Thursday, January 31, 2013

SUCCESS


Sweet sparkling white wine for me :)

“Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.”   Paulo Coelho"
Love, Chris

Sunday, January 27, 2013

I Love You to the Moon and Back: A Venice Story

This was easily the best weekend I've had this whole semester. We took an 8am fast train to Venice out of Rome on Saturday, and pulled in a little before 12. I'd had a rough night on Friday and was feeling pretty low about this whole studying abroad thing, but as soon as I stepped out the doors of the train station, everything turned around. Venice is the most beautiful place I've ever seen. After the crazy fast paced claustrophobia of Rome, Venice was exactly what I needed.


It was such a beautiful day. Everyone had warned us about how cold it would be, and I don't know if it's just the New Hampshire blood in me, but it was actually so nice out. We got to take the vaporetto (the public transportation through the canals, via boat) to our hotel, and it was breathtaking to see the city for the first time. We dropped our stuff at the hotel and set off to explore our neighborhood and eat lunch.

I honestly had the best meal I've had this whole semester. It was a Biancarosa pizza (prosciutto and cheese) and I swear my biggest regret so far is that I got too full to finish it. It was glorious.


After that, the group headed to San Marco, where Mark the Evangelist (like the Gospel of Mark, Mark) was laid to rest. It was incredible.

We had about 3 hours until we had to meet back for dinner so most of the girls headed to Murano, where all of the glass is made (and also where I bought a fair amount of gifts for people!). It was surprisingly quiet there. It's definitely the off season for them, but it was kind of nice to have the stores to ourselves.

As we were riding the vaporetto back to our meeting place for dinner, I was looking out at the beautiful night sky, and the moon reflecting off the water was mesmerizing. It made me think of how just one night before, which now seemed like forever ago, I had been so homesick and missing everyone so much, unsure of my place here in Italy. But as I saw the moon, I realized that it was the same moon you all can look up and see tonight, and the same moon I see at home. So even though I spent Friday night and some other low points in this semester feeling every one of the 4500 miles that separate me from all of you, on Saturday night, those miles felt like nothing at all.

And on Sunday, we finished our stay with Mass at San Marco, and a gondola ride!




Here's the  Venice Facebook Album if you want to check out more pictures from our ride and of the city.

Love (to the moon and back), Chris

Thursday, January 24, 2013

March for Life

This has been an eventful week for DC, with the inauguration on Monday, an inch of snow today (which is always noteworthy there) and as many of you know, the March for Life is taking place tomorrow in DC. It's an annual protest against the Roe v. Wade legislation, and over 400,000 are expected to participate this year. I went as a pilgrim with Trinity in high school, and would have loved to go with CUA again this year. The pro-life cause is really important to me, and I was actually asked to write an article for CUA's pro-life journal, so look for a piece by me in that later in the semester!

My prayers are with all of you that will be marching tomorrow!

“I've noticed everyone who is for abortion has already been born.” -Ronald Reagan

Love, Chris

P.S- VENICE this weekend!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Experience

Tonight as I stepped off the metro, a woman was in front of me. In fact, I was behind her all the way to my destination. On the way, I noticed that she caught the glance of every person that passed, man and woman alike. As I trailed behind her, I realized that not a single person that passed us by could resist looking her up and down.

So who was this mystery woman? A celebrity? Did she have a recognizable face, maybe a magnetic smile?

No. She had ‘shorts’ that covered an inch of her thigh, sheer black pantyhose, and leopard print boots that went past her knee.

Is this really what I’m up against as a young woman today? It was so striking to me that not a single person could resist looking this woman up and down as they passed by us. Is the glance of every person that passes me by what I’m striving for?

I hope not. That’s not the kind of attention I want to get, even though I’m taught to, by our society, our magazine covers, and our media. Instead, it’s up to me to decide what I want to do to make the world take notice. I can tell you one thing- it won’t have anything to do with my hemline.


*also posted as a status on my Facebook on Jan 22


"What a strange illusion it is to suppose that beauty is goodness." -Leo Tolstoy

Love, Chris

Sunday, January 20, 2013

It's okay to not be okay

One of the things that has helped me the most as I adjust to studying abroad in Rome is remembering to be patient with myself. After all, I'm only just beginning my 3rd week here in a totally different country. The language, the customs, and the entire way of life is foreign to me.  I'm the most independent I've ever been. I'm separated from everyone I love and everything familiar to me.

