This past week (February 18-22) was less monumental than last, but not less eventful. During the school week, I learned in class and finished homework during the long breaks that stretch between my morning elective courses and Italian, which falls in the late afternoon for everyone, purtroppo\unfortunately. My class schedule is as follows for anyone interested:
- Monday – Jews of Rome 9:30-10:30; Monotheisms and the Children of Abraham 10:45-11:45; INTERNSHIP near Fontana di Trevi 12-1; Social Action Seminar 2:30-4
- Tuesday- Jews of Rome 9:30-11:30; Mystics, Philosophers, Saints and Sinners, Studies in the Catholic Tradition 12:15-3:15; Italian 5-6
- Wednesday – INTERNSHIP near Colosseo 9-1; Italian 4:30-6
- Thursday – Monotheisms and the Children of Abraham 9:30-11:30; Italian 4:30-6
Since I’m taking mostly religion classes, they overlap and complement each other so I’m really enjoying them. Jews of Rome is a history course; Monotheisms involves comparing Judaism, Christianity, and Islam using philosophical thought and nuanced analysis; Catholicism class is discussion and field trips; Social Action is learning about Italian welfare and social issues etc, and it partners with our internships; Italian is a fun immersion class; and then my INTERNSHIP is teaching English to Italian middle school students age 11 and 12. I read for homework, do worksheets for Italian and that’s about it so far!
On Monday I went to class, my internship near the fountain for the first time (it was great, the kids are adorable), successfully made it there and back, then went to my other classes, went grocery shopping, did my homework from last week, and made dinner with my roommates. On the way back from my internship, I had a “God will provide” experience. My stomach growled but then I remembered that I was running low on cash and probably should save it for grocery shopping instead of pizza or a panino (I guess “pizza” is americanized so it requires no italics). So I walked on, passing all these yummy side shops with smells of cheese and fresh baked bread and pizza sauce drifting out of them, knowing I probably wouldn’t eat til 5 after ho fare la spese (I grocery shopped). At one point, I saw a gelato shop and naturally, my walking pathway swerved toward it. As I did, a family of four walked out, and when I heard them speaking English I perked up (because, you know, I can understand them) and struck up a convo with them. They were Canadians living in Holland who were on vacation and currently looking for a good place to eat lunch. Well, I showed them a delicious and cheap pizzeria with paninis, pastries, odd-shaped (some explicit) rainbow pasta, andddddddd they liked the choice SO MUCH that they bought me lunch. SCORE.
Tuesday highlight: Field study class to Basilica San Clemente for a private tour of all three levels. To get there, we also walked past a bunch of historical stones, including my first time seeing the Colosseum (pics below). The basilica is a triple-tiered, basilica-style church with a gilded baroque ceiling and a mosaic floor. A Dominican guided us through all three levels:
- Ground\newest level: built in 11th century and renovated in the 19th century. I liked the many narrative frescoes (the superhero Catherine of Alexandria and St. Ignatius of Antioch) and the medieval church symbolism (peacocks, Ezekiel’s animal symbols for the gospel writers, etc). The relics of 4 saints are here – St. Severus, St. Clement, St. Cyril, and St. Ignatius of Antioch. The crucifixion is depicted as the tree of life (with a gold background depicting heaven as the spiritual location of the crucifixion) – which is a unique take that reminded me of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s writings a bit, especially the quote, “There is a communion with God, and a communion with the earth, and a communion with God through the earth.” What a great, Church-rejected Catholic writer\poet.
- middle level: built in 4th century after Edict of Milan by Constantine which made Christianity the official religion. This level includes older narrative frescoes about saints, including the haggard St. Alexius of Rome, a man who ditched his wife at the altar to become a beggar for life. When he returned to his parents years later, they didn’t recognize him but allowed him to live in their shed. On his deathbed, they realized who he was and are shown tearing out their hair in grief. Other frescoes include the stories of St. Clement I, Cyril, and Methodius.
- Lowest\oldest level: built in 1st century CE, escaped the fires of Nero, and was first either used as a mint or government building (lack of windows), and was then used by members of the Mythraic cult – probably wealthy members who could afford fancy shmancy tiled walls. It’s mainly built with tuffa stone, which is sturdy but chippable (I stole a crumb muahahah).
And that’s your tour, everybody! Did you know….
The altar represents the tomb of Christ? And the lector’s “pulpit” represents the tomb stone which was rolled away? Hence, the lector spreads the good news just like the angel atop the tomb stone did, proclaiming Jesus’ resurrection (props to Steve for guessing that).
