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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From under eight blankets…

Ohhh hi. Nice to see you all after an unexpected little three week hiatus. I’d apologize, but I think anyone who knows me at all is quite familiar with my annual “it’s January and I feel like being a recluse” gig. If you don’t know me, hey, fun fact! I like hibernating in the winter.

Me, when I have to get up in the morning.

Me, when I have to get up in the morning.

Well if I haven’t been blogging during this period of hibernation, what have I been doing? Oh I’m so glad you asked.

  1. Having double-header indie movie nights. FrankSleepwalk With Me, and Your Sister’s Sister – all on Netflix, you are welcome.
  2. Eating shortbread cookies.
  3. Wearing this amazing denim jacket I bought secondhand practically every day and hoping no one notices…
  4. Reading about 1960’s Cuba and feeling more invested in a class than I have in quite some time (all the while adoring my professor, who is nothing short of spectacular).
  5. Shopping at Trader Joe’s and liking it 😦
  6. Attempting to marathon Jane the Virgin, even if it means I have to buy episodes on Amazon. In addition to faaar exceeding any expectations I have for a show on the CW, Jane the Virgin has Justin Baldoni’s face, which makes me want to cry. CRY, YOU GUYS.
  7. Listening to “Heirloom” by Sufjan Stevens and old Rattle and Hum-era U2 b-sides. I say this in the least pretentious/annoying way possible.
  8. Catching stunning sunrises on southbound buses. (this only happened once, but is worth mentioning)
  9. Actually cooking myself breakfast pretty much every morning.
  10. Thinking. Underthinking. Overthinking. Overbudgeting time. Underbudgeting iced mocha expenditures.

And that, my friends, is just about the extent of it. Perhaps I’ll keep up blog appearances from here on out. Perhaps I will continue to be a hermit. “That’s why people love me: I’m unpredictable,” she said sarcastically.

A list & a playlist

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Is it just me, or does November have the prettiest name of all the months? Hi guys. I’m Cierra. I like words.

Tonight, I am thankful for:

  1. A schedule/workload which permits my laptop to be permanently stationed at my desk (as pictured above), rather than hopping between my backpack, coffee shop tables, and my bed. This means a) my back no longer has to support this dinosaur of an HP’s weight on a daily basis, and b) I am spending less time on my computer, which in turn means c) I am spending more time not developing carpal tunnel (and, you know, living in this beautiful world).
  2. Days like today, when I get free hot chocolate and find out I’ll very likely be spending spring quarter in Rome. Arrivaderci, punks.
  3. Skype, and seeing the face of a friend who has been shivering and drinking hot chocolate in Norway for 3 1/2 months.
  4. Past concerts and future concerts. I had the immense joy of seeing Relient k two weeks ago, all thanks to a scalper taking pity on a small 20-year-old girl who has no idea how to haggle. I’d like to say the high school freshman in me was in heaven that evening, but it was all of me. All of me. My voice was still crackly a week later because I spent two hours shouting “III’M STIIIILL WAAAITIIIING FOOOR YOUTOBETHEONEI’MWAITINGFORRR!” You know how it goes. Matt Thiessen, if you ever read this, I still love you and your lion-worthy mane. And as if that experience was not enough, I bought tickets last night to see Punch Brothers, which I am inexpressably psyched about. Music is good. I’ll talk more about it later.
  5. The glowing promise of Thanksgiving weekend, four days spent with the family I so love. Movies and sleeping in my own bed. The now-annual social media fast. Flag football and probably getting clotheslined by my own father… you can imagine for yourself my sentiments on that particular subject.

And, because I am establishing this as a tradition even if everyone hates it, here is what I have been listening to lately (but if you want a cohesive, mood/genre-specific playlist, look elsewhere):

Feelin’ optimistic

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s/o to my mom for helping this vision come to life

s/o to my mom for helping me bring my vision to life

It’s the end of September, if you haven’t noticed, which means a lot of things:

  1. School is now a thing again.
  2. Going to bed at 1AM is no longer an acceptable habit.
  3. I need to re-learn the whole “feeding myself” thing.
  4. Time to establish a study/hangout spot at a local coffee shop.
  5. The temperature is dropping, meaning iced tea is becoming less and less practical.
  6. Lots of readjusting and settling in.
  7. I get to spend beautiful moments with the beautiful people in my life.

