Hello Suitcase/Goodbye Siena

My suitcase’s fan club can be reassured that we have been reunited. It was delivered late last night–after 11:30 p.m., I just found out, so I didn’t see it till this morning or open it until this afternoon. Wearing fresh clothes to dinner tonight was pretty exciting. But this experience could open a new frontier in the art of packing light: bring only 2 outfits, wash one every night. (Probably not.)

Today was our last day in Siena; tomorrow we go to Florence where I will spend the weekend and Dorothée will go on to France to spend the weekend with her family. We spent the morning working on the program: sat in on an excellent class called “Reading the City as a Textbook” and then met with Luca and Sonia to continue refining the structure of next year’s offerings. After today I am even more confident that we will be able to offer a good variety of classes that will help students progress toward their degrees while making the most of the study abroad experience itself. We had a quick lunch at Osteria del Gatto (same place we ate Tuesday) where I had grilled radicchio, delicious bruschetta, and a bread and tomato stew that Luca described as “very poor food”–as in it was traditionally what poor people ate–but that I am going to be nostalgic for the next time it’s cold and drizzly like it was today. After lunch we went back to the Institute to sit in on part of an Italian language class. My Italian has a looooong way to go, though I’ve found that I can understand basic things, order in restaurants, and sometimes follow conversations. The students were doing very well learning the present progressive tense and vocabulary for family relationships. I am not quite there yet!

“Reading the City as a Textbook”

Later in the afternoon, Luca took us to the Duomo, which is the main cathedral in Siena and properly called the Metropolitan Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption. It is so unlike other cathedrals I’ve seen. The Gothic style is familiar but the marble is striped, the ceiling is dark blue with gold stars, and the floor is a series of marble mosaics depicting the path to wisdom through classical allegories and figures that lead the viewer to the Christian message of the main altar. It is elaborate, overwhelming, and extraordinary. Luca knows it very well and during our short visit told us more details than I can remember. Cathedrals are such a synthesis of art, philosophy, symbolism, and religion that I think students should see them simply as an exercise in critical thinking. We don’t get as much practice as we should at combining ideas in this way, but seeing a cathedral–if you take the time to really learn about it–requires it.

The exterior of the Duomo

Looking toward the cathedral entrance

The dome of the cathedral–looking up is a little dizzying!

The Virgin Mary is the “queen” of Siena.

We left the Duomo around 4:30 and I walked back to the hotel in the rain for a much-needed nap. Dinner was not until 8:00 tonight and I wasn’t going to survive without some extra sleep! Sonia came to the hotel to collect Dorothée and me, and we met Jim and his wife Carol on the way. The young secretaries at the Institute had picked out a restaurant for us called Osteria Babazuf. It was sort of high-concept–the front page of the menu actually made reference to semiotics, and I got a little nervous when I ordered something called an “eggplant tower,” but the food was excellent and the atmosphere was comfortable. After the eggplant tower I had pasta with butter and truffles and that was so delicious! Somehow I still found room for a salted caramel mousse for dessert. But the highlight of the meal was a celebratory toast to the fact that I had a different outfit on!

Truffle pasta: YES PLZ

So tonight we said goodbye to Jim, Carol, and Sonia; tomorrow we’ll say goodbye to Luca. Everyone has been so generous and welcoming. The students that are here this year are clearly having a great experience and I am eager to see some MGA students make the trip in 2019.

Luca, Sonia, Dorothée, me, and Jim

More tomorrow from Florence . . .

European Council Ireland 2017: Where are we?

Catch-up blogging is the worst kind of blogging!  This program already has me moving at a brisk trot, and if I don’t write things up as I go along it all disintegrates into a blur of green hills, coastal plains, dorm rooms, buses, and potatoes. I think when I left off I promised to say something about our visit to Kilkenny. Great town for a day trip as you can start at one end of the Medieval Mile and sightsee, eat, and shop your way to the other. The two ends are St. Canice’s Cathedral and Kilkenny Castle; pick your flavor!

St. Canice’s–the “tomb” of an anchoress


The much-quartered coat of arms on this tomb makes me wish I were a lot better at heraldry!

Artsy focus pulling in action

Street view in Kilkenny

Street view in Kilkenny

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle garden

Knights Impact Dominican Republic Exploratory Trip–Travel Day

Quick post from Orlando, FL where 4 of us from Middle Georgia State are spending the night en route to Miami. In Miami tomorrow we’ll board the Fathom Adonia for an impact travel cruise to the Dominican Republic. If all goes well we will take students on this same program at the end of May as a first step toward incorporating international service learning into our offerings to students. This trip will be my first cruise and my first time in the DR and I have already taken my first Uber ride. Travel is a constant learning experience which is why I love it!

Check back this coming week for more posts and photos about the cruise experience, the impact and cultural activities, and the Dominican Republic. I am excited! What a great way to kick off 2017. Happy New Year and a shout out to my sweet husband Daniel who is spending this NYE solo.  Je t’aime, mon amour! 

I’ve got my passport and I’m ready to go!

Paris 2015 and other updates

Spring 2015 semester has gone by in a blink! On April 23 I had surgery; I feel like I spent the first half of the semester getting ready for it and the second half recovering from it–not quite, but close. Now I’m preparing for study abroad student orientation on Saturday (May 16) and then departure for Paris at the end of June. When I come back I will be working even more extensively than before on study abroad programs and international education. More importantly, when I come back, Middle Georgia State College will have become Middle Georgia State University. Stay tuned for more and watch my Paris blog during the month of July.

Paris, we are in you.

It’s been  an epic, hectic day of travel that is, as of this writing, still ongoing. I left Macon at 11 a.m. EDT yesterday (June 30), flew overnight from Atlanta to Frankfurt, had a short layover in Frankfurt, then on to Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport–which is not in Paris at all, as everyone knows. There are 85 students in the group this year plus 10 faculty members, so we were split among a total of 3 flights for the trip over here. Some of us had to wait at Frankfurt for a later connection to Paris; some got to come to Paris right away but then had to wait for the rest. A lucky few flew directly from ATL to CDG.  We finally got everyone and all the bags collected in to 2 buses and now we are en route to Cité Universitaire. Barely moving, but en route. Ah, la circulation Parisienne.

It’s been a long day but everything has gone well. The Lufthansa flights were very good (again) and my colleague Dr. Mauldin said the Delta flight was excellent. No one lost any bags or missed their connection. I have already gotten to speak French to a few unsuspecting citizens of the republic and even got a café waiter in the airport to laugh at my joke about wanting my coffee to be “jet lag size.” It must be said that I have terrible décalage horaire. One day, perhaps, I will master the art of sleeping on planes. As it is I’m sure I slept less than an hour and have thus been awake for the better part of 28 hours. The end is in sight. Check in at Cité, small walking tour of the immediate area, cafeteria dinner, and then I will set a record for most blissfully comfortable sleep in a dorm bed.

Plus, les Bleus won their soccer match last night. And I got to watch Banksy: Exit Through The Gift Shop on the plane. And I have already had a stroke-inducingly strong cup of French coffee. Now if I can just avoid falling asleep on this bus ride. No sleep till the 14th arrondissement! (As the Beastie Boys never said.)