Saturday, March 28, 2015

There's Always an Adventure

Yesterday marked the start of my Easter holiday, and the start of a trip I have been so excited to take since I booked the flight four-or-so months ago!

For the next nine days, I am going to be exploring four new cities, in four different countries, all revolving around my plan to go to Hungary for the first time. It's the country where my grandfather was born, and the country he and his parents immigrated to the United States from, which means it's definitely influenced my life.

But before I can get to Hungary, I've got to get to Eastern Europe, and before I can get to Eastern Europe, I have had to journey a little through Southern Spain. (Not a bad place to have to start your trip.) So yesterday, I went from my town, Écija, to Córdoba (40 minutes) with some workmates when we finished at the high school, spent a few hours walking around and relaxing, then took a blablacar (rideshare) to Málaga (1 1/2 hours), where I am now, and where the adventure already has begun.

I really do not understand why it always seems to happen that I am arriving to a new place, trying to meet up with my host, ride, or person I'm meeting up with in said new place, and ALWAYS WITHOUT A PHONE! Seriously, I am notorious for showing up somewhere with less than 10% battery in my phone, therefore adding so much stress to trying to coordinate, use the map, contact my point of contact, and anything else that you usually need to do when you first arrive anywhere.

I don't know if you've been following along on my adventures, but the last time this happened, it left me in a serious This Will Be Funny Tomorrow-type of situation (which you can read about here), stranded in the Red Light District of Brussels. Thankfully, this time I'm in a country where I speak the language, it's not the middle of the night, and I'm not in a neighborhood where there are massive dildos and S&M toys displayed in all the windows surrounding me. But still.

So my ride left me near the football stadium here in Málaga, and I turned on my phone to tell my Couch Surfing host where he could meet me. He was going to come pick me up with his scooter to bring me to his house. I turned my phone on, nervous that there was only 4% battery left, told him I'd arrived, shared my location with him, and then turned it off, praying for the best. But when more than 15 minutes had passed and he still hadn't arrived, I felt a bit sure that something was going wrong.

I turned my phone back on to check in, but didn't end up writing to ask if everything was ok. I didn't want to make him feel like I was impatient, because really, not that much time had passed, and since he hadn't written me, I figured it was still ok. So I turned my phone back off, and waited a bit longer. But then, more time passed, and no scooter pulled up to pick me up, and I was more certain than ever he was having a hard time finding me. (Obviously.) This time, there were messages. Ones that made it clear I had messed up by having my phone off, he was driving in circles to find me, and he was a little annoyed. I managed to write down his phone number on my hand and get off a quick message about where I was, and was just about to call when my phone died. Grrreat.

I decided I would wait another 10 minutes, just in case he showed up, then go to a bar and charge my phone. He'd messaged me his address, so I knew I could get to his place, but not before I turned on my phone to get the address out of it. Then I decided I should definitely call him and tell him my plan, and started scoping out which person passing by I should ask. A nice looking gal was walking by with her dog, and I asked if I could use her phone to call someone. Thankfully she said yes and he answered, and we were able to sort out where I was. Unfortunately, he had just arrived back home, but after speaking to my new street friend, she explained where I was, and they set a meeting point for me. She was even kind enough to walk with me to get there, since it was on her route. During which time I learned that in Spain certain dogs that are labeled "dangerous dogs" (pitbulls and such) are required to wear a strap around their mouths when being walked around, or the owner can be fined. Ridiculous! Her dog was so sweet! But I digress..

It turns out that the location Google/Whatsapp shared with him was not where I was, and he'd been driving around five minutes from where I was standing, looking for me for over half an hour. It also turned out that the entrance to the stadium, a perfectly wonderful place to tell someone to meet you, was right in front of me (well, just down the street), but I had been looking at it as though it were a service entrance of some sort. Whoops.

Lesson learned: Do not show up somewhere without phone battery (again, anymore, of course), and if you're trying to meet someone, even if you're in a new city and know nothing about it, be proactive and just tell the person you'll meet them in an easy-to-find place. Even if you don't know where it is (the entrance to the stadium, for example), just say you'll meet them there, then walk around asking somewhere where it is till they tell you.

Sorry, Juan. And thanks for going in so many circles. And for the incredibly delicious dinner you cooked last night. :/

Always an adventure! Wouldn't be my life without some starting-off stories! Haha.

Love you guys, I hope you have a great weekend!

Blessings, Love, Light & Wonder,
Allison <3

This Stuff is Really Working!!!

You guys, I'm freaking out right now!!! You know the 5 Minute Meditations I have been doing the last few weeks? Well, THAT STUFF WORKS! And REALLY fast!! (Reference to "Bad Teacher," anyone? Anyone?) I cannot believe how awesome it is to witness all of this happening, and know exactly the source of the changes and greatness that I'm seeing before me and feeling inside! It's like a great mystery of great life has been uncovered!

So, if you're not up-to-date on what I'm talking about, go ahead and click on over to here, here, or here, and you can learn a little about these 5 Minute Medi's I'm doing. In short, I meditate for 5 minutes a day, focusing all my thoughts and energy on sending love to my students, and another 5 minutes, focusing it all on gratitude. And seriously, the changes in and around me have been too amazing not to comment on!

In the last update post I wrote, I mentioned that I didn't think they were really working, because I saw a group of the guys from the most difficult class, and they just laughed out loud, a lot, because of the way I was dressed, and how I had my hair. I figured the meditations weren't really having the influence I'd hoped or expected, but was determined not to give up. Instead, I cranked it up! SO MUCH MORE LOVE! Muahaha! And yet, I continued not to have class with the groups I'd been focusing most of my love on. It was so strange! Kind of like a backwards result, or like all the love I was sending out was just coming back to me and God was showing His grace (keeping me out of the class). But that could only last so long, and on Monday, I realized I was going to "face them" two days in a row, and so I have.

On Tuesday I finally had class with one of the groups, after about four weeks without seeing them (in the classroom). I tried to supress and deny all old thoughts I had about them, and focus on the fact it was, somehow, magically, going to be great. And while I was really optimistic about it, my insides were still a little reluctant to walk into the room.

I used my walk to work as a motivational time for myself, and gave thanks for the opportunity to face them. After all, what good were these meditations if I didn't ever see the students in the classroom? Could I really say I was trying to make it better, if I fist pumped every time I was told I didn't have class with them? Not even! So I decided I would take advantage of the class to crank it up even more, and make it an opportunity to look into their faces, and speak love straight into their souls. And I did!

When I walked into the room, I made eye contact with as many of them as I could, smiled, said hello, and went to my place in the front of the class. The class went really well, actually, and one of the boys who has always been sending out great amounts of "dark energy", and been one of the biggest sources of hardship with this group, was actually looking at me the entire hour with a sort of admiring look on his face. I couldn't believe it! (Though, I did start to think, maybe I've been sending too much love to him, and he's starting to feel it in a romantic way. Haha) And in the moments when the class started to feel out of control, the moments where before I'd usually slip into a place of thinking, "Can I please get out of here!?", I instead looked from one face to the next, focused on it, and said, "I love you." I went around the room at least four times that hour repeating this, and when I started to feel blown away by their lack of respect, I just remembered all the love I've been sending them, and couldn't feel anything but sympathy and kindness towards them. It was amazing.

The next day I also had class with them. This time, in one of the worst possible hours I have in my entire schedule. They do not respect the teacher at all, and each hour is an endless stream of talking, joking, and acting their age in a time when it's not appropriate to do so. This was the Big Kahuna, and I was ready for it! (Well, mostly.)

The moment I walked into the class, this same boy who used to look at us with looks of loathing, but had been admiring me the day before, said, "Allison, you look very pretty today," in perfect English.

I WAS FREAKING OUT! It was so, so, so hard for me to try and contain my laughter, smiles, and shocked expression. Is this really happening? Am I seriously witnessing this right now?? Is this really the result I'm getting from these meditation?? AMAZING! Hahahaha.

I still can't believe how fast this stuff has worked, nor how it's worked! I knew the power of the mind was impressive, and that we can change everything around us with our thoughts, but to actually be consciously practicing it, seeing it, feeling it, observing it, and know exactly why it's happening, it's incredible. I cannot stress enough how important and life-changing this practice is. Seriously. Just do it.

And even though they were just as disrespectful to the teacher as they usually are, our interactions (theirs and mine) were filled with smiles, laughs, and warm feelings. Actually, it goes even further than that... the teacher would be speaking, they wouldn't really be listening, but then when I was asked to explain something, somehow they kind of all slipped into silence. They paid attention, were interacting with me unlike they used to do, and were involved for a moment. I have goosebumps all over just writing this, because really, it's so beautiful. It's so amazing what love can do. This practice has changed my entire life, and more importantly, is changing these kids' lives!

