Wednesday, October 31, 2007

There are so many gypsies in Italy. They are everywhere. I was in Florence giving a tour and a gypsie came up and asked my group and me for money. No one understand her except me because she spoke in Italian. She was just under five feet tall, had not showered and carried an old plastic cup with a weathered picture of Christ. This is a common occurance here in Italy. In my mission we were not allowed to give money because we used the consecrated money but now I could give money if I wanted. I rarely gave (yes, past tense) money for many reasons but that has now changed. This last gypsie who asked me money changed my life. In response to her question, I said "I'm sorry I don't have any money either." I feel content becasue I don't have work and I am very poor right now so it really is not lie. Usually this gets them to walk away without continuing and pressing. But this woman instead, took my hand and emptied her money that she had received that day. She gave me all her money she got that day. She looked at me and smiled and walked away. I was left there shocked, actually frozen or stunned. I could not believe what she did for me. I did not need her money as bad as maybe she did but she touched me in a way that no one ever has. I ran after her and said, "Listen I really don't need your money." She ssid to me, "Just as people help me I want to help other people." I was so touched by her and she would not take that money. With tearfilled eyes, I turned and faced my tour group and explained what just happened.

Yesterday in church there was a Halloween party. Well, as Halloween as you can get here in Italy. The missionaries organized it to take place just after english class so we could have alot of non members there. We went to the American base and bought Mountain Dew, Rootbeer, Grape soda, and Reeses Peanut Butter cups. There were pumpkins (also from the American base) that we carved. The party started slowly. I looked around and saw that everyone was just kind of standing around. I lead a group of people in dancing the Thriller. It was hysterical me leading a bunch of italians in dancing the thriller, acting like zombies. After that I kind of took control because no one else was. Then we bobbed for apples, played the egg on a spoon game, limbo and of course, something most italians love is line dancing. It was hysterical. Today, I have such a desire to watch a scary movie as it is Halloween. In Italy, they have started dressing up for Halloween but they only have the scary costumes. No spidermen or batmen only goblins, witches and zombies. It is much more graphic than our Halloween.

I come back to America in nine days and I could not be happier. I think it is easy for me to leave Italy now because I know that I will be coming back in January. If I was not coming back in January I would be devasted leaving at this point. I can't wait to be with my family. I love more than anything doing the simple things with them. I love doing errands with my Mom and Dad. I love driving my dad's car with Heather and Courtney and singing at the top of our lungs. I am so excited also because I will watch Star Wars with my brother Tyler. I found out that Brooke and Grant are coming home for Thanksgiving! I am so excited. I love my family and can't wait to be with them.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The backbone of the GOP

I love election time! The fact that after 200 years we are still using the same electoral process gives me such pride. So many countries have changed their electoral process in the past 100 years, the fact that we are still firm in our convictions that the founding fathers set up gives me such a defining sense of pride.

I developed a passion for it in 6th grad
e when we did a mock election with all of the fifth and sixth graders. I carried the electoral votes for Texas (I got really lucky). The candidates had to really butter me up to get my 34 electoral votes. It taught a 6th grader so many lessons about politics and elections. Ever since then my passion has truly lied in the same area, political science, history and economics. All are intertwined.

As I am trying to follow the election process now from a foreign country I am constrained to see everything from the internet. I have to be aware the different biases that each major websites carry. I did see a debate from Michigan and I was shocked to have seen that the Republican part has lost touch with its rich roots in the middle-class families. These roots run deep starting with Alexander Hamiliton followed by Abraham Lincoln and even up until Reagan.

I would think that every republican would start by putting themselves at the kitchen tables of middle-class families with ambitious kids. Their first questions would be: What are the barriers to their mobility? What concrete help do these people need to realize their dreams?

At this economic debate in Michigan this week, there was no talk of that. Instead they addressed, free trade, lower taxes and reduced spending. They talked a lot about the line-item veto and the Chinese currency. But there was almost nothing that touched concretely on the lives of the ambitious working-class parents who are the backbone of the GOP.

Sometimes the candidates seemed more concerned with massaging the pleasure buttons of the Club for Growth than addressing the real concerns of the middle class. They talked far more about cutting corporate taxes, for example, than about a child tax credit for struggling families.

At other times, they sounded as if they were running for a ceremonial post. The person who is elected president will need concrete proposals, but the GOP contenders scarcely have them. Mike Huckabee has some sketchy plans. John McCain answered one element of middle-class anxiety on Thursday with his new health care plan. Others seem to have decided concrete proposals are for geeks.

It has lost intimate contact with the working-class dreamer who longs to make good, the very backbone of the GOP itself.

