Archive for June 2013
So on Thursday I headed back to the United States. I had asked the building manager/doorman/whatever he is to get a cab for me on Thursday morning at 9:00. At about 8:20 on Thursday, I walked out of the apartment building, intending to get some cash from the bank, for the taxi and the airport bag check-in. He was standing outside talking with some folks. When he saw me, he looked worried.
He asked me (in Italian) if I wanted that taxi for 9:00. I said, “Si, vado a uno banco.” (yes, I am going to the bank)
He looked confused.
I said, “É otto e venti. Vado uno banco.” (It’s 8:20. I’m going to the bank)
He turned to the couple he was talking to and said, “Parlete inglese?” (Do you guys speak English)
“No,” they said.
He turned back to me and said, “Taxi per le nove?” (Taxi for nine o’clock?)
“Si,” I said again. “Taxi per nove. É otto e venti. Vado uno banco.” (Yes, taxi for nine o’clock. It’s 8:20. I’m going to the bank.)
He turned to his friends and said something. Finally the man in the couple (in Italian) told me to be down here in half an hour. I said (in Italian) that I would be.
So I took a taxi to the airport, because it was a lot easier to deal with than hauling two suitcases and a full backpack around on public transportation during rush hour traffic. He dropped me off at Terminal Five. That was where all of the flights to the United States left from. But I had said specifically that I was going to Canada. I can only guess that since almost all of the flights to North America leave from Terminal Five, he thought Air Canada left from Terminal Five as well. But Air Canada was in Terminal Three, with all the European flights, for some reason.
So after some mild panicking and resentment on my part, I got on the airport shuttle and to Terminal Three. Everything else in the airport went without a hitch. In the airport, I sat and started The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time and sobbed several times. I sat in seat 38H in the very back of the plane, where I finished before the plane even took off. It’s not a difficult book to read. Except emotionally. I cried so many times.
Fortunately I was dry-eyed when a woman approached my seat and stared at me.
I looked up at her.
“Is this your seat?” she asked me.
“Yes,” I said.
She narrowed her eyes.
“What’s your seat number?” she asked.
“38H,” I said.
She muttered under her breath and walked away. When I saw her next, she was in seat 37G. I think she was originally supposed to sit in 38K, next to me, but for some reason didn’t want to sit next to me. I don’t know why. Maybe she wanted an aisle seat. Maybe she wanted to have two seats all to herself. When I recounted the story to my family later on, my uncle Steve pointed out that I would make a great seatmate because I’m small.
She wasn’t rude. When I remarked aloud to no one that the plane was a lot less full than I expected, she turned around and explained that the back of the plane on long flights was reserved for flight attendants, so they could have a place to nap on their breaks. So she didn’t hate me, at least.
Whatever the reason, no one ever came to sit in 38K, so I had two seats all to myself for nine hours. I stuck my backpack under 37K, so I was able to stretch my legs out as far as I want (and because I’m small, I had almost as much footroom as a tall person would have in First Class). I could use 38K as a place to set my books and my laptop, or another footrest if I wanted to sit sideways. I could use 38K’s interactive screen to show me the flight’s progress on the map, and my interactive screen to watch movies.
After The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-time, I needed to lightest movie imaginable to lift my mood. I ended up settling on Hotel Transylvania. It was a fun movie, exactly what I needed, but afterwards, I needed something a bit heavier to chew on. So I watched the 1993 version of Secret Garden. Then I tried to read another book, Green Rider, but I’ve read that book so often that I got bored and started skipping parts I knew already. Like, all of the opening scene, where the bad guy ruminates on history, and the heroine gets her mission from the dying Green Rider. I just skipped all of that premise-building. Then I got skipped the next chapter because I knew that too. I decided that since I had skipped three chapters, I should probably just not bother reading the book. Instead I watched The Secret of NIMH.
Although I grew up watching The Secret of NIMH, I hadn’t seen it in several years. I found myself enthralled in a way I hadn’t been as a child. When I was a little girl, I had loved the comical scenes — Jeremy the Crow being clumsy (‘scuse me, pardon me!), Auntie Shrew shrieking in self-aggrandizement, the children tying up Jeremy. I had hardly noticed the main character, Mrs. Brisby.
