28 February 2013

Inspiration #2

This quote below makes me laugh. Since I've done both! Ha!

"Sometimes you just need to go somewhere and fill a notebook with a ideas. It's necessary. You can do this at home, if you are able to escape there. I often find myself compulsively cleaning when I'm home. And that's because my house is, apparently, always a mess. Ha! So sometimes it's good to get out. You don't have to go to Europe to find yourself. 

(But you can, of course. :)quote found here

10 (other than Europe) places to get inspired

How do you live an inspired life?

Photos: past journals, lists, and musings abroad / sketch of Venice / wandering the cobbled streets of Prague

26 February 2013


Lately I've been struggling with the future. I've got so many questions roaming around in my head and no one to really answer them. The two children I play with hardly have any answers for me. Their parents, my employers, don't bother to ask me anything of worth. Most likely they're wondering why I'm in a job like this at my age. The average au pair is 19 or 20 years old. Older au pairs may be 21 or 22. I'm 25.

I've got a lot of options for autumn, but I'm just not sure which path to pursue. I love living abroad. That's a fact. But I also miss my family and the secure community of close friends with a shared history. One of the necessities of living the way I do is the ability to meet new people and accept one another as friend even if you never would be if you lived in your hometown. I am so grateful for all the amazing people I've met over the years, even if we only had a few moments together. Yet at the same time, I finally feel my old relationships are suffering badly with three years of constant separation between us. I miss the silent understandings, the genuine caring, the laughs of past memories.

As you can see, I am at odds with myself. To go on living abroad pursuing new paths and options as they present themselves or to move back home to feel comfort in the familiarity and acceptance of those around me. Even those options are too simple. If I moved back home, there is no guarantee I'll even be near to family and friends. I could move to another state or city in hopes of a good job. And this presents a new problem. I feel utterly unsure of what career path to choose and I feel I have no workplace experience. Of course, I do, but I always think of myself as a little girl in a grown man's world. I've lived abroad and worked in environments that were exceptional and welcoming to the "foreigner". I've been fortunate to have good workplace experiences  but with that I don't know if I have "professional" workplace skills.

Sometimes I even catch myself wondering if these desires to "have a career" are even mine or what I think society expects of me: "You're twenty-five Hannah, you should stop all this moving around and settle down somewhere. You should be saving for the future. You can't always live by your whims and desires. Your parents won't always be here to help you out in your times of need. You've got to be responsible. Besides, how will you ever meet someone if you're forever moving from one place to another just to "experience" it for a while, to feel the pulse of the culture? You have to live with some stability and longevity. Everything can't always be so temporary."

This is what I've been feeling lately. I just spilled my guts out to you and actually recognized my own insecurities as they write themselves out in finality.

Does anyone else out there battle with similar issues? How do you cope?

Pictures: reading material in bed / wanderings through the city / winter beach day with the kiddos / quiet evenings in my flat / cooking genuine Italian meals / mornings spent at museums 

22 February 2013

My Roman Life::a set of goals::

1. Really MASTER my Italian! Do this by going to class three times a week, Aperitif Italian language exchange twice a month, tours of Roman sites in Italian once a month, church in Italian every week, Italian TV at home, and finish my many Italian grammar books by actually STUDYING.

2. Save 75% of my au pair earnings. This is actually quite easy to do since I literally have no monthly bills or expenses other than my metro pass, phone credit, minor class fees, and groceries for breakfast. I'm not sure what life will look like come September, so it would be nice to have a cash cushion to sit on for a bit.

3. Go to one museum or historic site a week. Record my musings and observations of the museum as a whole in a notebook. This will keep me feeling like I'm traveling within my "home" for the next six months, along with brainstorming ideas and thoughts for that degree I want to get....

4. READ, BLOG, PHOTOGRAPH. These seem quite fun to do, I know. But for some reason I tend to get caught up in other things (i.e. watch a movie or listen to a podcast when I'm feeling lazy) that they never come up as first options when I'm in the moment. Which brings me to my last goal....

