Friday, January 21, 2011

The Vatican, Home, and Back to School

I know it's been a while since I've posted anything and I'm sure most people have stopped reading by now anyway (if anyone ever began to), but I thought it a good idea to tie things together.

Before we left Rome the entire class made what, to me, was a pilgrimage to see the Pope at The Vatican. Yes, we were in audience listening to the man himself! It was quite a sight to behold when he walked onto the stage. The leader of the Church, one of the most important figures in the world, was sitting not more than 250 feet away. For me, being Catholic, it was one of the most fantastic things on earth and even my Protestant "brothers" seemed genuinely enthusiastic about being there. Perhaps most amazing was his ability to speak 8 languages. It's hard to recount my excitement so long afterward, but I can assure all readers that I was in awe. I'll always remember being there, though.

Not long after the trip to St. Peter's (yes, we even climbed the dome!!!):

we made another sort of pilgrimage back to the United States. It was a hectic and emotional couple of days trying to get everything together and saying goodbye to various people we had become friends with in the Eternal City. I was obviously quite eager to get back and see everyone and to enjoy the holidays, but that doesn't mean I wanted to leave so badly. Firstly, Rome had quite simply become home. It would also be difficult getting used to not traveling each weekend and doing typical, routines-type things again such as working; being around family, friends, and Katie; and eventually going to school. Finally, I didn't look forward to the long flight home. As for that flight, it went relatively smoothly. I was actually able to fall asleep for a bit, my back didn't act up at all, and I relaxed with some music and read about the NHL and college basketball. Once we got to the airport it was a bit more convoluted and frustrating. Because I wasn't continuing on to Pittsburgh I had to take my bags off, send them on a belt to a different terminal, go through security again, take various modes of transportation to that other terminal, then find my bags once more. After all of that happened, though, the most magical moment came to pass. I was walking down the hall back towards where I was told my family was and...well, there they were! I saw my brother first and couldn't believe how tall he'd gotten just while I was gone. He looked so happy to see me and that meant a lot. After that I saw my parents and Katie ambling and talking happily in my direction. I was surprised to see my dad. He'd said he wouldn't be able to come, which disappointed me thoroughly. That disappointment was totally supplanted by an equal amount of excitement when I saw him. My mom seemed happy to see me and that I casually walked over trying to hide it, but I gratefully hugged her and came near to tearing up. And then there was Katie. She looked even more beautiful than I remembered (which was the most beautiful) and I embraced her and kissed her and just...I couldn't contain myself. I was so happy to be back.

The holidays were incredible. I had one of the best Christmases I've ever had. I got so many great things that I actually needed, but most importantly I was with my family. That meant a lot after being gone for so long. I'll spare the details here, but just point out that it was magnanimous and magnificent to say the least.

Finally, there's school. I'm back in snowy and sleepy Beaver Falls. As weird is it is for me to say, I've been looking forward to this semester. I really got to pick and choose my classes and have been enjoying most of them so far. I've been looking forward to baseball as well and it's been nice to get back into the swing of practicing and trying to get into shape, plus getting to hang around the guys again.

I've been thinking about continuing this blog some to update everyone on various travels throughout the semester and during the summer. It's been great to see and hear how many people have enjoyed this and I appreciate your readership. Thanks!

Pictures from seeing the Pope and the St. Peter's Dome climb can be seen here:

other pictures from Christmas, the Pens game I got to go to for a Christmas present, and things like that can be seen by clicking on "Mike Trn" at the top. The rest should be easy enough to find!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Greece and the Emergence of Winter

It's now December. I have absolutely no idea where the year's gone, let alone this semester. It's gone so quickly. That said, though, these last few days are proving interminable. Home is so close that my heart and soul are there, but there's no escaping this reality I'm in. I'm not wishing time away by any means, not even wishing my time here away, but instead wishing that my time away would cease. I'd be fine in Rome, actually, if the people I love were here. It isn't the location or the language or any that makes home what it is, it's the people that are close to you and that surround you. I need them.

