All Roads Lead to Rome

 This past spring a group of forty-one TEC students and chaperones traveled to
one of the most beautiful countries in the world, Italy. Among those forty-one individuals
was me. Before the Italy trip, I had never traveled out of the country. I hadn't traveled at
all, really. But, I've got to say, it was worth the wait.
After deciding this year's TEC trip would be to Italy, the officers planned events
that would help us get there including the Westlake Marching Festival and the
Nutcracker Spectacular. As the departure date approached, everything seemed to fall
into place.
        The Wednesday before we were to leave, we were presented with an
unexpected dilemma: our flight had been canceled. Though many were disappointed,
Mr. Poole, TEC students, and our travel agents spent hours on end with the airline and
our Italian tour guide. After much persistence, we finally constructed a solution.
        There were to be three traveling groups, two leaving on Friday and one on
Saturday. The Saturday group and one of the Friday groups drove to Houston and
departed from there. My group, one of the two departing on Friday, flew out of the
Austin Airport. This arrangement was much appreciated and, thankfully, all three groups
were reunited in Italy.

        Once in Italy, we traveled to many cities including Rome, Florence, Maranello,
Venice, Verona, and Milan. I couldn't say which city was my favorite. Each one provided
unique memories and a distinct culture that I will remember forever.
         The first day in Rome, as we waited to reunite with the Saturday group, we took
a comprehensive walking tour of Rome. Everything we saw was impressive and
historically significant, but then came the storm. Few people anticipated the possibility
of rain, and so some of us did not bring their umbrellas, myself included. Within a matter
of minutes, almost all of our group members were completely drenched as we trudged
through the racing waters of the streets of Rome.
        The next day turned out to be beautiful, still slightly damp, but beautiful none-the-
less. At lunch, a small group of us broke off and wandered the streets looking for a bite
to eat. That is when we heard a man shouting at us, "Free Pizza! Free Pizza!" He had
certainly gotten our attention, so we decided to investigate. He immediately began to
set up chairs for us while feeding us small samples of pizza. It was quite refreshing to
meet an individual who was authentically Italian. He treated us well, giving us a good-
sized pizza and a soda. As we left, he handed us small sheets of paper with a link to his
shop's Facebook page, asking us to like it.

        On our final day in Italy, we finally arrived at our long-awaited destination, La
Scala Opera House. We were given a tour of both the museum and the opera house.
Within the museum, we observed countless artifacts that were owned by some of the
attendees and composers from La Scala's prime. Those objects were indeed
magnificent, but after visiting a myriad of museums all week, the opera house itself was
far more fascinating. La Scala had been recently renovated and all of their equipment
was state-of-the-art. The entire stage could not only be rotated, but also completely
replaced by a different stage hidden below. This feature was absolutely incredible and I
had never seen anything like it. However, one of my favorite features was La
Scala's "tech tables." In TEC, we use a few black tables for rehearsals that we normally
have to pull out of storage. La Scala's tech tables, however, rose up from a hidden
panel in the ground. I was amazed to see a nearly identical version and setup of the
tables, something our organization uses quite frequently, actually being used in the
professional setting.

        While in Italy, our group of TEC students and chaperones had many planned and
unplanned adventures. Something about this trip changed our group. Perhaps it was
the hours of bus rides to and from different cities or the countless tours of museums.
Regardless, this trip helped build new friendships, strengthened old ones, and lived up
to the TEC mission statement. Leadership allowed us to get there. Camaraderie made it
meaningful. And we certainly did have a lot of fun.

-Irena Martinez