This week has just flown by (I know, I know, I shouldn't end my sentences with a preposition). I found an apartment, went to Mussolino's EUR, finally visited the Vatican and had my first class. I'm really getting settled in here and beginning to enjoy my time much more. So many things to talk about, where to begin?
Earlier this week, Byake and I headed down to the EUR, which stands for the Universal Exposition of Rome. Mussolini built it to celebrate 20 years of fascism, and he equipped it fully with a square lake, square buildings and square people. Why? Because curves are for sissies. It's essentially the anti-Rome (most likely intentional). The center square is filled with tall, imposing, austere buildings of a dirty white that are riddled with square arches throughout. The city was completely dead, and oddly enough, there was ash falling from the sky. No fire to be seen. Just ash. I felt like I was walking through Silent Hill. The streets were lined with dead plants (how hard is it to walk down the street with a hose for 30 seconds?). There were fliers all over the city that appealed to societal improvements such as, "Improve the safety of our neighborhood" and "Help lower taxes." But then I noticed that it also said, "Eradicate the Yugoslavian question (a thinly veiled allusion to the language of Hitler), so I guess fascism is a little more prevalent than I thought. In the center of the city stands a towering obelisk, which seems to say, "This is the center of the world." Pretty eerie stuff. Dante was Florentine, which means he would not have been Rome's biggest fan, so I thought to myself, "Perhaps this is the real gateway to Hell." Either way, Benito did a great job in sucking the life out the land. Oh and to add to the horror, the only restaurant we could find was McDonald's. I don't know which is more terrifying: Mussolini's fascism or the intercontinental expansion of corporate America.
To juxtapose the terror of the Eur, I was later able to see the Vatican at its best. Fr. Avram invited me to join him and a few others at the Vatican to say mass and to soak it all in (preposition at the end again! I am off my game today...). I woke up that morning at 6 to beat the flamboyant throngs of tourists. Walking into the Vatican is an incredible experience regardless of the amount of tourists, but it is a truly a sacred experience when there is no one there. I got to go into the priest-only zone, which is essentially a priest locker room, and then Fr. Avram said mass. Afterwards, a British priest gave us a great personal tour of the Vatican. It was cool because he was able to tell the stories behind everything in the Vatican rather than just telling what it is. Imagine how much time and care was put into each statue and mosaic, and then try to understand it with a simple glance. It's impossible. The height though was seeing Michaelangelo's Pieta. It is a moving experience. There is a palpable difference between a good sculptor and a great sculptor. A good sculptor replicates reality, but a great sculptor recreates reality and reinfuses it with new meaning. There is so much emotion in the sculpture that it takes your breath away. After a quality tour, we all went out to lunch. After Fr. Avram and Fr. David left, I joined some of the people who took the tour with us and gave them a tour of Rome (they were from Florence). It was nice to meet some Americans, especially a fellow Irishmen. We spent our time commiserating about the burden of being Irish, because as Irishmen, we are granted not only with physical perfection, but with mental and spiritual perfection as well. Perfection is a burden, not a gift. Not many people understand our plight, so some sympathy was just what the doctor ordered. It was nice because we're gonna hook up with some of these guys in Cinqueterre, Prague, Florence and maybe Ireland.
This Friday I'll be moving into my new apartment, which is in the southernmost part of Rome. It's well connected with the center of the city and not far from my school. The room itself has a double bed, italian tv (to help me learn the language), and internet access. The owner of the room is kinda strange, and we should have an interesting time together. He's very soft spoken, and when we came to see the room, he was wearing extreeemely short shorts, emphasis on the extreme. I'm just praying that this is not a common occurrence.
I had my first class tonight - History of Contemporary Philosophy. It actually seems a little boring. My professor is half German half French, which is a strange combination. I'm easily the youngest person in the class by at least 5 years, because I think most of my classes are doctorate level. Definitely did not know that when I registered. Either way, the material doesn't seem too difficult, and I'm really looking forward to the rest of my classes.
I'm still in the process of becoming an actual citizen, which is way too complicated. But I'm almost done! Tomorrow, hours of frustration and 200 euros later, I'm mailing in my application. Oh yeah! I used my first pluperfect subjunctive! While I was doing some final preparation for my permit application, I was at a photocopy shop. When I finished printing my one photocopy, the woman told me "dieci centessimo" (ten cents), but I heard "dieci euro." And all of the sudden WHAM!! I dropped the pluperfect subjunctive!! I said, "Io pensavo che Lei avessi detto dieci euro" (I thought that you had said ten euro). At that point it was game over. I was a pluperfect subjunctive virgin no more. The naïveté of innocence had been washed away as I began to look at the world through the eyes of a man. She was in pure shock as the power of the pluperfect subjunctive hit her like a freight train. Bwaha. I stood proudly over my conquered foe and laughed heartily as I drank my ale. Not since Thor's bellow against the giant serpent, Jorgumandr, had the world been privy to a laugh like this. I did an interpretive dance to express my emotions and strode proudly from the room.
This week should be packed with more excitement since Byake and I are traveling this weekend. Plus John and Cindy are coming into town and Fr. Avram and I are going to meet them for dinner next week. On top of that, I'm turning 21 in a week, which may not mean as much here (I said that I would celebrate the eve of my birthday with a bottle of wine), but it's still been embedded in my head as a huge birthday. You're all still in my prayers as I hope everything is going swimmingly in the States! Ciao a tutti!