Roma – A New Life
Kenneth, Spring 2015
February 5, 2015

Ciao (Hello)!!

I am here…in my apartment…in Rome…in Italy…in Europe. Honestly, I haven’t even really been able to comprehend that statement yet. Even though I walk out onto cobblestone streets each morning and trek through the maze that is Trastevere, it has yet to truly sink in that I’m in Rome. But nonetheless…it is true. I am here and I will be here until June 1st, so it’s time for me to hit the ground running and enjoy all that I can from this beautiful city/country!

Now that I’ve been here for 4 days, I wanted to fill you all in on what it (navigating, settling in, classes, the city, etc.) has been like for me. I want to give you all as much insight into my life as possible so that you can tag-along with me throughout my time here. So, first things first:

Monday:

Because of a plane delay, my arrival into Fiumicino airport was pushed back from 8:00AM to 10:00AM, but in all honesty I didn’t mind because of course…I was in Rome! And now that I was in the city, my first thought was, “Perfect! I finally get to put my Italian language skills to use.” however as soon as I got off the plane and into the airport, everything was in English…cool Rome, very cool. Nevertheless I continued my way through the airport (following the English signs) to pick up my checked luggage and head on over to customs. Much to my surprise though, as soon as I obtained my luggage and made my way to (what I thought was) customs, I found myself standing outside of the airport with my bags in hand. Huh…that’s weird. Did I miss customs? I only had that thought in my head for about 5 seconds when I then decided that if no one had stopped me than I’m sure I did everything correctly. So I waved down a personal shuttle service (which was cheaper than the train) and asked, “Mi puoi prendere all’università di Giovanni Caboto in Trastevere, per favore?” and to my surprise he understood!! Praise Jesus, Hallelujah! My Italian actually works! We loaded my bags into the back of the shuttle and away we went, to my soon to be home and univeristy.

Now let me tell you, I was happy enough to only be spending 25 euro for a ride from the airport to Trastevere (an hour away), but when the driver started providing me with a personal tour as we drove I couldn’t contain my excitement! He drove me past the Spanish Steps and the Colosseum, we passed “the best” gelateria (ice cream shop) in Rome and even caught a glimpse of the Foro Romano (Roman Forum). But alas, after a wonderful drive through the city we had arrived at the university. I grabbed my bags, said my goodbye and continued on my journey. It was just then that my journey became a little bumpy too.

Here in Trastevere, because of how historic it is, the streets are made of all cobblestone. Yes, it sounds beautiful and yes it looks beautiful, however its main goal in life is to wreak havoc on any and all tourists who use wheeled luggage bags. After walking around, lost, for 30 minutes (now late to my first class) I felt a pull on my luggage, and sure enough when I looked back at it I noticed that the cobblestone had caused one of the four wheels to fall off. So now, of course, I am walking around aimlessly in the streets of Trastevere dragging my bag along the ground like an idiot. But no matter, I have been in worse situations before, so I made the right move by man-ing up and asking for directions to the university from a lovely woman in a newsstand. And after 20 minutes of backtracking my steps, I arrived at the university where I was able to register and receive my orientation materials as well as my student id. Finally I was not only a student in Rome, but also a resident! Having finished all of my necessary paperwork, it was time for me to head to my new apartment and finally drop of these gawd awful bags.

Now knowing how to navigate the streets of Trastevere (because I’m obviously a pro at this point), I started down the street (Vicolo del Cinque) where I would find my apartment door under the sign clearly labeled “55”. This is my new home! I opened the hefty front door by turning my key not once, not twice, but three times around to find myself looking at a set of stairs. I lifted my bags and hiked up one set of stairs to find myself one the first floor, only to continue further up more stairs to find myself at my actual front door on the second floor (which is technically the third floor but whatevs). And again, I turn my key three times around and finally open the door to my new humble abode. And much to my surprise, the apartment is much larger than I had expected! After watching shows like House Hunters International, I was praying to at least have enough room to walk around, but there is more than enough space for myself along with my two roommates. I didn’t have too much time to explore the apartment, let alone the city, because at this point I had missed all of my classes and had been traveling for a total of 51 straight hours. I was exhausted. So I decided to say hello and introduce myself to my roommates, unpack my things and head to bed for a good night’s sleep because class starts at 9:15AM on Tuesday.

