A reminder: by Erica

My dearest Rome,

 

I have lived within you for about 6 months now. You’ve seen my first love letter to you way back in August 2018 https://seekingericafarandnear.com/2018/08/16/the-journey-begins/ , so I want to pontificate (pun intended and all the Vatican stuff) on your other virtues and vices.

Thank you.

Thank you for being unapologetically yourself.

I don’t love all of your garbage and trash that needs to be picked up. I don’t love your endless lines in Coin or even Simply for groceries (there are 3 other people working besides the one cashier, can’t they also help check out?). I don’t love when I give the supermarket cashier a 20 and he/she asks me for more exact change (no I don’t have 2 euros, and even if I did, I want to “break” my 20!).

But I do love you, Roma.

Thanks for the days when I can do this (picture) and rest my hand on all the imperfections of the colosseum and say to myself, “You did this, so can I.”

Love,

Erica

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Sciopero… again

Today is another 24-hour mass transit sciopero, or strike, in Roma. It’s at least the third since I’ve been here, and the stated reason is the “health and safety” of workers. As the “24-hour” hour nature of the strike denotes, it seems in Italy they don’t strike “until…” they get what they want, but they strike for a set period of time to show their dissatisfaction.

This all means that I’m walking 6.1 kilometers, or 3.8 miles, to work right now. Given the hour + it will take, I thought I’d write a blog while I’m walking.

Im not very good with directions, so unless I physically go from point A to point B, I can’t imagine the orientation of things and places. I’ve often wondered how to physically walk from where I live near San Giovanni to the Vatican, for example, because I always take the metro. I guess I’m going to find out today because where I work is near the Vatican!

I’m not necessarily complaining, although it is quite inconvenient. But what other city in the world would I rather be “forced” to walk through? None. Zero. I choose this city. After all, I’m walking head-on to the Colosseum 😍 right now. What a commute!

Never enough pictures of this place!

Oh, I just passed a big American tourist group!

I work from 10:30 to 7:30 today. I have a few 1.5-hour breaks, which wouldn’t be enough time to be worth it to go home and back even if the metro was working as normal.

I just passed the Arch of Constantine!

Anyway, my students are in groups of only 2-3 or private lessons, so I don’t teach classrooms of school kids like I did in Reggio Calabria. It’s a change, and obviously there are pluses and minuses to both.

Part of the Roman forum and Altare della Patria/Altar of the Fatherland/Vittorio Emanuele Monument!

Back to the post. I probably shouldn’t say this, but I don’t feel especially passionate or “called” to be an English teacher. It’s not what I want to do for the rest of my life, but it gives me a way to live abroad, which I obviously love, and make money. I still don’t know exactly what I want to do, and I’ve had quite a rocky path since law school, but hopefully that path is leveling out now. But that’s for another post (or posts).

Another picture of Vittorio Emanuele from Piazza Venezia!

Okay, I’m going to have to pick up my pace a little bit. Thanks for accompanying me on part of my way to work during sciopero!

Erica

Walking in Rome

I took a late afternoon/early evening walk around Rome on Sunday as I sometimes do. Here are just a few pictures from my walk… and more evidence for my theory that it is nearly impossible to take a “bad” picture of the Colosseum.

Erica

P.S. I want to start blogging more regularly. I still have to finish my Krakow posts and my Istanbul posts. Once I get those done, I want to chronicle more of my everyday life here. Here’s to my New Year’s resolution to start blogging more regularly!

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My “neighborhood church.” This is less than a 5-minute walk from my apartment (and please don’t think this is bragging – I think this is “so cool!”) – See below from Wikipedia

The large Latin inscription on the façade reads: Clemens XII Pont Max Anno V Christo Salvatori In Hon SS Ioan Bapt et Evang. This abbreviated inscription translates to: “Pope Clement XII, in the fifth year [of his Pontificate, dedicated this building] to Christ the Savior, in honor of Saints John the Baptist and [John] the Evangelist”. The inscription indicates, with its full title, that the archbasilica was originally dedicated to Christ the Savior and, centuries later, co-dedicated to St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist. As the Cathedral of the Pope as Bishop of Rome, it ranks superior to all other churches of the Roman Catholic Church, including St. Peter’s Basilica. (the bold is added by me). As a Catholic girl who went through Catholic schools kindergarten-senior year, it still awes me.