The meaning behind the hand gesture of blessing usually shown by Jesus? 3 fingers up represent the trinity, 2 down and joined represent the dual nature of Christ, human and divine.
After the tour, I walked quickly back to IES for a cooking class where we made caprese salad, bruschetta (pronounced brooh-sket-uh), pesto pasta, and tiramisu (my reason for buying a mini food-processor at the tiny, super-convenient china shop that sells EVERYTHING in an area equivalent to one long grocery aisle). Later that night I met an English man named Ian at the grocery store who was previously a viola-player (viola-ist..? What is it with all these English musicians?) who has been tutoring students in English for 30 years. He gave me his business card in case I had any issues in Rome. Thanks brah!
On Wednesday, I went to my internship from 9-2. Here’s the breakdown:
Class 1 = teacher is present, talk about the American school system’s differences from the Italian system. They were really curious about Prom, so I told them I’d bring in pictures next time. Oh wait, I told middle-schoolers I’d bring in pictures of Prom? Oops, I can already hear the teasing. Well, the pictures don’t have to be mine…*cough Maddy cough cough Maggie*
Class 2 = no teacher but me, so I got to lead the class. I didn’t expect this, so I had to improvise. I asked about their weekends to get them to speak English, and most were shy about speaking, mostly because they don’t want to make mistakes. So I decided to break the ice with a little self-humiliation. Remembering my recently-graded Italian paper, I decided to read it to the classes and have them pick out my mistakes as I read it in Italian. They giggled at mismatched articles and misused prepositions, and raised their hands to explain. Then I got to explain why I wrote what I did, which gave them insight on English grammar structure. I explained that we’re both learning each others’ languages and the only way to learn a language is to make mistakes, even if they are funny. Then one of the students who is better at English (there are a few who are almost PERFECT in every class who double as translators when the faculty needs to talk to me) raised his hand and said something like, “That is what our teacher says. ‘The worst mistake is the best lesson.'” YES! Kid, YES! The class smiled like they finally understood.
Class 3 = We played the name game in the next class to work on adjectives (and names, for me). I’ll list some of the combos that they came up with after the mad dictionary shuffle because Italian names are fun…Red Robert, Nice Niccolo, Cloudy Claudio, Mini Manuel (he IS tiny!), Easy Eleanor, Vague Valerio, Angry Alessandra, Violet Viola, Magic Michelle, Invincible Ian, and last but not least (of those I can remember), Dirty Daniel, who later wanted it changed to Dangerous Daniel.
Class 4 = Let me just say, that after the past few classes, I’ve pretty much realized that this must be my destiny. I had SO MUCH FUN. I even pulled off enough Italian for the kids to think I knew what they were saying the whole time, which is a mighty useful illusion. And then came class 4, the infamous rowdiest class in school. But this time, the teacher asked me to stay an extra hour because they were short on teachers for some reason ANDDDDD as soon as I agreed to that, she brought in an orphan class. So it was me and 40 Italian middle schoolers for 2 hours. I wish I could talk about how I came up with some amazing idea that captivated them all, or that I had a meltdown or something because that would be more entertaining than reality. What actually happened was me counting to thirty in English and Italian several times for the first hour, and each time they became angels by 28, and after a few seconds resumed talking and throwing paper balls at each other. At one point the second principal came in to say something very sternly, but then he engaged me in a language-barriered conversation about my voice and some choir he directs. By the time he handed me a magazine and a note where he scribbled some dates and times (I still don’t know where I’m supposed to show up and why on these dates), the paper balls had resumed and he left the room anyway. So instead of counting to 30, I took advantage of my high tolerance for chaos and hopped from table to table answering questions from the kids who wanted to learn. I came up with a game to motivate the questions for the last 45 minutes. Whoever gave me a question would write it on a piece of paper. I would answer it and then crumple it up and throw it at the kids who didn’t ask questions. I made a rule that they couldn’t retaliate unless they asked me a question about life in America or English. It was so fun that I think I’ll throw paper at students in all of my classes from now on.
On Thursday the birds were chirping and the air was almost warm. After my first two classes, I walked to Piazza Venezia to get some cash from the ATM. On the way back, a boy started walking alongside me, asking me directions to Piazza Navona in Italian. As we walked toward Piazza Navona, I learned that he’s from Peru and has been living in the neighborhood for two years. I raise my eyebrow at you, Peru,”Due anni, e tu non ricordi dov’e` Piazza Navona…?” HA. Smooth, the old “asking for directions” trick. So he came clean and asked me to get an espresso, which I accepted because DUH it’s free, and then he walked me to school. And that’s how I made my first non-school Italian (but really non-Italian) friend!