The whole hour was such an incredible insight into the affects these meditations are having. Instead of glaring at them, I smiled at them with kindness and understanding, instead of thinking about how unbelievably rude and/or spoiled they are, I thought about how much I love them and long for their awakening, and instead of leaving the classroom ready to hit walls, run home, strip off my clothes and do some yoga to calm down (which I've had to do before), I walked out smiling and feeling light, excited for the next time we have class.

This is truly amazing, I am so grateful for this practice.

Having a hard time? Try meditating love on it five minutes a day.
Feeling a lack of anything? Try meditating on feelings gratitude for what you have for five minutes a day.
You cannot practice this and not see positive results. It works, it's real. This is no hocus pocus. This is your life, and you deserve to love it and feel like you're thriving. Make it happen!

I love you

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Allow Yourself to Embrace Your...

Writing a book has been something I've wanted to do for longer than I'd like to admit. It's also a dream I suppressed so much, and felt so strange about, that I actually couldn't really admit how long I've wanted to be a published author if I wanted to, since every time I thought about it, I immediately denied myself the pleasure of indulging in the dream. Instead, the instant it entered my mind, it was followed with excuses why it wouldn't make sense. My mind would flood with thoughts like, "Do you really think you can write a book?" "Who would even read it?" "What would you write about?" "Do you honestly think you have enough to say to write a book?" "Who do you think you are anyways? That's pretty egotistical of you, don't you think? You must really believe you're something or someone if you think you could write a book and be successful." Or, "Don't give yourself so much credit," and any number of other negative, discouraging things. And I'm not sure when I decided to just shut all that down with a big, "SCREW YOU! I'm going to do this even if no one reads it! I'm doing it for me, because I want to, because it's MY dream, and one I truly do have the power to fulfill, regardless of the outcome! I am doing this for me. I'm going for this one! It's time for you fears to STEP ASIDE!!!"

I know to a lot of people that know me, it seems like I'm living some sort of fearless, bold, dream-chasing life, and I will say, in a lot of ways I am. But the life I'm living feels so incredibly authentic and natural to me, that while I still consider each day and moment a new adventure, I definitely don't have the ability to see myself as brave or out of the ordinary. And while I know I Am an Adventurer, I am still surprised by some of the reactions, responses and encouraging words people pass my way. This is simply my path, and I'm fulfilling it. That's what we're meant to do, right? Just as someone who has a burning fire for education goes on to teach, and do an amazing job at it. I happened to draw Adventurer and Explorer when I reached into the bag, that's all.

So while it may seem to you all that I've been living my dreams and making my life exactly what I want it to be, which don't get me wrong, I definitely have been, but to level with you, I've still been holding a lot in. There are still so many things I'm too scared to do or try, so many things I want to learn, see, become, and attempt, and I'm sure there's an endless list of them that's buried too deep within me to be reached thus far. Writing a book, especially about my adventures, was one of the things I've been holding back on for too long now, wanting for too long without allowing myself to have it, and the time has come to stop!

Like I said, I don't care if I don't make any money on it. I'm going to self-publish it, and what I will gain from it -- knowing that I decided not to let my fears of failure, judgement, and inadequacy get me down, again, and that I actually have published a book -- are going to be the only payment and reward my satisfied soul will need! And that is what I'm focusing on here, and why I have officially started writing my first book!

It's going to be a biography, which makes me feel incredibly egotistical and self-conscious, but I think my story is a pretty inspiring and adventurous one, and I'd like to share it! I'm starting it back in Los Angeles, where I was in love, living and working before I came here, and then will go through the last couple years. Of course, it could always parlay into into a series of short stories, where I include some of the wildest travel stories I've acquired, and best bits of wisdom I've gained along the way. It's still untitled, less than 10 pages long, and going to keep transforming as I write it, but one thing is for sure: by New Year's 2015, by the time we tick into next year, I will be a self-published author!!!

You hear that UnivEarth!?!?! 
(Satan, don't you even try and stop me with all that negative mess you were throwing my way before, this. is. happening!!!)

It can be really hard to admit our dreams, because a lot of people around us tend to try and bring our feet back down to touch the ground. Do you know how many times I heard, "That sounds like a great plan, but it's not very realistic," when I was running around telling everyone my big plan about moving back to Spain? I don't even know how many times; and they were all coming at me from my family! Sometimes, people say this to try and help us, like was the case with my family. They were concerned that I was going to give up an incredible opportunity (I was working for the Disney/ABC Television Group before I moved out here), and what's more, that I was putting all my eggs in one basket that might just break.

Other times, people will try and drop the word "realistic" on you, because they get freaked out when they see someone who is chasing their dreams. And when I say "their dreams", I mean theirs, yours, and everyone-in-between's. Unfortunately, it's all too common for people to try and get other people to chicken out on something they'd be too scared to do themselves. They project their fears and feelings on others, often without realizing it, just grasping for someone to meet them on their level. So when they look bewildered by your plans, ideas, dreams, and goals, and tell you, "It sounds great, but isn't very realistic," just know, they're doing this weird human thing we do, where we try to keep others from having the success we want for ourselves. It's all of our fears that hold us back, triggering, firing, and making us feel badly and insecure, in turn causing us to try and get that other person who seems to be so shining down to our level.

An incredibly wise pastor once said, "If you don't have any enemies, you must not be following Him too closely." He was referring to Jesus, but you can just as easily swap that out for anything -- your dreams, your hopes, your desires, your goals, your wishes, your moral standings, your practices, anything and everything can be switched into that place. In general, people are drawn to those that shine because they're living true to themselves, but there will always be those voices, inside and outside, that try to stop you. Just remember this:

If the pressure's rising, it's probably because you're about to blast off!

I hope you are having a wonderful start to your week, and consider accepting and embracing a dream you might have been pushing aside till now. Give it a shot, just start it somehow, and you'll probably be surprised by the reaction you get from the people you were worried would judge you. I know I have been! 

Happy, happy life and lots of love to all my brothers and sisters out there,
You Are Amazing!

Blessings, Love, Light & Wonder,
Allison <3

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Dancing Around the Fire

Last night, I was blessed with an amazing opportunity to come together with some friends and celebrate the first day of Spring. It was such an amazing, full experience, and I'd like to share the energy with you!

I'm part of a group of women in Écija that gathers on each full moon to embrace, celebrate, meditate and/or discuss some part of womanhood or female culture, though I've never been able to make it because of trips. We have a Whatsapp group, and it's always being flooded by uplifting conversation, natural health/healing tips, inspiring videos/images/songs, and different gatherings that are being planned. One of the women from the group decided to host a bonfire, and have a Spring Equinox Celebration! She and her family live in the country between Écija and another town, and four years ago, built themselves an adobe home. They have lots of land, and she wanted to host us there to dance around the fire, go through some Spring Equinox rituals, and then share in a potluck dinner (where each guest brings a dish to be shared).

As soon as we arrived to their land, after driving on uneven dirt roads for a while, time slowed down, our breaths deepened, and smiles started spreading much wider than they'd been before. Long rows of yellow flowers were in full bloom on one side, illuminating the place with color, the sun was setting on the opposite side, and there we were, a group of misfits and lovers, gathered in the middle of the fields.

Then, as it began to get darker and the rest of the group arrived, we all were given a slip of paper, and told to write down the things we wanted to see return to us in this life -- our desires, our hopes, anything and everything we wanted to keep blessing us and coming our way. This was done, because since it's Spring, things are growing, they're in bloom. This is when new life is given and made, and we're meant to consider stepping into this new form of ours.

Finally, when we were all ready, we started out towards the "fire pit", and as we entered the circle, one of the little girls put some freshly plucked Spring flowers on our heads to anoint us and connect us to the time of year. Since it'd been raining the last few days, all the branches were wet, and the fire took some extra love and care to get going, but soon, it was roaring, and we all stood in silent wonder to fawn over the flames, and the small, sliver of a moon that had risen in the distance.

And then, after we'd all gotten our own stick or branch, we stood around the circle, and began the celebration. Belen, the woman who was hosting the Spring Fiesta, had some chants, prayers, and instructions on a piece of paper, and she guided us through it all. We all got down on our knees, to enable us to be more in contact with the Earth, and then went through a series of things from giving thanks to the plants, animals, Earth, sky, water, and etc, to kissing the Earth with our hands touching it, and so much more. We repeated some things, stood, and then ceremoniously threw our little slip of dreams and desires into the flames to send it up.

I think I was the only Christian there, and the only one who included thanks to Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in my prayers, but it didn't matter. We were all there for the same reason: to celebrate new life, new chances, and all the blessings that are to come this season. It was as beautiful as could be.