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This is an “opposite” picture. I was waiting near the Trevi Fountain, and I was talking to my dad on Skype messenger. He said, “I can’t believe how many historic sights you have within a walking distance.” So after my dad messaged me, I took a picture of the Trevi Fountain of the people taking pictures. So lucky! (I don’t even like the Trevi Fountain!)

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Piazza Venezia during Christmas

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N.B. These are bad pictures (because I’m not a photographer) with lots of glare, but still the Colosseum looks beautiful

Istanbul: Coming Soon…

Hello!

Happy New Year and Buon Anno! I’m having trouble downloading all of my Istanbul pictures to my computer, so for now, here are a few of my favorites I’ve been able to download so far.

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  1. I get excited when I get new stamps on my passport. It’s not as “fun” in Europe anymore when you don’t get stamps when you’re anywhere in the EU.

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2. Europe (our left), and Asia (our right)

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3. Not a great picture, but the inside of the Hagia Sophia. It was the place I wanted to see the most in Istanbul because it used to be a church built at “Constantinople” in the 6th century (532–537) under the direction of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I. When the Ottoman Turks conquered Istanbul in 1453 under “Mehmed the Conqueror” they converted it into a mosque (in 3 days!) – not really 3 days, but more to come. They covered the Christian mosaics with plaster (or something – I’m not good with materials). Muslims don’t believe in depictions of Mohammed, God, or holy people, so their mosques are decorated mostly with Arabic script and floral or geometric patterns.
It was changed into a museum in 1935 under Mustafa Atatürk, the founder of the current Turkish republic. He wanted it to be a more secular representation of the country.

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4. One of the mosaics that hasn’t been fully restored.

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5. The Blue Mosque from a window in the Hagia Sophia

That’s all for now. More to come!

Erica

P.S. For those readers who talk to my dad, he has pledged to come (to Europe) in the spring now that he has so much time as a retired person. 🙂 He came to Europe a few years ago when I was living in the south of Italy, and we had a great time in Germany together. Let’s put “pressure” on him to come again!

Istanbul (not Constantinople), oh… and my Roma

This is a short post because I am excited to tell everyone that I’m going to Istanbul from December 26-30 as a “gift” to myself. Much to my parents’ dismay (Erdoğan, Khashoggi (RIP), among others), it has been on my “list” for a long time because it’s a literal gateway between Europe and Asia. And winter is the “down” season, so prices are much more reasonable. I go with full knowledge of the risks of a country known as a gateway to Syria, a border country to Iraq, a country in conflict with the aspiring “Kurdistan,” and not the most stable government. But travel and history and culture is the love of my life so far (to be vulnerable: hopefully, someday that love of my life will be a guy – who (must) accept that travel will always be my first love!). All I can do is be grateful, thankful, and in awe of the privileges life has bestowed on me in terms of seeing the world. All I can do is be smart, experienced, and cultured in pursuit of what I love – and that is to see the world through my own eyes, with the privileges of the formal education so valued and gifted to me by my parents as well as the the informal education my life’s journey has sometimes unwillingly dragged me through.

As for Christmas day, I will go to St. Peter’s Square for “Urbi et Orbi” Blessing at 12 noon in St Peter’s Square. Not sure what this is, but I want to experience it.

Also, New Year’s is one of my least favorite days/nights of the year. So even though I usually try to fall asleep as early as possible and miss it completely, I won’t miss a chance to see this at one of my favorite places in the world… A version of this scene was the background on my laptop for years. And here I am. Chills.

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So grateful.

