The Compromise of 2015

‘I just won’t sleep,’ I decided. There were so many other interesting things to do.         -Jack Kerouac, On the Road

flash3

Sushi with the girls

‘Compromise’ carries a negative connotation, but it shouldn’t. Compromise is often thought of as losing something; as not winning the whole thing; as giving up a part of what you have or want.

But there is a beautiful side to compromise, too, which I recently spent two and a half weeks rediscovering.

flash2My last roadtrip was one of the pinnacles of independence so far in my life. It was not uncommon to receive texts or calls asking, ‘What state are you in?’ I ran my days by my own schedule, or no schedule, whichever I pleased. I drove when I wanted to drive, napped when I wanted to nap.

While there is nothing wrong with being on my own, we are created to be communal beings, and independence can go overboard. So I compromised the things to which I was accustomed in order to gain something I had not had before: companionship on the road.

flash5

Egret…?

After three days in Pierce NE for my roommate’s wedding, I drove to Seward and joined four other young ladies–Hannah, Erika, Kristin, and Ellie–for the 27.5-hour trek to Indian Rocks Beach, Florida. Hannah’s grandparents gave us a week in their condo, a very kind gift. The drive down had a few hangups with varying routes on GPS’s, etc. We were driving through the night in two cars, trying to keep drivers awake, stopping more than usual and sometimes not in the best gas stations…

But as I said: if I have the privilege of driving through the night with friends, I have to learn to be patient with hour-long rest stops & refuelings.flash4

The condo made everything worth it. Five days on the beach, swimming multiple times each day and runs in the sand in the mornings. The condo itself was almost completely decorated in white, accentuating the feeling of renewal and cleanliness that matched my mental and emotional restoration taking place throughout the week. The spacious porch allowed us a delightful view of the sunset over the water (and sometimes dolphins jumping in the distance!) during supper. A few nights we grilled lobster and shrimp kabobs.

flash1Indian Rocks Beach, a quaint resort town, lies on a small island on the gulf side of the Tampa Bay peninsula. Sometimes in the afternoons we took walks to get ice cream or sushi. We also visited an outdoor mall to look around the tourist shops and participate in a ‘free’ wine tasting–but they convinced us to buy a few bottles, so was it really free… oh well.

The girls had to drive out Friday to make it back in time for work. My friend Anthony had flown in that morning. We stayed an extra day at the condo, and continued the trend of spending the majority of our time on the beach or in the ‘dolphy’ water (‘salty’ water just after a conversation about dolphins). I told Anthony he wouldn’t live that one down.

flash9

One of my favorites of Dali’s works

flash8

Lincoln/woman at a window, Dali

flash7

Also a favorite, note the patterns & hidden faces, Dali

flash6

Dali & da Vinci & me

Saturday began the three-day roadtrip to Nashville. In St. Petersburg on the peninsula, we visited the Salvador Dali museum. The only painting I knew of his was the ‘melting clocks’ piece, so I was astounded at the multiple floor-ceiling pieces containing hidden patterns and classical images and sculptures inside the paintings as a whole.

Dali’s mustache was a theme throughout the museum and the garden behind it, which contained a labyrinth.

flash10

Bird with Dali stache

flash11

Zoo Atlanta

In Atlanta and walked around downtown, paying a visit to World of Beer and people-watching while sitting at a table on the street outside. Father’s Day we walked around Zoo Atlanta through the scorching heat and oppressive humidity then went and saw ‘Love & Mercy’ at the movie theater to cool down. Just before sunset we took a ride on the SkyView Ferris wheel near Centennial Park, which is dedicated to the Olympics.

Don’t go to Birmingham on a Monday. Everything is closed.

Museums, theaters, hall of fame, even the churches. All closed on Mondays.

flash12

Statue in Birmingham in Kelly Ingram Park

flash13

16th Street Baptist Church, bombed in 1963, four girls killed

Also it was hot.

So we walked around the park and ate at Jim ‘n Nick’s. Definitely a thumbs up for that, at least.

Then seven days in Nashville TN. You might think of Nashville as a music city, and that aspect can’t be overstated. Everyone I met seemed to be in multiple bands, with past involvement in at least half a dozen others, and had the ability to play at least seven different instruments. At the same time. (Just kidding–but sometimes it felt that way!) Having so much talent condensed into such a small area was astonishing. The air radiated with a sheer love for making music.

