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

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!

3AFEBCF6-B5C8-46A1-91ED-B81BE9BA850B.jpg

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.

A52AFB4F-000C-42DA-A2D6-61BFBC38BCA2.jpg

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!)

IMG_9255.jpeg

Piazza Venezia during Christmas

IMG_9274 2.jpeg

IMG_9279.jpeg

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.

xcolosseum-new-years-repubblica1.jpg.pagespeed.ic.kWeZltJwbl.jpg

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

On collecting paintings & my “relationship” with the Colosseum

IMG_0725.jpg

From inside the Colosseum, 2010.

I have a travel tradition of buying an original painting from an artist in the foreign city I’m visiting. I try to match the painting with the feeling the city evokes in me – my Sagrada Familia painting from Barcelona is made with the bright primary colors with which Antoni Gaudi painted the city itself. My picture from Prague (actually an original photograph) is of the city’s landmark Charles Bridge in mostly dark greens, black, and some faint golden light. My painting from Florence is in golds and rusty oranges like the color of the city’s duomo and Tuscany’s reddish-orange roofs. I don’t have a formula for picking the art I buy or the feeling I get from it, I just get whatever emotions the city calls up in me. And I don’t have one from every single foreign city I’ve visited because I have a rule for myself that I’ll only get an image if it shouts my perception of the ambiance of the city I’m in or feel I have to get it. Then I take it to get professionally framed (when I have the money or, recently, as Christmas presents to me from my parents). They then take up residence in my parents’ house to sit humbly in their basement until I (someday) (hopefully) have a place of my own to hang them. Sometimes, when I was living at home (the most recent stretch ended less than a month ago), on sleepless nights or nights when I felt particularly helpless, rudderless, and lost, I’d tiptoe into “my area” of the basement and look at those pictures. It’s as if I had to say to myself, “See? Here is proof there was once a time where you felt happy and alive (and not always just when you’re across an ocean!) with a future you had the privilege to choose.” Isn’t that one of the reasons we take pictures and buy souvenirs anyway?

But I don’t have one from Rome. Why, Erica? That makes no sense! You love Rome, and you’ve been here 7 million times! (My dad will tell you I can be prone to exaggeration, which might be true, especially here).

IMG_0732.jpg

The Arch of Constantine with the Colosseum behind it, 2010.

Rome has always been so sacred to me, so brilliantly magnificent and flawed at the same time, that I have never been able to decide what I want my Rome painting to be or depict. The Vatican? The Pantheon, Piazza Navona, or the Spanish Steps? Palatine Hill? The Colosseum? Oh, but the Colosseum is so cliche. It is a symbol of one of the biggest travel cliches (for very good reason, I would argue!) along with the Eiffel Tower or the pyramids (and yes, Egypt, I’m hoping to meet you soon) or the Statue of Liberty.

But how I love the Colosseum. My laptop must have an upwards of 200 pictures I’ve taken of it through the years. I’ve said it before, but it’s true that it still sends a shiver down my spine when I first glimpse it walking around Rome.

I am well aware of its bloody past; the exotic animals fighting slaves and gladiators from all stretches of the Roman empire. I know about the mobs that called for more and more human sacrifice for sport and their viewing pleasure. I have stood before it and tried to imagine the sheer number of lives lost here in pursuit of entertainment.

IMG_0629.jpg

From inside the Colosseum, 2008.

And yet I still love it. I love it as a symbol of Rome as a city that is still standing after thousands of years. To me, it is ruins of a once-great empire that is more beautiful than any gleaming new skyscraper in a burgeoning cosmopolitan city. The Colosseum and Rome itself are so comfortable in the seeming loss of their grandeur, in the beauty of their crumbling remains, that the world no longer regards these “tattered” structures as relics of failures and long-ago promise. The very wreckage that is a constant reminder of Rome’s fall(s) are also a testament to its staying power and ability to overcome. To overcome barbarians, to overcome wars, to overcome time, and even the ability to overcome the highest hurdle of them all – the flaws in itself.

I get that. In so many ways. And that’s what the Colosseum means to me.

I’ve finally decided what I want my Rome painting to be. I want a picture of the Colosseum with the ruins of the Roman Forum/Palatine Hill stretching out proudly in front of it.

