Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year!

It's the last day of 2011! The last day of an amazing year. 
A year where so much has happened and so much has changed. 
A year of new opportunities and adventures. In 2011, I have met some of my best and closest friends. 
I Learned to snowboard and I helped to raise money for charity.
 I learned that I would be spending the next school year in Italy and I learned to drive. 
I flew to Vancouver with my school and I took my first solo road trip.
 I spent precious time with old friends and family. 
I went night swimming at Wasaga Beach and I have a new sister.
 I turned 17 and then 7 day later I boarded an airplane bound for Milan. 
I have seen cities that I've only ever dreamed about; Verona, Rome, Naples.
 I've had to deal with the loss of my grandpa and the reality of being so far from home. 
I have the opportunity to learn a new language and expand on the ones I already know.
 I got to welcome the newest member of my family, my niece, Hailey Morgan Thistle, to the world. I've had the privilege of living with and getting to know the Antonioli family and sharing the holidays with them. 
Most importantly, 2011 has blessed me with family and friends on every continent in the world and I am so fortunate to know every last one of them! 
2011 has been one of the best years of my life and I want to thank every single person who has been apart of my life and will continue to be apart of my life for many years to come! 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas in Italy!

This year, these famous lyrics have not been more fitting, 
"Christmas Eve will find me
  Where the love light gleams
  I'll be home for Christmas
  If only in my dreams" 
This has been my first Christmas away from home, away from my family, and to be completely honest it doesn't feel like Christmas, at least not the Christmas I know. Christmas Eve I went with my host family to Lauretta's (my host mom) sister's house for dinner. Normally for Christmas Eve dinner back home whether I'm with my mom or my dad, we usually have steak and crab legs, but here in italy my meal was a little different. My host family is Catholic and because of that, they do not eat meat the night before Christmas, almost like a kind of fasting. They wait until Christmas day to eat meat as a celebration of the birth of Christ! So, the first course was this potatoes and octopus salad that had tomatoes and olives in it. It was actually pretty good, however it was hard to get over the texture of the octopus. We also had eal, which I didn't eat but I wasn't the only one so i didn't feel to bad The second course was pumpkin ravioli which is quickly becoming one of my favourite dishes! I love it! The third course was a fish and unfortunately my host uncle made the mistake of showing me the fish while it still looked like a fish and I couldn't bring myself to eat it. After we finished dinner I helped my host aunt clean the dishes and then we all called Lally on skype so she could say hi to everyone! After dessert, Lauretta and I went to the Duomo, the giant Cathedral,  for midnight mass! It was actually pretty interesting, since I have never been to a Catholic service before and even though I couldn't understand everything the priest said, I understood most of it. When we got home, I went to bed and waited for Santa to come. 
Christmas Day was a little sad for me, remembering the little traditions and memories of back home, but it was still a good day. Since no one woke up until 10:30AM we didn't open presents until 12:00PM. From my host mom and dad I received a special Italian necklace, a starfish, which is said to represent fragility, the fragility of life and love. My host brothers gave me a purple day planner with Marilyn Monroe on the cover for 2012 and my host grandma gave me a yellow wallet/clutch for the summer. I also opened the package from my mom and the cards from my aunt and my grandma which was really nice. After presents Roberto's mom and dad came over and we had our turkey dinner for lunch, which was excellent! Then I went on skype and talked with my family which made me feel a better about not being physically there with them. After that it felt like any other day. It was actually kind of depressing in a way because we didn't do anything. Normally back home I'm so busy traveling around seeing all my family that christmas doesn't end until boxing day or even the next day, but this year christmas was over by 5:00PM. 
Even though I was sad and I missed my family it was nice to experience how other people celebrate Christmas and it made me really appreciate my family and how we celebrate.  
I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and I will see you in the New Year! 