On Friday, my good friend Gina and I left at 9:30 for St. Peter’s Basilica. We waited in a line for almost an hour that wasn’t really a line, but more a curve that wrapped around the Piazza. People-watching took our mind off the chill, and we got underneath the columns just in time for it to pour. Then I saw a sign meant to universally communicate what one can and cannot take into the basilica by picturing certain items in 2 columns – either the “NO” column or the “OK” column. We see this as we’re in line for security, and I joke that I should take a pic of Gina holding a knife next to the sign. “GRACE. Oh nooooooooo, I DO HAVE A KNIFE! Help me hide it!” So Gina borrowed my camera so she could look like she was taking a picture as she hid the knife in the folds of a tarp on top of A METAL DETECTOR. Irony. CLASSIC.
I can’t even describe St. Peter’s Basilica, and I didn’t try to take pictures because it’s really an experience that you can’t depict with a picture. It’s not that being present in the basilica took me on a spiritual journey with visions and smoke and a bright light – it’s just very, very, very, very elaborate, spacious, tall, and well, overwhelming. It’s beautiful, yes, but it’s beautiful in every single crack and cranny – even those high up that are difficult to see without binoculars. Gina and I both got audio tours meant for Christian pilgrims for 5 euro each, and I listened to its tour through the basilica’s right side before I got so distracted by all the decorations that I couldn’t focus on listening. Then when my eyes were about to explode from baroque overload, I started taking pictures of statues with funny expressions and putting captions to them. I’ll post them tomorrow, and hopefully ya’ll will comment with some good ones.
After three hours walking around the basilica (which is roughly 35.234 churches in one), Gina and I walked back for a gross lunch of salad and failed steamed broccoli (serves me right for trying to eat vegetables in Rome without pizza dough underneath), and then walked for 45 minutes to the Colosseum. We arrived at 4:15 and the last entry was at 4, so we sat outside for a while and people-watched. Surprisingly, the cutest boys seem to walk around that touristy spot. We walked past so many monuments and old rocks on the way that I felt compelled to make an insightful comment about how people just gaze at these old rocks and take pictures next to them, but that’s silly because all rocks are the same age. “But Grace, I think it’s not just the age of the rocks that is impressive, but it’s the age and history of the rocks in relation to one another.” Ah, yes. Yes, Gina, quite right, yes, I was just testing you.
I took a short nap when we got back, and then around 8:30 I went to retrieve my friend Tessie at San Pietro (the go-to landmark for friends trying to find my apartment) so we could make dinner. Tessie, my awesome roommate Momo, and I made pesto pasta with sauteed mushrooms and tomatoes, and then we went out with our ISCS, our friends from next-door, and their friends who were visiting from a non-Paris city in France where they are studying abroad. Our group left at 10:45 for the Trastevere neighborhood. Trastevere is not as trendy as Testaccio apparently, but people of all ages crowd it’s narrow cobblestone streets nonetheless, stopping to eat at restaurants, grab a bottle of birra or vino at a side-shop, or take sexually-named chocolate shots with edible shot glasses at a small, popular bar. The nightlife is better than the daylife, something I am definitely not used to in Glendale or Decatur, where everything is closed by 10pm. Here, places are open all night. After walking around and talking to some guys, we went back to the bar we visited on the first night – San Callisto – for gelato (chocolate and pistacchio!). Then we ended up at a restaurant called Baccanale where we ordered drinks and hung out for a few hours. In those few hours, Gina committed a faux paus by ordering an entire bottle of wine for herself, our ISCS gave us lessons in explicit Italian language and appropriate i gesti\the gestures, and Gina acquired useful vocab, screaming e` incinta! (she’s pregnant!) at persistent Italians. “Grace, I wanted to say ‘she has herpes’ but then I remembered that I like you.”
On that note, I’m going to bed! More later, including some Vatican pics. Here are some pictures from Tuesday (Colosseum) and Wednesday – images from my walk home. In order from school to house: cross the Tiber (nonpictured), past the cool water fountains on the streets leading up to San Pietro, walk straight at the Vatican, go through the square and check the Pope’s lights, curve to the left and go through the pillars, follow the stripey road to the underground passageway, come out of the underground passageway with the usual man playing his accordion using either the ramp or the awkward stairs, (nonpictured now) cross the street and stop all the traffic, walk past the pizza, gelato, exaggerated David aprons, theatre with smoking people, and the china shop, and take 5 minutes to get the key in the lock to the apartment building. Ta-DA! That was super entertaining, wasn’t it?!