Last weekend I went out to relax and get away from my final project, to get my mind off of home, and make the most of the rest of my stay in Europe by hopping over to Athens, Greece. I had literally no expectations for the city and most of them were met. It was dirty, as I'd been told, and the hotel I stayed at felt like a shallow bunker in a nuclear war of desperation. No matter, though, I went to have a good time and for the most part I did. For starters I got my project done on time. I'm now finished with all of my work and that feels so good. Also, I spent an entire day at the only place I had known I wanted to go in Greece: the Acropolis:

Seeing the Parthenon was one of those moments where I really was just in awe. I'd read all about it in school and thought it looked neat, but never did I imagine going there. The view from the top of the hill was absolutely, spectacular, too:

There are more pictures in the link at the bottom, so feel free to browse those. I'd highly recommend them. The area around the Acropolis was also, as the girls say, "cute." There were a bunch of shops and cafes and things for the less discerning tourist and the even less discerning resident. They were alright. As I said, most of the day was spent there, and to be honest I could have sat atop the hill and watched the people slither around beneath me forever. Being up there made me feel removed from the desperation below and also the world in general. I relaxed and unwound a bit. I needed it.

The next day I journeyed to what's considered a beach in Greece (yeah, Pennsylvanians, it was still warm enough to swim while you were enjoying your snow). The real purpose of the trip had been to go to an island, any island, but every ferry was striking. Actually, I think it turned out for the best, because the place I found was spectacular and just as redeeming for the impoverished country as the view from the Acropolis:

The water, as you can see, was perfect and the mountains flanking the sea rose all around. The rocky coast provided for some dramatic results to meager waves. I sat in that spot for quite a long time until I decided to go down into the water. I walked down a semi-hidden staircase to the only scrap of sand I saw. Some locals were fishing and hardly seemed to notice me. It felt like I had the whole of the sea to myself. I didn't go too far out, because the people had been catching octopus and I didn't feel like stepping on one of those. The water did feel great, though, and gazing out across the vast blue expanse to the horizon, my hands in my pockets and my head up, I came to terms with the fact that I'd be home soon and that the trip I was on would be my last. I wouldn't be alone anymore. I felt at peace as the men kept at their fishing, shouting in Greek. I needed it.

I put my shoes back on and walked back up to the same bench I'd left not long before, the weary sun dragging itself to sleep behind the far off mountains, its last rays glistening across the water like fire flutters in the night:

It ended up being a relaxing voyage, despite all of Athens' shortcomings. When I got back I didn't have much else to do, so I checked the internet and saw the snow in Pennsylvania and noticed that winter weather had started to take hold back at home (and in Italy, too, actually). I miss the homely cheers of winter, the fires and fellowship inside that make the death and emptiness outside disappear. I look forward to getting back to enjoy the people that make the season so pleasant. I need them.

I wrote this in light of my thoughts. It's just a poem that I did in maybe 10 minutes, so don't expect anything too great (and I'm not very good at expressing love in poetry-form anyway), but I hope it sparks something or allows you to understand my feelings:

Grey earth’s back again,
for gloom must have its day.
The exterior stands in stark bleakness,
but the inside, it’s said, must outweigh.

Wholeness there, vibrance there,
solace sought and found at long last.
The elements wear the body thin,
but in the mind, the bitterness is past.

The world will die and fade away,
but affinity holds forever fast.
The sun will rise to hypnotize,
the season’s dismality to outlast.

Come cold, come wind, welcome in,
against your worst an oasis lies in state.
The warmth and sincerity in that one,
the reward for battling yearly fate.

Thanks to everyone for being with me through this tough time as I long for home. I'll post about my adventure to the Vatican to meet the Pope once I can get my pictures online.

