Congratulations to the Winners of JCU’s “Italy Reads” 2015 Video Contest — JCU // Creative Writing Workshop

(From article “‘Italy Reads’ Program Holds 2015 Student Video Contest Award Ceremony” on JohnCabot.edu) Now in its 7th edition, Italy Reads is John Cabot University’s community-based reading and cultural exchange program. Each year, high-school teachers and their students read a work of American literature and engage in discussions and activities surrounding the themes, in English. […]

via Congratulations to the Winners of JCU’s “Italy Reads” 2015 Video Contest — JCU // Creative Writing Workshop

Valentine’s Day–What Is It Again?

DSC_0030I’m lucky–I’ve always dated people whose birthdays were close to Valentine’s Day.  Even better, I married someone whose birthday was on Valentine’s Day itself.

Of course, I didn’t always realize my luck.

But first, let’s have a Sophia Petrillo moment, and “picture it”:

Valentine’s Day, 2014, a not-so-little Indian restaurant in the heart of Rome’s Monti district, a solitary woman dressed in bright colours walks in and asks for a table–alone.  Already the front room is crowded with couples, but there is one table tucked away in a corner where the woman can sit…completely observed.  It’s perhaps not the strangest sight that the diners will see for the night, but it’s definitely contrary to what’s expected.  Where’s her date? or Is she waiting for someone? or Has she been stood up? they might wonder.  Nope. She’s there on her own, taking herself out for Valentine’s Day.

—-

Of course, I’m not the only one who does this. I’m sure many people do, regardless of gender/sex.  It’s just not what others apparently expect.  What they seem to expect is that you ought to be at home, complaining to fellow single friends about your single status, drinking your sad singleness away, pining after an old lover or unrequited love, shoving a ton of chocolate down your throat, and then chasing it with a tub of your favourite Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream (or gelato if you’re in Italy).  What they don’t seem to expect is that you can celebrate Valentine’s Day all on your own and love doing it.  If you’re single, then help me to disspell that misguided notion.

After all, let’s consider what Valentine’s Day really is: a day dedicated to Saint Valentine of Rome, who was executed just outside the Flaminian Gate on February 14, 269 for refusing to renounce his belief in Christianity.  His feast day is February 14th, hence we celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Moreover, he’s not just about candies and hearts. Saint Valentine is the patron saint of “affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travellers, and young people.” (Catholic.org)

meaningofbeesindreams

So, this brings me back to being lucky.  I’ve been lucky because I’ve never really had the thought that Valentine’s Day was something do with my receiving anything (be it candy or flowers).  It was always a day about my remembering someone special to me and showing them my gratitude for their existence.  Being single doesn’t change that.  Valentine’s Day continues to be a day that I remember someone special and that I show gratitude for their existence…it just happens to be me. 😉

This Valentine’s Day, try to remember that it’s a day to:

  1. honour your faith (if you are Christian)
  2. remember a saint (if you are Catholic),
  3. thank the universe for the existence of bees (if you are bee keeper),
  4. ask for relief from suffering (if you have epilepsy or fainting spells or the plague),
  5. pray for a safe journey (if you are a traveller),
  6. embrace your youth (if you consider yourself young),
  7. say hello to people around you (if you are not alone, and if you are, then go find someone to say hi to),
  8. remember that someone has decided to put up with your crap (if you are engaged),
  9. remember that someone has been putting up with your crap for some time now (if you are married),
  10. work on having great sex (if you have a lover),
  11. and love yourself and those around you (if you aren’t already doing it).

So, what will you do this Valentine’s Day?  I know I’m looking forward to going to church (since it falls on a Sunday–lucky!) and thanking the universe for all that I have.  To top it off, I’ll likely have a piece of chocolate, give my mom a hug, make plans to travel in the near future, and wonder about the beauty of bees.

-D.