Anthony and I were staying with his friends Dave and Jenny and their family, who were hosting the music festival. Dave’s daughter Charlotte passed away four years ago, and the family hosts ‘Charleyville’ each year to raise money for scholarships for music camps, free and reduced music lessons, and purchasing instruments for kids, as well as making a donation to the creative writing program at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, which Charlotte had been studying, learning to write lyrics. Every year Anthony and his friends from Oshkosh roadtrip down to Nashville to support Charleyville.

flash20

Johnny Cash museum, Nashville TN

Charleyville lasted three nights, featuring 22 bands, a silent auction, a raffle, good food, and a lot a great people: the kind of great people with whom you want to stay up all night around a bonfire while they improvise on random instruments. I’m no musician but I lent my listening ears (those are needed too; at least I like to think so) and felt a part of the Nashville culture for a week, and it was beautiful.

During the day time before the music started, Anthony and I spent our time walking around the city as he showed me his favorite spots and we explored a few more. I hit up a few museums of course, including the TN State Museum across from the capitol building and the Johnny Cash museum which opened two years ago.

flash15

…and the Nebraska jacket

flash14

Modeling the Montana jacket….

We also met Manuel, a friend of Jenny’s, at his shop, where he designs and makes clothes for celebrities, including Elvis’ famous gold suit. Manuel let me try on some of his state jackets.

flash16

Parthenon

Nashville has a to-scale Parthenon, left over from the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition, complete with a statue of Athena inside which precisely follows the historical measurements of the statue which once stood in the original Parthenon in Athens.

Dave and Jenny lived about 15 minutes north of Nashville, which offered some great running territory in the mornings through forested lanes and around duck ponds and parks.

flash19

Shy’s Hill

I hiked Shy’s Hill, where the decisive Battle of Nashville took place during the Civil War–Dave happened to be a history buff as well and directed me to all the right places. The hike up the hill only took about 10 minutes but it was a steep drop on all sides. I cannot fathom how the Union army fought its way up and took the hill, all but wiping out the western Confederate forces.

While independence is a handy tool to have around, there are some things you can’t have without compromise. Like friends, for instance.flash18

Hawaii: Not-So-Typical Typical Spring Break

“Some people think I’m bonkers, but I just think I’m free; man, I’m just livin’ my life, there’s nothing crazy ’bout me.” -Dizzee Rascal, Bonkers

hi15I feel like ‘that college student.’ But after spending the last three years’ spring breaks in Michigan, Idaho, and Wisconsin, I figured it was about time for me to go somewhere with less snow than Nebraska. None, in fact.

I spent Spring Break 2015 on Oahu, splitting my time between Kapolei, Honolulu, and the mountains and highways and restaurants. Empress, my roommate from Italy, gave me the grand tour of her homeland, which included everything from beaches and shrimp on North Shore to karaoke and bonfires with her friends.

hi6I’ve always found it interesting to see a person’s past life. A professor said recently, ‘When you shake hands with a person, you are meeting years and years of experiences and memories.’ Throughout the past four years I have done my best to visit many close friends’ hometowns with them to understand them on a deeper level. I am always amazed by the new side of them I see: how they act around their childhood friends and around their parents, where their high school hangouts were, how their landscape shaped their thoughts and activities.

hi7

Erika and I at the USS Missouri

We spent a day at Pearl Harbor, my one request as a history major. I didn’t know much about Hawaii, so I said, ‘take me wherever, I’ll follow,’ but Pearl Harbor was the one must-see item on my list. We toured the USS Missouri and took a shuttle boat out to the memorial over the sunken USS Arizona.

hi10Over 30,000 men served on the USS Missouri throughout World War II; yet not one man was lost to combat in WWII, nor in Korea or Desert Storm, in which the ship was also used. Twenty-one ships sank in the first attack on Pearl Harbor, and 18 were put back into commission: the USS Arizona was one of the three that did not survive.

hi8 hi9There is something beautiful and free about the island and its residents. Recently I have made it a goal to relax in the little things: to walk slower, to look at the sky sometimes, to dance when I feel like it, to leave parts of my day open and just see what adventures fill those moments. Hawaii was this to an extreme. I slept in, awoke in Kapolei every morning to the sun on my face, and laid in the park to read textbooks or took leisurely long runs through neighborhoods whenever Empress had to work.

