2011 Spring Matthew Flocco Temple Rome

Il volto, parte 1

So Spring Break….absolutely amazing. There was a group of eight of us that went from Rome to Barcelona, Barcelona to Madrid, and Madrid to Venice. This was all during Carnevale (Carnival), which is a roughly two week celebration leading up to Ash Wednesday. It’s just like Mardi Gras, same concept but with masks and not beads.

Before I talk about the masks, I just want to further emphasize how awesome Spring Break was. Not because of all the really good food and bars and all that, but moreso because of the people we met on the trip. “Il volto” means face, so I wanted to talk about people themselves.

Barcelona alone was by far the best city of break, and possibly my favorite city in the world (still deciding between that and Rome, Philly is my 3rd favorite…yes over New York). Our hostel was located very near to Las Ramblas, which is the main strip of the city. It leads right to the Mediterranean Sea. Within 4 days, we met people from all over the world.

My friend Becca and I shared a hostel room with a girl from Brazil named Rossa. She was treating herself to travel for her birthday, so she hung with us for two days. One night we all went out to a small night club and she asked why Americans go crazy when they dance. Then she taught me how they dance in Brazil, and that it’s nothing personal. Just because you dance close with someone in a sensual way doesn’t mean you have a thing for them. So I can now officially say I danced with a slightly older Brazilian woman, no strings attached! We also met Emma and Chris from Canada. Chris was on five weeks holiday, and Emma lives in Europe, so they were travelling together. Cal, from Scotland, was definitely the most…interesting of the characters. Really cool guy, but every other sentence out of his mouth was about drugs or anarchy. To each his own I guess. Then there were our nextdoor neighbors, a group of about seven French kids who were always in the lobby, either making dinner, eating dinner, or drinking. There was even a little old lady from Holland that was in our room; retired and just wanted to travel the world. At the front desk was Gian Carlo, a Peruvian that was our age; and Oliver, a Brit who spoke four different languages. I asked him how he knew so much, and he said that he was currently living with an Italian, and just taught himself French and Spanish. He said he learns about 100 vocab words a day (which is nuts), but a professor told him if you work up to 20 a day, you will learn the language so fast. So I want to strive to get to that point. We’ll see…

That was just in the hostel. I also bought two paintings off an artist from the Netherlands, who spoke five languages. Before entering the Sagrada Familia (which was AWESOME by the way), I bought lunch from a “Tropical” sandwhich shop. I explained to the waitress that I wanted to learn Spanish, and it was 20 minutes of trying to speak Spanish with her before I realized she was from England. At an Irish pub, I got to talk to a guy from Boston named Chris who works in radio. There were many more exchanges, but these are the ones I remember the most. In Madrid, we went on a pub crawl. Here I talked to a New Zealander who was teaching English in France, two Italians named Stefano and Rimini, and two kids from China that were studying in Germany. They taught me how to say

“Hello”…你好…”Nǐ hǎo”


“Do you speak Chinese?”…你会讲中文吗…”Nǐ huì jiǎng zhōngwén ma?”

I repeated all three back to them but only could remember Nǐ hǎo. Oh well, I’m facebook friends with them so maybe I can learn that way?

The closest I got to a foreign language besides Italian in Venice was speaking English to Fernando, a Brazilian friend of my friend Dan. He’s currently working in Florence. His English is excellent, my Portuguese doesn’t exist. I also got to talk to some British kids in a bar about Spain, and the English language in general, and how it’s upsetting that only just recently are English-speaking children taught other languages from such a young age. The rest of the city was extremely touristy, so it was mostly just English and Italian. Va bene.

Talking to all these people really made me want to learn other languages. I’ve never had a desire to be proficient or fluent, just to get by, but I feel that might change by the time I leave in two months.

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