was no man with pottery)  ((there also was no goddess gospel choir)) I didn’t go into the Basilica because the wait was three plus hours but the outside was stunning enough that I think it is something I could never in a million years forget.

 

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The entire Basilica is a work of art.

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It stretches on for days and days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Each of the statues are entirely different. Different poses, faces, clothing. It’s amazing.

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The Basilica is like this wall that blocks off the rest of the city. It’s a divide between history and reality.

 

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This looks like the scene from Hercules! Fun Fact- that is my favorite disney soundtrack of all time. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After lunch (I did take a picture of my food but it didn’t make the cut. Only the big shot pictures make this highly anticipated blog) we went to the Spanish Steps. I don’t know how many steps there are in total, but there were not nearly as many as I thought there would be. I expected to have hit my 25th birthday by the time I made it to the top. It was really cool to be able to walk all the way up and look out over the city. Each of the buildings are so unique and intricate I feel like there are no two that are exactly alike. It’s like a city of snowflakes.

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The bottom of the Spanish Steps looking up.

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At the top of the steps looking down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The umbrellas makes this a cool picture. It’s like splashes of color throughout Rome.

 

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Outside the fountain at the bottom of the steps. 

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Hey. Hi. Hello. I’m having a great time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m really happy to be on this trip with some really cool people. They’re making this a great trip and i’m really grateful for that.

Then we went to the Basilica of St. John Lateran which was blatantly jaw dropping. I’m not one for churches and I think they all look the same but this was a whole new level of church. The marble statues that were in the Basilica I could have stared at for hours without ever catching every detail. They are enormous and everywhere. The ceiling is painted, the walls are painted, the floor is painted, even the bathrooms are painted. There are twelve enormous statues lining the walls that tell the story of how each of the twelve apostles died. The actual altar paintings were cool but the statues and sculptures is what got me. I’ve never seen anything like it. The feet and hands look more like feet and hands than my own feet and hands do. So do the heads, shoulders, knees and toes.

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Outside of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. The outside looks so plain compared to the inside.

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The inside of the Basilica is amazing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The entire place is a piece of art.

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The pope has details etched into the stone. Like, stop. I can’t go on.

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Each of the twelve apostles had a different statue. Each amazing and incredibly detailed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This one was my favorite. This statue is about one of the apostles that was skinned alive and he’s holding a sack with his face dangling out of the side.

 

Okay- funny story. Actually kind of hilarious. So when we were done looking in the Basilica I went to the bathroom (which was painted) and I couldn’t get the toilet to flush. I pushed every knob, screw, and bolt in the stall and nothing worked. So I pushed this button thing and all of a sudden the lights went off. It was pitch dark, and I mean I-couldn’t-even-see-the-inside- of-my-own-eyelids dark. So I pulled the handle and the door was jammed shut. I was yanking on the door like my life depended on it. I watch way too much American Horror Story and have read far too many books about serial killers to be stuck in a bathroom in a Roman Basilica in the dark. That was the end. Honestly, the killer would have had to come up through the toilet but good for them because I couldn’t have figured out how to flush them back down. I’m happy to report that I did make it out alive and I did yank the door open and run full speed into an Italian lady who was not happy to be plowed over. Try again, Billy Dent. I’m still alive.

Last trip I was almost slaughtered to death by a rabid deer and this trip I was almost murdered by a Basilica bathroom killer. Wow. If I wasn’t this over dramatic my life would be so boring.

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Mom- look at the sewage drain!

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Aunt Deb- I saw these and had to get a picture!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After surviving another nearly fatal episode, we made our way to the Holy Steps which are a mimic of the steps Jesus crawled so the tradition is to crawl up the staircase of 28 steps on your knees. It sounds easy but it’s not all butterflies and marshmallows. You climb each step behind the person in front of you who prays as they go. You can’t pass anyone or push anyone down the stairs so you just go with the pace of the knee-climber in front of you. By like the 15th step my knees were screaming. What’s cool is that the steps are so worn down that your knees sink into the grooves of where other people’s’ knees have been. It’s something that you really kneed to do.

 

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Phones and cameras were prohibited from the Holy Steps so here is the picture I took anyways.

 

Looking back, we did and saw a lot of sights today. Each different but really enjoyable. The same girls that are in the gelato picture from yesterday and I went out for dinner at a restaurant by the hotel. It was a pretty solid way to end a pretty solid day. (Incase you were wondering I had tortellini, which I swear by. It was delicious.)

