Monday, April 11, 2011

The Gringos Came.

After taking OVER a month break from my blog (my fingers are now rested and relaxed thank-you and my overworked brain is cleared. I will continue to post verbose, nonintellectual memoirs ASAP) , I was threatened by an overly-zealous Susan Krieg to finally post her most recent writing masterpiece or she force me to do hipster things with her. Horrible!

So, to preface this: I was lucky enough to be graced by the presence of 3 of my FAVORITE American girls. Susan Krieg, Molly Allen and Katie Barta sacrificed their sunny-college-bikini-bingeing-spring breaks to fly over the Atlantic and visit me in Italy. What a drag...

But really, I couldn't have picked a better bunch to show my Italian life to. I was so happy to show them my new friends, my house and the city that I've called home for the past 8 months! I'm even happier to skype them now because when I say words like "NIC" "Viaaaa" or "DELIRIO", common phrases in my new-euro vocabulary, they actually understand me! (don't you feel like a gringo now because you don't know what they mean? Suckas.)

So here you go, a beautiful tale by the one and only Susan Krieg...

Shenanigans in Italy with my Blondes
By Susan Krieg

Thursday March 10th started like any other average day: 1 hour bus ride to airport, followed by 24 heavenly and spacious hours of flying, finished off by a silent 40 minute taxi ride to the Casa di Mallory. After being greeted by the slightly hungover hottmess, Mallory Warner, I quickly got to work on my Italy to do list. [Flash forward to today: I have already conquered Rome, Venice, and Bologna, with my sights on a few other destinations.] My lovely hostess equipped me, upon request, with an Italian dictionary and Phrase book, making the "Lost in Translation" agony a little more bearable for my overt American presence.  A glass of boxed red wine later [apparently not just America is a friend of the Franzia-like packaging], and I was ready to hit the streets of Bologna. My partners in crime, Mallory and Katie Barta, and I started out with a dizzying climb up the Due Torri in Bologna in order to get the best view of the town. For those of you who are familiar with my obsession with quasi-artsy photos, pictures are on their way.  It was a gorgeous view and an even better day. The trouble started when we realized we had a treacherous descent of hundreds of 2-inch long, medieval steps awaiting us. After getting my historical fix for the day and safely reaching the bottom of what felt like an endless winding of stairs, the ladies and I were off to do more exploring.

Jump to the next day and the arrival of yet another blonde, Molly Allen. Who knew that three blondes walking down the street in Italy made us look so overtly American? Swedish, yes, but American? I don’t know if I would have made that jump right away, but apparently the Italian men did. Regardless of our efforts to blend in, and my attempt to speak broken Italian/Spanish, the Italians were always one step ahead of us. Word of advice to all those Blondes wanting to venture to Italy: You’re a novelty- good luck and learn to ignore.

With no time to lose, my blonde posse and I packed up for our 3-day/2-night voyage to Rome. The 4 hour train ride cruised by, as we chatted contently in our Harry Potter-like chamber accompanied by our stowed away authentic Italian white wine. Only the classiest of people can manage to center cocktail hour around a shared water bottle, and the four of us succeeded magnificently. We arrived slightly tipsy in Rome around American dinnertime (8pm) and raced to our hostel to start our adventure. Our hostel, hastily dubbed the “rape dungeon,” pleasantly surprised us when we realized its hotel-like quality. It was conveniently located 2 minutes from the Termini metro station, making traveling inter-Rome much easier. When in Rome, my blondes and I met up with 3 of my good friends from IU who were studying there for the semester. Leslie, Polly, and Eric showed us all the necessary sights and introduced us to their favorite dining spots (not like I wouldn’t have been happy eating anywhere that served anything remotely starch-like). After a trip to the Trevi fountain, the Pantheon, the Coliseum, and the Spanish steps, it was time to retreat to our beds at Hotel Stargate (not to be confused with the Oh-so-popular American sci-fi sensation: Stargate SG1).

