Posts Tagged ‘vatican’


Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Fingers trace the lines of the knotted wood polished, like rocks made smooth by the crashing of the waves, by the seeking hands of the needy. Desperate fingers ring the wooden front of the pew, hopeless fingers, hoping fingers, searching fingers, tired fingers, angry fingers, ecstatic fingers, but most of all, human fingers holding tight to the wooden beams of fallen trees lined up like old layers of bricks used to fortify the foundations of a building. The pews filled with people, each with a different word, or a different hole in their heart, seeking searching, for something they know not the name of, the know not the form of, nor know the true power of, yet they come with heads bent down and palms raised up for answers.

There is a side chapel in the Vatican, reserved for prayer alone, where tourists cannot enter unless it is God, not vacation experiences, they seek. A room of silent reverence where a strange feeling lingers in the air, an odd shared glance with the nun kneeling beside me in which I realize we are all here for the same thing. No matter who we were, where we came from, or the thousands of different reasons or things that happened to us in our lives that led us to this moment where a nun and I shared a knowing glance with one another, in which we both acknowledged that we came not for ourselves, but seeking another.

It is in the moment in which she is beginning to stand to leave that our eyes meet, a little smile shared, but no words spoken. When she has crossed herself and left the small chapel, I turn to look back at the now empty place beside me. My eyes rest on the red kneeling portion of the pew where the indents of her knees in the red material are still visible. These indents of burden, these indents of faith, these indents of understanding left in her vacant space. Knowing that when I stood to leave, my own indents would remain where I once was too. There was something beautiful in the space she left behind, like an afterimage of a single part of a larger being. We all walk these different roads, lead these different lives, but can you not hear the sound of a heart beat always in your ears, and have you ever wondered if it is not your own? Have you ever stopped to think that these afterimages we leave behind of ourselves are all simply pieces of a greater being, drifting like ghosts in a world not meant for them because they forgot the sound of their own heartbeat when it was entirely whole?

The afterimage begins to fade, the marks of being have risen again, the pew left empty ready for the next apparition with the questioning weight of knees bent who forgot their way home. I stand and look down on the marks I will leave behind, knowing soon they too will fade, forgotten, into the red material of the wooden pew. Wondering, what soul had occupied the same space before me, wondering what they had prayed for, and what had led them to this point where they got down on their knees.  Knowing soon, I myself will be an afterimage, flickering for a brief moment in a little chapel in the Vatican, in the heart of Rome, wondering where my ghostly feet will lead me.



Through the Looking Glass and Back

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Today was the last day of the first part of my academic semester. I have completed the Intensive Advanced Italian Practicum, and today I took my written and oral final exam. It is a bizarre feeling to be taking a final after only three weeks of class, but here I am. This means that soon I begin my core classes and with that, begin the rest of my time here.

But so much has happened in the three weeks that I have been here living my life as a student. Since so much has happened, I am going to focus on the best day that I have had while staying here in Rome so far. It feels like it would be impossible to get a better day than this, but I will just have to see what the future has in store for me.

This last Wednesday was perfect. Recap of what happened: Saw the Pope, ate the best pizza ever, figured out how to use Roman public transportation without dying, went to an amazing gallery for next to no money, and got to read under the cover of ancient columns in a garden of statues, while listening to a man play the accordion. Yah, it was a magical day where every single little thing just happened to go my way.

I will begin with a letter. A letter sent from the Prefettura Della Casa Pontificia granting my roommate Elena and I entry to a Wednesday sermon from the Pope himself that would be held in Saint Peter’s Square.



All of which meant a 7am wake up call for Wednesday to head over to the Vatican, and see Pope Francis with our own eyes and hear him give a sermon with our own ears. We woke up to the pouring rain battering against our window panes, not even sure whether we would get to see the Pope because of the bad weather. Regardless, we made the small trek to the Vatican just in time for the rain to clear up for one grand moment. Between intermittent sunshine and cloud coverage, we pushed our way to the front and got seats in the fourth from the front row. Then came the waiting game, which very quickly became a miserable, but memorable wait. After an hour of waiting it began to rain again, but not just rain, it was a torrential downpour. Every single person there, and let me tell you the whole square was packed, had their umbrella open. It was a massive sea of disjointed colors attempting to cover themselves from the downpour. Every umbrella interlocked with another, it felt like a fortress that we were all in together. I must say though, it was not an impermeable fortress. Rain snuck in every nook and cranny, just enough to soak everyone there. My umbrella was dripping water the entire time, but we all hung in together, persistent and hopeful that the Pope would indeed still come, and hopeful for just a moment of sunshine or the halt of the rain.


We waited in the rain for an hour and a half when for just a moment, the rain stopped. Everyone warily stuck hands out of the fortress of umbrellas to feel for rain, and finding none, one after another all the umbrellas closed. It was in this moment of relief from the rain that the crowd began to roar. At the far corner from where we were sitting (the middle front) the crowd had sprung to life, waving flags chanting, and screaming one thing: Papa Francesco!IMG_7230

And there he was. He drove around the square several times, making sure to visit every corner so that everyone had a fair chance to see him, no mater how far back they were in the crowd. I was surprised to see that the Pope mobile had no side glass on it, it was all open. He drove around, stopping to talk to people, even kissing babies that were held up above the crowd. He truly connected with the people there that had waited for hours in the cold and the rain. I even saw him throw up a peace sign to a couple of people, which was hilarious to see. He just seemed so happy and engaged with the people, genuinely happy. IMG_7231

After making his laps, the Pope went to the center where he would remain for the duration of the ceremony.  The rain started again to the sound of a begrudging communal groan and the umbrellas all went up again. So for that portion of time we couldn’t really see much through the barricade of umbrellas.  But what we could do was hear, and it was truly an experience. We listened to the Pope speak to the entire crowd about the importance of Mass, and the importance of taking communion based out of the book of Matthew, one of the gospels in the Bible. The entire sermon was in Italian, but just like the other times I had attended Mass in the Vatican, I was able to understand most of it. IMG_7251

Then, after the sermon was over the Pope bestowed his blessing on the crowd, which consisted of different priests standing up and translating what the Pope said in his blessing into a ton of different languages. This took up a majority of the time,  but it was very interesting to see the effort that went into blessing each group of people, each one in their own language so they could understand what it was he was saying to them, and how he was blessing them.


