Category Archives: Daily life

Coffee in Italy

By Laura Hough

Clockwise from top left: a cafe maurochino, a cafe shakirato, a latte, and my empty cup after I couldn't stop drinking the cafe maurochino!

Clockwise from top left: a cafe maurochino, a cafe shakirato, a latte, and my empty cup after I couldn’t stop drinking the cafe maurochino!

I know I already mentioned coffee in one of my posts, but a paragraph doesn’t do Italian coffee justice. Italians love coffee. It completely permeates the culture and they drink it all the time. That being said, there are an awful lot of rules about coffee drinking in Italy. In the U.S., especially on college campuses, you order what you want, when you want it, and then you drink it. One Wednesday night I learned all about drinking coffee in Italy from one of Umbra’s food science professors, and a lot of fun facts about coffee too.

Coffee was originally discovered by a goat herder in Ethiopia, who noticed one day that his goats were really hyper after eating some seeds. Somehow, that led to discovering that grinding said seeds and then soaking them in hot water made a delicious drink that would also make humans hyper. Coffee was first commercially grown in Yemen, on the Arabian Peninsula. The Islamic world started drinking it, probably because they don’t drink alcohol, as per the rules of their religion.

Coffee managed to get to Venice, which was a bustling port in the Middle Ages. It was originally sold in pharmacies as a cure-all: If you couldn’t sleep, drink some coffee. If you couldn’t stay awake, drink some coffee. If you had stomach pains, drink some coffee. It got so popular that even a pope weighed in, and said it was OK for Christians to drink coffee.

Fast forward to modern Italy. Coffee, and I mean great coffee, is on every street corner, available in every bar and café. They call it some different names, though, so if you’re ordering coffee in Italy, keep these tips in mind:

Un café” will get you a shot of espresso. I am not a fan — it’s strong and dark and bitter, and makes me want to gag. It’s also only about a shot’s worth of coffee.

Un café Americano” will get you a watered down espresso. It’s as close to a regular cup of coffee as it gets, and then you can add sugar.

Don’t make the mistake of ordering “un latte,” because you will get a funny look, and then receive a warm cup of milk. That’s what latte is in Italian — milk.

Instead, you either want a “un latte machiato” or “un café macchiato.” “Macchia” is Italian for stain, so when you order “un latte machiato,” you get milk with a stain of coffee, while “un café macchiato” is coffee with a stain of milk.

You can also order a cappuccino in Italy, but only do so in the mornings for breakfast. The Italians believe that the milk will fill you up, so you don’t want to drink it after noon, otherwise you won’t be hungry. Fun fact about a cappuccino: It’s named after the capuchin monkey, the black and white creature from South America. Those were named after an order of monks, known as Capuchin. These monks wore a black and white hood, and a cappuccino, with espresso, then milk, and then the foam on top sort of resembles a capuchin monkey.

Another excellent coffee drink is “un café shakirato.” It’s a shot of espresso, lightly sweetened and shaken with ice until it’s all foamy on top. It’s delicious. Unfortunately, if you order one in the wintertime, you will receive odd looks, because the Italians believe if you drink something chilly in the winter, you will die. I’m thinking about doing it anyway, because it’s delicious.

The last drink I have for you is called “un café maurochino.” It’s a coffee in a glass rimmed in cocoa powder. It’s also quite delicious, and perfectly acceptable to drink in the winter because it’s hot. Mine was the perfect balance of coffee and chocolate flavor.

But, even with all the variations, my Italian friends told me, “If you don’t like espresso, you don’t like coffee.” I’m definitely still working on drinking espresso like a real Italian (no sugar, no cream), but I’m really enjoying it all. And hopefully, when you get to Italy, you will manage to order exactly what you want!