Tomorrow is supposed to be the last day of rain but honestly, whether it rains or not I’m not going to stay in the hotel room because of the weather. I do think there is some crazy awesome things planned for tomorrow so I’ll have some great things to add to the magical world of internet blogging.

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There is actually a third traffic light on the back of these two facing the other way.

 

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There is a water fountain in the road to fill water bottles, or dogs, or even humans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I didn’t expect there to be palm trees. Rome for real has it all.

 

OH MY GOD I ALMOST FORGOT. We went to a supermarket today before we went home from the Holy Steps and although they did not have pocket cookies (I checked) they did play both Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith which was fantastic because they’re both wonderful humans. Also- Mom, I checked for the espresso candy’s that were in Europe. I’m so bummed to tell you I had no luck. I was pretty hopeful about the whole situation but, nada.

 

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The grocery store sells sprinkles in little jars. I thought they were so cute

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HELLO. MY FRIEND SARAH (Who also loves Parenthood) sniped this picture of this guy that looks like Mr. Cyr.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I do believe that is all for now. So until tomorrow, this has been day 2 and a great day 2 at that.

Stay Weird.

Ally

 

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Only in Rome are the only acceptable holes 50 meters deep.

 

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Breakfast was delivered to our room this morning. We didn’t even have to leave.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Current wish- that it will stop raining so I can wear different shoes because my feet are starting to smell and I am going to kill everyone around me. My apologies in advance.

 

A Self Titled Life- Something To Talk About (Day 1)

Crammed in a seat, high above the clouds,

I can’t hear myself think you are snoring so loud.

Actually no one is snoring I totally made that up.

It just sounded good since it rhymed, but guess what? I hate poetry.

I wasn’t going to start A Self Titled Life- Round Two until tomorrow night when I had something more interesting to talk about other than being inside this flying boat, but then things got kind of interesting. I am in the middle section of the plane, in the middle row of seats right by the bathroom. Prime seating, right? Right. Well, it was incredibly quiet until the entire plane (and I am certainly not exaggerating when I say the entire plane) is standing in line to use the bathrooms. No kidding the flight attendants actually had to ask people to sit down because the weight shift in the plane was causing the plane to falter backwards. (I might be lying) ((I’m definitely lying.)) But I am sitting next to the Mickey Mouse parade as they file in and out of the toothpick sized bathrooms. Plus the bathroom on the left side sounds like a fire breathing dragon when the toilet flushes and the right side sounds like a giant man gargling marbles. Very strange.

Update- We’re under the 5 hour mark with exactly… 4 hours and 52 minutes left until we touch down in Rome. Oh yeah, I’m going to Rome! I probably should have mentioned that earlier but well, there is no time like the present! It’s currently 9:04 pm in America and 2:05 am in Rome. OKAY HELLO. I HAVE SOMETHING TO SHARE. When I said there was 4 hours and 52 minutes left I was honestly just spit balling because I didn’t want to turn my monitor back on but I just turned it on to check the time in Rome, and there is actually 4 hours and 52 minutes left. Am I.. a wizard?

Fun fact! If I were to jump out of the plane right now (Mom, take it easy) it would be -47.3 degrees out there. Basically, I would be back in Oswego. I think that is all the sarcasm I can muster up for the time being. I will say that I am excited for three reasons- 1. I am excited to go to Rome because I have never been and I’ve only heard wonderful things. 2. I’m pretty stoked about writing this blog again. and 3. …Wow, I don’t remember what the third thing was. (I do remember what it is but I’ll have to add it in to this blog post at a later time and I’ll explain then.)

By the magic of the internet the next time we talk, I’ll be in Rome but you’ll have not a clue so, no worries, I’ve got you! For real, I’m done now. I’m babbling now which is not fun for anyone. Not for you, your mom, my siblings, my aunts, Obama, Sampson the baby giraffe from the Buffalo zoo, Ellen Degeneres, Bert Macklin FBI Agent, me, or even the guy reading this over my shoulder. (hey hey) Literally, no one.

ON THAT NOTE. Catch you in Rome!

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This entire place looks like a movie set.

The streets are made out of uneven black stones and they looked really cool when the rain water was shining off of them.

The streets are made out of uneven black stones and they looked really cool when the rain water was shining off of them.

