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Jul. 11th, 2007

some people really piss me off...

So Tony and I need a bunk bed because we're going to be living in a ridiculously small room. I contacted a guy over craigslist who seemed was selling one in Westwood. From the outset, this guy was pretty weird. I e-mailed him asking him with a few questions. If a person can sound monosyllabic over e-mail, it was this guy. Seriously. I asked him about the dimensions and his response was "i don't know." Just one e-mail like this is fine, but this is in a series @.@ Who the hell sends three-word e-mails?

Anyways, I should have known. After giving him my phone number to set up an appointment to view the damn thing, he calls me 5 days later. I figure out a time to go see it (it's not even who shows it - it's two Mexican guys, one named Manuel, who unlock the door for me. The bed's fine, but the bottom bunk's a bit messed up (the frame's a bit broken so the mattress droops it bit). In any case, it's a block from our apartment so it's a pretty sweet deal. I call him later that night to discuss (potentially negotiate), but the slow, rather mechanical voice asks if he can call me back. He does so the next day and I explain the situation, hoping to get a discount. The conversation:

Me: Do you think, since the frame's a bit damaged, we could get the entire thing for $60, $70?
Him: I don't think so
Me: pause Er ... well, could we get the bed if we paid the price you originally listed?
Him: No.
Me. longer pause Umm...why?
Him: I have my reasons

Seriously. We hang up, but I'm pissed because we really need a bed! I've been sleeping on the couch the past few weeks, which isn't bad, but I've also been living out of a suitcase, which annoys me immensely. Anyways, I like having my stuff wherever it's supposed to be, and living like this is frustrating. And it's so close! So, although I'm pissed, I call him back, hoping to figure out why there's a problem.

Me: Hi, it's the girl about the bunk bed again. Listen, we actually really need a bunk bed, and since it's already so close to our apartment, we don't mind that it's a bit damaged. We'll pay the price you originally listed.
Him: Well, I really appreciate that. Thanks. But I have to check something out with a friend first.
Me: Can I ask what that is?
Him: You can ask, but I won't answer.
Me: really long pause - seriously, i'm trying hard not to yell at this point
Him: Are a lawyer?
Me: No.
Him: are you a student at Harvard?
Me: What??
Him: You're the one with harvard in your e-mail, right?
Me: I guess so...
Him: Well let me explain something to you. People on the west coast aren't as smart as people on the east coast. You'll have to bear with me.

If I ever come face to face with this guy .....

Jul. 9th, 2007

behold, a summer on my own

First time, really. I guess it's kind of a lame way of saying I'm on my own, but I have to say, being in California when nobody else is here anymore is slightly odd. Liberating, in a way, but still, a bit lonely. My parents have just left for Malaysia (or Asia in general), leaving me alone in Southern California for the first time. What's more, my brother, who has lived in Los Angeles for the past six years, decides to move away the one summer I'm actually working there. Meh, alright, that sounded far more bitter than I actually meant it. But still, it would have been pretty sweet to be working here and seeing Wellington and Savannah (niece) all that I wanted. To further the sense of abandonment, my sister moved from Seattle to Philadelphia a few weeks ago - not as immediate of an impact as the former two, but the fact that everyone is in entirely different time zones is slightly getting to me.

Besides that, I'm working in the "real world" for the first time - "real world" meaning a potential industry I might pursue. I'm interning at Valhalla Motion Pictures and acting as an assistant to an independent filmmaker. So far, it's been a little strange - maybe not what I expected, but not all that bad.

At Valhalla, I pretty much read scripts all day. Some days are worse than others. There are four people in the office - Gary: the president of the production company, gay, wears weird jeans that droop a bit too much (i've seen a bit of the crack) and dress shirts that don't really hide a big belly, kind of a hard ass sometimes; Charlie: his assistant, really laid back, just had a baby (Wyatt); Gale: the big shot producer who's never there because she's in Toronto on the set of the next "Hulk", and Michelle: her assistant, has four kids (haven't seen them though). It's a pretty chill environment, and usually there are other interns (Ricky, Owen, and Matt). The best days are when we read pretty cool scripts and get to voice our opinions on them (suggestions for revisions, etc). The worst days are when there are really bad scripts to read, or there's pretty much nothing to do. The problem is, I get bored easily (as I'm sure everyone does). But honestly, I start falling asleep. So, in order to keep from doing so, I surf the internet or chat - not exactly the most professional behavior, I suppose, but I'm not sure what else I should be doing. Owen and Mat t like to give me crap about the AIM bit - I'm not sure if I'll ever learn to be properly professional.

At PhD Productions, I work for Valerie, who's pretty cool. She went to Princeton, majored in MCB, but minored in Theatre and Dance. She then went to Harvard to get a PhD in biochemistry, but founded a film program for the grad students in Dudley house. After getting the PhD, she decided to try and make it in Hollywood (her husband is a lawyer turned actor - they've been together since the freshman year of college @.@) What I admire most is the fact that she did both science and film - kind of what I'm pursuing - and actually decided to do the crazy one. She's working on making a feature and pitching a tv show at the same time. I'm essentially her assistant - send e-mails, call agents (to date, I've called agents for Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Rachel Leigh Cook, Christina Aguilera, Ali Larter - there are more, i'm too lazy to think of them). These are all things that she'd be doing, so, at least for me, I'm learning quite a bit.