5. BE IN THE MOMENT. Don't fret about the future or what others are doing with their lives. Enjoy the here and now. I know it's cliche, but why is it so hard to accomplish!?

21 February 2013

the south of france ::a provincial life::

Two summers ago, in 2011, I went to visit my dear friends in Provence for the second time (the first was in 2006). I had just finished my first year of teaching in Prague and was eager to be around old friends. It was the first of my return destinations as I made my way back home to Florida after months away. Those two weeks in the south under the warmth of the sun, my casual laid-back self came out again. I felt at ease there, as I knew I would. French southern hospitality may be some of the best in the world. 

We spent days waking up late, eating breakfast outside, walking into town and market for ingredients for that evening's dinner, driving around with windows open and hair flying and music singing, we wandered together though nameless villages with no aim in mind, took pictures and laughed about old memories of Florida and France and Italy, and made plans for future ones to come in Australia and around the world. 

The photographs above are a combination of mine and my French "sister's" of a village so beautiful, but nameless in my memory. 

Here's to another summer in France this year and to a new baby girl on her way! 

20 February 2013

19 February 2013

Museum Mornings

As part of my habitual goals for living in Rome the next six months I have been going to a museum or cultural heritage spot once a week. This past Saturday I met up with a friend for pasta in the piazza and a stroll though the Keats & Shelley Museum in Piazza di Spagna. 

It was a glorious and somewhat emotional hour reading about the lives of the poets (Byron & the Brownings included), their letters and drafts, looking at sketches and portraits, browsing the many antique books in the still active library, peering out the windows and wondering how the scene has changed in the past 200 years, glancing at objects once theirs, and remembering with others who wrote of the inspiration and influence of these great poets. 

I felt like I an English major once again. I got teary eyed reading about their tragic lives and deaths. Living in Italy never to leave, dying here only to become a monument of English influence in Italy. Oscar Wilde wrote about how he felt Keats' grave was the most holiest of sites in all of Rome. (He's buried in the Protestant graveyard in Rome, along with Shelley)

Okay, I know, too much detail.....

But don't you just love this new goal....I mean, habit!? So much inspiration flowing from these weekly visits, not to mention the excuse to practice photography and act like a tourist in a place where I live! It's a win-win. 

What inspirational habits do you have?

15 February 2013

One Billion Rising


Written in Kerala  for the women of India who lead the way
This could have been anywhere
And was
Mexico city
Nighttime men
Like wolves
For prey
That single dimly painted door
Paying nothing
A couple of dollars
Or euros
Or pesos
To have her
Enter her
Eat her
Devour her
And throw away her bones.
This could have been anywhere
And was
A Buddhist nun on a bus
Trying to stay dry for the night
A woman leader speaking out against
The repressive government
A young woman traveling with her boyfriend
One lost her voice
The other her following
The last one her life
This could have been anywhere and was
Pink wooden crosses
A stack of stones
Red wilting carnations
Empty chairs in a square
Ribbons flying in a sultry wind
I ask Anny Nighat Kamla Monique Tanisha Emily
Why why
Porque Eran Mujeres
Parce qu’elles etalent des femmes
Because they were women
Because they were women
This could have been anywhere
And was
Where she got fired for being too beautiful
Fined for drinking after she was raped
A serious offer to marry her rapist
Got told it was legitimate but not forcible
This could have been anywhere
They do such a thing
When the girls go for firewood
Step into the lonely man’s car
Drink a little too much at the college party
Wake up with her uncle’s fingers inside
Run from the screaming machete and guns
Be taken at sunrise
Get a bullet in the brain for learning the alphabet
Be stoned for falling in love
Be burned for seeing the future
I am done
Cataloguing these horrors
Data porn
2 million women raped and tortured
1 out of 3 women
a woman raped every minute
every second
one out of 2
one out of 5
the same
I am done counting
And recounting
It’s time to tell a new story
It needs to be our story
It needs to be outrageous and unexpected
It needs to lose control in the middle
It needs to be sexy and in our hips
And our feet
It needs to be angry and a little scary the way storms can be scary
It needs to not ask permission
Or get permits or set up offices
Or make salaries
It won’t be recorded or bought or sold
Or counted
It needs to just happen
It is not a question of inventing
But remembering
Buried under the leaves of trauma and sorrow
Beneath the river of
Semen and squalor
Vaginas and labias
Shredded and extracted
Body mines
Mined bodies
It is not about asking now
Or waiting
It is about rising
Raise your arm my sister my brother
Raise your one
Your one heart
You’re one of us
I used to be afraid of love
It hurt too much
What never happened
What got ripped away
The rape
The wound
And love
I thought
Was salt
But I was wrong
I was wrong
Step into the fire
Raise your arm
Raise your one