But now, as an adult, I was fascinated by her. She is a strong character — truly strong, I think. Not physically. Not in a 1990s I’m-a-woman-in-a-man’s-world type of strong female character. She had strong characterization. She had a true personality. I sat back and watched her, and I realized what this woman is:
This woman is Heart. Everything she does, she does from the heart. She is constantly battling her own fear and uncertainty in order to protect those she loves. She begins the story fearful of even visiting Mr. Ages, but she does it anyway. When the tractor begins the plowing early, she immediately runs to the danger without having any idea what she is going to do (another character, Auntie Shrew, manages to stop the tractor, and finds her frozen in fear, still clinging to the tractor). She just wants to save her family.
There are arc words attached to the amulet Mrs. Brisby is holding. They are “Courage of the Heart is very rare. The stone has a power when it’s there.” The actual words on the amulet are “you can unlock any door if you only have the key,” which is also important to note, but nowhere near as important as the words Nicodemus gives us (the “courage of the heart” quote).
After a long and dramatic scene in which the rats get caught up in internal politics, Mrs. Brisby’s house and children (and Auntie Shrew, never forget Auntie Shrew) begin sinking into the mud. The rats all struggle to get the house out of the mud — setting aside their dispute to focus on the task at hand. Justin and Mrs. Brisby are on the granite block of the house. The other rats are tossing rope to them, and they desperate tie the ropes around the block, so that the rats can pull the block to safety. But all the ropes keep breaking. The granite block sinks beneath the mud. Justin only barely manages to pull out a desperate, grieving Mrs. Brisby from the mud. But she is fighting. Her heart, broken, strong, her strength, her courage — even to the last, Mrs. Brisby is fighting to save her family.
And that is why the stone amulet works. Mrs. Brisby, heart personified, is courageous, selfless, but always courageous. The stone unleashes its power and saves the house and the children (including Timmy and Auntie Shrew).
This had always confused me as a child. Why should the stone amulet work, when Mrs. Brisby had been crying and not being courageous? Because Mrs. Brisby never gave up. No, not even when her children were sinking beneath the mud. She may have been crying. But she hadn’t given up, not really. Not ever.
Last night was the super moon! I thought I would be special and go see the Super Moon over the Roman monuments.
I spent most of the day at the computer, it felt like, so it was nice to stretch my legs. But I actually didn’t really enjoy going to the Forum. The moon wasn’t any larger than it was during any other full moon I had seen.
All the amateur photographers of Rome were there, and they all snapped this picture. If you weren’t there to take a picture, you were there to make out. Seriously, you were either pointing a camera at the moon or you were burying your face into someone else’s mouth. Italians, I’ve noticed, are a lot more into PDA than Americans are. They’re a lot noisier than Americans, too, making lots of slurpy noises and sucking noises.
All things considered I left the Forum feeling rather alone and small.
It’s not all just goofing off and trying to figure out what “cernitur” means (was Lamia Cicero’s buddy? Like, super buddy?). Last night, for instance, my roommates and I all put on nice clothing and went to the German bar two blocks away. We would live there if we could, I think. Sarah would, at least.
The roommates tried to eat bread with oil and vinegar without having any plates. So Nicole just drew on the placemat with balsalmic vinegar instead.
This being our last weekend in Rome, we also hit up the outdoor market that’s right outside our door every Sunday. We all found something to like! For example, these moustache scarves:
Just me? Okay, how about hats.
Hey, boys. *winkwink*
Like what you see, huh? I think I look pretty fly. In a female sense?
Yeah, you know this is hot.
Oh also I took a picture of Nicole in a pope t-shirt and her bikini, because we are all classy, classy people in Building 34 Floor 4.
Also I have the most coordinated outfit ever now the end.
Finals season for the summer session is upon us! I am now doing boring things. The downside to reading scholarly articles written in the 1950s is that all of the quotes are still in Latin, because Latin and Greek scholarship was still pretty common back then. So I have to bring the old Latin dictionary out and dust out my Latin grammar, which has been sitting in the attic for months under some old tourist maps and a pile of cobwebs.
I refuse to translate this:
Vidi enim hesterno die quendam murmurantem, quem aiebant negare ferri me posse, quia, cum ab hoc eodem impurissimo parricida rogarer cuius essem civitatis, respondi me, probantibus et vobis et equitibus Romanis, esse eius quae carere me non potuisset. Ille, ut opinor, ingemuit.
Apparently it contains some zingers, but no. I refuse to try. I’m willing to translate this:
aliqua gloria iusta et merit
I think it means “Some fair and deserved glory”, roughly.
I’m not entirely sure why I find this so funny, but I do.
Buckle up you guys, this is going to be a wild tale of crazy Romans and conquering public transit. Sadly I do not have any awesome pictures of myself to start this entry so we’re stuck with Tarzan here.
