Sunday, June 29, 2014

Day 3-4

The last few days have been spent adjusting to the new schedule, the area, the work we will be doing, and the artifacts we will be working with.
A couple of days ago a few of us visited the local graveyard. I have never seen one so beautiful and visited one so morbid. Each of the graves was well taken care, heavily adorned with bouquets, and lighted by floral and flame appearing lights. There must have been hundreds upon hundreds of graves - each one having it's own light as if as a guide in the after life. We went through and read each of the graves - infants, siblings, daughters, etc. The family mosaliams were some of the most adorned items in the graveyard; crucifixes lining the walls - made of silver, wood, etc, marble everywhere, alters in front of the deceased as you would see at a funeral. Marvel of the Italian's perception of death is heavily increased. Though the graves contained sad, final words of the deceased, they were rather aesthically pleasing in relation to the graves one may find in the states...."the inconsoliable"...And the state of the graveyard! I have been to many in the states - many of which contained types of vandalistic damage...this was not something you saw here.
 Yesterday was spent at the Museum that houses previous year's findings (from this dig) and reviewing the importance of being careful of neglegance in the field. One minor mistake could cost the dig valuable information if an artifact is improperly handled or accidentally discarded. Yesterday we were also presented the opportunity to hold a few of the artifacts and begin to think like a true archaeologist. I can't express the feeling well enough to hold something dating back thousands of years ago that can and has lead to our understanding of an ancient civilization. To feel the fear of dropping it because of all knowledge that could be lost. It's impeccable, really, to think the impact one single item can have on an entire culture's knowledge of the past. The returning staff and the directors have additionally begun the tour of the plot of land that we consider to be the dig site and have been giving us lectures to further expand our knowledge of the Etruscan civilization. Despite the size of this town, there's always stuff to do: playing soccer or ultimate frisbee in the local soccer field, watching the sunset, hanging out at the bar/pool, and walking around. *Mental note: when in Italy, you pay for everthing*.
This weekend was one of relaxation - we didn't want to travel for a bit after our initial experience. A fellow team member and I hiked slightly Northbound to Radi and made it about half-way between here and Murlo. Though we were incapable of locating the ruins that we had initially set out to find, we discovered some pretty unique and spectacular architecture. The devotion to the houses here - almost every house here has a garden. The language barrier has been a bit of a slight issue, some of the people here do speak English, but it has posed as a dilemma when I try and ask the baker for a loaf of bread. I am still trying to get accustomed to a few culture differences. For one, they have what people refer to as the "siesta" (spelling?). Most businesses here are closed between 11-5 for the afternoon (aside from restaurants). It forces you to plan out your trips to the only local market for this very reason, otherwise you risk not being able to get something when you need it. There is a quaint pizzeria whose name translates to "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and a whole pizza is as cheap as 4 euros (SCORE!). It is also going to get some getting used to for when dinner is eaten (generally 8pm) - my internal clock still says 5 is dinner time. I am thankful that it didn't take much time to get over the jet lag, the key is to stay up for as long as possible (healthy, I know), and then let your body CRASH. Last night we were given the opportunity to meet some of the locals-the owner of the hotel threw us a party atop one of the hills just west of the town (close to our dig site). There was a pig roast (something I didn't quite enjoy very much), bonfire, yada yada. If you traveled a bit of a ways up from where we were on the trail, when the light was out, it was absolutely spectacular. Fire flies were everywhere in the dim setting. My camera couldn't capture it and what a shame that is, it was one of the prettiest sights I have ever encountered. The ambiance of the wee lights surrounding you in every which was magical. It was a simplistic natural beauty. I think I may head back up that way to enjoy the scene soon.
Today was a most splended of days. Giorgia, my old exchange student (left us about 3 years prior) came and visited my friends and I in Murlo. How time has escaped us and changed us both!! It was absolutely wonderful to see her. However, I am going to apologize to her for my lack of Italian ahah....good thing she is fluent in English! It did strike a bit of homesickness seeing as she is a sister to me, however, it is additionally comforting to know I have someone here in any due instance. Random note....but it's nice how close everyone here has become. In the few days we've all known each other, I can say I've grown closer to some of these people than I have in the years I have known some of my friends. We are together from morning to night; repeat. We still have another 6 weeks together and I am dreading that moment because I already know that I am going to miss every single one of them.

I am also going to apologize for my lack of posts lately, our wi-fi is....iffy and is hard to come across. We must go to the local hotel across the road and it holds only about 15-20 people at a time (and we have a team of about 70 people ahah) and time is valuable here. I am beginning to think that a post EVERY DAY may be a hard promise to keep. I hope everyone is well back in the states and please keeps the posts/comments coming. I love hearing from everyone!! The real first day of work begins tomorrow and it shall be a very long day (I am slightly worried for how it is going to be).