In a way, the jobs have been exactly what I thought they'd be, but I almost feel slightly disappointed. I'm not sure if it's that I seem to be doing the same things over and over again, or that I expected life here to be that much more exciting. I feel like at the end of the school year, I was so burnt out and in need of a vacation that I glorified the summer a bit more than I should have. Then again, I've spent most of the last month driving between Irvine and Los Angeles, trying to work and take care of my parents at the same time. Maybe I just need to get settled in.

That's been the essence of my summer. The living arrangement's a bit interesting: on certain weekends, I go home to my empty house to take care of mail and see friends in home, but for the most part, I live in an apartment in Westwood, just off of the UCLA campus. I'm sharing the apartment with Gloria (cute tiny girl from nor cal who says "hella" a lot :D), Marcus (pretty funny guy from hawaii), Jeff (don't really know him yet - he's been awol), and Tony, who I'm actually sharing a room with. It's bound to be interesting - I've never had to share a room in my entire life (yes, i've been lucky in college as well), let alone with a guy.

Yes, it'll be an interesting summer ....

Jan. 8th, 2007

(no subject)

lol so my roommate made an interesting point that perhaps it might be better to decide on one new year's resolution and really stick to it @.@ you'd think that after an entire life of trying to do too much, one would learn huh? *shake* apparently not . . .

Jan. 7th, 2007

new year's resolution - and animation!!

haha so new year resolutions:

more of a social life (actually more of a life)
healthier (more specifically: sleep better, eat better, EXERCISE)
blog more
be happier (not that i'm not happy . . . scratch that - LIVE more ^.^)
do things that I'm actually passionate about and things I feel I should be doing
actually fulfilling my new year resolutions ^.^

I'll be constantly adding to this list throughout the next week I'm sure (perhaps even more than that). In any case - my first entry of the year includes something I've slaved over for the past few days. I'm slightly peeved that youtube has thrown the timing all off, but it's presentable :D

Presenting . . .

"behind every smile . . ."
an animation of three friends in a photo booth who have something to hide . . .

Aug. 17th, 2006

The Final Stretch

Man, it's been quite a while since I've updated o.O The past week has been somewhat of a blur, just because it's been the last few places we visited, and the fact that the fatigue of travel has started to stick @.@. Nevertheless, still gotta love the backpacking :D

Aw man . . the night train ride from Rome back to Bonn definitely left something to be desired. That day (last Thursday?), we had to wake up at like 6:30 to catch a 7:00 train ride to Siena. We were both so sleepy that we almost missed our train switching in Chiusa (thank god Andrew was only dozing). When we arrived in Siena, we realized, to our dismay, that the train station lacked a luggage storing area. An Italian guard man told us to take a bus to a Plaza Gramschi to find 'consigno' areas, but, due to another bus driver's mistake, we ended up on the wrong bus going in the complete different direction. By the time we realized our mistake, however, we were already on the other side of town. Hiro, a guy from Japan who also made our mistake, joined us in the search to find Plaza Campo, the famous shell-shaped piazza of Siena, and location of Palazza Publica. It was really beautiful - everything's this burnt sort of red (siena, the color is called ^.^) and the buildings are just beautiful. Apparently there's something called Il ----- (can't remember) which involves jockeys racing on horses for three laps around this piazza - it must have been 400 m around and apparently, the race only lasts 90 seconds @.@ Unable to stash our backpacks anywhere, Andrew and I went with Hiro to see Il Duomo (really pretty - green, red, and white marble everywhere, but the front was all covered for renovation >.<) while lugging our immensely heavy packs (stuffed with everything we'd bought in the past few weeks).

After catching all the major sights in Siena, we had to pick our way through the winding streets (uphill too >.<) to make our way back to the train station where we caught a train going back to Florence. Our night train to Bonn was leaving from Milan that night at 21:00 so we bid Hiro goodbye and hopped on another train to Milano (a lot of time spent on trains). We arrived in the station at 19:00, just in time to make all of the major shops closing. Regardless, we dropped off our luggage (paying quite a high price >.<) and took the metro to the central Duomo square of Milan, site of all the high-profile fashion shops (we got to see all the windows of Swarovski, Prada, Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana yay! o.O) and the scaffold covered front of the Duomo (also under renovation). We passed the time in a bookstore that had an extensive English collection (it's really hard to find!) and a quick stop at McDonalds.

Now, in an effort to save money, we decided (since this was our first chance to do so) to forgo a couchette for the night train. After all, those tiny beds really weren't all that comfortable, what with the waking up at 6:00 and the fear of rolling out and falling on the floor. So, in an effort to save 15 euro (per person), we opted for the 5 euro seats, thinking that it would be similar to the seats on the day trains. Boy, were we wrong. First of all, we were stuck in a cramped (completely full) compartment of six seats, three on each side facing in. I don't think I've ever slept a more uncomfortable night. We were with awfully interesting people (one Italian who couldn't speak english, wanted to smoke in the compartment (we all said no) and kept trying to sleep early, a German girl, and a couple from the Netherlands) but wow, was it uncomfortable. We tried to sleep at around 12 and after tossing and turning (leaning this way and that, propping feet up, bumping into other people), we were rudely awakened by German customs. Not only were these customs people mean (i was still half sleeping and looked out the window to see where we were and the customs man essentially barked at me "HEY! LOOK AT ME!" o.O), but when i figured out the time, it was only 2:30. Seriously, we all thought that it msut have been 6 am at LEAST @.@ After about an hour of checking passports (we were checked three times in all, and on the final time a woman came in and actually went through the poor Italian guy's bag @.@ her butt was facing me and she kept moving her gun right in front of my face >.<).