Instead, this ground is being seized by a Democrat. Hillary Clinton has specific policy programs for members of the aspiring middle class. This shows great understanding and insight on her part. As she attains these essential votes she is positing herself very well for 2008. Under the Clinton plan, if a family making up to $60,000 a year put $1,000 into a new 401(k) account, they would get a $1,000 matching tax credit. The plan would create millions of new investors. Struggling families could choose mutual fund options and participate in the capital markets. They'd be encouraged to move away from a month-to-month mentality to a saving-for-the-future mentality.

Clinton's plan poaches on economic values that used to be associated with the Republican Party. This is why I think nowadays you can’t vote for a party, you vote for a person. Moreover, it undermines the populist worldview that is building on the left of her party. Instead of railing against globalization and the economic royalists, Clinton gives working people access to Wall Street and a way to profit from the global economy.

She will just have to secure the electoral votes of the correct states, such as California, Texas, Florida and of course, Ohio. Once representing Texas, I understand how imperative it is to secure it. I am not making a stance for Hillary. I truly don't think I will vote for her but I am just wanting to state my observations. I have not decided as of yet who will receive my vote.

Added on January 7, 2008. I am not supporting Hillary this was just an observation. I will not support Hillary.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Venezia, la mattina

When I travel I like to see each city at varying times during the day; early in the morning, lunch time, and of course the night. I have fallen in love with Venice. More accurately, I love Venice in the morning. Quite a romance has developed, I feel loved every time I go to Venice and I love Venice. It is a true love affair. There is nothing like Venice in the entire world. There are no cars in the city. For this reason it is the quietest city in the world. The whole city revolves around its location, meaning the canals. The mode of transportation is by boats. Try to imagine life without a car in the city. Mail, trash, ambulances and so much more are all parts of this culture that vary a great deal from other cultures. Because these are big projects that need to be completed these are all completed before anyone wakes up in the morning. Venice at 4 am is my favorite and I mean absolutely favorite place in the world. Mail is all delivered by boat to the correct neighborhood and is transported by hand until the actual address. Mailmen start work at 4:30 in the morning there. Most Venetians receive their mail very early in the morning. I still don't know how packages work yet? The next time I go I will have to make sure to ask. All the trash has to be brought out of the city by hand. The trash men don't drive trucks. They bring all the trash from the dumpsters to the nearest canal where depending on the amount is taken away in boat. I saw the trash men trying to drag an old desk which was thrown out. They had to transport this desk all the way to the canal where I am sure they had to call a bigger boat to come and get it. Venice is also the cleanest Italian city. They take very good care of the city. Every morning at about 6:00 am the city cleaners come out. They start with the streets; every street is swept and groomed. They then work their way eventually to the trash, bridges, and boats. They clean every ''waterbus stop.'' One of my favorite things to do in Venice is get lost, which is not hard. Every street ends in a different branch of the canals. It is virtually impossible to find your way around. Every little street in Venice leads you to a random canal where unless you want to swim across forces you inevitably turn around. I have been wanting to describe Venice for so long and I also want to explain my favorite other city. Piano piano.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Today was Sunday. It was the first sunday that I did not go to church in years. I am so sick. I have so much to write but today I just want to say that I missed church so much. Also, today was my first day with my new calling. I am the ward organist and my first day I had to find a replacement. I wanted to include a picture for a few days of the uber sleek school buses here in Italy.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

What if...

My hair dilemma continues. I have tried many different ways of styling my hair and I have found the best way to conceal the mullet. I just have to wear my hair curly. Since I have discovered this I have worn it curly every day. I cannot find hot rollers here. The only curlers I have found are collapsible with a hard brush in the middle. So, I feel like an old woman every morning when I put my curlers in then lovingly add my scarf to cover them until my hair dries. I have not yet gone out in curlers but I am sure it is to come as it takes two hours to dry my hair like this. I can't find a curling iron big enough to curl my hair plus it costs 25 euros (32 dollars). I just can't justify buying it when it costs 5 dollars in America. I am positive they have it sadly I just don't know where to go or who to ask. I will hopefully solve this problem.

I have begun to think and dream again in Italian again. It is so welcomed. I feel like my Italian was always a little behind during my mission. I did not start to think in Italian until the end of my mission and I had barely started to dream in Italian at the end of my mission. Now after just after two months I began to think in Italian. YEAH!!!!! Then, about two weeks ago, I started dreaming only in Italian. It is funny because everyone speaks in Italian but I am sure it is not correct Italian much of the time. It is hilarious. I love this so much. But much to my own chagrin it makes me work very hard to speak and write in English.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I searched for autumn today...

