Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Baby steps

Baby steps are important when doing new things.

Baby step 1:

The Doppleganger, the Trec, Nick, and I wanted food. It was two in the afternoon and it was Sunday. We had two options, since the Capp Bar and the Mensa were both closed: we could either 1.) go into Rome and wander around until we found something or 2.)stay in Due Santi and wander around until we found something. We chose option two, and started walking. Now the pizzaria just outside the gate is closed for remodeling, so we started for the grocery store. 15 minutes later, we arrived only to be forcably reminded that the natives are not heathens like us Americans, and that the store was closed on Sunday. We walked back to the intersection (of 3 roads in one spot, it boggles the mind) near the school all the way debating on whether it would be better to a.)walk to Albano, b.)go into Rome, or c.)wait another three hours for dinner in the Mensa. We were on the verge of making a decision when three other UDers came out of the bar accross the street, and after crossing, tell us that it is not only open, but there is food and the lady working there is nice. So, we had lunch there. Baby Step 1: operation cross the street is complete.

Baby Step 2:

We got cocky. Spured on by our success in crossing the street, we went into Rome on Monday evening. The purpose of our visit was to buy a bathrobe for me. [I left mine in Texas, and was starting to slowly go mad, as there is no changing area for the showers in my suit, or any of the others for that matter.] I had consulted the guidebook, found the address of a store that ought to have had such a thing, located the store on the map, and written directions from the metro station to the store. Thus armed, the Doppleganger and the Trec joined me for an adventure.

We cought the bus into the city without problems. We got on the correct train without a hitch. We got off at the correct station with no problems. We steped off of the metro and into the Twilight Zone. We followed the signs to la uscita, the exit*, which led us up an out of service elscalator. Out of service things are not unusual over here, so we climbed up and got our exercise for the month. We reached the summit to descover tha it had been blocked off at the top and that we had apparantly gone up the extra down escalator. Trying to appear as nonchalant and non-tourist-like as possible, we left the station.

We emerged on the serface to descover three things: 1.) the sun had set while we were underground; 2.) most of the buildings in the area had some sort of scafalding on them; 3.) we were in Chinatown. I did not even know that there was such a place, but there we were, surrounded by Chinese resturaunts and stores for blocks around. The next time I get really sick of the food in the Mensa I'm going back there. I consulted the directions, and we proceded down the street and around the piazza, and failed completly to find the place.

Just after we had thrown in the towel and started back towards the metro station, we were approached by a group of half a dozen Chinese tourists who were even more lost than we were. We were between Manzoni and San Giovanni, and they were looking for Termini, which is the main train station two stops further down the line. We tried to give them subway directions, and when that failed, we told them to follow us, because we were going that way anyway. We were most of the way back to the station when they finally decided that we didn't know any more than they did, and stopped to ask directions from some of the locals. They did not come running to catch up with us, so I can only hope that they eventually got wherever they were going.

The three of us got back to the station with no further event. The train back to Anagnia was packed, because it was Monday and rush hour, so we spent the twenty minute ride standing. We got to our bus, and found that it was also packed, and had to stand for the ride back to Due Santi. Said ride lasted about 45 minutes because it was the evening rush hour as I said, and traffic was bad, and we made more stops than we had coming in. It was cold outside, and there were a lot of people onboard, so the upperwindows, the ones that we could see out of while standing, fogged up. Luckly the Doppleganger was able to snag a seat after another guy got off. She took a short nap, and woke up while were stopped at a light, then turned to me, nodded to the window and said "Isn't that our bar?"

I bent down to look and sure enough it was the bar at which we had eaten the day before, looking ahead through the front window I saw the car dealership. I alerted the Trec, who reported that someone else had already pushed the button to request a stop. So the light changed, the bus went through the intersection and pulled up to the stop, which is about a 100 yards down on the other side of the light. We squized our way out the door and made it back to campus just in time for dinner.

1.)get to Rome: sucess;
2.)find something in Rome: failure;
3.)direct Chinese tourists all the way back to their hotel: failure;
4.)eat food somewhere other than the Mensa: failure;
5.)buy a bathrobe: failure;
6.)get back to campus: failure

Over all: Operation buy a bathrobe in Rome was a failure. Nothing bad happened to us exactly, no one was assulted, or had their pockets picked, or was kidnapped by gypsies, but we didn't do any of the things we tried to do either. We decided to go back to taking baby steps.

Baby Step 3:

Tuesday, in order to not allow our momentum to be slowed by the previous day's failure set off for the Leon Supermarket. This was the same market which had been closed on Sunday, but we were willing to give it a second chance because breakfast is served in the Mensa at the ungodly hour of 7 a.m., in preperation for 8 a.m. classes**, and we were all pretty sure that we will sleep through breakfast more than once this semester. It's about a 15 minute walk from campus, and uneventful except for the dangers presented by Italian traffic.

Texans and Italians share a disregard for the speed limit. For instance, on the road right in front of the campus -- which is wide enough for two vehicals to pass each other if they are both Vespas -- the speed limit is 50 km/h. I'm not sure what that translates to in miles, other then know that the allowable speed would be a smaller number if expressed in the Imperial system. What it means is that as one walks along the edge of the street (because there is no sidewalk until one gets out to the main road and even then everyone has let their hedge overgrow and it is only possible to walk one abrest) there are cars whipping by at speeds closer to 90 km/h. The other big hazard to pedestrians on this walk is the nursery just next door to the supermarket. It has a six foot high fence*** with some very serious looking spikes on top of it. So far we've made two trips to Leon and back, and none of us have been impaled upon this thing yet. Stay tuned for future developments on that front.

At the supermarket we find food. Cheap food. Good food. Sodas in 1.5 liter bottles, for less than 2 euros. Kindereggs for 75 cents. They also had a random assortment of other things which amazed us uncultured American barbarians, such as frozen baby octopi, sold in bulk. The Trec and I were sucked into the display of books**** which is why the Doppleganger was the first one to spot that the grocery store also sold bathrobes.

1.) get to grocery store: sucess;
2.)procure Nutella and crackers for breakfast: sucess;
3.)find a bathrobe: sucess;
4.)return to campus with spoils: sucess.

Baby step 3: operation walk down the street is a sucess.

Our next step will either be to go to Albano, the next town down the bus line, and explore. Or follow Dr. F's directions and go into Rome and find the Temple of Hercules an the Temple of Saturn. Whatever we decide, I'll have the story here, along with pictures of more Italian cultural oddities.*****


*The Italian exit signs are green, with a white rectangle on them that is evidently supposed to represent a door. These rectangles are accompanied by white arrows to indicate which direction one must go in order to reach an exit. The viginette is completed by a little stick-figure man, of the type that addorn restroom signs the world over, bent into an attitude which is either a sorry attempt at the Thinker or running. As an American, I interprate these signs to mean that one should run to the falling white rectangle. It took me a few days to realize what they really meant, used as I am to glowing signs that say EXIT in six inch high red letters.

**A practice which would be illigal in any civilized country.

***six foot = head height for the Trec and Nick and too close for comfort for me.

****I am taking insturuction from Mark Twain's essay "Italian without a Master" and grabbed the first Harry Potter book in an effort to improve my Italian by reading it.

*****If I can find an Office Supply store, I am going to get myself one of those falling-rectangle exit signs.


Jenny said...

Sounds like you're doing alright. one question... who is the doppleganger? oh and another question... did you BUY the hp book or just flip through? please, do take a picture of these wonderful 'exit' signs so i can see! it sounds great!

Yami no Hon said...

There's your exit sign in one of the more recent posts. As for the book, you bet your boot I bought it.