Rome IX: mosquitoes in a graveyard

As I type this, Karly and I are sitting across from each other at our kitchen table. It’s a normal Friday evening – she has her headphones in and is catching up on TV shows (trying to conceal tears, occasionally), and I am wasting my life away in the Rewind section of Buzzfeed. But tonight, there is an unusual tenseness. Muscles a little rigid, pained posture, just hints of grimaces on our faces. Why? We are trying so damn hard to not itch our legs.

Karly, whose count seems to increase by the hour, has found 28 bug bites on her body as of this moment, and I have found 15 on my own. It’s like that episode of Friends when Phoebe’s boyfriend is in town for like a week and they both end up getting the chicken pox. WE FEEL LIKE WE HAVE THE CHICKEN POX. I am experiencing a tidal wave of intense empathy for red-speckled children everywhere. I only wish my mother were here to draw me an oatmeal bath. And clean it up afterward. I have no idea how that works.

Our faces say it all.

Our faces say it all (also we are aware our table is a mess)

See, our creative writing program has begun to blend with the study of natural history – in this case, we were paired up and sent a set of GPS coordinates, expected to trek to this very specific spot in Rome early in the morning and take detailed notes on the living things observed there. Karly and I, being almost embarrassingly excited about this assignment, got up at five and set off by six, winding past Tiber Island, the Altare della Patria, and the posh area surrounding Termini station in order to get to our designated coordinates. Let me just say, Rome is absolutely lovely at 6AM. Mild, quiet, and most importantly empty of human beings. We greatly enjoyed our walk. And eventually we arrived at our destination: Cimitero Monumentale del Verano.

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I find it delightfully ironic that we were sent to a cemetery to observe life. Some of the life (have I ever mentioned my hatred of mosquitoes?) tried to drain me of my blood and left me a hot mess, hands perpetually paralyzed in an almost-itch, but hey it was life nonetheless. In all seriousness, this was an incredible cemetery. Karly and I spent a couple hours just roaming the grounds after we’d finished recording our birds and whatnot, and we are seriously considering going back because we didn’t even cover half of the cemetery in the time we were there. It’s enormous, and elaborate, and a surprisingly good place to sit down and think. I haven’t been to enough cemeteries in any country to make generalizations or comparisons in an educated manner, but Verano felt like it had a lot of… dignity. For lack of a better word. More proud and less somber than any cemetery I’ve seen in the US. There are sculptures atop headstones, photos, real flowers, fake flowers, LED candles, full-on mausoleums with stained-glass windows and mosaics; families are buried together and the little mausoleums are organized into neighborhoods, with streets and cul-de-sacs, even small fountains. I’m not using “neighborhoods” in a loose way. Verano is literally full of mausoleum clusters that look like neighborhoods. I have complicated feelings about saying a cemetery is “cool,” but it’s hard to think of any other descriptor. And I could go into all of the things it made me think about, but that would make this post outrageously long and feelings-y. So I’ll spare you. You are welcome.

In addition to observing plant and animal species, we also had to “identify” them or, in other words, “google the recorded characteristics and see which wikipedia page pops up.” For the record: not a foolproof method. First of all, I am kind of horrendous at classifying things in the field – I called some mysterious trifoliate ground plant a clover without actually knowing it was a clover, I mistook ferns for reeds, I called a fly a moth because it was too bizarre-looking to possibly be a fly. I made things difficult for myself. I spent an inordinate amount of time searching for spiral-shaped seed pods, literally googling “what is a pinecone” because I “knew” these things served the same function but wasn’t sure how to phrase it. Turns out these snail-looking whirlygigs on the ground weren’t even seed pods. They were dead plant appendages. NATURE, EVERYONE.

