Saturday, February 04, 2006

My camera eats batteries...

Seriously it does. I have gone through a dozen of the things since I got here and I have them all lined up on my desk. We're supossed to be recycling here, not a problem, although sometimes I think sorting trash is more trouble then its worth. The problem is batteries can't just be thrown out with the normal trash -- or more acuratly, they arn't supposed to be. I havn't asked how one throws them away here because I never remember them when I am not in my room staring at a row of a dozen dead batteries. Anyway, Mom, forget the money and send batteries: food and clothes are cheap here, but batteries arn't.

It's been an interesting week, lets recap:

On Saturday we were all taken on a walking tour of the Via Appia Antica, which was the main Roman highway out of the city. Now the school is very close to the Via Appia Nuova, which runs parallel to the Antica, and since it is paved and provided with guardrails as high as a bus through traffic runs on that. Now it is in theory possible to get from Rome to campus by the old road, you'd spend the last two miles or so running through people's yards dodging their dogs, but you could do it, at least according to Dr. Ht.

Dr. Ht is the history professor here, and apparantly through long study of the anciant past, has learned faster then light travel. He is about my height. He does not appear to be taking abnormally long strides. He does not appear to be walking unusually quickly. Yet somehow, in a group of nearly 100 people, no more then three can ever keep up with him at one time. Angie, one of the Student Life co-ordinators says that in Greece he has been known to spread the group out over a mile. On one occasion she reports that she had the entire group together at the bottom of the Acropolis but he and Dr. F, the art history professor, would already be at the top, lecturing at the air.

We went north on the Via Appia, led by Dr. Ht, who occasionally stopped long enough to point out a few of the sights. At the end, we went to the Catacombs of St. Callisto, the largest and deepest of Rome's catacombs. Now there are 88 student in our group, plus assorted proffessors and student life staff, so we couldn't go in one big group. The English speaking guide was already taking a group through, so half of the UDers got the guide who usually lead the Italian tours, and my half got the French-speaking guide. At first, it was very difficult for me to understand him through his accent, but after a while I got used to it. Drs. M and S were in my group, so I possitioned myself in the crowd where I could hear what the guide was saying and also what the professors were pointing out to one another. It was a really interesting little tour. All the bodies that were burried in the levels open to tourists (no one goes in without a guide) have been reburied either in the lower levels of the catacombs or, in the case of a few of the Saints, in other churches in Rome.

The Catacombs are/were (select appropriate) home to a number of early popes, most of whom were also martyrs. The catacombs were also home to St. Cecilia, the patron of musicians. She was a martyrd by beheading, and according to the story, her dying action was to hold up three fingers with one hand and one finger with the other, showing her belefe in the three pesons of the Trinity who are still one God. Like all good Roman saints, her relics have been moved to the church in the city that bears her name. Also according to the story, years after her death, a statue of her was commissioned, to mark the place of her grave in the catacombs so it would be easier for pilgrims to find. The tomb was opened for the sculptor, and her body was found to be uncorrupted, so the statue on her sarcophagous is supossidly exactly how the artist saw her. The original statue was moved when her body was, like all good Roman art, but a copy is now in its place, which is what I saw.

Speaking of things that have been copied...
After our tours ended, the two groups rejoined each other and there was to be as mass said in one of the churches on the grounds of the catacombs. While that was going on Dr. Ht lead a death march... er... walk through the area for those two dozen or so of us who either wern't Catholic or didn't want to go to mass (even though it was a vigil mass, and therefore would take care of the Sunday obligation). The first stop was a small, architecturally unisteresting church name Quo Vadis. Now, according to the apocriphal story, the last time Peter was in Rome, he had escaped the city and was fleeing, when he saw a vision of the resurected Jesus. Peter asked Jesus "Domine, quo vadis?" which means, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus told him that 'I am going into Rome, to be crucified'. Peter then got the message and returned to the city, where he was subsequently caught by the authorites and crucified in the Circus of Nero. Now, Jesus's footprints are supposed to have been left on this spot, and the church built around it. Like all the good relics, these prints have been moved to a different church in the city, and a reproduction left in its place. Anyway, I have in the photo bucket a picture of the copy.

We also saw the Nimphao, which was the spring where the Vestial Virgins came to get holy water once a year when it was time for them to clean the temple, the rest of the year it was just sort of a party place.