Friday, November 25, 2011


A couple of weekends ago my host dad, his brother, and my host brother Ettore took me to Cervinia to go skiing! The Alps are so beautiful and almost magical, there's a reason people always write about them! We stayed at the hotel Mignon in Cervinia-Breuil, a small town on the border of Italy and Switzerland. They speak French there as well as Italian, so I was also able to practise my French. Since we arrived so late on Friday night we couldn't do any skiing than but the next morning we woke up at 7 to go skiing at 8! We put on all our gear, thankfully my host sister Lally's gear fit me, and walked to the first gondola. On our way up I started to feel dizzy and nauseous I was definitely not use to the altitude. The first gondola took us to 2500 meters where the snow just started than we went even higher on a second gondola which went to 3500 meters. I was still pretty dizzy so we stopped for a little bit so I could breathe in the mountain air and take in the amazing view. After a few minutes I started to feel better so we did one run down to the Zermatt, which is in Switzerland! The run was so long at least 3 times the length of one run at blue mountain. On the way down I also got to see the Matterhorn, the very famous, pyramid shaped mountain!
The Matterhorn
We stopped at the chalet in Zermatt and than continued back up on this toe line called the anchor. It's a piece of metal in the shape of an anchor and you stick one side under your but and it pulls you up the mountain. It was hard work because you couldn't really sit on it but you weren't standing either so it was a good work out for your legs. Plus it was really long, it took 15-20 minutes to go down the run but it took 30 minutes to back up it. According to my host dad, at one point all the ski lifts were anchor lines because it was too expensive to build chairlifts. 
After that we did a few more runs that took a really long time to go down because they were so long that everyone stops at different points to catch their breathes! One run took us an hour to go down! When we stopped for lunch I was EXHAUSTED! I have never skied like that in my life. My feet hurt really bad too because I was not use to ski boot and even more so because last year I snowboarded so I was even less use to the ski boots than I would have been if I had skied last year! 

Once we decided to call it a day, it took us over an hour and a half to ski down to the lowest possible point. We also stopped a few times because we were all very tired. I wanted to have my picture taken in front of the Matterhorn too, so we stopped to do that as well.     

Myself in front of the Matterhorn.

That night for diner we went to a very nice french restaurant. Ettore and I shared fondue which was really good. We dipped bread and potatoes into it! For desert I had a cannoli, and it was delicious! When I went back to the hotel I could barely make it up the stairs but thankfully I ran into some Australian guys who gave me a hand! That night I was so tired that I went straight to bed. 
The next morning we did the same thing again only this time Roberto let me ski by myself at a lower altitude while I got use to the different air pressure. Than we met up a couple hours later and went higher where we skied until lunch. After lunch I skied by myself again only this time in Zermatt and it was incredible. It truly is a whole other world up there!We really lucked out on the weekend, it was clear skies and warm weather for the entire weekend! According to Franco, Roberto's brother, It is usually cloudy and windy, but for us there was absolutely nothing, a gorgeous weekend. After skiing in the Alps, Blue Mountain just doesn't have the same appeal. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Rome Day 1 & 2

Ciao Tutti,
Day 1
On Friday October 29th, my host mom and I boarded a train. Rome here we come! There were no trains out of the Cremona station that went to Rome, so first we had to take a train to Milan, and then take a different train to Rome. The train to Rome was the fastest train in Italy and we travelled the 650km in just 3 hours. Now that's efficiency. Since we left Cremona at 5:30pm we didn't actually make it to Rome until well after dark at about 9:30pm. We walked to our hotel with our bags in hand but before we could actually get to the hotel we stopped at a restaurant because we were both starving. I had calzone, which if you don't know what that is, it is a pizza folded in half! It was pretty good but a little to greasy for me. Once we got to the hotel, we checked in and then went to our room. The view is absolutely beautiful! But since we were both exhausted we went to bed straight away!

Day 2
On Day 2 Lauretta and I went to all the major touristy places first! The first thing we did was go to the Roman Forum. This was really cool because it is basically a large area of space about the size of 3 to 4 football stadiums just of ancient Roman sites. The forum is where the day to day operations of Rome were carried out. 
Me in front of the Arch of Severus. 
This is the house of Romulus.
This is a part of the Palatine as seen from the
house of Augustus.
After the Forum we walked up to il Palatino (Palatine). The Palatine is a huge, beautiful garden, with some of the oldest archaeological sites in Rome. It is set on top of the hill where Romulus and Remus where supposedly found, and where Romulus later built his kingdom. Archaeologists think that they have discovered the remains of the house of Romulus and that it survived due to the great significance that it had to the people of Rome, who were active in its upkeep for the thousands of years before it was forgotten. Also found on the site of the Palatine was the house of Augustus. It is said, that because the house of Romulus is also on the Palatine hill, Augustus chose to have his house built there as well, to remind the people of the power he had. 

