Rome II: Pope Francis and the towel shortage

I’m taking a break from my snack break. Yes. That’s a thing.

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Generic brand nutella, shortbread cookies, and pictures of Boy George in the 80s…?

This weekend, my first weekend in Rome, has been full of mishaps and laughter. Our weekdays were filled with walking and eating and writing and learning – we visited the Pantheon, Sant’Ignazio Church, Piazza del Popolo, the Spanish Steps, Keats’ House, and various lookout points, the names of which I honestly could not tell you. It certainly kept me busy and happy. I am a very, very contented explorer here, I love simply walking around and seeing what finds me – but after looking out on the Forum for a good hour and battling the Good Friday crowds at the Colosseum (people were leaning on me – I know the song, but the sentiment was not there), I was very ready to sleep. Until noon. Which is what I did.

Yes, I spent my first Saturday in Rome cozied up in my apartment with my two roommates, and I was only awake for 12 hours. I went outside once, for about thirty minutes, to get the aforementioned generic brand nutella and some $2 bottles of wine. I’m sure some people would consider this a grand waste of time. That’s understandable. But it was the perfect lazy Saturday, sitting around with these amazing girls and exchanging life stories, listening to music, eating a home-cooked meal (thank you, Maddy!). First of all, I feel pretty damn lucky to have been put with these marvelous young ladies – I’ve lived with them for under a week, and I already have a lot of love for them in this little heart of mine. Also, it is a huge privilege to even feel like I’m able to veg out on a Saturday while I’m here. I’m going to be here for two months, I am living in Rome. I have a lot of time to be out and about and adventuring. Therefore, it is acceptable for me to spend a couple weekends trying to open wine bottles:

One of my favorite pictures of myself, ever (thanks, Karly)

One of my favorite pictures of myself, ever (thanks, Karly)

Today, though, we went to the Vatican for Easter. The three of us whined and whined and whined as we walked out the door of our building, as we realized we would be standing outside, in the pouring rain for upwards of two hours – a couple of us were actually just getting ready to turn back, opting to watch the whole ordeal from the comfort of our loveseat in our pajamas, but eventually I was dragged down the street to a taxi stop, and at this moment there was no turning back. After a shockingly short ride, our driver dropped us off at the edge of St. Peter’s Square, which was positively teeming with people in an array of pastel-colored rain ponchos. In a few minutes’ time, we had hopped on this plastic-covered bandwagon, doling out five euro a piece to minimize our misery by like… 15%. While I was juggling my purse, umbrella, and jacket in the attempt to don this emerald green rain poncho, the endearingly goofy (and probably filthy rich after the downpour today) salesman skipped over and held up my umbrella to protect my hair, glasses, dignity, what have you, and I think we had a conversation about wrists? Funny guy. I was glad I bought the poncho.

Long story short, I was roughly seven feet away from the Pope today. It was cool. He has a very kind face. I’m still trying to make #moshpitforpapafrancesco a thing, but it’s not really catching on, do you guys want to help me out?

The rest of my Easter Sunday has been spent doing homework, taking snack breaks, and wondering if I can actually pull off this half-up, half-down bun thing. But before I sign off, there are just a few random things I would like to share (in no particular order):

  1. I was mistaken for a local my second day here. Two elderly Italians approached me on a bridge and asked, in Italian, if some dome in the distance was the Vatican. I had no idea. I looked at them sadly, shrugged my shoulders, and said “I do not know,” which was met with a “stop” and the appropriate hand signal from the man. They promptly walked away. I felt bad, but also flattered that I they thought I looked like I belong here?
  2. Back to the nutella. I never eat nutella when I’m in the States – it’s so sweet and peanut butter is far superior. But I had just a little bit yesterday, and it has been nutella on my mind, all the time, for the past 30 hours. I have no idea why this is happening, but I am letting it happen. Ya know. When in Rome [you have to have a spoonful of nutella everyday].
  3. I’ve been listening to Sufjan Stevens’ new album the past couple nights, and although I love it and I am inexpressably happy to hear him doing folk again, it has been giving me crazy weird dreams. His eccentricity is like seeping through my headphones or something. What powers do you possess, Sufjan!
  4. Champagne gelato tastes exactly like champagne. Also I am obsessed with champagne and other sparkling white wines, which has seemingly come out of nowhere.
  5. After having practically NO SENSE OF DIRECTION for my ENTIRE life, I am suddenly able to navigate a city I’ve never even been to before. I mean, my track record in Rome is not flawless, but for the most part I have this inexplicable sense of where I need to go in order to reach my apartment – I’m not talking about confidence in my understanding of the cardinal directions, not at all, but rather a “let’s go this way” and an oddly self-assured point down whichever street “feels” right to me. And this method has gotten me home, safe and sound and unrattled, probably a dozen times. I am completely mystified by this.
  6. Either our washing machine is broken or we are incompetent. Either way, we are fresh outta towels, folks. Why? We’ve been using them to mop up the leak from the tub whenever we take a shower, and for obvious reasons we are not going to use mop towels as body towels. So yesterday I used a washcloth, which I’m estimating is 17% of a normal bath towel. Step at me, Bear Grylls. I’m the new woman in town (or rather the wilderness).

And that is all I have the energy to type. More stories to come. In the meantime, here is the Forum (after two seagulls noisily desecrated one of its pillars with their lust for each other):

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Rome I: sunrises and sightseeing by chance

I’m a little more than slightly irked that a pre-cold runny nose got me up at 6:30 when I could have slept in till 8, but I suppose this is just an unexpected opportunity to reflect on my first few days in Rome. Although my head aches in an unpleasantly dull way from the congestion, this feels like a pretty appropriate time to be doing this – the birds are twittering away, the sun is slowly filling the space of our courtyard, I am at the maximum comfort level in sweats, a crewneck, and a flannel. Really, the only thing missing here is a two-hands-required, bowl-sized mug of black coffee… but I don’t drink black coffee. You know. Goals.