On our last day in Rome, we were determined to fit in a tour of the Vatican before our 4 o’clock train (or maybe 2 o’clock to some) back to Bologna.  In reference to the miscommunication of time, I think it’s been long enough for the frustrated wounds to heal, so I feel comfortable blogging about Mal’s inability to read time. Already pressured by our 4pm deadline, we hastily metroed (it’s a verb now) to Vatican City, camera in hand. Sometime between the Stargate and the Vatican Mallory informed us of the now 2 hour earlier departure time from Rome. Slight panic ensued and our walking pace quickened. In order to avoid the mile-long line outside the Vatican, me and the Blondies decided to pay the 35 Euro for a guided tour, which would hopefully get us inside the Holy walls faster. 30 precious minutes later, we still weren’t inside and my anxiety was spiking. After a rushed not-so-guided tour (low on time, we decided to leave the group and make up our own history for the things we saw), we were off to the train station. Little did we know, time was on our side just fine and we could have easily spent more time with the informative Elaine from Canada. This is about when Mal realized the time confusion, leaving us to sit around idly at a random “Snack Bar” until the actual departure, having already checked out of our five star hostel. To Mal’s credit, I will mention how guilty she felt, knowing how much we wished we could have further experienced the Vatican, so until now the mishap has barely been mentioned.*

All in all, I think its safe to say that we came, we saw, we conquered Rome.

[For a continued account of more blonde shenanigans, please wait for the appended blog by Molly Allen and Katie Barta.]


Molz and Kate...we are still waiting....

*So yes, I did have quite the blond moment in Rome. I never said I wasn't a gringo. No excuses. No regrets. I have recently mastered the art of time. (I blame my tardiness on strep throat in the 2nd grade that caused me to miss the week that Ms. Bartosz taught us how to read a clock.) I can now proudly say, the Ice watch that sits on my right wrist now serves dual purpose: style and FUNCTIONALITY. 

Nothin's wrong with a little Trevi vino.

Slightly hating each other at this point, but you can't tell!


Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Semi "Back to my Roots" Adventure!

History has never been my thing. It might be the fact that American school systems teach a slightly skewed version of Global History and usually tend to focus on only American history. [American pride is wonderful, trust me, I’m all for American patriotism and chauvinistic pride, but 6 years of American history is quite excessive.  Especially when the majority of students still can’t tell you when America was founded, the date of D-Day and what the Bill of Rights is. Don’t even try to tell me I’m wrong…because I’m not. But, yeah, the weekly-outdated movies watched, War Propaganda brochures made (for easily 4 weeks straight) and the millions of flow charts constructed were completely beneficial. Go High School!]

Excuse my extraneous rant… but, unfortunately for me, my aversion to history probably isn’t due to  the flaws in the education system. I even particularly loved history class…7up was always so much fun! My general abhorrence here is most likely due to the fact that I would rather major in Perez and Facebook stalking than learn about dead people with complicated names, poor hygiene and 50+ children. I guess that’s just me. However, a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit Prague with my Uncle John and Aunt Sally, and got a surprisingly pleasant overdose of history. (Which I will get to later).

Me and John at the top of the Clock tower
Spoiled by my uncle, I was picked up at the Prague airport by a chauffer (THANKS AGAIN NHOJ!) They didn’t speak English and I obviously don’t speak Czech, (although get 2 gin and tonics in me and I’m pretty good at persuading you that I can….sorry to whoever has heard this lie. But I’m not that sorry) so the car ride was awkward and silent, my specialty. Which lead to the short paranoid episode in my head, convincing myself that I was getting TAKEN. I didn’t. I was safely transported to the front door of John and Sally’s amazing flat in Old Town, Prague. We immediately set out to explore. After seeing the Charles Bridge, Astronomical Clock and Old Town Square, it was certainly time for a beer. The phrase “Let’s have a beer, why not? We are in Prague!” was used abundantly by the 3 of us, and never got old.

The food in Prague is better than I could have ever expected; a necessary break from the wheels of cheese, bowls of olive oil and oversized portions of pasta consumed daily in Bologna. Ew.

Phrases I need to stop using:

1. “Let’s have (insert highly caloric Italian indulgence), why not? We are in Italy!”

