Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Un'Osservazione Strana.

Pretend you're on a bus or a train. It's crowded and hot, and as you settle in to your environment, you notice some, erm, odors surrounding you. Now, one of two things is possible, if you are on an American bus or train.
  1. The heat has caused several of your fellow travelers to begin to perspire, or
  2. Someone near you has opened up a sandwich or a salad that contains some kind of garlic-y dressing and some rather pungent onions.
I think we can all agree that American body odor can be described in this way, give or take a spice or two. But how about Italian body odor?

Amici, Italians just smell different. I noticed it on the metro one day while crammed in between the door and some, well, Italians. It was very strange - almost like pepper, but... warm. I thought it was just the man who was positioned near me, but I have smelled this smell on many following occasions, and I really can't decide which odor is worse.

I'd like to add a small disclaimer: I did not come to Rome with the intent to study the differences between various cultural odors. The study was, in a way, forced upon me due to the frequency with which I must take the metro (every day to and from class).

Spero che non mangiareste quando avete letto questo brano...

A presto, amici!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Chiese e Cibi

No, that is not a misspelling of the word "Chinese." Today, I took my first class in Italy: Liturgical Art and Architecture in Rome. We visited two chiese, or churches. The first was San Silvestro in Capite (which denotes that the head of the saint is preserved within the building, though there's no way of knowing if it's the actual one), and the second was Santi Apostoli. San Silvestro was a small church right beside the post office and political buildings, which, I noted, were comically empty; my colleagues chalked it up to vacation, but I don't buy it! Santi Apostoli was a short walk away and was much larger. It's a baroque-style chiesa that, like almost every other building in Rome, has been in existence since the beginning of time (that phrase triggered a reference in my head... anyone want to fill in the blanks?). I've posted some photos in my Flickr stream that can be accessed on the side of this page.

Before today, though, I met my host mother. Her name is Paola Pippia, and she is a single Italian woman who lives in the center of Rome. She traded her son for us. I'm just going to leave that there; do with it what you will. After showing us to our room (again, reference the Flickr stream), she cooked us a lovely dinner of pasta e salsa pomodoro, pollo, prosciutto, pane, e insalate. One thing I've noticed about Italian cooking: it is very simple. They don't douse their pasta in sauce, but it's more flavorful than anything you'd get in any Little Italy. Tonight, she made uno zuppa con ceci e pepperoni (which is a spice/vegetable, not disc-shaped meat), an assortment of cold meats, pane, e pomodori secchi, which were my favorite things ever so far. Pomodori secchi are sun-dried tomatoes marinated in their own oils with capers and garlic. They are absolutely delicious.

While eating, Paola does her best to squeeze some Italian out of me and corrects Jess' Italian across the table. I'm still having trouble thinking in Italian, but I think there's been some improvement since last night, considering the only word I said last night was "Si."

Oh, but I'm not finished with today. I also had to take a placement test for my Italian language and culture classes. The instructor was very nice and helpful, but I didn't do nearly as well on the oral portion as I can do. Got flustered; started talking about a movie about bombs and murder. Considering I'm not up to speed on that terminology, it didn't go so well. The written portion was much easier, though.

In between my exam and my first class, a few of the other girls and I ventured around the corner to a local bar, where I ordered un panino con zucchini e furto, and then to a gelateria. I keep forgetting to take pictures of my food, but this gelato was amazing - a combination of caramel and Nutella flavors on a cone.

The moral of the story is this: I love gelato. Mi piace il gelato. AMO IL GELATO.

TTPO - Ta ta per ora!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Un'altra Cosa...

Gli italiani non possono ballare. Mamma mia.

Tre Giorni!

I have officially been in Rome for three days now. Yes, I survived the flight. Barely. Here's how I wouldn't describe my experiences so far...

  1. Culture Shock - I know I haven't been here for very long yet, but I wouldn't use this phrase to describe what's happened so far. Yes, I have had some difficulty explaining myself to shop owners and waiters, but Roman culture is not so far off from how I'm used to living.
  2. Seamless - Although Rome is not quite a culture shock, I can't say that I'm adjusting seamlessly. The first restaurant we went to was a complete tourist trap. The waiters were creepy, we were jetlagged, and I'm sure we were ripped off (the pizza was crappy and it cost as much as my panino did yesterday, which, while I'm at it, consisted of prosciutto and grilled zucchine). Nearly everything we've done on our own since we got here has been sketchy and tourist-y... but we're still learning.
  3. Confusing - I'm having a surprisingly easy time getting around the city. I can get to and from school without getting lost and it only took us about an hour to find our host family's house. While it should have taken us about a half hour, we didn't get lost or pick-pocketed (there are gypsies all over the metro... I'm a bit wary of this but I know how to spot them now!).
That being said, I completely underestimated how impressed I would be by the monuments in the city. On a walking tour on the first day, we passed by the Trevi Fountain, St. Peter's Basilica (which I saw up close this morning), the Colosseum, and the Spanish Steps. The Colosseum blew me away. I never expected to be so impressed by a giant ruin, but I was most overwhelmed by that sight. As soon as I have access to my own computer, my Flickr will be loaded with pictures! Like the idiot that I am, I forgot my camera on our first walking tour, so I don't have any pictures of any of the monuments.
The food, the food, the food: pizze, panini, paste, e gelato. The winner? Gelato by a long shot.

I didn't get nearly enough sleep last night, so I'm going to stop trying to write words. Tonight, I meet my host family. Tomorrow, I start classes.

A presto, amici!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Ciao, ragazzi!

This time tomorrow, I will be en route to Italy. In the interest of keeping language PG, I cannot begin to express what I'm feeling about this experience at this point, but I will say this: this will be my first international flight, and I am quite the nervous flier.

Let's hope this doesn't happen to me...