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roaminaroundtheworld

I’ll Return to Roma

One week ago, on the night of September 14th, amongst a crowd of Romans, travelers, and tourists, I threw a coin into the Trevi fountain, ensuring my safe return to Roma someday (hopefully sooner, rather than later).

In the darkness, lights reflected off the water, creating illuminating waves on the marble. Sitting on the lip before the pool of water, I felt the hydration of Rome, blessed to be there with friends and strangers.

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London Wall

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On the remains of the London Wall, nature reclaims the boundaries made by man. Nature proves that growth can happen anywhere at anytime, even on structures intended to enclose and block such growth.

Truth in the British Library

In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf muses about the nature of where truth is founded:”If truth is not to be found on the shelves of the British Museum, where, I asked myself, picking up a notebook and a pencil, is truth?”

Well, Ms. Woolf, if I may, I would proffer that truth is found in the British Library.  More specifically, truth is found in the bathroom of the British Library.

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After spending a good deal of time with Shakespeare in Ten Acts, especially in part four which detailed the women of Shakespeare, I went to the bathroom and cried.  I could feel the heritage of woman: the oppression, possession by man and culture, the fight for liberation and equality. I could feel my place in history and the responsibility I have to myself and other women to empower our gender.

I felt years of missed interactions with my father, and unhealthy relationships with men, melt into the tears I left behind in the bathroom. Sometimes all you need is a bathroom of your own (plus, the British know how to do public loos–walls that stop a half-inch before the floor, and no cracks for unsuspecting eyes to accidentally meet yours while your trying to do your business).

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Ode to Cleopatra’s Mummy

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Here lies a powerful woman; her body in death on display as it was in life. I felt honored to stand in her presence; I imagined her spirit infusing mine with courage and empowerment. Then I thought how sad, and rude really, to disturb the rest of this Queen all because of her name and who she was when she was alive.

Please forgive me, Cleo, for gazing through the glass. On behalf of the museum-goers and curators at the British Museum, I apologize for all of those eyes.  You are not ours to possess.

Global Transformation

To be in the space of the Globe Theater is to feel your love for Shakespeare, theater, and history expand in your chest so big you might float away like the white balls they hung in the open roof.

I bought a program about this production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and in the essay “Love is A Drug,” Farah Karim-Cooper explores the culture and lore of herbs in this play.  She concludes, “The importance Shakespeare places on herbs, plants, flowers, and their liquified (symbolic) essence in the play suggests how susceptible we are to the transforming power of love. Our desire to lose ourselves in its magic is symbolized through Shakespeare’s imaginative portrayal of the mysteries of the natural world.”

As I sat on the benches of the Globe with friends also enjoying the spectacular performance of The Dream, I felt the transforming power of love–a love that weaved itself throughout this entire trip.

Practice Pack=A Success!

I promised a practice pack, and I shall deliver.

What’s on my bed:

  • 7 dresses
  • 7 anti-chafe shorts
  • 5 undies
  • 3 sports bra (1 doubles as a swimsuit top)
  • 2 pair sock
  • 1 swimsuit bottom
  • 2 pairs of sleep/loungewear pants/capris
  • 2 lounge shirts
  • 2 sleep dresses
  • 7 tanktops (for lounge, layering, and sleeping)
  • 1 sweater
  • 1 raincoat
  • 1 bag with all toiletries (inside is a removable 1qt sized bag with liquids, creams, gels, etc.)
  • 1 crushable sun hat
  • 1 body towel
  • 1 face towel
  • 1 crushable airplane pillow
  • 1 charger adaptor+my charger
  • 2 books for London and Rome
  • 1 pair of walking sandals
  • Journal + pens
  • glasses and sunglasses
  • Ibuprofen
  • empty H20 bottle
  • Italian flashcards

And, I have room to spare to bring things back!

This list may become even more compact as I decide whether or not I need every single item I packed.

My methodology for what I brought was simple: I packed very comfortable things that I normally wear, enough for one week. I intend to wash these things and re-wear them.

I am going to wear my heaviest clothes on the day out (boots and jeans…or boots and a dress…I haven’t decided yet).

I decided to return my wheeled-bag and instead purchased the Osprey Porter 46 from REI–it is a carry-on sized backpack. I feel more secure with my stuff on my back, and I hate wheeling bags!

As far as the actual packing–I rolled everything and stuffed things so that there were no air pockets in the bag.

Good packing to you all!

2.5 weeks and counting

STUDY ABROAD, HERE WE COME!

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I think I am ready for this trip. I’ve read the material, gathered my packing list, read up on the current cultures of both London and Rome, and learned a little bit of Italian (but not nearly enough…as long as I only ask people what their names are and how they are doing, I’ll be fine…).

I am beyond excited for this–my first international trip, my first time studying anywhere besides the U.S., my first elongated vacation away from work. And, we have an amazing group of people to embark on this journey with!

I hope that I get a taste of what it is like to be and live outside of the U.S. whatever that holds.  I am trying not to imagine too much, because my imaginings are always vastly different than reality. And honestly, even though we have a lot planned, I hope to spend some of my down time alone, quiet, and in contemplation of the beauty that is around me.

Adiamo!

 

 

Roman Evanescence

Evanescence: the act of disappearing gradually, vanishing, fading away.

