October 8, 2019 – Khaki (OOTD #562)

I’ve talked about my first job as a grocery bagger (official title: courtesy clerk) a lot on this blog, but I don’t think I’ve ever talked about my uniform.

“So then what was your uniform, Meilin?” I’m so glad you asked. Every day I went to work at this particular grocery store, I wore basically the same thing: a black t-shirt with the grocery store’s logo on it provided by the grocery store, a pair of khaki skinny jeans (wait…are they still jeans if they’re not made of denim?) and my white Converse.

I still own all three of those pieces. I actually wear the white Converse a fair amount because they’re white Converse and they never go out of style, but the t-shirt and khaki pants have been sitting in my chest of drawers for years. I just can’t bring myself to put them on again — I associate them with too many bad memories of having to go out into the dark, creepy parking lot at 11pm right before close to bring in all of the carts that customers had left in the farthest corners of the lot.

In the case of the t-shirt, who cares? It’s a t-shirt. I get those for free with every event I attend. The khakis, on the other hand, are technically still perfectly wearable.

But there’s something about wearing the same pair of gross Macy’s trousers two to three days a week for an entire summer when you’re 16 that renders them cursed. I just can’t bring myself to put them on again, even though they’d probably fit (or who knows? Maybe they wouldn’t. I did eat a lot of pasta in Italy). In fact, I bought a whole new pair of Banana Republic trousers in the same khaki color (pictured here) to replace them.

Recently, I went back to my old grocery store, and I realized that the cashiers and baggers no longer have to wear the uniforms. In fact, they can even dress up a little on special occasions, like UK football games. Honestly, given the struggles I’ve had navigating the world of professional fashion, maybe I should go back to being a grocery bagger. I may very possibly have more freedom in my choice of clothes in that position than I do now as an intern at a think tank.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life this semester in Washington, DC. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Blazer: Banana Republic

Top: Zara

Trousers: Banana Republic Sloan

October 7, 2019 – Hitting the Books (OOTD #561)

Here’s another blog title I can’t believe I’ve never used for any of my many, many library photo shoots. 

It seems so obvious, right? Take pictures surrounded by books, come up with a book-related blog title. How many book-themed idioms are there anyway?

Apparently, not enough for my stupid idiot brain to remember them — hence, the need to “hit” the books so hard. Gotta study to make up for my general lack of brain cells.

But if this is a library photo shoot, what library is this? It’s not the familiar Club Hes or architecture library. I’m miles and miles from those. This is the library at my workplace — much smaller than any of the libraries back on campus, but honestly, maybe I like that. It’s almost never crowded, and I never have to fight someone to get a table like I do around midterms and finals at Notre Dame.

The downside, though, is there are a lot fewer places to take photos given the smaller location. I have 24 hour card access to the Brookings building (yay!) but there aren’t a lot of places that make for good photography backgrounds. There’s a nice lobby, but there’s always a security guard there, so it’s not a good place for photos. Otherwise, there’s the small library featured here and then just a bunch of offices.

What do you think — should I do a cubicle photo shoot? Pose with my landline telephone that I don’t know how to use? My broken roller chair? The leftover bag of trail mix that the last intern who had my desk left in the drawer?

Actually, maybe there’s a way I could make it work — kind of like the trendy unconventional photo shoots in laundry rooms or Hobby Lobby floral departments. Let me think on that.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life this semester in Washington, DC. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Jacket: Zara

Turtleneck: Thrifted (Goodwill)

Skirt: Forever21

October 4, 2019 – Work in Progress (OOTD #560)

I thought for certain I would have used that blog title before, but I guess not.

I think I’m finally getting into a groove with creating interesting but work-appropriate outfits. It took me a while to figure it out, but I believe I’ve got it down pat at this point. I’m finding that the key to success is good accessories, like this bolo tie-style necklace that I got for Christmas from Forever21 years and years ago.

I find it interesting to think about the pieces in my wardrobe that have wound up being enduringly stylish, especially when I didn’t expect them to do so. Like, I knew when I bought this maroon blazer that I would probably have it for a while — blazers take a long time before their design starts looking dated. Same goes for the black button-down. The bolo tie necklace, on the other hand, could have very easily been something that I ended up giving away a year later.

But it didn’t, and I still have it and like it. Sometimes, you never know.