We finished the ceremony by dancing and chanting around the fire, repeating after one another whatever strange calls, sounds, or words came to mind, beating on the drums, jumping around, and laughing about life. At one point, I yelled out, "PEACE AND LOVE FOR ALL HUMANITYYYY!!!" I think no one, apart from our English friend that was there, understood what I said, because instead of repeating after me, there were a lot of confused-kinda sounds, and almost a nervous laugh. But then, with perfect timing, one of the little boys who was present repeated something he'd heard me say earlier, which was actually the best response possible, "OH YEAH!" To which, everyone in the circle shouted, "OH YEAH! OH YEAH!" ^_^

The night ended and lasted for many hours after, as we indulged in the vegetarian/vegan potluck we'd provided. All the food was so amazing, the conversation varying, and there was even some massage time by the very end of the night. It was such a lovely celebration with new friends, to celebrate and embrace All Things New.

I am wishing you an incredibly charged and happy Sunday, and sweet second day of Spring! I hope you have embraced what this season represents, and are releasing those desires up to God so He can work on delivering to you exactly what you need! And if you celebrated the Spring Equinox in any way, let me know in the comments below!

Blessings, Love, Light & Wonder to all of you, 
I love you so much,
Allison <3

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Racism: Bred Not Born

One day, I was subbing with a class of 4-yo's, and it came time to tell them a story. They'd heard it before, so their interest level wasn't really high enough to keep them entirely silent, and by the end of the book, they'd all taken to pointing at the characters and saying which one "they were." That same thing that we all have done with shows, books, magazines, and anything else where we see someone, and we're living in a perpetual state of make believe and pretending things. (My gosh, I miss that state! Well, I guess I'm still in it, I just miss everyone my age also being in it. Hehe)

There were a variety of skin colors and ages featured in the story, and I'm ashamed to say, I was incredibly surprised when the majority of them were pointing at the African father, mother, daughter and baby, saying, "I'm this one!"

Now, I must be clear about something... My shame in making this statement isn't coming from a source of "My gosh, I can't believe they actually want to be the black person," but from a source of the slight stereotype I've developed in regards to Spanish people over the collective three years I've lived here.They can tend to be quite racist against blacks, Chinese, and Arabs. Not in all parts of Spain, of course Barcelona and Madrid are big cities and people are a bit more accustomed to seeing a variety of skin colors around them, but even in Sevilla, a large city, glares were thrown around freely when a colored person or someone of a different religion was spotted. Which is really strange, because Spanish people aren't the lightest skinned people in the world. But, I begin to digress, and I don't want make you guys think Spanish people are nasty racists, because they're also lovely. ;-)

So, this being what I've picked up on over the years I've been living here, I was really surprised to see the little kids wanting to be the darkest colored characters. This could potentially be explained through this sad-but-true video/study,

and definitely confirmed for me that racism is bred, not born.

It was really great to see these kids choosing to be the characters that most-resembled them, and gave me such hope for the future! Now we just have to work on not breeding it within our children and the future generations. If we encourage love and acceptance, and set a good example of how not to judge someone based on how they look, then the change we'll see in the world will be so beautiful and big! We can do it! We are!

Love you fellow Earthlings! Happy first day of Spring! 

Blessings, Love, Light & Wonder
-Allison <3

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

5 Minute Meditations

I started doing 5 Minute Meditations as part of my Daily Practice a week and a half ago, and wanted to write a little update about how they're manifesting, because truly, it's been quite a crazy result. If you aren't sure what I'm talking about, you can check out more information here or here, and if you're just tuning in now, I'll fill you in really quickly.

Each day, I sit down, set a timer for 5 minutes and 30 seconds, and meditate. I do one meditation centering my mind and feelings around love, which I send to my students and coworkers, and then I do another 5 Minute Meditation of Gratitude. The gratitude one is simply me praying profuse thanks to God for whatever comes to mind. Sometimes I sing it, sometimes I say it as poetry, sometimes if I'm having a hard time mustering anything specific, I simply say, "I am so grateful," or "I love you," over-and-over again. The intention here, is to practice what I've believed for many years now: that the power of the mind is greater than anything else we've been given, and thoughts can change everything. So, I'm putting it to the test, to see what can/will happen if I meditate love and gratitude for five minutes apiece. And I've gotta be honest, the results so far have been a huge surprise!

In the high school, I have two groups that are particularly difficult to try and teach/interact with, and another couple that have some shining students in their midst. But when I say shining, I don't mean that their light is so bright and beautiful. Instead, it's the shining look of f-you they wear on their faces, and their light is burning quite bright with arrogance and cockiness. For that, it can be difficult to tap into the love I know is there inside.

Some days, it's really hard to believe I can find the love in me that deserves to be sent to them. And believe me, it does deserve to be sent. I am a firm believer in that those who are the hardest to love, are the ones that need it most. Also, since I have been that age before, though it may have been a decade ago, it all still feels fresh enough for me to understand that they are just lost, confused, and overly-influenced by media and the fairly close-minded society that surrounds them. So how can I really hold it against them? They're just living from a place that is not their true essence, and will hopefully awaken someday.

I don't really have a strict method for doing the 5 Minute Meditations. They might be more effective if I did them at the same time, in the same sequence, every day, but that's not really how I live my life, so it's not really how they've happened. I try to always do the 5 Minute Meditation of Love in the morning, and it's even better if done before the high school has started. I think that once they are in school (a place they seem to hate) and surrounded by their peers, their energy and attitude kicks up a couple notches, and it's harder for me to access the unlimited reserve of love that's within me. Especially since I live so close to the school, I don't doubt that their energy and mine can too-easily penetrate one another's from this distance. (And now I'm actually really curious to know what the other teachers observe/feel when they're with the group I'm meditation love towards at that moment. Hmm... would be pretty cool to find out!)

As for the 5 Minute Meditation of Gratitude, sometimes I do it before the Love one, to get me in a great mental state, sometimes after, sometimes at night, and sometimes not at all, because I've spent most of my day in moments of over-flowing gratitude, and feel it's been done in its own way. But I think the gratitude one is even more important than the love one, because when you are living from a place of gratitude, you appreciate all the things that are good in your life, which causes more to come about, and when you are noticing all the beauty around you, it's hard not to be full of love.

What I've observed so far is this:

  • I am much happier, and when I see students who have that "I am so cool and don't care about you or anything because I'm hot" look on their face, it's easier to not tense up inside, because I just think about my practice. 
    • For example: Just yesterday, I saw a group of boys from the most draining group, and some of the cockiest, I'm-the-cool-est, everyone else is ugly, lame and stupid-est ones, and they started laughing at me, because I had my hair in a ponytail on top of my head, like I always do when I wear a ponytail, and was sporting a Pocahontas scrunchy I've had since I was a child, purple tights, combat boots with striped socks pulled up to my mid-calf, a black dress, and a bright blue polyester coat I got at a second-hand shop in Brussels, that is also, literally, from the 80's. (I have spent a lot of time getting laughed at, judged, and criticized by Jr. high/high schoolers this year.) And yeah, at first, when I saw them, my instinct was to put on my attitude/tough, I'm-the-boss face (we tend to match that which we see), drop my smile, and not engage them. But instead of glaring at them, I just decided to keep my smile on, and walk by. (Not smiling directly at them probably wasn't the best way to handle it, but I didn't want to entangle my energy with theirs. I was in a great mood!) But after I'd walked by and been thoroughly laughed at, I processed the, "Are you kidding me, are you seriously that rude and insecure you little sh--," emotions, I just thought about the love I've been sending them, and while I felt a little defeated that it clearly doesn't seem to be working (I'd expect we'd share some smiles, not judgment), I felt better, knowing that at least my emotional/mental/energetic state is in a positive place. And, I even felt a little sympathetic for the kid, because I know he's just going through a tough age, and probably, will have a bit of a tough life, because he is really good-looking, and that usually means high levels of insecurity and self-imposed expectations for yourself and others, as well, his actions just mean he is not happy with himself or his life. So it became hard to be pissed at them for all the trouble they cause us teachers, and easier to just be glad that I'm a happy, loving, smiling person. And that's the whole point with these things anyways: To elevate and take your State of Being to such a good place, that the things that bothered you before, start to lose their grip, till they die off completely.
  • Everything in my life seems to be falling into better alignment. The books I'm reading, the quotes I see, the messages that I get from everything around me, they all are starting to tell me the same things, on the same days, and usually, within short periods of time from one another.
  • Because I'm focusing "so much" energy on love and gratitude, even when I enter a class that's not behaving so well, I care a lot less, because I'm in such a great mood, I don't care that their hormones are trying to run interference on my day, and then the class actually ends up going a lot better than I would have expected/it would have a couple weeks ago. (Related to the first bullet.)
  • I haven't had any classes with a couple of the groups I try to focus most of my love on. It's incredible. I thought I was going to be softening them up, preparing myself energetically, and enter the classes to discover that, "Wow! All of a sudden, we're great together!" but instead, I just haven't entered with them. The teacher has a quiz, the class is on a field trip, the teacher needs to switch hours, they've got more field trips, any number of things have been happening to "keep me" from having class with them. This whole time, I've been trying to send love and gratitude out, and God just keeps the love coming back around, and giving me more to be grateful for. Who knew!
So, in short, I highly recommend taking up this practice if you have any sort of struggle in your life. It can be directed at anything, not just particular people. Your job, your town, any part of your circumstance can benefit and improve simply from sitting down, setting a timer, and Being silent or singing, focusing all your energy and thoughts on love and gratitude. Even if you feel full of detest for whatever it is, this will help! You know the saying, "Fake it till you make it"? Well, that's what we're doing here! And it works! And truly, you'll be amazed to see and feel how much love is locked up inside of you. Once you start to release it, it won't be able to stop. So let's break down those dams, and let the love flow!

