Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Blur

Well this summer has been just a one big blur! I almost don’t know where to begin, but allow me to try and explain…

In May, exactly one day after taking my last final, I hopped a plane back to Italy! I was so excited to go back and see the country that I grew to love over the 2 years that I lived there. I spent 13 wonderfully, jam-packed days touring old mission cities, members and investigator, ex-companions, and of course I couldn’t pass up seeing some of the sites and just being a relaxed "tourist". For me going back to Italy was a chance to unwind and reminisce about everything that had happened to me in the last year since returning from my mission. My mom was (as you can imagine) a bit uneasy about me traveling around all by myself. Before leaving she would ask me: How are you going to do this? Who are you going to stay with here? and What are you going to do for food? etc… I can’t say that I blame her for worrying so; I mean she is my Mom and that’s what mothers are suppose to do, but I wasn’t worried one bit because I was going to be back "home".

My trip that I had planned out for myself included visiting the cities of Alessandria, Vercelli (both cities in which I served that are near Torino where they had the Winter Olympics in 2006), Genova (a beautiful city that lies on the Mediterranean coast, where I always wanted to serve but never did), Verona (this historic city is the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet), Mantova (a small quaint city just south of Verona; the only thing that made me stop in Mantova was the fact that my Greeny was finishing his mission there and I wanted to pay him a visit. We ate a pizza together and laughed about the good old days), Trieste (another city in which I served that is North of Venice and adjacent to the country of Slovania), I stopped in Venice as well, and finished my trip in Florence, where one of my ex-companions lives. WOW! That was a mouth-full and it was just my itinerary. Honestly I loved my trip and everything about it, but after coming back I needed a vacation to recuperate from my "vacation".
As you can see I did a lot of traveling from place to place during my trip, and I was able to pass the time by just kicking off my shoes and curling up with a good book while I rode the trains here and there. I brought along Elder Groberg’s Memoirs, The other Side of Heaven. It was an amazing book (if you haven’t read it I encourage you to pick it up). It was a pretty cool way to spend my travel days, looking out the window at the rolling hills of the Italian countryside and remembering all the things that I had done, then being able to read about Elder Groberg’s mission adventures and seeing some of the similarities in what he thought about his mission and what I had felt about mine.

During this trip I was finally able to make to Venice! Believe it or not, during my 2 years in Italy, I actually never did make it to Venice! I did see Venice from the train station once as a missionary, but unfortunately, I never got the chance to experience it for myself. Ironically when my family came to pick me up from my mission they had just been in Venice the day before! "Oh, Venice is so amazing!" they said. "You know what we’re talking about. You saw it right?" But…alas I hadn’t. So nothing was going to stop me this time. It really was out of this world. Nothing else can compare to it. I’ll let the picture speak for themselves.

Florence was equally as amazing. I think it’s probably my most favorite place in the entire world. My ex-comp, Alessio Ferrini, was there to pick me up from the train station and the few days that I spent there were non-stop party! We went to some natural hot springs near Pisa, competed in a birthday party cook-off, went to a soccer riot (I kid you not!), rode mopeds through the Florentine streets at about 50-60 m.p.h, and a lot of other "cultural activities" that missionaries cannot do! :)

So that basically sums up my Italian vacation experience. Cool, right? Enough excitement for one summer some might say, but not me. Exactly one day after coming back to the States, still suffering from jet-lag I might add, I started a 4-credit summer course in Electrical Circuits. Not nearly as fun or exciting as a trip to Europe, but to my displeasure, it was something that had to be done. So twice a week I would drive myself 40 minutes down to the local community college where I would sit in a classroom for 6 hours straight listening to jibber jabber about Ohm’s Law, RLC circuits, imaginary numbers, and phasors (no not the stuff from Star Trek, but nice try anyways…). It was, shall we say an exercise in self-discipline and patience. I ended up with an A in the class (the teacher was very forgiving in how he graded certain assignments and everyone did quite well in the course), and looking back on the whole experience I feel it’s like a lot of things in life, you just kind of suck it up and bite the bullet and then after it’s done you say to yourself, "Man, I’m glad I did that. But I’m even more glad it’s over." You know one of those experiences that takes only one time living it to learn what you needed to learn from it. :)

My circuits class lasted only 8 weeks. Not too long, but believe me the end couldn’t come quick enough for me! And so after such a grueling summer, I decided that I deserved a much needed break…two days later, I drove to Philadelphia where I would be working with my cousin Jay for the remaing 5 weeks of my summer "vacation".