And sometimes, things you thought would be in style for years become unwearable. I may or may not have three pairs of Uggs hidden in my closet that I purchased as a middle schooler and I now feel too guilty to give away (I spent a lot of money on them! At least in my sixth grader mindset). I thought for certain that they would be a worthwhile investment for years and years to come — guess not.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life this semester in Washington, DC. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Blazer: Forever21

Trousers: Zara

Shirt: Banana Republic

August 24, 2019 – The Washington Way (OOTD #553)

Finally, my actual location and the location that I’m writing about in my blogs match up again!

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As I’ve mentioned before, the content I’m posting about in my blogs tends to be a bit behind (or, has been the case recently, quite behind) the date I’m actually posting it. For example, I’m writing this blog in late October, but it’s about something that happened back in late August. So in late August, I was moving in to my apartment in Washington, DC.

But wait, Washington DC isn’t in Northern Indiana! Isn’t there where I normally go to school? Why wasn’t I moving back into my dorm at Notre Dame in late August, along with all of my friends and the rest of the student body?

The answer: because I’m taking a semester away from Notre Dame to do a special program though the Political Science Department to take a full 15-credit semester course load while working an internship here part-time. Think of it like a study abroad semester — except of course, DC isn’t really abroad.

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Unlike a semester abroad, however, I get to work (and in my case, get paid!) while maintaining my status as a full-time student. And at any rate, I get to go abroad in the spring semester anyway, so I really get the best of both worlds.

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What I don’t get, however, is the third world: my friends back on campus at Notre Dame. I’m going to be away for a whole year, and that’s kind of saddening. Not saddening enough to prevent me from doing it (and honestly not even really saddening enough for me to give a second thought about whether I wanted to do it), but enough so to make looking at my friends’ Instagram posts of them moving back into the dorms a little bittersweet.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life this semester in Washington, DC. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Turtleneck: Forever21

Trousers: Zara

 

August 12, 2019 – The Writing on the Wall (OOTD #545)

Here we are: the actual reason for my trip to Israel-Palestine!

I didn’t really discuss this in my blogs from last spring, but I spent a sizable chunk of time before spring break writing a grant proposal to go to Jerusalem to do some research. It was a long shot — I never thought I’d actually get the money to go, and I mostly considered it an experiment with the grant-writing process (which I had only done once before, to go to Vichy for a week-long language intensive in French) that would be useful practice for later.

The plan to go to Israel-Palestine stemmed from the time I’ve spent over the last two years working with the Madrasa Discourses project, for the conciliation of traditional Islamic thought with modernity in India and Pakistan. The idea first came from a friend that I made while in Doha with an MD conference. She was the one who originally proposed turning our experiences with Madrasa Discourses and interreligious dialogue into an independent project, and so I owe it to her for inspiring me to actually go through with the whole undertaking.IMG_5062.jpeg

Though she ultimately couldn’t go, which was a huge factor in determining my level of comfort going to a politically tense area like Jerusalem, I still decided to do it. You don’t get a grant from your university to do research every day — especially when the research takes you to a country and a culture you’ve experienced been before.

There have been many famous walls throughout history – the Great Wall of China, the Berlin Wall, the of Northern Ireland Peace Lines – and now a new barrier wall has joined their ranks.

This barrier wall is the West Bank barrier, which separates the Muslim-dominant Palestine from the Jewish-dominant Israel. Described by Israelis as a “security fence” (geder-ha-hafrada) and by Palestinians as an “apartheid wall” (jidar al-fasl al-‘unsuri), the barrier has been a subject of controversy ever since its construction began in 2002. Out of controversy and political unrest, however, can spring one of the most passionate and creative forms of self-expression: art.

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Much like what was seen in Berlin and Belfast, artists in Jerusalem have transformed the concrete that separates Israel and Palestine into a canvas for political discussion. On either side of these walls, activists, professional artists, and civilians have used graffiti as a way to express opinions about the situation in Israel-Palestine and the barrier’s existence.

During the course of my one-week journey to Israel-Palestine, I studied this political graffiti on the West Bank border wall, focusing specifically on the area around Bethlehem. My goal was to discover some of the artistic themes on the wall and how those reflected local sentiment about the ongoing Israel- Palestine conflict. More specifically, I wanted to study how the opposing narratives of the border wall as a “security fence,” as it is referred to by many Israelis, or as an “apartheid wall,” as it is referred to by many Palestinians, were evident in the wall’s artwork.