After we left the Palatine, Lauretta and I walked passed the Colosseo (Colosseum), to a pizzeria to have lunch. Than after lunch we went to this beautiful park and laid down in the grass soaking up the sun. The weather was incredible, 20* and sunny, I even got a tan from all the walking we did. After our pisolino (nap), we walked to the Colosseum! Which really is as impressive as it looks in pictures. The line to get into the Colosseum was massive and it would have been at least a 2 hour wait but thankfully for us when we bought our tickets to get in to the Forum and the Palatine, they also allowed us to go into the Colosseum and a lot of other archaeological sites as well.
When we got inside, Lauri confirmed our tours and then we went to walk around by ourselves! The Colosseum really is beautiful and everything people say it is! When you walk in all you see are these massive stone archways, and then all of a sudden you are enveloped into the past where it is just one breath taking view after the next! Even though the Colosseum is not as well preserved as the arena in Verona, not by any stretch of the imagination, the colossal size of the structure alone can take your breathe away. The reason it is not as well preserved is because of the amount of earthquakes and piliging (the removal of goods for the use of new building projects) that the Colosseum has undergone.  Interesting fact,il Colosseo (the Colosseum) is not the original name of structure, original it was named the Flavian Amphitheatre, after the Flavian Emperors. It was only after the erection of the colossal statue of the Emperor Nero standing beside the Colosseum that it adopted the name. Colosseo derives from the Latin word colossus, meaning colossal.
Since Lauretta and I had different tours, Italian for her, English for me, she left with her group 20 minutes before me. As I waited for my tour to begin I sat down on a large, cylindrical, piece of marble laying along the floor, it was a column. I had actually sat on history! When my tour guide finally arrived, I was the only one waiting, so it ended of being just her and I, my own private tour of the Colosseum! She took me up to the third level, where only the tours were allowed and it was amazing. From the third level, looking away from the Colosseum you could also see the Arch of Constantine, the largest arch in Rome. I could also see the entire arena, including the underground level, which I would have been able to see on the tour if not for the massive flooding that flowed through Rome not more than a week before.  Even still the the third level was amazing and my tour guide was great. She told me all about the games, the structure and the history of the place.  Some of things I had already learned from my history course that I had taken last year, but most of it was new, so I learned a lot from the experience! By the end of the tour Lauri and I had already spent almost 4 hours inside the Colosseum. Since we were both tired we decide to call it quits and walk back to the hotel, where we read and relaxed until dinner!
Me inside the Colosseum.

This is a reconstruction of how the seats
would have looked like.

This is a part of what is left of a very
large basilica. One of the largest in
Ancient Rome. 
Arch of Constantine.
Third level view of the Colosseum.

When it was time to go out for dinner we walked along one of the main streets of Rome that was close to our hotel. We decided to eat at an Argentinian food chain restaurant, that I can't remember the name of. My food was very good I had something resembling that of a Canadian stew and Lauri had a pork chop.
After dinner, we went on a city lights tour of Rome. We started at the Arch of Constantine and finished at a archaeological site near our hotel. This I was thankful of because by that time it was 11:00pm and I would have given anything to climb under my sheets and go to bed. Which I did as soon as we got back to our room!

That is the end of Day 2! I will update you on the rest of my trip just as soon as I have more time!
Ciao Tutti,
Amanda ♥

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Girls Not Brides

Dear Humanity,

The issue of child brides has been bothering me for a long time now. 

I am a 17 year old girl from Ontario, Canada. I am just a teenager, not old enough to drink, vote, enlist in the military, or to get married! However, if circumstances were different and I was born in a place like; India, Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Kenya, or the Congo, there is a 1 in 3 probability that I would have been married off at the age of 8 or 9, even as young as 5 years old. My husband would most likely be 20 to 30 years older than me and probably extremely abusive. I would no longer be allowed to go to school and any chance I would of had at a job and a descent future would be washed away. As soon I started to get my period I would have been forced to bare children, possibly dying in the process and with an even greater chance that my baby would be dead within the first year! If I survived long enough to see my 17th birthday I would most likely have 5 or 6 children under my care, stricken with poverty and no way out.

That is the life for over 64 million women, between 20-24 years of age, who were married or in union before the age of 18! Help stop the injustice! If you are just as disturbed by what has been happening, and will continue to happen so long as we stand idly by, than please join in my quest to spread awareness of this horrible tragedy. Too many times we go on with our lives not realizing how lucky we truly are to live in a part of the world where we are free to live our lives the way we choose!

Please help spread the word, in the hope that one day this will no longer be an issue and that many more girls will be able to live their lives in the same fortunate circumstances that I am luckily enough to find myself in. 
For information on this situation and for ways to help go to the website,, an organisation dedicated to the irradification of child brides!

