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January 7, 2007

Kissing, or How I Learned To Stop Angsting Unless It Was Going To Look Pretty When I Did It...

Kissing, or the lack thereof, defines entire countries for me.

I remember being 17 and walking through the street of Paris. I was at my angsty best, pining after a boy, and felt that everything I was doing there (walking across bridges, looking at beautiful buildings, seeing churches or statues or paintings) was coloured by the fact that That Boy, That Boy That Was Always On My Mind, wasn't there. I remember sitting on a bridge at night, holding a rose I'd gotten from some place, and slowly taking off every petal and dropping it into the river.

Light in the DarknessThe next time I went to Paris, I had freshly turned 29 and the memory of being that overly-lonely 17 year old brought me some form of bemusement. Ah, young angst, I thought, while pretending not to notice the young couple doing everything except actually getting naked whilst the lights were coming on at the Eiffel Tower. There's an age I think we all go through where that lack of someone to kiss is so... disheartening. The feeling that we're the only one that isn't being kissed *right now*, except maybe our parents, and parents don't do that *anyway*, right? 17 and in Paris probably should have been just as much fun as 29 and in Paris was, but I was so distracted.

Maybe if I'd had someone to kiss at 17, I would have been just as distracted. It's hard to notice the beautiful lights across the city when you're... well, otherwise distracted.

At 27, I went to China, and dealt with students that were the same age I was then. I didn't so much notice the lack of kissing in the school - it had been so long since I'd been in a high school, and most of my classes were of kids around 12, so it just didn't occur to me. Sometimes I'd tease my older students about having boyfriends, or get the younger boys to behave by telling them that they should stop showing off to impress their girlfriends, and quickly everyone would fall in line. It wasn't until my first trip to Shanghai that I finally noticed that those public displays of affection that were so common in my high school were totally absent.

I was sitting on the bus from Rudong, travelling with a friend of mine, when I saw a couple of teenagers on the street kissing. "Pssst..." I hissed at Paul. "Look over there." When he saw them, his eyes went as wide as mine, and we spent most of that weekend pointing out Public Displays of Affection in awe. How brave they were! How... affectionate! How... normal, at least to us. Then we went back to our respective very small towns and noticed how little affection we saw displayed in classes.

Soon after that I found out that students could be expelled and sent home in disgrace if they had boyfriends or girlfriends. I don't doubt there were relationships going on, but there was so much pressure to never be caught.

Two RosesI'm almost done my packing for Australia and I'm very aware of the fact that there won't be anyone to notice these things with. There will be no one just as lost as I am to whisper "Do you see them?" to, and smile and share secret memories of being that lost in each other that the lights seem unimportant, no one to discuss whether the socialably acceptable forms of affection in public are the same as they are back in Canada. {In thinking about this now, public displays of affection are much less in the UK than they are in Canada... maybe it's because we cuddle more to deal with the cold?}

There won't be anyone to kiss.

I suspect that this time that won't be quite such an end-of-the-world type of feeling. But I won't promise not to sigh occasionally in wistfulness....

{Sunday Scribblings}
{More pictures from Paris}
{More pictures from Rome}

December 11, 2006

Keepsakes

Hail the Conquoring Hero!I hate to disappoint anyone, but I have to tell you the truth:

Rome was full of a lot of cheap tacky crap. It was very strange.

Luckily, everyone who asked for something to be brought back asked for cheap tacky crap, so that was okay, but it was a bit surreal. I'm used to drooling over things of various levels of affordability and bringing back at least one really nice thing that one can show off to people and say in that oh-so-casual-I'm-really-worldly-but-hide-it way "Oh, yes, I picked that up at this little shop outside the Coliseum. It was a sunny day, I'll never forget how warm it was, and I'd just popped in there to see if they had any air conditioning, and I found that..." I'd put it on the nick nack shelf, next to my goat from China and dragon from Wales and the lovely clock my mom carved me.

I.. uh... brought back a bright pink glittery Coliseum made out of plaster. It turned blue once it left Rome. I have no idea why.

I alternately loved and hated the seemingly deliberate tackiness of all of the stuff you could find near the tourist-places. I wonder if it would be any easier during the summer, when tourist season is at its height and the place is packed with people who just want to be cheated on something nice.

Ah well. I have memories, I have photos of Don dressed up like a crusader, and I have this lovely blue sparkly Coliseum. What else could a girl ask for?