If you’re not familiar with the situation in Israel-Palestine surrounding the border wall, here’s a little context: the border was initially constructed by Israel to protect against extremist Palestinian bombings, and to many Israelis, it has done its job well. In 2004, approval of the wall for Jewish-Israelis was at 78%, with many arguing that it had caused the shift from nearly-weekly bombings in 2003 to only three attacks in 2004. IMG_5087.jpeg

However, though the barrier primarily follows the Green Line (a 1948 armistice border acknowledged by the UN), it swerves east several kilometers to incorporate certain Israeli settlements. To many Palestinians, this is nothing short of occupation and land grab. The wall cuts off many Palestinian citrus and olive farmers from their land, making it difficult or impossible for them to harvest their crops because of the new security checkpoints. Crossing the checkpoints from Palestine-controlled Bethlehem to get into Israel-controlled Jerusalem also poses many problems for Palestinians; people begin queuing hours in advance on weekday mornings so that they can get to their jobs in Jerusalem. Many simply bypass the checkpoints and cross the border illegally every morning instead — something Israeli employers easily take advantage of by refusing to pay “illegal” Palestinians for labor they have already completed.

With this background in mind, I began my preliminary research by taking a graffiti tour with a Palestinian guide. This initial tour was crucial, as he was able to point out key pieces of art (such as those by famous English graffiti artist Banksy) and direct me to other wall-related graffiti that was in the area but not necessarily on the wall itself. I came back at a later date to actually scrutinize individual pieces and photograph the wall itself; this first day was just to get my bearings with the help of a local. With this as my main goal for the day, I was able to relax a little and just enjoy learning.

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Due to the constantly changing nature of graffiti, some of the pieces that I had seen online when I had been doing research for my grant proposal had been completely removed or covered by new pieces of graffiti. For example, one, which had previously depicted President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu in a kiss, had been altered to remove their embrace. It may be interesting to go again in a year or so to see how the visible graffiti has changed — which pieces have been scrubbed away, or covered up by other graffiti, or had their message altered.

My guide also took me into Bethlehem to see a Palestinian refugee camp, where I got to talk to some locals (including an elderly man who rememberd when the Palestinians were orignally evicted from their homes in 1948 during what is known to Israelis as their War of Independence and known to Palestinians as The Nakba, meaning “the Catastrophe” in Arabic). Seeing the lives of Palestinians as they went about their days was honestly just as impactful as the graffiti. At one point, we had to cross into a piece of territory that was technically under the control of Israel. We, as foreigners, were allowed in but our Palestinian guide was stopped by IDF soldiers before he even got to the checkpoint.

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But it wasn’t all politics and gloom — we visited a part of Hebron, where we saw a glassblowing workshop. We also saw the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the (honestly, kind of tacky) Crusade-era church built to commemorate the supposed birthplace of Jesus. And we got lunch at a really lovely Palestinian cafe, which was still open despite the fact that it was a Muslim holiday and most places were closed.

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When I originally wrote this grant proposal, I had hoped to learn about both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict through the artwork on the wall. As it turned out, there wasn’t much artwork on the Israeli side at all, nor was there much artwork on the Palestinian side that might be described as “pro-Israel.” I thought that this might be the case going in — graffiti often being used more as a vessel for protest rather than praise — so my trip helped to confirm my belief.

Because I actually visited Palestine/the West Bank, rather than just viewing images of the wall online, I actually got a sense of what life is like for the Palestinians who live behind the wall. Perhaps most apparent was the great wealth disparity that was immediately visible as soon as I crossed from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. They feel like worlds apart — one is relatively safe, modern, and comfortable, and the other looks more like what you’d imagine a war zone in the Middle East to be. The massive concrete wall, guard towers, and IDF soldiers watching you from above doesn’t help.  

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Do I recommend that you go to the wall itself? Personally, I feel a little conflicted about the concept of political tourism, because actual people’s lives aren’t something to be gawked at and photographed like animals at a zoo — however, it’s critical to educate yourself about the history and political context of the places you go, and one of the best ways to do that is simply to pay a visit to a contested area. Each city has one– it’s Freedom Square in Budapest, it’s the Opéra in Vichy.

As the quote goes, travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. Respect the people you encounter, don’t treat it like it’s another tourist destination for Instagram, and share what you see if it so moves you to consider a different perspective or narrative than you thought you knew.