When we arrived in Bonn, Andrew and I just crashed in Michael's (Andrew's uncle) acupuncture office. Before they moved to Oberpleis, Bonnie, Michael, and Lea lived in the rooms behind the office (like a small apartment) and they already had a bed there. We slept from like 8:30 until 12 when we quickly got up to move our luggage into the car and went to Pizza Hut (YUMMY) for a nice lunch. Afterwards, we visited the bookstore to replenish our supply (we managed to finish all the books we'd brought on the train rides) and headed back home to rest. The next two days were uneventful - I was sooo tired of traveling already, not because I didn't enjoy it, but just because of exhastion. The next morning we woke up early to go to Metro (Germany's more extensive version and well equipped (with the exception of the electronics department) of Costco) to help Michael get groceries and household stuff so we didn't really get to sleep in. Even though we slept far more than we had, I don't think we really recovered (it might have something to do with the fact that we discovered Desperate Housewives and have been watching episodes religiously since :D) from the few weeks before because by the time Monday rolled around, I was still pretty tired.

Given that we've been traveling so much, and the fact that our eurail passes actually don't cover the Czech Republic, we decided to forgo Prague on this trip and spend a few more days in Bonn recovering. Monday morning, we set out for Budapest (an 11 and a half hour train ride from Bonn @.@), arriving there at 7 in the afternoon. Budapest is quite a beautiful city, I think, if not a little run down. First of all, we were completely ripped off by the train money exchange center (really we shoudl have known, but we got 215 forintz per euro, when they were selling 270 forintz per euro >.<). Next, there were men standing right outside the office who were offering to sell us forintz at 250 per euro while signs blatantly stated that this was illegal. Later, the reception guy at our hostel told us that they stage fake policeman nearby who just take all your money (forintz and euro) and then you're REALLY screwed. Good system huh?

We decided to walk the mile to our hostel after sitting down for about 12 hours and found it down a rather rundown hostel. Actually when we had to enter into he courtyard (lined with trash cans and peeling paint) I wa sa bit apprehensive about what we were going to find. It actually turned out ot be one of the best hostels we've been at. The reception guy, Jim, was great - right when we got there, he sat us down and took out his own map of Budapest and explained the best way to get around. He took highlighters, and pens, and basically outlined the most efficient and effective way to see the city - start with the National museum in Pest, make your way over to Buda, then down the Danube, and cross back over to see Parliament and the Basilica. That's definitely the first time we've ever experienced that kind of service. Our room was pretty nice too - about a block and a half away from the dorm-style rooms and reception, it was like an apartment - we had our own double but a complete kitchen and refrigerator at our disposal. I felt a bit bad for the reception guy though @.@ he seemed a bit bitter at the reviews he had been getting saying that even though he had originally started the hostel for people from the states, the discrepancy between Budapest standards of living and those of the States were hurting his ratings. Regardless, we're definitely giving him great reviews. That night, tired from the long day on the train, we just walked down to the Oktogan, picked up a meal from TGIF (hey, i twas either that, burger king, or mcDonalds) and some groceries, and then fell asleep.

The next morning we set off for a sightseeing whirlwind, making sure to keep time for the Szechenyl bathhouses later (what I was looking forward to the most). I'm not sure if it was because we were tired from traveling, or from the train ride, or from sightseeing, but I think those hours of walking from one side of Budapest to the other were the most tiring that we've endured on the trip so far. We just didn't have any energy - we managed to see all the sights (skipping the museum becuase we've really seen practically everything), but most didn't really impress as they should have. For example, there was a street known for its stores and shopping, but after italy, those just weren't up to scratch. Some of the monuments were nice though - Gellert Hill was quite pretty and the Buda Castle was definitely worth a look (as was the Mattias church). By 3 in the afternoon, though, we were pretty much happy to be done with it. After a small rest in our room, we headed north to relax in the bathhouses.

Now I was really excited about this place - I remember Evelyn telling me when she came back from Budapest about places were she got massages for super cheap (i'm not sure if this was the place, but I'm assuming so) and i was ready to just spend the rest of the day there relaxing. What we didn't count on was the fact that it'd be so crowded. The Szechenyl bathhouses were the biggest in Budapest - 15 pools in all. The two outside consisted of a normal swimming pool and a large warmer one. I'd never been to bathhouse so I didn't really know what to expect - first, i wasn't sure if we were just supposed to laze around all day (The Netherlands couple in our compartment on the night train from Milan said that they spent the entire afternoon there) or do other things. One thing was for sure though: Andrew definitely did NOT like it there. In all the time I've been with him, I don't think i've ever seen him so agitated. For some reason (even he couldn't really distinguish it), he just really did not like the place. He attributed it to not really liking spas and relaxation (which i refuse to believe). I tried to make him get a massage, but he really just did not want to. I booked a 1 hr Thai Massage, which was quite interesting (definitely not like the ones at Pala or in Boston, but still quite enjoyable - she certainly cracked my back well :D) during which Andrew uncomfortably swam in the swimming pool (no goggles, and with no swim cap, he had to wear a shower cap instead, poor guy @.@) and just hung out, watching old men play chess in the large bathpool thing. After I got out of the massage, I felt so bad for Andrew that we just left.

That night was still rather nice - we went to the supermarket to buy food for Andrew to cook (first time we've actually made anything to eat in a kitchen that was not ramen) and hung out at the reception for a while, paying for our rooms (57 euro for two nights - that's like 15 euro per person per night), using the internet, and calling home. The reception guy even offered us some of the Budapest chocolate and told us more about the hostel business ( a really really sweet guy). Tired, we headed back, made dinner, took showers, and collapsed into bed.