I will post some more photographs tomorrow. I had about 24 uploading and somehow there was a system disturbance and it quit. It takes a long time to upload and I don't have the proper time to wait for them to reupload this evening - my apologies. But they will be the photographs in accordance with this post. Don't forget to look for them! (:

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A couple of photographs from these last few days! None are edited because I can't figure out how to via tablet. Let me know if they're a good viewing size for future references!

First train in Italy!!! Off to the Termini downtown train station in Rome.

The Vineyard in Murlo we accidentally stumbled into on the way to the castle ruins!

The castle ruins from a distance! The sad part is that we were about 2/3 of the way there at this point and this is slightly zoomed in.

When we finally found the trail leading to Crevole Castle ruins! Just to it's left we also saw the signs indicating that there was also an apartment complex up top!

This is the closest we were able to get to reaching the castle-it had been blocked off, and though we were tempted to sneak past the gate, the security cameras around advised otherwise! Plus we didn't want to anger the locals(:

The apartments. Fellow team members Anthony and Nick present in photograph. 

Off to check out Murlo because we are only located in a subarb of the town. 

The beautiful walk to Murlo that we will also act as the route we take to the dig every morning/evening. 

One of the views from Murlo. 

The view of the subarb we are staying in - taken from Murlo. As you can see, it's a very small town.

Walking around Murlo. 

Our tour of Vescovado Murlo from this morning - the subarb we are staying in. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Days 1-2

I apologize for my delay in posting the next chapter of my trip; the journey to Murlo. It took us about 21 hours of traveling time from when we left Detroit to the time it took us to reach where the actual dig will be taking place. I would also like to apologize on any grammatical and spelling errors you may come across in any of my posts as spell check is not an option on this tablet. I am also still attempting to figure out how to upload photographs to the tablet from my SD card, once I have that sorted, expect more of those and less writing. I continue to use the term 'we" vaguely, let me begin by explaining who "we" pertains to. There is another girl (Katie) from Grand Valley that accompanied me in my travels participating in the program (beginning in Detroit) and a boy (Anthony) whom attends the host school through which this program was made possible. Our flight wasn't bad; smoothing sailing, terrible food, no sleep, and arrived in Rome earlier than scheduled. Katie and I waited once our flight arrived for Anthony. Upon our first arrival, we were shocked that we didn't have to go through customs. We went to a local coffee shop in the Roman airport....amazing and cheap espresso, can't complain about that. I was surprised though that signs were in English and charging stations for your phone were located almost everywhere. We felt almost out of place in our t-shirts and shorts because almost no one had them on themselves-people in dresses, suits, skirts, pants, etc. It was pretty apparent who the Americans were. The locks for the bathroom were slightly hard to figure out...not sure if I actually locked the door or not. While we were waiting for Anthony though, it was shocking to see two girls from Grand Valley, whom I recognized fom the Classics Department, walking through.