Touchdown in Amman, Jordan

By John Mitchell

After being on several planes for 18+ hours, I finally landed in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (اَلمَمْلَكَة اَلأُرْدُنِيَّة اَلهَاشِمِيَّة), in their capital of Amman, around 4 a.m. Sunday. Because it was so early, I didn’t really get the glamorous entrance I was hoping for where I would be flooded with Ahlan wa Sahlan, Marhaba or other forms of the word “welcome/hello.” It was probably better that way because I was exhausted! After getting my luggage from the slow conveyor belt, I headed to my first destination, the Landmark Hotel, where the people in my program and I would stay temporarily until we move to our homestays or apartments.


On Monday, we headed off to explore the city of Amman. One of my first stops was the Royal Automobile Museum. This was a museum devoted to the former King Hussein’s car collection an, boy, did he have one. The museum had every car you could ask for. King Hussein had great taste! I, of course, marveled at the light Blue Aston Martin (being a James Bond fanatic does that to you).


Our next stop was the Roman Citadel and Theatre. This was such a picturesque area. The Roman Theatre felt like I had just walked into the scene in “Gladiator” where Maximus looks around to the silent Romans screaming, “Are you not entertained!?” This theater was huge and the steps to go up were so steep, one could fall to their death. I made it to the top, but it was a traumatic experience trying to get down. The Roman Citadel rises above the city of Amman, overlooking the ancient city. I found it fascinating when our guide said that, just like Rome, Amman was built on seven hills. Due to expansion and laws on how tall buildings can be, Amman now covers more than 23 hills. You really felt like the king of the world gazing across the city at the Roman Citadel.


For food, we headed to a popular place in downtown Amman called Jafra. When we got there, several Arabic dishes such as kebab, hummus, and various salads and pita lay spread across the table for us. For those who don’t know, I kind of like to eat a lot, so I had a blast. Also, like many cafes around Amman, the smell of argeela (hookah in the U.S.) fills the air. It is a favorite past time here.


The next day, I moved in with my homestay family. The family, a lovely nuclear family, does not speak much English, which is good because it forces me to use the Arabic I know and improve on it. So, although sometimes it is difficult to get my point across, in the long-term, I’ll be very thankful. They have two little kids named Rami (6 years old) and Lara (9 years old). They treat me like an older brother, which is good sometimes and bad when I’m trying to study, etc. The family has taken me in as their own, so I have to visit family and travel with them, but they also give me the freedom I need to do my own thing. My house mom, Rania, keeps the food coming non-stop. A few days ago, she asked me if I was hungry and I said I wasn’t… well the next minute, she came from the kitchen with three huge burgers all for me and said eat! So if I get fat here, you all know why. Also, every 30 minutes she asks if I’d like shiae (tea) or qahawa (coffee), and won’t let me help out with anything. It’s definitely different.

Look out for my next post about my visit to the lowest point on Earth, Bahar al-Miiyaat (the Dead Sea), my first experiences with taxi drivers and being a student at the University of Jordan.


Positives and negatives

By Laura Hough

Despite Italy being a Western European country, there are some differences that seem pretty strange when you first arrive. A few examples:

  • Energy (electricity) in Italy is much more expensive, so they don’t use as much here. That means only keeping the heat in your apartment on for about seven hours a day. This makes your apartment pretty chilly.
  • Most Italians also don’t have dryers, because of the energy cost. My jeans took a week to dry in the chilly damp weather. That was a little bit of a setback for me.
  • Pizza is everywhere here. It’s acceptable to grab some “al taglio” (by the slice) or “da porta via” (literally, ‘to take to the street’) at lunch, dinner or anytime in between. Pizza is usually eaten with a fork and knife though, especially at dinner.
  • Italians eat late, by American standards. Most places don’t open for dinner until 7:30 p.m., and don’t get busy ’til 8:30 p.m.
  • Italians have excellent coffee  I mean way better than Starbucks coffee. But be careful when you’re ordering  “un café” will get you a shot of espresso, not a cup of coffee. “Un caffe americano” is a little closer  it’s basically watered down espresso, which is more like a cup of joe from Starbucks. But don’t order “un latte” unless you enjoy drinking warm milk!