The next morning we headed out to Vienna (same train ride from Bonn to Budapest only the other way) where we were determined to do some serious sightseeing business: we arrived there at around 12, dropped off luggage at the Wombat's Hostel (super nice, and a block away from the train station - those are always the best), and started to make the rounds. We headed into the Old city - the Ring, as it's called to first eat lunch at Cafe Central (the oldest and most beautiful cafe in Vienna). I had authentic Viennese Eiskaffee (coffee with a scoop of ice cream :D)! Afterwards we walked over to the Hofburg Palace (the Hapsburgs' winter residence). Nearby were all the pretty buildings: Burg Theater, Parliament (really really pretty), and City Hall (which reminded me of a museum). St. Stephen's Basilica was by far the most impressive - we took a tour down through the catacombs (SUPER FREAKY) where we saw the tombs of prominent religious figures and the bones of the Black Plague victims @.@ That trip definitely did not help my claustrophobia.

While strolling through this area, we managed to stumble upon an English-language movie theater (YAY) that was playing Pirates of the Caribbean 2 (BIGGER YAY). Now i know I've heard some mixed things about the movie, and I must say, the general feeling is one of dismay, but still, it's Pirates, and we've got to see it. So, we decided to see it that night after dinner and shopping through the Stephen's Square (lots of good shops and stores). We picked up dinner at a chinese restaurant where Andrew and his family ate when they last visited Vienna (6 years ago?) where Andrew actually remembered and ordered the dishes that they ate (Tsa tsai mien, guo tie, and san hai bai tsai). Yummy food, accompanied by a trip to Starbucks (yay for chai tea lattes - and we've been really good about starbucks - the last time we had any was 3.5 weeks ago!) and we were ready for the movies.

It actually wasn't as bad as most people said it was; i just found that I was confused for most of it. First of all, I don't understand the Elizabeth-Jack angle (does she really love him instead?) and then if that's the case, why did she handcuff him to the ship? and poor Orlando Bloom @.@ and the ending - well endings that set it up for the sequel are bad enough, but this one was extremely annoying. You just KNEW that they were pissing you off so that you'd see the third one. Definitely not up to par with the first, but hopefully the third one will be able to redeem it . .. slightly (Captain Norrington was quite a bit more attractive, I must say :D I finally understand when Tara says that he's very cute in a popular British sitcom - and I can't stand Lord Beckett - honestly, this guy's played two atrocious characters - Reverend Collins and Lord Beckett - he's not really doing much to help his rep >.<)

The next morning, we woke up bright and early to haul our butts over to see the Schonbrunn palace (Hapsburgs' summer residence) and our last stop in Vienna. I was a little taken aback by the bright yellowness of the exterior, but the inside was very nice. We took a tour where a British guy took us around through 40 rooms (of the 1440 in the palace) and heaped a great deal of Austrian history on us :D. The gardens were, needless to say, breathtaking, with fountains everywhere and a Gloriette monument (small victory) from which you can see the entire palace and gardens. They even had an imperial ZOo in which they had giant pandas! But, we were running short on time so we decided not to go in (>.< i want to though!) And since then, a 9 and a half train and bus ride later, we're back in Bonn, finished with the extensive traveling of this trip. It makes me sad a little - it means that this trip is over which is both saddening and relieving. I'm definitely ready to stop going all over the place, but it's been so amazing that I"m not sure I really want it to stop. We still have a week, though, to see all of Germany that I've thus far avoided (Cologne, Berlin, Munich?) :D and perhaps another trip to Amsterdam to ease Andrew of the temptation when he's back at school >.< Guess we'll see what happens... ^.^

Aug. 9th, 2006

roma, roma, roma

Wow . . . Rome is definitely one of my favorite European cities >.< I can't believe I thought that three nights here would be enough *sigh* oh well, i guess I can't have a better reason to come back to visit then ^.^ It's really truly amazing...

So we arrived two days ago (on Monday) after what was a rather painful ferry ride. After our experience on the ferry from Ancona to Patras and finding that those who paid for deck passage seemed to still have relatively comfortable places to sleep (holed up on couches or the carpet inside, at least on Superfast Ferries), Andrew and I decided to forgo the seats and rough it on the deck. We had done this on the way from Patras to Corfu and managed to procure a place on the couches for night to sleep on. Unfortunately, since Igoumenitsa was a second stop on the way to Ancona, we were not as lucky. By the time we boarded the ferry, people who had gotten on in Patras already occupied every available carpeted space inside on the deck level. We attempted to find places on lower floors, but Minoan Lines seemed to be far stricter than Superfast and were kicking people out of completely empty spaces *sigh* So we begrudgingly began to look for spaces outside on the deck. We were lucky enough to find a lounge chair and a wooden bench in a partially sectioned off enclave (kind of like a little pocket in the wall) and we began to set up camp. Damn . . . no one ever warned me about the FREEZING nights on the ocean. When we were about to go to sleep, we heard thunder and saw lightning so I thought that that would be the worst, but halfway into the night, I woke up with goosebumps all over and shivering to find that the wind was blowing my towel-blanket sarong pants clear off. One trip to the bathroom was horrifying - I glared at all the prepared backpackers huddled up in their camping sleeping bags that kept them nice and warm. In an attempt to keep warm, I donned pants, a pair of basketball shorts, three shirts, and a sweatshirt. I wrapped the towel around my unfortified calves adn feet, then pulled my hood over my head and drew the strings tight, leaving a tiny hole for breathing purposes. Let's just say it was a rather uncomfortable night.