Hello Family. I win the punch bug game. (I'm still looking for a yellow one)

Hello Family. I win the punch bug game. (I’m still looking for a yellow one)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I HAVE CAUGHT YOU IN ROME. It’s 2:16 pm here and 9:16 am there. The weather is kind of rainy but it’s not snowing so I have nothing to complain about. We walked around some of the neighborhoods by the hotel and this place is straight out of a movie. A movie besides The Lizzie McGuire Movie where she goes to Rome. It’s like ancient but not. We went to this really cool basilica and it was immaculate inside. That’s coming from someone who 1. Doesn’t like churches and 2. Finds art rather boring. This however, was stunning. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. At the top of the dome cement ceiling is this window that looks like the universe and it was pretty amazing. The Universe and I are pretty close after all. Depending on the rain we might go get pizza and go to a gelato place that has over 150 flavors. ALSO I had pasta for lunch and the sauce tasted just like my grandmother’s. I asked to speak to MaryAnn but the waiter didn’t speak english.

This is the bottom of a fountain that probably has an important name that I do not know. The artwork is so full of detail its amazing.

This is the bottom of a fountain that probably has an important name that I do not know. The artwork is so full of detail its amazing.

Apparently, the water is so clean here that you can drink out of the fountains.

Apparently, the water is so clean here that you can drink out of the fountains. I just found out that this fountain was called Piazza Navona.

 

The inside of the Basilica was actually breath taking. There was so much to look at for these two eyes and these filthy glasses lenses.

The inside of the Basilica was actually breath taking. There was so much to look at for these two eyes and these filthy glasses lenses.

The ceiling of the Basilica.

The ceiling of the Basilica.

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This is unlike anything I have ever seen before.

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The Universe window at the top of the Basilica.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YO, I didn’t forget to tell you what I couldn’t write earlier. The guy sitting next to me, well more accurately on top of me for the entire flight was reading over my shoulder as I typed. He stopped when I called him out a little later in the blog. Anyways, on the other side of him was his girlfriend and the two of them were canoodling the entire plane ride. For anyone who doesn’t know what canoodling is, it’s when people are so infatuated with each other that they forget other humans can see their every move. They were gross and he kept jabbing me in the side and hitting me with his blanket. The moral of the story here is don’t canoodle on a plane. Be in love somewhere else thats not next to me. Because maybe you could not.

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I don’t even know what to caption this. People just casually walk past this everyday.

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Outside of the Piazza Navona

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We got to Rome around 7:30 this morning and after walking around until 2 pm went to the hotel to sleep. After a four hour nap I woke up feeling like a new human. It kind of stopped raining (just a slight drizzle) so we went to the pizzeria and gelato shop. There’s a scene from The Fault In Our Stars where Augustus tells Hazel that if the risotto he was eating was a person he would take it to Vegas and marry it. I have never felt so connected with Augustus Waters. The Pizza was unlike anything I have ever eaten. It was so fresh and so good and so delicious that any pizza from here on out that I ever eat will be nothing but a disappointment. And the gelato? I will be getting a divorce from the pizza to marry the gelato. Wow. Just, WOW.  GAME CHANGER.

You do not understand how big this was. I wish I could brake off a piece and share it with the world.

You do not understand how big this was. I wish I could brake off a piece and share it with the world.

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In the Gelato Shop. (From left to right- Jess, Sarah, Me…Prof Alessia, Sarah, and Katie. My bridal party when i married the gelato.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was kind of an odd day because it’s really been Saturday and Sunday. But my first novel is finished now. There’s some exciting adventures tomorrow based on the weather. But before I go, for any concerned family members I will give you a brief update:

1. I am not in prison.

2. I am not married.

3. I am still not in prison.

UNTIL TOMORROW..

Stay Weird,

Ally

It looks like Pizza.

It looks like Pizza.

HELLO. THIS STATUE LOOKS LIKE RON SWANSON AND I CRIED I WAS SO HAPPY.

HELLO. THIS STATUE LOOKS LIKE RON SWANSON AND I CRIED I WAS SO HAPPY.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Current Jam- ‘Reflection’ by Fifth Harmony. I definitely jammed on the plane and the entire album is stellar.

The Oscars! In Hart Hall

Oscars!

Oscars!

