I can see the finish line

Monday – Friday, 1 – 5 December

So I only have two weeks left at this point. Oh gosh.

This week was jammed pack with work. My boss was out for conference and he had given me several assignments before he left. And then when I got in on Monday I had two emails waiting for me with two new projects. One was a segment for the Influenza report that was needed that afternoon! The other was to create the rough draft for Animal Health Division’s inputs for Issue 14 of the Early Warning Bulletin (January to March-2015). I had worked a little on Issue 13 on my first week (largely just double checking grammar and spelling since English is not my boss’s first language), but this time I was actually making the rough draft! The very first draft on was all me! Ahhh! Talk about stressful. This bulletin is basically a forecast done by the Animal Heath, Plant Protection, and Food Security divisions on what might be of concern in the next three months in different areas (for example, Avian Influenza in China, Indonesia, and several other Asian countries). Once I had my rough draft I sent it to specialists in our departments, in either diseases or areas or the world, to see if I covered everything. I had a few additions, and then sent it to two of the higher ups in Animal Health to see if they had anything to add. And once they gave me their comments and I made the corrections I had to send it to my boss. Did I mention the final draft was due Monday? So that was a lot of work!

On top of that, one of my best friends here at FAO had her last day on Monday. Ai has been amazing, and I loved hanging out with her. We went to dinner with her coworkers that night and it broke my heart to say goodbye. She is going back to Japan, pretty much as far away from where I will be living the next 6 months as you can get! But she wants to come to the US one day to visit, and I will visit her in Japan one day.

I also had the rough draft for my final paper for my university (I am enrolled in a one hour class on my internship there even though I graduated in May, otherwise I couldn’t receive my scholarship!) and my normal weekly duties.

I worked really hard all week long, and although I became even more sleep deprived then I was before, I managed to get enough done that I could spend my last full weekend here exploring the city and not working! I cannot believe that Sunday (7) marked the start of my last week!!!!!

I am excited to see my family and friends back home but I will miss this complicated city so much.



Sunday, 30 November

Today is my parents last full day in Italy. Tonight they will spend the night at a hotel next door to the airport and get on their plane at 6am! Since it was Sunday we decided to go to the market. There is a really good one over at Porta Portese that is only on Sunday. It has a little of everything and the quality and prices vary wildly! We saw everything from stalls selling underwear for a euro each to woodcarvers and leather salesmen. It was an interesting experience because this market is enormous. We wandered all over and saw a little bit of everything.

For lunch we headed back to where we had Thanksgiving since it was right by where we currently were! We shared the specials again, which were different this time. Still absolutely amazing, no surprise.

After lunch we wandered back towards the general direction of the hotel, stopping at shops along the way. My parents needed to do some souvenir shopping. We walked around a lot, and even stopped to see the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore on the way.

Once we got back to their hotel and picked up their luggage we headed to Termini where I sent them off on the train to the airport and their hotel for the night.

It was really nice having them visit and it was cool to be able to show them around (although my Dad kept insisting on leading the way when we were walking somewhere unfamiliar even though that’s how I find everything, by wandering, haha). It was also nice to see Roma from the tourist’s perspective. Since I started working the day after I arrived, I became familiar with the city quickly. Now I often get asked for directions on the streets in Italian, haha. Considering my ability to speak Italian is still pretty poor (although I understand it pretty well) it’s always kind of funny. Normally I can help a little at least. If I can’t understand them well enough and I ask if they speak English, they often try to ‘guess’ where I am from. German is the most common, although British and Russian have been guessed more than once. Often they point to my hair and go ‘German?’ I have never once gotten American though.

Hopefully the next place I live is also as cool to visit!!!


Continuing Saturday, 29 November 2014

After seeing the beautiful city of Pompeii we decided to explore Naples (Napoli in Italian). My personal opinion of Naples? It reminded me a lot of U.S cities. There were a lot of skyscrapers and high rise apartment buildings. Very little of the old city remained. Just little pockets of it here and there. We walked around the coastline looking for all the famous landmarks to build up our appetites!


The first famous landmark we came across was Castel Nuovo. When Naples became the capital of the Kingdom of Napoli in 1279. They were doing some repair work so it was a little hard to get close to, but we got a good view of the back.


While we walked around we saw tones of fishermen. They were literally everywhere!


