Tuesday, June 30, 2009

reflections on rome, pt. 2

so the day after i wrote my angsty last post, i got to go out to an authentic Italian dinner with my mom and roommates. being the experienced traveler that she is (she just filled up all the pages in her passport!), my mom had the know-how to look up this charming little restaurant, located random place in some back corner of some alley (of course). when we got there, there weren't any tables available so the owners literally made one, busting out a couple sawhorses and a big piece of plywood to accommodate our little posse. there were no menus and the only question our waiter asked us was 'bianco o rosso?' ['red or white' wine]. the consensus was rosso and within minutes, we had a generous bottle of their house red and the food came soon after. i'm sure you're wondering how we got food so fast since we didn't have menus; well at this particular place they do most of the deciding for you. even better, i got my last-post's wish and when we asked clarifying questions in english, the wait staff responded only in Italian, making the occasional accommodating hand-gesture or two [the non-profane kind of hand-gesture, of course]. after the main dishes were served, two large bottles of liquor came next: limoncello and grappa -- both potions strong enough to take the hair off your chest if you've got it and to put hair on your chest if you don't. we left full, happy, and a wee bit tipsy.

this past sunday, i got in a much-needed day of relaxation on the beach. my roommate ariana and i soaked in the sun and took turns taking dips in the ocean. i forgot how amazing it feels to flip make-shift fins through salt water! truly, truly fantastic. the unfortunate caveat is that i got horrendously sunburned and my skin is only now starting to feel like skin again. but i've been slathering aloe and creams in excess and i'm confident that the red landscape currently masquerading as my back will be a nice (semi)even brown in a few days time.

school continues to be quite rigorous and the pace has done anything but slow down. i've seen more tombs, sarcophagi, statues and frescos than i-don't-know-what [sorry dudes, my metaphor tank is tapped these days]. i'm starting to feel better and less debbie-downer about my time here and i'm actually even beginning to think i'll miss this place quite a bit! this is largely attributed to my aforementioned fabulous roommates about whom i'll need to expound upon at another time. the computer lab is actually being shut down right now so i'm going to have to cut this reflection relatively short [short for me, anyhow].

i love you all. i miss you all. ciao! :D

Thursday, June 25, 2009

reflections on rome, pt. 1

i know i totally half-assed that last entry and haven't really offered any real updates on my time here in rome so i'm gonna give it an honest go while i have my brain cells about me (more or less).

i can't honestly say that i've fallen in love with rome, not yet anyhow. don't get me wrong, i love travelling! i love feeling immersed in culture, overwhelmed by the unknown and surrounded by natives doing their thing, living their life. i love getting to travel around the world! and though i haven't done a lot of global gallivanting, with just about every other country i've been to (china, brazil, the motherland), i've fallen in love with almost instantly. rome, on the other hand, is proving to be a harder sell.

for one thing, rome is absolutely inundated by tourists and i feel like this city in particular has over-accommodated for its guests. in every other country i've visited, i've been forced to learn the language. though the word 'forced' carries a sort of negative connotation, for me it's a joy! my ears love to be flooded by the beautiful cadences of other languages and i love the challenge of manipulating my american tongue to follow suit. here though, i've only mastered "gratzie", "bon giuorno", "buona sera" and "prego" (which means 'please', not 'spaghetti sauce'). granted, i could've taken more initiative to learn the language before i got here but even my fellow students who studied italian have commented on how they've barely used any of it as just about every vendor and waiter immediately interjects with english. it certainly doesn't help that i'm currently enrolled in an english creative writing program in which i must think in english in order to effectively write in english. mind you, i love that i'm in this program and i appreciate the opportunity to exercise my long neglected and subsequently atrophied creative muscles. but language is a beautiful thing i really feel like this program and our writing would be well-served by some lessons in the native tongue. i think the practice of putting words to an experience, regardless of which dialect those words belong to, always ends up better serving the written art form as a whole. by not taking time to learn the language here, i really feel like we're missing out on something huge.

now i know a huge part of the appeal of rome is the access to such a depth of history. within walking distance of my apartment are the remnants of the roman forum, the infamous coliseum, the vatican... and on and on and on. and though certainly the architecture is breathtaking and it's incredible to imagine life two thousand years ago, what remains today seems tainted. raphael's tomb in the pantheon lit up by fluorescent bulbs, electrical outlets carved into ancient etruscan walls, a public restroom steps away from where caesar's ashes were scattered... it just seems strange. and i know that these modern interjections are meant to highlight and (quite literally) illuminate these incredible sites, i can't seem to get away from the stench of money and the stain of greed in the midst of it all. even the thousands year old etruscan tombs with their intricate carvings haunted me in its vanity: the rich memorializing the rich so that a couple thousand years later more rich people could come and admire it. note: i'm fully aware that i sound like a whiny, spoiled, cynical american sharting all over the incredible opportunity i've been given but i've gotta keep it real, kids. being here makes me feel like i'm being duped into buying into the eurocentrism that's at the heart of the american curriculum and me and all my cultural studies, american ethnic studies, social justice training just can't seem to buy in without pushing back, just a little. and by a little, of course i mean a lot.

with all that said, i'm hoping to let go of my angst (or at least some of it) before this trip is over so that i can really embrace rome for all that it is -- good, bad and ugly. i know that a lot of that depends on my willingness to embrace this experience so i'm working on chipping away at the gigantic chip on my weary shoulder, bit by bit. i know my whining makes it harder to believe what i'm about to say but i really am so grateful that i get to be here and that i get to travel around for the next month and a half. i don't plan on debbie-downering my trip to death and i truly am looking for the silver lining wherever i go. the good news is, even though i haven't yet fallen in love with rome, i am already deeply in love with life. i'm also falling in love with my incredible roommates who have already filled this week (and my heart) with incredible conversation and beautiful company. the other good news is i've still got three weeks left here in rome and that's plenty of time to get over myself and fall in love with this beautiful city. i hope.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

roma is amor spelled backwards

so i'm in rome and though i've been doing a lot of writing, i clearly haven't been doing a lot of blogging. it's been awhile since i've posted any poetry and indeed, awhile since i've written any poetry but since that's sort of what i'm here to do, i thought i'd take a quick minute to share one. (it's about a painting of one of the popes) :)

red velvet toesy peeks out from billowing beige silk
matching velvet cap, cape and even crushed
velvet cushion (crushed by holy ass)
in his left hand scriptures? a letter? a speech?
with his right hand a slight wave, or maybe
a shadow puppet to pass the time or
perhaps the artist said "that's it" just
as he was about to say "got your nose"
nevertheless a familiar papal pose.