*This poem was written by someone with this group while women all over the world yesterday celebrated each other and vocally fought against injustice toward women across the globe through dance. 

*This photograph is of my friend and I. Female travelers who desire to journey through a safer world. 

14 February 2013

Snow Shoeing in Harrachov, Czech Republic

Remembering this weekend gives me smile after smile. The reason I chose this destination for this week's Wonder Where Wednesday is because a couple of weeks from now I'll be heading to the north of Italy with my employers for two weeks of skiing and living in a winter wonderland. I'm pretty excited! Rome's sunshine is great, but I miss the overall feel of winter. I'm not sick of it yet like I was living in Prague; I have yet to really experience this year's winter. 

To my travel story....Last year I randomly went on this mini-ski excursion for a weekend with some Czechs who were friends-of-friends and one of my actual friends, Amy. It was sort of a last minute thing, but I'm telling you! The smaller, community-based weekend excursions and day-trips around the Czech Republic last year were some of my highlights and fondest memories! 

We all packed into two cars and drove north from Prague, playing car games and mystery games along the way. The road snaked along and eventually lost sight completely to the magical whiteness that abounded around us. Later, we strapped on our snowshoes (awkwardly, since it was my first time) and slowly walked into the great white wilderness like scuba divers. I admit, I felt a little self-conscious among such hearty Czechs who were basically born in snow. But they were kind and guided us 'newbies' along, showing us how to step and where to step. The entire weekend was so encouraging and a true taste of Czech culture! 

We meandered through the woods for hours, taking our time and enjoying the fresh air away from city life. We exchanged stories and jokes and memories and passions. There really is something special connected with walking and talking to people. Together we explored some old World War II bunkers hiding under snow, threw snowballs, and watched as families and couples skied past. 

We rewarded ourselves with a full, warm Czech lunch at a restaurant in an old house in a town that was only accessible by walking (with snowshoes) or skiing into. We sat around a large wooden table with full pints of beer and chatted some more while big burly Czech men guzzled down their beers and cheered around us. (We were clearly the only international group in town) Afterwards, we walked back to our car and slept soundly after a relaxing sauna visit and homemade beer from our pension owner. 

The next day would be grueling....my first cross-country skiing effort. But I did it! Over four hours of trying to move my whole body while simultaneously sliding my feet forward and not slipping backward with my next step. I finally started to really enjoy it at about hour three. 

Part Two coming soon... 

13 February 2013

Where is this? Please, guess!

Bright star! would I were steadfast as thou art—
   Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night,
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
   Like Nature's patient sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
   Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft fallen mask
   Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
No—yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
   Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
   Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.

                                            ~John Keats

On Friday I'm going to the Keats & Shelley Museum in Rome as part of my 

Happy travels & reflections! 

12 February 2013


Listening to these podcasts

Cooking & Eating some Italian pasta alla Norcina (recipe from my Italian friend!)

Watching this movie - So good!

Feeling the warmth of blankets, heaters, and hot tea

*Also, trying my hand at some self-portraiture, thanks to this blogging class!

11 February 2013

Counting my Losses

This past week tried my patience with Rome and Italy in general. It seemed that every time I walked out of my flat and into the public arena I was harassed for something or something in the city or transport system failed or I realized that this place's advancements are nothing short of a miracle, because, quite frankly, no one here knows how to do anything logically! It's all chaos and everybody is okay with that! Except me, maybe. 