Write me if you need any help, you have any questions, or you just want to say hi. I'm going to try and figure out how to use the camera on my computer so I can make some guided meditation videos, and then I'll share the links here. :) I hope you have an amazing day, night, afternoon, whatever, wherever, and smile and shine through everything that's going on!

I love you, I'm happy to exist with you!

Blessings, Love, Light & Wonder,
-Allison <3

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

9 Things I Learned in Napoli

I feel like my eyes were opened to a great many things while in Italy. It was my first time in the country, and to have started my lifelong love affair with the country in the south was, at first, unconventional (most people would visit Rome, Milan, or Venice on their first trip to Italy), but for me, it turned out to be an incredible decision! I was treated well, fed well, and my eyes were bursting with each new sight. But not only were my senses fully stimulated, so was my brain! (Always a great thing!) Yes, the south taught me and showed me a lot of different stuff. Some things such as...
  1. Don’t trust maps, not even Google’s. If you want to get anywhere, ask directions. Trust the locals to tell you how to get there.
  2. It’s hard to get bad food, and easy to get good, cheap food. (And cheaper if you ask for it “da potare” or, “to go.”)
  3. Blasting your music doesn't seem to bother any of your neighbors, and if you’re singing along loudly to it, all the better.
  4. There’s actually no bad time to have limoncello, though they might think you strange if you are drinking it casually. (It’s usually had as a shot after a meal to aid digestion.)
  5. Nor is there such a thing as too many coffees in one day. (Although, due to my lent I didn't have any. Dang.)
  6. And there also isn't really such a thing as talking too loudly.
  7. Displaying (hanging) your panties to dry on the dry rack that’s placed on the side walk outside your door for all passerbyers to see is not unusual. And surprisingly, it's not going to get stolen.
  8. People appreciate you appreciating life, and will smile right along with you as you embrace life. Also, decrepit doesn't equal lifeless.
  9. Doble Mozzarella. (Double mozzarella). Just do it. (Pizza talk)

Monday, March 16, 2015

How I Feel About: Pregnancy

{{ painting by the absolutely amazing Lisete Alcalde }}

What I'm about to write is likely to raise a lot of eyebrows, and probably, piss some people off, but you know what? This is my creative platform, and while I love you all and appreciate you coming along on this ride of life of mine, and while I don't mean to be rude, I fully participate in freedom of expression. If I didn't, I wouldn't wear the clothes I wear or have faded blue-to-green dye in my hair. Now would I have recently "developed" my new favorite way of working out: putting my music on shuffle or a mix, and coordinating my treadmill time to the song. AKA I'm just groovin' and-a movin', dancin' on the treadmill. Jogging when it feels right, running when it doesn't, and walking like a weirdo with my arms flailing all around and feet bouncin to the beat the rest of the time. (And also whilst I walk down the street to and from the gym.) I think the Spanish quite like it. (They do not get me at all.) That said, I'd like to talk about how I feel about..... *drum roll please*


:D Uh-oh.

I'd guess, that due to who and how I am, most people would assume that I am enthralled by every aspect of pregnancy. That since I'm such a happy, free-flowing hippie, sprinkling love and pixie dust everywhere I go, I just must looove pregnant bellies, little baby heartbeats, newborns, and everything else that comes with it. Well, hate to break it to you folks, I'm not a pure-anything, so while I may be a Love-&-Light pusher, I am not, in fact, in love with eeeevvvverything. For example, pregnancy. (Sorry in advance to any I may offend.)

I've gotta level with you webernet, I am fairly disgusted by the whole thing of it. Truly. And I laugh as I say this, because it goes against so much of the grain that I am, but it's how I feel.

So many friends have been having babies over the years (showing no signs of slowing down, I might add), and yeah, it's adorable, I freak out when I see one, my internal clock has started going off and telling me I want one, but until it is cleaned up from all that bloody, placenta-y mess, keep that newborn bundle away, please!

Umbilical chords? NASTY.

That is the most alien-looking ish I've ever seen on Earth, and while I admire its life-giving-and-growing abilities and purpose, I do not care to see it. Nor do I really support you burying the placenta in the backyard, or eating it for its health benefits. The thought makes me want to vomit. Have you seen a placenta? Doesn't exactly look appetizing. I understand preserving it to take cells from in case something terrible happens to your child at some point in life, but at the same time, don't you think keeping it "just in case" already raises the chance of something happening? Ya know, that little thing called Manifest Destiny?

(I realize I'm not delivering a very well thought out post here, and there are an insane amount of angles to argue, but consider this almost a kind of rant, and gimmie a little break, por favor.

And I would, again, like to apologize to any/all cultures I'm offending. I see the beautiful side to planting the placenta in the garden, too, but when I think about handling it, my skin curls.)

Oh, and pregnant bellies? Ohhhh, no, no. STAY A-WAY!

I am totally blown-away by the fact there is another little human growing inside you, but I don't see a massive, enlarged stomach and think, "Wow, now that's so beautiful." Tears don't come to my eyes, my thoughts don't go to "the miracle of life," I want to touch it, but cringe as I do, and by the way, your belly button protruding from your body also freaks me out a bit. Instead, I tend to think, "Ew, I can't even imagine what you're feeling and going through while growing that thing. I'm so happy for you, and amazed, but I also feel kinda bad. Sorry." So I may be smiling, and my emotions of amazement are likely true, but inside, I am also really put-off. The cravings, the pain, the stretchmarks, the emotional roller coaster, the misery of contractions and childbirth in general, yeah, it's one of the coolest things about being a woman, but probably also one of the worst.

I mean, come on! Do you want to shove a giant watermelon out of a hole that's usually the size of a cherry, passing it through a canal that's about the size of a fat carrot? Does that sound "amazing," "beautiful," "magical," "so wonderful," to you? I don't think so. (Guys, I know you can feel me on this one! Back me up here, I'm pissing a lot of feminists off!)

Granted, I'm completely downplaying how truly amazing, beautiful, magical and wonderful I do think the whole thing is, and honestly, I'm fascinated by us women and our abilities to make another person inside of us. (Thank you, men, for your valuable contribution!) I mean, the anatomy involved in that is crazy! The science behind it? Mind-blowing! We are basically just beautiful aliens, walking around, being women, and then doing these crazy-weird-cool things with our bodies. Kinda like undercover superheros, but everyone knows our power. Hmm...

But on the other hand, do you look at a person and think, "Now that's a great space to create a baby?" Probably not. It's not exactly our first instinct upon viewing someone. (Though it is proven, that subconsciously it is something of an instinct, which is why, in general, men are more drawn to curvaceous women, because their physical structure is more adept for childbirth.) I know I don't look at all my female friends and think, "Now you have got a great mid-section available for pro-creation! Wow, wow, ohh la la! Your hips are perfectly spread apart, and girl, when that stomach blows up, it's gonna look so good!" It's not really a compliment we tend to give one another. But just wait till your friend says she's having a baby, then everyone is fawning over this part of her body they were probably judging and critiquing before. (Don't deny it ladies, we are freakishly programmed to compare ourselves to one another. Something we must put an end to. We are one!!!)

Honestly, I feel kind of bad saying all of this, because I really do think it's great that this is part of life and how we make new life, but as impressed as I am by it, I'm equally as weird-ed out. I could spend hours just thinking about how cool it is -- this capability we have to literally grow another being inside, like trees spreading their roots and sprouting up from ground. I am entirely blown-away and mesmerized by this creation of life, but at the same time, completely freaked out, confused, and unable to comprehend it. And it's my body that's going to do it someday! Gosh, what a complex!

Again, sorry to all the beautiful women out there I know [or don't] that are pregnant, or have been pregnant. I'm not trying to draw any dark clouds over your clear, blue baby skies (no, this is not a reference to color/gender). I just have been feeling overwhelmed by these feelings lately, as there are SO MANY baby posts popping up on my News Feed. It's like I'm sitting there, so, so happy for these people, liking the photo, but my insides are doing flips and turns and I am grossed out and excited all at the same time. Perhaps I haven't fully matured. (Hope not. Hope never.)

