*most popular post*

May 19, 2016–

We all couldn’t fit. The subway was CRAMMED and pocket-pickers galore! On the South (arbitrary cardinal direction) outskirt of the metro subway station was a taxi pickup area where, supposedly, only the legit taxis could pick us up. We split ourselves up into a handful of four people per group and dean marks gave each group 50 euros thinking that a taxi ride to the Vatican city would only be 20 euros max. Me and three other small Asian girls were initially picked up by a scruffy looking man whom saw my friend putting away a 50Euro bill [in retrospect, maybe this wasn’t the best choice—this should be a protip #0.5, its probably best to travel with a guy or at least don’t travel with girls who are all shorter than me—I’m 5’4 by the way]. He asked “need ride?” and we replied “si”. He responded with “10 euro for each? 40 euro total.” I hesitated and asked my group “wait! I thought it was only 10 euros as a whole group—did she say EACH?” of course with my doubt, my group and I assumed that dean marks meant 10euros/person so we followed the man into the parking lot (which traveler pro tip #1 NEVER FOLLOW A MAN TO HIS SO CALLED “TAXI”) On the way to his car, I turned around to see if the rest of the students had left, but I turned to see everyone exasperatedly flailing their arms, motioning us to come back! I was in a panic—now realizing that the man had scammed us—I quickily shouted “SORRY” and grabbed my group of grils and briskly walked back! (I never turned back to see the man again—we didn’t follow him very closely; we were far enough from him that he couldn’t catch up to us if we ran) When we got back we promised we wouldn’t take an unofficial taxi—that we had learned our lesson. [what a great mind set] as the first group boarded their first taxi, we hailed the second taxi to take us to “San Peiter” (AKA St. Peter). The driver, a big bald man, quickly gestured us to take his taxi. The moment we sat down, we noticed he didn’t have a meter. (RED FLAG!!! Pro tip #2, which is quite obvious, but DON’T GET IN A TAXI WITHOUT A METER!!!) As he drove out of the station, he started speaking in Italian about the strike that was happening with the general public (I could only catch a couple of words here and there with only a measly background of some rudimentary Spanish and some survival words of Italian). He said that because of these protest all public transportation will be shut down—meaning that no buses or taxis will be available. (of course this is all BS, but what could use amateurs do but just believe) Haplessly, he told us that because of this all travels around town would be a fixed price of 50 euros. FIFTY! Dude that’s more than the first guy. We knew something was up. Maryum started texting Dean Marks, explaining that this guy did not have a meter and that the price was exorbitant. I, on the other hand began to record him as we began to raise some questions about the price. He exclaimed that the price sheet was located at the station and that we should’ve look at it before boarding—we argued and asked him where was the meter?

