I don’t think I planned this entry very well before I started writing it   Leave a comment

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.

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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.

(get it?)

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