Making a home in the Unknown

Trip Start Aug 19, 2013
Trip End Dec 13, 2013

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Flag of Italy  , Lazio,
Sunday, September 8, 2013

WOW! What a whirlwind this past week has been. I've done SO much! And I can't believe it's almost been 2 weeks since I've been in Rome. It certainly seems like I'll never get bored in this city. Here are some highlights of my week: Last Saturday night, after I wrote my last entry, I went with a couple girls down to the Tiber river to a festival. There were many booths filled with clothing and jewelry. I bought two scarves :) The best part of the festival was that it had a neighborhood feel to it, not a touristy one. It's one of those awesome things you come across the more you hang out in a city! Sunday a bunch of girls and I hopped on a train for 40 minutes and went to a beach on the Mediterranean Sea called Santa Marinella. It was breath-taking! Not only did it feel great to get some fresh, salty air, it was the perfect relaxing day. We put down our towels on the small free slice of the beach and took turns going into the refreshing turquoise water. I have never seen such clean water. It was a realllly warm day so the beach was the perfect place to be! That was my last day of summer.
On Monday, we started classes! I'm taking 5 classes (18 credits) this semester: Italian (Greek) language and culture, Theology, Art History, Seminar, and Literature. The campus--called St. John's University (ironic!)--is quite a walk from our apartment. We have the option to ride the bus to school, but there is no bus schedule (talk about finding a way to make a Type A woman stressed out!!!). We usually end up waiting around a half hour for the bus to show up, for a 15 minute ride. Walking takes about 45 minutes as well. So, when we go to school and have breaks between classes we have to pack to be away for the whole day. The nice part about many classes is that we have on-site classes! Instead of being in the classroom we go to a site to learn. For example, my seminar class met at an art museum called the Capuchin cemetery on Thursday. On Tuesday I'm meeting my Art history class at the Colosseum! Many of my classes are quite long. Art history is 4 hours long; Theo, Lit, and Seminar are 3 hours long. But this is of course the fact that we will be walking around Rome and such. We also usually only have the class once a week. Weird!!!
On Tuesday, we got up at 5:30am, not for class, but for walking across town to the Trevi Fountain. We called it Tourist Tuesday. You see, not only are the sites of Rome empty from Tourists at the crack of dawn, it's also the most beautiful time of the day. Seeing the sunrise shine onto the fountain is a memory I'll keep forever. It's our chance to be tourists, yet outsmart them so we can beat the crowds and the heat. Fast forward about 15 hours, after classes and a long day, and we decide to be even more crazy. We went out that night! There's a bar called Scholars that does karaoke! Naturally, I sang Ice Ice Baby with my friend Erica in front of a large, drunk crowd. It was sooo fun! I think the crowd lit upon hearing such a fun song to Karaoke to! I loved the support I got from my Bennies and Johnnies who cheered their heads off for us :)

    Things I've learned about Italians:
    1. They all talk with their hands. Every single one of them. 
    2. They either want to kill Americans with their crazy driving skills, steal from them with their pick-pocketing skills, or flirt them up with their dark handsomeness. No worries, I'm still alive with all of my stuff and dignity. Although crossing the street every day means risking my life.
    3. They are always tardy and laid-back about schedules.

Wednesday wasn't terribly exciting, but Thursday was cool. We got to go to the Capuchin cemetery (as before mentioned) which is really interesting. Still not sure how I feel about it. It's a Franciscan order still today, but those ancients that have died have their bones on display as artwork. We walked by skulls, femurs, and fibulas. It's one of those times that makes me question what death is like and if our rituals of burying the dead are "right" versus this Capuchin culture. In a way, it's comforting to think that after these monks have lived their life together, that solidarity doesn't change after they're gone from this world. Especially when it's centered on Jesus. On the other hand, bodies are broken up from their humanly form which doesn't seem right. Talk about thought-provoking...
Friday we got up and went as a group to the Vatican for the first time (!!!!!!!) We climbed to the top of St. Peter's Basilica Dome, which has the best (and famous) view of Rome. It was incredible. The climb was 530 stairs, and near the top they were the most winding stairs I've ever seen. If you're claustrophobic or prone to dizziness don't do it. One of the girls we went with got sick. It was a sweat-fest as well :p but the view was worth it! We got to see inside the Vatican, Rome, and the Papal gardens.
Yesterday was our first excursion! We went to Subiaco and toured St. Scholastica and St. Benedicts founding monasteries. It held special significance to us since we go to school at St. Ben's, a Benedictine college. St. Benedict's was in a cave in the mountain!! It was a beautiful drive and area, and the monasteries are two of the holiest places I've been to. We had a wonderful lunch as well--like a 4 course meal, with wine! They are such beautiful monasteries, filled with frescoes from the 7th century to the 16th. It was an honor to be there. I loved it! It was so peaceful and quiet, compared to the loudness of the city. Nice to get away :)
After coming back to Rome, our Theology professor, who was with us for the day invited us to come with her to the Vatican for the prayer vigil the pope held: Peace for Syria. It was easily the most profound experience I've ever had. I screamed when Pope Francis came out and I could see the speck of white across St. Peter's Square. The prayer service itself was beautiful. Obviously there were MANY people there and so hearing everyone singing songs in solidarity, even though there were language barriers, made it so special. We prayed the rosary and had moments of silence (I've never heard such a large crowd be silent) and Pope Francis gave a talk. We couldn't understand the Italian, but our teacher translated. He said that in Genesis, after God made us, God said that all is good. While it may be hard to see the good in the world, the Pope believes it is possible. With the help of God and Mary (who the service was centered on) wars may end and peace can happen. What a hopeful and profound message! I am humbled by the experience of yesterday. How blessed am I!

Obviously a lot of wonderful things have happened this week. If you've made it this far, you deserve some sort of reward for I certainly know how to talk!! In the future, I'll try to write more often so I don't have to cover so much at once! I am feeling more at home here in Rome. I wake up everyday knowing that I will do something different. There is always the sense of the unknown, which I love. I wake up every day and tell myself "I'm in Rome". While I sometimes feel homesick, I can usually cure it by simply thinking about home for a while. There's so much routine back in Minnesota it's predictable. I know enough about my life there that I can basically tell you what it would be like to be there right now. While the familiar sounds tempting sometimes, I don't miss the predictability. This tells me that I am in the right place for this trip. I still have a lot of travel-craving to satisfy :) Especially after last night's experience, I feel like I am in the center of the world. I am right where I am supposed to be doing what I'm supposed to be doing. Even though I sweat like a pig every day and everything can be a huge hassle, Rome is magical. It feels good to be here :)
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