Photo #1

Not the largest kitchen in the world, but it gets the job done!

Photo #2

A much larger living room than I had expected. I was very happy to see the amount of seating

Photo #3

The bathroom consisting of a sink, a toilet, a bidet, a shower and a washer (no dryer)

Photo #4

This is the bedroom that I share with one of my roommates (Andrew)

Tuesday:

Rise and Shine! Bright and early, at 7:30AM, I woke up with a smile on my face and the ambition to take on the world. I took a shower in what I like to call the “Glass Box of Emotion” (because it is so freaking small), got dressed and left the apartment by 8:15AM. I gave myself an entire hour to make sure I could casually strut down the streets and stop for a morning coffee and pastry before having to run to class. In theory that sounded like the perfect way to start my day, but with my luck…I got lost, again.

Side Note: If you haven’t realized yet, I get lost a lot when I’m in new/unknown territory. But it’s okay because that’s what allows me to see places which I normally wouldn’t.

Do not fear though, because I was not too worried. I still had an hour to find my way back to the university, and I figured why not take in some sites before class. Now 40 minutes later and 4.5 miles away, I was starting to get a little worried. I hadn’t the slightest clue where I was, I couldn’t find anyone who was willing/didn’t know how to give me directions and I hadn’t even eaten yet…bummer. But I had no time to spare, so breakfast was sacrificed and a newsstand appeared in the near distance. So I ran. I ran to my heart’s content to arrive at a newsstand with no one inside. *sigh* Luckily, a block away, I noticed there was a flower stand! I had never asked for directions from a flower stand, so who was to know how my first encounter would be. Luckily, it went spectacular! The gentleman gave me perfect directions and soon enough I was on my way back across the river (which I don’t remember crossing in the first place) to the university doors.

Only being 10 minutes late, I arrived to class before the professor took attendance. That’s a win in my book.

This class, Ancient Rome and its Monuments, is: 1. Taught in English *phew* and 2. An “on-site” class. What this means is that I can understand everything going on and that each week (because it only meets every Tuesday) we meet for class at various locations within the city of Rome to experience these monuments and their history firsthand. Pretty cool! So, on the first day, the professor decided to keep it simple and bring us to the Tiber River and allow us to walk across a bridge that was built in 754 BC. HOLY CRAP! That was 2,769 years ago. I don’t know about you, but I have never been in contact with anything that old in lifetime until now. It truly puts things into perspective, that’s for sure.

Photo #5

This is the bridge that crosses the Tiber River

After we crossed the bridge, we found ourselves in, what used to be, a marketplace in Rome where there stood two temples. One was the Tempio di Portuno (Temple of Portunus) and the other was the Tempio di Ercole Vincitore (Temple of Hercules). These two temples were built in honor of not only the god Portunus and Hercules, but also to watch over and protect the land area and all who come into it. Once we had gotten our fill of history for the day, the professor decided to call of class early so that we would have time to explore the area on our own.

Photo #6

The Temple of Hercules located across the Tiber River in the old marketplace

Photo #7

The Temple of Portunus located across the Tiber River in the old marketplace

At this time, I walked further into the city to find a bookstore in which I could order a book for one class. Once that was complete, I decided to walk through the Jewish Ghetto, grab a bagel for lunch and continue walking back toward my apartment. Before I left the area completely however, I came across a pretty neat fountain. :)

Photo #8

A fountain in the Jewish Ghetto. It depicts four men lifting turtles into the fountain above

I really appreciated the professor bringing us across the river, but not too far because it allowed me to gain my bearings and sense of direction of the area closest to where I live. Finally, after 20 minutes of walking, I found my apartment. I dropped of my backpack and notepad and then made my way to the nearest market where I had my first grocery shopping experience. I purchased: a jar of nutella, pre-toasted bread (bread-shaped biscotti), bananas, a bottle of white wine, Crik Crok chips, fresh sliced salami, soymilk and a box of Special K cereal. What was interesting during this trip to the market was that I was having some trouble when trying to order my sliced salami because I didn’t know the word for sliced. So I kept say “pezzi magro” which means skinny pieces, but the woman wasn’t understanding my broken Italian.