I woke up with such a desire to ''experience autumn'' today. Autumn is my favorite season, there is so much to ''experiencing autumn.'' Crisps mornings, followed by warm afternoons, apple cider, pumpkins, squash, sweaters, leaves falling, turning colors, school supplies, football, halloween, golfing, apples, etc. I miss it! I have a really hard time ''experiencing autumn'' here. It is just not as evident for me as in America. I miss these things so much. Today I woke up with a true sadness missing america and her great autumn season. These constant traditions which have come and gone every year have a greater impact on me than I ever realized, now that I don't have them, I feel thier absence. I have a great desire to watch two of my favorite autumn movies to experience autumn, ''You've got mail'' and ''Runaway Bride.'' When I think of these movies I think of autumn. I am really considering buying these movies today because I am desperate to experience some autumn. Today I woke up and decided that there has to be the same signs of autumn here in Italy so I went in search of these. I took a funiculare up to a mountain top in Tuscany today and walked around for hours just looking for any sign of Italian autumn traditions. I have discovered a few that have satisified my appetite. Autumn in Italy is about harvesting olives, chestnuts, figs, and of course grapes. This time of year is about working here, especially in Tuscany (It reminds me alot of Idaho's potato harvest). They are making thier wine and olive oils. I have had the experience this year of harvesting figs (thank you Willy), harvesting olives (thank you Elena) and grapes (a cultural experience I actually paid for). They are roasting chestnuts on the street corners now which carries a perfume so unique that stops me in my tracks. There are signs of autumn everywhere I just need to keep my eyes out for them.

This little town I visited today is called Montenero (or black mountain). You have to take a funiclar or cliff train that is suitable to climb steep mountains. There was a beautiful tree canopy that had some color change happening. I got to the top and walked into this beautiful town that is centered around a painting of the Madonna (or Mary). There is a famous sanctuary there that has become the center of the town's culture. Everything there is in the name of Mary the mother of Christ. I took a few pictures and will attach them below. Most of these pictures are of the sanctuary and few are of the town.

( Various statues for sale)
(These are, "Thank you hearts" people bought and wrote to Mary)

(Candles taken to the Mary)

(a local man and his candy store)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Euro class vs. Euro trash

My second really bad haircut! As I mentioned this is my second bad haircut, I firmly believe my first bad haircut was exactly the same cut. So, really this is my second mullet. I could change my outlook on my "euro style cut" and call it, ''uber modern,'' however in the end every time I look in the mirror I see a mullet. My only consolation is in Italy the girl mullet is a rather common cut so now I am just more italianized. More and more people are now thinking that I am italian (which I revel in).

I am looking for a job now full time now. I have started to get really creative in my searching. I have come to realize that knowing people is half the battle here in Livorno. So, I have set out to conquer half the city. Everytime I meet someone new I am constantly trying to network and make connections. It has truly been a learning experience. I have distributed my flyers for private english lessons. I have attached them to every free light post, bus stop, library, and book store, etc. I have had many calls. First caller I quoted 30 euros an hour but nothing came to fruition. Much to my own chagrin I quoted 8 euros an hour to the second caller, really low balling it so I could get some work. He, of course, accepted because 8 euros as hour that is an incredible deal. But he has given me referrals whom I have quoted a higher price. I have also made flyers to babysit for 12 euros an hour. I am luckily still giving tours of Tuscany to groups of 50 or more. I have really enjoyed looking for work here and it has been such a learning experience about myself and my abilities to put myself out there. I have been surprised so many different times with my abilities and talents that have come out. For example ideas that i have had and the courage I have found to move them into action.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Shakespeare was right

Shakespeare has made the point here that when we're disguised, we feel freer. We can do things we wouldn't do in ordinary life. I am in complete accord with this thought. Yesterday I was a living statue and had the best time. I felt so free and could do whatever I wanted. (maybe this is why burglers really put on a mask). It was really liberating to put myself in the middle of a busy piazza and try to be the "forced entertainment." Everyone looking a me in the middle of the piazza as if I was so wierd or strange. People would walk by so slowly and would be fixed on me. At certain points little kids would ask their parents funny questions, "Mamma, perche' no si muovono?(Mom why aren't they moving?" Or the kids would ask, "are they real mom?" (I should mention I did this with my friend Roberta). It was quite liberating and really artistic. I had to concentrate on my body and place it in positions that were accomadating for a long period of time. Dozens of people took pictures of me and took videos of me. It was so incredible. One american man said, as I approached him, "You are scaring the hell out of me." Little kids were the most warm and accepting. Adults would approach and just stare. After hours of doing this we decided to head off. We changed back into normal clothes again in a side street and took off our white faces. Then we headed to that same piazza as normal people and no one paid any at tention to us. Arby's always said, "Difference is good." It was just such a contrast of being the center of attention to not even being noticed. I have to say to summarize it was the most unique and freeing day I have ever experienced!