The next day, we arrived late in Ancona and didn't get to Rome until about 6:30. Tired, we checked into the Yellow Hostel (very well kept, large, and lively hostel) and then set out to our first Chinese restaurant in Europe (we were both craving it, there were signs everywhere, and we needed a boost after the huge disappointment of chinese food in paris). The food was actually pretty good - I chowed down on hot and sour soup, xiao lon bao, and curry fried rice (jia li zhao fan). During dinner, Andrew and I discussed how I really need to figure out exactly what I want to do in college >.< damn decisions.

Ever since we left London and the Pirates of the Caribbean 2 premiere in london, I've been dying to watch it. Despite hearing mixed reviews, I feel that I should see it before I judge it, so, after reading about an English-language movie theater here in Rome, we decided to check it out. We hopped on a bus to Trastevere (on the other side of the Tiber River) and wound our way through the narrow streets only to find that the theater had been closed down. Our trip was not to no avail, however, for we found a number of vendors to do some jewelry and souvenier shopping. In Piazza Santa Maria, there were entertainers (albiet, rather poor ones) doing tricks with swinging flames and juggling :D we headed home tired but satisfied.

The next morning, we woke up bright and early (penalty of a shared hostel room), and decided to take a run down Via Nazionale to see the Coliseum. Embarassingly, this is the first time that Andrew and I have managed to run together all trip ^.^ although I did learn how Andrew runs - apparently I'm too slow (or he doesn't really understand the concept of jogging :D) but he would keep sprinting ahead of me, stopping to wait for me to catch up, and then sprinting off again. Finally, I told him to just keep running and that we'd meet up eventually. Unforunately, he got two blisters on his heels after a while so we just walked our way back to the hostel for a very satisfying breakfast. We were planning to be take these 'Romeing' tours - one that afternoon at 2 called the 'All Over' tour that would take us all over ancient Rome and the Vatican City tour the next morning at 10 (the brochure said that tours that left on Wednesday might see the Pope). After five weeks of self-navigating and monotonous audio tours, we were ready for some actual history and learning. After waiting 2 hours (yes 2 HOURS) to book our tickets on the night train from Milan to Bonn for Thursday night, we headed over to Circus Massimo for the All Over tour. On the way, however, there was a freak rainstorm (really really strange) that started about 15 minutes before the tour begn and ended about 5 minutes past 2. We met two other girls who were planning on taking the tour, as well as the tour guide, but apparently, we needed 8 to make a tour. Without the right number, the tour was cancelled, and we were forced navigate the Ancient City on our own (it was really a shame too - the guide, Dustin, from Vancouver seemed like a really nice guy and really new his stuff; he was nice enough to give us some once overs on the major sites before we set off on our own).

With our trusty maps and Let's Go guides, we managed to weave our way through the ancient City, finding The Mouth of Truth (big lion head with a hole for a mouth that apparently used to be a sewer cover and translates to 'ass hole' in latin - i kid you not, or at least that's what Dustin said ^.^), Teatro di Marcello, Torre de Argentina (where Julius Caesar was assasinated), the Pantheon ( really crazy beautiful with a huge hole in the ceiling - too bad we weren't there when it rained), Fontana di Trevi (our later tour guide told us that when Italy won the World Cup, he actually swam in the fountain with other Italy fans. normally, people go there and throw coins in - one for a speedy return to rome, two to fall in love there ;), Trajan's Column, and then back to the Coliseum, Constantine's Arch, and the Roman Forum, this time equipped with cameras. The trip was undoubtedly less informative than the tour would have been, but it was still really nice to see all the famous sites. Aftewards we headed to Via del Corso for some fun shopping and relaxed chilling in the bookstores. We even had a classic Italian dinner with 'bugatini alla amatriciana' a really yummy spaghetti dish with a 'light tomato sause, chiles, spices' and more yummy stuff that i cannot quote.

The next morning brought us to our tour through the Vatican, lead by an Northern Iowa alumni (apparently an antiquities major o.O) named Tad. He arrived a bit late (he later admitted to being rather hung over) but nevertheless delivered a really great tour. We first stopped at the Castel Sant'Angelo, and crossed the bridge with all of Bernini's (the 'Michelangelo' of the Baroque art period) sculptures remembering the Passion of the Christ (which I learned was the final day of his life). having a tour guide is truly amazing - I don't think i would've understood anything to even 1/10th of what he explained to us, and knowing it all really helped. After going through St. Peter's square and veering away from the ridiculously long line to enter, we went to the Vatican Museums (where apparently 3 wks ago, we would have had to wait for 2.5 hours, we only had to wait 15 minutes - damn are we lucky that we decided to come here towards the end of our trip). The sculptures there are really amazing (pictures to come!) and the Sistine Chapel really just takes your breath away. I had been warned that it really wasn't that impressive and that it was just been shuffled in a line through a dark room - this is NOT the case. It was crazy to experience, especially after all the history that Tad laid on us right before entering. I have a newfound respect for Michelangelo - apparently this is the largest fresco in the world and he, not being a painter really (sculptor and architect foremost) managed to finish it with more finesse and in half the time that another master painter (so-called) took to finish a fresco 2/3 the size @.@ craziness. The Last Judgment was really crazy too - we weren't allowed to take photos which sucked, but the experience was amazing nonetheless.