Erica

Oggi sono grato per…

Today I am thankful for 31 things (plus many other things like family, friends, health, etc.)…

  1. Rome
  2. Being from a country that can have 4 former presidents from different parties come together to celebrate the passing of one of them
  3. My (American) passport
  4. Airplanes
  5. International travel
  6. The color red
  7. My iPad
  8. Being able to switch SIM cards from America to Italia and still keep the same phone
  9. How amazing I find it that Italians invented an entire language where basically 99% of words end in an a, e, i, or o
  10. Days starting to get longer on December 22
  11. Cobblestone roads
  12. When I get an end seat on the Metro
  13. Hair clips
  14. Having brown eyes
  15. Amazon Prime
  16. Fruit popsicles
  17. The Colosseum
  18. Podcasts
  19. Piazza del Popolo
  20. “Red days” in Italy*
  21. Living near the San Giovanni Metro stop on the A line
  22. Earphones
  23. How Hannah’s newsletter’s “word” today – athenaeum – was the same as my dictionary.com “word of the day” email (definition: a library or reading room)
  24. Spelling my name Erica with a “c” instead of a “k”
  25. Pearl earrings
  26. The Italian word for “witch,” which is “strega”
  27. English grammar, specifically relative clauses
  28. Did I mention Rome?
  29. The Christmas decorations/nativity scene at the Vatican
  30. Every time I see “SPQR” around Rome
  31. The Christmas lights decorating the street outside the school where I teach (see picture)

* “Red days” are what I call (i.e. only Erica Eve Beinlich, this is not what they are known as in Italy) Italian holidays (no work or school) because the day/date on all Italian calendars is in red. Thus, it is easy to spot no work/school holidays in Italy because the dates are universally (or nationally) colored in red, no matter the color scheme of the rest of the calendar. Every Sunday (Domenica) is a “red day,” and then all national holidays, many of which are religious due to the Catholic history of the country. For example, this Saturday is a “red day” for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception/L’Immacolata. It’s a Saturday this year, so most people already don’t have work or school, but if it was on a weekday, work and school would be closed.

Erica

GHWB, #41 & Gma B

George H.W. Bush was not the president I was “born under” – that was Reagan. But even though he was in office until 1992, when I was only 5 years old, he is the first president I remember (how I remember him as president when I was 5, I can’t tell you).

I know it is very controversial to like him and even “worse” to like his son, but I do. I always have. And though it isn’t popular, I would defend him still today.

George W. Bush’s presidential memoir came out on the Tuesday before the Thursday I took a plane from law school in Boston to Green Bay for our drive to Michigan for my Grandma Beinlich’s funeral. I remember buying it at Boston-Logan airport at around 6 in the morning.

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I remember the weekend so clearly. I was 23, but she was my first grandparent to die. I remember filing down the rows in order of her 5 sons’ births – so Dad, Mom, Greta, and I were second. I remember doing a reading for her. I remember my grandfather – ever the stoic German – breaking down before we filed out, and I remember my cousin Alexis “breaking rank” – she is the daughter of my dad’s oldest brother – as she went up to Grandpa by herself and helped and him away. I remember my Aunt Teri (my uncle Greg was with his brothers) comforting her daughters in a side room after, and how she invited me to share in their group embrace.

So at one of the saddest times of life – death – it reminds me of one of the first “important” deaths – if not the first – of my life. And what I remember, looking back, is how proud Grandma would be (and is!) of her 5 sons and their children.

Erica

Sciopero

For the second Friday in three weeks, Roman public transportation (called ATAC, or Azienda per i Trasporti Autoferrotranviari del Comune di Roma) – metro, buses, trams – are going on “sciopero” or, basically, strike. The above flyer provides that it is a 24-hour strike, but that there will be service from the time the transit system usually opens in the morning (maybe 5 or 5:30) until 8:30 and from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., presumably so all the people who aren’t on strike can get to work and school.

I’ve asked people if sciopero ever actually works, that is, do the employees ever get concessions from the government such as higher pay or whatever is the goal of their strike? The best answer I’ve gotten is “sometimes.” I’ve yet to hear of anything concrete, but I guess it’s a nice extra day off for them. 😉

But it’s not just public transit that goes on sciopero. I have been physically chased down by one of the employees at a neighborhood grocery store at 7:41 p.m. (they usually close at 9:30). The employees were not letting new customers in, were yelling “sciopero!” and were hastily making sure people were checked out as fast as possible. And let me tell you, the employees at this grocery store, to a person, could not be less concerned with efficiency or getting customers checked out at even a leisurely pace.