hi5One morning we awoke before dawn and hiked up to the old WWII pillboxes in Kailua to watch the sunrise. It was gorgeous, and we weren’t the only ones with this idea. It started to rain but it felt good and warm as we sat on the concrete roof of the graffiti-coated bunker. Later that day we drove around the entire island, stopping a few times to swim at a beach and to eat pineapple ice cream at the Dole Plantation. Somehow they knew I like the core because they stuck an entire pineapple core in my ice cream cone! I was ecstatic. Empress, Hector, and Erika just laughed.hi4

hi14

Tidepools

In addition to pillboxes, Empress and I also hiked to the tidepools below Makapu’u, which she had never done before, so we explored together! We found two tidepools and swam in them both, watching the waves crash on the rocks near us in the growing storm. We also found a cave at the very end of the hike. It took almost four hours due to the jagged rocks and sea urchins.

hi13Empress met up with different friends every night as we tried every kind of restaurant the island has to offer, I think. We ate Korean BBQ where you cook the meat yourself on a grill built into the table; I ate a lot of things I didn’t recognize when Empress took me to sushi (even eel, I found out later!); I sampled the famous honey toast at Shokudo; I split an acai bowl with Empress during a trip to Ko Olina, where we waded in the lagoons. And the coconut. Can’t forget drinking out of a coconut at the swap meet.hi11

hi3

Feeding the birds and koi at Byodo-in

hi2

Byodo-in Temple

Sometimes I went to Empress’s work and bothered her while she was finishing up photo shoots of tourists in Waikiki or running festivals at the Honolulu Museum of Art. I ate Mediterranean food at the Jewish Film Festival and watched an Indian dance routine, a retelling of the story of Mehrunissa, an orphaned girl in 16th-century Mughal India who became the empress of India when she married Prince Khurrum.

The final day my Empress had to work all day so I took my homework to the beaches in Waikiki and allowed my tourist side to come out a little bit as I burned in the sun and talked to the random older couples relaxing in retirement on the beach.hi12

Cruisin’: Unlikely Travel Buddies

“The very condition of having Friends is that we should want something else besides Friends….Friendship must be about something….Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow-travelers.” -C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves

cruise3

Departure from Miami

Our second ‘date’ was 10 days long and we didn’t kill each other… so I guess we should get married, right?!

Just kidding.

cruise21

Carnival Glory

When Randall informed me just before Christmas he had two free cruise tickets from winning Employee of the Year at his work in Plymouth, Massachusetts, I jumped at his offer. I knew I would have to miss a week of my last semester of undergrad… but senioritis was kicking in, and besides, when else might I have a chance at a free Caribbean cruise?

cruise5Randall and I had met in Italy: I was in Rome for the weekend, he was there for a week or so on vacation. We sat next to one another in St. Peter’s Basilica for mass that Sunday morning. After exploring Trestavere all evening together, we discovered that we enjoyed travelling and adventuring together–but when we parted we doubted we would ever see one another again. Until now!

cruise13

Two Carnival ships

I think it’s rare that someone would go out on a limb like Randall did, and ask someone he had met only once to spend 10 days with him–and I think it is equally rare that someone would accept that invitation. But we are both at times in our lives where we are willing, and able, to try most anything for an adventure. I am thankful God placed us in one another’s lives so we could take this crazy exploration together.

We had the time of our lives. Thank you, Randall, for all your hard work, and thank you for asking me to join you in this incredible experience.

The Amber Palace

The Amber Palace, on board the Glory

10 days, Jan. 30-Feb. 8: two overnights in Boston due to early/late flights into/out of Fort Lauderdale, two days travelling and boarding/debarking, two days solely on the beautiful Carnival Glory, and four days in the middle of the trip during which we debarked in Caribbean locations for 8-9 hours during the day.

photobomb...

photobomb…

The ship was gigantic–it was a floating city. There were 12 decks, approx. 18 elevators, a giant casino, more than a half-dozen restaurants, a large theatre, a water slide, multiple bars and lounges, and constant live music and stand-up comedy in the evenings. Randall’s free tickets left nothing wanting–we ate every night in the Platinum Restaurant, a private balcony, and still left some ‘cruise cash’ left over for drinks during the week. We spent our two ship days lying in the sun on the deck, watching the Superbowl on a giant outdoor screen, soaking in live music and dance, and sitting in the hot tub and looking at the stars.

cruise9cruise10We spent a day on the island of Cozumel, Mexico, where we rented a moped and zipped the 43 miles around the island, stopping frequently to visit Mayan ruins and talk to the locals. We came upon a free tequila tasting–I’ve never been a fan of tequila before, but now that I’ve had the real Mexican stuff, there’s no going back.

cruise11

Giant lizard!