It's hard.

And that's okay. It's okay that I'm not okay. It's okay that I don't feel home here yet, or that I can't confidently say that I feel like I belong here.  It's okay that I spent my Saturday night Skyping with my parents and watching a movie in my room, and had a Nutella and jelly sandwich for dinner, even though I'm in Rome and that's so great and I need to take advantage of how great it is that I'm here.

You know what? My parents are great. And the movie Due Date with Robert Downey Jr. is great, and don't even try to tell me Nutella isn't great.

Because sometimes, no matter how cool the city right outside is, that's just what you need to do. And I do know that it's great that I'm here, and I'm going to miss it when I leave, and that this is such a great opportunity for me to make the most of. And I'll get there. But right now, it's important for me to remember that I'm doing alright, right where I'm at.

"I find that it is a lot easier and more bearable to be sad when you aren't constantly berating yourself for being sad." - John Green

Love, Chris

Friday, January 18, 2013

Saying goodbye

I wrote this letter to my Papa and gave it to him the last time I saw him. It's being read by my sister Emily at his funeral today, and if you don't mind, I'd like to share it here with you.


Dear Papa,

When I heard that you were sick, I asked a few of my friends to pray for you.  One of my friends, Joe, gave me this bracelet to give to you, along with the message that he hopes you feel better.  Joe works at the Basilica that’s next to my college in the gift shop.  He got the bracelet from there. I thought maybe you could put it on your wheelchair or hang it on the rearview mirror in the car. It has little pictures of saints on it, and I have one just like it.


You’re the only grandfather I ever had, and I love you. Some of the greatest memories I have from my childhood are from playing in your house on Marlaine Drive, and hearing your stories, and eating the food you cooked for all of us. I loved visiting you in Florida and going to Disney World with you. 

Thank you for giving me such an incredible family. I love all of your children, my aunts and uncles, and all of their kids, all my cousins.  Thank you especially for raising my dad to be such a great man, and for marrying Grandma, who is one of the most wonderful ladies I know.  All of these people bring so much joy to my life, and so do you.

I’m so sorry that you’re sick, and that you’ve been in so much pain for so long.  But I hope you will be comforted, as I am, by knowing that God has a beautiful home waiting for you in Heaven. 

Hopefully I’ll see you there someday.

Love,
Christine

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

2 weeks later

Just two weeks ago, I was sitting in Logan Airport waiting for my flight out of the US. I was full of excitement and anxiety for what was to come.

2 weeks later, so much of the unknown, just as I had thought, is known. Here's some of the details and some parts of my life in Rome I'd like to share with you all!

First, the basics:

  • Rome is 6 hours ahead of the East Coast (fun fact: this means my mom and I are finally on the same schedule! We've been Skyping here more than we ever did when we were in the same time zone!)
  • My 'meal plan' is 60 euros worth of 'meal tickets' each week.  Many bars and some restaurants in my neighborhood and throughout Rome take meal tickets, as well as the grocery stores. The meal tickets are in 5 euro denominations, and it's pretty easy to stretch them for the whole week. Also, it's really hard to call them meal tickets, my mind just naturally calls them 'food stamps' and I can't get it out of my head. So classy.
  • The CUA program uses St. John's building in the Prati neighborhood of Rome. It's a nice area, and the Lepanto Metro Stop is just a couple minutes away. I have a St. John's ID that I show to the security guard at the front desk, and I key into both my hallway and my single room. Classrooms and the office are on the 2nd floor of the building, and CUA students have a wing to themselves on the 3rd floor. There are also St. John's students and a couple other American universities using the facilities here.
  • There are 45 students in the program. The University of Loyola Maryland is included with our program, but their students (there are about 25) are required to do a homestay, so they aren't living in the dorm with CUA students. They do take classes with us.
The all important studying component of "studying abroad;" My classes:
  1. Philosophy of Art 
  2. Italy in American and British Literature
  3. The Mass
  4. Christian Feasts and Devotions
  5. Italian 101
  • Italian is the only class that isn't taught at St. John's. For Italian, I take the metro to Spagna and take classes at Italiaidea. This class is taught on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 3:30-6:30. It's intensive, and even though it's 101, the teacher speaks only Italian during class. This class will end on February 28, after midterms.
  • All other classes meet once a week for 3 hours. Some include regular site visits. 
  • Since classes meet weekly, that means each class truly has a week's worth of information and homework. It's a lot to take in, but it also allows our schedules to be pretty free. I don't have class on Mondays, and only Italian on Fridays. (yup, that means after February, I'll have a 4-day weekend every week!)
Things to get used to: (AKA the few things I don't like here)
  • Rome is a very smoky and dusty city. 
  • Cobblestones are tough to walk on, but especially when they are wet!
  • It's safe to drink water from any of the fountains, yet we're not recommended to drink water from the dorm (something about rusty pipes). As someone who goes through at least 3 water bottles a day, not having unlimited access to water in my building might be the hardest thing for me to get used to.
Staying in touch:
  • Skype name: christine-fontaine
  • Email: 18fontaine@cardinalmail.cua.edu
  • Address: All the info below must be included
Christine Fontaine
The Catholic University of America
Via Marcantonio Colonna 21a
00192 Roma
ITALY
telephone: +39 37 7167 6580
fax: +39 06 3938 4209
email: 18fontaine@cardinalmail.cua.edu