After the Vatican museums, we returned to the Basilica but through a secret tour guide way (apparently) which cut through the lines (yay for tours). St. Peters is apparently the biggest cathedral in the world (if a baseball player hit the ball as far as he could from one end, he couldn't hit the back of the church - two football fields and then some in length). The only disappointment was that Michelangelo's Pieta was way off in some corner behind a glass wall and unilluminated, so we couldn't really get a good picture.

The 5 hour tour left us happy, knowledgeable, but starving as well, and with Tad's recommendation, Andrew and I, with three other tour members (from Ohio State) headed to a small cafe called La Medusa and got the 9 euro feast: a salad, main course, gelato, and a coke, all for 9 euro. It was by far the most satisfying meal i'd had in quite a while. We split up and then headed towards Piazza Novana to see Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers, where we were asked by these strange men to put our finger through a loop. They proceeeded to weave and then a woman told us that they were going to make us pay 10 euros, after which we quickly escaped. Wanting to do more shopping we headed to Via de Corso and the Piazza de Spagna (the Spanish Steps) for some shopping.

*sigh* i have never felt more poor or more inadequate. On Via del Condotto, every imaginable major designer was there: Fendy, Gucci, Prada, Cartier, Hermes (Andrew went in to find a Hermes white scarf like Miranda Priestley's), it was all there. We actually went in to most of them and still, it was depressing. My plan is that someday, some how, I'll be able to afford those clothes. . . but not yet ^.^ After more shopping down Via del Corso (chilling in bookstores, and lamenting how we failed to reach Nike, Adidas, and the Disney Store before closing), we stopped off for some quick food in a small pizzeria and headed back to toe hostel. And now i'm dreading tomorrow: it's 1:45 am and I have to wake up at 6:30 to catch a 7:14 train to Siena. *cry*

Aug. 6th, 2006

X-Rider . . . ripping up the island

For anyone who's never ridden an ATV, do it - it's hilarious and SO much fun. Yesterday (Saturday) was our last full day in Corfu and we decided to rent a scooter that would take us up the ridiculously steep cliff from Pelekas Beach and into the rest of the island. What we didn't realize (and I'm not really sure if this should have been true) was that we were supposed to have previous experience with scooters before renting one. Andrew's ridden on the back of one before and I'd never been on anything with wheels that wasn't a bike or a car so the lady told us that our only option was the (more expensive) quadbike - an ATV. We weren't too disappointed - it was as fun as ever. The most hilarious part was probably watching us as we slowly chugged our way up 60 degree hills as cars honked behind us, waiting for an opportunity to pass ^.^ Andrew was nice enough to let me drive the first leg - the 10 km that it would take us to cross the island and enter Kerkyra or Corfu Town. Completely without a map and any knowledge of the Greek knowledge, we managed to find the Old Fortress which is this old forturess (duh) on a small isle in the old Corfu Port. It was sooo beautiful, not only because it offered the best views of the Ionian Sea and Corfu Town from the lighthouse perched ont he cliff, but because of the building itself. Apparently, because of its location, Corfu was a crucial port and stop on the way from Italy to any of the lands to the East and as a result, it became a cultural smorgasboard of sorts ^.^

Afterwards, we just drove through and around the city on the ATV, (called "X-Rider" - fierce huh?) stopping at some sights that looked interesting and even ones that didn't ^.^ Scary incident: While driving (and i swear I didn't touch it at all) the one rearview mirror on the vehicle fell off - from the look of the joint, it had broken off before and been sautered on (poorly apparently o.O) and andrew had ot make the return trip without a rear view mirror (I think i served as an adequate replacement :D) When we got back to Pelekas, the rental ppl came and replaced it, only on the left side rather than the right which didn't help too much :D Afterwards we drove south to another village called Sinarades, also located on the beach, and then headed back to the hostel for dinner and a relatively early night.

The next morning was a bit unorganized - we had to wake up at 8:30 to move out of the room for the next day's occupants, but we weren't leaving Pelekas until around 12, so we just hung around the common room. We tried watching some of movies they had available, but due to their incredibly poor condition (I don't think I've EVER seen DVDs as scratched as those @.@), we didn't get more than 20 minutes into any of the movies. Add in the kids of the people who owned the hostel who insisted on playing video games (which, i'm sorry to say, after growing up with the amazing asian genius that seems to pick apart games like no other, was quite a disappointing experience)and we really didn't get to use the TV. Andrew took a walk down the beach while I stayed away from the sun and inside reading, and then we hitched a ride into Corfu Town to catch our ferry to Igoumenitsa.

One thing I've learned and come to resent is the fact that in Europe, practically everything is closed on Sundays - supermarkets, gas stations - everything that would be necessary, is closed. Thankfully for us, the touristy shops selling goods are open so we spent a few hours scouring old Corfu Town for souveniers and gifts to bring back to the states (my backpack is significantly heavier than when we first left Bonn o.O) We caught our ferry to Igoumenitsa where we found (to our dismay) that the ferry we were originally planning to take (20:00 back to Ancona) was cancelled for the day because the boat was on holiday (it leaves EVERY day, but today, no >.< now we can't watch all three lord of the rings in a row as andrew was so looking forward to) so we had to change our plans and stay in Igoumenitsa for a few extra hours. Given the rather boring nature of the port town, we've been loitering in an internet cafe since where've I've been writing e-mails and blogging :D love traveling huh?

