Pizza brings people together, politics tears them apart

Shana Pike
November 3, 2016

Real talk: I tried a few times and a few hours to organize a nicely laid out blog post to recap my feelings from my first trip since coming to Amsterdam. I jotted down notes on the laughable and frustrating events that happened over the course of my 6 day trip. I’ve read them over and over, but I have a lot of mixed feelings that I can’t seem to flush out in my typical “blog format”.

Rather than continue to search the corners of my brain for organization and a clean presentation, I’m deciding to just share my raw thoughts through an open, disorganized, and jumbled platform.

  • It’s really interesting to see the people who “like” and comment on your Facebook posts when they’re pictures of pizza from Italy versus when they’re about the Dakota Access Pipeline.


  • It’s really strange to say “grazie” unironically.


  • A guy at the train station tried to hustle us while we were figuring out how to buy tickets at the kiosk. We insisted we were fine and to please go away, but he stayed. Luckily nothing happened, but if I wouldn’t have read about Italy prior to coming, I wouldn’t have been as conscious of pick-pocketers and hustlers.


  • Have you ever eaten an uncut pizza with a fork and a knife? Spoiler alert: It’s pretty awkward. But that’s how pizza is served in Italy.


  • I don’t like Italian food that much. Not enough vegetables. Too much bread.


  • Eating at 8:30 at night makes for a long time in the restaurant.


  •  If you order an Italian dessert you’ve never heard of, it may be soaked in weird liquor and taste spongy. Just heads up. (Boba is what I’m referring to here. I’m glad I tried it, but I would never eat it again. Oddly, it tasted exactly like this little strange candy a friend of mine had me try from Norway)


  • Functioning in a language that you don’t speak is thrilling, beautiful, and frustrating.


  • Italian is a very pretty language to listen to and be confused about when compared to the water-gurgling sounds of Dutch…


  • The public transportation is anarchy. Where do you buy tickets? How do you buy tickets? I have no idea. In Naples, everyone just got on and off the trains and buses. (Or the trains didn’t come at all…)


  • When you’re traveling with someone and hearing them retell a story, there’s a lot of potential (unintentional?) fabrication that goes into each retelling. No, you actually didn’t say to that person “I got the tickets, Bitch!” when we haggled with the train company for new tickets because of the unreliable transportation… but okay. Aunt Such-and-Such won’t know any different.


  • I thought people in the Netherlands stared a lot… until I was blatantly a foreigner in Southern Italy. I was met with a lot of unabashed staring and creeper-on-the-train lip-licking (picture that for a moment) when I confronted him.  


  • I have the privilege of appearing as someone who “belongs” in Wisconsin, as a white woman-presenting person. This privilege translates in Amsterdam sometimes, but it didn’t in Italy, which was both eye-opening and frustrating. I can’t imagine dealing with that kind of frustration in my home country.


  • If you speak broken Spanish and English, you can mostly communicate with Italian speakers.


  • Limoncello is quite delicious, although it looks radioactively yellow – it’s a lemon-flavored liquor that’s traditional consumed with dessert and can be found in cute over-priced decorated bottles all over Italy.


  • Waiters look at you very strange if you only order one thing off of a three-course style menu. That’s what you get when the restaurants are over your price range.


  • Don’t order something you expect to split with someone at a restaurant without consulting them. In Italy, this item is often a bottle of wine that’s intended to be shared with dinner.  


  • Exploring outside of the “sites” is really worthwhile and enjoyable (at least for me!). When we were in Florence, after scaling up a substantial hill to Michelangelo piazza, I saw the most remarkable view that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. It wasn’t on the map or on our list of “must dos” for the day.


  • There are too many tourists on small islands (read: Capri). If I had to walk by one more tourist shop with flip-flops and the same block-print T-shirts, I was going to lose it.


  • When picking a travel buddy (especially in a study abroad setting), make sure the “honeymoon phase” of your friendship is over. There’s a lot of personal and important things to deal with when traveling that need addressing if you travel with others.


  • The best part of this trip was meeting the loveliest Russian woman who grabbed my hand after a long line conversation waiting to get into the Firenze Duomo and said, “Your country is a beautiful country. My country is a beautiful country and no matter what comes between our countries, we’re friends.”

I have a remarkable and memorable time during this trip, with a lot of conflicting experiences. This was a huge learning experience for me – it was the first international trip I’ve taken without any program or outside organization helping me, it was my first trip that I took with a peer, it was the first time traveling somewhere that I couldn’t get by using English (Amsterdam is really nice, in that regard). I’m glad they all happened, good and bad.  Besides, meeting the kind Russian lady whose name I don’t know was worth it all in of itself. 

Shana Pike

<p>Hello folks! I&#39;m Shana, a small-town tree-hugger with a big appetite for experiences, culture, and knowledge. I&#39;m an undergrad student of Psychology and Gender Studies, yearning to understand my surroundings better each day. Welcome to my conglomeration of ideas and passions, all nourished by traveling, friends, spinach, and coffee.</p>

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