If you ever get the chance to visit Israel-Palestine, I highly recommend popping over to the West Bank to get the Palestinian story. Whatever you decide, do as the writing on the wall says, and “don’t be a brick in this wall.”IMG_5145

 

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my trip to Israel-Palestine this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Top: Zara

Coat: Forever21

Trousers: Altar’d State

August 8, 2019 – Birb (OOTD #542)

On August 8, I saw a lot of birds.

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For a while there, birds were my favorite animals (but cats are more my taste now). There was no particular type of bird that was my favorite during my bird phase — just whatever had wings and could fly (sorry ostriches and penguins). I’m 100% a girl who would have gotten a tattoo of birds in flight on my collarbone back in 2013 or whenever that was trendy. Bonus points if it comes with an inspirational quote about wanderlust.

I’ve never had a flying dream in my life, though I’ve always wished I could have them. Flight as a concept is just so cool to me — like, you just flap your wings and away you go. Maybe that’s why I like traveling in airplanes so much.

The main feature of both islands I saw were the birds. There were some sea lions and cool rock formations too, but the birds were really the main attraction. They were literally everywhere — in trees, on the ground, in the air, in the water. I guess that shouldn’t shock me — of course birds are populous on a pair of uninhabited islands. There are no humans to bother them and few predators to hunt them.

Because of this, they’re not nearly as skittish as most birds and will let you walk right up to their nest if you don’t make any loud noises. I got more cool bird photos on this day than I think I’ve ever gotten in my life.

The babies were all so big and fluffy! I wouldn’t have been surprised if you’d told me that they were full-size, and the blue-footed booby babies just looked like giant cotton balls for their entire lives. They’re the sort of animal that you just want to reach out and pet — you can’t, obviously, or else you’d ruin the whole point of not disturbing them so that they don’t become skittish in the future. Still, they were so cute. I’m having a hard time deciding whether the bird babies or the sea lions were the cutest creatures I saw on my trip — and yes, that includes the giant tortoises, which I’ll write about in an upcoming post.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my trip to the Galápagos Islands this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Outfit 1:

Top: Zara

Coat: Forever21

Jeans: Hollister

Outfit 2:

Dress: Forever21

July 8, 2019 – Bok! (OOTD #528)

Unfortunately, I was not gifted the ability to learn languages quickly.

I have a friend who picks them up so quickly, and really loves doing it, but I can barely stumble through a conversation in French despite having studied it on-and-off for seven years (wow, that’s embarrassing to have to admit). I feel guilty about that — I have this great privilege of having English as basically my first language, and so there’s less of a need for me to learn other languages, unlike other people in other parts of the world, for whom learning English is essentially a requirement if they want to get ahead at all.

I tried to learn some Italian before I went to Rome — and to be fair, I did learn a little — but I didn’t learn much more than to say grazie and ciao and scusi. In Budapest, I learned szia, which is hello, and that’s about all. In Copenhagen, I literally didn’t learn anything.

In Croatia, however, compared to the other places I visited, I had more of an opportunity to learn the language because I actually stayed with a Croatian family. I still probably didn’t take as great of an advantage of that opportunity as I should have, but you can’t say I didn’t take advantage of it at all.

Off the top of my head, I can tell you a few phrases that I remember in Croatian — bok, which is “hello;” hvala, which is “thanks;”

If only I could put that level of effort into my French, then maybe I’d be somewhere with it by now.

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m o o d

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That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Top: Zara

Jeans: American Eagle

July 5, 2019 – Marketable (OOTD #526)

So rarely do I actually buy things at these markets I visit.

Markets may be one of my favorite sites to visit when I travel to new cities, but I almost never do anything other than that walk around and peruse the items.

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szia and see ya

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In regards to just about everything but clothes, I do a fairly good job of not buying things I don’t need. I don’t buy magnets, or cheap made in China scarves, or keychains. If I don’t see something that calls to me, then I walk away without buying anything. Markets with clothing — especially vintage clothing — are another story, but otherwise, I like to think I’m not a complete slave to consumer culture.

The Budapest Central Market was a great place to visit. It’s got this really beautiful, ornate architectural style and lots of natural light (which means good pictures). As a place to shop, though, I was personally a little less impressed. A lot of what the vendors had to offer was food, but I just wasn’t hungry when I went. If you’re not looking to buy food, however, there isn’t really much for you but gimmicky tourist stuff.

