Saturday, April 23, 2011

It's hard to explain, but I need to vent.

It's been whirl wind these past few days.  On Wednesday afternoon it was decided that Ryan was going back to the States.  One of our student's has been struggling with mental health issues all semester and reached a point on Wednesday where he could no longer continue the program.  He need to go home and it was necessary for some one to accompany him.  That some one ended up being Ryan and by 8am Thursday morning they were gone.  I must admit I am kinda down.

Ryan and I were supposed to be on duty together this weekend but now it is just me. 

I don't quite know how to describe the job of Rome Assistant.  I think it is misunderstood by alot of people, especially current students.  We are viewed as a sort of conciege service.  Those lucky grads who get to come back to Rome and experience the Rome semester all over again but this time they don't have to study.  Students frequently ask us what exactly it is we do.  One girl asked me that exact question yesterday, followed by, "Do you do work?"  Yes, we do work, A LOT of work.  And it is especially frustrating that the people you are doing the work for rarely recognize it. 

Being an RA means that you are basically working all the time.  The minute you walk out of your apartment, not matter what time it is, you are fair game.  The students don't care if you are on duty or not.  Some examples from the last few days...
- taking the students to the Villa Borghese: busing all 105 students into Rome, distributing tickets and headsets, checking bags, fighting with the guard as she ripped headsets off our students and yelled like a crazy woman
- multiple phone calls in the middle of the night and no sleep
- taking a student to the doctors for 5 HOURS
- making sure all of the Holy Week events on campus are set up, and then cleaning up afterwards
- turning on movies, selling metro tickets, handling student reimbursements
- distributing Holy Week tickets and dealing with students who accuse us of lying to them about the number of tickets we have
- having to re-organizing linen exchanges because the students have hoarded sheets and now we don't have enough for everyone to get clean sheets
-  picking up students in the middle of the night bc they got lost and the buses stopped running  (the students in question actually begged not to have me pick them up.  They were too scared of how mad I would be.)
- staying up until 1am making sure quiet hours and open house hours are being followed
- waking up early the next morning to set up an Easter party for the students

 So, yes, we work.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


I am dedicating this post to bruschetta because I am OBSESSED.  I love bruschetta and crostini (basically the same thing as bruschetta just smaller.)  So much so that all my coworkers make fun of me.  I would gladly eat just bruschetta for the rest of my life.

Classic bruschetta pomodoro (tomato) is always a winner.  The produce here in Italy has ten times more flavor than in the states.  The tomatoes are bursting with intensity and when you add in garlic and fresh basil you can't go wrong.  Using good olive oil is important too because it gives the toast a rich, robust flavor.  Then there is bruschetta with olive pate, and bruschetta with artichoke, and bruschetta with mozzarella di bufala, the list is endless.  I like to diversify a bit and currently my new favorite is Crostini with Gorgonzola, Walnuts, & Honey.

It is really simple to make.  You need a loaf of good, dense Italian bread, good quality EVOO, gorgonzola (I use sweet gorgonzola but it is really up to your own personal taste), chopped toasted walnuts, and honey.  Slice the bread into 1/3 inch thick slices.  Drizzle/baste them with EVOO.  Grill or broil in the oven until golden brown.  Spread on the gorgonzola, add a few chopped walnuts, and drizzle with honey.  SOOOOOOOOOO GOOD!

I have a horrible feeling I will come back from Rome looking like a whale but oh well.  I am embracing la dolce vita and loving it!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Northern Italy Spring 2011

It was back to Tuscany this past week, this time with all the students in tow.  I am amazed at how well it all went.  We did have to leave two very tardy students in Florence, but that was the worst of it.  These girls were 45 minutes late to the bus so we had no choice but to leave for Venice without them.  It put the fear of God into the rest of the students which was awesome, and they all made sure to be on time to the bus from that point on.

In Florence I took the students on a tour of the Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza (the Galileo Museum.)  I love leading this tour.  I went on it as a student and I have lead the tour three times now as an RA.  It is such a nice break from all the art they have been seeing.  Just the day before we took them to the Ufizi** and as one student said the Ufizi is the most physically brutal museum he has ever been in.  He said the art just beats you repeatedly until you come out a destroyed human being.  I don't know if I totally agree with him but the Ufizi is intense so a science museum is a nice change of pace.  The students are genuinely excited and spend hours looking at all of Galileo's machines and other incredible pieces from the Scientific Revolution.  It just puts me in such a good mood to see them acting like little kids, coming to find me and show me some cool thing they found etc.

** Just as a side note.  If you have not checked out Google Art Project you need to.  It is the coolest thing ever.  The Ufizi is featured there along with some other really fantastic museums.