That's all for now, folks! Thank you for all your prayers and kind words for my family since the death of my grandfather. 
"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be." -Douglas Adams

Love, Chris

Rest in peace, Papa. Even though I can't say a final goodbye to you with the family at home, I look forward to saying hello again in Heaven. See you someday, Papa...Love you always


It's so tough to not be home with my family right now. But I'm so blessed to have family that makes sure I feel loved and missed as I mourn with them from 4500 miles away, and friends to reach out to at CUA. I woke up this morning to emails full of love and support. Thank you so much. 

Love, Chris

Monday, January 14, 2013

This morning I toured the underground necropolis of the Vatican where I saw the bones of St. Peter, and then prayed in front of Blessed JPII's tomb in St. Peter's Basilica.

I still can't believe this is my life.

Rome might not feel like home yet, and I'm still a little cautious and unsure as I make my way around my new city.

But in St. Peter's, I felt like I was exactly where I belonged. 

I felt home

Know of the prayers said for all you of at home and at CUA this morning!

But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.
C.S. Lewis
Love, Chris

Sunday, January 13, 2013

When lost for words, use someone else's

(To be clear, I am not sanctioning plagiarism)

What I mean is that I have a slight obsession with quotes.

My obsession has led to quite the accumulation of other people's words. I have quotes on my walls, on my mirror, on my closet door, in notes on my phone, and plastered on the background of my computer.

If, like me, you find inspiration from those who have been where you've been, or gone through what you're going through, or are just simply better people than you are, then you might enjoy the addition I'll be featuring in all future blog posts.

I'll be ending each post with one. Perhaps with a reflection on what it means to me, how I happened on it, or just letting it speak for itself.

I hope you like them!

"When folks ask me about intercession of the saints, I like saying this: In prayer, we always go to Jesus. Sometimes, we bring friends with us." -Cardinal Dolan

Please continue to pray for my family, and especially to St. Joseph (patron saint of a peaceful death) for my grandfather.

Love, Chris

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Pictures

For those of you following along who don't have Facebook, here's a link to some photos I just put up from my first week!

Facebook Album: ROME (January '13)


Friday, January 11, 2013

Sad news from home

Although it's only been four days since I last posted, I have to admit that I feel like I've been putting this off for much longer. It's been a rough few days. As some of you know, my Papa (my dad's dad) was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) in October. It's been a tough time for my family, as the disease has progressed rapidly, enough so that I knew when I saw him at Christmas, I was seeing him for the last time. I was able to write a goodbye letter to him, and my grandmother has actually asked if it could be read at his funeral, which is comforting for me to know, since I won't be able to fly back home and be with my family for it.

The day that I flew to Rome, Jan 2nd, Papa was admitted to the hospital, where doctors found early signs of pneumonia. Things have worsened since then, and my whole family (my dad has 4 siblings, and I have ten cousins- there's a lot of us) has realized that it's time to say goodbye. Now Papa has been moved from the hospital, where he started receiving end of life care, to his home, according to his wishes. He's been given about a day.