If you’re looking for a better market for gift shopping, I’d have to recommend the Ecseri Bazaar, which I’ll write about in tomorrow’s blog.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Top: Zara

Shorts: H&M

 

 

June 15, 2019 – Not Florida (OOTD #518)

Wait, this isn’t Naples, Florida.

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wait, this isn’t florida

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I’ve actually never been to Naples, Florida. I haven’t actually traveled much around Florida, despite it being the go-to vacation destination for every family that lived south of the Mason-Dixon line from about 2006-2015. I’ve seen Orlando and Destin and Panama City Beach, but otherwise, that’s about it. Don’t tell anyone from Florida, but I don’t actually like Florida that much.

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mall rat

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So while I’ve never been to Naples, Florida to compare it to Naples, Italy, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Naples, Italy (also known as Napoli in Italian) is the better of the two. If you’ve been to both and have an opinion, feel free to fact check me.

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twisted my ankle twice on these streets

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As I discussed in my post about my trip to Florence, Northern and Southern Italy have extremely distinct cultures, a distinction that even I, an uncultured American, noticed in comparing Florence and Rome (both of which are actually more Central than Northern or Southern). Naples, the southernmost location I visited in Rome (and furthermore, considered by many to be emblematic of what makes the South of Italy unique compared to Central and Northern Italy) blew the Florence-Rome comparison out the water.

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i’m having a moment

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Naples was very different — both from Rome and Florence, but especially Florence. It’s like comparing a gated community with a private school that Felicity Huffman paid for her children to go to, to the neighborhood that Kelley Williams-Bolar falsified her address in order to prevent her children from having to school in. Can you guess if Naples is the Felicity Huffman or the Kelley Williams-Bolar?

In fact, when I returned to Rome from Naples, the first thing a friend said to me was “Oh, you didn’t get mugged! I guess you didn’t get an authentic tour.”

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not a bad view

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Actually, I don’t think Naples is as bad as its reputation. Sure, it was a little sketchy, especially that first night after I arrived after sundown and had to find the AirBnB. And the beach weren’t the cleanest. And one half of our friend group got kicked out of their hotel room after it turned out that they’d booked through a fraudulent website. At least the roads were better than Rome’s — no twisted ankles for me!

Plus, Naples had a beautiful castle — the Castel dell’Ovo, “the castle of the egg.” Don’t ask me why it’s called that. I don’t know (though I’m certain it was explained on one of the signs, I couldn’t read them as they were all in Italian). It was beautiful though, and I got some sweet photos on the way up.

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sea you around

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That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Outfit 1:

Swimsuit top: Hollister

Swimsuit bottom: Target

Outfit 2:

Top: Zara

Shorts: H&M

June 6, 2019 – Get to the Ponte Already (OOTD #513)

Get it? Because ponte in Italian means “bridge,” and I’m standing next to a bridge?

I’d also considered some Tiber River-related puns, but I couldn’t think of any good enough. If you know of any, leave me a comment and let me know! I’m always happy to hear suggestions from people who are cleverer than me.

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all rivers lead to rome?

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After the insanity that was my last post that featured not one, not two, but five major tourist sites around Rome (the Colosseum, the Forum, Palatine Hill, the Spanish Steps, and Trevi Fountain), I thought it was fair for me to take a break from exploring for a while.

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get to the ponte already

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And by “some time,” I mean one day. Regardless of how exhausted I felt after my “tourist day” I had work the next morning, so I had to be up and ready to head to work at 8:30 AM. It was a short day, though, because that afternoon, my supervisor agreed to let me out a few hours early for another one of the “cultural enrichment” events with the Notre Dame study abroad students.

This time, it was a tour of the Jewish Ghetto. I actually have no relevant photos to show from that part of my day. It’s not that there weren’t some beautiful buildings that would have made excellent fashion photography backgrounds for my blog — there were — but there was never a good moment to ask someone to a get my picture.

Also, no one else was getting pictures. That’s a big one for me. I really dislike being the only person or the first person in a group to ask someone to take my picture. I’ll do it if it’s an important location, and I’ll just die without getting a shot for Instagram or Snapchat, but otherwise, I try to get a feel for what the rest of the crowd is feeling in regards to stopping for glamour shots. Not every group of people is big into photos. I always hate to be the single narcissist in a group who is.

After the tour, though, my friends and I split off from the group and walked back along the Tiber River to the Colosseo area where we all lived. That’s when I got these pictures. I’m less concerned about being the single narcissist in a group when I’m with a group of friends.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Dress: Zara (thrift)