Pictures from Greece can be found here:

Monday, November 29, 2010

Grazie (Studenti di) Roma

When I realized that coming up with an idea for my Culture Making project was more difficult than I anticipated I went back to what has in essence created or shared "culture" for me - my blog. I've been able to communicate my thoughts and feelings with everyone at home about places that you and I got to experience and most of them probably never will. I know I was on my own a lot and went just about everywhere by myself, but I hope you all understand that my personality dictates I sometimes sit in my room and reflect on things, that I go out and get to know a place by myself and on my terms, and that I generally seem distant or standoffish. I am distant, when you get right down to it. My mind is always in places I can't describe so well or like most of you now, at home. I hope you also understand that I've been so much more visible and social these past few months than just about any other time since I was a little kid. I do genuinely value each of you as well as the time we've spent together here. It's cliche as can be imagined, but we really never will forget this and you all have greatly impacted (or been impactful on...) my life. It's such a blessing and I hope that we can agree on that and call one another "friend."

I was trying to figure out what to do or say to set this apart from my other posts, but nothing came to mind until class the morning. I know I'm not necessarily the most outwardly religious one amongst us, but some of the "Psalms" we wrote were fantastic and truly moving. What I wrote in mine was my true feelings regarding the last few months and the struggles we're all apparently having getting through the last 9 days now. I think that when I start feeling down or alone or isolated or any of those other things I'll remember my time here, thank God for the blessings He's given me, and maybe say a prayer:

Praise the Lord, you who wonder and wander,
for spirit and imagination are foundation for truth.
Thanks be to God for second sight and further chances
and seeing and believing without the need for proof.
A gentle hand fashioning, a strong hand guiding,
He speaks and shakes each to the core.
He laments the wicked in deed or thought,
those who turn their backs in search of more.
For he spoke and worlds were created,
and knows you make home through your mind and hearts renewed.
You never left His house, though, in all the miles,
the Mighty One, the All-Knowing Son is always there with you.
In the bravest fight or hardest struggle,
in the tears that fell from eyes that watched you go,
in letters from loves abroad and in boundless human want
just what you require, He knows.
Trust and believe, you wanderers, you opportunists,
trust and believe - for you, through you, and in you His love persists.

No one said her name.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Venice and AS Roma

I mentioned in my last post that going Hungary and the Czech Republic propelled me into my weekend in Venice. It most certainly did and I'm glad now that I was on a little bit of an upswing heading into it, because it was honestly incredible. I expected there to be a few alleyways that looked like the Venice everyone knows, gondolas and canals and all of that, but it was all that way. The two parts I liked most, though, were the fact that there weren't any cars to clutter up the streets and that the town was virtually empty. Being able to walk around, take pictures, "shop," and do all of the tourtisty things without constantly avoiding a painful death by automobile was so nice and the fact that you could sit down in a square, and despite there being a few people around during the day, it was actually still peaceful. There were times, though, in the early evening and sometimes in the middle of the afternoon where I'd suddenly realize that there was no one else around. I literally couldn't see anyone else and it felt like Venice was just for me.

Caleb, Sofia and I decided to skip going to the tourist traps/stupid islands and walk around together taking pictures. We started with the pretense that it was a contest, but in the end it was just neat to see the city with two people that have an eye for art or at least for photo-ops.
Looks like I-Spy, doesn't it?

My dad noted it in a recent e-mail and I've probably said it a few times here and there, but I've really enjoyed the opportunity to develop skills in photography. These skills are most likely only a product of the locations I've been visiting, but I digress. I've just loved seeing things from the camera's eye and trying to make some sort of art. I guess you could say that since I enjoy writing so much, am looking forward to my drawing class next semester, am interested in taking up painting, and sort of try to play guitar that I'm an "artsy" person. I was particularly proud of a picture I took in Venice, so I thought I'd share that before I move ahead with talking about the soccer game:

