Vacation on Vacation

Hello Reader,

It’s September in Rome. Rain storms are coming and going like rumors in high school. At seven and a half months old my niece is almost standing on her own, and her brother is almost ready to crawl. After three months in Italy I’m preparing myself mentally to fly back home to California.

It surprises me, the passing of time. Last month I was in Palinuro, Italy. Last weekend I was in Cartagena, Spain. Next week I’ll be back in the USA. I’m so grateful to the universe because I have had this opportunity to travel. I’m grateful to my friends and family that have hosted me over here in Europe. I’m also grateful to myself for having decided to take this trip when I saw the opportunity.

Palinuro is such a beautiful place. If Italy is shaped like a boot, Palinuro is a boot within the boot (see the picture below this paragraph). While I was there with the Calitalianos we did some serious relaxing. What a deal! We went to the beach twice a day for two weeks and ate amazing food. One dish that my sister’s mother-in-law, Rosa, made took her two days to prepare. She sun-dried a pan of sliced zucchini to bake with parmesan and tomato sauce (I was told that the sauce was hand-made by someone in Rosa’s town).

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The most thrilling part of Palinuro was kayaking around the little boot. I was looking for this private boat-access-only beach, but I went around the entire cape looking for it. This took about three hours total. When I got back to the house later my sister told me that I passed the beach in the first thirty minutes of my adventure. So it goes…

Last Friday in Spain, I met up with some friends that I met while studying in Germany two years ago. There was a festival going on in Cartagena to celebrate the history of the region. For me, this meant that we would stay out until 5am drinking at the festival. It also meant that to fit in I would have to dress like a slave of the Roman Empire. The next day we rented a sail boat and sailed around Mar Menor, literally called the Little Sea. Then on Sunday I got back onto a plane at 8am and flew back to Rome.

I had such a blast in Spain. Who wants to go spend a lot of money to go to a big famous city and sit on a bus full of strangers while someone tells you what you ought to know about the city, when you could actually just go to some place like Cartagena and hang out with your friends ’til 5am and wake up the next day and go pee off the front end of a sail boat after a couple of your friends spilt last night’s liquor off the port and starboard side?

Okay maybe that’s a little harsh (and gross). If you want to go and spend a typical vacation abroad there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, you should! Travel as much as you can. Take every chance that you can get. I think it’s one of the most important things to do in the world. Get out and meet as many people as you can. Exchange ideas! Broaden your surroundings and let the place that you came from and all of the drama or problems there shrink as you fall in love with every new place that you find while traveling.

All and all I’m considering myself lucky that I can do any of this at all. All of the Palinuro pictures are in the last blog, this weeks pictures are all from Cartagena and Mar Menor. Thanks for reading! 🙂

Turn Out the Lights

Let’s talk about tricks of the mind on itself for a moment (It’s going to get dark in here). Have you ever been holding onto a harmful idea while knowing the the idea will only hurt you. Smokers might relate to this. You can’t quit the habit but you know people who’ve been taken to death by causes directly linked to tobacco use like heart disease or cancer. I smoked for six years before I took leave from that bus ride, whose destination was likely tragic.

I think that it’s easy to ignore the future. We can say, “Life is about the journey, not the destination.” This saying just as well say to me, “The future doesn’t exist. What is now is forever, and the choices you make now will carry you only to a further-actualized image of yourself.” The journey is endless. I don’t know why I think that what is now is forever. It’s just an intuition that carries me.

You might be thinking, “Okay Matt, you’re off the rocker. You lost me at tricks of the mind. What are you getting at here?” Let’s say your roommates have an argument, and it’s none of your business but it’s loud and you have to witness. You feel a moral obligation to speak in ones defense. Do you speak out when you favor one of your roommates, or think that the other is being unfair in their argument? If it’s really none of your business then why do you feel so guilty in your silence… You’re idea of self hinges on how you do or don’t respond to their argument.

I have been living in a studio apartment with my sister, her fiancé and their infant twins for just over two months now.  I’ve questioned my position in this house a few times when it’s been hard to get along. Mostly it’s been smooth sailing though- Eating great Italian food and quality time with this side of my family. Other times it’s not been so easy.

I’m holding onto the idea of gratitude though, especially when we don’t all get along. I’m grateful for my place here. My mind might trick me into feeling guilt or sorrow but really I’ve got it great. I’m still on vacation and my only real obligation is to make the most of it. Here are some pictures from the last couple weeks.

Blog Time, No See

Hello there, reader!