So, I was familiar with this female employee who was following my determinedly brisk clip into the store. I had my earphones in, and I could hear her on my heels yelling, “Signora! Signora! Sciopero!” I admit I pretended I could not hear her, or alternatively, that I didn’t understand what “sciopero” meant even though I did. Finally, she was so loud I turned around RIGHT when I was about to pass the check out lines and break free into the store. She kept emphatically yelling the same thing and directing me out. I was so close! And other people were still trying to get in! I have never seen that particular employee move anywhere close to that fast. I frequent the grocery store about every day because I buy smaller amounts of food on a more regular basis than we usually do in the U.S. Because of this, I am familiar with the “usual characters” that make up the grocery employees. Suffice it to say, I have never seen any employee in the entire store move as fast as they all were that night. 😃😉

Anyway, happy sciopero to the Roman transit/ATAC employees on Friday (tomorrow)!

Erica

Confessions of an Imperfect Traveler

First, an update or a “Rome Report.” Cross my fingers I might have found a room within my budget close to where I live now. It’s with two girls, students, and it is simple, but that is all I need! I say “might” because the owner has guaranteed that I can sign the contract and live in the room starting November 1, but you never know here until it’s completely signed and done.

On to my confessions: I’m getting back into a routine of living abroad, which reminds me that for as much as I love and adore traveling, and for as deep as my devotion to it is, I am far from a perfect traveler. There is no avoiding the fact that I am a flawed wanderer, and for the sake of transparency, I’m going to confess my travel sins here.

I want to start out by saying that as silly as this sounds, these travel “flaws” have bothered me in the past. I have truly tried to be interested in or enjoy these topics and aspects of travel and culture, but try as I might, I still inevitably skip over these chapters in travel books and find myself avoiding these topics or ways of travel.

In many ways, the past 10 years since I graduated from college have been an extended study into myself – my strengths, my weaknesses, my aptitudes, and my inaptitudes. This may sound like a luxury, and some people in my family close to me still view these times as selfish, unnecessarily self-indulgent, and privileged, frivolous wastes of time, and I don’t expect them to change their minds anytime soon.

I know that these vague references may not make sense to everyone, and I’m sure there will come a time when I begin to blog about those years of my life, but suffice it to say, for now, that I would much rather have spent these months and years establishing myself in a career I was interested in, or taking steps to at least find out what I want to do, or if nothing else making money so I could be independent and travel.

But that’s not how my life played out. And often I was dragged kicking and screaming into these prolonged journeys of self-introspection I had no desire to embark on, but to have avoided going through these times would have meant a far darker future for me.  It meant confronting demons within myself that I have always had and will live with for the rest of my life. But like I said, a deeper and more painstaking examination of these times is for future blogs.

My original point in all this was to say that I have come to accept these travel “flaws” in myself because in the grand scheme of life, they matter little. Accepting these, like accepting other more consequential demons in myself, has guided me in what I have come to think of as my “travelosophy,” or my philosophy of travel that works for me, Erica Eve. (Look for an upcoming blog on my detailed “travelosophy.”)

Knowing what’s important to me when and where I travel has allowed me to skimp on the things I’m “just not that into,” and let go of the “guilt” of not being the perfect traveler (yes, I really had some guilt about that). So enough preamble, here laid bare are my travel flaws:

Food: I’m not a foodie. At all. I will almost always try a new food or dish, but very rarely do I enjoy it. I do not find foreign cuisines exciting or an enriching part of the travel experience, and I don’t say this to disrespect or undermine the importance I know that food plays in culture. It’s just not my “thing” or an interest. I eat too much or too little, but always very simple, familiar foods. I don’t even like lettuce. Lettuce, in fact, and to my dismay, may be my least favorite food. I don’t like the texture, and I don’t like the taste. Growing up, I was assured I’d grow out of it, but I haven’t. And let me tell you, that greatly limits many healthy options for one’s diet. So exotic food as a way to understand a foreign culture is not my forte.