In the meanwhile, check out this video 🙂

 

Travel | Rome: Renewing Your Permit to Stay (Where to Go & What You Need)

Immigration

 

Are you studying abroad in Rome and thinking about working there afterwards?  Well, the video below may be useful for you.  Prior to graduating from John Cabot University, I decided that I wanted to give myself the option of remaining in Rome to work, which meant changing my residency permit type, from study to work.

With much help from friends (thank you, Dario and Sylvia), my university, and the Garbatella patronato, I was able to get through the process successfully.  Still, I found the experience quite stressful, especially going to the renewal appointment alone.

In this video, I show you where you need to go to renew/change your Permit to Stay (Permesso di Soggiorno), and explain the basics of what you need to do before you go.

Hope you’ll find it useful!

Have specific questions?  Feel free to ask.

 

Fibromyalgia | Jet Lag Anyone? Any Expert Ideas to Share?

View from my Delta fllight back to Orlando.

View from my Delta flight back to Orlando.

Today makes one week since I’ve returned to Rome…and I’m still dealing with jet lag. Yes, indeed. My entire system is off, and I’m finding that I am still going to sleep at my usual hour EST (between 1 am and 3 am).  This means that I’ve been going to sleep between 7 am and 9 am.  The heat, humidity and killer mosquitoes aren’t helping matters.  Thus, I decided to consult those in the know (yes, I should have done this on day 2).  So far I’ve found one like of interest: “Melatonin may help to treat jet lag disorder”.

Well, if you have any other ideas, share in the comments or send me a message! 🙂 Thanks!

Until Wednesday,
D.

Travel | Back to Rome on Monday…Why Again?

Found via Google image search.

Found via Google image search.

The other day I wrote a post about being nomadic, and once again I find myself about to board an airplane.  Monday, I return to Rome and will be there for a month.  If you were to ask me why, then I could give you about 5 good reasons (not in any particular order): 1) my stuff is still there, 2) I need to pick up my work permit, 3) I never picked up my university degree, 4) I’ve had a poetry translation published in a book and I will receive a copy there, and 5) it’s a great chance to see my friends.

Still, above all of these reasons, remains the most important:  I will know whether or not I really want to live in Rome.

When you are immersed in a situation, it is difficult to be objective about the reality of it.  This is why it is important to take a distance from it.

As a nomad, it’s incredibly easy for me to adjust to a new environment.  After about 2 weeks, I am often settled into a routine, thoughts about my previous life have eased out of my mind, and I’m excited to focus on what my new environment has to offer.

For some, being able to transition so easily from one environment to another would be a welcomed skill.  For me, I have to remind myself that, although it is great that I acclimate well to new places, it is important for me to understand what I have left behind, both people and things.

So, I’m heading back to Rome. I have no idea what this trip will mean, what it will accomplish in moving me further on my path, but I’m looking forward to it.  I’m packing my almost-finished-novel-in-progress (yes, it’s really almost finished), my camera and laptop, and whole lot of faith in the universe.

Wish me well. 🙂

Until Monday, (I’ll write while I’m in the airport)

D.

 

 

Being Nomadic: 5 Travel Tips to Feeling At Home Anywhere

DSC_00121

I hate travelling.  Okay, I dislike the process of getting to where I need to go. If I could teleport from one place to another, then travelling would be at the top of my Things I Love to Do list. Currently, it’s #1 on my Things I Have to Do list.

Still, arriving to my next destination is one of my greatest pleasures. Seeing a new place, experiencing a different culture, and through it exploring myself–this is my joy in travelling.

And luckily, my parents provided me with my first lessons in seeking a world beyond my own…and being comfortable no matter what.

The PELES Approach

Pele (s): noun,  a small fortified tower for residence or for use during an attack, common in the border counties of England and Scotland in the 16th century.