Na Zdravi! Cheers to Becherovka!
In Prague I sampled things from goulash, sausages, cabbage pancakes (my favorite!), pork skewers, rice pudding, and the list goes on. Not forgetting, of course, the ‘Becherovka’, an after dinner digestive (kind of like grappa). Becherovka used to serve medical purposes; apparently some Czech drunks got a hold of it, enjoyed the effects and mass-produced. We enjoyed this Czech Republic liquor with a friend John had done some work with, Diana, and her boyfriend Guido. (An Italian. Bah, when I thought I was off the hook. Italy will never escape me. My level of Italian was quizzed at dinner…luckily I passed!) From them we learned many Czech customs; one being that in Prague you usually don’t have to ask “Can I have another beer?”. The waiter will see that you are low and immediately bring you one. Instead, if you need to terminate your beer consumption, you must tell them “Please! Don’t bring me another!” An extremely enjoyable problem to have. 

So back to the history…I was fortunate enough to enjoy a private English tour guide that Nhoj found for the 3 of us. (a luxury that poor study-abroad students usually don't get to have) With her we toured the Prague Castle complex and the Jewish District. She was so knowledgeable about every aspect; I surprised even me when I found myself enjoying all of the historical details being fed to us. However, we all got to the point that our brains were fried and the only way to cure this was a pint of Pilsner. Can you blame us? Regardless, both tours were spectacular. We also learned a new way to peacefully settle arguments, established by Czechs in the 1600s. Defenestration. Look out Tucky and Megs.

I also had the opportunity to see my first opera in the Prague Opera House. Aida by Giuseppe Verdi. Not to shabby for my first opera experience, eh? While I cannot say I will be first in line for opera season tickets, I enjoyed the experience much more than I thought I would. It even came with your stereotypical Viking-esque female opera star! 1 check off my bucket list.
Enjoying the Clock Tower Chime! A-Mazing!

My Prague trip, however, would not have been complete without a trip to the top of the Astronomical clock. After seeing the bell chime (coined one of the most overrated sites in Europe), we figured we would try to get the most out of the experience and climb it so we were there when it chimed. I sit here trying to construct a sentence to capture the grandeur of the moment. Impossible. Unmemorable. Unfortunately, but as expected, we were wildly underwhelmed. The bugle boy even forgot to come out and play his part, Nhoj had to remind him. (I'm going to write a letter to Prague telling them to fire him.) But I can’t say I didn’t enjoy watching all of our fellow gringos at the bottom, stare longingly at the clock, wishing for something more grand to happen. Fools.

Things Prague should get rid of:

1. Czech Crowne—Yes, you are very cheap...but I mean, everyone should just convert to the American Dollar. No brainer.

2. Cobble stone—Ok fine, you're cute. But...not only did I ruin my boots, I almost sprained my ankles 14 times. 21st century? Pavement appreciated. 

3. People with wild hair colors—aka: fuchsia, neon green and bright blue.

But other than that, Prague you are perfect! Before I saw Prague the only thing that struck me when thinking about it was old communistic Europe. While obviously there are still slight traces of this, Prague has developed into a beautiful, busy metropolis, that—for me—takes the cake over Paris, Munich and Florence.

Thanks again to Nohj and Sally for being wonderful travel companions!
Sally, John, Me

I still have no interest in history. 

Na Zdravie!


PS...Nhoj is my uncle. Not the Czech driver. Sorry to confuse you Maried.

PS: to my Hovanec Kin. Interesting fact I learned from our Czech tour guide: Slovakian and Czech are considered two different languages. However, a person speaking Slovak can easily understand a person speaking Czech. She described the two languages as American English vs. British English. Same structure, same everything; some different spellings, different vocabulary and different usage. 

Maggie Mom, John, Kaysie, Jimbo, Carkie, Janie, Mom and Jeffy: Even though we were not in Slovakia, I felt a new closeness to our Slovakian heritage. When hearing the Czech language, I immediately recalled memories sitting on Maggie Mom and Grandpa John's porch at 95 Donovan Drive learning Slovakian sayings with my cousins from Grandpa. 

I miss you Grandpa John, I love you!

View from the top of the Astronomical Clock

Charles Bridge

Cobblestone, I loathe you

Prague Opera House!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Some Serious Business.