Being from Australia an all, I had never actually watched the Oscars – only ever the highlights. This is because the timezones are so out of whack. Anyway! This year because I am in the U.S.A I was fortunate enough to not only watch the oscars, but also attend a party organised by my hall. It was so much fun! The Oscars reminded me of the Logies but on a bigger scale as all the big stars were there, lame jokes were cracked, award winners made moving speeches and all the celebrities looked incredible. My highlight of the evening was seeing Lady Gaga perform a tribute to the Sound of Music, as I grew up watching this film with my Mum and Ba, so this was really special to me.

death2At our event in Hart Hall, there was a red carpet setup to make us feel fabulous as we entered, big cardboard images of cinema film reels and stars dangling from the ceiling and walls, posters on the walls, and food. Lots and lots and lots of food.

We all watched (and cheered) the Oscars and participated in mini competitions whilst continuously stuffing our faces with food. I did not win anything but one of my friends won a Walmart voucher which we all thought was pretty neat. I had a great evening and really enjoyed watching the Oscars all the way through as it’s something I probably will not be able to do again.

 

Peace Out

K xx

 

 

 

 

My first Chinese New Year!

Chinese New Year decorations

Chinese New Year decorations

In Australia Chinese New Year is recognised and celebrated but because I do not have many ties to China, I had never really embraced it before… this year was different!

Because I live in Hart Hall (where most international students reside), I meet many different students from all over the world, many being from China and Taiwan. To respect their traditions and for something fun to do, our residency hall threw a Chinese New Year Party! There was food from China, Taiwan & Korea (Korean New Year is typically on the same day as Chinese

New Year except when a new moon appears) and many students chatting, having fun and celebrating this occasion.

Goodluck gift

Goodluck gift

I was very fortunate that two of my new friends who are from Taiwan and China, both gave me red envelopes which symbolise good luck. One of the envelopes contained One New Taiwanese dollar coin, and the other was a rectangular shaped red purse with embroidery.

I love living in Hart because I am exposed to so many different cultures and traditions, it really is unique and special.

Peace out

K xx

University in Australia vs. College in the States

On my decision to come to SUNY Oswego for an exchange semester, I knew that things would be different, but I assumed that more or less Australian and American university life and culture would be very similar. I was wrong. I have outlined the main differences below. Enjoy.

College is love

College is love

1. College is love, college is life. Literally. Since beginning college my days typically consist of eating all my meals with friends, going to class, going to the gym with friends, doing homework with friends, watching Netflix with friends, and sleeping. This is vastly different to my university days at QUT as everyday would always be completely different. In Brisbane some days I would go to work, others I would have class, and others I would do absolutely nothing but hang out with friends. I like the structured format of college in the states because I am forced to be more dedicated to my studies and I actually feel like I have time for things (such as working out) because everything is on campus.

2. Homework and pass grades. At QUT in my course, to pass a subject you simply need to get 50% or higher, which is simple and makes sense to me… Here it varies on the subject. For instance one of my subjects is 60% and another is 70%. However it is easier to get marks here (from my recent experience anyway) as professors tend to give out marks for attendance and small homework tasks. Which brings me to my next point; homework. Per subject at QUT I would have two exams during a semester and 1-3 large assignments, and class work/homework is completely optional. Whereas at SUNY Oswego I actually have to keep up to date on course work by submitting graded homework tasks weekly. I like the feelings of always being on top of my course work here, and it gives me reassurance that I will pass and do well, but I do miss weeks of procrastination and doing things last minute as I work well under pressure.

3. Structure of classes. At QUT all of my weekly classes are made up of two parts: one being a lecture which takes place in a hall and is run by a professor, and the other is a practical session in a classroom environment which may be run by a professor or a researcher. At SUNY Oswego all my subjects are in a classroom environment. I feel as though I am back in high school at times. I prefer my university’s style of teaching because a lecture might be one day, and the practical session the next, so it gives me time to digest the information. However I feel as though I have the potential to develop closer, more meaningful relationships with professors here as the contact is more personal and regular.

Snow storm

Snow storm

4. Classes are cancelled if there is a snow storm. This is vastly different to what I am used to. It doesn’t snow in Brisbane, but when we do have extreme weather, scheduled activities are rarely postponed (the exception being sporting events). I was surprised that classes were cancelled when there was a blizzard because most students live on campus and have the warm clothes needed to withstand these conditions anyway.

5. Not everything will kill you in the states. I was bitten by a spider two nights ago and I did not die; I initially thought it was a mosquito bite as it was itchy, small and hard, but turned out it was a spider bite. If this had happened in Australia I probably would have gone straight to the ER. I am enjoying the fact that I do not need to fear for my life when I encounter bugs and reptiles here.

