Sunday, April 17, 2011

Navigating the monastery grounds in darkness and in light

Greetings, dear friends,

I just finished Skyping with my mum and sister, and they advised me to go to sleep--it's close to 1 a.m., and I've been coughing like mad, as a result of a cold that started in Canada and followed me to Italy--but I wanted to get these photos up so I could rest up and/or work tomorrow. And it's also because I don't like starting something and going to bed with it unfinished. Sorry, Mom and Jess! I love you! (EDIT: The photos I wanted to upload took too long to do so, so I gave up, went to sleep, and am publishing this in the morning on Sunday.)

I'm sitting in bed now with a blanket draped over my shoulders and another one atop my comforter and sheets. Though it's not as cold here as it is in Montreal (I heard it's positively frigid in Montreal!), it's definitely colder than the contents of my suitcase allow for comfort. Today I sported the hot combo of tank top, hoodie, jacket, scarf, and tuque all day. Italian heat? I'm waiting for you! 

Last night, I walked back to my room in the darkness--nay, pitch darkness. For those of you who know me on a very personal level, you'll know that I have little to zero sense of direction. Yet I somehow managed--on my first day, no less--not only to make it back to my room from my colleagues' apartments (a five-minute walk down a steep hill, along a dirt path, across cobblestone, and up several flights of stairs), but I managed to do it in the darkness, at half past midnight. I found it comical, so I whipped out my camera to take some shots of just how dark it was.

 (A photo of this path in the daylight is farther below.)

Yeah... It gets dark around here. Sure, there are lightswitches, it takes less effort and mania (ok, scratch the latter) to furiously click buttons on my Nokia cell phone to allow it to illuminate my way than to paw frantically at the walls for nonexistent lightswitches.

Oh! How could I forget: food! For lunch, we had delightful leftovers of refried pasta and veggies, couscous, and stir-fried veggies. For dinner, we had a veritable gourmet meal--to me, it was gourmet!--of veggies atop a bed of lettuce as an accompaniment to some of the best polenta I have ever had, on top of which a puree of beans and tomatoes was carefully laid. Mmm. I added sea salt crystals (best invention ever!) and the rest was history and in my belly. Mmm...

And now: photos!

 The view from the path leading up to my group's apartments. The monastery is to the right, hidden.

 The walk up to my group's apartments from the monastery/my hotel

 Part of the restored monastery

 The dirt path I navigate even in darkness back to the monastery/hotel, which is to the left.

 Labro, the city in which I technically reside, glimpsed through the trees; the city proper is across the valley from the monastery.

 The road by the monastery, wonderfully narrow and shared by motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists.

 View of the hills from the monastery grounds

 The cloister inside the monastery

 View out into the valley from the cloister

 Being silly, trying to catch a shot of myself in the glass. I don't know how to rotate photos, though. Woops!

 View of monastery grounds from a window inside the monastery

 Stairs up to my room. Again, there's nothing but the light of the moon, if that, guiding me to my room at night.

 The sun setting over Labro

It's Sunday now, our day off, and I need to fight off the tail end of this cold. I finished the last of my cough medicine, so here's hoping lots of water, rest, Ricola lozenges, and echinacea drops will do the trick--or time will.

A piu' tardi ('til later), and thanks for reading,

Vegan in Italia

Friday, April 15, 2011

Settling In Amongst the Ringing Bells, Barking Dogs, and Breathtaking Views

Hello, dear friends!

This post is going to be short and sweet because I have big tasks ahead of me--like napping. I arrived in Rome at 10 this morning, after a 7.5-hour flight that was delayed by almost an hour. My dear friend Emanuela picked me up, drove me to the train station at Tiburtina, and I disembarked at Terni. My luggage was so heavy that several strangers offered to help me carry it up and down flights of stairs. I declined the first offer, dragging the poor oversized parcel behind me, clanging down the steps, but then another man, seeing the two ascendant flights laying ahead of me, insisted on carrying it. Bless these kind Italian souls! My baggage weighs a tonne! Oof.

I was picked up at Terni by two of my remarkably friendly and enthusiastic colleagues for the next two months, and they told me a little bit about Labro and the surrounding area. Once I was settled in to my hotel room/living quarters--chosen by one of the hotel staff specifically for its close proximity to the wireless Internet access point--we headed off to make lunch. All I did was chop vegetables, and two of the artists with whom I'll be working created the rest of the meal.

The meal consisted of gnocchi with a dairy-cheese based sauce for the whole group, but they made couscous with chopped vegetables and a mindblowingly perfect addition of sea salt chunks, as well as a stir-fry of eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and white beans. What a perfect welcome meal for the vegan! I was exquisitely accommodated, and I look forward to the other meals we'll be putting together. If anyone has any suggestions for quick, simple meals to put together ('cause I may end up, at some point, being the brainchild behind a group meal), I'm all ears!

I didn't have much of a chance to take great photos of the grounds (the cloister of the monastery and something worth beholding. It's ever so peaceful), so below are photos of my quaint little hotel room and the spectacular view from the window. As I started typing this, bells chimed outside, marking the time at every quarter-hour mark, and a dog barked to add its own melody. I think I'll enjoy my humble, though currently chilly (monastery walls aren't well insulated, I gather) abode for the next two months.

Until next time...

Vegan in Italia