The rest of my week has been pretty standard (not a bad thing): eating, walking a lot, churching, museuming, squinting in the sun, writing. If you want exciting news, though, here are a few tidbits:

  1. I am now the proud owner of an “Art Therapy Giordini in Fiore Colouring Book (Anti-Stress).” I bought it for 10 euros at a local indie bookshop, and it has proven to be a lovely addition to my life. I colored for 2 1/2 hours the other night, although Karly will argue it was 3 (it wasn’t).
  2. Our group walks to churches and museums have been reinvigorated thanks to a never-ending game of tag, as started by our professors’ young daughters. Honestly guys, I have missed kids so much. Like I used to hang out with an 8-, 6-, and 2-year-old at least once a week, and I have been around, pretty much exclusively, twentysomethings for the past month and a half. Don’t get me wrong, I like my peers. But every once in awhile, you need a little girl to run up behind you and slap you on the back, shouting “TAG YOU’RE IT NO TAGBACKS.” I’m happy.
  3. I went to the Borghese Gallery this week, which houses some of Bernini’s most famous sculptures and some of Caravaggio’s most famous paintings. I wanted to haul them home because they are so impossible to absorb in so little time. I really love Bernini. I really love Caravaggio.
  4. After a trip to H&M today, I’ve decided to make mismatched earrings my “thing.” Get ready to be inspired.

And with that, I sign off. I have exactly three weeks left in this city – there are many more stories to come.

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Story, Goal, Song: part IV

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I made a mistake last week. I started watching Aerial America again. And now, while everyone else has come down with a cold, I have come down with yet another bout of wanderlust.

So today my mom and I hopped in the car and drove toward the mountains. She probably just did this to shut me up, because whenever I’d caught sight of them earlier in the day it was all I could do to not thrust my hands in the air and yell “HOLY SHIT” (not an unwarranted exclamation – they were seriously majestic). But anyway, we drove toward the mountains, and then we turned around and headed toward the water, practically chasing the sun at this point, and one of the pictures I took during this leg of our journey is up yonder. I don’t know why my natural response to a beautiful day is to shout swear words, but HOLY. SHIT. What a breathtaking day.

Just had to get that out. Moving on! (if you missed them, part I can be found here, part II here, and part III here)


A story: Spring break trips are sort of a rite of passage for college students, as I’m sure everyone knows. Most, understandably, migrate toward the equator for that week – my friends and I decided to go north, to Vancouver BC. Vancouver is a beautiful land where the drinking age is only 19 and every building looks like this:

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The four of us arrived in this gorgeous city and settled in (shout-out to my dad for hooking it up with the Marriott points), soon venturing out again to find sandwiches and, more importantly, explore the Granville Island market. Many photos were taken – the background/wallpaper for this very blog is actually a picture I took of the water around Granville – and we discovered the soap shop of all soap shops. Feeling pretty grand about our touristing skills, we went back to the hotel to do some crucial pub/bar research; we are four young women who do not settle for mediocre cocktails. And we kind of wanted an Irish pub atmosphere. Priorities.

On a sidenote, the restaurant where we ate dinner had the coolest bathroom ever (so cool, in fact, L-dawg sent me on a secret mission to take a picture of the sink, which could be turned on by stepping on a pedal):

Canada, you really have it  all worked out.

Canada, you really have it all worked out.

By 7:30pm on that Monday evening, we were sitting at Doolin’s Irish Pub, not even getting carded for the drinks we ordered because those who “go out on the town” before 10 are probably harmless. Worked for us. There was live music. We had fries. We left by 9:30, grabbed some fancy dessert from a local cafe, and fell asleep watching the Food Network around midnight. This is good because, first of all, it’s kind of my ideal night, and secondly, we definitely needed our energy for the next day. I mean…

TOPSHOP is paradise, and it basically doesn't exist in the US (for those of you who don't know)

TOPSHOP is paradise, and it basically doesn’t exist in the US (for those of you who don’t know)

After taking advantage of the continental breakfast (since that is the point of staying in a hotel, after all), we went on a shopping spree and then a walking spree. Overestimating our speed/endurance/patience and underestimating the amount of rainfall that would occur that day, we attempted to walk all the way to Stanley Park. I cannot even give a rough estimate of how many blocks we traversed on our way to this so-called gem of Vancouver, but I can tell you that by the time we actually reached the park we had all silently agreed that a picture of a few ducks in the first pond we encountered would suffice, and we turned around. If there was ever a day, in the whole year of living together, when there was a nearly-palpable feeling of annoyance bouncing between the four of us, this was it. But a hot cup of tea with a towering tray of pastries can pretty much solve anything, and luckily that was next on our agenda.