6. American’s have awesome accents. I am always interested in what my peers and professors have to say because I cannot get enough of the accent.

7. American’s have a different definition of thong. I was telling some new friends about my regular encounters with spiders and how I kill them with my thongs (flip flops), and they thought this was hilarious because they were imagining me killing them with a g-string. Lol.

College food

College food

8. Dining halls. At QUT we do not have any dining halls, rather we have food courts, cafes and bars, where items must be purchased in $AUD. When I arrived at Oswego the whole dining hall and dining dollars thing was so foreign, amazing & like something from an American movie. I love that there are so many dining halls on campus and their hours are long and flexible. I wish we had this culture at QUT.

 

Peace Out

 

A Self Titled Life- Everyone’s Story (Day 10) ((It’s the final countdown))

Welcome to my last blog post. I will get home today by way of trains, planes and automobiles. I’m on the airplane right now that left from the Narita airport in Japan and is headed for JFK in New York. The arrival countdown reads 3 hours and 4 minutes until we touch back down to Earth. Believe it or not, we shaved some time off this trip compared to the last one. A whole 5 minutes. When we took off the countdown was 11 hours and 57 minutes so look at all that progress! I’ve watched a few movies, wrote a final paper, and about two hours ago I tried to write this blog post. Then I gave up and watched another movie. I finally got around to watching the Amazing SpiderMan Movies- highly recommend. Anyways, I have just enough time to write a blog post before I watch the last movie I’ve been saving. That’s the great thing about these posts- all you get to see is the final product so it doesn’t matter how long it takes me to muster up the words to write these posts or how many personal early morning dance breaks I take in between paragraphs. So for this post I’m throwing in all the honorable mentioned photos that didn’t make the cut the first time around.  I laughed while picking most of them out.

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HI. LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT THIS LITTLE MONSTER. One day I bought these individually wrapped cookies and I kept them in my pocket to eat throughout the day, so I called them pocket cookies. This little boy’s mom took our picture and he threw such a temper tantrum (throwing rocks) so I tried to present him with an extraordinary pocket cookie and he hung his head so low that it almost snapped off his neck. Then he finally took the cookie AND VIOLENTLY HAULED IT FULL FORCED INTO THE GROUND. I actually gasped out loud. I just, I had to walk away. I had to leave the scene. I couldn’t control myself around that kind of inexcusable behavior. wow. Just WOW. (breathe, Ally, breathe.)

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This was the shrine of a thousand and one buddhas. I got the picture the day after that blog was posted and well here you go.

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According to my Mom, one needs a college education to work this toilet. It looks like you could use the bathroom while participating in a medieval torture chamber.

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This was a vending machine full of crepes. What more do you need to know.

I’m having a hard time trying to figure out exactly what it is that I want to say or how I want to sum up all of these blogs along with all the things I’ve done in the past ten days. I’ve put a pretty substantial amount of time and effort into these blogs. I’ve dedicated a few hours a night to writing them all and I’m really happy that I did. On the bright side I know my mom reads them all so at least I have an audience other than myself. I have this tendency to buy a journal before a trip so I can write about all that happens and then I get on the trip and never open the book. At least I’m consistent. Well, the same thing happened on this trip. (In all fairness I had the journal long before I knew I was going to be blogging the trip. I’ll save the journal for spring break so I can neglect to use it then too.) I’ll admit though, I always did these posts late at night and sometimes the thought of having to stay up and write a blog as well as find pictures was enough to make me reconsider all of my life choices. However, I would remember nothing about this trip if I didn’t have this blog. Squat. We just did so much it was hard to keep up with it all so it’s really cool to have it all in one place with pictures. How nifty. Maybe even swifty.

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I have absolutely no idea what is going on.

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Somebody call Vogue.

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The Kabuki Theater. The theater, the lovely theater. The picture was better but there is actually a bus that barged into my picture.