Photo #9

These are some of the meats that you can purchase in the market. They are weighed in kilos…I have some conversion training to do

To my rescue, her husband speaks English and told her I wanted slices rather than a chunk of salami. He then asked if I was American and if I was studying here, which I responded to him with a yes and a yes. But I also told him I wanted to perfect my Italian before I returned home, so I asked, “Come si dice slices?” which translate to “How do you say slices?’ and he tolde me “fette”. After this incident, while I was paying for my things, he told me to come back each day and he would help me learn a new Italian word and/or phrase. So for everyone out there who says all countries hate Americans, you are very wrong. The Italians are very eager to help us out and learn their language as long as we are genuine in our interest to learn it.

Wednesday:

Today was a decent day for me. It rained all day, which wasn’t so great, but nonetheless I am in Rome so there is no need to complain. I had 3 classes on Wednesday which all turned out to be taught solely in Italian. Oh My Goodness. I have taken up to the second highest level of Italian language courses at my home university, but they taught me nothing apparently. Haha I found myself sitting in these classrooms not understanding a single word my professor or my peers were saying, and it was even more embarrassing when they professor called on me to answer a question and I had to ask her to repeat the question again just so I could try to pull an answer out of my ass. Lol This was the first moment since I’ve been in Rome where I felt completely and utterly lost. It wasn’t when I was physically lost in the city or when I wasn’t sure if I skipped through customs and entered the country illegally, I didn’t feel lost and helpless until I was placed in a situation where everyone around me speaks academic level Italian fluently and I do not. So I asked myself, after my classes ended for the day whether or not I should be taking those courses. Maybe I would be better off taking just my business specific courses (all taught in English) that way I can actually learn something rather than sitting there just trying to figure out what is being said rather than understanding the topic at hand. No matter though, because I have until Jan. 26th to add/drop courses and I am speaking with my trusty International Advisor back home to resolve the issue. While I’m here, I just want to enjoy life and everything the city has to offer.

Anywho…I got lost again trying to find my third class of the day. *facepalm* One of these days (hopefully soon) I’m going to get these streets down and be able to navigate like a local Italian. Until then, I’ll just act like I can. :) Even though I missed my last class of the day, that didn’t stop me from completing my last task of the day: I needed to get my new Italian cell phone SIM card. I walked 10 blocks (without a map I might add) to the cell phone store, called WIND, and spoke enough Italian to actually purchase my very first international SIM card. Unfortunately it hasn’t been activated yet (it takes up to 48 hours), so I’m not able to make calls, send texts or use the data yet, but in no time I’ll be on my way to being fully immersed.

Photo #10

A walk down the cobblestone of Vicolo del Cinque (the street where my apartment is located)

But after a long day, tons of exhaustion and mild stress, my body decided that enough was enough and had to recharge. Once I got back to my apartment, I made a nutella and banana sandwich, watched a little TV and then passed out in my bed no later than 6:00PM. My weekend starts on Thursday and I have to be fully rested to enjoy every minute of it.

Thursday/Today:

I slept until 1:15PM today. Haha Apparently my body was a lot more tired than I thought and needed 19 hours of sleep to catch back up. So, needless to say, I haven’t done anything today. I Skyped with a friend from the states for a bit while I ate my breakfast (at lunchtime) and afterwards I grabbed my computer to talk with you all. I can honestly say though, I am thankful for those 19 hours of sleep. I was feeling a little groggy and stressed for the past few days and I didn’t want those feelings to continue throughout the remainder of my first week. So body…thank you for shutting down.

As for my plans this weekend, since the day is practically over now, I’ll probably just relax here in the apartment and finish my homework that is due on Monday. But tomorrow is when the adventures begin. I will be trekking across the city to view all of the “Must Sees” here in Rome. My goal is to visit the Pantheon, the Colosseum, Largo Argentina, the Spanish Steps, the Roman Forum, the Palatine Hill, the Trevi Fountain and so much more! I don’t want to overdo it on my first weekend, which is why I’ve decided to get to know my city (Rome) rather than travel to another city. So please keep reading and following me along my journey! I apologize for the super long post, but I wanted to make sure you were all caught up to what my life has been/is like here in the eternal city.

Until next time.

_____

Kenneth is a current student at the University of Missouri studying at John Cabot University in Italy during the Spring 2015 term.

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