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

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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 (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

Rain in Spain – or Rome… & Poland!

I am the last person in the world who likes to discuss weather or watch the weather channel. I know many people are fascinated with weather, but I have never found it the least bit interesting. I know what time of year it is, so I assume a range of temperatures, and go with it. This has sometimes been to my detriment, specifically when it rains.

It has rained on and off (mostly on) for the past 2+ weeks in Rome. I don’t remember experiencing a time when the rain has been this consistent for so long. It’s not always pouring, but the skies are almost always gray, and it’s hard to remember a time in the last few weeks when an hour or more has gone by without some kind of drizzle. Even native Romans say that don’t remember a time like this.

The amount of sunlight has always impacted my”mood,” not because of one or two days, but the season as a whole. I have always been generally much happier in summer when the days are longer, while winters usually bring me a tangible feeling of despondency and heaviness. So a combination of ever-shortening days, almost no sun during the day, and the time change may have combined for a not-so-great mix for me.

BUT the last few days have been markedly better in Rome!

Maybe because of this, I wanted to write a quick update.

Teaching has been going well (I know that doesn’t really tell you anything), and I’m slowly getting more students and more hours.

My graduate school essay(s) have ground to a halt. I “over-thought” myself, and I have no idea whatsoever how I’m going to incorporate what I need to say in a short essay – the gaps in my resume, the “non-career-related” jobs I’ve had intermittently, why I’m ready for grad school now, to mention a few. But perhaps that’s for another time.

Which brings me to my most exciting news. Part of the reason I love living in Europe is the ease, price, and shortened (for Americans) duration of travel between cultures (a few-hour flight from Italy to Germany, anyone? 😉). And now that I’m near a hub airport, it’s even easier. So next week I’m taking my first long weekend and going to Poland! I’ve never been to Poland or that far east on the European continent – the furthest I’ve been is Berlin/Vienna/Prague.

Specifically I’m going to Krakow. Every “trip” I take is deeply meaningful to me, but this is different to me in a few ways (yes I know life isn’t all about me and “Oh the Places [I’ll] Go,” but I can only write from my experience.

Apologies for another post that could have been 2 paragraphs that has turned into 9. I need to work on that.

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

Almost 2 weeks as a (sort of) ROMAN!

It still blows my mind I can say (kind of) that I’m a Roman – at least that I live here. I hope I never wake up from the wonderful dream that Rome is to me. I mean, I can walk to the COLOSSEUM in about 15 minutes. I can get to the pope’s house in less than 30 minutes using public transportation (okay, by that I mean the Vatican).

I’ve accomplished a lot in the days since I arrived, which I’ll explain in upcoming posts. Right now my focus is going to be on writing my graduate school personal statement because many of the schools are starting to open for applicants around this time.

I’ll keep you updated, but for now, ciao!

Erica

Another anecdote for my “book”: losing my passport

I’m starting to write this post at 12:10 a.m. on Thursday, October 4, 2018. I’m not going to publish it until the issue is resolved because I don’t want people worried. I even debated writing about this at all, because it is such a “rookie mistake” and so unlike me.  So see further down in the post for an update.

I lost my passport. I don’t know how. My passport is one of my favorite things in the world. It is my lifeline, and I feel sick and worried without it. I’m going to the embassy in the morning to get a new passport as soon as they open at 8:30, but it will only be a temporary passport, so then I’ll have to “convert” it to a regular one. You can only get “regular” passports made in the U.S., so I hope I can get the emergency passport and then send off for my regular one right away to have it delivered in Rome within a few weeks.

It makes me sick. I LOVE my passport. I have never lost it EVER. It’s always at the very bottom of my bag. I remember taking it out of my bag to fit in all my towels and clothes and toiletries to shower at the gym. That’s the last time I remember having it. I don’t know if another time I went to the gym if I forgot to take it out of my bag and so I left it at the gym? But I’ve been there twice inquiring about it, and they don’t have anything. I’ve looked everywhere, and it makes me just sick and disappointed in myself. I am a good traveler. I always, always know where my passport is. It must have happened one of the times I was switching my regular items in my bag to the things I need for the gym. But I’ve looked everywhere. I know I keep repeating myself, but this is just so bizarre.

I’m almost 100% positive someone didn’t steal it from me, because nothing else in my bag is missing. This is the trouble with me forgetting to bring a gym bag – I was switching things back and forth from my regular “stuff” like wallet, meds, etc. to my gym stuff and back again. The passport must have gotten lost in one of those transfers. But shouldn’t it be somewhere in my room then?

I just am so, so, so mad at myself and disappointed. This is NOT like me to lose my PASSPORT. It is my prized possession; it is my gateway to the world; it symbolizes my freedom to live my life on my own terms, right or wrong. It has always made me feel secure just knowing I have it, even when I’m in the U.S. I cannot fathom how this happened. Even with an “emergency” passport from the embassy in the morning, I’m still not going to feel “secure” until I have a new regular passport in my hands, and even then it makes me mad at myself that I’ll never get the lost passport back.

I don’t think I’m going to get any sleep at all tonight.

1:53 p.m., Thursday, October 4

I slept about an hour last night due to worry, so hopefully tonight will be better.

Oh boy. It’s always an adventure with me. The good news: once I got into the embassy, the process was pretty easy to get a new passport. They usually issue “emergency” passports to travelers because they need them to get back home, but because I’m staying in Italy, they’re going to have a brand new passport for me to pick up in two weeks. That saves me having to get an “emergency” passport and then having to convert it to a regular one once I get back to the States. I’m very pleased with the outcome.

Getting IN the consulate/embassy was a different matter. I got to the embassy around 8:45. I was standing in the U.S. citizens line and the guards kept allowing people to go ahead of me. I finally asked why, and they said that my bag was too big and it wouldn’t be allowed in. So… basically, if I hadn’t asked I’d still be standing there wondering why I wasn’t getting in? I then asked them what I was supposed to do. And they brought out a phone and had me talk to someone inside the consulate who said there’s a UPS that allows bag storage for 5 euros. I was like, “Are you kidding me? I could bring this bag onto a plane, and I specifically looked at the instructions for lost or stolen passports and there was no mention of the size of the bags. So I walk to the UPS store 3 blocks down only to find it doesn’t open until 9:30, and it’s 9:00. Soon a Nigerian guy joined me who wasn’t let in because his backpack was “too big,” and a few minutes later an Ethiopian guy came with the same problem. We stood there and talked until exactly 9:38 when a guy came to open the UPS store. We paid our 5 euros each and went back to the embassy together as a united force. I was finally let in with my wallet, phone, and a photocopy of my passport. I had to turn my phone off and leave it with the guards by the metal detector.

Once I got upstairs to the “US Citizens” part, there were a few other Americans in similar situations sitting around waiting to be called. An older guy sitting in a chair in front of me was telling me how he lived in Damascus for 5 years and Baghdad for 4 years, speaks fluent Arabic, and he doesn’t have a home – he’s a nomad. He just did a pilgrimage from somewhere in England to somewhere in Spain. He’s now thinking about becoming a priest. I was so interested. It’s crazy the people you meet along the way.

Erica