So, congrats to all the new moms and future moms out there! Eventually I'll join you, and probably, hopefully, all these sentiments will change. They're in flux all the time anyways, but I think underlying emotions of "noOOooo" have always been there. We'll see what happens.

Disclaimer: this post is in no way meant to offend any preggo people, feminists, men, extraterrestrials, people who can't have babies, cultures, dogs, sheep, trees, or anyone/thing in between. I love you all. Really, I do. Forgive if I've been insensitive. I'm a blazing ball of energy today, and my mind is doing weird things. :-* And truly, I'm really excited for you and your crying, pooping, can't-do-anything-alone bundle of joy. Sorry, sorry, I didn't mean that. Or did I..... ;)

(I didn't really. Babies are great. I was just playing with some the other day. I'm just glad one isn't my responsibility yet.)

Blessings, Love, Light & Wonder to all,
May your day be as weird as those growing bellies out there! 

-Allison <3

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Italia After All, Part Four: Capri

Well folks, we have made it to the fourth and final part of ADD's Italian Adventure: Italia After All! Today, we will hop on the ferry (not the one we planned on taking here, the one after, but it's all good) and take a short trip to the breath-taking Italian island of Capri! (Remember, it's said "Kah-Pree".)

We started the adventure off a little uncomfortably, after having decided to embrace the breeze and the view and sit on the top level of the ferry. Which, under normal summer or spring conditions would have certainly been great, but considering the hour and the time of year, we ended up huddled together, coats up to our ears, trying to stay enthralled by the view and moment for the full forty minutes, as to not be overcome by thoughts of how cold we were. I'm laughing as I write this, picturing us, the typical tourists, thinking, "Yeah! We're going to an island and it's the beginning of March! (More so from him, considering it's quite cold and rainy in The Netherlands.) Let's sit outside and take it all in -- it'll be great!" (You'll be glad to know we did not make the same decision the following night when we took the one hour ferry from Capri back to Napoli.) But in spite of our chilly beginning, the time we spent in Capri was absolutely amazing.

The island isn't too small for an island, and packed full of different things to do and see. Since we arrived in the evening, we decided to do our usual: walk to the hotel, check in, laze-around a little, then get ready, and go to dinner! However, Capri was destined to be different, and it all started when we arrived to our hotel. Now, we'd stayed in really amazing places before Capri, but while the bed in Sorrento was best, what we arrived to on this island takes the cake! May I present to you, the Hotel Excelsior Parco Capri...

{{ The perfect representation of how we felt when we walked in the door, and what we commenced doing after they'd closed the door. }}

I'd made the reservations via, and a couple days before we were meant to arrive they'd notified me that there was an upgrade available for only 8€. It said that the room we currently had reserved didn't have a view, but the upgrade would give us a garden view. Ok, we like views, I'd rather see a garden than nothing at all, book it! Well, what I didn't know, is that their definition of a garden is their amazing outside terrace area, and that, based on the almost-on-the-coast location of the hotel, a garden view also means a sea view, a cliff view, and a Southern-tip-of-Italy view. We lost our minds. Blessings were raining down on us harder than we could handle...almost.

{{ Their 'moderate' garden, and a not-so-moderate mansion. }}

So after dancing around the room like the crazy-fest-faces that we are, leaping onto the bed like they show people do in movies (you know that way, when someone who's been in a desperate, down-and-out situation enters a palatial place, sees the gorgeous, glorious bed they're going to sleep in, and as soon as the person who escorted them to the room leaves, they run and fly onto it, turning over on their back, looking up, and having that giant, "OMG this is amazing" face?), and striding out onto our balcony to assume the role of the queen I must have somehow landed, because, this is too nice to be my life, we decided to take the left-overs from our Neapolitan picnic and the bottle of limoncello we got somewhere up to the massive rooftop terrace, and enjoy ourselves a bit before we got ready for dinner.

Now, just like I made a note about the financial aspect of the trip, I'd like to make one about the alcohol consumption aspect of it, too...

I don't really like alcohol. I spent the greater part of the last 12-13 years being a party girl, and almost all of my time in college getting wasted on the weekends, and the occasional/frequent weekday. And after so many years of doing the same thing, and then realizing it was always the same thing, I stopped being The Party Girl. I had my spiritual awakening in 2011, and then it stopped even more. It was such a drastic change from the person I'd been before, that once, in my last semester of college when I was out with some friends, a girlfriend of mine told me, "I miss the old Fedor. You used to be so much more fun!" What she meant, without meaning to, was that the sober me wasn't as, how do I say this, as inhibition-less as the hammered me (?), and she missed me just being crazy and not giving a f---. That comment took some time to get over, and definitely didn't make it any easier for me to continue on my path of self-improvement. But I did.

After I became a conscious Being, I realized that alcohol actually, kinda, really, totally, sucks. I don't like being drunk, because then the world around me is fuzzy, and I love the world so much, I want to see it and feel it as clearly as I possibly can. So it's incredibly rare that I get drunk these days, and before this night in Capri, I hadn't been sufficiently intoxicated for probably nine months. At least. But we were on holiday, on an island, on a rooftop terrace, with an orgasmic spread of olives, soft cheese, artichoke hearts, salami and bread laid out before us, with a bottle of limoncello, and nothing to do but enjoy ourselves. So I embraced everything!

{{ The rooftop view during the day }}

I'd just finished pouring us a bit more limoncello, when P started talking about our plan for the night. He said, "We'll have half the bottle tonight, have half for tomorrow night, then when we're finished, go to the room, get ready, and go to dinner." I started laughing immediately, and held up the bottle, which was less than half full, adding a little, "Half the bottle tonight and half for tomorrow night? There's not even half a bottle left!" Sayonara, sanity!

Surprisingly, after finishing the bottle we were still in great condition, and returned to the room effortlessly and got ready. I even put on eye make-up! I mean, I mustn't have been drunk, because I pulled off some awesome cat-eyes! You cannot do that if you're drunk, have you seen Jenna Marbles' drunk makeup tutorial?? And after we were finished, we phoned the front desk to tell them we'd like to take the shuttle (car service they provide from 9-9) into the center for dinner.

Capri is divided into two, the Capri side, and the Anacapri side, and we decided to take our favorite advice, where to eat well, and go to one of the recommended restaurants in the Capri center. Which is so small I feel funny even calling it a town center, but it is, and it's beautiful and cute as can be.

We ate at a really nice restaurant called Michel'angelo, and were pretty happy to see there was already a bottle of wine on the table when we got there. (The recommended bottle that was on each table...they didn't read our minds before we'd arrived.) I took the waiter's recommendation for fish, prepared how he suggested, and P had some oysters and something. Now is when things started to fuzz together a little bit, and I do distinctly remember having a moment with the wine, probably sometime during my second glass, that I decided I should not, and could not, drink anymore. But, we finished the bottle anyways. The food was delicious, the setting divine, and it was yet another incredible eating experience in Italy. (Thank you, Italy, for treating my stomach oh-so right!) Then, we walked around a little bit, and found our way to the bus stop in time to catch the last one of the night.

I'm not sure what the bus hours are during high season, but we were told the last one ran at midnight. Also, we were able to tell the driver which hotel we were staying in, and he stopped right outside the property. We were really fortunate, actually, to be there in the off-season, because I'm not sure you have that much flexibility when the island is crawling and crowded with people. Just some of the perks to going somewhere when it's not the busiest time of the year. (Somethings to consider if you're planning a trip.)

The next morning I woke up feeling like one of the adorable little island buses had run me over as I slept (I think the bottle of champagne that we took from the minifridge when we got back to the room did NOT help), and was shocked to learn I'd only been asleep for a few hours, and it wad barely 7am! But waking up to the amazing view helped, and within moments, I was jumping around the room, dancing, and feeling right as rain (thank You, God, for not allowing that hangover to linger too long!!!!), and we decided to take the hotel up on their offer of bringing breakfast to the room for no extra charge. (I HIGHLY suggest staying in places where breakfast is included. It's so convenient, and does help the budget a bit!) So after some writing, which I surprisingly hadn't done at all the whole time, and freshening up (whilst remaining in the bathroom and house slippers they provided with the room), our beautiful breakfast spread came through the door, and onto the table outside!

{{ Princess-ing out, 100% }}

We feasted, did some reading and writing, got ready, then went downstairs to check out and figure out how to rent a scooter for the day!