This post is going to be weird. Deal. But I just recently read an article about blogging…you know, because I’m a newly avid member of the ‘blogosphere’ and all, and it’s my duty to keep up with blog trends…Well, it told me that I should be writing my feelings and releasing my ever-so-intellectual opinion to the world.  So here goes: my opinion on today’s holiday, Valentine’s Day.

To say I loathe the holiday would be entirely false. Now, I don’t love it…but I don’t hate it. It’s probably fair to blame my slight aversion on the fact that I haven’t celebrated the holiday with someone since the 5th grade. My ‘boyfriend’ gave me a bottle of Sprecher Root Beer and a Disney’s “Arisotcats” Valentine that said “You are Purrrfect!” How romantic. Unfortunately for him, we had to break up because another boy gave me a 12-pack of Gelly Roll pens. My life used to be very complex.

However, put quite simply: I dislike the day because I hate PDA more than anything in the world. Just because it’s Valentine’s Day does not make these treacherous acts acceptable. I’m not sure who signed the bill permitting all couples to excessively suck face in public places, but whoever you are: you had a severe lapse in judgment and should be punished.

Note: Contrary to popular belief, I do not dislike the day because I do not have a boyfriend. Believe me, self-absorption and diva attitudes prevent this. Try it out.

In spite of this, I also dislike the people who inordinately resent the day. Although I do not partake in the celebration, I do not obsess over the dreadful aspects of the holiday. For example: spending it alone (gasp!). àTelling the world you are spending the day over-indulging in sweets and trashy soap operas (do people ACTUALLY do that? Or are you being over-dramatic?) is always TMI and never worth our time. Excessive “Cheers to being Single!” are lame and usually superficial. I see right through you. We know you don't reeeaaalllllyyy want to be single. Putting so much effort into hating the day probably emphasizes your depression, and just reminds you even further that you have no one to text your banal thoughts and worthless smiley faces to. Let the day come and go; you will damage your swag if you don’t.

Regardless, I find February 14th to be one of the most interesting days of the year. Due to my internet addiction I find that refreshing my facebook and twitter accounts on this day has never been more fascinating. I have never seen more exclamation points and hearts in my e.n.t.i.r.e. life.  And this is why I love the holiday. The ridiculousness of the human race really came through today. 1 point for you guys!

Some of my favorite updates thus far have been:

1.     Happy Valentine’s Day to my boyfriend!!!!! I LOVE YOU <3 <3!!!–via facebook stalking I have come to the conclusion that this couple has been together for 3 whole days. #toosoon? #gobacktomiddleschool.

2.     LuV mA baBy-daddy Jerrae!! HappEe V-dAy <3 <3 Can’T wAiT foR mY CaRd oF money and SpArK-LEE JeWelS!!!!!! LoL!!! –From an outsider’s perspective, there are no words. Except: I am just happy that these teen parents are apparently together!

3.     Playing drinking games to The Bachelor tonight, my ideal Valentines Day!!—I like this person.

4.     Boycotting Valentine’s Day with my girls!!!!! Sushi, chocolate and wine!!!! A perfect way to spend the night!!!—total sorority move. Can’t say I haven’t.

5.     Stuffing my face with pizza and chocolate this valentine’s day. Go me.—number 1: gross, number 2: gross.

Although I realize I’ve been known to over share and post useless status updates, for the well being of the world and my own sanity, I feel the need to reiterate these epic/life-changing messages

Keep them coming world! I think my love-hate relationship with the holiday is perfect. I couldn’t have possibly wished for anything else this Valentine’s Day. Except maybe Yurman earrings….

But I know that I cannot change the world with one blog post, and to be honest: life is more fun this way. So, continue on doing…whatever you’re doing. To those of you looking forward to your Tornado Room dinner, bouquet of roses and Tiffany’s bracelet—enjoy it. To those of you stuffing Topper’s stix into your overindulgent jaws, I’m thoroughly disgusted, but Cheers to Being Single!! (especially for my Sushi-Girls!) And to those of you who are indifferent: tomorrow is February 15th. Live it up.