I had stopped to take this picture of a band’s poster. Some random dude, potbellied in a striped polo shirt, waited until I was done, then took out a map, pointed at it, and started speaking in Italian. I gathered enough from his pointing and a few stray words of Italian to understand that he was trying to get to the Pyramid. That was nowhere near where we were. For some reason I had assumed that all Italians, by their fluency in the language, gained fluency in public transportation as well. Apparently not. I had just figured out the bus system and the metro system, like, two hours prior. Now I had to explain how to get to Piramide with only rudimentary Italian.
The guy followed me like a lost dog all the way to the Metro station, which was a hike: a block, up two flights of stairs, and over a bridge. Finally I was able to get a Metro map.
“San Pietro,” he said.
“Oh!” I said. “No, San Paolo!” I ran my finger along the map to show him that the San Pietro stop was the wrong way, and San Paolo was the right way. “Marconi, Piramide — Ribbibia. Marconi, Laurentina — no.”
“Oh!” he said. “Grazie!”
Marconi is a Mussolini-era neighborhood, built a fair distance away from the older, more central parts of the city. It took me an hour or so to get back to the city. I got off on Nazione and looked around. It was around 1:00. I had to be at the Piazza Della Repubblica for my next class at 3:00. I had planned on going home for lunch, but I decided against it.
I bought a sandwich, water, and a cold soda at a cafe. I got it to go, but then I thought, well, where am I going to eat this? Since I was only a block away from the Capitoline Hill, I decided that I would eat there. I headed out; my hands were overladen with stuff, and my backpack was swinging in front of me. I had a difficult time balancing all of it.
I successfully crossed Via del Plebiscito. I was just walking on my merry way, looking ahead at the Hill, making plans for crossing the gigantic roundabout and trying to find shade. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw some leathery, skinny, toothless old man burst out through a crowd of tourists. He looked at me, I looked away. Too late. He walked straight over to me, in just the course of a step or two. He shouted something in Italian at me, then threw his clear soda at me; it hit my feet.
I just stared at him, absolutely terrified. My only thought was that I was about to get attacked by this toothless dude. I had absolutely no way to defend myself, unless I whacked him with my sandwich or something.
He said some final word to me — or maybe it was a dry spit — and then he walked away.
I hid in the shade by San Marco and tried not to look at anyone. I ran through a list of what I could possibly have done to provoke him. Was it that I looked at him? Was it because my shoulders were bare? Was it because I had stumbled a bit on the curb? The fact that I hadn’t understood his rant made the whole thing more important and more of a mystery to me. I needed closure. Intellectually, I knew he was just a crazy person and that I had done nothing wrong. But I couldn’t stop myself from wondering.
After lunch I made my way to the Piazza della Repubblica. I was not going to leave this Piazza for much, much longer than I wanted. For a while I read in the shade of a large lamppost. As it got close to 3:00, I got up and started looking for my classmates. I found one, Kelly.
“It’s almost 3:00,” I said.
“I think he said that if there’s no shade we should go inside the church,” she said.
So we did.
“He’s not here yet,” I said. The church was lovely, and there was some sort of peaceful singing going on, but I still wanted to try to make the class.
“I don’t want to leave,” Kelly said. “There’s air conditioning and I don’t want to pay that old lady again.”
“Old lady?” I said. “You mean the one at the entrance? I thought she was just a begger.”
Kelly thought for a moment.
“Shit,” she said.
Fortunately the professor showed up a few minutes after that, and we were on our way. We learned how the church used to be part of a bathhouse, and then moved on to a nearby museum. On our way over, the girls in our class got cat-called. Most of the other girls ignored the, but I made the mistake of glancing at them as I passed.
“Hey!” they shouted. “Hello! Hey! What’s your name!”
I wondered if that was the only English they knew and how they knew we spoke English.
At the museum we examined various statues and their meanings.
Pop quiz! What’s wrong with this statue?
Then we made our final goodbyes to the professor — he had decided to give us Monday and Tuesday off so we could focus on our papers instead. Then we left. Presumably the other students left quickly. On the other hand, it took me a while to leave the Piazza.
First I stopped and took pictures of the fountain in the Piazza.
I had walked past an embroidery shop or a rug shop or a fabric shop or something on the way over. I had spotted in the window a special: small tapestries for 18€. So I headed back to the store to see if I could get anything good. On the way over, I noticed a crowd gathering in the square.
I was stopped by a guy, who began talking to me in English. I stared at him, confused. Finally he said, “Do you speak English?”
“Yes,” I said.