IMG_2713

He said he didn’t need one because everything was “fixed”. Then she asked for the receipt and he said he would give it to us later. Arguing with him was futile, so Maryum dialed up Dean Marks. So you’re probably thinking at this point surely he was surely at least heading towards the direction of the Vatican—actually he were heading the completely opposite direction. We were suppose to head south be he was taking us up north, and in this area there was HEAVY traffic. The dude was trying to buy time. When Maryum asked Dean Marks if everyone had arrived, she replied that everyone had long arrived—we were 20min behind everyone else even though we were one of the first  that left first. When Maryum got off the phone, the dude couldn’t lie any longer—he quickly said “there ees ah problemo—get out of my car” but we replied “well we told our instructor we’re on our way. Just take us there and we’ll pay you” he vociferated “no! there’s a hotel right here with parking—get yourself another taxi!” he turned sharply and kicked us out on a curb on the side of a busy street. We had lost valuable time. We walked to the nearest taxi stop. I tried to hail an OFFICIAL taxi with a woman driver but she rejected me. Then Ghaid hailed, one of the girls I was with, a taxi whose driver’s first response was “I have a meter. I can take you to San Peiers” (Aside: this guy had much better English than that other dude—he had broken English which should also mean pro tip #3 OFFICIAL TAXI DRIVERS ARE USED TO THE INFLUX OF TOURIST. THEY SHOULD BE ABLE TO SPEAK ENGLISH AND UNDERSTAND IT WITHOUT TOO MUCH DIFFICULTY AND WITHOUT HAVING TO RESORT TO SPEAKING IN COMPLETELY ITALIAN ABOUT STRIKES) the man was fortunately, able to get us to st. peters basilica, but he didn’t drop us off at the place where Dean Marks wanted to meet us at, nonetheless we paid him 20euros and even allowed him to keep the extra five euros for his “coffee” then we asked for the receipt (which is called rech-aye-voo-ta in Italian) and he more than happily gave it to us. We walked another block to reach the basilica and found Dean marks. This entire taxi escapade took 45min! Everyone had waited 20min with Dean Marks, but they all left when they realized we were not coming back anytime soon.
Finally, we were able to experience the grandeur of what we had been anticipating for. At the entrance of the front door a sign read “Please be mindful: Remember that Jesus greets you at the door”. There was even a man, that upon reading that, melted to knees and kissed the door’s intricate designs of the Jesus’ life and death. The moment we stepped inside our breaths were taken away. Words cannot describe how magnificent the splendors of the basilica were. Not a single inch of the wall, floor, or ceiling was bare. Everything was extravagantly ornate. The moment you enter in immediately on your right was Michelangelo’s Pieta: a sculpture of young Mary holding the dead Jesus in her laps. Apparently Michalango (or I will call him Michy for short) created this sculpture when he was only nineteen! And of course at this time he was not famous yet but he was considered a child prodigy so the Metachi family took him.

As we neared the atrium (err maybe it was the nave) of the basilica we saw the splendors Bernini’s alter made of bronze and gold. This altar looks uncannily similar to the Ecstasy of St. Theresa (lol probably because it was also designed by Bernini). Furthermore, the multifaceted Bernini also designed the entire asp of the basilica—which meant he had control of the lighting and color and everything in-between the transepts to obtain the optimal view of the bronze-gold altar piece. Did you know that the basilica was actually the third basilica built for the pope? The first two were torn down because it wasn’t good enough to satisfy the splendor the popes were seeking. This chapel was built during the baroque era (around 1600s) however most paintings and sculptures (like Michy’s) are from the renaissance. After the mini tour of the basilica (it was relatively small as compared to the grand scale of the exterior wings – which one wing was used for security and the other was an exit) Also, there’s a clock located on left top of the basilica that chimes quarterly. Additionally, the pope continues mass at this chapel! (image coming here every week with the pope!) Afterwards we ate some sandwiches for lunch at the nearby food truck—the bread was nothing less than perfection! Joining us for lunch were a flock of pigeons, which if you haven’t known, are ubiquitous in Rome. They are big city dwellers! But of course I only attracted more by feeding them with some crumbs of my bread [poor Maryum—she was intimidated by the birds lol ironically]. After eating we met up with the entire group of students who were astounded that we were still intact and alive! We all walked to the Vatican museum that housed the Michy’s Sistine Chapel. Michy, originally known for his works in sculpting was supposed to sculpt the pope, Julius II, a tomb however pope was never present long enough to pay him.

Unbelievably breathtaking we anticipated the moment we would be able to walk inside the Sistine chapel. When the moment arrived we were astonished by the size of the building. Tucked away in a far corner of the Vatican museum was a one-man entry doorway that led to the Sistine chapel. But once we got in, guards were guiding people to not stop and stare at the walls covered in Michy’s hard work but to keep walking until we got to the middle of the room where everyone was huddled together to stare up in awe. We were also forewarned not to take pictures otherwise the guards would confiscate our phones and fine us some odd lump sum of euros

After our visit through the Vatican city we got the nerves to take a taxi back to the hotel but this time we were much more precarious. We chose a taxi driven by a woman whose English were impeccable. On the trip back she gave us a mini history lesson through the streets of Italy. With every historical piece of artwork located at every corner of the melting pot of history, Rome was impossible not to talk about. Most importantly, she got us safely back to the hotel and because of her kindness and her willingness to teach us so much of the history behind Rome we chipped in a small tip for her service. Frankly, while she was sharing the history of the city I kind of fell asleep. I woke up to my head hitting the window when she ran over some rough cobblestones.