After he blessed the audience, the sermon was over and we were free to do whatever we pleased. For us, that meant adventuring because to go to this event we actually had to skip class. So normally, we would have had a couple more hours of Italian, but today we were free.

Freedom usually means one of two (or both) things while in Italy: time to get coffee, or time to eat food. On this day we decided to do both because we were just so excited about not having class. So our first stop was a little caffè called Sciasia Caffe, which is rumored to have excellent coffee. It was a nice open caffè with a few seats and a nice bar to stand at. I ordered un caffè eccelente (espresso with a touch of chocolate) and it was really extremely good. One thing that I have found about the coffee in Italy is yes, it is much stronger, but doesn’t need the same amount of sugar or cream I usually like because it is not as acidic or bitter as American coffee is. It is very nice and smooth and easy to drink whereas American coffee is often watery and bitter. All except for my all time coffee love of my life at Philz in Berkeley which I miss dearly! IMG_7284

After our short coffee break, since all coffee breaks in Italy are short, we decided to try to figure out how to use the metro. I am slightly terrified of public transportation that I am not used to (I still have yet to take Muni in San Francisco because of this) and the transportation system in Italy has always overwhelmed and terrified me. But on this day we conquered that fear and took the metro, which was kind of just like BART back in the Bay. It was easy, fast, and there was a man playing the accordion inside the car we were standing in which is always an added bonus.


We took the metro to the famous Pizzarium, a to go gourmet pizza place with real Roman pizza and very fresh amazing Roman ingredients. I had been once before and like it, but wasn’t extremely impressed, but this time entirely changed my mind. The pizza was hands down the most amazing thing I had eaten in Rome to date. IMG_7289 IMG_7291

One slice was a simple Mozzarella di Buffala (Mozzarella made from buffalo milk) and basil on a fresh cooked pizza and a splash of olive oil. But the other, my gosh, the other was amazing. Every time I come here there are a few flavors that just look scary to me because I either have no idea what it is, or it is something I normally would avoid. But I had decided to try one flavor that scared me every time I went, and I was not disappointed. The other slice I got was a slice with Sicilian broccoli, some sort of meat like prosciutto, potatoes, and some sort of orange marmalade. It was to die for! The mixture of vegetables, salty cured meat, and the sweet orange zest was truly an incredible experience and I felt like for the first time I was going on a culinary adventure in Italy. It blew my mind. IMG_7293

With caffeine and delicious pizza in our stomachs we decided we would continue our adventures across the city in Villa Borghese. A huge garden complex filled with museums, fountains, statues, and just plan old nature in the heart of Rome. We wandered around the park looking at the statues and enjoying the long curve of the umbrella pines as we made our way to the main gallery, Villa Borghese.


The museum is housed in an old mansion in the back of the park and we weren’t sure if we would be able to get in because you usually need reservations for a specific time slot, but we thought what the heck, why not try? The day had been so great so far, it wouldn’t be ruined if one thing didn’t go our way. So we went there and not only were we able to get in right at that very moment with no wait, but we also got in for only 2 euros verses the normal 16 euros due to the kindness of a very nice woman.

The Gallery was incredible. I have never appreciated galleries or art as much as I did when looking upon the Bernini sculptures housed in that place. The art there was incredible, not even just the art but the entire building, every inch covered in paintings or frescos. It was a never ending amusement park that just got better and better as you passed from one room to the next. We also happened to go to the gallery on the day that a Giacometti exhibit was starting, so not only did we get to see the normal art (and classifying it as normal is near blasphemy) we also got to see Giacometti’s amazing sculptures. The juxtaposition of Giacometti’s ghostly, thin wraith like metal sculptures and Bernini’s grand white marble statues full of movement, strength, and life was interesting and enhanced the experience a lot.

I love art, always have and always will. But I was never really a huge museum person, at least not a serious one, but in this gallery I felt like for the first time I was able to see the attributes and value of the art itself and the artistry and impossible work that went into making the pieces that stood before me. Bernini blew my mind. His David statute I could stare at for hours. The intense stare locked on the unseen Goliath, his body twisted and tense as he gets ready to unleash the sling, and even his mouth was a thin taught line of tension. A masterful capture of life, movement, athletic activity, and passion caught in a statue of cold unfeeling marble. I could have stayed the entire time just looking upon that statue.

It was an awe inspiring two hours, after a long but amazing day. It is hard to form words after a day like that, hard to say how amazing the art was, or how appreciative I was at getting to see the Pope. So many unspeakable things that just made for a wonderful day. With no words left in me to speak, we all split up and went our separate ways. For me that meant sitting underneath the cover of ancient columns in the park while listening to a man play the accordion masterfully nearby. I sat there surrounded by old statues with missing limbs and read my book, trying to make sense of how wonderful the day had been. Wondering at how much I really needed that day because it had been really rough. School is hard, life abroad is hard, so much is difficult, so much is not inherent or easy here. Days like last Wednesday keep my alive and remind me what all this hard work is for. Every hardship is a reminder that I have to work for this life, so much is given to me in so many different forms, the least I can do is put in grateful and humble effort into the work that I must do as a thank you to everyone who has helped me get here, even myself.