Of course, my siblings will hate me after reading this, because all 3 of them probably have plans with their significant others frolicking through flowerbeds or feeding each other chocolate covered strawberries with their toes. Ew, why did I say that? But yes, you did the math correctly…I am the only Warner child without a Valentine today. This reinforces my Warner family outsider qualities and potentially institutes a permanent ‘cat lady’ nickname. I will dutifully accept.

One more thing: there is nothing wrong with sending yourself a bouquet of red roses on Valentine’s Day,


PS Happy Valentine’s Day!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

i can do good all by myself.

If you haven’t been following my facebook/twitter bombardments and unnecessarily excessive status updates, I will inform you now: I PASSED MY EXAMS.

If you have ever had the feeling of something looming over your head for a long time (in my case 4 months), you can empathize the pain that I went through the past month. On January 7th, I returned to Italy from a 3 week vacation in Milwaukee, Elkhart, Chicago and of course L.A. (Go Badgers!) (one day I will get around to a blog post about my adventures back in America…however, today is not that day)….

I allowed myself a few “fun” days upon my return, which included going out, venturing to Venice, watching movies and going to Madrid. However, my 12 credit (6 credits in American terms) class: Italian Literature, constantly acted as the devil on my shoulder. Every time I went for a run, watched a movie or drank a gin and tonic (or 2) I felt guilty and sick to my stomach. There was so much to learn, and so little time. On top of all of this, I had to write a 10 page paper, in Italian on the most complicated book ever: The Inferno. It was only assigned in October! TALK ABOUT NO TIME WHATSOEVER. Bhaha.

Like I’ve explained before, the Italian school system is (for lack of a better word) bizarre. School starts mid October (every course starts on a different day depending on which major you are). You endure 60 hours worth of psychobabble from the monotone Italian professor, who usually doesn’t make sense to us gringo students. Then you have about a months worth of “reading period” to prepare yourself for your oral exam. A 15-30 minute meeting with your professor who can ask you whatever he wants. And give you whatever grade he wants. Terrifying. The only redeeming feature to the Italian education system is that you have 3 chances to take the exam. If you don’t like your grade your first or second time, you can take it a third and final time. But, I wanted and needed to get it over with…

So after minimal* procrastination, lots of pasta, pizza and “oh, it’s only Wednesday we can watch Black Swan (Blood Diamond, Avatar, Blue Valentine….etc..)” I found myself sitting in front of Professore Andrea Battistini, Monday morning at 9am. (Well not before Ellen and I went to the wrong building, even though we had been to the professor’s office numerous times before…Nerves). My body was violently shaking and palms profusely sweating. Gross. The first movement of Beethoven's 5th Symphony played, on repeat...the whole time. 

First, he walked me through my paper that I had handed in 2 weeks prior. He corrected my language errors and told me the paper was mostly my “fantasia” and that I had invented most of my arguments. But what was he supposed to expect from the biggest BS’er WFBHS Class of 2008?? So, that was fun. I was going to fail for sure.

Then we talked about each of the books we had to readà Il Principe by Machiavelli, Il Piacere by D’Annunzio, Senilità and Coscienza di Zeno by Svevo. He asked me broad questions and he asked me specific questions ranging from themes, to characters, to dates and even clothing characters wore.

I stumbled a bit when he asked me to talk a little about Gabriele D’Annunzio and why he wrote Il Piacere. I did not study this author; apparently the only thing I could remember about him was that he was a fascist and supported many ideas of Mussolini…so I frantically (with great failure) mumbled about fascism, a topic that I cannot say I am very knowledgeable about. The teacher responded, “Ummmm…okay, well that has nothing to do with anything”. So, yeah, that was awkward. But I redeemed myself with a few strokes of brilliance. Obviously.

Naturally, there were things that I didn’t know, words I butchered and sentences I constructed that made absolutely no sense. But for the most part, I answered every question with some sort of confidence and fluidity which somehow managed to impress the professor enough to earn myself a 27 out of 30: an AB in Madison terms. For all Badgers, you all know how frustrating of a grade an AB is, but for once in my life I have never been more grateful to receive it.

Happily, I bounded out the door, rejoicing that I will never have to take on Dante or Machiavelli again. This class also completed my Italian major! What I will do with this Italian major…I do not know.

Still in search for a useful major (I am a second semester Junior.),


Before the exam. Thinking the building was closed. No...we just went to the wrong place. Gringos.