The morning I took off for Rome, I was pretty exhausted (if you recall from my last installment, I did not sleep the night before). So after the continued issues with flights and cancellations, when I finally got into the air en route to Heathrow Airport, I actually, legitimately cried about the beauty of that morning’s sunrise over the Scottish countryside. Before you judge me, please just take a look through my eyes:

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Crying about a sunrise on an airplane full of business people could easily be considered a low point in my life, but I’d argue it was a cheesy-albeit-fitting beginning of my journey to this city. I had my layover in Heathrow, where I ate pizza and drank prosecco at like 9:30am. In my defense, my concept of time at that point was egregiously warped thanks to my sleepless night at the Glasgow Airport, but I did not have the chance to tell my fellow diners this and could feel their cold, judging stares. LIVE AND LET LIVE, GUYS.

Predictably, my flight to Rome was delayed by about an hour – this honestly felt like a blessing after the problems I had encountered in the earlier parts of my itinerary. We’re leaving an hour after our planned take-off time?! We’re practically early! I was in and out of sleep the entire flight, partly because I was knackered and partly because some asshole had taken the window seat, and what’s the point of staying conscious if you don’t have the window seat?

I touched down at FCO around 3:15, waited impatiently for my bag, and hopped into an insufferably muggy cab. I think I had this previously unacknowledged expectation that we’d somehow magically hop from the airport into the middle of the historical city, taking some nonexistent route which wound us past the ruins of the Forum, and the Pantheon, and St. Peter’s Basilica. Quite unrealistic, like so many of my expectations. So when we reached the dingy outskirts of town, with its bright paint and mini marts and buildings thrown up in the 70’s (aka the worst time for architecture), I found myself feeling slightly disappointed that this was a part of Rome. And this made me think about the ways in which I love cities. I tend to love cities for what I perceive to be their authenticity, but when it comes down to it, I’m not even sure how I’d define authenticity. Does the guy selling selfie sticks outside the Castel Sant-Angelo make the monument any less real or valuable? Do the dilapidated fringes of the city detract from its history or culture? Whenever I’ve considered these questions in the past few days, my resounding answer has been “no.” Everything that is a part of this city is a part of this city. And it’s important to learn how to embrace the pieces which aren’t carved out of marble or painted by a guy I learned about in 9th grade art class. I think I’m getting somewhere.

To carry on with the story, eventually we did start seeing crumbling pillars and cobblestone streets, and soon enough our driver had pulled into the piazza where our campus is located and was unloading our bags and saying “ciao.” There we were. In Rome. Getting keys to our apartments. In Rome. Perplexedly gazing at maps and getting lost. In Rome. It didn’t sink in then, I’m not entirely sure it’s sunk in now.

So far, it has been a spectacular experience. One of my favorite things about Rome is that it’s so easy to wander, to just impulsively dive down winding side streets, and sometimes when you’re doing this you can glance up, in a moment which is the dictionary definition of serendipity, and find yourself stumbling up the steps or across the bridge to an incredibly old and famous monument. I’ve done this multiple times. The city is full of sculptures and fountains and panoramic views that seemingly come out of nowhere, jump right in your face when you’re least expecting it. I’m learning to sightsee by chance, which means I get to take in a lot of details that might be glossed over in a whirlwind tour. I absolutely love it.

Equally fantastic is the group I’m here with. Most of them I’ve only just met, but everyone is so kind and chatty and interesting in their individual ways – I’ve got my introverted tendencies, but I love getting to know people and learning their quirks. So, needless to say, this fun for me. What better way to make friends than getting lost in Trastevere together?

I won’t talk about any places I’ve visited yet, but that will come soon. I don’t want to make any promises I can’t keep, but I do think my posting on here will be uncharacteristically frequent for the next few weeks; I actually have material! When does that happen?

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Oops, I took another hiatus

Just for the sake of cushioning my own ego, I am going to assume at least one or two people have taken note of my absence on here for the past month and a half. I have readers other than the “chace crawford fat lip season 5 gossip girl” googlers, right?

Well, my second hiatus of 2015 (and it’s only March) resulted not just from writer’s block, but a towering stone fortress built around any creative drive I may have possessed in recent times. How did it get there? I don’t know, I probably built it in my sleep. Regardless, this fortress is of very sound structure and has been pretty successful in executing its purpose. Proof:

  1. Every meal I cook for myself is basically the same.
  2. If it’s not an analytical essay, I can’t write it.
  3. I WEAR THE SAME JACKET EVERY DAY
  4. I have a list of approximately five songs that I listen to over and over.
  5. Whenever I doodle in the margins of my notebooks, I just end up with a maze-like continuous line. Touché, mindless doodles.

And maybe I’ve been anxious and busy and distracted, but for the most part I take all of this as an indication that my soul is ready for a change of scenery. I’m restless and a little disengaged. Ennui? Not quite there yet, thankfully, but it’s always good to take preventative measures. So I’m going to hightail it out of the country and hope for the best – “the best” being massive heaps of gelato, and rainfall in the Pantheon. I think those two things should be sufficiently inspiring, and perhaps I will begin to function as a creative human being again. We shall see.

In the meantime, you can find me lying on my bedroom floor because that’s my favorite method of avoidance when it comes to packing. CIAO!

PS: I could not claim this post as my own if I didn’t include a sampling of the aforementioned “over and over again” songs. So here you are, unwilling listeners.