Rome

Being in Rome is like being in another country surrounded by another language, but with one significant twist: In Rome, I was immersed in an entirely new world of Catholicism.

It was like this in Costa Rica, too: At first the newness simply clings to the edges of your clothes, occasionally brushing up against your cheek, making itself known to you but not drowning you in its unfamiliarity. After a week or three, your body has adjusted to the altered air, and when you breathe it in, it inflates your entire self, steaming out of your lungs and pervading your entire body. Soon that too becomes electric, your awareness of it at its best; it tingles out of your fingers, nose, toes, and lips, and alters everything you touch or perceive.

It is so magnificent to be changed by something that has radically altered the history of Western Civilization, global politics, art and architecture, and human mentality for almost 2,000 years. And that’s just Christianity and Catholicism. The Roman Empire has been around for thousands of years longer than that.

It doesn’t leave, either. The electricity may lessen, but I am permanently affected by my time in Rome. I spent the entire semester studying the history and culture of Western Civilization while being completely surrounded by it,  but I came back with the knowledge that there is so much I will never know. What a beautifully painful thing to come to realize.

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We did it.

There were times I thought I would never make it to Rome, and while there, there were times I feared I would never make it back. But I went, I did it, and now I’m sitting at a table in my favorite coffee shop in the small town of Midwest City, Oklahoma and writing about it. I never thought I could travel all over Europe, but I did it. It makes me think, what else have I always wanted to do but shoved aside, thinking I never could? I’m going to dig those up, and I’ll make a toast to the next adventure.

Until next time,

it’s good to be home.

Peace.

Kelsie

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The Ultimate Tourist Trap

I think all of us who travel have done this at some point during our adventures. It’s a 21st century thing, really, and with so much of our generation traveling, it’s an easy thing to fall into. I know I’ve done it more than once.

It’s easy for us to go somewhere new and exciting and see all the unique differences that that culture offers and marvel in those unique tendencies that are so distinct from our own. We tend to pride ourselves in our ability to value those cultures for their individuality and experience that difference rather than be the “stereotypical tourist”, taking extra care to keep a safe distance from giant colorful tour buses, the corner McDonald’s, and the pestering salesman waving neon selfie sticks at anyone who breathes in his direction.

This is great, don’t get me wrong. Understanding cultural differences and learning from those is and will always be a good thing, there’s no doubt about that.

But I challenge you this: is it possible to focus to much on those exciting differences that we neglect to see how all of us, our culture and theirs, when it comes down to it, are all simply members of one single humanity?

We put so much effort into recognizing the worth of these cultures because the generations immediately before us have had some problems with this, yes? The internal dialogue is so predictable: Italians drink wine at almost every meal. I don’t do this in the States, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. I appreciate Italy for it being so different! But after doing this too many times, our goal of appreciating those cultures for what they are ultimately does a 180-degree flip: they become a place so unique and so separate from our own that we ultimately isolate them. The conversation quickly becomes something else: They can believe what they want; I’ll admire it, but it’s not relevant to me.

How are we supposed to really learn anything from that culture if we’re so busy admiring and separating it from our own? And, if we truly believe there is nothing to learn from it, is that not devaluing to that culture as well?

Obviously the situation I just described is not as intense as I made it seem, but I won’t deny that it does happen in some level for all of us travelers. The solution is easy- Admire the uniqueness of other cultures, yes, but instead of focusing only on how those differences make them separate from us, search for how they bring out our similarities on a deeper level.

After all, we all are simply human.

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Thoughts of a semester.

Enjoy the Little Things

Part of the challenge about being in another country is that it becomes very easy to get so caught up in the most marvelous of things that the little happenings seem to simply pass by.

Ancient Roman architecture is fantastic, don’t get me wrong. The intense and meticulous paintings that line church walls are indeed something to see. But I don’t want to overlook the small things.

The city of Rome is riddled with these simple old fountains that are contentiously flowing with a light stream of water. There is a hole on top of the faucet so that if you block the initial opening that the water normally directly flows down from, you can create a water-fountain effect.

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These fountains are all over Rome.