I’ve come back to write you about a few of the recent developments in my life. I’m helping OrientDB rewrite some of their Database Management System (DBMS) documentation. I’m leaving Rome today to visit Salerno and the Palinuro, Italy, with the Janel, Massimo, and the Twins; Leo and Bea (I asked Janel for a shorter way to say all of those names and she suggested ‘ The Calitalianos’). Also, I’ve got a definite date for flying back the the US! In other Calitaliano news, I just put Bea down for a nap.

Putting her to sleep is a big accomplishment in this house, because usually she’ll only sleep while her mother is breastfeeding her. You can earn a lot of points for putting her down without the magic of the milk. I’m celebrating this afternoon with a beer and this blog. You’ve gotta reward yourself for your achievements, it’s good for self efficacy!

On the note of self efficacy I want to talk about something that’s been on my mind. The reason I’m taking this year off after my Bachelors degree, and living with the Calitalianos is so that I could have time to consider what I want from my life after my undergraduate achievements. I’ve decided to pursue graduate school in California. Also as far as graduate school applications go, I will only apply for Ph.D programs in Mathematics. This is a bit of a leap because I did my B.S. in Computer Science- not the same subject.

It’s clear to me that math is the thing that’s calling me though. The books I lean towards when I’m at the book store are books about math or it’s history and players. When I’m bored I go to math community forms online and see what problems people are puzzling over. The classes that I felt the most confident is raising questions in were often math. I’m confident that this is where I’m suppose to be putting my attention.

I  often hear people tell me, “But Matt, all the money… all the jobs… all the important things are in Computer Science.” It’s somewhat true, there are a lot of computer science jobs and most pay well, but I’m less sure that that’s where my calling is. Another way I’m seeing things right now is… If I fail to get into the Ph.D program I’m after, then I will have given myself a comfortable cushion to fall on. I’m not any less qualified for the same career paths that are available to me right now should I try and fail to pursue myself as a mathematician.

So there you go reader, there is your peek into my thoughts. Next the we talk I hope to be showing you pictures of the warm Mediterranean beaches of Palinuro, Italy. Thanks for reading! Here are some recent pictures I’ve taken.

Paint’s Peeling

Hello again Dear Reader,

Since last we met somethings have changed, and others are still the same. I’m still living in Rome with my sister, her fiancé Massimo, and their children- the twins Leo and Bea. I’m still slowly making my way through a book on Real Analysis (I’m no longer unaware of what a Cauchy sequence is (I might blame math for making me think it’s okay to write statements in double negatives) ). I’m also no longer jobless!

Through a friend of Janel’s I’ve started preparing for an internship with OrientDB here in Rome. This is way-super-exciting to me because I’ve been out of school for only a few months and have dropped into a foreign country and already I’ve got people outside of academia (in the Real World) interested in my skills as a coder! I’m not trying to brag or anything, but I am really excited to work with the creators of OrientDB. Right now I’m halfway through an online course at udemy.com that introduces graph-databases and how to use OrientDB’s software.

Also in the way of new news, I’ve taken my first solo-two-night-excision into a place unknown! I went to Bologna a few days ago, and it was fantastic. I met some nice people and biked around the town almost the entire time. Biking around in Bologna is unlike biking anywhere in the US. The streets are narrower, the buildings are older, and the drives are nuttier. I just feel blessed that I got to take such a trip.

I think the funniest part of the trip came after I biked up to Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca. I left the sanctuary famished by the bike ride. I stopped at the first Pizzaria-Kabab I found because I knew these generally have cheap and filling food. The three guys working there were all from Pakistan and all obviously interested in me, by the way they asked me a ton of questions (Where are you from, how long are you here, do you like this city, why this city, … ). I better say now too, that they had a genuinely friendly way about asking me things.

I feel delusional for having thought this, but in the back of my head was… “what if these three guys are terrorists AND they want to know so much about me to see if I’m right for abducting!”  There – I said it. And it sounds so silly and improbable to me now.

In defense of this possibility though, I reflected all of their questions and friendliness back at them. Surely if these guys are in it with the terrorists, then I might be able to charm them into continuing their friendliness feigned until it would become sincere! Now this sounds just as silly to me too. If they really were terrorists then they would have had a deep-rooted hatred for the western world. Why would they open a restaurant in a European college town and make such friendly, idle conversation with an American if this was so? It doesn’t matter whether my delusional (likely conditioned) fear of mine was true or not though because what happened here was hilarious!

I learned that the oldest of them had moved to the city eight years ago and opened shop to sell kebabs and pizza. The youngest of the three guys didn’t talk much. When I asked what food on their menu didn’t have meat, (“Che comida senza carne”) I was told that I was handsome. I still don’t know if this was a genuine flirting advance or if it was the older man’s way of voicing his supposition: A man who doesn’t want to eat meat must be gay. It didn’t matter to me though. I just accepted the complement and kept putting together my order, trying to do it in Italian as best I could.