When we got back to the hotel, we were all exhausted. We all took separate paths and went into our rooms to take a nap. Hoping to meet up before seven, my crew planned on going to dinner together. However, after a deep nap—sleeping through my alarm—I woke up at 6:45 with a terrible wife connection. I was unable to get in contact with them so I laid in bed bit longer hoping the Wi-Fi would come back. By 6:55 I received a message telling me to meet them downstairs—however when I replied back at 657 they had already left. I was left behind. Apparently I wasn’t alone, another guy had done much the same thing and his mates had left him to his endearing nap. So we decided to go eat on our own to the nearest restaurant where I had my third margarita pizza of the week in less than three days and we both split the check.

Italian word of the day: ricevuta: receipt

  • slow and steady wins the race
  • a couple of my friends and I decided to go try out a pub (For my first time) in oxford (since we are of drinking age)
  • the first pubs we walked into..i had left my ID back in my dorm
  • after retrieving it, we went out again and this time to a more familiar place “purple turtuel
  • we had to pay a 3 pound entry fee per person. unlike the jazz club in rome, the entry fee did not cover a drink
  • we walked in and they all had a mission: take a shot of baby guiness and try the infamous and fitting brasenose shot
  • they all grabbed a abby shot and with a thrust of their head, they gulped the entirety of the baby guiness down.
  • i, on the other hand, stared in awe. they stared at me, anticpated for me to do the same…so under peer pressure I gave it a shot
  • I quickly gulped it down.. err what seemed as “quick” to me, was far too slow. they asked “you tasted it didn’t you?” and i replied “course!” and they said, “then you drank it too slowly. just gulped it down next time”
  • (next time never happened) then after sitting down and chatting, we got up again to try antoher shot. this time they were ready for the branesone. they order a shot for everyone (but substituitons were made) but me. One of my friends allowed me to take a sip, just to taste it. and the sit i had was so bitter and disgusting, i was mroe than delighted that i owuld not have to down antoehr 3oz worth of what tasted like cough medicine. once again, i was amazed (and petrified) of hwo quicly they guilped and tolerated it.
  • after taking thsoe two shots, they decided to head towards the booming music where the indoor rave was transpiring.
  • as everyone was yelling beyond decibels over the music, i abhor the scene, the music, and espically detested dancing in public. so i excused myself (saying that i would go to the batheroom) and left the loud hodagpodge of grinding people
  • i walked intot he lady’s restoom and peeked in at the sinks that were hoged by women painting their faces with bat poop (aka amscara) chicken feces (lipstick) and ofther defications form bizarre species (foudnation lol i made that up) but it was nonetheless digusting..the loo was filthy with makeup spilled everywhere…so i wondered out
  • the entrance of the underground pub weas filled with smoke of the cigerretes of underaged smokers. there was only one worker that stamped people and collected moeny. people were bgining to line up
  • i didn’t desire to continue people watching for any longer than 10 secs because A, i didn’t want to inhale too deeply of the smoke fumes and b. i was getting bored of the routine
  • so in this 21st centruy era, i quickly turned to my phoenfor comfort. but just my luck, my phone was at 2% battery. I didnt’ have much choice but to scholl through aimlessly under low brightneess through junk (i honestly don’t rememebr what i ended up doing) but before I knew it, it seemed like a long enough “abthroom” break so i headed back in
  • only to discover all my friends had goen on a scavneger hunt to look for me. i quickly apologized for my lack of tolerantce to blaring music and terribel shots that we all decided to leave the pub at once
  • my friendsd provided with solace –but this owuld not be my last pub (no the enxt one was boring. we got cider and left. i didn’t drink the entire half pint…so i wasted 2 pounds)
  • we left and then lingered in one of my friends room to talk about politics andw atch hialrious youtube videos before we realized the clock had struck two and it was time to go.

