Tuesday, January 31, 2012

To the end of the world

Feeling diminished by the exhaustive history of the world is an inevitable side effect of visiting ancient Rome.  Walking the now-underground ruins of catacombs and churches and city streets that used to be ground level and absorbing the history of centuries of various religions, emperors, and peoples who have been reduced to dust can't help but renew perspectives and evoke a sense of awe about the modern society that will one day be the "ancient" society studied.

Our weekend field trip centered on the relationship between Jew and Christians in Italy through the ages.  We visited several catacombs and churches, including my Roman favorite, Santa Maria in Trastevere, with its phenomenal Byzantine mozaics by Pietro Cavallini.

My director/boss/ally/friend, Alan, and I, when not paying attention to the professor's incredibly well-informed and interdisciplinary lectures about the last 3,000 years of Roman history, would take the chance to enjoy Rome on our own terms.

Friday night, we ate with Professor Soltes at a Rick Steves-recommended spot in Trastevere, where we felt like we were walking in on a grandmother's kitchen.  Dinner was delicious, and between the good company and the munificent flow of wine, we had lots of laughs.  Remarkably, we recognized a man eating at a nearby table as the Ukrainian Cal Berkeley professor who had spoken at the Florence Shoah conference we had attended earlier that week.  Such a small world, and I blame it on Rick Steves!

I got to stay an extra day in Rome because all the students had opted to do so, and I spent my morning at the gritty Porta Portese flea market.  Looking past the stalls selling used make-up and socks, I found lots of interesting treasures, including antique furniture, compelling religious art, and crystal chandeliers.

Along the way, I saw a beautiful shrine dedicated to the Madonna, with special plaques from different families who feel that Mary has answered their prayers.

I went to Vatican City twice, once to visit St. Peter's with the group, and another time on my own to see the Pope's Sunday noon blessing.

For some reason, Rome has yet to remove the Christmas lights or nativity scenes from the town.  Even St. Peter's Basilica seems to be behind, but I didn't mind because it boasted the most awesome creche I'd ever seen-it even snowed! 

Despite my many trips to visit Rome over the years, this was my first time ever seeing a pope.  He spoke from a high side window, addressing the crowd in multiple languages.  Then he turned over the microphone to a young boy who asked the pope to pray for his school's teachers and parents to keep the kids following in the ways of the church.  Pope Benedict blessed the people and released a dove that decided to turn right around and fly back in the window!  We all had a good laugh, and that was that!

I was surprised at how casual the whole event was; the way the crowd cheered and yelled, I almost wondered if Bon Jovi had appeared in the window instead of Pope Benedict.  Nonetheless, it was an exciting experience and I'm glad I was finally able to see him.

On my way back to the train station, I noticed the following graffiti message on Isola Tiberina, and while it's simply a love message, it brought me back to this idea of Rome's never-ending history and influence on the world, and ultimately is how I feel about the city itself:


"I love you from here...to the end of the world...
back to here again...until infinity"

Monday, January 23, 2012

Too many sunsets I haven't seen

I suppose since I've made it official at work, I might as well make it official on my blog: I have decided not to renew my contract with Georgetown University and Villa Le Balze for another term. 

The decision seemed easy when I was home, surrounded by my friends and family, barbeque and bagels, but now that I'm here I'm reminded of everything that I have to give up on this side: amici, cibo, and daily sunsets over Florence, just to name a few.  I know that going home is for the best, and I truly feel ready for a new chapter, but goodness knows it's going to be tough. 

But I'm not gone yet!  I've already booked my spring break flights, and so in March I will be both visiting Letizia in Paris and returning to Madrid for Shawn.  Also, not this but next weekend, I'm planning on training to Carlotta who is currently living in Torino, the city that I consider to be the biggest gap in my Italian travels! 

I'm feeling refreshed still from my time home and have a really wonderful group this semester.  I'm hoping to make the most of the time I have left here and push myself to do and see and enjoy more new things and old friends while I still can.

I will probably return home sometime in June, at which point I will cook lots of Italian food for my peeps there, prepare myself for the couple of weddings I get to attend over the summer, and get serious about the ever-joyous hunt for a new job.  Keep your ears peeled for anything you think might tickle my fancy!

Love to all.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Happy 38th Wedding Anniversary to my incredible parents.  What a beautiful example of love these two are to everyone who knows them.  We could all be so lucky!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

2012: Making Dreams Come True

Happy New Year to one and all!  I hope 2012 makes all your dreams come true.

During my three weeks home I was lucky enough to see a ton of friends and visit a lot of places, including Napa, SF, and the standout Lake Tahoe for my birthday and New Years.  Despite the lack of snow, more than a dozen of us in total drove up to stay in a cabin I had rented and enjoy the peace and fresh air.  When we arrived on my birthday we decided to stay in the house, eat Faith's chicken tortilla soup ("Soup's on!") and my mom's lemon mousse cheesecake, open a ton of beautiful presents, and have a fabulous dance party. 

During the next day we went hiking near Fallen Leaf Lake, since it's necessary to substitute summer activities when there's a shocking 0.0 inches of snow in the mountains.



One night we went out to the casinos.  I tend to get a little over-excited by Wheel of Fortune.  Blame it on my mom!

In the mornings and late afternoons we always had a great time hanging out at the cabin just playing games, doing puzzles, and reading.  It was fun to have down time as a group.  This is Jessie putting in the celebratory last piece of our Antique Lady (Man?) puzzle.  What a victory for the team.

Our next afternoon we spent hiking (again) in the hills near Heavenly.  The area had beautiful views and we were even able to find some (fake) snow!  

Before we knew it New Year's Eve arrived, and we prepared a big lasagna dinner for the dozen or so of us there and had another great night hanging out at the house and playing Hamburger Hamburger, a version of charades but on speed.  Many of us stayed up far too late...I believe it was 5 o'clock in the morning?

It meant so much to me that everyone tried so hard and managed to make it to the cabin.  I loved watching more of my friends mingle and get to know one another and I was so happy to get to see them all even though I was home for such a short time.  Just them coming to Tahoe started our year's motto off right, as far as I'm concerned!