Cinque Terre

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September 23-25, 2011

Cinque Terre is probably one of my favorite places in Italy. Though a bit touristy and crowded, it still had this vibe that made me feel as if I had discovered it myself. This was probably one of my most disorganized impromptu wonderfully spontaneous trips with the most random (and awesome) group of people:

Tim, the seasoned hiker from Florida

Anas, the cool guy from Morocco/London

Eric, the funny one from Texas/China

Aileen, the singer from California

Amber, the basketball player from Boston

Bhairavi, the married girl from Boston/India

Angela, the happy camper from Australia/Greece

Maria, the crazy fabulous one from Ukraine/London

And me

The 9 of us spent most of the first day hiking from Levanto to Monterosso, the first of the five cities (hint: Cinque Terre means “five lands”). When you have a group of 9 people that all have different hiking speeds, complaining tendencies, and endurance levels, your patience and temperament can really be tested.  But it was all more than worth it to get to know everyone and to share the beautiful ocean views off the cliffs.

We arrived in Monterosso and reality hit us: we actually hadn’t even booked a hotel. Being adventurous (and thrifty!), we all had boasted that we would sleep under the stars, on the beach, in the mountains, and be one with the wild. We were taking vodka shots on the beach and chasing with canned peaches when it grew dark and very cold. We suddenly decided it would be better to try to find a room instead.

Luckily, Anas and I negotiated with a lady who rented us a room. Unluckily, we had to squeeze all 9 of us into a tiny room with one queen size bed and all paid 7 euros each for the entire night. Four girls took the bed, and the rest were sprawled across the floor. I think I can only speak for myself when I say that I had a great night’s sleep. (Unrelated note: I can sleep like a log pretty much anytime.)

The second day, we explored the remaining 4 costal cities. We floated around the coast of Vernazza. We got lost in the maze of colorful buildings at Corniglia. We jumped off cliffs at Manarola. Maria & Anas got jellyfish stings around nightfall at Riomaggiore.

Maria, Tim, Eric, Anas and I were the only ones that stayed for the second night. We found a ghetto and strange trailer park (something I had previously thought only existed in America), and rented one for the night. We made our own pasta for dinner and swatted mosquitoes while we ate.

Maria and I found seats together and talked the entire train ride back to Milan. It was the first time we really got to know each other–families, childhoods, cultures, past relationships, aspirations, etc. Maria is a very fun person and a great enabler–she was always insisting that we all do vodka shots after every meal–but she also has a huge heart. It’s crazy to think how different our backgrounds were, but we could still relate on so many issues.

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Lago di Garda

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September 16-17, 2011

I joined in on a bro’s weekend trip to a lake. I went with three new friends: Eric, Tim, and Mattia. The first day, we swam with swans. We lied on the beach for hours and got beautiful caramel skin. We jumped into natural hot springs and spent next couple hours sloshing around in wet clothes. We had love affairs with random bright snail statues. Our conversations went like this:

Eric: Why do Italians cut their trees in such a weird way?

Tim: Let’s go buy some beers.

Mattia: Okay.

Me: Can you take a picture for me?

Eric is a Chinese American guy from Texas. He has a loud laugh and is friendly and outgoing. He likes to eat boiled eggs when he’s hungry. We met because he randomly decided to join me for Monza Formula 1.

Tim came from Florida. He’s pretty much the epitome of an all-American guy, but still loves to travel, explore, and learn about other cultures. He likes fishing and snorkeling and other American things. I met him through Angela, my roommate, because they took Italian language class together.

Mattia is an Italian guy from the mountains. He is friendly enough to translate and explain Italian culture for us Americans. He likes to take funny pictures, drink a lot of beer, and play soccer. He is Eric’s roommate and also went to Monza with us.

We got in trouble for making so much noise in the hotel pool at midnight, and pretty much got kicked out. The next morning we were trying to take away the complementary breakfast food to eat later for lunch, and got in trouble again. The hotel threatened to call the police, but we called their bluff and got away scot-free.

We were so tired by the end of the trip that on the train ride back, we couldn’t stop yawning. We proved that yawning was definitely contagious. Afterwards, Mattia and Eric invited me over for dinner. They didn’t have cable TV, so for entertainment, we watched people watch soccer on TV. They didn’t have wifi, so we stole the neighbor’s and emailed the people watching soccer. (They sometimes read them live on TV.)

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Monza & Formula 1

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September 11, 2011

I didn’t buy tickets for Formula 1, but I decided to try the poor man’s tailgate and head there anyway with the hopes of finding a bar where I could scream at the TV with others. I dragged my friends around the edge of the racetrack trying to find a bar, or alternatively, sneak into the racetrack by climbing the walls/fences. I was never one for following rules.

After a few failed attempts at both, we ran into a couple of scalpers and ended up getting good tickets for cheap. The race was pretty exciting since I was kind of interested in F1. The safety car even showed up in one point. Final tally: Red Bull/Vettel in first, McLaren/Button in second, and Ferrari/Alonso in third (Damn Vettel, Ferrari should’ve won).

I actually really like McLaren, and we kept running into this same group of random McLaren fans, crashing their pictures, and obnoxiously borrowing their flag for shots. They were pretty annoyed at us towards the end but you couldn’t tell by the way they’re smiling in the photos.

I think one of the coolest things about going abroad is that everyone is down to do random crazy shit and down to meet anyone and hear/learn from each others’ life stories. Even down to follow some random girl set on sneaking into the race and take pictures of every mundane thing.

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