Thank you,

The voice of the silenced!

Monday, October 17, 2011

My Fun Filled, Adventurous Weekend!

On Friday I had my first vocal performance with my choir! We were performing at a school so that meant that I was able to leave school early to sing. I went to my italian lesson in the morning until 10 am and than I had to bike to Aselli, my school, to show them my justification for not staying in for rest of my classes. Next I went home, changed into my black dress and then went to meet Louisa, my friend in the choir, and Michele who was driving us. When we arrived at the school we ran though a few of the songs and then waited for the the auditorium to fill with students. Once we were finally ready to start the mistero introduced the choir as a whole but then he did something that surprised me, he introduced me alone, saying that I was from Canada and that his choir was now officially international. To be fare I have no idea if that was how he said it or not because I only understood a few words. The performance went really well and I felt proud that I was able to learn 12 songs, some that were even in Spanish, in only 2 weeks. Although I did not feel the usual rush that I normally get when I sing solo, I love performing in front of a crowd all the same!

On Saturday afternoon, Lauretta and her mother, took me to Valeia Romana. A small  Roman town in the mountains. It was a beautiful day and the leave were just starting to turn. It reminded me of Canada at the end of September! The drive took about an hour and once we reached the mountains it was like being on a roller coaster. The road we were on was so windy and up and down and it would curve to the right and then severely back to the left it was crazy! When we finally arrived at the archaeological site of Valeia Romana, I was feeling a little queasy. The site was small but the ruins were still pretty well preserved. I saw the Thermal baths, there was one for cold, medium, and hot water, those Romans were sure smart when it came to their bathing techniques! There were also the remains of the houses and stores that made up the small city. As well as the Basilica, where the day to day proceeding took place!

It felt so strange to be standing where these people lived 2000 years ago!

On Sunday Lauretta took Kayleigh, Ashley, Elizabeth and I to Verona!!! I was so excited and could not wait to see La Casa di Guiletta (Juliet's House...Romeo and Juliet). We drove to Brescia before boarding a train the rest of the way to Verona in total it was about 2 hours of travel time. When we arrived at the station in Verona we all needed to go to the bathroom but big shock here, you had to pay 0.80 cents to enter the washroom. I have never seen that before, and it wasn't as if the bathroom was immaculate it was very dingy and the hand dryers didn't even work!
The first thing we did when we left the station was walk to the Arena, a smaller, older version of the coliseum in Rome. I definitely think that it was my favourite part of Verona.

The Arena can hold up to 30,000 people and is now used for opera's!

After the Arena we walked to La Casa di Gulietta. Which was a huge disappointment, it was very crowded and not at all like how it is in the movie Letters to Juliet. However I did get my picture taken with the statue of Juliet and I touched her boob for good luck. It was funny because you could actually see that the boob and surrounding area was much more faded than that of the rest of her statue!

After that La Casa di Gulietta we walked to some old and beautiful churches, where we could see the tombs of past and ancient princes of Verona. For some reason they liked to have there tombs up high and on display for the whole world to see!

After a few more churches we stopped for a lunch an unfortunately very slow restaurant. We arrived there at 1:30pm and we didn't actually leave till about 3:30pm. Which if you ask me is way too long to be sitting at a table for lunch. Don't go There!

After lunch we walked to the river which had the most amazing views I have ever seen since I have been in Italy!
We walked a long this river for a few km before arriving at a CASTLE! which was really cool!

We walked around on the wall and on the bridge that stretched across the river and then we walked through the museum! The museum was the inside of the castle and it was incredible I have never seen anything so cool! Walked all along the inside of the towers and courtyard and multiple living areas turned art galleries. It was all very interesting!

Once we left the castle we walked for another 20 minutes or so to another church but it was different than the other churches we went to, this one was massive. It was so beautiful that when you walk in you are immediately stunned in to silence. People who know me know that I am not an overly religious person but even I felt the need to sit down and send a prayer to God. 

Once we left the church we wandered around for a little while trying to find a bus to take us to the station but to no avail. Apparently city buses don't run on Sundays in Verona. Keep that in mind if you ever want to visit the beautiful city. So we finally made it back to the station, our feet where dead but we made it :)
The train was pretty full so we didn't all get to sit together like on the way there, so I just put in my head phones and relaxed. It is now a day later and my feet still hurt from all the walking we did!

So long for now!!