December 9, 2006

Flavour Text

Rome destroyed Italian food for me.

Never again will I be able to enjoy a "good" Italian meal, having had food that actually burst into flavours in my mouth. Never again will I be satisfied with some pitiful, anemic version of tomato sauce. Never again will ice cream make me happy, when Gelato from Italy has melted on my tongue.

The food, oh the glorious wonderous food that is Rome. Every day seemed to bring a new amazing food experience for me. From the first full day we were there and I found the Platonic Ideal of Latte (it was amazing! It only needed a bit of sugar because it was perfect. It... it... it made me want to sit in this little back-end restaurant down by the Trevi Fountain all night, discussing world-changing and whether Joss Whedon's comic book version of a Season 8 of Buffy would be considered canon and how to finance a month of living in Rome) to the last day where Pizza is sold by weight and tastes entirely different than the stuff I grew up with, the food was always the best part of everything. So flavourful, so good, so... inviting. Finding food every day was always an adventure, but never one to disappoint.

For Your Enjoyment... At one point I sat on a bench with Don, just up the street from the Vatican, both of us completely silent as we ate Gelato. Mine was banana and his was tiaramasu. Neither of us spoke, just enjoyed, as the scenes of Rome played out in front of us - beggars and people selling cheap trumperies and tour groups and large groups of nuns walking past. How do you speak, really, when you've just realised that you're going to never again taste such perfection?

Food in Rome seems to be something entirely different than what I've experienced elsewhere. In China, eating out is a huge social event, usually with lots of people, lots of dishes, way too much alcohol and laughter. In the UK, it's usually a much more somber occasion, and although it may be a comment on the type of places I go to, I rarely see families out eating, or groups of large than three. But in Rome, it just seems that eating, drinking, enjoying it all is practically a religion. Restaurants open for lunch, then close again till as late at 7 or 7:30 when they slowly start to fill up with people. Groups vary from couples who are being googly eyed and feed each other pasta slowly and lovingly to large parties that slam back lemonchelo at the end of the meal before going on someplace else. Plates after plates after plates of food are the norm here, and I wished we'd had more time (and money!) to spend an entire evening eating good food, drinking good wine, discussing the world and everything in it over good coffee.

But oh, lemonchelo. I first had it in this little place we found in the Jewish Ghetto. We had been given a *very* bad tip on a place just further up the streeet and had left in a hurry and just started wandering. The place we found eagerly escourted us to their "back room" - a little courtyard that would be open to the sky in summer but was closed over with a canopy because it was "cold". They had a little heater set up in the back, and the place was lit with candles. A mostly-gone statue of a warrior with his horse made up part of the back wall. We sat there for hours eating such good food (I had some sort of seafood pasta dish that just made my whole mouth happy), and in the end the waiter brought us two iced shot glasses of lemonchelo. I had no idea what it was, so I took a cautious sip.

Oh, my.... It's this amazing lemon liquer that just... rolls off your tongue and into your tummy, making the whole of you feel warm and good and happy. I recommend you serve it chilled in iced shot glasses, because it was so good that way. They gave it to us for free, and it was lovely....

I had it quite a few times after that, and even brought a bottle home.

Rome is... full of flavour and excitement. We walked back to the Met.Ro that night along the river, under the trees, past the Circus Maximus and talked about the distant past and how everything fades away.

December 8, 2006

The Streets Where Cleopatra Walked

I wonder if Italians ever come to the UK and think "Oh, they're so cute with thier 'history'. They think they have old buildings. Heh. Well, let's indulge them and look at their little divit in the ground out in Wales that they call a coliseum, shall we?" I know that how far back we can trace things really has little to do with physical remains of buildings, but it's something tangible, easier to point to, and it has that immediate effect. Within Rome, there's a vast difference between looking at a divit in the ground and saying "Yes, that was the Circus Maximus" and walking into the Pantheon and staring up at the dome.

Pantheon at night We came upon the Pantheon almost entirely by accident. We were looking for it - but it wasn't where we thought it would be, and I had forgotten what to expect. It's been so long since I studied the architecture of the period that the dome had slipped my mind. It won't ever again. We came upon it in the evening, when the place was cooler (it was so hot when we were there), and sat at the fountian and just... stared. As one does, I suppose.