Pizza! The moment we arrived in Pisa, we were famished. It was passed noon and neither of us had a hearty breakfast (which by the way, Italians don’t usually have a hearty breakfast, like us Americans. It’s because they usually eat two breakfasts—one in the early morning and another two hours later. Yeah–not viable for me because I’m too lazy to wake up early to eat just a cup coffee and a croissant). So back to pizza in Pisa, we followed a GPS to the nearest Pizzeria where each of the four of us devoured an entire 8″ pizza in five minutes! While waiting for our pizza (also fun fact: Italians are so patient! I realized how long it took for Italians to prepare a dish for us as compared to Americans but then again Italian’s dishes are obviously much delectable… except for their bread! It usually tastes like stale bread—which honestly I wouldn’t be too surprised if that’s what they fed us. One of their common appetizer dishes in Italy is the bread salad, which is essentially using stale bread and soaking it in water and then strained. The soggy bread crumbs are then mashed with the chopped veggies and then mixed with olive oil and salt–mmm so healthy but so disgusting) Tangent over—back to the story: after we finished eating, we walked down the alley of stores and shops. There was just one block that was for tourism. The Leanign Tower of Pisa was not hard to fine. We followed the line of open shops full of tourists and backpackers. When we reached the pisa, everyone who had taken pictures with the tower had lined up all posing in a line because the grass was closed off. We took some pictures totally around half an hour to find the right poses.pisa

Gelato. We all wanted some. So we kept walking down an alley where there were more street beggers and sellers asking us to buy self sticks, at one point one man prodded Maryem “Oi lady, lady, selfie?”we advereted eye contact and kept walking straight (pro traveler tip # 201 never make eye contact nor respond back to those people—they’re very assertive. If you do plan on buying something from them, be prepared to bargain. Never pay their price)

In Pisa there was only one alley-on strip of shops and stores- that were open around 3 and it was the only strip leading to Pisa. All other places around it was dead bc usually around this time the Italians take a siesta.

Two of my friends separated and began their shopping excursions, whilst Ghaid and I stuck together and windowed shopped. Afterwards when we were tired, we walked back to the train station to go use the “toilette”  at the McD’s there. When we arrived at the stalls, a man stopped us (rest assure he’s a janitor) and demanded that we pay. We paid .80 euros to use the toilet (approx. $1)! Around 7 we decided to head back to Arezzo. We bought the train tickets and left. We arrived in Arezzo around 10:40. By then we had not even eaten dinner yet.

Italian word of the day: toilette: bathroom

From 8:30 – 11:45 class was held at the classroom annex, a block away from where we lived.

In class we learned about:

  • Dean Lander’s his life and his son’s bio for the first hour
  • introduction/ice breaker for the next half hour
  • Our three projects due by the end of the this week
  • Brunelleschi’s dome in Florence video for 3/4 of an hour
  • In the Name of Profit Project 0 for fifteen minutes
  • how flawed the management system for engineering can be

Then we did a walking tour around Arezzo where I learned the man who invented the music notes/staff and the three men who invented the Italian language.

IMG_2818

For dinner we went to Tokyo where I assumed the waitress only knew Japanese and Italian, but turns out–after a long awkward moment of staring–I realized she was Chinese!

Italian word of the day: grazie (pronouced: GRAH-zee): thank you

After a two hour ride via train, we finally arrived in Arezzo, a smaller city (much like a suburb) in Italy. Arezzo is part of the greater district, Tuscany.

When we reached the hotel, the first thing we saw was this:

13285536_1236869313013185_830667094_n

In Italy, anything nude is considered art

Italian word of the day: Bongiorno (pronounced as bwohn jor-noh): hello

 

Approximately 10˜20miles of walking today–from the hotel to the Pantheon, Capitoline hill, Colosseum, Arch of Constantine, Arch of Titus, and the Roman Forume. Fun facts: the pantheon is entirely made of poured concrete. The sides are thicker and as it nears the top it becomes more narrow. It was allegedly built for the architect’s wife. architecturally, it was perfect—perfect in the sense that everything was proportional, formed by a perfect square and circle. The spherical dome originally would’ve been wooden. And lastly the dome is not closed because if it was everything would collapse. simultaneously because the pantheon houses so many paintings and artifacts, there is a gutter system for when it rains it would not ruin the frescoes inside.IMG_2303

So, after wandering around we took some selfies, ate some gelato then headed back on the road to walk towards the coliseum. Upon arrival we had to go through security check, then we took a stroll throughout the entire coliseum—and oh my lanta was it grand. However, fair warning, the stairs you have to climb to reach each level are really steep! Walking back outside I realized that much of the coliseum had been restored.