Romans seem far more aware of their own evanescence than Americans do. Romans discuss death over dinner; their wait in line to examine the corpses of their dead heroes; they take the arms of revered old parents and escort them through the park on Sundays. Six of seven times, since coming to Italy, I’ve seen young people on park benches reading novels to grandmothers. I’ve seen hundred-year-old women picking stolidly through eggplants at the market, or dragging pull-along grocery carts up hills on ruined ankles, or slumped in piazzas under shawls with whirlpools suffering turning in their eyes. (124) 

Rome’s well-known and accepted history of the past disappearing in the present aids a comfortability with death, with fading into. I wonder if there is a sense of shame about their history–about the violence, the conquership? Or is there a sense of acceptance?

I think Americans are ashamed of their history, albeit not much less violent than Rome’s, some of our populace want to ignore the genocide that happened here, and the violence that happens abroad as we spread democracy and capitalism” for the “good of the whole.”

Decay of republic, disintegration of empire, the ongoing crumble of Church–death is the river that runs through town, driving along beneath the bridges, roiling in the rapids besides the hospitals on Tiber Island. Death is in the stains on the walls; it’s the weight of Keat’s tombstone upon the sod, the permission slip Romans sign when a long-haired girl climbs onto the back of her boyfriend’s Vespa, when the banker puts the transmission in park and takes the librarian in his arms. I agree to live now, live as sweetly as i can, to fill my clothes with wind and my eyes with lights, but I understand I’ll have to leave in the end. (124-125)

Romans have experienced the decay of Rome, its empire and ideal.  It lives in the very makeup of the living.

Americans are in the midst of the decay.

We Americans, with our closed-door communities, are the ones who seem to have a hard time thinking about death. (125)

Maybe it is because we are afraid of who we will encounter in death–the walls we put up are no longer there, so who have we turned away that we will no longer be able to?

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A City’s Memory: Fall in Rome

Fall in Rome:

There will be culture shock. Having just come from the states, where things are as they always have been; all things regular, timed, dependable, and in my native language.

There is no city more beautiful than Rome (15). 

I await the most beautiful city after a summer like this one, not a summer at all (at least not how they usually are for me–slower, sunnier, stickier with sunscreen). I have been harried, my mind forced to flit from one thing to the next so that it is all done–work project, school projects, packing projects; my mind is a project.

Trastevere is full of medieval houses and clotheslines and drinking fountains that appear to be permanently turned on. Little cars are parked in impossible places. In front of one building maybe eighty scooters stand handgrip to handgrip; there is the temptation to give one a kick to see if they’ll all go down. 

Julius Caesar lived in this neighborhood. So did Cleopatra (17)

There is a history in Rome that I will be walking through, one that I will feel become a part of me as I become a part of it. I invite it into my cells now through the words of Anthony Doerr, in preparation for the real thing.

What is Rome? Clouds. Church bells. The distant pinpricks of birds. In Trastevere yesterday, a girl in a black dress sat on the rim of a fountain and scribbled into a leather book with a bright blue quill two feet long (20). 

I want to be her, the one in a black dress, scribbling philosophical musings, real-time descriptions, my inner-workings away from the workings that make up my day-to-day.

I think I used to be more like her. More still. In high school, every day after school I rode my bike to a park near the river and climbed a steep bluff, so steep that some of it   was considered free-hand rock climbing. I’d sit at the top, stare down at the people below, in their cars, on their highways, going somewhere, and I’d write, or just sit. Now, I’m a people in a car, on a highway, going somewhere.

Rome, it seems, seeds esoteric passions: there are scholars of staircases, scholars of keyholes (20). 

I am a scholar, of what esoteric passion I cannot yet name. It’s forming inside of me.

Is this Rome? Or a dream? (28). 

Can’t it be both? I’ve been dreaming of being in Rome though I’ve never been there. In my dreams, I am a gladiator and I want to wake up.

Every time I turn around here, I witness a miracle: wisteria pours up walls; slices of sky show through the high arches of a bell tower; water leaks nonstop from the spouts of a half-sunken marble boat in the Piazza di Spagna. A church floor looks soft as flesh; the skin from a ball of mozzarella cheese tastes rich enough to change my life. (30-31)

Are miracles made from the unfamiliar space of traveling? I need some of that life-changing mozzarella.

History lies beneath the city like an extensive and complicated armature. Emperors were stabbed beneath tramlines. Sheep grazed beneath supermarkets. The thirteen obelisks of Rome have been toppled and reerected and shuffled around so many times that to lay a map of their previous positions over a map of their current ones is to evoke a miniature cross-hatching of the city’s entire memory, a history of power and vanity like a labyrinth stamped beneath the streets. (40)

The streets of Rome are a pentimento of the past and the present. Pentimento is actually an Italian word, it is one of my very favorite words I have ever encountered. Pentimento: when one can see the previous works of art underneath new layers. It is a term that describes Rome: recycled, layered, a city to be uncovered. I hope to enmesh my memory in the city, but not in the way that my presence is detected.

Rome: a contest between sun and shadow, kingdom and time, architecture and weeds. The shadows will win, of course, and time, and weeds. (44-45). 

Rome: a contest between an old ruling empire and the empire I come from.

Again I feel, acutely, that we are outsiders–that there are things in Rome that I will never come close to understanding. (47)

I have a feeling that I will come back to Rome many times in my lifetime (at least, it is a hope of mine) to get closer and closer to whatever understanding it holds me for me at the time.

All quotes from Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr.

 

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