Aug. 5th, 2006

Sand and Sunburns

I really really really love the ocean ^.^ I think that living in California, sometimes it's easy to take the beach and shores for granted. I haven't really gone swimming in the ocean in ages (maybe Kauai was the last time) because I don't really like the sand, but coming here has made me want to go to the beach at home more often.

Corfu has been one of the most beautiful places we've been - we're staying in a hostel (Sunrock) with a room that has a balcony overlooking the beach. We're about a 1 minute walk from the sand (just a little rocky pathway down) and we can hear the waves crashing as we fall asleep. The hostel's not quite as nice as the places we've been staying, but then again we've been quite spoiled. They seem to have plumbing problems because there's flooding which is a bit of a problem seeing as the shower is located in the bathroom (no partition, no curtain - it shares the same ground >.<) It smells a bit funky, but other than that it's pretty nice.

I do have one complaint about Greece though: the train transportation system is beyond messed up. To catch a train to Patra (Where we catch the ferry to Corfu), we had looked up the times online: a train would leave from the Athens central station at 6 and arrive in Patras at 9:45. When we arrived at the station, however, the authorities informed us that we needed to catch the train at another station (30 minutes away). When we arrived in Korinthos, no one told us that we needed to switch trains, so we went downstairs to ask information, only to be informed that the train leaving for Patra was leaving at that exact moment. Panicked, we sprinted back up the platform as one of the railway men had to wave the train down before leaving so we just caught it. Definitely our nearest miss as far as train rides go (with the exception of when andrew got off the train and i didn't o.O)After that debacle, things went rather smoothly - we met a man named Niko on the train ride there who was also catching the train to Corfu. He's from San Francisco (a lot of Californians in Europe) and apparently spent the past month on a rather isolated southern Greek island trying to write a book. Since we were heading in the same direction, we stuck together at the port and when we arrived in Corfu the next morning, he bummed a ride with us to Pelekas Beach (on the western side of Corfu).

The ferry ride was rather uneventful - learning from our past mistakes, we went without seats and camped out on a couch inside. The next morning we were so exhausted (6:45 am arrival) that when the room was finally ready for us, we passed out until 12:00. After some food we headed down to the beach. The Mediterranean is truly amazing - the water was just cold enough to be comfortable and refreshing from the heat and we just relaxed in the waves, played frisbee and sat on the beach the entire day. When we came back for showers, however, i found (to my dismay) that I had been entirely sunburnt - in an effort to tan my embarassingly white legs, i had managed to burn every other part of my body o.O needless to say, the shower was an interesting experience. Sleeping next to the ocean would be an incredibly relaxing experience were it not for the mosquitoes which ate poor Andrew to bits (i think he got like 15 bites in one night >.< apparently my skin was too burned to facilitate their meals) and a crazy thunderstorm that erupted in the late hours of the night. Despite it's beauty and relaxing qualities, Corfu nights have yet to redeem themselves ^.^ Today we're renting a quadbike (kind of like an AV rider) and going around the island (Pelekas beach is at the bottom of a huge cliff which requires some sort of motorized vehicle to scale), hopefully visiting Corfu Town (old and new) and some of the mountains in the north :D pictures to come . . .

Aug. 3rd, 2006

Athens 2006

You'd think that two years after the fact, the olympics craze would've died down a bit o.O but nooo, you stll see "Athens 2004" emblazoned everywhere. When we were shopping around in Olympia, one store had an authentic olympic torch (pretty cool huh? - the guy said that if we wanted to buy it, it'd cost 3000 euro o.O). Chilling in Olympia was quite nice - I'm not sure we appreciated it quite as much as we could have. Really nice hotel, and rather cheap food to eat. On Tuesday, we had to wake up super early to catch a train to Pirgos and then another train to Corinth which took about 4 hours. One thing I have to say about traveling - it can be alright, but Greece makes it a bit difficult. FIrst of all, it's a bit ghetto - the trains are ridiculously bumpy and lack air conditioning. Princess-like tendencies? yes I have them, but still :D It's still very beautiful. After we arrived in Corinth, we realized that Ancient Corinth was actually 20 minutes away by bus and that we had nowhere to stow our backpacks. Tired, sweaty, and exhausted, we just decided to catch a train from the new Korinthos train station (had to take a taxi there) to Athens without seeing the 6 remaining pillars of the Temple of Apollo. 

It took us a bit to get into Athens - the fact that we barely recognize any of the greek letters makes it a bit difficult for us to get around ^.^ After a few wrong connections, we managed to catch an electrical train into Athens central station and walk the ten minutes to our hostel in Plaza Vathis. In order to maximize sightseeing time, after dropping our stuff off and relaxing for a bit in the air conditioned room (:D) we strolled down Athinas to Placas and the Acropolis. The Acropolis was gorgeous, if not a little inaccessible - it sits on this huge cliff which they've made paths and marble stairs which you have to climb to get onto the top. Once you get there, however, it's worth it. There's the Temple of Athena Nike, Temple of Athena, Parthenon, and the Acropolis Museum. On the south side they have the Theater of Dionysus (which Andrew vividly recalls that he sat there for two hours, listening to the squealing of Greek music ^.^). The museum was quite nice (they have the 4 nymphs which apparently were the most beautiful women in Greece) and a bunch of cool friezes (engraved scenes) that used to be on the temples. There was a little enclave with the Greek flag which was super windy but offered beautiful views of the city. After going a ways down we checked out the Agora and then went shopping through the flea markets of the Placas (VERY fun :D - I bought a cute purse and Andrew bought a bottle of Absinthe o.O)

The next morning we woke up bright and early (and groggily I might add) to the National Museum of Archaelogy, completely with the Mask of Agamemnon as well as statues, vases, and artifacts from many periods throughout Greek history. We were a bit tired when we did this so we might not have absorbed everything with appropriate attention :D It was still great. The rest of the day was devoted to relaxing, a little bit of shopping, and a lot of nap taking ^.^ Gotta love vacation hm?