Intermission: Did you megalomaniacs are delusional narcissists. This was brought to you buy Dean marks and the times spent with me while walking from one destination to another and your handy-dandy cellular IMG_8403device for making sure it would be saved and shared to the rest of the world. Your program will now resume in 3…2…1..

The Roman Forum is now dilapidated. However it was once “the pulsing heart of Rome, the city’s main piazza where citizens of every social level met to exchange opinions, do business, buy in the markets and renew their strength over a tasty dish and a cup of good wine.

An enormous crowd gathered there every day. Walking through the Forum one might meet rich merchants in precious clothes and sandals; or barefoot serving girls carrying baskets full of produce; reclining Roman nobles on a litter carried by slaves or sellers yelling full voiced to attract the customers.”

IMG_2670

Finally, after more than ten miles’ worth of walking we settled down for a welcome dinner.

Italian word of the day Prego: you’re welcome

P.S> the word of the day is probably the most passive aggressive spaghetti sauce company brand name I’ve ever seen

Just like the start of a race going to the starting line is always the most intimidating part of the race. Much like arriving at the airport was the most nerve wrecking and daunting part of the entire trip. It was the first time I walked through the airport without being handheld by my parents. As I walked to the line for the security checkout area—where they pat you down—I took one last picture with my parents.
IMG_2046
I noticed that this was the very first time I will be more than 50 miles away from my family. As I said my last goodbyes and after I had placed my laptop, carry-on bag, and my shoes in the bins, I turned around to see my mother’s eyes reddened with tears. This was the very first time I had seen my mother cry—she’s so tough and so good at hiding her tears that even onions can’t make her cry! But there’s nothing I could do about it at this point.

Still in shock, I sat down and waited for my friend to board the plane with me. While I waited I knew I should’ve started working on the reading assignment prior to the study abroad session however I was too in awe. I looked around the entire airport (which was relatively small considering that Oklahoma’s airport never goes out of the country) like a prairie dog. When I finally settled down, I sat next to an outlet—err what seemed like an outlet—only to find out that the outlet was no longer usable. One of the only open outlets and seating was UNUSABLE! I had only 60% coming into the airport (because I had packed my charger the night before thinking that I could just charge my laptop and that would be sufficient). However the outlet had a sign taped to it—something that as hard as I might—I could not decipher. It read:

IMG_2047

Fast forward to boarding my first miniature plane with aisles only a foot wide and with just two rows of seats, I sat down with an older lady. With a two-hour flight, we quickly arrived at the Queen City AKA Charlotte, North Carolina airport. They got the name from Queen Charlotte, image that. After a couple hours our flight had been delayed. When it was time to board the plane I ran up to the front to hand the flight attendant my priority ticket only to realize that it had been rejected—so I had to run back to the desk to get it replaced. Luckily with the new ticket I had more time. On the plane ride there, I shared the center seating with another study abroad group, he was a senior at Le university in Tennessee. His name was Parker and his major was humanities. On the plane I got to talk to him and his cohort…let’s just call her Cameleon, who too was in the same study abroad program as he. As the eight hour flight began, I had time to finish the required reading and eat dinner and breakfast and get some sleep (I honestly don’t know how much sleep I got).