Through the research I did before going, I heard that the best way to get around the island is on a scooter, and after having rented a quad to smash around Santorini the year before, I was all in for this motor-ing around experience! And so grateful to learn that P has a scooter license, because even though I had my friend give me a little lesson in his city before I caught my flight, I was far from confident enough to navigate us around the curves this island was sure to behold. Also, again, so grateful that it wasn't high season, because the roads were nearly empty, which gave us a lot of room to get comfortable on the bike and take wider turns.

The hotel called the company, I believe it's called CapriLand, and it cost 55€ to rent the scooter for the whole day. We didn't need to worry about returning it with a full tank of gas, and the guy was soo casual when running through the logistics of it with us, I would have been surprised if he'd notice us taking it away on the ferry that night. They even tell you where the first limoncello factory is, and give you a coupon to go have a free sample. I love Italy.

He mapped out a full route for us, telling us where to go, what to see, where to park, if parking was free, how much this cost, how much that cost, and where to go for lunch to have some great pizza. The day was already going great, and we'd only just begun! We took off, and made our way to his first suggestion: the lighthouse beach, which he described as, "Very beach." And although there wasn't a grain of sand in sight, the more we explored, the more we came to understand what "very beach" meant.

{{ Seriously, brilliant }}

We basked a bit in the sun, got totally soaked by a MASSIVE wave that came up to remind us who's boss (bow down to the sea, she will thrash thee), and then decided to continue on our tour to the next spots. Of course, by this time we were hungry, so we decided to go out of the suggested order, and go straight to lunch, which we enjoyed with a sea view at Ristorante Onda D'Oro in Marina Piccola (small port).

There were so many things calling our names on the menu, and we had decided to share a caprese salad, pizza, and something else, when the waiter came over with a baking sheet full of pasta, and said that today they had fresh, handmade pasta available, filled with pumpkin, proscuitto and cheese.

{{ Dang setting on my camera got switched, so you can't really see the fresh pasta on the sheet, but it's there, it's fresh, it's beautiful, and it's }}

Ok, I guess we can reconsider.

So we ordered the caprese salad, and I asked if it would be possible for them to add proscuitto to it, to which he replied, "Here, we can make for you whatever you like." Great news, really, wonderful (!), and then embraced his idea of us both getting the fresh pasta, but them making it two different ways, so we could try different things. Perfetto!

I have loved few things as much as I loved that buffalo mozzarella. My eyes were rolling around in my head so much, just trying to make sense of how good it was. When it came time to take the last bite, I was so sad, so I spoke to it, and then welcomed it into my digestive system with joy. Then, it was fresh, homemade pasta time!

{{ This photo does it no justice }}

And for dessert, something they made that day, like gelato, but with what I perceived to be a lot of rum, and what we both perceived to be as a nut we can't eat (we both have certain allergies, nuts being a main concern), and ended up having little pseudo-allergic reactions right then and there. Had to happen at least once, I guess! I found the dessert to be too sweet, and waay tooooo alcoholic-tasting, but I can see how many people would enjoy it.

Overall, amazing meal, again! Thank you, Onda D'Oro for pleasing our palettes! After saying good-bye, taking a couple scenic photos, and looking at the map, we decided to hit the next stops on the list, but when we got to the Blue Grotto, one of the most famous tourist attractions on the island, the water was too choppy, so they weren't taking people to see it, since it's in a cave. And then, each thing we tried to do after was also closed, because it was past four o'clock and low season (things to consider!). So we didn't get to ride the chair lift that gives you an amazing view, or go into San Augustin's gardens, but we wandered around, hit the limoncello factory, had our sample, and enjoyed the peaceful feeling of the place.

By this time, our time in Capri, and in Italy, was coming to a close. It was really hard to accept that the trip only had one night left in it, which we spent back in Napoli because our flights were in the morning, but we felt completely satisfied and blessed to have been able to experience any of it at all. We terminated our time in Capri by strolling around the town center, then trying to go back to Onda D'Oro to get a pizza to go (sadly, they were closed), and finally enjoyed one last deli section raid on the rooftop, before heading to the port to depart for the mainland.

The entire trip was comprised of living in the now, being grateful, and being blown-away by the Italian's sense of service and refinement. It was a never-ending series of beautiful experiences, good service, incredible food, wonderful views, and happiness. I will forever return to Italy, and, as a silly online quiz recently told me that Italian is my true nationality, I wouldn't be surprised if I end up living there for some months in my life. (Let's be real, I know I'm going to. Italy for three months is already on My Life List, and when I consider the way I'm still in Spain after over two years, well, nothing would surprise me about spending a year or two in Italy either!)

I'd like to thank God for blessing me so richly and deeply, for allowing me this existence, and providing me the strength to pursue my dreams, in turn causing me to end up in situations like these. And P for spending such special time with me, and sharing such an amazing trip, full of celebration, love, and presence. I'd like to thank all the hotel and B&B staff members that helped us and made us feel like everything was taken care of -- Ana and Mario, the ladies at the Excelsior Vittoria, everyone at Excelsior Parco, and Federica from B&B Casa Tonia, where we stayed on our last night -- you all were so wonderful and added so much to the trip. To everyone who cooked, cleaned, or played any part in our eating experiences whilst there, and to the people on the streets who offered up directions and friendly conversation/curiosities everywhere we went. And finally, to the grand country of Italy itself, simply for existing, and existing in such a way to suggest that we all relax a bit, but remain stylish, while enjoying amazing food, and the art of being alive.

That's all for now of the adventures in other countries, but stick around, because in two weeks, I'm off to Bratislava, Slovakia, Vienna, Austria, and Budapest, Hungary! Travel on my loves, fly freely!

Blessings, Love, Light & Wonder to all you special being out there
I adore you, I love you, and I'm happy to exist with you
Love always,
Allison :)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Italia After All, Part Three: Pompeii

Ok, so I know that in the last post my final remark led you all to believe that this one would be about Capri (said, "Kah-Pree"), which might be why you clicked over, because island, but it would be going out of sequence to jump to Capri, amazing as it might be, and skip over something probably equally as amazing: the ruins of Pompeii.

First, I've gotta warn you, I'm about to throw down a little history lesson/blend it into this one, so buckle up, and we'll get through it quickly -- promise!

So terribly, destructively awesome

Wikipedia refers to the 79AD eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in Southern Italy as, "one of the most catastrophic and infamous eruptions in European history." So fellow Americans, take note. Because I'm pretty sure we never learned about it, as most of our history is focused on our own young country. During the eruption, Vesuvius was tossing up 1.5 tons of its scorching-hot cookies per second, which consisted in molten rock and annihilated pumice, and its deadly could of ash, gas, smoke and stones rose 33km (21mi) high. Talk about big! They say that the amount of thermal energy it released was 100,000 times more than the A-bomb that was so kindly dropped on Hiroshima during the Second World War.

Within range of Mt. Vesuvius' eruption-destruction were two towns; Pompeii and Herculaneum; which were buried beneath the mass amounts of Vesuvius' messy stuff. (Language and grammar adaptation contributed by yours truly. After all, I am an English teacher.;) It's still not known how many people actually died in the aftermath of the eruption, but they've found over a thousand bodies.

Both places are now tourist sites, and draw in major amounts of people each year, who come to see the layout of the former Roman town, which can still be understood, and some art, columns, brothels, and structural skeletons that remain. Needless to say, going to Pompeii was bound to be a highlight for me, and was definitely one of the things I most looked forward to on the trip!

I was so intrigued to see this former buzzing, populated place, and try to get a feel for what ancient Roman life was like. Being a total culture junkie, I get a great high going when I'm learning about other ways of life, and it's even better if I can observe it in some way. And, in one of the classes at the high school, we talked about volcanic eruptions, including that of Mt. Vesuvius, and the photos of the perfectly petrified bodies got my whiskers wiggling and ears perked up plenty. Don't be freaked out, I'm not like some death addict or anything, I'm not actually great with death by any means, but it was sure to be fascinating to see little Roman people that had been scorched doing whatever it was they were doing, therefore perfectly maintaining their form. So on Monday, we took the 20-30 minute train ride from Sorrento to Pompeii (it runs about every half-hour, and leaves you right in front of the archaeological/ruin site), to meet the dead, and see some wicked ruins!

There are a variety of companies that offer guided tours, and we had originally been looking at some that left from Napoli, took you to the ruins, gave you a 2-4 hour guided tour, and etc (the options are endless and easy to find online), but they were quite costly, and in the end, we didn't want to be locked into any sort of time frame that we didn't decide upon ourselves. I also read online that you can get a guide when you get there, some people tend to hang out by the gates, but I think this only applies to high season, and from what I read, it was 100€ for a four hour tour (said to be worth it). We opted for the guided tour that you can get for I believe 12€. The kind that you punch in the number of the thing you're at, put it to your ear, and listen to what they say. This was a perfectly adequate way to learn, and I recommend going this route (more money for pizza, holla!).