IMG_1327.jpeg

Ruins of the Roman forum with the Colosseum in the background, 2016.

Years from now people may see my precious painting of Rome’s Colosseum and ruins and dismiss it as a cliched representation of one of the world’s most magnificent cities. Let them. I know it means so much more. I understand, the Colosseum understands, and Rome understands. That’s good enough for me.

Erica

From Aaron Hernandez to Rome

I’m a podcast addict – news, politics, true crime, international events, etc. So today I was listening to the first episode of a new podcast called “Gladiator,” which is about former Patriot Aaron Hernandez who was convicted of murder and then killed himself in his prison cell last year. In an autopsy, they found evidence of substantial damage to his brain from CTE, which is the condition that is so widely discussed today regarding the NFL and concussions.

45f44cc05aa84bf256966fad9e95623c5f788a2dab146a65e385a1211bac0ecd8cb9f070fbd6f59b92b6aad123bec115a0ef98a382b1fb411b91e749b5d1b296.jpg

But this post isn’t about Aaron Hernandez or the Shakespeare-esque tragedy that became of his life. Instead, towards the end of the episode, the narrator says, “In Ancient Rome, gladiators would put on their helmets and armor to compete for the public’s entertainment and amusement. Some of these men, and sometimes women, would die in their first contest in the arena.” Like anything else about Rome, that made me stop and immediately rewind the podcast so I could listen to that part again. It made me think of the 10-minute walk it would take me to get to the most famous of ancient arenas, the Colosseum. 10 minutes.

I am ever trying to solve the mystery of what draws me to Rome besides the obvious. My love affair with the city of Rome – with all its victories as well as its defeats and blemishes – is magnetic and everlasting and pure.

IMG_4861.jpeg

My dirty foot outside the Colosseum after a day of solo walking around Rome in July of 2015. (I have a weird habit of taking pictures of my feet after days exploring ancient cities including Beirut, Rome, Amman, Jericho, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem). I am stepping on the famous “SPQR” initials found throughout Rome. SPQR are the initials of the Latin phrase, “Senātus Populusque Rōmānus,” which means “The Senate and the People of Rome.” The phrase originally stood for the idea that ancient Romans believed that all authority of the Senate came from the people. There’s a lot more history to it, but that’s it in a nutshell. Today, it is used in the municipal symbol of Rome.

But those lines in the podcast reminded me how large of a role Rome and its history still play as cultural touchstones to this day. After all, the narrator of the podcast didn’t have to go into a lengthy (or short) history lesson to illustrate the mental picture he was trying to paint. Our minds’ eyes automatically call up an image of gladiators in the Colosseum of Ancient Rome, the jeering crowds, and caesar overseeing the melee. To me, and I admit my bias, so much of Rome’s past seems like a larger shared past of the whole Western world. Ancient Rome gives us many of our cultural touchstones – the Colosseum, gladiators, Brutus betraying Caesar, the phrase “All roads lead to Rome,” and “Nero fiddled while Rome burned,” the barbarian military general of Carthage, Hannibal, the image of the once-great Roman Empire being sacked by barbarians, and so on. It is why the title of the podcast, “Gladiator,” needs no explanation to evoke the fighters of Ancient Rome. And I live here. It still gives me goosebumps.

Is this a selfish way to look at the world? That I feel privileged that I live in this Eternal City (while still being a citizen of precious America), as if my living here is the most important thing in the world? Probably. Does it give me any insight into the world around me or the self within me? Not really, except that some Roman culture still echoes today.

IMG_4844.jpeg

The Colosseum at night, summer of 2015.

So at 8:52 a.m., on October 17, 2018, in Rome, Italy, I am selfishly grateful that I get to live here, in a city that literally gives me shivers every day and that I love for reasons I cannot fully articulate. “Just for today,” I will be happy and grateful no matter what the day brings simply because I am here in this place of ceaseless inspiration to me.

With gratitude and love from the Eternal City,

Erica

P.S. This post is dedicated to my dad, who will understand why.

P.P.S. It really bothers me that my autocorrect kept capitalizing the “a” in “Ancient Rome,” but there must be some reason the adjective is part of the proper noun. 🤔