When I finally arrived in Fiumicino, Rome, I was in awe. In awe of the grand beauty. In awe of the plethora of people that lived in such a old city. After gaping at the wonders of Italy, found my classmates and followed them to the train (completely automated) to the station closest to our hotel called VillaFranca. On the train ride there, I met my future roommate who attempted to teach me some survival Italian. The very first word she attempted to teach me was “sorry”, which is “mi dipiance” (sounds like me-dis-pee-ah-chay) but what I had initially heard was “me es beyonce”. Apparently the “lack of culture” in my voice “hurt” the others around me. When we stepped outside I was taken aback by the stench of smoke that reeked and polluted the air. Smoke was ubiquitous. It was the first time I had every inhale cigar smoke and boy was it potent. I knew my lungs would be black by the time I came back to America. After settling down in the minuscule hotel room with two twin beds, the gang and I went out to find lunch. Right as we walked across the street from our hotel, we were beckoned by the nearest pizzeria shop owner to “come come eat here we are the best, a very good price. We even will give you a discount. Please come” hard to reject someone so assertive and so vague. For lunch they first served us bread, or bechetti (as seen below).

IMG_2057

Then for our main course I shared a margeritta pizza (just a fancy way of saying cheese pizza) with a new friend. Together as a group of ninIMG_2061e, we sat around and ate together then paid. That was moment I realized that Italians included tax in their prices and the prices were even (not like Americas proclaiming its under $15 when it’s $14.99). Of course a small walk ensued to ensure we would not initiate a Italian weight gain upon our first day. Thus while roaming around we stumbled to a nearby gelato (which fair warning would be my new addiction).   As the picture shown on the right, my second gelato in my life! Nothing less than perfection (actually I take that back, I could taste a little powerderness in the cream, but other than that, it was sufficiently satiating),after our mini journey our for food, we all came back to the hotel to take a nice two hour nap because at 8 o’clock that night we would be heading for dinner (which I ended up getting margeta pizza again) and a trip to the Trevi fountain.

 

IMG_2079

(Not part of the Trevi fountain)

Upon the escapade in search of the fountain we ran into some other fascinating feats of Rome. First we passed by the church that housed the “ecstasy of st. Theresa”. Then walking a bit farther we ran into a smaller but relatively largeIMG_2087 compared to any fountain in Oklahoma. Finally when we reached the gargantuan fountain we stopped to take picture and make a wish. The building of the fountain was intricately designed with roman gods and goddesses in what seemed as a conflict. But you don’t need me to explain the details. Go see it for yourself!

That is all for tonight my friends. Ciao!

Italian word of the day: Ciao (pronounced like chow): hello

 

I have never traveled so much in one year. Cheers to 2k16 for being the year of exploration!

Acknowledgements:  I’d like to thank God, my family, teachers and my friends for these opportunities that have been given to me. And so the journey begins…


Engineering in Italy (May 16-May 31)

Lemme first introduce you to the people that will be on this trip:

Upper Eschelons:

  • Dean Marks: the head coordinator
  • Trinkleton (lol that’s not his legit name but his name isn’t too far from this): Dean Marks hubby
  • Jackie: TA (teacher’s assistant)
  • Dean Landers: Professor

Lower Eschelons:

  • Lil Wang Yay (AKA Lil Wayne):  that’s me—I obtained that nickname bc I butchered every Italian word I’ve spoken and as a joke Nathan jokingly thought a misprounouced name would best suit me. The major I’m pursuing: BME (biomedical engineering)
  • Josh: freshie, chemE (chemical engineering)
  • Christian: freshie, mechE
  • Sarah (my temp roommate in Rome): sophomore, AME (aerospace and mechanical engineer)
  • Nathan: freshie, computer engineering
  • Eric: junior, chemE
  • Hailey and kellli (twins): freshie, industrial and mechE
  • Yetti: senior, architectural engineering
  • Isaac: senior, chemE
  • Ghaid: sophomore, architectural engineering
  • Maryem: freshie, architectural engineering
  • Johanne: sophomore, BME
  • Jordan: sophomore, mechE
  • Bryan: freshie, chemE
  • Armahn: freshie, mechE
  • Aryan: sophomore, mechE

O-Chem in Italy (June 2 – July 1)

I honestly don’t think you need to know all 20 kids in ochem

Or the 40 more kids in Honors in Oxford