I'm finally in Rome and it has been a whirlwind of activity! I've barely been able to rest (literally, I'm sleeping on my friend's stiff loveseat), and I haven't even begun to see the Roman sights. My first few days here have been spent wandering around Rome, getting lost on some cobblestone road, and then being spit out by some colossal monument and finding my way home. It's incredible how much history there is here. You really cannot get a sense of it until you come here, because we have nothing of the sort in America. Modern buildings stand side by side with Medieval churches and ancient amphitheaters, and the best part is, the Italians don't even pay attention to them. For them, walking by the Colosseum is like driving down 494.
It's nice to be a student here though, because I don't have to rush to see all the sights. It's a completely different perspective. Honestly, walking by the Colosseum is not a big deal for me either. Also, I've learned to hate tourists. It's extremely annoying to be walking through il centro and to hear in a Southern twang "Hey Maude! These are just dang rocks!" I went to mass yesterday at Santa Maria in Trastevere, which is a gorgeous church, but the experience was sufficiently impeded by a flood of tourists meandering throughout the church, pointing at the ceiling and muttering in different languages. At the offering, beggars would come in off the street and ask for "un offerto" trying to dupe the tourists into thinking they were giving money to the Church. It was more of a circus act than a mass.
The first day I was here, my friend and I were lugging my 200 pounds of luggage back to his apartment. We finally petered out in front of a cafe when an Italian man called us in to have a drink with him. At first we refused, but then decided, hey, what could be wrong with free drinks? His name was Stefano and he spoke only Italian, so relayed the conversation between him and my friend. It was about 10 am and he was slightly inebriated, but coherent enough to carry a conversation. We had a fine time with him until he began to tell us that he was a fascist and that he wanted to gun down Yugoslavians because they were unhealthy. Mild culture shock. At that point, we just finished our drinks, told him "Gli Stati Uniti sono molti differenti di qui" and walked out the door. It's pretty eye-opening to see that people can still hold these opinions.
The city is covered in graffiti and pickpocketing is a big problem, but beyond that there is barely any crime to speak of. Crime rates are remarkably low. I can walk around the city at 4 in the morning through dark alleys, and not worry about my safety. It got me to thinking why this was the case (because there are no coincidences, only unintelligibility), and my theory is that the people here enjoy an entirely different quality of life. In the States, capitalism places such a heavy emphasis on money that if you don't fit in the well-oiled business machine, you're cast to the streets as inefficient and therefore useless. Now I'm not saying that there are no homeless in Rome, because that is far from the truth. However, I think because there is less emphasis put on grinding yourself to the bone to make an extra buck, the homeless here are not forgotten by society, and realize that efficiency is not the key to life. Conversely, of course, nothing ever gets done here. So pick your poison.
And don't worry Vikings fans - last night I was able to suffer with you from half way around the world. We found an Irish bar that plays American football every Sunday, and the Vikings were on the main screen. Even though watching the Vikings is like sticking my head in boric acid, the place was still really cool. We watched the game with some other Vikings and Packers fans (who would've thought?) and spent the night fruitlessly arguing why the Vikings are the best team in the NFL with Packers fans, Jets fans or even South Africa rugby fans.
As far as fitting in goes, I've given up all hope. Not only do I lack the bronzed bod and slick black hair, but I don't have the attitude, the tight jeans or the pink popped collar to match. That's ok though, because I refuse to emasculate myself by popping a collar of any sort.
There really is just so much to say; I really can't tell it all. I'm having a wonderful time here. Oh! I didn't even mention the food! I ate a three course meal for 10 euro! And three scoop gelato is 1 euro! It's amazing how good and inexpensive everything is (except the clothes, they care way too much about how they look). The Italians definitely have something good going on over here.
I'll be sure to continue posting to keep everyone updated. I hope everything in the States is going well. I'll keep you in my prayers if you keep me in yours. Deal? Deal. I miss you all.