The doors to our exam. We may not come out alive.

Apparently this is my "I JUST PASSED AN EXAM" smile.

celebratory cappuccinos. Totes Italian.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Somedays You Are The Jet Engine....and Some You Are The Pigeon.

Looking her Best: Maried.
Imagine if pigeons were the humans of the world. Pigeon apartments. Pigeon trains. Pigeon sized things. Inversely, what if humans were the pigeons of the world? One could argue that we already are. 

-Words of wisdom by Maried Rivera.

Think about it.

Anyway, Italy is a land crawling with these magnificent feathered creatures. However, Italy’s pigeons are unlike the rest of the world’s pigeons. Your typical pigeon is gray-blue toned, has 2 legs, 2 wings, feathers, 2 eyes and a beak.  If a human walks by, a normal pigeon will timidly fly away.

The same criteria does not apply for Italian pigeons. Full-grown feathers? No, singed off feathers is the Italian pigeon style. 2 eyes? Uncommon. I guess a pecked out eyeball makes life more thrilling. 2 legs? Rare. Who needs two legs when you can fly? Afraid of humans? Never. We are the ones constantly dodging the mid-flight creatures, which certainly sprinkles some adventure on your morning walk to class.  

I think they become this way because instead of feeding them breadcrumbs like normal human beings would, Italians feed them McDonalds French fries and cigarette butts. An optimal diet for pigeons, they believe. Needless to say, it is always a joy to sit peacefully in a piazza surrounded by hundreds of these disease infested scoundrel birds. I feel clean here… always.

But I call myself lucky. Apparently, I hit the jackpot with my apartment. And by jackpot, I’m speaking in pigeon terms. Aka: Best Location for Pigeon Families! Yipee. I call them my neighbors. Every night I am cooed to sleep by these birds (easily 50 of them) that have declared settlement right outside my window. It is not unusual for me to turn over in bed and say good morning to the pigeon perched on my windowsill, literally 4 inches from my face. Sometimes, but only on the weekends and occasionally Tuesday nights, they get a little rowdy. I have to bang on my wall a few times to keep the racket down…they usually comply.

I must share my favorite pigeon story thus far. It was a warm Bolognese day in October and I decided to open my large window to let fresh air in. One particular pigeon must have thought that my open window was an invitation to join me for lunch. With no hesitation he swooped into my room, fluttered around and looked for a place to sit. It was either my loud scream or sudden flailing of the arms that must have frightened him, luckily giving him the message that he was unwelcome. I have never opened my window since.

And then I killed the bird.

Mallory: 1, Pigeon: 0

Note: I didn’t actually kill the pigeon. A PETA call would be unnecessary, although I highly doubt Italy has an equivalent organization. 

With Love,


Friday, February 4, 2011

New Layout

Like my new layout? Dig it. Still working on it. I feel like this one encapsulates a little more of my personality. The other made me look like a depressed, alcoholic, divorcée. I'll try to fix the fonts and make it more legible, but I am making great lifetime/future strides so I have no time. Deal with it for now. Thanks!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Without cool shoes, Life Sucks.

Many of you know my obsession with shoes, preferably sneakers and boots (but every single girl abroad is obsessed with boots. not kidding, check out their blogs or webshots. I mean facebook photos, who uses webshots anymore?)

When I have money, I buy shoes. When I don't have money, I buy shoes. Why? Shoes look good...always. A shoe purchase is more therapeutic than chocolate, and way less cals. Like all Italians, I have yearned for this pair of ubiquitous Nike Blazer Hi's since I stepped foot in Bologna. Since they seem to be found on everyone and their cat's feet, I figured acquiring these kicks would be effortless. However, locating a pair has proven to be a virtually impossible task.  Out of the 7,684 unnecessary shoe stores in Bologna (and other European cities I have ransacked), no one seems to carry the most classic Nike shoe made. Preposterous. I have now made it my purpose in life to get my gringo hands on this pair of shoes that will essentially assimilate me into Italian culture. Next step: dye my hair black.

I promise to continue the hunt until I am victorious.

If you know where I can locate a pair, please tell me. Help me fill my void.