Everyone always says to not have expectations when you're in Italy as to how things will go. I'm beginning to see that. Having met up with Katie, we had a game plan: from the airport we were supposed to take the Termini train to downtown Rome for 14 euros, from there, take a train to Sienna (with a train exchange at Chiusi) for 20 euros, then a bus at 6:15 bus from Sienna to Vescovado di Murlo. What actually happened......   We arrived at the downtown station after the first train ride, purcahased our tickets and had about 2 hours till the departure of the next train, which was fine. We relaxed a bit and 30 minutes before our next train decided it was time to search it out...we didn't realize how large of a train station it was. It was here that I have paid to use the restroom for the very first time. It was only 1 euro, but the machine does not offer change. Thankfully we had change from our earlier espresso. *Mental note: always carry a few euros when traveling to larger cities in case you need to use the restroom* The gates are similar to a toll bridge-no way of getting through. And for exiting? Look for the red button located at about waist level. There were 12 trains and lines in all, chaos everywhere - people everywhere and trains everywhere. All signs identifying where each train was headed was down and so this is where we hit a bit of a temporary crossroad in our journey.  Information on the tickets don't match up in accordance with that on the large overview sign that listed all the upcoming departures and arrivals of trains. We asked around, and though language barriers were partly a problem (thankfully we had Anthony as he studied Italian for 5 years and was capable of communicating with the fellow commuters), no one really seemed to have an answer. A young man then approached us and took us to what was "our train", just as we arrived to the "right platform", he demanded for a tip. We expected maybe a euro or two, but another young man joined him and the two demanded 30 euros -15 each. We refused having realized we had been schemed. They stormed away and we began to question as to if we had been taken to the right place, or a random train so they could get the money, and so we left. We ran into another set of police and asked, they couldn't tell us which train, but they mentioned to look for a train headed Northbound seeing as the train we were supposed to be on left at 14:58 and we had probably already missed it (It was 15:00) *Mental note: trains are AlMOST ALWAYS on time with the schedule*. We found one headed towards Florence and headed towards that platform. Again, uncertain, we asked another man in a uniform and he pointed to what we believed to be the train behind us. He said that as we missed the train to Sienna, we would have to travel instead from downtown Rome to Ancho, Ancho to Orte, Orte to Chiusi, Chiusi to Sienna, then bus to Murlo. As we began to hop on, a woman offered help with getting our luggage onto the train, helped us validate this ticket *note: always validate your ticket for risk of being fined anywhere from 50-200 euros (or so we were forewarned, it didn't happen to us in particular)*, and then to our seats. She then insisted on being paid for her "help" even though we told her no thank you and she "offered". *Mental note: don't accept help from people who are not in uniform, especially when at a train station as large as the one in downtown Rome*. We now know our lesson.
Once on that train (leaving in 10 minutes), we began to realize that there were assigned seats, and seeing as our tickets (though it hadn't expired just yet and was good for 2 months) didn't have any seating specification to it. It was when we were kicked out of our seats that we began to second guess if we were on the right one. So we hopped off and ran into the officer that had helped us not 20 minutes prior. He corrected us and pointed to a train about 300 meters away that was leaving in about 5 minutes. We sprinted and made it. So the journey began. Our train hopping venture consisted of sprinting from one train to another, a few delays that left us wondering if we'd ever make it to the next one on time (many of them didn't have delays in between them that lasted more than 5 minutes), and we were seconds away from missing the one in Orte in particular (thankfully that one had had a 7 minute delay otherwise we would've had to wait another hour or so for the next). But as the man said, we traveled from Rome to Ancho, Ancho to Orte, Orte to Chiusi, Chiusi to Sienna, Sienna to Vescovado di Murlo. While in Chiusi we ran into some Americans who were off to the site as well to visit one of their friends that was a returning excavator and so our last little bit of travel was accompanied by the two recent grads. We arrived in Sienna around 8 and having missed the last bus, the 5 of us split a cab to Murlo *Mental note: AVOID CABS-they re pricy unless split by at least 3-5 people*. Least to say we were more than happy to arrive and a glass of wine was well needed. We hadn't eaten during the entire journey to Murlo and food was the only thing in mind. It's a small town (apr. 900) and we are only in a suburb of the town. We met a few of the other team members which was a blast! I hadn't had that much fun in a long time! Everyone seems great, it's a rather nonchalant atmosphere; I can't wait for the rest of the 6 weeks! At least by now, we can say that any issues one may have with public transport, we have already encountered and they hopefully won't be an issue in the future.

This takes us to best bet that after having been up for over 50 hours straight and traveling for 21 hours straight, we slept in. And by "slept in", I mean that we were up at 9:30am due to all the noise and commotion outside. We ate some fruit and bread from a local mini mart around the corner. About 4 of us left for a hike in search of some castle ruins I had discovered online to be in the area (roughly 15 minutes away it stated). It ended up being about a 5 mile hike there and back (15 minutes...HA! Try 2 hours). I couldn't have asked for a better way to spend my day though. The views were absolutely amazing, I will post the photographs when I figure things out. We accidentally walked into a private vineyard, walked up a wrong trail that we believed would take us up to the ruins (we could see them at this point, but wasn't sure how to get to them), only for us to realize we had hiked all the way up the wrong hill (whoops aha) because it seemed the right route at the time from our perspective. We were beginning to think there was no way to the ruins, told ourselves we'd round the last corner, and then head back. Good thing we did, just around that last corner was the entrance trail to the ruins (Entitled Crevole Castle). Oddly enough, there was a sign for apartments at the top of the hill. We hiked up to get a closer view of the ruins, which were unfornately sealed off, but we stumbled across a tiny little village of villas with the most wonderful view. We returned and later took a little stroll through town and visited the main section of Murlo. It's nice being around authentic Italy as opposed to the touristy areas. It contributes more to your appreciation of the country and the history of it all. Words can't describe this town. Small, but beautiful (again, the view <3). We were given a tour of the town by one of the returning crew members (given a recommendation for a good local restaurant). There is a grave yard we had a glimpse of seeing from the outside gates that we will be visiting tonight, as I hear the lighting and care for the graveyard is most appreciated at night time.  Tomorrow the excavation work begins and many of us have plans afterwards to visit more ruins in Rada (about 7 KM from our house) and hopefully soon I will be viewing the Murlo museum (containing artifacts from all previous Poggio Civitate digs). It will most definitely be a busy next 6 weeks at the rate we are making plans of things we wish to see and do and because walking is all we really have to et everywhere local, quite the workout as well!