This was my spring break, and these are my friends (all of whom I get to see on SUNDAY! *shrieks with happiness*). Such good memories – even walking in our rained-on misery.

A goal: Today’s goal, believe it or not, is actually related to both my intro and my story. When does that ever happen? Soak it up, guys.

Maybe you’ve already picked up on it, but I have this desire to see cities and mountains and canyons and grassy hillsides and practically everything. You know, the spirit of a traveler. Regrettably, though, I do not make enough time to really get out there and do stuff. I want to get out there and do stuff. I see these pictures of people I know road tripping and going on hikes and whatnot, and I always have that what-am-I-doing-with-my-life moment, when suddenly you can see very clearly your priorities have somehow been thrown askew. I’d like to get them back where they should be. And one of my top priorities is seeing and experiencing places. (I’ll start off strong by watching the Aerial America marathon all day on New Year’s, Smithsonian Channel if you’d like to participate from your own couch)

A song: Now we come to yet another song that has stayed with me through all the seasons: “I Can See Your Tracks” by Laura Veirs. In February, I sat on various benches and listened to it on repeat. It was on our spring break mix CD. I listened to it on the bus over the summer, and it is (predictably) stuck in my head now, at the very end of December.

It is so relaxed and sweet and makes me feel like I’m wandering around a prairie at sundown. If that doesn’t make you want to listen to it, I don’t know what will.


As always, thank you very very much for taking the time to read, and stay tuned for the final part of this series (and final post of 2014)!

Also, I would like to wish a very happy birthday to my dear Olivia Rose – can’t promise I won’t cry when I see you

Hi Again.

Favorite picture I've taken this week.

Favorite picture I’ve taken this week.

After an unintentional and unfortunate three-week hiatus, I figure it’s about time I return to this lovely webpage. I’ve missed my little corner of the internet. So… hi.

I’ve been exceptionally busy these past few weeks, at least by my standards, and although I have found the time to write this fine evening, this is only the calm before the storm. I’m back at school. Need I say more? Classes start Wednesday, which gives me just enough time to settle in to my new apartment and find a job (I’m hoping for the library, cross your fingers). As would only be consistent with my usual ways, I am frazzled-but-surviving, strategically pinpointing and tackling the little things that are stressing me out. Lucky for me, I also have three angelic roommates to distract me with laughter and food, two of my most favorite modes of distraction.

“What do four 19-year-old girls get up to in an apartment of their own?” you ask. As always, I have an answer for you, and it is quite simple: Say Yes to the Dress and popcorn, both in excess. If Netflix did not exist and the Whirley Pop had never been invented, our lives here would be very different. But worry not, we are not just salivating over mermaid gowns day in and day out. We have also done our fair share of listening to our impressive record collection, which is basically three Beatles records, Too-Rye-Ay by Dexy’s Midnight Runners, a little retro U2, and a compilation of Bill Cosby’s old comedy routines. Obviously we are very well-rounded young ladies. Actually that’s a lie. Look at our DVD shelf:

... We have very similar taste.

… We all have very similar taste.

As far as the actual, physical apartment goes, we are liking it. I think I could do without the trash “room,” which actually looks like it belongs in some shady back alley where a person’s been murdered, but I can deal. I have a pond view as well as, yet again, a lovely view into my neighbors’ living rooms and bedrooms, and sometimes there is pink lemonade in the front office. Posh.

For now, this is as far as I’ll go. Being back in the city is certainly an adjustment, but it’s a beautiful one.