Helen and I thought this was REALLY COOL. Turns out the jug under the fountain was being filled by the man in the background… woops. If you zoom in on the picture you can see he is laughing at our over-the-top enjoyment of what is actually a very normal appliance in Rome.

But, what can I say? Sometimes it is the tiny things that leave an impression on you.

When in Rome, drink do as the Romans do.

A Room with a View

Before I went to Rome someone told me that in the additional comments on the Roommate Request Form if wrote “A room with a view”, something might become of that.

They were right.

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They say that on a clear day you can see the top of St. Peter’s Basilica. 

 

I’d like to take a minute to capture my current awe at how absolutely wonderful I feel like I am being treated here and how, strangely enough, we are only experiencing what seems to be a standard of Italian culture.

The food served in the Mensa is cooked by a loving Italian couple and is absolutely delicious- all sorts of pan, pasta, meat and vegetables. I’ve only been here a week and have already been treated to two of some of the finest standard Italian 5 course meals and authentic Italian wine. And the coffee… anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely love coffee, and let me tell you, this is good stuff… dare I say it challenges Costa Rican cafe?

Our campus is on a working vineyard and has a small section of olive trees in the back. Unfortunately the grapes don’t bloom until the Fall, but it’s still a nice place to run. I can hear roosters crow, birds chirping, and dogs gossiping. There is a well recently excavated  that dates back about 2,000 years. Rumors say it could be the one that Peter and Paul met at as they traveled through Rome.

As I sit here and write this, I silently gaze out the wide open window as the breeze pushes itself through the frame every now and then. It’s nice. I feel good.

Welcome to Due Santi.

Don’t Eat the Oranges

There is a spattering of orange trees that speckle the edges of the roads that line all of Rome. They’re kinda cute, really, and the oranges dangle just within arm’s reach.

This isn’t normal where I come from. This isn’t normal where Matt and Helen come from either. It is no surprise that we were a little more than excited to come face-to-face with a couple of trees rather than simply viewing them through the glass of some kind of moving vehicle.

Picking oranges on what appears to be a public tree somehow felt wrong, and as we peered in and out of the various business on the corner that the trees grew on, no one seemed to care that we were very obviously about to pick the oranges.

I reached up. Plucked one off. Looked around. Nobody cared.

Matt reached up. Plucked one off. Looked around. Nobody cared. He reached up and picked one for Helen, too. The long, green leaves shook with the release of each piece of fruit.

I dug my thumb into the eye of the orange and pushed back the peal into a few falling chunks. The others did the same. The yellow juice ran down the length of my arm and it felt particularly sticky.

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Before the enlightenment.

Low and behold the golden sphere. We pealed off a slice and put the entire things in our mouth.

Don’t ever do that.

These oranges are like lemons soaking in baking soda, extremely sour and strangely bitter at the same time. No wonder no body cared if the meddling Americans ate the free oranges that lined the edges of the street.

But let’s be honest, it was totally worth it.
 

 

When in Rome

Friends,

I am here. I have made it to the eternal city , the heart of the Church, the beautiful city of Rome. And, let me tell you, writing about it is really, really hard. I’ve been scrambling for words for a couple of days now but like beads on a tile floor they roll and bounce and lodge themselves in the dusty underbellies of the furniture: out of sight, out of reach. I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no possible way to convey the awe of my experiences to you, and even if I could eloquently translate experiences into words on a page, it would be far less personal than if I were to share stories with you face-to-face where we can both chat away about some of our greatest adventures in life. My goal on this blog is to tell the most simple stories to you, the highlights of what I see or do. My goal here in Rome is to learn: learn about history, culture, philosophy, and, above all, humanity. How incredible that throughout nearly 200,000 years of human existence, there is something vaguely similar about it all.

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The sunrise begins to light up St. Peter’s Basilica. 

Perhaps that is the difference about being in a city so old. Being here is not only experiencing the unique beauty of a culture separate from my own, but one rich with history spanning thousands of years. The city of Rome, in many ways, contains a wealth of pieces that begin to tell the tale of human existence.

I am beyond excited to get to be a part of it for the millisecond I am graced to be here.

Until next time,

Kelsie