Then we saw Castel dell’Ovo, or in itailan Egg Castle. The legend goes that the Roman Poet Virgil put a magical egg into the foundations to support the fortifications. Had this egg been broken, the castle would have been destroyed and a series of disastrous events would have involved the city of Naples. Virgil had a reputation in medieval times as a great sorcerer and predictor of the future. Cool huh!


After that we went to get pizza. Naples is where the original Margarita pizza came from so we decided to try it! One thing we found super funny was the lights on the streets. Europeans make fun of Americans for being so materialist, BUT LOOK AT THEIR CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS!


Our train ride back was long but fairly uneventful. Tomorrow will be my parents last day!!! 😦

The City in Ash

Note: Sorry again, crazy busy week, you will be getting at least two or three posts this weekend!

Saturday, 29 November

After work on Friday I joined my parents for dinner and then we retired to their hotel room. Since our train to Napoli left so early it was easier for me to just spend the night (depending on the bus driver’s wiliness to work it can take me anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour and a half to get into the city center some days!).

Saturday morning we were up bright and early and headed over to Termini to jump on the train. It was a regional one, so it took a few hours, but then we arrived! The intention on this trip was to see Pompeii so we headed straight over there. The weather was perfect, not to overcast but not hot. Due to advice from one of my co-workers we decided to join a tour.

Best. Idea. Ever.

Even though it cost a little more tour guides can make the city come alive. One of my favorite tips from him was how you could tell the nicer areas of town based on the amount of crossing rocks (when it rained the city flooded so there were crossing stones in the roads) and if there were also chunks of light rocks in between the cobblestones. In the nicer areas of town the roads had two lanes, and so there were two crossing rocks. In the poorer areas they were only one way so there was only one crossing rock. The lighter rocks (often marble) were not there for decoration. They actual functioned as streetlamps! At night the rocks would reflect back the moonlight making the roads a little brighter!

Lets go exploring


The entrance of the city


The nice area’s road, see the lighter rock


Inside a bathhouse


City streets


Mi Padres


Ancient “Propaganda” or what we would call ‘advertising’ in the US


The crossing stones!


Family Picture


This is an old ‘Take Away’ (Roman fast food) restaurant! How cool! See the counters?


The Theater


The Forum looking towards Vesuvius

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All in all Pompeii was amazing. It was so massive; we could have spent two days in there easily. It is so beautifully preserved, it is easy to imagine how life must have been like. You can even still see the grooves in the roads. Beautiful. Definitely Pompeii is a must for any traveler who loves history!

However we wanted to see some of the rest of Naples so we headed back to the city center! More on that next!

The Italian Turkey Day

Monday – Thursday (TURKEY DAY!), 22 to the 25 November

Monday it was back to work for me/ a little recuperation time. I was exhausted. Having also sort of been gone the last week (I was working on a few assignments from my laptop, but no where near the normal work load) I had a lot to catch up on at work. Avian Influenza’s high season is coming up so there is a lot to prepare!

On Tuesday (23) my parents got into Roma! After work I met them in their hotel. I make lists of things I want to see when I visit cities, and I had modified my list for my parents earlier. So first thing we did was sit down and find places on the map for them tomorrow. We then decided to have dinner at the Spanish Steps that night. Typically I avoid this area because it is so crowded and touristy. Pickpockets can be bad here, my friend had 700 euros stolen out of his wallet! Yikes. But for once it was quiet. I have never seen the steps so empty! What a treat. We had dinner at a nice little restaurant that wasn’t too touristy, and enjoyed our evening.

So while my parents were here in Rome they did a ton of super cool things. They did guided tours, saw all the famous sites, did catacombs- Everything you should to have a great time in Rome. However, I wasn’t there, I was working. So I can’t really give you the details or share pictures. However I know that they had a great time, and they really enjoyed their guided tours (If you can afford it always do the guided tours). I just joined them after work, typically with enough time to show them something and then to get dinner. However we did have fun. My dad convinced me to try Boar on Wednesday. He used to be a butcher so he knows his meats. He said it was good boar but farm raised. I don’t really know how I felt about it. It was different, not bad but weird.

Now Thursday was of course Thanksgiving! I met my parents after work and we to headed down to Trastevere. This is not a real touristy area, it used to be where all the workers lived. Now it’s one of the more nicer neighborhoods in Rome. Since it is real Roman (aka none to little tourists) the restaurants don’t open till late. We went to this nice little wine shop and had a bottle and relaxed while we waited for the restaurants to open. We had decided on this beautiful little place, because when we first walked in thinking they were open, we found out that it was the family and employees having their dinner and we had to come back in an hour! My Dad and I really wanted to eat there now because, I mean, it was a real local restaurant. And those are the best in Italy.