As you can imagine, it's a really tough time to not be with my family, especially right in the middle of the first week of classes and only just starting to know everybody in the program. Everyone has been really nice, but what was a real God-send was that my friend Karin, from home, was actually on vacation in Italy this week, so I was able to spend the day with her on Wednesday, which was a much-needed reunion. Showing her around my neighborhood, and taking a beautiful tour of the park Villa Borghese, really took my mind off of things and lifted my spirits.

In the meantime, classes have started and I'm starting to settle in here in Roma. I'll post again soon with details about my neighborhood, what classes are like, and my mission to find a wine that I can actually take more than one sip of! (I promised myself that I would try every glass...so far nothing has made it past the first sip...)

Please keep my family in your prayers.

Love, Chris

Monday, January 7, 2013

Epiphany Mass with Pope Benedict XVI

Well, I can cross off "Mass with the Pope in St. Peter's Basilica" off my bucket list! Last Sunday, for Epiphany, CUA got us tickets to the papal mass (tickets are free to the public, you just need to reserve them from the bishops office). Mass was at 9am, and the gates into the basilica open at 7:30, so in order to be near the front, we left the hotel a little after 7 and were standing outside at 7:30. There was a pretty big crowd already, but the line moved quickly, and after 3 security checkpoints, we were in!

It was quite an experience. Full disclosure... I fell asleep a few times

Reasons for why this is understandable:

  • Jet lag / I'd been up since 7 and hadn't been sleeping well
  • THE ENTIRE THING WAS IN A DIFFERENT LANGUAGE (I knew this going in, but still)

Seriously though, I'm so glad I got to go and experience it. It was incredible to actually see the Pope in person. Unreal.




The Homily (in English)

If you don't have time to read the whole thing, this was my favorite part (After reading the translation the next day, of course):
"Human beings have an innate restlessness for God, but this restlessness is a participation in God's own restlessness for us. Since God is concerned about us, He follows us even to the crib, even to the Cross."

Another post to come soon about Orientation and life in Rome!

Love, Chris

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Time to Go

After a whirlwind 2 and a half weeks of break....

CUA friends from NH, MA, and RI met up at LaSalette Shrine in Attleboro, MA to see the Festival of Lights

Family did a 2 night stay at Mt. Washington in the White Mountains of NH after Christmas
My family at Mt. Washington

I'm now sitting in my gate at Boston Logan Airport! I'll fly from here to Dublin, and then in Dublin I'll meet up with Caitlin, another CUA girl in the program, and we have the same connecting flight into Rome. Hopefully we'll be able to seamlessly navigate our way through the airport to get a taxi to school (Based on the not-so-graceful way I made my way from the parking garage to the terminal with my 2 50lb suitcases in tow, this is not likely).

Once Caitlin and I get to school, we'll just drop our bags and head to a nearby hotel for orientation. We'll be there until Sunday.  Orientation will cover transportation in Rome, knowing our way around our neighborhood, and some general safety stuff.

Everyone has been asking me if I'm ready to go. I actually think I am, but in truth, I just wish it was about 2 weeks from now. I would have this monster of a flight behind me, for one thing. Plus, in two weeks, so much of the unknown will be, well, known.  I'll be in my second week of classes (I start classes Tuesday) and I'm sure orientation will take care of me having some idea of who all these people I'm sharing this experience with are.

Pretty much everyone who saw me at all during those 3 weeks between Thanksgiving break and winter break knows that I was having a fair bit of anxiety over leaving.  But of course, all of you were right: You'll be here when I get back, and I still have 2 more full years at CUA after I get back! Despite being sad to say goodbye to all of you, I really am so excited to be going to Rome. I kind of can't believe it's actually here, to be honest.  I've been planning this since Spring 2012, when I started talking to my advisors about going, and spent the better part of the beginning of the Fall working on getting all of my application materials together.

But here I am! I managed to pack my life into 2 suitcases, and I won't be back on American soil for 4 months. I'm pretty sure I have no idea what I'm getting myself into, and how many adventures I'll have

....And I'm psyched about that :)


Next time you hear from me, I'll be in Italy! Have a great rest of winter break everyone, and safe travels back to school!

Love, Chris