Then I walked on to the store. I bought three for 50€, then headed to the metro to go home. On the way back to the Metro, the guy stopped me again. He asked me some questions in Italian; I had absolutely no idea what he was saying. I headed to the Metro station (with a “parlo inglese!” at a woman who tried to stop me at the entrance). But the ticket machines in the Metro didn’t work. So I had to go back out of the Metro and to the stand near the entrance, where there was a guy who could sell me a Metro ticket.
On my way back from the dude, the same Italian guy stopped me again. He put a bracelet on my wrist and said, “One euro.”
I had a sneaking suspicion he was with the crowd that was gathering. Also, I’m suspicious of street vendors, particularly if they don’t have a stand. “What is this for?”
He didn’t understand the question, merely smiled at me.
“Is this a charity? Charity?” I tried to think of a simpler way to say “charity.” “Is this with them?” I gestured at the crowd that was still gathering. It was now attracting a police presence.
He just smiled at me some more.
This is Antonio. He wanted to get a pizza with me. We tried our best to have a conversation, with my elementary Italian and his rudimentary English. Also he kept asking where I sleep. I told him “Trastevere” because it sounded safe — it’s a big neighborhood. I live off of Trastevere, but not on the street itself. So I could answer the question without actually answering the question. I told him “Ho uno ragazzo in America” — probably not good grammar, but it means roughly “I have a boy in America” and he said something like “That’s okay! You can have two!” or “That’s okay! I’m here, he doesn’t have to know!” I tried to tell him that I couldn’t get a pizza with him because I only eat with my roommates. That’s not true, but I wasn’t really interested in getting a pizza. He also managed to answer my question about why the crowd was gathering; it was something related to the protests in Turkey.
Eventually I did manage to make it home, by taking the Metro to Termini, and then the 64 to Argentina, and the tram to home. I think I earned my sleep.
So that entry that I’ve been putting off for a week because of the sheer number of pictures required to go through to see if they’re worthy of posting. LET’S DO IT. RIGHT NOW. NO MORE PROCRASTINATION. OKAY MAYBE I’M PROCRASTINATING IN ONE TASK BY DECIDING TO NO LONGER PROCRASTINATE IN ANOTHER TASK. BUT ANYWAY, IT IS TIME TO DO THIS.
I’M READY. I’VE BEEN READY FOREVER.
Deanna and I joined, like, every single Michigan State student ever in going to Pompeii/Vesuvius/Paestum. We arrived at the school at 7:00 in the morning and off we went! We all napped on the bus, although I was able to catch one nice picture in between naps:
Instead of going straight to the hotel, as I had assumed, we headed straight for Mount Vesuvius. I had not planned on Mount Vesuvius. Vesuvius is a volcano, right, so the climb was very steep and slow.
It was a very sllllooooooow climb. Seriously.
This dude was outpacing us, a motorized vehicle.
But it was all worth it! Because once we got to the camp, it was time to climb some more!
But it was all worth it when we finally got to the summit.
That is the Amalfi Coast, as seen from Vesuvius. Also, I did all of this in sandals.
The day ended with a sunset on the Mediterranean, because life is hard.
So here’s the thing with visiting Pompeii. I had been wanting to do it ever since I was in third grade. And almost exactly 8 years ago, I did get to visit Pompeii. I thought — I thought it would be wonderful again. I took 143 pictures. But it wasn’t wonderful. I wasn’t sure what it was. I felt…down about the whole thing. I’m not really sure how to describe it. It was tiring, more bittersweet than how disappointment feels. There wasn’t anywhere in the world that I wanted to be than Pompeii. But being in Pompeii wasn’t how I expected to feel while in Pompeii. So I took pictures with my camera and I tried to listen to the tour guide, but she was just going over things that I already knew.
After the tour split up and we were allowed to wander through Pompeii on our own, I put away my camera. I just walked through random streets and buildings and just looked around. I felt it again, some of the magic. I looked, just looked, and tried to imagine what everything looked like thousands of years ago, before the volcano. I tried to see what these buildings looked like when they covered the skyline. I felt…better. More peaceful.
Me, Deanna, and Loren, in the Forum of Pompeii. Vesuvius is in the background. Loren in a grad student who joined us for the trip. She’s a cool person.
Also, I walked into the Lupinarium, or the whorehouse, which was closed for excavations last time I had been in Pompeii. The only thing I took a picture of was the toilet, because I am a classy historian.
On Sunday the tour guide stepped on my foot and cracked it so thoroughly that I bled.
I would die for you, History.