Amanda ♥

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ufficio D'immigrazione!

This morning I had to go to the Italian immigration office in Cremona, by my self! I found the office easily enough. It was right next to the last government building I was in, across from the Ponchielli Theatre. I arrived at 8:30am, the office wasn't open yet but there was already a long line at the door. I knew right than that this would be a long morning. When I finally got inside, there was one seat left so I sat down. A few more people arrived and around 9:15am a man popped his head through the door and said something in Italian. He spoke really fast so I couldn't quite understand him. Something about appointments at 9:00am being pushed to 9:30am. I asked out loud that if any one spoke English, could they please translate for me. In response I had 12 heads turn to look at me with a confused/amused look on their faces. I guess not! Just then Matt walked in with his host cousin and her friend, thank god a friendly face. I jumped out of my seat and ran over to him but before I could reach him a had shot out and grabbed my arm. It was Sierra a friend of mine from my Italian course. Apparently she had been there for a while and I just didn't notice her. They wondered why I looked kind of freaked so I told them the story about what just happened to me with the staring people. Then Kayleigh showed up, it was like an exchange student party going on in the immigration office! After a while of Matt playing get to know you with Sierra, we started talking about war. Which then brought up the topic of religion and how Matt is Agnostic but Kayleigh is Christian and we got into a conversation about the legitimacy of God. Which than became a conversation about science and the theory of relativity and the String theory. Once we had exhausted all our knowledge on those subject we went on to play a couple of card games. Keep in mind that this was all going on within the waiting area of the Italian Immigration office! Kayleigh, Matt and Matt's host cousin played Briscola, an Italian card game played with Spanish cards. Sierra and I both found the game extremely confusing, so we just watched. Than we played a  variation of the game spoons it was a lot of fun, but before we could play a 5th round it was my turn to go into the office. By this time it was already 10:45am. In the office the man looked at my passport, put some information into his computer than took all my finger prints and both of my palm prints. After that I had to sign a couple of pieces of paper. In all it took 2 and a half hours from the time I arrived there this morning to the time I left. It was definitely a much more enjoyable experience than that of the Italian Visa office in Toronto, but I still hate all government offices!  

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Success! Thanksgiving in Italy

Ciao Tutti,
I did it! I succeed! I cooked the perfect Thanksgiving turkey! Moist and succulent, everything a turkey should be! 
Today was a very long day of cooking and eating. I never realized how exhausting cooking a meal like Thanksgiving could be.  I have much respect for all the mothers and grandmothers out there! 

So my day started off with Angela waking Kayleigh and I up at 9:30am. Than I made pancakes with maple syrup for everyone! It was so nice to have maple syrup again! Then Kayleigh host dad picked her up and Lauretta and I got down to business. First we organised the cooking and prep times that would need to happen in a specific order. At 1:30pm we began preparing the turkey and all that the entails.

Then at 2:30pm we put the turkey in the oven. Next we peeled and chopped all the vegetables. That took a long time because there were so many of them! Next we did the mashed potatoes. That was when Ashley came over to help. Since Ashley and I are the only two Canadians in D2050 we wanted to celebrate our Thanksgiving. Once we finished boiling the taters we moved on to laying the vegetables on to 2 baking sheets. 

 When the turkey was finished we tented it with foil and let it rest in the microwave to keep it's heat. We didn't have it on though! Then we put the veggies in the oven and cranked it up to 230* C. While the veggies were cooking we made the rice. Once the veggies finished cooking and everyone arrived we put everything into bowls! Since neither Ashley or I knew how to carve a turkey we let Lauretta do the honours. All the food tasted amazing and we managed to serve everything hot. For dessert we ate the tirami su  that Angela and I made on Friday! I had never tried it before and I really liked it! Although the gravy ended up being really thick and the cranberry sauce wasn't exactly how my mom or my grandmother would have made it was still a really good Thanksgiving dinner. 

It did make me feel a little depressed. I was just sitting at the table thinking, here I am in strange country, celebrating a holiday that they don't even celebrate here, with people who are not my family. I'm feeling pretty low now. I miss my family! I miss seeing my cousins and my aunts and uncles and my grandparents. I miss the changing of the leaves and the crisp, fresh air. But most all I miss the security of knowing that everyone that loves me is sitting in the same room. 
Even though I have been feeling sad periodically today, it was still a great Thanksgiving, and I'm so stoked that I was able to pull it off! 

Ciao Ragazzi,
Amanda ♥