Well, to get to the story....in short, my I-pod was stolen out of my purse on the bus on Friday. This was the climax of my collection of mishaps for the week. I was on the bus heading towards Villa Giulia (the Etruscan museum) for a nice morning stroll among its collections before I had to work that afternoon. I want to see a museum a week while I'm living in Rome and this was the start of that habit. 

The bus is crowded. People push and shove, we bounce to and fro with the undulating bus, bags pinch my sides and block my legs, people cough sneeze laugh and talk loudly on their cell phones. Basically, it's an uncomfortable 20 minutes. I look down at my purse, which is big and heavy at the moment. My hands are full with directions to the museum and my to-go coffee cup (obviously I'm not very Italian yet). I grasp the pole so I'm not thrown into the man to my left or the woman to my right. 

I see my I-pod in its little case in my purse pocket. I notice that it's quite visible, but don't think anything of it at the time. I usually have it plugged into my ears, which, if I had at the time probably would have saved it, since who would be mad enough to steal an I-pod as it's playing into someone's ears? Five minutes later I'm getting off the bus and walking to the tram. I grab my I-pod to check the time and as I hold the case I realize it's empty! At first I wonder, can this be real? I just saw it! Why didn't they just take the case too? Then I get ridiculously furious and start (inwardly) cursing this whole country and people and humanity in general. Why why why? 

Since then I've regained my faith in humanity and counted my blessings (minus an I-pod). I realize in hindsight that I should have closed up my purse and been more aware of my surroundings. Though everyone around me seemed decent, hard-working people, some even elderly. I've never liked pointing fingers, but someone on that bus took it. But that's their problem, they will eventually reap what they sow. I do now and again get a giggle in when I remember that it's locked and all in English, so the thief will hopefully have a hard time with it. Maybe. 

My losses over the years: a silver heart necklace that my uncle gave me / a bike at college / my car radio system / my laptop out of my flat in Prague / cash out of a locked locker / an I-pod off of a bus in Rome

Here's to a better week! Happy Monday!

07 February 2013

Sevilla, Spain

The answer to this week's wonder where wednesday is SEVILLA, SPAIN! 

Last February I traveled to Spain with two wonderful traveling companions. We were all working in Prague at the time and wanted to get away from the chilly, wintry days to a warmer and friendlier atmosphere. I had a week off (spring break in February, apparently the Czechs were anxious for spring to come just as much as I was). So, as my students were heading out to ski or to bundle up in their country cottages, I left the country for a spin through southern Spain. 

This collection of photographs is from one lovely evening spent out in Sevilla. We had just arrived that afternoon from Malaga, with many adventures and mishaps happening along the way. We met up with our hosts (friends-of friends-of friends) who were also hosting a "couchsurfer" and out we went to explore the town with a semi-native. I'm telling you, even if sometimes it's not a 4-star experience, staying with a local changes your complete experience of a place. We never get lost, we receive first-hand advice and recommendations, instant invitations to things, the current climate of the place--politics, religion, pop culture, etc. It's wonderful!

Our night out in Sevilla consisted of a lovely walk around a delightfully quiet city (remember, it's February and cold to the Spaniards), a stop at a wine bar to try Sevilla's famous orange wine, a late dinner al fresco with an array of tapas, and a FREE Flamenco show (with the purchase of a drink). We sipped on Sangria late into the night mesmerized with the voice of the cantora, the strumming of the guitarist, and the pounding and twirling feet of the dancer. They would sometimes break and keep the flow going with their rhythmic clapping which calls deep into the soul of the audience. It truly was a mystical evening in such a culturally rich city. 

Those eight days in southern Spain....ahhhh.....such wonderful memories!

Currently my travel companions are teaching English in Thailand and studying Law in Connecticut. Our gracious hosts have since moved back stateside. Things change too fast sometimes, but I guess it just comes with the territory of being single, in our 20s, and can't seem to remedy this travel bug.