Cozumel

Cozumel

We stopped once to watch the water crashing on the rocks on the back side of the island. On the way back to the dock we stopped in the town for lunch and pina coladas…and literally got caught in the rain… /cue country song/

cruise14

Belize City

Belize City

In Belize City we wandered around the city, went to the Belizean History museum, walked up and down the river, and talked to the locals. Much of the city was dilapidated, but it made for some neat pictures of staircases and walls in the middle of overgrown lots.

Miss Jenny

Miss Jenny

I ate Belizean food for lunch from a woman named Miss Jenny who served up delicious meals outdoors under a tent. As all her friends gathered around the tent they spoke quickly in Creole and smiled at me sitting wide-eyed on a tiny plastic kids chair beneath Miss Jenny’s large pots of chicken, rices, collard greens, and plantains. We met Edward, who told us about Belizean government and festivals, and I had a beer with Alan, who used to be a diving fisherman. He knew everyone on the river.

cruise17

Fishing boats on the river in Belize City

Roatan

Roatan

In Honduras we stayed on the island of Roatan, and from there took a chairlift to a smaller island with a beautiful beach. We rented snorkel gear and explored the beautiful reefs just offshore. We saw an octopus and a few squid, in addition to a plethora of brightly-colored fishes and corals.

Chairlift over the jungle

Chairlift over the jungle in Roatan

Otherwise we just lay in the sun all day: I read a book, Randall napped. That hard worker deserved it.

cruise20

Grand Cayman Island

By the time we reached Grand Cayman Island we were exhausted from the previous days’ adventures, so we decided to go with a guided tour for the main part of the day. We took a bus through the island, mostly comprised of large stucco houses and American-looking neighborhoods of American stores (vastly different from anything we’d seen on land yet), and older women going for walks in white shorts and visors. We were driving on the left side of the road: I discovered later that the Cayman Islands are British territories.

A boat took us out to the middle of the large bay where an underwater ‘beach’ came to a plateau about waist-deep, and stingrays circled our feet. Following the lead of our tour guides, we kissed and hugged stingrays, then snorkeled around the reefs. Our tour guide was Tina, and she homeschooled her son CJ and took him on all her tours. He loved to participate in fishing competitions, and wanted to go to college in New England. Randall spent most of the time on the tour talking with them.

cruise23

Paul Revere statue outside Old North Church

Paul Revere statue outside Old North Church

I had a night in Boston before I had to leave the following morning, so Randall took me downtown to Quincy Market, Faneuil Hall, and Old North church. It was cold, and we were both missing the sun, but we had a great time seeing a bit of the old city and drinking Sam Adams in the Black Rose Tavern. It was a bit strange to be blistered all over with sunburns but also be chilled to the bone because I did not have sufficient jacket or shoes.

cruise22

Nailed it.

Midwest from above

Midwest from above

But it was worth it.

I Failed Italy?

“Travelling opens the mind.” -Blue Is the Warmest Color

 5.7

I was on the public bus one morning while going to school and a woman yelled, ‘Mamma Mia!’ when the bus stopped suddenly and another woman fell on top of her. I smiled. I didn’t know Italians actually said that.

Itali5.1ans really do talk with their hands, too. We even learned important hand gestures in class one day. Thanks to this helpful and informative picture my friend Maddy sent me, I learned how to communicate clearly. I laughed out loud whenever my host mom Cristina made this same face and gesture.

And Italians really eat pasta with every meal, but here they do it ‘backwards’: pasta is the appetizer, and the salad is the main course.

Also the mafia still actively exists.

That was news to me.

5.5

My host mom, Cristina, and I sat down for a talk before I left Italy.

‘I guess I failed at this semester,’ I said. ‘I’m not Italian.’

When I first arrived in Florence and began to observe the lives around me, I said to myself: ‘If, by the time I leave in December, I don’t nap in a park on warm afternoons, I don’t eat tomatoes with every meal, and walking face-first into someone still makes me cringe, then I will have failed Everyday Life in Tuscany 101.’

There were two ways to mix with the Florentine crowd: act like a local or act like a tourist. Either way you blend in with half of the population. I did both, depending on my mood, but trying to be local as often as possible. I had Italians ask me for directions on a few occasions, so that counted toward big bonus points I think. The tourist population died down by the end of October, then picked up again in early December as Christmas season began to roll around and the blissfully magical Christmas markets rolled out in Piazza Santa Croce.

