Once again, I'm left thinking about how incredibly blessed I am. Not every moment is perfect, and anyone who talks to me generally gets the force of my venting, but I have a new goal I am working on, and so far it's been helping! My new goal: every day, every single day, have an "Oh my gosh, I'm in Italy!" moment. It doesn't need to always be for a big reason, but I just want to feel that surprise, that amazement, and that complete gratefulness.
So since that's my goal, I'll go ahead and share some of them from the past week.
Friday was another excursion, this one to Fonte Avellana. Mark and Gina, two of the professors here took us on a hike starting in a small town, with the ending goal being an abbey, hidden deep in the hills. I had just gone hiking a few weeks ago in Monte Conero so I wasn't too concerned. I packed extra granola bars and a water bottle, as well as a Gatorade (expensive but worth it. Nothing sounds better than a drink the color of the sky that surrounds you). This hike however, was nothing like Conero. Luckily, it was definitely cooler, but it was also much steeper, rockier, and out in the open. But the view blew my mind and was a scene just out of a movie. The path was marked with red spray paint lines every 5-10 minutes but our wonderful guides knew exactly where to go. We were encouraged to use hiking sticks, which some of the girls informed me made us look like Gandolph? or something.... (all of the Lord of the Rings references went straight over my head haha) As we reached the top of the first hill, looking back was a picture of mountains, falling away in different shades due to the humidity. We took our first break as we saw three semi-wild horses roaming through the hills. They ran over to us, as we were standing by their water source, an old aqueduct. They are semi-wild because they are allowed to be free in the summer, and then when it becomes cold, they go back to the barn they are from. From there, we continued hiking, some parts of the hill were straight down. Falling was NOT an option, because if you do, survival was not a likely option (trees could break your fall, but ouch either way!). The thrill was there but I was never scared; I was too amazed with my surroundings. I'll include some pictures, but no amount of describing will accurately tell you how beautiful this place was. The hike wasn't that difficult at all, dispite whatever complaining was going on. And THAT was when I had my "I'm in Italy" moment! I just couldn't bring myself to be upset, disgruntled, complain, or even speak negatively about this incredible experience... I AM IN ITALY! This is a chance of a lifetime, so what if there is a steep walk down hill or a dead animal laying near by... the bugs won't really hurt me.
After our hike, we ended at our destination, an abbey and monastery that was just recently opened up to the public for tours, although some parts still aren't able to be seen because they are used regularly by the monks there, who have taken a vow of silence. Also, you're not supposed to take pictures inside. The monastery was very cool looking, inside and out, although all I could think about was how tired I was. And then comes another "oh my gosh" moment... we were able to see an incredibly old book, one that is unavailable to most people. I could not tell you what it was called, but the way they explained it (or the priest that was allowed to show us), it is basically the musical equivalent to the Rosetta Stone. It holds some of the first written music, including timing and notes, and there are only two copies in the world. Even the Vatican, which had taken most of the old lamb-skin books from this monastery, did not have a copy of this book. It was awesome, and once again, it must be those connections! :)
Friday night was a quiet one: I gave a personal (and unwanted) karaoke concert to whoever was awake on the bus for the ride home so by the time I got home, I was exhausted. A group of us grabbed some pizza, gelato, and passed out in front of the computer watching a movie. We take turns pretending to be awake, laughing at something random, and falling back asleep.... but a perfect ending to the day.
Saturday was a great day too! A lot of the other AHA students were out of town for the weekend, so the few of us that were left, definitely wanted to explore what we could. After a very complicated phone conversation, we found a place we thought we could go trail horse back riding. Kacie, Casey, Matt, and I all made our way out to the middle of nowhere, thanks to Enrico, our wonderful taxi driver. We get out to a lovely horse farm and meet a lovely lady who, in addition to not speaking english, did not really want us there in the first place. Great start! It apparently was a riding school, so gave us each our first lesson! None of us knew how to ride English saddle, so it was interesting to say the least. She didn't make us pay at the end either, so it ended up being a 5 euro a piece horse lesson (cab ride). It was fun to watch, and the girl helping our 'teacher' was very nice. After returning to Macerata our small group went to the produce market, bought some fresh fruits and veggies and got some gelato (shocking right?) That night, we all got dolled up and headed out to dinner and the rest of our planned evening. We ate at an incredible little restaurant (although still haven't had bad food) and had a great time! We then went to a German opera concert at the theater in town so we could have our own "Oktoberfest experience" as Filiberto called it. The music was amazing, but it was also the music I fall asleep to at night... so we may or may not have left at intermission. The rest of the night was entertaining, we floated around town, meeting up with some of our new international friends and just enjoying being in town.
Sunday was a relaxing day, but definitely needed. I think getting a day to re-group is absolutely necessary, especially with everything being so overwhelmingly incredible here. Overall, I feel like I laughed more on Saturday and Sunday alone than I have in a long time, bringing me to tears more than once! The people that were with me, definitely know the right things to say to bring a smile to my face! (BETAAAA! why!?) (Did you know you could ride whales?)
Nothing is ever as you think it will be and being here has taught me to go with the flow, expect nothing, enjoy everything, and always stop to enjoy the smell of the field you're laying in or the cool breeze as you laugh with the girls while enjoying a drink on the piazza. Every moment is needed to complete this experience, and I will express the gratefulness I have for this experience over and over again, from now till forever I'm sure!
But the truth is, no matter where I am in the world, no matter where anyone is in the world, we're still living! An even when I come home, I need to remember to keep having those "oh my gosh" moments, because (here I go being cheesy again) life is way too short not to. We will never get these care-free college days back, we'll never get our twenties back. So we have to enjoy them now! And once I get older, I need to continue to love every moment, because life is way too fast. There's my little soap box. I know it's easy for me to have those wow-moments here but I think its way more important to have them at home in every day living, so try.
I'll attach pictures later, love and hugs and kisses to home :)