And it was work the wait. Best Thanksgiving dinner EVER. We ordered the chiefs specials and shared them amongst ourselves. This was actually one of the few things I took pictures of this week.

Our appetizer with homemade bread, and local cheeses and prosciutto.


Two different pasta dishes, a gnocchi and my favorite – Carbonara.


And our meat, which was some kind of beef, wrapped around carrots and onions and slathered in a delicious tomato sauce. I don’t remember what it was called (it was in Italian come on!), but oh my gosh it was amazing. I have never had meat that tasted so wonderful.



And of course desert. We were all painfully stuffed at this point, but my Dad and I have a real weakness for Tiramisu. When we ordered it our waiter asked us if we also wanted a Birramisu… We had to try it (While Tiramisu is made with coffee, Birramisu is made with beer)! Which was almost better in my opinion. It was sweeter and didn’t have the sometimes sharp coffee taste of Tiramisu (I don’t like coffee but I love Tiramisu, I know, I know).


This is how to eat Italian. Local, amazing, and surprisingly inexpensive!

During dinner we planned out my parents last Saturday, which was to be at Naples to see the beautiful ruins of Pompeii! We headed home, full of delicious food and happy memories, ready to meet up tomorrow for one last weekend of fun!

Ciao Bella Venezia

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Today was my last day in Venice, although my parents were staying for a little longer. We got started early, and who wouldn’t with this beautiful view. My Dad sure knows how to pick a place.


Today we decided to go over the Grand Canal to the very tip of the entrance on that side, near to the Dorsoduro, to take in the sights. It is a bit of a walk though so we took our time. This morning the gondola’s were in full production and it was pretty funny watching them trying to get under the short bridges.


If you plan a trip, (be it to Disney or Europe) always try to plan it during the off-season. Things may not be open as late or as long, but the lack of crowds is always worth it (take it from a former Disney Cast member). I don’t think my parents realize how lucky they are to have seen St. Marks almost empty!


Family pictures! I got a few on my camera!


It was a bit of a walk to get across the Grand Canal so by the time we got there we were awake and eager. It didn’t help that we decided to do this during high tide so one minute we are standing on the edge gazing at the beautiful view, the next I am screeching like an alley cat as I tried to keep my feet dry.


(My Dad swears this is an outhouse… sometimes I wonder how we are related).

After that nice walk we went back to St. Mark’s Square to do some of the museums there. First we visited The Correr Museum. The museum is build in the Napoleonic wing, built in 1806-1814, when Venice was part of the Kingdom of Italy for Napoleon (who would have guessed right?). Of course it wasn’t finished until after Venice was under someone else rule, because you know that’s just how this happens. Like most older buildings in Italy, the rooms are masterpieces, with ornate paintings on the walls, carvings, and an all over atmosphere of history and strength.


I liked this room the best. My Dad might have taken a picture of me in a very maniacal pose…  DSCN8708 DSCN8706

Now the Correr Museum actually connects to the Archaeological Museum, so we journeyed into that next. It had some really interesting pieces, but I think the coolest is below.


It’s probably hard to see exactly what this is. The map on the wall is a very famous map of Venice, you can get a print of it anywhere. Underneath that glass however is the original 6 wood blocks that were used to make it. They are massive, it’s crazy to imagine someone sitting there and carving such an intricate woodblock. How beautiful!!

At this point it was time to get lunch and go back to the hotel so I could grab my bag and walk to the train station (it would have been faster to take a water taxi but I like walking around cities like this).


The smell of fish once it’s not super fresh makes me super nauseous, like about to throw-up nauseous. I am happy to report however that Venice doesn’t smell like that (I was actually really worried about that, because I did not want to be gagging the entire trip). Typically when I am near the ocean or fish restaurants I have a puerperal stomach ache from nauseousness. Venice is very clean however, and it doesn’t smell like fish at all!


Bye-bye beautiful city. I already miss you.

Also can I just say, if I could possibly fit one of these masks in my luggage without breaking it my wallet would be in epic trouble.

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Back to work and FAO!

The Venetian Streets… eh or Canals?

 Saturday, 22 November 2014

 So being the super planner that I am I made my parents a list of interesting sites to see in the area. During breakfast I marked some on the map and we headed to the closest one.