Stay tuned for more and hopefully my next post you will begin to see more actual photographs than writing.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Predeparture

It began with an acceptance email, which was later followed by a countdown of weeks, days, hours, and minutes. Now, the time has arrived. I'm enveloped by stress, in the instance that I realize I forgot something, and will notice it, the moment I aboard the plane or that my 48lb (you never truly realize just how much, or in my case, little, 50 pounds are when you are forced to meet it or pay a hundred dollars for going even an ounce over) weighed luggage will read at a heavier weight when placed on a different scale. Excitement, for never have I been so daring to travel apart from my family for such a long duration. And fear, of the unknown occurences that may occur while I am abroad. I yearn for this adventure, however, emotions have enveloped my rational (as my poor family witnessed yesterday in aiding with my rather extrenuous packing). There are many facts that I am just beginning to accept, despite the times over I have been told them, such as the knowledge that if I am to find myself without a necessary item, IT CAN BE PURCHASED ABROAD. For all you future travelers departing for long durations, accept this as soon as you can, and it will set your mind at ease prior to leaving. Once past this, I could definitvely express my enthusiasm for all that I am to experience. I recognize that the minute I walk through security to my terminal and enter the plane, I will be overcome with relief and every moment spent worrying up to this point will have been worth it. That's what I have to keep reminding myself until then. I have created this blog not only to document my time abroad, but to hopefully encourage and advise others in their own future expeditions. For those of you uncertain as to what and where I am going, please allow me to explain.

 I am going to be spending the next 6 weeks working at the Poggio Civitate - an archaeological dig whose focus has been on an Etruscan settlement that was discovered in 1920 and where excavations have been reccuring since 1966. I will be working M-F, with weekends off for travel, with two additional weeks to travel around and visit old chums (I will be accompanied by my mother and sister at this point). I am hoping this will even be enough time!! Last summer, major progress was made for the dig with the identification of a series of non-elite domestic structures that the team was able to, for the first time in the region, compare aspects of daily life across a range of social experiences. Following up this summer, and what I will have the opportunity to participate in, we will be returning to and expanding that same zone of excavation, as well as returning to the Piano del Tesoro for the first time in many years. For those of you wondering why I am going...I am currently a triple major in English: Language and Literature, Photography, and Classics, and all three of my degrees, I am hoping, are to be applied during this experience. I will be working with archaeologists to develop and refine skills in the field for excavation work, documentation of artifacts (including photographing of said artifacts), and preservation of artifacts. Who are the Etruscans you ask? They were a civilation just North of the Ancient Romans (they sound a little familar at least?) in the region that is now know as wonderful Tuscany! For many years the Etruscans fed inspiration to the Romans in the form of art, architecture, religion, and even politics. Ever heard of the Syballine Books or haruspices (Etruscan Diviners)? Both of which were brought from the Etruscans to Rome and played quite the role on their religious and political realm. For more information on the civilation, please research, for they are worth reading about, however, are not well-known because of our lack of information on them in relation to other Classic Civilizations such as the Greeks or Romans.

 While I am abroad, expect me to try and post at least one entry or photograph (minimum!) A day. I have never used this blog website before and am using my tablet and a bluetooth connected keyboard for all of this, so this should be an interesting experience for me on that regard. Please bear with me while I am trying to figure out all this new technology! Those who know me well will understand my many issues with technology (we don't get along very well), however, I promise to do my best. I will also be available via skype, email, and facebook, however, to  thoroughly enjoy my experience, will not be readily accessible at all times of the day, especially when I am out in the field. PLEASE KEEP IN TOUCH THOUGH!!! I do want to thank many people before I leave...My parents, grandparents, professors, siblings, friends, aunts, and coworkers (sorry for not being terribly specific, seeing as there are many many people who have helped me get here, been inspirations to me, encouraged me, and have been my shoulder to lean on when the stress level rose too high). I can't express my grattitude enough to all of you for what you have done. It has all been more than I could have ever asked for, and for that, I thank you all from the bottom of my he/art.

Now it is time to leave as I board my plane in a few hours. Stay tuned for more.. good bye America, and hello Italy!!!