January 18, 2012 – Time: 11:23 local time
So I hadn’t realized it’s been 3 days since my last post… whoops! Time goes by quickly, and I fell under the routine of “I’m too tired, I’ll write tomorrow” way too quickly. Anyway, let’s see how the past three days have gone…
Monday: Well, I woke up at 12 noon, almost exactly. Took a shower, got a cappuccino con cioccolato (cappuccino with chocolate in it – it’s from a vending machine, but still tastes better than anything you can get in America) for half a euro, and then waited in my dorm until it was time for class. My “City of Rome” professor is a really nice guy, and class went by surprisingly quickly. We’ll be spending most Mondays in the classroom, and most Wednesdays and Thursdays walking around different places in Rome, which is perfectly fine with me.
After that class, I had “Moral Theology of the Marketplace.” 3:30 PM, when the class was supposed to start, came and went without any sign of the professor. And then another 20 minutes… still no professor. Just as we were ready to leave, at 3:55 PM, he comes walking through the door like nothing had happened. I exchange glances with my friends, wondering how he could possibly be 30 minutes late on the first day, and then we get our syllabus. Apparently, St. John’s never told him what his hours were going to be for this semester, and he never bothered to check, but we got it all sorted out. At least, I thought we did. Our professor isn’t able to make class tomorrow (Thursday the 19th) and so he’s adding 30 minutes to 5 other classes.
Excuse me? Since when can a professor cancel class for personal reasons and then take time from our free time to make up for it? I don’t want to say anything about it because I don’t want to hear whatever excuse he’s come up with, but it’s going to annoy me until the end of the semester. Also, my term paper for the class is due Friday night at 11 PM. I’m glad I can get it done at least.
After a very boring two hours in that class, I met with the group to go get dinner. Frank led us to a restaurant he saw with an English menu in the window – Ottimo. As soon as we stopped to look at the menu, the host popped outside to greet us, which I thought was a little sketchy; sketchy turned into concerned when he started trying to “bribe” us inside with a free glass of champagne. Despite my feeling, we went inside and sat down. The champagne was nice, not as heavy as the one from Taberna de’ Gracchi the first night we went out. I ordered the risotto with scallops, hoping it would be nice, and Frank got the risotto with cheese and bacon; Rebekah got polenta with some meat or other, and Kristen got the same thing as Caroline, a pasta carbonara; Elena got her usual gluten free pasta with marinara sauce.
The food was terrible. Not bad, terrible. The risotto Frank and I got was hard, tasteless, and obviously microwaved (the center was flaming hot, while the outside was cool); the pasta carbonara was dry and bland, Elena’s pasta was way too salty, and the polenta was mush. We ate quickly, paid our fare and left without leaving a tip. We’ll never go there again
Tuesday: We finally got our meal tickets today. That means for the first 4 days here we had to use our own money for food. Well, anyway, we immediately took our money to the supermarket to buy food. I personally bought a loaf of bread (for sandwiches), an assortment of prosciutto and mozzarella slices for the aforementioned sandwiches, and a 6-pack of carbonated water (because the mineral water is very heavy). We also pooled our money together to buy dinner for the night – two packages of gluten-free spaghetti (which costs almost 3 euro more per pack than regular spaghetti, but that St. John’s doesn’t care about; they told Elena to essentially “suck it up”), marinara sauce, some garlic and other fresh herbs to add to the sauce, chicken meatballs (that also by a stroke of luck happened to be gluten free), and a loaf of Italian bread for eating with dinner.
All in all, the dinner was great. Honestly, the gluten free pasta was heavier than usual pasta, but just as good; Frank is a great cook, and the smell wafting from the dorm kitchens had other students poking their heads in to see if there was going to be enough for others. (No wonder I’m so tired, it’s after midnight… let me go get some coffee real quick) Anyway, for as amazing as dinner was, neither Frank nor Caroline could digest it. For some reason or another, their bodies rejected the gluten free pasta.
Wednesday: I woke up surprisingly early (8 AM) and on my own, and still had 5 hours until class. After trying (and failing) to fall back asleep, I decided to just stay in bed until 11. I met with my classmates in the main lobby at 12:15 – we had to meet our professor at the Roman Forum for class at 1:20, and when we got there at 1:15… he was nowhere to be found. Now, the Forum is a huge place – it stretches the length of three or more city avenues, so we started walking along the side and looking for him. It wasn’t easy, but we finally found him at 2 PM, as he was putting on his helmet to ride his Vespa home.
The tour he gave us was fascinating, if tiring on the feet. Trying to imagine just how magnificent the Forum was in its prime is really mind-blowing, and I can’t wait to hear how he’s going to shed new light on the Colosseum (where we go tomorrow).
Right after class, I had to run to Caritas – a soup kitchen I had signed up to volunteer at – which required taking the metro back to Termini (basically the Penn Station of Rome) and meeting the group of St. John’s students by one of the shops. I stopped at McDonalds on the way (just because I hadn’t eaten all day!) and grabbed a wrap, which was better than anything I’d ever eaten at McDonalds. By the time I’d finished, the other volunteers were starting to show up, and we walked over to Caritas together.
After we distributed pitchers of water to the tables, I got delegated to cleaning trays after they came into a back room on a conveyer belt. Paired with Frank, our jobs were simple: first, dump any plates and cups into a garbage can; second, put the trays in what was basically a big tray to carry trays on; thirdly, we had to put the tray of trays into a large, industrial fast-washer; and finally, we dried the trays. The process was simple enough for the two of us to do alone, but another volunteer (a local, who must work there every day) insisted on treating us like mentally challenged toddlers. We were never left alone and he constantly pushed us aside to do the work himself.
What was even worse, at the end of the night (8 PM, when we were supposed to be able to leave) Frank and I were never told. It took another St. John’s student coming over to meet us for us to find out we could leave. The coordinator of St. John’s volunteers had LEFT without telling anyone, and had it not been for the other student, Frank and I might have been there until 9. I have to write a 1 to 3 page reflection paper on my experience, and I have so much to complain about there.
At this point, my feet were so tired and the rest of me so exhausted that I just went straight back to my dorm room, sat down and started typing. And now that I’m done, I’m going to bed. I have to leave at 10:15 to get back to the Colosseum for class in the morning.
Since it’s hard to see the actual boundaries of the Forum normally, I made an outline around it with Google Maps. I walked around everything inside the blue lines today, and it was magnificent.