As I mentioned here, we had planned our entire day around making a certain ferry to Capri, so we didn't have much time in Pompeii, which was a bit of a shame. It's not such a big place, but it was big enough that having at least two or three full hours would have been good. Especially at the slow, snail-ish, absorb-it-all/gawk-a-lot rate I like to wander around a place, I could have easily spent five hours there. But we had nearly two hours, and I was able to get a pretty good sense of it, and see some super cool stuff.

I really loved listening to the information on the Guided Tour Telephone (GTT), and just imagining what the place would have been like, full of short, Roman people. (I say short, because people were smaller back then. I'm not making insulting remarks, just using appropriate adjectives.) And if you've been paying much attention, you might have done a little, "Wait, what?" at the sight of the word "brothel." Yes, my friends, you read that right, twice now. Brothels.

A little more research (thank you again, Wikipedia) allows me to tell you right here and right now, that there were 35 brothels in Pompeii when it was still a town; information which was given to me from my GTT, but I subsequently forgot, because I was blown away by everything that was flowing into my ears. Which means, when you break down the population of roughly 10,000 people, there was a brothel for every 286 people. That's not that many people per brothel, really. Now, I make a big point of this, because, as P pointed out, it's quite ironic that a place that was so full of brothels, would come to cease existence due to none other than a massive eruption. Haha. I can't contain myself.

I'll give it a minute to sink in, if it hasn't already.

And can I just point out, God seriously has the greatest sense of humor? I mean, come on, I'm not trying to be insensitive or anything [but it was over 2,000 years ago], but to destroy a place that is full of sexual sin with a giant explosion? It doesn't get any more perfect than that! But anyways, before I start offending too many people...

The brothels are just one part of Pompeii, and what struck me as the most fascinating about it all, is that you can still see the paintings that they'd put above the rooms/beds or in the brothels, of different sex positions, so the client would only have to point, and not bother with any sort of language barrier that might have existed. (P said that there's even one of a woman having sex with a goat, which I unfortunately did not see.) And according to the GTT I had, the life of these prostitutes was absolutely terrible. Which you could probably figure out anyways, but just hearing about their situations filled me with remorse. I mean, just look at the beds they had to work on!

The fact they put some sort of straw mattress on top of that massive, concrete slab doesn't make me feel like they were any less uncomfortable. (And were they really that tiny!?!)

And here, you can see an example of the illustrations that were painted around to ease the communication aspect of the interaction. 

Overall, it was a really great part of the trip, and I highly suggest popping by Pompeii if you're in that area. It'll be a nice way to get a little history and culture mixed in to the never-ending slew of gelato stops, coffees, and restaurants you're likely to indulge in whilst in Italy. 

Oh, and here's some pictures of petrified people...and a dog, sorry if it makes you cringe and/or cry. (You didn't really think I'd finish this one off without including these, did you? It was the whole reason I went!)

What a way to go, eh? I guess I've gotta say, at least it's pretty epic. And hey, in a way, they're living on -- they're on display for thousands of tourists to see each year! (Again, sorry if I'm being insensitive.)

And now that you've all dealt with my information delivery till now, I will gift you with some extra goodness in the next episode: Part Four, Capri!!!!! Island Adventures in Italy, ohhh yeahhh! :)

Blessings, Love, Light & Wonder to you all!
Travel far, love hard, live well, smile as much as possible, and hey,
It's life, don't take it so seriously, b/c in the end, you could end up like these guys!

-Allison :)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Italia After All, Part Two: Sorrento

After saying our final good-byes to Ana, we were out the door and onto the next part of the adventure! Getting to Sorrento from Napoli was incredibly easy, thankfully, because we hadn't done any planning ahead. We arrived six minutes before it was scheduled to leave, which was a great way to start off!

The train took perhaps an hour, I believe they leave every half-hour, and had we not already wasted a large sum on the ArteCard (a card that is well worth it if you plan on using public transport a lot while you're in Napoli, want to travel around the region, and/or enter a variety of archaeological sites, museums, and etc), we'd have only have had to pay between 2-5€ for the trip, I believe. The train wasn't the kind of train you're probably going to expect, but more like metro trains, that happen to run for longer distances. For example, between cities. I'm sure the view was lovely, but as I mentioned here, our timing with arrivals and departures was quite late, and we spent the trip in the dark, trying to guess what was outside.

When we arrived in Sorrento we were overcome by its relatively calm feeling. It's set into the  mountains on the coast, and is a pretty nice place, so it had a posh-beachy feel to it. And after having spent the last couple days in Napoli, where life is buzzing all around, it's loud, it's in your face, and it's big, to switch to a small, coastal haven was quite the switch. But, it didn't take us long to adapt to it, and within moments we were looking at each other with that, "Oh yeah, I like it here," look in our eyes. Then we found our hotel.

Now, I've gotta address this aspect of the trip/my travels here, because, well, I want to, and it fits in nicely at this point. That said, let's talk financials. 

I live to travel. It is my passion, makes up a major part of my purpose, and is pretty much the only reason I moved away in the first place. It's the only thing I can imagine doing forever, and I know I will. I'm planning my entire life and career around having the ability to spend prolonged periods of time in other places, and few things get me as excited as experiencing a new culture. I am a CouchSurfer, a backpacker, a long-term traveler -- truly a lifer. This means I do not/try not to pay for places to stay, except for on rare occasions or trips where I want to be relatively cut-off from others (sometimes I like to take trips and go with the intention of spending the time in solitude, only communicating when necessary, i.e. to order food or greet people), I try to hitchhike when I can/it's safe, walk as much as I can to save money, and use public transport instead of cabs when I can't, and I'm always trying to think of how I can get my euros to extend a little further. (Which is why I sometimes find myself in situations like this.) I want longer trips for less money, and am incredibly good at making that happen. Sometimes I splurge on a good meal, because food is a passion of mine and one of my favorite parts about traveling, but I usually try not to pay more than 8-10€/meal, if that, and cook them as often as I can. (I've been known to go on weekend trips with a set amount of cash, leaving all cards at home, and eat fruit as my meal to stay within budget. Sometimes it doesn't turn out so well, but I've scored some good stories this way. hehe) That said, this trip is nothing like anything I've ever funded before, and I probably bring it up because I'm a little self-conscious about how much we spent. 

Both of us work two jobs, and this trip was going to be so special for so many reasons. We went to celebrate our birthdays, it was my first time in Italy, and we also happened to go to a couple places that are a bit more costly than others (Sorrento and Capri), though not terribly expensive when held against my homeland standards (USA) or P's (The Netherlands). So, we didn't hold back. Kind of like the over-the-top New Year's celebration I've never spent money to have. We stayed in nice hotels/B&B's, ate incredibly well, took some taxis, and, well, went to four different cities/places within five days. We were on holiday, and we lived it up! (I'm now 12 days late on my rent and not sure where I'll come up with the 800€ I need to buy a flight home, but do I regret it? No way! That was the trip of a lifetime, and I'll never forget that celebration of life!)

This is all just to say that this isn't usually how I treat myself on trips, but it was a blast to experience it, and I'm really glad we did. I don't want anyone out there reading/seeing this to fall prey to the commonly held misconception that traveling is expensive -- it's not! I'm going to write about this all on it's own, because it's incredibly important to me, but I don't want you to think that a trip like this is unattainable if you aren't making big bucks. I mean, I'm a teaching assistant for crying out loud, but felt like I must have a much higher paying job than that while on this trip. It doesn't take a lot to make a lot, especially not if you remain grateful for EVERYTHING. But now I'm going off in a totally different direction, so I'll save that for later, and get back on task... (Insert giant, dope-ish me smiling here.)

The hotel we stayed in was the kind of hotel that I'd see and think, "Wow! What an amazing hotel! The people who stay there have got a great view, they are so blessed to be staying there. I can't imagine what it'd be like to stay there." Well, that was us for this one night.

In order to get there, first we had to walk down the hill(?)... mountain(?)... well, the entire path down to the water, and then we were confused, because we didn't see the hotel number we were looking for. The people from, the site we used to book the room had started to call on behalf of the hotel, because by this time, it was oddly late for people to be arriving for their stay. So my phone keeps ringing, I keep asking questions, the guy on the other end keeps having to put me on hold so he can call the hotel, get the answers to my questions then relay them back to me, all the while, we're wandering around this little port, and feeling pretty sure there's not another hotel around. Until we asked some people and they directed us, at which point we came around a little corner, into a semi-private beach, and realized that we were literally staying on the water. We actually had to walk through sand to reach the front door. It was magic.

Ladies and Gentleman, the Excelsior Vittoria Hotel in Sorrento, Italy...

See the third little balcony on the left? That was ours O_o

The view from the room wasn't half-bad...

Nor was the breakfast buffet the next morning...