I feel very ready for this season and this school year. Good times are ahead.

Excuse me while I listen to Volcano Choir 24/7:

Reflection, Repave, Rollerblades

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Exactly one year ago, I wrote the following in my journal: “I wanted to blog today, but didn’t.” Oddly enough, this same feeling has not been too foreign to me these past few weeks. I’ve spent a considerable number of hours hopping around benches on campus, trying with all my might to write something insightful and profound – something impressive. Well today, my friends, I’m just going to let myself write.

So basically this is what has been going on in my life:

  1. A debilitating case of writer’s block. I blame this on a) the emotional scarring I experience from writing essays for my classes (why am I an English major again?), and b) self-deprecation masquerading as introspective wisdom. What do I mean by this? Earlier this month, I had what I thought was an “epiphany” – I was (predictably) sitting on a bench in my favorite garden, and all of a sudden I thought “hm, having a blog is kind of self-congratulatory.” Like hey, look, I know enough about language to form coherent sentences, sometimes I can even tell jokes! I was alarmed by this because, as you have probably gathered, I have a blog. And I became even more distraught when I realized if this is true – which I thought it was – sharing any talent with anyone would undermine a person’s humility. Having a YouTube channel, or making music, or auditioning for So You Think You Can Dance, or playing beach volleyball in the Olympics… all boastful. But. In that moment I failed to see the distinction between sharing something because you love to do it, and sharing something because you’re an attention whore. And I failed to see that the world would be oh-so bland if people didn’t share what they’re good at. So, to bring the self-deprecation full-circle, I was being pretty stupid when I let a lie affect what I love to do: write.
  2. On a happier note, listening to Volcano Choir’s album Repave on repeat on repeat on repeat. The few people who follow me on spotify probably think my computer’s broken when they see I’ve listened to “Byegone” eight times in a row, but SORRY because I’m not sorry, it’s totally intentional. I never really got into Bon Iver (for a very valid reason, I assure you), so I’m kind of excited that I finally get to jump on the Justin Vernon bandwagon – so far it has made my life a very happy place. The songs are beautiful. The album cover is literally just a picture of a wave, but I’m a little obsessed with it. Even just the band name – Volcano Choir? Couldn’t tell you precisely why, but it’s probably in my top three favorite band names. In short, I pretty much haven’t listened to anything else for two weeks. Aside from “The Wanderer” by Johnny Cash. But that’s another story.
  3. Watching TEDtalks on Netflix while I eat lunch. This is partially because I legitimately enjoy TEDtalks… it is also an attempt to make myself feel better about watching Netflix so often. It’s better than the Vampire Diaries, right? Oh, oops. Been binge-watching that too. And old episodes of the Office. And 30 Rock. And any episode of Parks and Rec involving a Ben-and-Leslie relationship benchmark.
  4. Thinking about what I want to accomplish this summer. Bought myself some rollerblades last time I was home, so that’s definitely happening. I want to learn to play an instrument, probably guitar – please send me chill, patient vibes? I want to carve out some time for reading every day, because I’m starting to feel guilty about the many neglected books on my shelf (and I enjoy reading, but this motivation is secondary to my ever-looming guilt). And – thanks to the romanticism instilled in me by Anne of Green Gables – I would really like to get up at the crack of dawn a few times, just to go watch the sunrise from the ferry. The list continues to grow.
  5. As always, frantically clinging to whatever is left of this school year. I don’t think I’ve ever made it to the beginning of June without becoming that annoying, overly-sentimental, “where oh where has the time gone?” person. I’m being completely honest when I say I feel like it was just last spring – I remember trying to soak everything in while I still had the chance, aimlessly wandering around campus, and I remember sitting on the floor in my half-empty dorm room after Chimp moved out. So the fact that I am basically doing all of this again, one year later, sort of freaks me out. Wasn’t it just syllabus week? Wasn’t it just Christmas? Wasn’t it just SEPTEMBER? What even…? Any tiny scrap of eloquence I have ever possessed is completely lost when I feel like the universe is in fast-forward. Truly. All I can say is “whaaat – HOW! – why?”

So there it is. May 29th, 2014. I wanted to blog today, and I did.