Today was a pretty nonchalant day. Although we did participate in a traditional tea ceremony and we got to wear kimono, drink green tea- the whole shabang. We wore these socks that look like goat feet. There one little part for your big toe and then another little part for your other toes with a divider in the middle. It’s like wearing mittens on your feet. (side note- thank the heavens for spellcheck because I spelled kimono ‘camono’. I had to google it to figure it out. Hello, I go to college.) It was interesting to see/ participate in all of these traditional customs that are part of the Japanese culture. Not just the tea ceremony, but also to visit places like Old Tokyo or any of the temples. America is such a young country and we don’t have a lot of these kinds of long-standing traditions. At the same time, that’s what I love about America. We don’t have a lot of traditions. It’s kind of a make-it-up-as-you-go society. In my family we have this birthday hat that looks like a cake with candles on the top. It’s not an American tradition , but in my family you are obligated to wear this hat on your birthday when you blow out the candles. These are the kinds of traditions that I love. You get to create your own traditional origins and pass them down to whomever you please. I really took the time on this trip to appreciate the world that I live in just a little bit more. I really think that going somewhere new and learning about someone different teaches you more about yourself than anything else. I like that America is loud and that we have rules but generally ignore all of them. I like that no one is the same and people aren’t afraid of being bold just because they want to be. I feel like America is made of a lot of brave people. We tend to look at differences as a positive attribute rather than a negative divide between people. Okay, hi. The plane is rocking back and forth and it’s getting hard to type so I’m going to finish this in the JFK airport. (See what I mean? You would have no idea I even stopped writing. The internet is a magical place.)

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Mamacita, donde esta Santa Claus.

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I’m wearing the goat socks in this picture.

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To the windooow, To the wall! (to the wall). Stop singing I’m with my Mother.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1098 -PLEASE right-click this video and open it in a new tab. You’ll understand. I promise. It’s legendary.

 

Guess who’s back, back again? I’m in the airport and determined to finish this blog. I don’t really have a favorite part or thing that happened. Although my least favorite was the deer that tried to mull me to death. Besides that I think the people I met were my favorite part. It was just so exciting. So get this- I was able to visit Japan, present at an international symposium, make international friends, escape an almost tragic wildlife death, wear a kimono, and create my own blog all because I took a class by accident. It wasn’t so much an accident as it was ‘i couldn’t get into any of the classes I needed and this class happened to be open at the time so I took it’. That’s pretty bananas.

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The animals from hell.

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STOP. My American is showing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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There were purple trees on the streets. Like, hypothermia trees.

These past ten days have been some of the most incredible times in my life. I don’t really know how to say thank you for all that has happened. I’m so grateful to have gone to Japan. I’m also so grateful to all the students at Kansai University who were so sweet I still don’t believe they’re real. I’m so incredibly grateful that my Mom was able to come on this adventure because frankly, she’s a wizard. I’m so so so grateful I was on this trip with people who were not only willing to try new things, but excited to do everything possible. I’m also grateful she had a camera that took beautiful pictures and then emailed them to me every night. I’m so thankful that the Japanese people were so kind and willing to help in any way that they could. I’m grateful all the plane rides (thus far) have been solid trips and safe trips. And finally I’m thankful for all the sock stores that Japan had. I’m telling you, my future sick ass sock Saturdays are going to be killer.

IMG_1126 _This video is of the doorbell in out hotel room in Tokyo. First, I don’t think I have ever stayed in a hotel room with a doorbell. Second, this doorbell sounds nicer than the doorbell to my house at school, which sounds like a taser. Right click the link and open the link in a new tab!

 

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My one true talent in this world is snipping terrible pictures of my Mother. She fought back on this trip.

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But so did I.

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Then she kicked my ass. (If I’m being honest, I actually prevailed in this battle, but the picture I took is so great I refuse to put it on the internet. I’m keeping it forever. Mom, you can have this one. Congratulations. You’ve come far, young grasshopper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t really know what else to say here. I’m excited to have had the experience because had I not taken this class, none of this would have ever happened. This experience has made me a more conscious communicator and a more educated international traveler. The most important thing I have gained from this experience is that there is no rule book to life. You can plan and plan and plan some more but, there is no way to know what is going to happen. The world is a crazy place and there’s no way it’s ever going to make sense. Maybe it shouldn’t. I like not knowing what is going to happen in an hour, or tomorrow, or in fifty years. All I know is that I’ll always be Ally, I’ll always have sick ass socks, and I went to Japan.

It’s been real. It’s been fun. It’s also been ten days.

Thanks Japan for all the adventures. I’ll miss you dearly, but hello America, I’ve missed you more!!

Stay weird forever more.

 

Ally Costanza

Current wish- that Tyler Oakley would be my best friend.

 

International traveler

Feral wildlife survivor

Sock enthusiast

Future cat lady.