I soon learned that all three guys spoke English. One was giving me Italian lessons by naming all the ingredients in the food that I ordered. He even invited me to the kitchen to see where they were prepared the food. The paranoid/delusional part of me screamed not to go into the kitchen but by now I had dismissed the notion that these men were dangerous as comical. They were so nice!

I’m sure you’ll take what you will from that story, but if I can let myself get a little preachy on my own blog I’ll say that the first thought that you have about a person (especially a fearful thought) is generally unfounded. I think it’s important to not let your thought be who you are. You can have a thought about a person or place or other thing but it’s okay to simply acknowledge it and then leave it there. If I clung to every first thought I have had I’m not sure where I would be, but I know I wouldn’t be where I am.

753 words before this paragraph. I should cut my shpeele here and drop some pictures now. Thanks for reading! See ya next whenever I write on here again ;D

Here I am, just as promised to myself by me one week ago (Thanks Chloe for reminding me)! This week in Rome has been a challenge and a triumph. I babysat my five month old niece and nephew alone two days in a row, and now I realize that babies are self-destructive and cautionless human beings. I have a new respect for parents everywhere, because watching babies is hard. And I only did it for about three hours each day!
Also this week, I’ve started a new photo project called Fountains of Rome. I’ll share all of the pictures at the bottom of the page here. I think the name says it all but I’ll tell you now, they are all drinking fountains that I’ve captured for this project.
That’s all folks!

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First Week

So I let myself go, in my own eyes, way too long without posting anything here. I have to stick to some kind of schedule or else this blog is not going to work. From now on it’s Friday. Fridays I will post to the world wide web to update you, reader, as well as Future Matt wherever he is… about what this Writer Matt has been doing, seeing, eating and smelling. Anyways, that enough self berating psycho-babble. . .

When I last posted on this blog I was on my way to Italy, and BEHOLD! I made it.

On my way here I stopped in Istanbul, Turkey. There was a terrorist attack on the airport literally minutes after my plane left the gate. I didn’t hear about the attack until my plane touched down in Rome, and nobody on the flight or at Fiumicino airport (FCO) mentioned anything about the attack, although the bus that took me from the plane to FCO was met by armed guards and a random baggage check.

Since arriving in Rome things have been going well. I’ve been eating lots of different gelatos, and exploring the city on foot with my sister, niece and nephew. Janel’s fiancé, Massimo and I have been going on morning runs together. I’m having a great time out here.

Enough with the words though, here are some of my favorite pictures that I’ve taken so far. See you next Friday!

Love and Logic

Since I left Redding a few days ago I’ve driven between 300 and 400 miles. I went surfing in Pacifica, California, celebrated Pride in San Francisco, and got sunburned at Alameda Beach. In Pacifica I also lost my drivers license, found it again, and played ping-pong at a bar with my cousin. That night I stayed with another cousin in the south bay area a few blocks from Apple. We had pizza and watched baseball there. I cheated my vegetarian diet that night for a King Arthur Supreme from Round Table.

The next day I stopped to visit more family in east bay area and finally drove north to Oakland where I got a chance to settle and relax for a couple of nights at my grandma’s house. Just as I drove up to the house, my grandma and aunt were leaving to go out for lunch. I went with them.

It’s felt like I’ve been in constant motion for such a long time now, and today I’ll be boarding a plane and flying to the other side of the world. I’m feeling a bit down right now to be honest. It’s kinda like being homesick before I leave home.

My dad made me breakfast this morning. Leaving here hurts, but I know I’m not framing things in my mind as best I can right now. I mean… I can’t let myself dwell on what I think I’m leaving behind. I’m lucky for how much my dad cares about me, that he’ll do anything for me, including making me breakfast on the day I leave the country. I’m grateful that I can go and visit Janel, her fiancé, and my nice and nephew half way around the world. I’m so lucky in a million ways that I cannot even realize right now.

So that’s what’s really going on in my head 6 hours before I board this plane. I’m divided between feeling so lucky and free to make this trip, and also feeling guilty for being sad to say goodbye to California. I know I’ll be alright. Thank you everyone who has supported and encouraged me to do this.

Thanks mom and dad and Aunty Carol, Chloe, Miguel, Karlie, Professor Haag, Brad, and Scott… Seth, Matt, and Kyle, Maria, Sinem, Carlos, Evan, Jonah, Danny and Ashley. Thank you especially Janel and Massimo. I’m grateful for everyone whose encouragement pushed me to make this decision, and those who have inspired me to make traveling a part of my life.

That being said, here are some pictures  from the last couple of days on the road and in the Bay Area.