And about that game - it was probably the best thing our group has done together. Walking in was a bit tense due to the fact that we were mistaken for Germans. In a hostile environment that's never a good thing, is it? The entire experience aside from that was bombastic. First of all, it was great to go out and do something so culturally significantly to the people we've lived around the last 2 and 1/2 months. Also, most people know how much I've fallen in love with the beautiful game over the past few years and to see it in person and be immersed in the atmosphere and everything, it was beyond description. It doesn't hurt that we went to a fantastic game. Bayern Munich is a great team and seeing even their second team was a privilege. As for Roma, I don't know too many of their players, but the way they battled back from 2-0 down at halftime was incredible. My favorite thing about it was being right in with the Italians and being forced to feel all of the emotions they were going through. When Bayern scored to make it 2-0 there was no escaping the disappointment. The goal in the 49 minute brought some hope back and the 81st minute's equalizer was such a triumphant moment. We all stood and pleaded for a penalty to be awarded in the 84th minute and when it was and was converted the stands whipped into a frenzy. Each time Roma got close to scoring the guy next to me grabbed my arm and the arm of the person on the other side of him and shook it. When they did score I was instantly high fived and wrapped in a giant hug. I guess overall it's just one of those things you have to do for yourself to understand.

I loved it.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Budapest and Prague

Last weekend I made the pilgrimmage to the homeland: Slovakia/Czech Republic as well as to Budapest, Hungary. Unexpectedly fantastic weather greeted me as I stepped off the plane in Hungary and persisted throughout. I was grossly unprepared on the kit front, but this time that was welcome. It felt like changing from summer into autumn and the light breeze and moist sensation (although not accompanied by much actual rain) prevaded.

I also stepped off the plane completely unprepared for Hungary. I literally didn't know a single word of Hungarian and my general knowledge about the country was close to nil. I did know about its connection with Communism and to a certain extent it still felt as such. I wasn't oppressed and the people weren't anything but helpful and nice, but there was this transitional feeling. It was so neat. There was great patriotism and pride in country and a movement toward betterment that I quite enjoyed. Also, the place was gorgeous. I went on a walking tour and while learning about the history of the city and gazing upon its Communist-era drabness, I got some fantastic vantage points and was able to see pre- and post-Communist Budapest - significantly less drab, almost to the point of being utterly fantastic.

It is certainly somewhere I'd love to go to again and would like to give more time to. I spent literally no time in Slovakia, merely stepping off the train to say I'd been there. What I was able to see from the train was spectacular and I also look forward to making it back there one day.

Prague obviously also had to endure Communism, but there wasn't the same sense of its lingering. The more modern city, Prague offered more sights to see, a product of its movement ahead and desire to build outside of the bounds of Communist architecture. The river was great as was the weather and despite being surrounded by throngs of tourists at nearly every turn, I was able to find some peaceful parks to sit down and enjoy the scenery. My favorite part of my time there came in one such park when I pushed through some bushes to a tree stump perfectly positioned for overlooking the city and the river winding through its heart. With the wonders of Europe starting to wear thin and home calling, it was relaxing (in all senses of the word) and calming to ponder whilst looking out over the capital of where my family came from. It made me at least feel connected to them, which I thankfully will be shortly enough.

All-in-all, Prague was beautiful and felt so central to discovering my roots. The entire trip was great and propelled me into the short week before the trip to Venice.

Pictures from Hungary can be seen here:
and Prague is here:

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A No Travel Weekend

This weekend I stayed in Rome, just watching movies with everyone, missing home, and generally being lazy. It was a good break from my rather hectic semester thus far. I've had a lot of time to think and a few people have heard a lot about my feelings toward them or other things and I've found it to be wholly productive. I hope and trust that it will continue to produce results.

I haven't gotten to doing much work, but other than my final project I'm not all that worried about getting stuff done. I've actually enjoyed school this semester. I know, I know. You all are probably checking to make sure you're on the right blog, making certain Mike Trn is still writing this. Well, he is, and he really is enjoying learning about things. Enough third person, though, and on to why I've liked it. I'm getting to know the places I'm in. It's neat being able to talk about a painting or building in class and then going to see it. Also, my papers have allowed me to be creative. For the first time since I've been in college I feel like I've got the leeway to write the sort of papers I want to.