A Self Titled Life- Black and White Re-runs (Day 9)

I woke up this morning with the goal of ditching the city life in Tokyo. It’s a cool city, don’t get me wrong, but it’s too much like any other city. It’s has lots of people, buildings, cars, but not the dirt. I realized the other day that the streets don’t even have as much as a cigarette butt on them. There also is an extreme lack of garbage cans. And by extreme lack I mean none. Another side note- there are hardly any benches here. There’s nowhere to just sit and rest for a minute. Sometimes I’m so tired I genuinely consider laying on the sidewalk 1. because there’s nowhere else for me to go 2. it’s clean and 3. no one can stop me.

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This entire country looks like ‘Divergent’. I won’t let it go. I refuse, I refuse, I refuse.

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Out of ten days, today was the only day it rained. We got pretty lucky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1004 This is a video of what the train station music is. The little jingle I talked about. It sounds like it’s straight out of Mario Cart. It works best if you right-click the link and open the link in a new window.

So we went to Old Tokyo (at the request of the bassist we met last night in Starbucks.) It really was the raddest place. It was local shops and bakeries that lined the streets. Walking around was like going back to what Tokyo would have been like 40-50 years ago. The first shop we went into was dedicated to cats. Excuse me, it was fantastic. I went into a bakery and ate this asparagus and bacon pizza that probably changed my life for the greater good. Old Tokyo was filled with all the things I hoped I would find while in Japan. I found vases, tea cups, and even wooden painted earrings (which I didn’t exactly imagine prior to coming to Japan, but what are you going to do.) It was filled with things that are a little out-of-place and unique. Walking around the streets was like escaping what is to become apart of what was.

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We were in this little tea shop and found Twisty the clown.

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There is one vending machine for every four people in Japan. I just happened to stumble upon one with Dr. Pepper.

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This was someone’s walkway up to their front door.

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Stopped in this delicious bakery (with the pizza) and it had all of these superhero figurines. Lights would love it here.

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Passed by this shop with hundreds of lanterns hanging from the ceiling. Geez, it was beautiful.

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The cemeteries are just really impressive here.

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This sweet woman worked in the bakery we stopped in. When we asked for her picture she just giggled and couldn’t believe we wanted her picture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Street view of Old Tokyo.

After leaving the 1950s, we took a train to Takeshita Dori which was this giant outdoor shopping mall/street/hoopla of people. I think a lot of the things you could buy there you could probably find in a lot of places. It was more for commercial shopping. BUT they did have a sweet sock store where I did, in fact, buy some pretty nifty sick ass socks. I’m pretty stoked about them.

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Just a casual street sign.

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We stepped foot in the most MASSIVE Starbucks I have ever seen. It was enormous. This was just a small section of the outdoor patio. Claire, we’re moving.

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The view for the customers was of the downtown city. We saw the store because of the logo imprinted on the windows six stories up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I liked about Takeshita Dori wasn’t the shopping, but the place itself. It seemed like the only place I’ve seen in Japan where people seem to let their hair down. People seemed to walk a little more to their own beat instead of the same beat as everyone else. Also, their was a lot of street art all around. Street art is my favorite kind of art, especially to take pictures of. It was almost like visiting a little piece of America while still being in Japan.

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It’s hard to tell but this sign looked like it was made out of thousands of balloons.

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This is amazing to me.

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This actually might have been in Old Tokyo but I’m not positive.

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This was actually the first piece of art I saw.

 

IMG_0981 Walked by a store and I was SO excited to hear Fifth Harmony all the way in Japan. That’s all this video is. If you open it I would again,be best to open the link in a new window.

It’s pretty hard to believe this was my last full day here. Sometimes I go on trips and they fly by so fast I feel like I never even left home at all. This trip wasn’t that way at all. We’ve been gone for ten days but it feels more like 10 months. It seems like 30 years ago that I spoke at the symposium which is crazy because I’m only 20. On the other hand, it seems like just yesterday I was on that airplane pretending I wasn’t crying over every movie I watched. I feel like I was able to see so many incredible things, meet so many people, and learn so much about a new place that I didn’t have time to think about all the time passing by. This trip and this place was worth every second of time spent feeling like coming to Japan was just a simple thought or a shot in the dark.

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My people in Japan.

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Google Japan. It’ll be so strange not to see this for a long time.

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Took a shower and the window of mirror in front of the sink was designed to resist fog. Japan is on point 300% of the time.

 

Stay Weird.

Ally

Current temperature- I’m sweating to death in this sweatshirt.