This Northern Italy trip I think Venice was my favorite stop.  The weather was perfect.  I even got a little "bronzata" as the bus driver pointed out.  I gave a walking tour of the city, a tour of the fish and vegetable market (and yes, I did get my students to eat horse and they liked it!), and I went on a tour of the Fenice Opera House.  On one of our free afternoons we had lunch at a place called "Al Merca."  In Venice it is very popular to have these little store front places that sell wine and panini to go.  You place your order and stand around out front eating.  We found this place last fall and it is simply the best.  It is located in a charming little campo (square) along the Grand Canal right by the fish market. The wine is cheap and the panini are delicious!  We spent hours just lounging, taking in the sun, talking, people watching, drinking, eating...GLORIOUS!

The only downer in Venice was that I did not get a gondola ride.  Ryan has repeatedly refused to take me.  He says it is a waste of money and he does not see the point.  I have resigned myself to this unromantic fate but it is still sad.  This trip, while walking around Venice feeling quite sorry for myself, Ryan suggested that we take a traghetto (gondola taxi) across the canal.  Since there are so few bridges across the Grand Canal you can get ferried across by a gondola for about fifty cents.  I agreed thinking this was his way of making up for not taking me on a real gondola ride.  As we were halfway across the canal, Ryan looked to his left, saw the Rialto Bridge and said, "What?!  The Rialto is right there?!  What are we taking this for then?"  I was crushed.  Apparently he did not suggest the traghetto in an attempt to be quasi romantic, he just didn't realize there was a bridge close by.  He could not figure out why I was so upset with him afterwards.  I must say he is not the romantic I had hoped for, he is much too practical.

On the way back to Rome we stopped in the town of Arezzo.  We wanted the students to have the chance to explore a real, small Tuscan hill town.  I mention Arezzo only because of BWW.  At one point she thought the bus was leaving without her (in reality the bus was empty and the bus driver was just parking it) and she went running after it, yelling and shouting, while the rest of us watched.  It was hysterical.  She tends to go into a high stress mode on trips and is constantly worrying about every little thing.  Mostly it is very frustrating but some times it can be very entertaining.

I forgot to mention that Ryan and Fr. Derek were heroes.  They put out a fire in Venice.  The fire brigade arrived shortly after and this is a picture of them explaining to the firemen what happened. 

The cathedral in Orvietto. 

Lunch in Venice at Al Merca with Fr. Derek, Silvia, & Sergio. 

 Ryan walking through the tiny streets of Venice.

Our traghetto ride across the Grand Canal. 

This is a picture Ryan took of UD's private vaporetto as it came towards the dock.

Monday, April 4, 2011

WARNING! Graphic pictures. Don't keep reading if you have a sensitive stomach

It's been a quiet week.  The students all survived 10 day and are in good spirits.  On Wednesday, we hosted a forno dinner for the winners of the Geek Olympics.  The forno is the outdoor kitchen on campus.  Cooking at the forno is one of Ryan's favorite past times and he finds every excuse to incorporate forno dinners with work.  This time round the students requested American food so we did bbq chicken with potato salad, and it turned out great if I say so myself.

On Saturday night Ryan and I hosted a dinner party at our apartment for our business manager Silvia and her husband Sergio.  My thought had been to cook brisket but as it turns out the butcher had other plans for me.  Now, you have to imagine me at an Italian butcher.  My language skills are horrible in normal conversation and when it comes to asking a butcher for particular cuts of meat they are non-existant.  I made Ryan come with me to help but he also got stuck.  The end result was the two of us gesturing at various parts of our bodies while saying the names of animals hoping the butcher would get the idea.  Alas there was no brisket and the butcher suggested lamb instead.  I have a wonderful recipe for a roast leg of lamb so I agreed.  But again, things were lost in translation and instead of a nice 7lb leg of lamb I got this...

I had NO idea what to do with it and at first I didn't even know that they had given us the head.  When we got home and I unwrapped the butcher paper I literally screamed and ran across the apartment.  Ryan ended up skinning it and hacking it to pieces and then roasting it.  It turned out well in the end and we had the added bonus of a lamb's head which we used to prank Hannah.

Ryan says working with college students has lowered my maturity level.  I disagree.

This coming Wednesday we leave for Northern Italy.  We will visit Orvieto, Florence, Venice, and Arezzo and I get to lead several tours.  Students last semester told me that they really liked my tours because they were so laid back and not full of information.  (Hmmmm, hopefully they did not tell Dr. Hatlie that.)  Laid back lectures with little information don't go over so well with the spring students, so this time round I am doing a bit more prep work.  As a bonus I intend to make my Venice tour group try some horse sausage at an equine butcher we found last semester.  If I can't broaden their intellectual horizons, I can at least broaden their culinary ones.  Ryan's tours are of course always intellectual and interesting.