One of Italy’s most common landmarks is churches. In the US I am used to seeing churches that, while beautiful, are simple. However since Catholicism is King, churches here are beautiful in their extravagance. So it only makes sense that one of the first places I take my parents would be one! We went to San Zaccaria, home to the Bellini altarpiece, a beautiful masterpiece. This church is one of the 8 San Mango Churches and was originally founded and built in the 7th century. In 1105 a fire destroyed much of the building and it had to be rebuilt. The current church was built in late 1400 to early 1500 with several pieces of the old church used in its construction. One thing that makes this church so beautiful is that it’s façade is a mix of Gothic and Renaissance styles. One interesting fact was that this church used to be connected to a Benedictine convent where the daughters of several rich venetians were placed against their will. They were very famous, not only for their power and influence, but for the wild nature of many of their members. There are some crazy stories about the San Zaccaria nuns, how they would throw parities and even ran a salon in the convent. Once they even threw rocks at some authorities when they came to break up a party. Unfortunately for the nuns they took it a little too far that time and the Doge cracked down on them, walling up the windows and most of the doors to the convent. So glad I wasn’t borne in those times. So the cultural importance and art aside- Why this church?


Remember that Venice is pretty much at sea level so Crypts are very uncommon here. San Zaccaria has one of the few crypts in the city, home to 8 of the past Doges. The Flooded Crypt of San Zaccaria is nearly always flooded, and it’s only possible to go down the stars unless you want to get your feet wet. If I ever go again I will bring galoshes.


Next we headed to piazza San Marco, or St. Mark’s Square, home to Basilica di San Marco, Doge’s Palace, and Torre dell’Orologio. It was high tide so water was already leaking out of the drains into the square!


The Doge’s Palace is a massive building, the old home of the Doge, the supreme authority of the Republic of Venice. In 1923 it was open as a museum.


The Doge’s Apartment and the Institutional Chambers were beautiful but the old prison was also really cool! It was strange thinking of the most important figure in Venice living in the same complex as its prisoners.


The prison was very dark and narrow! I wonder how much light the prisoners got…


After the Doge’s Palace we decided to head to Murano Island since the rest of the city seemed flooded! haha


Murano Glass is famous, and there is a reason! We went to a factory where they were doing demonstrations! I was really impressed with the skill they showed.

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I mean look what they have made!!!

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My Dad wanted this one-


I wanted this… however it cost over 20,000 euros!!!!


However later when walking around the island, away from the fancy shops we found some more reasonably priced items… including BUGS!!!


After we had wandered around the island for awhile we headed to a water taxi to get a ride home. It was nearly 5 and the sun was going to set soon so I separated from my parents on the way back to find the ‘Most Beautiful Bookstore in the World.’


Libreria Acqua Alta (Library High Water) actually floods during high tide! So what did the owner do? He filled the rooms with bathtubs and boats! No joke.


Old books have been used as part of the building too! There is a staircase made of old books!!!! (it gets dark in Italy really early, it was only a little after 5!)


I believe this is a used book store, because of how disorganized and old many of the items were. I even found one of my favorite series as a kid! I was really tempted to buy it!! Instead I bought some maps for myself and a gift for my boyfriend. The owner was so sweet. He was a big older man, who had several cats wandering around him at all time. He kept showing me different maps and pictures and was so friendly.


After my wonderful journey I headed back to the hotel… I may have gotten a little lost, but hey it gave me time to pick up some other gifts, hah! By the time I got back to the hotel my parents were hungry! We headed over to the Rialto Bridge since we hadn’t been there yet. That is the big bridge, covered in shops. It was so busy! And high.

We stopped at a place right along the Grand Canal for dinner who specialized in fish (because its Venice). I typically avoid seafood because the strong odor fish get when they lose their freshness makes me really nauseous. I gag when I walk by the fish area in the grocery store at the end of the day. My Dad kept saying I should be brave and try new things specially since its Venice and they are famous for their seafood.  Dad had a point and we were at a nice restaurant so I was brave and ordered the Seafood Spaghetti.


Yes that is an Octopus leg. I was surprised that it wasn’t horrible. Definitely not my favorite, way to rich, but ok.

As we headed back to the hotel I couldn’t help but admire how beautiful this city is. No wonder it has captured the hearts and minds of people for generations, and while people insist on staying on this sinking city.