Here are 5 tips to fortifying yourself while travelling, avoiding homesickness, embracing new realities, and becoming a better nomad:

  • Prepare – Before you purchase that ticket to wherever, research your destination. Watch videos, talk to people who have been there before, read books, and buy a map or use Google Maps to actually see the place where you would like to be.  If the local language is something different from your own, then take an in-person or online course, or check out your local library or bookstore for books/CDs.
  • Explore – What are your expectations of this new destination? Do you have any stereotypes about the culture and its people? What would you do if things don’t go as expected? Trust me, this is one of the most important things you can do. We don’t always realise it, but our fantasies and biases about a place and its people can make or break our travel experience.  You cannot imagine thenumber of times I’ve heard people say “This isn’t what I expected.”
    • Find out what you expect, and then chuck those expectations off to the side…and recognise that you won’t really know until you get there.
  • (Be) Light – Emotionally. Travelling meansadditional stress. Travelling to a new place…well, let’s just say it’s the straw that can break the camel’s back. Over the years, I’veencountered many people who decided to “travel to get away from it all.”  Here’s the deal: you are who you are no matter where you are. Your problems don’t just disappear the moment you step on a plan. Heck, I’d say your problems can become overwhelmingly clear instead. Are you ready for that?
    • Before you go on any trip, I suggest resolving as much as you can, in essence, tie up loose strings.  Try not to carry excess baggage..they will only bring you down.
    • Do pack something that has been helpful for you in managing stress, e.g., stress ball, music, boading balls, etc.
  • Exclude – Anything unnecessary, whether thing or person.  There is nothingquite like travelling with a couple of suitcases, a carry-on, and a purse and arriving at your destination only to find out that there is a problem with transportation, e.g. no taxis available and public transportation strike–It can happen.
    • Do your best to pack lightly because chances are you will be 1) tired when you arrive, and 2) purchase things to take back home.
    • In terms of people, be aware that there may be some people who may be against your travel or have some (unwarranted) worries about the people or the culture. Work on turning the volume down on your ears or, better still, avoid them.
  • (Be) Sensible – In every possible way. There are many people who suspend reality when they go travelling. They do things that they would never do if they were at home. It’s the manifestation of that popular What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas slogan that creeps me outevery time I hear it.  I suggest the following:
    • Plan to arrive in the morning or by early afternoon if possible.
    • Arrange your accommodations beforehand and know how you will get around once you’re there.
    • Take the advice of other travellers who have been and any public notifications, e.g. in Rome, there are tons of signs about taking authorized white taxis with the city emblem.
    • Return to your accommodations by the late evening/early night (if possible) for the first night. Trust me, I’ve yet to find a city where anything good happens after 11PM.
    • Know how to connect with your family and friends once your there and maintain contact. Make a plan with family members for a specific time you will be in contact every day or however often you decide.

I called this the PELES Approach because I believe that being a nomad means carrying a fortified “home” with you, one that provides a solid method of inner and outer retreat should your new environment turn against you (whether literally or figuratively).

Until Next Time,

D.

Travel Tip| Get A Week LinkPass Even If You’re There For 2 Days (Boston)

View from my Delta fllight back to Orlando.

View from my Delta fllight back to Orlando.

Travelling around the outskirts of Boston, I made a mistake (or two), learned the resulting lesson, and am here to share.

I’m frugal, eco-friendly, and patient.  This makes me an ideal candidate for using public transportation anywhere in the world.  I don’t mind being jostled, witnessing vomiting drunk college kids, listening to the latest gossip from conspiring middle-aged minds, and smelling a screaming baby in need of a serious diaper change. I’m good, you see, with just about everything.

So, where did I go wrong on this trip?

Being frugal, I immediately went on the MBTA site to look at passes. There a couple of options for short stays (3 weeks or less): Day LinkPass for $12, and Week LinkPass for $19. (Both provide unlimited subway, bus, ferry and commuter rail Zone 1A travel) 

My dilemma occurred when I understood that I had to take a taxi to my hotel Saturday night/Sunday morning and that I would be unable to leave the area where I stayed until Monday…because public transportation is unavailable in Bedford after 7/8pm on Saturdays. That meant I only needed to travel on Monday and Tuesday.