Furthermore, I sat down and wrote a poem tonight. It took me a bit longer than normal to do, at about 10 minutes, but I don't mind how it turned out (hence posting it). Here's a glimpse into my mind and my mood throughout the entire weekend:

Helical our downward plane,
a fall vivace indeed.
With mouths agape the hopeful sit,
too vain to intervene.

Swollen to the collar,
faux champions build their lies.
But when the woe comes crashing through
realized is their guise.

There are no heroes in our mirrors,
we are ashamed at what we see.
There is no brilliance here,
no fearless repartee.

Scrofulous, tainted, baleful creatures
cannot bear to see drops fall from their own eyes.
And the world will stay forever fallen, forever broken,
unless humanity to itself become apprised.

Sunken into grudging ways,
self-sacrifice fell to malevolent spite.
"I must be the best there is,"
echoed through cities of encyclical plight.

Still in decline, still in denial,
smiles spread on faces daft.
Envy is the edge that ends carnassial,
idiocy the measured haft.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Cardiff, Wales

Just wanted to let you know, that was the view from my hostel window. Amazing? Yes.

This is the last post regarding my fall break adventures, which is a good thing, I think. I've felt like maybe over the last couple of months I've overwhelmed some people with all of my wonderful stories and fairy tales to the point of apathy.

Well, there aren't any fanciful and/or uplifting journal entries this time, although I did have a marvelous time. Cardiff is a really great city that I'd recommend to anyone going to Europe. The people spoke English for the most part, which was still a very welcome feeling even after having been to London for a few days, it was relatively clean, the weather was probably uncharacteristically fantastic - it was about 60 degrees and sunny with a little breeze, you know, those perfect fall days, it was inexpensive, smaller and navigable on foot, friendly, and... just Wales. It really felt like home.

I know I mentioned it in a journal specifically for Katie and to my parents on the phone, but it felt like a bigger, more modern version of Beaver Falls. It was formed around a river, built largely around the steel and coal industries, and surrounded by modest hills. Katie and I have talked about living in Cardiff after college, because she has an opportunity for a position there and because we dream of living in Wales. It all seems like it's coming together, I suppose. I know I'd live there for a couple of years right out of college. It was just charming. Maybe this is a fairy tale after all?

The main reason I didn't get to write a longer and more public journal was because I didn't have much time to spend in the city and I wanted to get a really good feel for it so I could report back to Katie my feelings on it as our potential home. Also, I wanted to get the most of my last few hours in Wales. We've been over how much I enjoy it there by now, I'd say. I did write a poem, though, the first night I was in Machynlleth that I wasn't too sure about posting until now. I might as well include it to satisfy anyone that really likes reading things I post and those who might not so much, but haven't quit reading this post yet.


Stepping out firmly
into the cold November air
I thought her tears might crystallize
falling from her somber emerald eyes.
The softening tremble in her gaze
matched the hardening of my heart.
And the kicking wind biting at my soul
spread my occupied fingers, let me know it was time to go.
As her finger slipped and left
and her back turned, too difficult to watch,
I felt her fragile, repaired heart break in two,
but in her mind she knew it was what I had to do.

I stood with head down waiting for my feet to move
and saw her glance back, eyes red and wet with sudden sobbing.
Her whimper called and I responded when I could
that I'd be home, she wasn't all alone, and this wasn't for good.
She understood, I'm sure, but I felt as bad
and miss her all the lonely while.
To comfort, "I'll return to you, cariad, at any cost.
It's said that love is true and not all wanderers are lost."

The door slammed shut tight, but the window opened
as I searched for her face in the rearview mirror.
I knew right then that despite my endeavor
her and I would last like this Earth I search, forever.