It's like walking in a dream, a lot of Rome, and nothing really seems like you expect it to. The heat, the sky, the press of people, the way the Met.Ro gets so crowded in the mornings always seems so mundane. I know, it's a city where people live, but it just added to the feeling of disconnection - how could any of this be real?

In front of the Pantheon is a court yard, or piazza, with a fountain in it. Everywhere in Rome has a foutain in it. At night, at least, the little restaurants that line the piazza are filled with patrons. I didn't eat there - I had found the best restaurant in all of Rome when trying to find my way. There's a McDonald's directly across the piazza from the font entry which added to the strangeness of the scene.

I don't know what to say here. I've been reading the wrong type of books to write about Rome, I think - novels that try to be pretentious, and it's affected how I'm writing right now. I don't want to make Rome sound pretentious or holy, even though that's so much a part of it. Romans, Italians, seem to just shrug their shoulders about the history, much like I can't find anyone to get excited about Edinburgh Castle unless they're an ex-pat. It's just a place, just a church, just 2000 years old with a dome that dwarfs so many things. How to you explain that, the casual disregard combined with a feeling of "This is our legacy, this is ours, no one can take it away"?

I need to arrange to not ever again read Kay's "Sarantine Mosaic" right before travelling to Rome.

December 3, 2006

Words

A Day At The Forum So, when you write about going to Rome, where do you start?

I've been asked this dozens of times so far: "How was Rome?" And I still haven't come up with an acceptable reply. It's so hard to talk about, because the experience was so... much. So many things, good and bad. I remember telling Don that at one point I felt that I *had* to have an amazing time, because I had to come back and write about it to all my jealous friends.

But I did have an amazing time. Rome is so... different than anything I've experienced, even than Paris. It was being in this city so huge you know they don't care about you, with such ancient history that your country isn't even a blip in comparison to, and just wanting to wander around and gape at everything. It is finding these beautiful fountains and small little restaurants that are so... common to the people there that they don't get a mention on the map. It's a city where even the "bad" food is good, and where they complain that winter is here because it's only +8.

I loved it. I loved every second. I loved staring up at the sky through the window of my hostel and trying to decide what shade of blue it was. I loved seeing people on the street in the evening wearing scarves and hats and shivering while I was wearing my tank top and bemoaing forgetting to leave my coat behind. It didn't rain once.

I don't know where to start, sincerely. I don't know how to write about it.

I want to go back. I want to spend a month walking through the small little courtyards that make up Trastevere, I want to find more restaurants that make food that actually has bursts of good flavour that overwhelm your mouth, served in back court yards lit only with candles, I want to get lost and orientate myself by the dome at St Peter's.

For now, I have only pictures and words and memories, because I bought so little while I was there. There didn't seem to be anything I could take away that would be as meaningful as gazing at Christan frescoes from a 6th Century church, build on the ruins of a Mithral temple, that has in turn be built over by another Christian church.

I bought a little St Christopher's medallion, though. That might be enough, all things considered.

November 23, 2006

Rome! Rome! Rome! Rome! Rome! (also, Singapore)

RomeSo, I'm leaving for Rome in just a few hours!

As you can see, I've been busy planning this with post-its, as one does. The problem I'm having with Rome is that it's a whole lotta choices, and I can't believe that I have to narrow it down to just a few days worth of travelling. How can I do this city any form of justice at all?

But I will see the Vatican (I packed a special shirt for that, because all of my "nice" shirts are a bit to risque for the Vatican, and I couldn't handle the idea of wearing a t-shirt, but I found something that worked), and I will see the Collisium, and I will see so many things that I practically gave up trying to plan the trip at all and just started writing down all the things I wanted to do and sticking them on to my planning sheet.

My head is still spinning - Rome? Who goes to Rome? I don't go to Rome... that's for cool people.

Rome. Yay!

I can't even remember every place on my not-itinery.

* * *

Unrelated in some ways, but my laptop is broken. You can't tell because I'm cunning that way, but I have no n key. This is incredibly frustrating.

Also, I booked my appointment to prove I don't have tuberculosis. Yay me!

And it looks like I must (*sigh* oh the humanity) go through Singapore for my trip to Aus, which looks like I'll be starting in Perth. So, now I'm kinda planning my trip to Singapore. (So far I've planned to buy a guidebook.)

It's been so busy, again...

* * *

Rome! Yay! I will roam in Rome with the Romans!

About Italy

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Anna Overseas in the Italy category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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