Friday, May 20, 2011

I Didn't Get the Joke...

Living in a country where you don't speak the language is difficult, but not impossible. You pick up a few words here, some grammar there, and your Italian professor meows at you when you get something wrong (that's another story.)

After a while you get used to the anonymity, the idea that no one around you can understand you and you can't understand them. It becomes less and less of a problem. Of course, it still would be easier if I did speak Italian. Often times, Italian culture and language clash very loudly and incoherently together in a cacophony of wild gestures, facial expressions and words (Italians are very expressive.)

One time I was in the grocery store, biding my time in line when the cashier and a customer started arguing. The arguing escalated and became very loud. Then the others in line started yelling too. Everyone was yelling and I was there, doe-eyed and afraid, not knowing what the argument was about or why everyone was getting involved. Should I leave? Was there about to be some sort of riot of which my American sensibilities had no part?

At the height of the argument and my anxiety, the crowd simultaneously broke into hysterical laughter. Something very amusing had just taken place, and I cursed myself for not speaking the language!

Hey Man, Where You Goin'?

Rome's got a great public transportation system. No matter where you want to go, you can get there by train, bus, or tram, or if you're really desperate, taxi. It's all rather cheap (except the taxi) and few Italians ever even pay. No one ever checks.

However, the buses and trams are crowded and smell like body odor, you can't put your feet up on the seats in the train, and taxi drivers will try to rip you off 100% of the time. However, these things are to be expected and are not of major consequence. They will not ruin your day or make it impossible to go about your daily business, quite the opposite in fact when they are saving you miles of walking on cobbled stones.

However, one day I encountered an incident with public transportation that had no precedent. As some friends and I were taking a bus from Villa Borghese (a large park in the center of Rome), the driver stopped the bus, put on his helmet, and took off on his vespa. My friends and I gaped at each other. We gaped at the other passengers and they gaped at us. No one knew what was happening. We waited. Perhaps he ran out to get a beer, or maybe a bite to eat. He'll come back.

We didn't really want to get off the bus because it was a long walk back home and we didn't know when another bus was coming. But it soon became apparent that the bus driver was not coming back. Perhaps he had simply had enough and we had just witnessed an oppressed man shrug a hateful occupation. Either way, we ended up walking miles of cobbledstones to get home. I hope that bus driver is out there somewhere fullfilling his dreams and that our aching feet were worth it.

I Never Saw the Trevi Fountain

It is said that if you throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain, you will return to Rome. If you throw two coins in the Trevi Fountain, you will fall in love in Rome, and if you throw three coins into the Trevi Fountain, you will get married in Rome. I did none of these things because I never saw the Trevi Fountain.

I lived so close. In fact, I lived close to many famous Roman monuments. The Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, the Colloseum, I lived right around the corner from the Pantheon, and I lived mere blocks away from the Trevi Fountain and even passed near to it in the streets I walked and the buses I took. But I never saw it.

I thought it mandatory to see the Trevi Fountain before I left so that I could throw one coin in and return to beautiful Roma, the eternal city of my dreams. Yes, I say one, not two or three. Falling in love in Rome would be too much of a hassle, having to decide where to live, or attempting a long distance relationship which I'm no good at anyways. Getting married in Rome would be even worse, as I'm sure none of my family would be there. No, I simply want to return one day.

I never saw the Trevi Fountain, but I want to one day. More than that, I want to return to Rome one day. I thought I was supposed to throw a coin into the fountain to bring me back but now I realize that me not seeing it will bring me back. I have to see the Trevi Fountain ahh!