Monday, July 10, 2006

Hello Moto!

Days 1-2 (Rome): What can one say about the tidal wave that is Rome Italy? Rick Steves characterizes it as both great and brutal. I think he nailed it. It’s like a movie set, or a large, pulsating, breathing, kicking metaphor. It is antiquity at its most sophisticated and decadent, it is now at its most elegant and chaotic.

There are continual juxtapositions here: certain antiquities marred with graffiti, a store that sells uniforms bearing a most elegant, meticulous storefront window. There is graffiti everywhere, we are in the embassy district and it mars to front of multiple outer walls of elegant residences. But the Romans revere their treasures as well, because at the Villa Borghese Gallery yesterday (truly one of the world’s great museums) the majority of viewers were Italian. .

The young Italians are a lithe and frantic bunch. They walk around with their cell phones affixed to the side of their faces, while smoking a cigarette and steering a Vespa. Stephanie warned me about Roman drivers, and she wasn’t exaggerating! “Always listen for a motor behind you,” she suggested, “and if you hear one approaching, get out of the way as soon as humanly possible!” Aaron and I are both quite aggressive drivers but nothing prepared us for the gauntlet of walking, or being driven, around Rome!

This is an elegant people—they are extremely well-dressed. Their clothes and leather goods are exquisite. The side of me that is driven by consumeristic impulse was lathering at the mouth yesterday walking along the streets of the fashionable districts and staring at gorgeous, meticulously-constructed leather shoes of a type and quality we rarely see in the US. The small, local store is alive and well in Rome. As I noted, store windows are often works of art. Shopping does not seem to have an American mall influence, thank God.

The Italians know how to eat, and laugh, and argue. They are not driven by time issues, they will talk to you at length IF, and this is a big IF, they like you. Aaron and I were walking on air yesterday when twice we were spoken to in Italian. OK, it was perhaps just a gesture on the part of a kind Italian waiter, but Aaron has been dressing somewhat like a local, and we’ve both tried to adapt to the culture as best as two floundering, intimidated, exhausted Americans can.
On Sunday we headed out toward the ancient city, requiring for the first time, a metro ride. This was an interesting endeavor, as we were public transportation illiterates. I’ve used the metro when I traveled in the past (over 20 years ago), however not the Italian metro, so it was an interesting experience. In the end it was quite doable, and we now feel ready to conquer the city.

I’ll complete this entry at that juncture, and comment that yesterday afternoon, just before Italy won the world cup, and the city literally EXPLODED with the ecstasy of a once-in-a-lifetime celebration, Aaron turned to me and told me he could live for a while in Europe. There is a world out there, a world of people who decidedly aren’t frothing at the mouth to move to the U.S—who don’t live in utter awe and envy (our culture is so motivated by a desire to enact covetousness of what we “have” in the other) of us and don’t mourn on a daily basis that they weren’t born American. I have heard this statement a multitude of times in the US, “everyone wants to live here,” or “at least we are the only place in the world that is free.” This sort of ethnocentricity does not serve us, as it fundamentally suggests an inherent lack in all non-Americans.

We sat in a restaurant on the second night, a phrasebook clutched in our hand. The waiter was so patient with us, helped us and spoke relatively decent English. Next door sat a table of four Texans. They never once even attempted a word of Italian. Not even a polite “Buono Sera” greeting, or “grazie” thank-you. On another occasion a local Italian addressed a table of Americans and an older man in the group barked at her “speak English.” The point being that out here in the big, magnificent world, it is distressing to see how our indoctrinization of national arrogance does not serve us, exposes an element of the US that can be ugly, and so isolationist. Community should be both locally and globally expressed in my opinion.

Anyway, tune in soon for a second installment on Rome. Wireless access is sporadic, and tomorrow we head out to Tuscany where I suspect it is non-existent. That will be a 10-day span, but I will check in again in Venice (Venezia) as I know we have wireless access there.

Ciao bellas!


At 1:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How amazing and exciting to be in Rome for the news of the World Cup win!!!! As I watched the game unfold I had thought of you and Aaron and wondered what the atmosphere must be like. If only you could have seen the ridiculous pompous hubris of many in the American media following the win - claims that we were "co-victors" because we were the only team to go undefeated against Italy (a tie actually).


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