Then, Dr. Ht started on a path going up a hill, so we followed. He stoped at the top, and there was a building there, so I figured he was going to say something about it. Wrong, he took one deep breath and started back down the other side, which was much steeper, and had more in common with a cliff than with a hill. So we sort of inch our way down after him, even though we were all out of breath, and he was already out of sight. Apperantly Dr. Ht is also part mountain goat. Thankfully, he decided to wait for us to catch up, and we were told that going over the hill was meant to be a short cut because the mass should have been just about done. We had saved maybe 200 yards by going over this hill instead of around it, but no time because we couldn't keep up with him.

After we rejoined the rest of the group, we returned to campus for the wine and cheese dinner, which is a Rome Campus tradition. We were treated to good food, wine that cost more than 10 EUR (a rarity from UD), and some instruction about how to choose a good wine. Also included was the surreal experiance of hearing a Scottish priest translate for an Italian wine seller to a group of Americans.

On Sunday, the Doppleganger and I dragged the boys to the Flea Market at Porta Portesse. We found some pretty good deals on scarfs, considering that one only needs to know numbers in order to haggle.

Tuesday was the 21st birthday of L, my third roomate. The Doppleganger, Nick, the Trec and I took her out to eat in Albano: to a chinese resturaunt. :P It was really good -- the owners were actually Chinese -- and had two advanages which really endeared it to us: 1.) it was cheap and 2.) the menu was printed in Chinese, Italian, and English. They were really nice and put up with us doing silly things, such as using our cameras to record samples of the chinese rap (I kid you not) that was piped in or practicing everything we said five or six times before we actually asked. [Including all five of us saying "il conto" -- 'the check' -- repetidly for five minutes.]

On Wednesday we went to the Capitoline Museums for Art and Arch. We were all given the instruction to get a sack lunch from the Mensa before grabbing the bus into Rome, so we could be there between 1:30 and 2. That would be 88 students. Attempting to ride Roman public transportation. At the same time. Naturally, a few people (no more than a dozen, probably less), who ran from the end of the last class at 11:20 managed to catch the 11:30 bus. Naturally, the 11:45 bus did not come, nor did the 12:00, or the 12:15. We crammed another two dozen people on the 12:30 bus, all of whom were forced to stand, some on the stairs. The 12:40 bus did not come. Then, someone spoted a bus coming from Marino. It wasn't our normal route, but it was going to Rome, and there was plenty of room, so we piled on. This was about 12:45, 12:50-ish. We made it in just in time for the begining of our self guided tour.

This is a huge museum, with all sorts of nifty things included in it, such as the foundations of the temple of Jupiter, Optimus Maximus, the statue called the Capitoline Venus (Mark Twain wrote a short story, by that name, about her that Dr. F included in our packets, I highly recomend it), and also the Dying Gaul. One of the wonderful things about this museum is that you are allowed to photograph all of it, just as long as you turn the flash off for the painted things, of which there are five.

If you look in my photobucket (link to the side) there is a sub-album named Capitoline for these pictures, as well as another for a pictures of the Via Appia. Give it a look-see, the easist way to look at the pictures is to go to the album, and then hit the slide show button.

The other excitment that occured on Wednesday was a creepy Italian man hitting on AT on the A Line as we were heading towards the museum, and then the Trec getting his wallet stolen on the B line when we changed trains at Termini. Thankfully, he wasn't carrying any of his important documents of credit cards in it at the time, and he only had five Euro in it at the time. The creepy guy left as soon as AT turned to look at him, she didn't have to say a word.

Yesturday, Friday, the Doppleganger, the Trec, Nick, and I went into the city. We hit the post office in the Vatican City and the bookstore. We found a Bible in the bookstore writen in either Aramaic or Arabic, we're not sure which, but they have all sorts of multi-lingual religious things there. When I was in the post office, helping the Doppleganger put stamps on things, I heard at least five languages being spoken around me. We ate our sack lunches in St. Peter's square, and fed a few bread crumbs and chips to the pidgeons and sea gulls, which swarm like they're part of Hitchcock movie at the sight of anything that might possibly be food. Then we went to the Circus Maximus and read the Libation Bearers, the play we are currently reading in Lit Trad, out loud. It was a very successful trip. I didn't take any pictures, I didn't even take my camera since it was cloudy and we wern't going anyplace we hadn't been before, but the Trec and Anna got a few good shots of the pidgeons of which I'm going to get copies.

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