Foreign languages: I don’t have “an ear” for foreign languages. It took me 2.5 tries to pass the first level of Italian when I lived in Reggio Calabria, when the course is designed to obviously be passed on the first try. My parents will say that I’ve “convinced myself” that I can’t learn other languages, but I really do try. Even in high school and college, foreign language was one of my weakest subjects along with science and math. This along with the food thing is perhaps my biggest regret in travel, because I do believe when I read and hear that to speak the language of a different place is to even better understand the culture, and culture is one of the things that most fascinates me about travel.

Camping/outdoors/wildlife: I am not an outdoors person who is going to love visiting wildlife reserves or frequent national parks. I am by no means someone who needs to be pampered with the most luxurious showers and products, but I prefer electricity, at least a cot instead of the floor of a tent, and as little contact with wild animals as possible. And don’t get me started on bugs or rats or anything of the sort. (Exception: I would like to go on an African safari in Tanzania or somewhere similiar). Oh, and I LOVE the beach.

Travel delays: I am not a patient person when waiting for inevitable travel delays. I have become much better, and I handle them better when I am traveling alone, but no one will ever accuse me of being too “zen” in any area of my life. If there is going to be a 3-hour delay on a flight, for example, I can handle that, but don’t keep returning to the intercom extending the delay. If the delay is going to be 4 hours, I’d rather be told it’s going to be 5 and be pleasantly surprised that the delay has lasted less time than I expected rather than the other way around. And pointless delays or delays that could have been avoided with better planning or because people are inefficient… let’s not go there.

My sense of direction: It’s not great. It’s a little better than my dad’s at least (sorry, Dad) but it’s not good. Even with GPS when I’m walking around a new city, I get lost. I have to stare at my phone at times and turn around in circles to make sure that I’m facing the correct direction to walk. I can only imagine I look like a crazy person turning in circles staring at my phone. No matter where I am, I don’t know which way is north, south, east, or west, so to tell me to “walk south on Via Appia” gives me little more guidance than just saying to pick any direction and walk.

So those are my biggest travel imperfections. Soon I’ll do a post on the most perfect parts of travel, of which there are many more, and dare I say compose the love of my life.

Erica

On finding a permanent place to live

I have no idea what it’s like to be an immigrant or a refugee, to be someone who is forced to leave your country because of poverty, war, or violence. I don’t know what it’s like to be forced to move to a country where you don’t speak the language and where very few people speak your mother tongue (English is obviously the exception because it is so widely spoken around the world).  I cannot imagine moving to a place where you feel unwanted and unwelcome and a complete outsider.

What I do know is this: I have applied to more than 250 rooms in apartments in Rome for a more permanent location than where I’m staying now, and not one has come through. Oh, I’ve been to see places, I have corresponded with people about various rooms, but nothing. The most frequent response I get is none at all. Often the response is, “The room has just been rented,” (and why they then don’t take down the advertisement or listing is a mystery to me). I have encountered people that won’t rent to non-Italians, and I have been told by others they don’t want someone who isn’t fluent in Italian. This I can understand, as I would want to speak the same language as someone sharing an apartment with me. I am in their country, and it is not crazy for them to expect me to speak fluent Italian if I plan to live here for an extended period of time. What I don’t understand is when I go to an apartment two times to see it and meet the residents and THEN they tell me that they don’t want a non-Italian speaker when I follow up the next day because they didn’t call me as promised. Why waste my time as well as their own time? Or what about the girl who said there was no way I could come and look at the room before Saturday, and then on Friday marked the room as “sold.” When I asked her about it, she ignored me before saying she actually let some people come before the Saturday that she swore was the earliest I could see it. That’s happened a few times.

I’m sure if I had a more flexible budget, this would be less of a problem. Money talks, and money makes life a whole lot easier whether anyone wants to admit it or not. But I don’t have or make much money, and so today I’ll go to another apartment and scour the multitude of websites that advertise rooms to rent in Rome. Maybe today I’ll find something. At least I’m in Rome. And what luck or what a blessing that is.

Erica