After four years away from my first adventure abroad, I've returned to Rome for the summer. I've decided to reignite the blog that I started then, mostly as a way to document my thoughts, but if you're interested, read on! What I lack in creativity, wit and ability to form coherent sentences, I make up for in hustle and a general all-around go-gettem attitude.
Rome is where the traveller's spirit was first lit in me what seems like a long time ago. I fell in love with this city four years ago, and returning now is somewhat of an existential and unexpected experience. Studying here in undergraduate set in course the path that my life has taken these last few years, and I'm back in a way that I never would have expected the last time I was here. Since nervously packing my bag and saying goodbye to the only place I ever knew as home, I've spent time wandering the mosques and forgotten history of Syria, pumped battery acid through my lungs as I hiked in search of the nearly extinct mountain gorillas in the mist-shrouded volcanoes of Rwanda, badgered British soccer fans at a World Cup match in South Africa by belligerently refusing to call it football, slept underneath the eerily silent night sky of the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan, ran a 104 degree fever on what I thought my death bed in a town in Zimbabwe that conveniently had no power, and watched Humpback whales burst out of the Indian Ocean 20 feet in front of my little scuba diving dinghy.
I'd like to think I've grown wiser. But I probably haven't. Cooler? Nah. But I am pretty sure I've gotten older. Nonetheless, outside of the rude realization that my favorite Sicilian gelato man, Ettore, has closed up shop, Italy is the same. Seriously. Even the street performers are doing the same act they did four years ago, and most of them aren't any better. I'm living in Trastevere, which literally means "across the Tiber," and it's still remarkably quaint. Known for its winding cobblestone roads, hanging laundry and nice blend of blue-collar Italians, American students and tourists, Trastevere somehow retains the feeling of a small Italian town in the sprawling city of Rome. However, the same idyllic neighborhood becomes a throbbing hive of Roman nightlife after 7pm. This past week, on a Tuesday, Laura and I searched the countless restaurants in Trastevere for a place to eat at 9:30 pm and we had to settle on a 10 minute wait. The Italians are still relentlessly impatient in everything except efficiency. The roads are still a death trap to everyone who doesn't have Indiana Jones faith in that invisible bridge every time they walk into traffic. The women are still glamorous and expect the world. I'm still that pasty ginger that could never look Italian no matter how well he speaks (not that well, by the way).
Rome is different this time around though...but only because I am. First and foremost, I'm spending this summer with someone I love, which inevitably means less time spent double-fisting in an ice bar at 6 in the morning, and more time drinking wine in piazzas, drinking wine at dinner, and really just drinking a lot of wine (what am I supposed to do? It's three euros a bottle!). Secondly, instead of spending my days "studying," I work at the Food and Agriculture Organization, which is a branch of the United Nations. Lastly, I can't risk what was once my dream to sneak into the Roman Forum at 4 in the morning and drink wine next to Julius Caesar's grave and the birthplace of Western civilization for fear of losing my job (stay tuned on this one, because I might change my mind).
The past week and a half has been a whirlwind. I spend my days researching and writing about the necessary legal frameworks to create an environment in which rural family farmers can successfully innovate and prosper. At this point, it seems that there is a serious conflict of interest between third world small holder farms and western corporations that develop seed for developing countries. At night, I wander around Rome with Laura, in and out magnificent churches that house a startling amount of famous art, from Raphael to Caravaggio, eat my own weight in pasta and gelato, aaaand drink wine. My clubbing spirit isn't dead as I spent Saturday night in Monte Testaccio until 4 am.
I'll provide some more updates about my job and what I've been doing in Rome in my next entry when it isn't 2 am. Maybe some pictures too.
I'm hoping to provide updates every weekend on the blog, but I'm notoriously bad on keeping up with these things, so let's hope I'm a changed man!