Monday, February 23, 2009

Carnevale, Prato, and Swim Meets, oh my!

I know I haven’t written a blog post in many a day. Between classes, now swim practices, and other social events, I perhaps have been neglecting it. I thought I could write something yesterday afternoon, but given that I had done Venetian Carnevale and then a swim meet in Prato (an early morning swim-meet, mind you), I couldn’t find the energy to publish a post that night. I hope that it is not too much of a disappointment, but fear not – this time I bring pictures!

Because my week was fairly uneventful (not to mention loaded with rather monotonous classes), this blog is going to focus almost solely on the weekend that just finished. Without a doubt it was the most packed and busy of my weekends, and I’m so glad I actually did it. I haven’t seen the movie, “Yes Man”, with Jim Carrey, but the ‘lesson’ seems to ring true – if you do something every day that scares you, and just say ‘yeah, sure’ when something is offered, perhaps you’ll learn something great.

We all probably should have gone to bed earlier than we did on the night before Venice, but we were all so excited to be going to Venice for Carnevale, we stayed up and talked until about midnight or so (keep in mind that midnight was less than six hours away from leaving). We went to a Bavarian pub that’s right next to our apartment, and everyone had a drink or two before leaving.

This is another thing that is great about living in Italy (and probably elsewhere in Europe): the alcohol is so much better. Ordering actual Bavarian beer, I sat down with everyone, had a sip, and became extremely content. It’s also very reasonably priced (at the local supermercato I could probably by 2 liters of decent wine for less than 4 euro, or less than 5 dollars). Perhaps it’s because I’ve been subsiding on Natty Lite for the past three years of my life in terms of alcohol, but really, after that stuff, this is heaven. The Italians are very proud of their wine, and even of wine in general. Today, one of our classmates asked the teacher, jokingly, what the Italians thought of boxed wine. The teacher, to quote author Bill Bryson, looked at her 'as if [she were] an imperfectly formed turd,' and replied that true wine lovers, and true Italians, would be disowned if they ever touched the stuff. Hilarious.

We retired around midnight or 1am, only to wake up at 5 to get ready to meet at Piazza Gramsci to leave on the bus for Venice. I walked up with my two roommates to the piazza. Here’s a note: If you don’t want to get the Evil Eye shot at you, don’t smile to anyone who just had 4 hours of sleep in 40-degree weather. We got on the bus, which was comfortable enough, and I managed to catch a few z’s, then listened to some music. I didn’t listen to music necessarily because I wanted to, but because the guy behind me snored like someone blowing his nose into a mud puddle.

After about four hours we finally reach Venice. I was not disappointed. Just the ferry ride to Piazza San Marco was fantastic. We were all tired and hungry, but we were all happy to finally see the city, I think.

The city from the ferry, just a quick snapshot before we hit the square.

Basilica San Marco at Dusk, near the end of our stay in Venice.

We got off at Piazza San Marco, and quickly tried to make our way around. Unfortunately, other people knew that it was Carnevale, too, so no matter how tiny or off-the-beaten-path the street was, it was crowded with people, just like us, trying to find our way. Still, we managed to get around, and there were enough things to do on our way trying to get around. Lots of vendors selling masks, and since we were only going to be here once, why not get some? I bought two: one that just covered the eyes, and one that was a full face mask. I thought the second one looked really cool, but apparently everyone else thinks it’s creepier than Frank from Donnie Darko. We had a quick lunch (note to college students: the tourist’s menu is your friend!) and resumed our journey.

All of us near the city center.

One time, in order to quickly return to the Piazza for one of the shows, we had to use a traghetto to cross the canal. Basically, you pay 50 cents to get on a gondola, and you cross directly to the other side. Twenty of us get on this gondola, huddled like Titanic survivors, and the boat seems to tilt and list unhealthily far. After too many scary tilts, we made it across safely.

And I’m glad we did. The Carnevale show was fantastic. Although it was preceded by an unofficial Hare Krishna dance party in the square (to which my mind responded, “um, what the f***?”), the Carnevale Fairy appeared! I kid you not. A woman, suspended under a giant colored balloon, floated over the crowd, spinning and waving and dipping to shake the hands of children. It was magical. I think that it was a nice end to a hectic yet fun day in Venice. I think Sean might have enjoyed it more, but that could be because he was hammered off of nearly a liter of home-made liquor punch.

The Carnevale Fairy graces the crowd with her presence.

We got back home at 2am and, all tired, we immediately went to bed, and most people had a long, nice sleep.

Everyone, that is, except me.

I got up at 6am. Tired, I took a shower and walked out to the bridge where I was to meet Andrea’s friends. Around 7am, Luca and Alice, the two who were going to drive me to Prato, met me and we started to drive. There were two other people in the car, Valentino and Gabriella, so they had other people to talk to. I started to nod off during the entire 1-hour drive, which I felt pretty embarrassed about (but they were very nice about it).

Fortunately, the 50-degree pool woke me right up.

I swam the 100-meter freestyle, 50-meter breaststroke, and the 4X50-meter freestyle relay. Suffice to say I didn’t win any medals, but I did better than I thought I’d do, and it’s cool that I can now say I’ve done swim meets in two different countries.

A snapshot of the tiny, but adequate, Prato swimming pool. Note that there are only 6 lanes, not 8: these crazy Europeans and their conversions rates!

I stayed awake for the trip back, in part because of the still-cold feeling from the pool, and partly because I chatted (or, at least, attempted to chat) with the other people in the car this time. When I got back, it was about 2:30 in the afternoon. I cooked up some pastafagioli, did my homework, and took a nice, 2.5-hour nap. It was a really good way to end the week.

Unfortunately, this week brings the dreaded e-word to everyone’s lips: exams! Wednesday is my written Italian exam, with Thursday morning being my oral Italian exam. Terrifying? Possibly, but the professors have been noted to be rather flexible in grading, and I feel good with the material that we’re going over. Still, I tend to get nervous even for the simplest of tests, but that’s just me.

Now for a request for you guys: Ash Wednesday is this Wednesday, but I don’t know what to give up for lent! I’m thinking something like chips, since I’ve been eating those every day here (they go well with sandwiches). Any suggestions?

That’s all for me today. I’ll try to write more often soon. Ciao!

1 comment: