My Last Couple Weeks in Italy… and Abroad

In my last post, I said that I was going to write a post about the rest of my experiences in Poland. Although this was my full intention, I now find myself a week later with only a mere 5 days left in my voyage through Europe. So, for lack of time, I’m going to write a post about my last week in Italy. I plan on posting one more time before I head back to The States on July 14th.

I was not anticipating my trip to Poland with much excitement. To be honest, I knew very very little about it. We took a plane and landed in Krakow later in the afternoon. The first thing on all our minds was getting something for dinner, so we asked the concierge for some recommendations. Did anyone else know how great the food is in Poland? I surely didn’t! That first night I feasted on pierogis, pickles, sausages, saukraut, and delicious ribs. We topped the night off with lemon vodka shots. Everything was wonderful, from the food to the wonderful company to the violinist who was playing in the background. It was surely a night to remember and was without a doubt the best food I’ve had in Europe so far AND THAT is saying something.

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The next day we went to visit Schindler’s museum. I knew very little about Oskar Schindler’s story.  At first, Oskar Schindler who was German, moved his operations to Poland for monetary gains. He found that by hiring Jews from the ghetto, he could save very little money by not having to pay them the same wage as his previous workers; however, over time the best in Schindler came to the surface. He ended up saving an estimated 1,100 lives by employing as many Jews as possible and acting as their protector. The museum that we visited led you through a timeline which started with the German occupation in Poland and ended with the end of WWII. As you ventured through the museum, you felt as though you were in Poland at the time that all this was happening. With the use of lighting, propaganda posters, sounds, and even the texture of the walls, the museum seemed to bring you back to the early 1940s. Schindler’s story was inspiring to me because Oscar Schindler’s early years would not prove him a noble man; however, when he saw the pain and suffering that many underwent he overcame his nature and chose to protect instead of exploit. For those of you who haven’t watched Schindler’s List, I highly recommend it.

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IMG_5841.jpgAfter the Schindler’s museum, we went to visit Auschwitz. If any of you would like to read about that experience, I dedicated an entire post to it which you can retrieve in my archives.

After our trip to Auschwitz, we made our way back to the central square. Here, you can find tons of shops, delicious restaurants, and a large market. My priority once we got back was getting some amber jewelry. For those of you who don’t know, Poland is known for their copious amounts of amber, so you can always buy it at a decent price. Once I had picked some things out, I went to dinner and once again was delighted by the fantastic food. I had pork chops, dumplings, and pickled pear. DELICIOUS.

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Once I left dinner, I decided to go off and explore a bit. After exploring the square I decided to go back to the hotel. We were staying at the ibis hotel and I was pretty certain that I knew how to get back, BUT I decided to turn on google maps just in case. I’m known for my terrible sense of direction, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt. I was relieved that I turned google maps on in time to realize that I was going in the wrong direction. So I turned around, and followed the map all the way TO THE WRONG HOTEL. There are apparently TWO Ibis hotels in Krakow, Polands. Ooops. Typical Hannah fashion, don’t you think. AND, the best part about this story is that the moment I realized that I had gone to the wrong hotel POOF…. My phone died. I went into the hotel and groveled until they agreed to print me a map. I HAD TAKEN MYSELF 40 MINUTES AWAY FROM MY HOTEL. I was not thrilled. In fact, I was terrified. I am not great with maps and I was convinced that I was destined to get myself even more lost than I already was. I was about ready to break down and get a taxi when I decided to give it a shot. GUESS WHAT? I got there. Granted, it was after lots of stress and panicking…. But I did get back.

And so ended my trip to Poland. We took a flight back to Italy the next day and spent the rest of the evening recovering from our trip. Have I mentioned that I don’t care much for flying? I’ve come to see it as a necessary evil but I’m starting to dread our flight back to the United States.

This past week has been spent mostly in the city of Rome. Our class time is mostly spent out in the city and we have a lot of free time to get to explore. On Friday, we all left for our last free weekend. Helen and I had booked an Airbnb in Rosignano which is about 40 minutes away from Pisa and close to the coast. We spent the majority of our time on the beach, drinking wine, and eating delicious seafood. What can I say? Lounging with a nice bottle of chianti on the beach? Sounds like my definition of a good time.

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IMG_6063.JPGWe stayed with a couple whose names are Alexandra and Stefano. They were EXTREMELY gracious hosts. They made us a lovely breakfast each morning and drove us to and from the beach. The language barrier was a bit of a hindrance, but overall it was a lovely trip.

As I write up this post, I am on a train ride heading back to Roma Termini. The thing that really gets me is how small Italy seems, especially considering the public transportation. You can hop on a train for 20EURO and three hours later you are miles away. No driving necessary. Get on a train and you are done. Granted, I am really getting sick of public transportation. I’m sure I’ve had this rant before but I’ve seen far too much of airport terminals, metro stations, and bus stops. I miss my car, among other things.

As my trip beings to come to an end, I am startled by how fast time flies. It seems like I was just packing for this trip. In fact, it feels just like yesterday that I got the letter telling me that I had gotten into Blouin Global scholars three years. Although, I am sure to miss Italy and all of its wonders I’m looking forward to getting back home. I miss my family, especially my mom and Noah. They have been getting copious calls as I feel the homesickness begin to set in. Luckily, I’ve been kept busy.

As is usual, I’m going to end my post with some observations. As many of you know, we came to Italy to study about the refugee crisis. The past week has been full of adventures, but I think the one that got me most was being able to recognize the popular opinion among Italians regarding refugees. Previous to this week, I’ve met tons of wonderful people who passionately work for the good of others. It was easy to being to think that the general opinion among Italians regarding refugees was positive, but then you begin to look around and realize that isn’t exactly the case. Dr. Beach, our faculty advisor for this trip, had us read “Class of Civilizations: over an elevator in piazza Vittorio. I was not thrilled when he decided to assign this book to us. After reading the summary I felt like it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. The general consensus among Good Reads reviews is that it was “filled with humor.” When it comes to good literature, I’m not a fan. Now, I know he is probably reading this post thinking “Why would she say that? She knows I am going to read this eventually.”  Well, to answer this question Dr. Beach, it is simply because you ended up picking a winner. For any bookworms out there, this is worth a read. Although we were supposed to read this book back in the spring I more or less skimmed it. It was a really quick read and I picked it up and skimmed through it one evening during exam week. Needless to say, my mind somewhere else (like… THE STRESSES OF EXAM WEEK). Well, my “skimming” gave me an excuse to revisit it this past weekend, and to be honest…. I’m glad that I read it after having experienced Italy for five weeks. Prior, I knew the basic plot of the story but it wasn’t until I laid on the beach for several hours this past weekend that I was able to internalize it. The message is clear: We are too quick to differentiate ourselves from those who are not like ourselves. Anyhow, I’m not going to ruin the story for you all, but this book clearly portrays how our habit of “othering” people who are different from us is what builds the wall between us, and it is acceptance that builds the bridge.

Italians typically have the save view of refugees as many of us do in the states. They take our jobs. Their presence increases crime. We have all of these generalizations and yet oftentimes nothing to back it up. I’m fairly conservative when it comes to refugees in the regard that I think that we must tread with caution; however, these accusations are unwarranted and many times people are just quoting what they hear from someone else or something they heard on television without doing their own research. Take the time and look into it. Gathering information and forming your own opinion is worth the time and effort when its human lives at stake.

Below, I’ve posted a poem that was shared with us by a deputy of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE… take a second to read it. It is a very touching poem and I feel like it really gets to the point of the issue: refugees don’t chose to leave, unless “home is the mouth of a shark.”

Home

no one leaves home unless

home is the mouth of a shark

you only run for the border

when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you

breath bloody in their throats

the boy you went to school with

who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory

is holding a gun bigger than his body

you only leave home

when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you

fire under feet

hot blood in your belly

it’s not something you ever thought of doing

until the blade burnt threats into

your neck

and even then you carried the anthem under

your breath

only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets

sobbing as each mouthful of paper

made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,

that no one puts their children in a boat

unless the water is safer than the land

no one burns their palms

under trains

beneath carriages

no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck

feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled

means something more than journey.

no one crawls under fences

no one wants to be beaten

pitied

no one chooses refugee camps

or strip searches where your

body is left aching

or prison,

because prison is safer

than a city of fire

and one prison guard

in the night

is better than a truckload

of men who look like your father

no one could take it

no one could stomach it

no one skin would be tough enough

the

go home blacks

refugees

dirty immigrants

asylum seekers

sucking our country dry

niggers with their hands out

they smell strange

savage

messed up their country and now they want

to mess ours up

how do the words

the dirty looks

roll off your backs

maybe because the blow is softer

than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender

than fourteen men between

your legs

or the insults are easier

to swallow

than rubble

than bone

than your child body

in pieces.

i want to go home,

but home is the mouth of a shark

home is the barrel of the gun

and no one would leave home

unless home chased you to the shore

unless home told you

to quicken your legs

leave your clothes behind

crawl through the desert

wade through the oceans

drown

save

be hunger

beg

forget pride

your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear

saying-

leave,

run away from me now

i dont know what i’ve become

but i know that anywhere

is safer than here

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