5.2I waited until that break in tourism to climb the duomo and the bell tower. I stood for a long time at the top, memorizing my beloved and now-familiar city as much as possible. I was able to pick out many of the places I had frequented and explored.

I also saw the city stretching away to the northwest, beyond the Santa Maria Novella train station and the canal that runs from Piazza Liberta to Cascine Park, the area I had sadly left unexplored. I saw thousands of buildings, and treetops scattered here and there like weeds poking up between towers of windows and arches, showing where the numerous city parks were located.

5.8With only two days left in the semester, I finally ventured in that direction. I sat in a park just beyond the extent of my previous wanderings. I looked back towards the city center, the Oltrarno, Gavinana, Bagno a Ripoli, Fiesole, and all of the city which lay between these areas.

‘I need to come back,’ I said to myself. ‘I haven’t seen it all yet.’

Not being able to do everything I wanted to was perhaps the most difficult realization I had to deal with before leaving Italy.

And yet, exploring never ceases. If I’ve been in Florence four months and haven’t ‘seen it all,’ what of the tens of thousands of other cities in the world?

5.6

So. The semester is over. Did I fail?

Well, I’m not Italian, and I never will be. If that was my goal, then yes, I flunked study abroad.

But I did nap in a park, and I eat tomatoes all the time now. Slathered in pure olive oil when possible.

Some Americans complain about our country and wish we were more like someone else’s country. I found just as many Italians who wished their country was different as well. And I have found Americans who aren’t fans of Italy and vice versa.

5.3The truth is, whether or not I would like to be Italian, or whether or not I tried to be Italian, I am American. I was born on American soil. I was raised with a certain perspective, with certain freedoms and rights, and with a certain political system. Had I been born somewhere else, I only hope I would still have the opportunity to explore other parts of the earth as I am now.

For the moment, I’m glad to be back on American soil. Today I walked around barefoot all day, I heard a sermon in English, I opened the curtains in my bedroom and the living room, I drove my truck. It’s not better, it’s just what I’m used to. This is America to me. This is where my roots find suitable soil.

That certainly doesn’t mean my travelling days are over. In fact, I have had multiple opportunities open up for the next seven months, so I have decided to keep this blog open in case anyone is curious what the Jarvite Gypsy is going to be up to, Lord willing.

Travelling is broadening perspective, learning empathy and grasping the humanity of mortal life.

Perhaps I didn’t fail too hard.

5.9

My Space Shrank When My World Grew

In Florence, Italy, the typical American ‘personal-space bubble’ shrinks to the approximate size of your bathing suit.

When a bus is packed full, no one falls over until that one man gets off and leaves a gap. Then you can be sure that at least three people will fall into that hole before the next stop.

If you make eye contact with the driver before you step into the street, you forfeit your right-of-way. He now knows you are aware of his moving vehicle.post 1.2

This is my fifth trip to Europe, but by studying abroad this time around, I hope to see Italian culture from backstage. I will be living in Florence for three and a half months, and doing so with a host family–two advantages I have never experienced before.

Tonight marks the end of my first week in Italy, although I just began class yesterday. I felt quite at home within three days: my host mom, Cristina, has played a huge role in making sure of that. (However, I recently found out that she will be cleaning my room and doing my laundry this semester, so that takes away from the at-home feeling somewhat–in a good way, I think!)

At first I was a tourist. I visited Florence for three days six and a half years ago, and I was surprised at how much I remembered–but I was still a tourist.

The following morning, I found myself ‘annoyed’ with the throngs of tourists. ‘I must be adjusting already,’ I thought. ‘This is what the locals must feel like everyday.’

But when I awoke the third morning, I knew that was not true. By this point I did not see the tourists as a problem; they were simply a part of the natural background of daily life here.post 1.3

I am only taking 12 credits this semester. I’m used to taking almost twice that many most semesters, so this semester should be a breeze. I did that on purpose; I want to spend as much time exploring Florence (and elsewhere!) as possible. I’ve already found a couple study spots around the city that I’m going to keep tucked away in the back of my mind.

Today’s spot was outside the old Tribunale on the wide benches across the street. Yesterday I sat outside the Lorenzo chapel, and today as yesterday I seemed to go unnoticed by most tourists walking by, allowing me time to write, study and observe. That’s what I do.