Not my spot, not my coffee, don't worry, I didn't let Italy break all my lent!

I felt like a freakin' princess! And you know what? I was -- the Birthday Princess! ;) The whole time, we kept saying, "I feel like I'm my parents traveling," and I couldn't stop imagining that, "This is what it must feel like to be my uncles." We are wildly blessed, and immensely grateful. (Thank You, God, thank You, God, thank You, God!!!)

As we were checking into our hotel, after being greeted by a, "You're just arriving!?" the woman gave us some suggestions on what to do in town, and more importantly, offered up our favorite information: where to eat. She asked us if we'd ever heard of Top Chef, we said yes, and she proceeded to tell us that there's a Pizza Masters, Italy edition. We instantly knew where she was going with this one, and scooted closer to the edges of our seats to fully absorb all the pizza-y goodness this goddess was about to drop on us.

Well, it turns out that the winner of Top Chef Pizza Masters Italy has his restaurant in Sorrento, and it just so happened to be about a stone's throw from the hotel! Ohhh yeahhh, that's what we're doing tonight! So we ditched our stuff, embraced the beauty of the room and view for a while, freshened up, cheers'd some limoncello (recurring theme), and headed off to our long-awaited destiny: The Best Pizza in the World.

Now, I know I'm mentioning Liz Gilbert "a lot" (author of a variety of books, but best known for Eat, Pray, Love), but it's because I'm obsessed with that book/movie/story, and in a way, I imagine she and I would make great friends and travel mates. But I must call her out on something...

In her book, she talks about getting a recommendation for a pizza place in Napoli from her language exchange partner who is from Napoli. She-says-he-says it's the best pizza in Napoli, to which, she reasons it must be the best pizza in the world, because the best pizza comes from Napoli, and if this is the best pizza in Napoli, then, well, it's gotta be the best in the world. But I daresay that actually, I have eaten the best pizza in the world, and while hers might be one of the best, this one is acknowledged as the best. Because, while the two men who sweat and slave over the pizza oven she ate from might not have entered the competition, this guy, Antonino Esposito did, and he won that stuff, opened a restaurant, and in the end, I lost my mind at it! (Not that it's a competition. I just have a thing for seeking out the best food in the world wherever I am, and commencing to consume every bit possible. So when I realized I wasn't going to have a chance to hunt down the place she talks about and try it, I was a little bummed. Till I learned about Antonino Esposito and Acqu' e Sale. And hey, Liz, if you ever somehow come upon this, wanna meet up and eat??:)

Simply put, the whole experience was mind-blowing.

We decided to sit on the deck outside first and have some cocktails. He noticed on the list there was one called Pimm's No. 1, which seemed too perfectly named to not order, and he then suggested that I order the Americano, since, well, io sono Americana (I'm American). (And we were both quite curious to see what alcoholic beverage would behold the name we had only associated with coffee before then.) His drink was delicious, and we both ordered one for our second round, mine was... kind of terrible. Well, ok, not terrible-terrible, but I did not like the taste of the bitter campari, which I think made up 90% of it. But probably, no, undoubtedly, the best part of the whole experience (before the pizza) was the appetizers they brought out with the drinks (which aren't free, and cost 2€ each, but are worth, worth, worth it!!!). We couldn't believe what we were seeing, and instead of try to explain it to you, I'm just going to show you...

Yes, that is a perfectly sliced and fried piece of zucchini, a miniature piece of salmon, that somehow was just the right amount and added a delicious burst of its fresh flavor to the entire bite, tiny olives, sweet, succulent pineapple, and a piece of carrot, on a tiny little bed of cream cheese, all in a not-as-hard-as-it-looks ravioli half. I mean, could I fall more in love with anything involved in this equation!? And it only got better as we went inside, only to be greeted by tons of smiling Italian waiter's faces, and the Big Daddy that was going to deliver to us the best pizza we'll probably ever eat in our lives...

There were actually TWO side-by-side, sitting there in their blazing, red, hot, sexy glory. 
My good gosh, I love you so much!

The entire situation only got better as they took our order. We ordered the local beer, which turned out to be a delicious Pale Ale, and I lost my mind, again, when I realized that it tastes almost exactly like Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale, which I would have never expected from a "basic beer." Then, when our waiter came to take our orders and saw how indecisive we were (the menu is quite extensive), he decided to take control of the reigns. Simply he said, "For you (pointing at me), I suggest the ______ (whhyyyy didn't I write down the name!?!), and for you (pointing at P), the _______ (again, whyyyy didn't I take better notes!?)." We looked at each other, and threw down some, "Well then, sounds good!"'s, leaving our fate to the pizza god. And my good God, he read us right! The moment we've all been waiting for, and that I want to relive every week I possibly can -- I now present to you The Best Pizza in the World...

P's crust was filled with ricotta cheese, he thinks he must have eaten an entire roll of it, and mine was as well, but only in that beautifully folded part on the bottom there. There wasn't too much sauce on the pizza, nor were there that many cherry tomatoes on top, but their juices somehow saturated the entire thing, delivering an amazing flavor. For once, I did not object to eating pizza with a knife and fork, but embraced the moment and all it wanted to offer me. And the prosciutto on it? MY GOSH. We actually could not contain ourselves, I still can't! It was one bite after another of YYYYUUUUMMMM. I think we got pizza drunk, because after, we were in such bliss, nothing else mattered, and we couldn't stop talking about it. 

So in short, go to Italy (#1), go to Sorrento, and go to Acqu' e Sale. The pizzas cost between 7 and 9€/each, which is a ridiculously good price to have the best pizza in the world. But to put it into perspective, the pizzas we ate in Napoli cost about 4.50€, so in comparison, it is "quite expensive," but still incredibly reasonable, especially considering what you get. We had already decided to have lunch there the next day, when we heard the heartbreaking news that they are closed on Mondays (something to take note of). "It's a good thing we ate it tonight then! Guess we'll just have to come back someday!" was the unanimous response...from all two of us. 

The next day we planned to take a day trip to Pompeii to see the ruins, but cut our visit quite short, because we wanted to make the 17h ferry from Sorrento to Capri where we'd be spending our next night. (Read about Part Three, Capri here, and/or Pompeii at this one!) It was a little rainy, but we were on holiday, so we didn't care, and actually, in contrast to the greenness of our setting, we both commented that the grey sky and drizzle was kind of nice. It added a beautiful affect, and only elevated the contrast in colors around us. So we skipped going back down the mountain to get an extra layer, and embraced the rain, walking hand-in-hand, allowing the skies to wash our souls clean and soak our hair. And Sorrento continued to reveal her beauty to us as we walked around. 

It's an incredibly small place, and I'm happy we didn't plan out more time to spend there, not because I don't love it, but because more time wasn't necessary. It's a place full of small streets, kind people, shops full of yellow (hello limoncello!), and a comfortable, easy feel. We wandered around for a while, mostly in search of the other restaurant the lady at the hotel recommended, and finally found it. Which only produced another insane eating experience, not so much with the meal this time, but with dessert.

I'd given up sweets for lent, but blew it almost immediately on the airplane when they gave us a snack, and a small piece of cake/muffin was inside. I think I'd known going into the trip that Italy would break me in an instant. I mean, birthdays...pastries...cakes...who knows what's...tiramisu...Italy...Italy...Italy.... And then I kinda broke my lent again, when I bought a little "birthday cake" for P, which we shared the next morning. And then again with the chocolate rice crispy treat that was at the breakfast buffet in the hotel, and I think a couple other things as well. But who's counting? And in all honestly, nothing was worth breaking lent for (ok, maybe the chocolate rice crispy treat was) before we ate this...

Again, I should have written down the name so I could tell you, but I can say this, if you like lemon/limoncello, spongecake, and creamy-ness, then try this if you see it! A spongecake that's soaked in limoncello, with a middle layer of good-God-I-love-you, and then engulfed in another cream of some sort, hailing from the I'm-going-to-wrap-you-up-and-make-your-head-spin variety. I wish you could see how much my mouth is watering right now just looking at this picture and recalling it's taste. Again, we couldn't control ourselves. It melted in our mouths, almost disappearing, but leaving behind a blend of flavors so delicious, our eyes closed and rolled back with each bite. Heaven can be found on Earth, and we found it in Italy.

But then again, it was time to go. And even though we'd planned our entire day around making this certain ferry, and had spent the last 2 1/2 hours sitting at a restaurant just five minutes from our hotel/the marina, we somehow managed to be getting to the hotel with only five minutes till the ferry was meant to leave, which wasn't enough time considering we needed to get our bags, buy the tickets and make it on the boat in time. Thankfully there was another one leaving within two hours, so we enjoyed a coffee/tea, the view from the hotel, and some time to read and reminisce. Then truly, we were on our way. All aboard for Capri!