I thought long and hard about it–apparently, not enough, however.

You see, I only needed to visit four places. I thought, Hmm…well, I can get a CharlieTicket and use bus transfers. That surely will be the best choice. After all, the fare for the bus is $2.10.

First, let’s break down a couple of  prices for the MBTA:

  • CharlieCard $1.60
  • CharlieTicket $2.10

There are, of course, more fares, etc.  For my trip, the above two costs were the important ones.

It is apparent from comparison that travel with the reloadable plastic CharlieCard is far less expensive than travel with the paper CharlieTicket.  They both offer transfers, but users of the CharlieTicket are made to pay a surcharge. What for? I’m quite uncertain.  Still, I get the eco-friendly idea of the plastic CharlieCard versus the paper CharlieTicket.

The problem with the CharlieCard is that you can only purchase it at certain stations between the hours of 7am-7pm or from certain retail stores.  I’m sure this is convenient…if you live in the area.

If you are just visiting and arrive after the sales hour and are not in proximity to one these retail stores, then the CharlieCard fails to be an option. You cannot purchase the CharlieCard from the fare vending machines located inside the stations.

Understanding the above, upon my arrival to the Airport subway station, I purchased a CharlieTicket for $10 (sold in values of $5, $10, $20, etc.) to use on Monday when I needed to leave Bedford for my appointments. I believed that this would be good for a total of 8 trips, i.e. 4 regular fares and 4 transfers.

I miscalculated.

The CharlieTicket does not give transfers from bus to subway. So, you must pay the subway fare separately.

Unfortunately, I had gotten into the habit of the Rome subway system that allots 1 one-way subway transfer alongside unlimited bus transfers within 100 minutes (cost 1.50 Euros).

In Boston, you are allowed 1 bus transfer within 120 minutes (cost $2.10).

In the end, I purchased another $10 CharlieTicket because I hadn’t realized that I would need to use the subway as much as I did.

Total cost of public transportation trip $20 with 2 CharlieTickets for 2 days. Less than 2 Day LinkPasses ($24), but more than the Week LinkPass ($19).

My recommendation? From day one, get the Week LinkPass. You can purchase it from the fare vending machines in the Airport subway station.  If you are going to be in Boston for more than 3 weeks, get the Monthly LinkPass ($75).

Otherwise, get the Week LinkPass.  For $19 you get unlimited bus, subway, ferry and Zone 1A commuter rail travel.

Lesson learned.

Until Friday,

D.

P.S. If you are travelling to Rome, and staying for more than two weeks, then buy a monthly pass (35 Euros). You can purchase them inside major stations or by roadside kiosks! I’ll write a separate post about this soon! 🙂

Fibromyalgia, Travel & Creative Nonfiction | Sometimes You Have to Be Poked & Prodded (Boston Update)

It’s been a long day. Actually. it’s been a long weekend. I arrived in Boston on Saturday night but didn’t arrive at my hotel until early Sunday morning. Slept for 3 hours, contemplated why the universe placed a homemade ice-cream place next to where I’m staying. Bought myself some grapenut ice-cream, slept 3 more hours, woke again, and contemplated some more. Slept 3 more hours. Rushed to catch a bus, and then another. Went to the dentist. Endured 3 novocaine shots. Replaced two fillings. Walked way more than I should have. Felt accomplished. Went to the dermatologist. I don’t have anything cancerous. But my hair is thinning due to PCOS…probably.

Took my time to catch a bus, to catch a subway, to wait for another bus, to take that to my final appointment. Saw my doctor. She made me laugh. Actually, we make each other laugh. I’ve gained too much weight. That may have affected my mood. I need to be on more medications.  That may help my mood. It may help my thinning hair. It may help my weight. I smile and laugh. I get sent down to the lab to pee, to give 4 vials of blood, to get hit on by a random hospital worker.