Most of the differences are small, but they start to add up, especially when you add the language barrier. I’m really glad I knew some Italian coming in, because otherwise it might have been too overwhelming, instead of a (mostly) interesting challenge. It’s handy to know some food words, like when you’re at the grocery store or ordering at a restaurant. And just about the time you think you’re getting the language, someone speaks really quickly and you don’t catch any of it.

It gets a little frustrating. The best way to look at it, I’ve decided, is to concentrate on why I decided to come — to experience a new culture and learn the language. If everything here was the same as it was back home, then studying abroad wouldn’t really have a point, would it? Staying positive is difficult when you just want to microwave the tea, instead of boiling the water on the stove and waiting and waiting for it to get hot enough, or you just want some French onion dip to go with your chips. It’s even more difficult when people around you insist on being negative about the differences.

It’s definitely up to you, though. I have had to make a conscous decision and effort to embrace the differences, and take them as adventures, not awful experiences. Those are the reasons I came, after all. I think this attitude will get me a lot further and give me better experiences than being angry. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Ciao, ciao from Perugia!

With a little help from my friends

By Jantsen McBride

Dear readers,

As my study abroad adventure comes to a close, I feel I must remark on what it feels like to pack up a semester’s worth of living to go home. I was allowed one carry-on suitcase, a backpack and one checked bag to accompany me home to the United States. If anyone knows me well, they know firsthand of my shopping addiction. Hello my name is Jantsen, and I am a shopaholic. There I admit it. So when it came down to packing, deciding what to bring home and what to leave was quite an obstacle. I left all my pots and pans/food/bedding/etc. with Marley and the Albino HQ (his flat), packed all of my family’s Christmas gifts in my carry-on and managed to squeeze every amount of space full with clothing in my other bags. Total packing time: more than four hours. Thank the Lord that Marley’s mom picked me up from the flat with all my cargo because there is no way I would have managed on my own! Also, a quick shout-out to my parents for the luggage scale-it came in handy when weighing my bag that could not be more than fifty pounds. Even bigger shout-out to Marley for lifting and weighing the bags repeatedly!

That Friday, I had the extreme pleasure of having one last night out with my close English friends. After getting spiffy we went to my favorite Italian restaurant in Lancaster, Molinari’s, for one “last supper.” Ella, Ben, Andy, Holly, Toni, Pete, Marley and I had a wonderful evening full of laughter, good food and reminiscing on the semester’s good times. After dinner everyone was acting a little funny and then they turned to me and told me they had all pitched in and gotten me some going away presents. I couldn’t believe it. How in the world did I manage to land such great friends while abroad? The thoughtful gesture was so appreciated and I am incredibly blessed to have met such genuine, caring, beautiful people on my study abroad adventure. The intricate photo album, English socks and “fit American” card will forever be a symbol in my memory of the wonderful times I shared with my adoptive off-campus flat mates (+Pete and Ben). Looking back on that first day in my flat’s kitchen, I could have never guessed the friendships I would make in England would be some of the best of my life. Thank you to everyone who welcomed me with open arms and made England feel like my home away from home. As the Beatles say, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

Albino HQ group pic.  From Left: Ben, Ella, Andy, myself, Marley, Toni, and Holly

Albino HQ group pic (from left): Ben, Ella, Andy, myself, Marley, Toni and Holly

Our end of the table--double dating it!

Our end of the table – double dating it!

Holl-Rob and Andy.  I couldn't be more blessed to be friends with these guys!

Holl-Rob and Andy. I couldn’t be more blessed to be friends with these guys!

Pete and Toni make for the world's cutest couple and nicest people.  Miss yall a ton!

Pete and Toni make for the world’s cutest couple and nicest people. Miss y’all a ton!


Ben and Ella – the blondest couple you will ever know! These art kiddos are more amazing than words can express!

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become and still, gently allows you to grow.”

Missing this boy like crazy! <3

Missing this boy like crazy! But happy all the same that I got to spend the time I had with him.

Xs and Os,