Despite my raging allergies and the cold I’ve come down with during this week, i’m still powering through my courses. I have Italian on Monday and Wednesday mornings. At Home in Rome on Tuesday mornings, and Human Rights on Tuesday afternoons. With that, I also I have my internship on Monday and Friday afternoons at A Buon Diritto. My first day was on Monday, and what an experience! In a matter of 3 hours I met people from Senegal and Libya, people applying for asylum and refugee status and people who were having legal troubles due to misinterpreted documents. It gave me a lot to think about and i’m beyond ready to keep learning more. The majority of my time here in Rome is going to be spent doing research regarding refugees and working closely with them.
I should be going on Friday, but had already made plans to travel to Venice with my roommates so my next day back at the office will be on Monday. Although the Carnevale festivities in Venice have ended, we are still excited to see what Venice and also Verona have to offer.
This past weekend our friend Juli from London came to visit and it was unreal to see her again. We hadn’t seen her since May because she’s been abroad all this time, but we used to live together back at home. We celebrated Carnevale in Garbatella at a party where everyone was wearing crazy costumes and masks, it felt like Halloween.
*angry moment where wifi wont let you upload the photos that you want*
We’re in the midst of our third week of classes here in Rome, and everything is becoming a little bit easier. A typical day consists of waking up early for my first class and making an espresso in our tiny moka maker, typically eaten alongside a cornetto (croissant) or some other pastry. I’ve found a love for these pastries called Fiorentines that are filled with an apricot jam, I buy another box every time I go to the market! Sometimes I’ll eat some fruit or a yogurt but then I’m usually running off to class in my down jacket because even though it’s 50-60 degrees here, the Italians always dress for the season, and I’ve surprisingly gotten used to it. I take the short cut to the school which only takes me about 10-15 minutes to walk, passing by graffiti on every wall and building because street-art is heavily influenced in the culture.
I get to class with a few minutes to spare but my professors are almost always 5minutes late. Everything is slower here, and the Italians like to take their time – unless you’re trying to catch the train, you don’t want to be late for those! After my class I typically walk back to my apartment to make lunch, either a large salad or a sandwich and occasionally pasta. When I go to the market and order lunch meat it’s usually really embarrassing for me. I approach the deli counter slowly and I know the men who work there now recognize who I am and that I am an American. I can see that they are whispering about me as I approach them with a planned out sentence in my head in Italian. “Ciao, um posso avere, um, due eti di tacchino?” The deli guy smirks and grabs the turkey and slices about 7 pieces of meat for me, he asks me something in Italian that I don’t understand and then usually asking if I understand him and I hesitantly say “Si,” at this point I feel awkward and he hands me my turkey and I sheepishly walk away. There are better moments, however, regarding the language. Such as the old woman who asked my roommate and I the price of an item because she couldn’t bend down to read it or the women who helped us pick the best cauliflower and even the people who explain directions really well. It’s been rewarding to be able to understand sometimes and even better when you can respond and they understand you! The market trips usually happen at night sometime between class and dinner time. In Italy, Italians don’t eat dinner until 8 or 9 o’clock and I’m weirdly adjusting to that.
The weekends are spent traveling but if I’m not doing that, or homework, or stopping somewhere to get coffee or a slice of pizza, I’m taking in all the city has to offer. I frequent the markets and the tiny shops nearby and the first time I was able to eat gelato here was really memorable. As a disclaimer, I’m severely allergic to nuts, for those who haven’t read my second blog, so every time I go out to eat, or order something at a market, or buy something at the store I’m asking and reading labels in Italian so that I don’t have to make an unfortunate hospital trip. For those who don’t know, not only is gelato huge here but nut-flavored gelato in all forms is also really big. Apart from your typical chocolate, lemon, banana, and strawberry flavors you have hazelnut, pistachio, almond, chestnut, endless crossover flavors with coffee and chocolate and of course the popular Nutella gelato. You can then order cones that are coated in hazelnuts or even add chopped nuts to your gelato. You can understand why I’d be stressed out over the smallest amount of cross-contamination, but this is in my thoughts every single day here.
At home, I’m not eating out as much and it’s easier to read labels. One day my roommate wanted gelato and I was already getting nervous that they would ask me what I wanted and I would have to respectfully decline. Typically gelato places are not welcoming for me in my gut feeling but I actually found this experience to be quite familiar and it had an amazing outcome. The old man who owns the shop reminded me of my poppop (my grandfather). He was a sweet guy that didn’t let the language barrier get in our way of communicating. My roommate started to order and he led her behind the counter to scoop the gelato herself! He started to ask me what I wanted and I explained to him my whole situation and he kept saying that it was okay. He grabbed a woman from the back who spoke English and she also assured me I would be okay. With a freshly cleaned scooper and the ability to scoop it myself I was able to enjoy the best Lemon gelato I’ve ever had. The old man didn’t let us pay for it and even sent us home with oranges! His actions were sweet and the way he spoke reminded me so much of my poppop. Is it a weird coincidence that the gelato shop is on Via Gabriello Chiabrera and my poppop’s name is Gabriel? About a week later we had gone back and he told me that he had been sick recently, and I explained I was also currently suffering a terrible cold. He sent me home with three lemons and told me to drink the juice in some hot water. One thing that’s different in Italy and the difference between living in the outskirts of Rome rather than the city center is how nice and helpful everyone is. I had an idea of the hospitality of Rome before getting here, but now I understand. You don’t get treated this way in the tourist areas, in fact you’re bombarded with people trying to get you to eat at their restaurants and people trying to sell you selfie-sticks on the street. As the days go by it’s easier to say no, or even pretend like you didn’t even hear them like most of the Italians do.
What I’ve noticed this week though is not these similarities or the differences but actually a frustration. I get upset with myself for not being able to understand people and for not being able to communicate properly. I get angry with myself at my internship when I’m listening to Italian for 3 hours straight picking up on familiar words but not enough and then every 15 minutes or so I get a shortened English translation. I feel like I could be understanding, and helping, and asking the right questions if I could just understand the language. It’s been a difficult process, but one bad day is not going to ruin them all for me. Each day I’m learning more and gaining new experiences and making new connections to things back home.
I know one thing for sure though, I really don’t ever want to leave.