Jul. 31st, 2006

ferry boats rock ^.^

Superfast ferries actually is a super fast ferry ^.^ who would've thunk it? After leaving Venice (which involved a failed alarm clock and Andrew and me sprinting across the island to reach the ferrovia seconds before the train pulled away from the platform - yes, we made it, but barely), we arrived in Florence, sweaty and extremely tired (the train left at 6:30 in the morning . . . never a good time in the morning to do anything). Scared that the line to the Uffizi museum (apparently the one museum that houses all the most amazing pieces of art of the Renaissance, seeing as it began in Florence), we lugged our backpacks with us to wait in line. An hour later we got into the museum (all the whole while observing an asian chick and her guy friend (not boyfriend because andrew heard him asking her, "won't your bf be mad if he sees us?") making out steadily the whole time) and made our way through the partially A/Ced museum. Admittedly there were some pretty amazing pieces by Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Botticelli (yay for the Birth fo Venus ^.^), but I felt sort of like it'd been glorified too much. There were a few choice pieces that were great, but other than that, it was a pretty normal museum. On the other hand, I still have the Louvre heavily imprinted in my mind so i guess it will take quite a bit to impress me :D There was a very cool exhibit about the genius behind Da Vinci with a bunch of his studies, his projects, codes, etc which were all very fascinating (especially the attempted monument of Sporza - damn if it had actually been built, my head would have reached the top of the horse's hoof @.@

Afterwards we lugged our huge backpacks across the city to our hostel in the northern tip fo the city. It was a very nice place but the guy who ran it (Marco) seemed a bit sketchy in the way that he dealt with the girls :D maybe it's just me though ^.^ we were incredibly crabby adn sweaty from the sweltering walk to the hostel. After relaxing a bit we strolled around the streets of Florence, shopping here and there and picking up some things to eat (we found a chinese place where we got ramen!) and took some time to call home. Tired from the day, we took an early night. Poor Andrew was so scared of waking up late that he woke himself up at 5 and kept checking the time so that we didn't miss our 8:14 train to Ancona.

That train was quite ridiculous - crammed full of far too many people for a 2 hour train ride is never a good idea. While we were on it, though, we met a cute couple from San Diego University (lots and lots of people from San Diego) who would be taking the ferry from Ancona to Patras with us. The only problem was that Andrew and I had yet to make a reservation, and none of us knew how to get from the train station to the port. Thankfully, Tom and Carolina helped us and we managed to get onto the ferry (damn that surcharge tho . . . everything's so expensive). We had a 21-hour ferry trip from Ancona to Patras during which we thought we'd be absolutely bored out of our minds. The ferry boat was actually more akin to a cruise ship - 10 floors (bottom 6 are for garages), but with lounges, disco bars, a casino, swimming pools, cabins, stores, etc. It was extremely like the one I had taken to Alaska when I was 12, except maybe a little less luxurious. Still, far more luxurious than I would've expected. After wandering around a bit, Tom and Andrew thought it'd be a good idea to get 3 euro bottles of wine and drink out on the deck. Given Andrew and my tolerances, we got tipsy very early on and then jumped into the swimming pool. Only problem? The water was soooooooo salty. Whether it was salty because it was water from the ocean, or salty because of the multitudes of children that had frequented the pool before us (please i hope that it wasn't the latter), I'm not sure, but afterwards we were quite keen to take a shower. The showers were alright except that they were slightly flooded and Andrew's and mine had a bloody maxi pad in it >.< haha that may have been the most disgusting thing I"ve seen on the trip so far.

After our shower, the headaches from the cheap wine hit Andrew and me and we turned in for the night, sleeping on the floor of the "air seats" cabin - not altogether comfortable, but not too bad. I recieved a strangely shaped bug bite that night o.O The next morning we sailed into port, bid our goodbyes to Tom and Carolina (who, by the way, hopefully we'll catch up with again in Amsterdam later on) and caught the train to Pirgos and then Olympia. 

Side note about Greek men (funny thing was that there was a warning about this in our Let's Go book): they're really really creepy. They seriously will just stare at a girl walking by with out any regard for her or anyone she's with. While on the ferry and ever since I"ve arrived in Greece it's really scary! They'll just stare and you can see their eyes follow you while you walk by >.< sketchiness! I thought I was just imagining it, but after reading the warning in LG, i thought that it might be true o.O shameless!

This morning we woke up relatively late and set out for the archaeological site of Olympia: the ruins of the Temple of Zeus and Temple of Hera and the site of the original Olympic games. Amazing .. . . I only wish that they were still somewhat intact. looking at teh models of what used to be there, it seems incredible that we would be able to build anything of such size even in modern times. We also visited the archaelogical museum to see Hermes of Praxiteles and the Statue of Nike (Goddess of victory ^.^) and a bunch of excavational artifacts. Olympia is a rather small town but very nice with shops and relatively inexpensive food :D (which is good because we've been spending FAR too much and need to cut down). Tomorrow to Corinth and Athens . . .

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