Going up to Philadelphia and working a full-time job was a great experience. I can’t thank Jay and Sheena enough for opening up their home to me. Their house was transformed into a pseudo-frat house with me, Spencer, and Joseph (a friend of Jay and Sheena’s) all staying over. It really was so much fun living together. Joseph brought his Wii up from UVA, and nightly Wii challenges soon became the norm around Alhmer Manor. I think it was my first time having a real fixed job from 9-5, everday. It was interesting work and I can honestly say that I enjoyed it even though it may have been a bit repetitive at times. I tried to make sure I always did some fun activities during the month in which I lived there. I was able to go to the "Shore" (not the beach! It’s the SHORE in Jersey don’t cha know), a Phillies game, saw Batman in Imax (1.5 times due to technical dificulties at the theater), and I even ran the Rocky stairs. Now I can cross that off of my "things I need to do before I die" list. :) In all it was a great experience, and I’m glad I had the chance to do it.

So here I am, 3 days before school starts up again, wondering where my summer break went. I was discussing this phenomenon (losing an entire summer…bam, like that) with my dad, to see if he could shed some light on the situation. His response, profound and at the same time a slap in the face: "Welcome to the real-world. Where summer vacation doesn’t really exist!" Well, I guess I’m growing up, and that this "Man-Child" just experienced a real "Man’s Summer", full of work sprinkled with some childish fun (that, by the way, he had to pay for himself :o lol). Growing up is a beast sometimes, but everyones got to do it sometime I suppose. Good thing I don’t plan on doing that any time soon! Haha.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Beginning...

So I suppose the beginnings of this Blog occurred while I was on my mission in Italy. Every week I had the opportunity to write to my family and tell them about the wonderful and exciting things that I was doing in my new "home". I grew to enjoy filling my emails and letters with intricate details and neat facts of the comings and going of my daily regime. And it never ceased to amaze me how by the time I was about ready to click the send button or put on the last stamp on the envelope, a detailed and interesting full-length story (sometimes a thriller other times a comedy or even an occasional tragedy) had somehow snuck its way onto my page. My letters and emails soon grew in popularity and before I knew it, my humble following of "faithful family member-readers" had become a hoard of eager readers that ranged from family members to friends and even some people that I had never even met before in my life, who all tuned in to see where their "fear-less friend/hero" had turned up this week and what sort of mess he had gotten himself into this time.

It was quite the interesting experience for me, as I would sit down at my screen each week and try not to disappoint my new "fans" with the mundane and boring. And even though my life wasn't always full of nail-biting drama or lotto-winning-moments, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed searching for the positives, the "silver-linings", and the small miracles that would fill my emails with "good news"...or at least interesting reading material. (Because nobody likes to read bad news or uninteresting garbage).

So I suppose that having to write for an audience taught me to look at things in a new light and with positive outlook. Always trying to see the glass half-full instead of half empty. And that was a wonderful lesson to learn in such an unexpected way.

Upon returning from my missionary service in Italy, I was casually chatting with one of my wonderful Aunts, who had followed my missionary adventures and mishaps from the very beginning. She said, "You know I miss hearing your funny stories and lessons learned etc... You know you should really start a Blog." It may have been in jest but it really made me think how great it was to be able to look back on such a long period time (2 years) and see just what wonderful things I had done and learned. And so here is for my Aunt and anyone else who may or may not be interested in the daily adventures and mishaps of a silly college boy trying to find his way on the wonderful "stage" we live on called LIFE! Enjoy...