But also we visited Paestum, a Greek settlement that the Romans took over. It was a very tiny town full of very rich people. They got rich and famous from their roses, which were the best in all of Rome, apparently.
I have a lot of pictures of myself in this entry. Also I felt too lazy to take a picture of the entire olive tree.
Some other pictures from the weekend:
(to indicate the ladies’ room)
This is an ad for a European amusement park, called something like Magicland or Adventureland or something. You see these advertisements everywhere — on buses, taxis, billboards, etc. I had never really looked at them too closely until I was waiting to use the ladies’ room at the road stop. That guy is so stoked about being on a roller coaster, you guys.
This is from Thursday night. We went out to eat. The roommates were planning on going out later, so they dressed up. I prettied myself up just so I wouldn’t look out of place.
I am cool obviously.
Today’s drawing class took us to Tiber Island (an island on the Tiber whodathunk), where we learned about Roman medicine and how to ink wash.
Needless to say I am not quitting my day job anytime soon. But still it was a nice morning. We walked along the river and learned about Asclepius. The professor showed me the wild caper plants growing off of the flood walls. When I said that my mom loves capers, she plucked some of the seeds and told me how to make them so that my mom would love them. She, Elly, and I wandered behind the group back to the bridge where most of our lesson was taking place. I asked Elly where she goes to school and what part of China she’s from (Wuhan). I said, “That’s in central China, right?” She said yes. I felt proud of myself for remembering some Chinese geography.
The professor asked me where I go to school. I said George Mason University, right outside of DC. She asked me what sort of scholarship I was on.
“I’m not on a scholarship,” I said, completely surprised by the direction this conversation was taking.
“Oh really?” she also sounded surprised. “You’re just so smart, I thought you were on a scholarship.”
I’m not entirely sure what it is about me that makes everyone think I’m smart. And they all say “smart” too, not “intelligent” or any other synonym. I guess I should be pleased, but I honestly feel incredibly stupid all of the time, and the contrast is genuinely startling. There’s other things that make the topic uncomfortable for me — missed opportunities, ostracization, etc. — so I just don’t like talking about my intelligence or perceived intelligence.
“I looked at scholarships,” I said, just to keep the conversation going. “But all the scholarships for girls were for math and science, and I’m a history major.”
This led the professor to go on a rant about forcing girls to do boy things. I wasn’t really too sure about how to respond, so I didn’t say anything.
I sat on the bridge with Chelsea while we waited for the class to continue.
I complimented her camera, and she explained to me that she’s a photography major. I asked her how she got into photography, which led her into a rant about how important political photography is. She snapped a picture of the homeless man here. I also tried to take a picture of the homeless man (as you can see).
When we got up and followed the rest of the class to the other end of the bridge, she said, “You’re like my friend back home.”
“Oh,” I said.
“That’s a good thing,” she said.
“Oh good,” I said.
I got lost trying to find my way back to the apartment. This is where I learned an odd thing about Rome. I was lost, so I ducked into a church to see if I could get directions. It was an ordinary neighborhood, right next to a big parking lot. The outside was just ordinary orange stucco, the kind you see everywhere in the Jewish ghetto. But I forgot I was in Rome.
Rome to Augustus was, for once, a much less perplexing class than drawing. It was more exhausting, though. I ended up walking 8 kilometers (5 miles) over the course of four hours for that class. Then there was yoga. Then there was walking back to the apartment, another 1.5 kilometers (1 mile).
The Ara Pacis is an altar that Augustus had built. It was a votive (temple built in honor of a victory). It was built in honor of Pax, the god of peace. On September 1 (his birthday), Rome would make a sacrifice on the altar to Peace. The Ara Pacis was built right next to the main road going into and out of Rome, so everyone who went in and out of Rome got a gander at this fancy white altar, covered in propaganda for Augustus.
The museum housing the Ara Pacis was built in the 1990s. It’s as much a museum for the architect as it is a museum for the Ara Pacis. It’s a very small, minimal museum. It was built pretty much because the then-mayor of Rome was a major Richard Meier fanboy. So the museum is mostly the Ara Pacis and a few extra displays like this to justify the museum’s existence to tourists, because locals don’t really visit the museum.
I however geeked out over the miniatures terrain because apparently that part of me hasn’t died. Which surprises me, because I was never able to indulge in my love of miniatures terrain to begin with.
This is the ruins of Augustus’ tomb. Archeologists think that ancient burial practices involved walking the corpse in a circle around the grave before burial. A round tomb would facilitate that practice.
I think that’s Augustus?
Hey, you want some more street art, don’t you?
Yeah we’re ending this entry on a classy note.