I remind myself that I still need to pack things, to bring my life into some kind of order. I’m asked what I am doing in Rome. I say I am living. I ask myself that, too. I respond the same way. I poke and I prod myself. I take deep breaths like I’m told to, like I tell myself. My blood pressure isn’t so high. Still I need to get back on my medications. I need to control myself. I need to prod myself. To poke myself into some kind of action.

I speak about overcoming depression, fibromyalgia, being in my late thirties…because 37 is late, it’s not mid anymore. My body is changing. It needs different things than what I’m used to giving it.

It’s 18:11. I need to get home…but where is it?

Travel | Let’s Chat For a Moment: Public Transportation Woes… (Boston Area vs Rome)

Image found via GIS.

Image found via GIS.

I happen to be travelling to Boston this weekend and spending a couple of days for a few greatly needed medical appointments.  To be quite frank, living in Rome has meant living without direct access to the doctors who know my illness best. Still, I’m happy that I have the chance to go and see them–many thanks to my mom and April.

Here’s the thing: being frugally-minded, I made a wonderful deal with Priceline.com to travel roundtrip from Orlando to Boston, plus spend the night in a decent hotel, Bedford Motel.  From the reviews on TripAdvisor.com, the Bedford Motel seemed reasonable and its location was in between or close to all the places I needed to be: Lexington, Burlington, Arlington, and Cambridge.

Of course, there is catch, although there shouldn’t be, but it’s not the fault of either Priceline, the hotel, or even my poor self.  It’s the MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority).

Travelling from Orlando, where public transportation is basically nonexistent, I thought “Yes! I’m going to Boston. Subways, real buses, even a freaking ferry!!!” I was truly excited…until I called the hotel and was informed that…

The MBTA does not provide bus service to Bedford after 7pm on Saturdays or 9:30pm during the weekdays.  

What?? Seriously? You have to be kidding me. There I was thinking that I was returning to a little bit of a traveler’s haven, i.e. a city, only to be informed that I had no way of getting to my hotel except via taxi at a rate of ~$130 from the airport or ~$60 from the subway station.

With my savvy traveller skills, I imagined that I had found a work-around: Okay, I’ll sleep at the airport, grab the first subway in and catch the #62 bus to Bedford and sleep for the remainder of the day.

I checked online, found out that it was relatively easy to sleep/hangout in Terminal B 28 until the morning, where there are rocking chairs. I thanked the universe and sighed with relieved.

Yes, I thought I had found the answer, i.e. until I actually checked the bus schedule to Bedford.

No service on Sunday.

What?? Really??

This is beyond ridiculous now.  Why ridiculous? Because I expected more from the MBTA.  Not only was the service limited, but the fare had increased as well!

You see, coming from Rome where the buses show up whenever the driver feels like arriving, I had an expectation of refined service, catered to the needs of city dwellers.  I was not expecting this.

Yes, you may say that Bedford is a small town/neighbourhood/whatever.  I say that there must be working people in Bedford, people who need to get to work or simply get about the place.

In Rome, although the service leaves much to be desired, it is available on the weekends–there is always a way to move about the city, no matter the time.  Night bus services takes you into neighbourhoods that are outside the historic center. That service runs until regular service picks up again.  In Boston, I read that they are diminished night transportation services at the end of June.

So, it looks like I’ll be hopping on the subway and catching a taxi from Alewife to Bedford.  It’s sad news, but for this reason I know that I can never recommend staying at any hotel that is not within proximity of the subway system.  At least the subway runs on the weekends.

Until Next Time,

D.

Vlog | Before I go… Pictures from Roma Pride 2015

DSC00841

Saturday, June 13th, was Roma Pride March. Since 1994, Rome’s lgbtq community has celebrated Pride Week.  Thousands came together to take over the streets, including representatives from major companies, such as Microsoft. It was truly an inspiring day and is another reason why I love Rome.