Italo Train/Florence The Land of ATMs and Drinks

I didn't want to leave Rome. If there was another way around it I would have stayed. I was hopeless about moving on. I just knew no matter what was scheduled or planned things would be up in the air. They were indeed because we sort of walked on eggshells about checking out. She wanted to leave without breakfast and I thought it was important we get one last free meal. I had to face it. Our next meal wasn't guaranteed and the city ahead was my last stop. I only had so much cash and I didn't want to waste it. However, when we turned in the card keys we were offered breakfast with a twist. It was free to us considering we did stay the night but since we were leaving it was time for us to pay our city taxes. Also when closing the account they tacked on a room service fee for our first night's evening tea. So I left on a full stomach with an empty wallet. She was rushing and that put us at our train station two hours early. All the while I was really dreading getting on another high speed train.


It's A Small, Small World

Our last night in Rome I was met with a wallop. Well several back to back. First, an old friend of mines got married. Second, she was the one to tell me this. Third, her frienemy reaction made me realize her and I should have never been friends to begin with. To sum it all up I was sitting in bed with her showing me wedding pictures as though we were best chums. The reality is she was just turning the knife. My old friend was someone I'd encouraged to marry. I know now that I only did that because I couldn't have him myself. Their six degrees of separation was now forcing me to smile at photos of him marrying someone he told me he didn't love. I smiled to keep from crying and participated because I couldn't leave for another four days. 


Life: The Laundry, The Lady and The Lies

Eventually when traveling you run out of underwear. What happens next says a lot about you and your circumstances. I sure some can afford to throw them away and simply buy more. I'm sure there are those who must continue to wear them. I had imagined washing them out in hostel sinks. Thankfully, I really never had to do that. Most places we stayed had accommodations and I'd brought more than what I thought would be enough. There were skipped days too. Beach days in bikini bottoms. Days I never left the confines of our hotel room. Sooner or later we both had to come to terms with doing our laundry and it became apart of the travel experience. We'd have to find the facilities or negotiate when to use provided ones. We'd have to figure out how to use the machines since they were all weird and foreign. We'd have to be nice to each other and pool our money and or dirty underthings to make things more efficient. I guess you could say it was about bonding for a mutual cause. Most times we were alone in this process and made due the best we could. If we weren't tagging each other out for use of a washer, we were arguing over drying space to hang things and then we were always trying to figure out what was vital or going into file 13. This last laundry trip was symbolic. We were now down to our last bits having thrown out most everything for the trip home. We didn't care as much about niceties like softener or hanging delicates. It was more about reflection and closure. In this I stayed in the laundromat while she went back to the hotel.

This wasn't some big to do decision. She always seemed to want to hang her stuff up and have more space. She had brought all these silly summer sweaters and jacquard/lace shorts so she needed more drying time. I liked to hang my things because I always do. I personally don't like drying my things to a crisp much like I don't like icy cold drinks or air con blasting in my direction. I guess I'm less conventional but the idea of me hanging my shitty clothes leaving less space for her splendid wardrobe irked her. So when given the opportunity to leave with her wet valuables she ran. She had left quite a bit of things behind so I was wondering about that. Like did she want me to regulate the drying time of those things in the same manner I did mines? Some people wash their dry cleaning, bleach their bras and allow their t-shirts to wrinkle - I don't. However, no matter the issues between us I still cared that her Aerie crap stayed decent and every few minutes I pulled something out that needed tending to. I put her socks in matches and I laid out her other stuff. Sooner or later I had things draped across every chair and table. I'd also taken a walk. I looked at gelato. I wrote some notes in my phone. Then came this woman with a small bag of things much like ours. She was obviously traveling long term too. In this we sparked up a conversation. She was American and nearing the end of her trip. She too was faced with going back to no job and no money. We talked a great deal about that and I made room for her to sit by me.

This lady was in her mid 40s. She'd never been married or had children. She'd worked all her life. She really couldn't afford to travel but she had some family member that lived overseas. That allowed her to come over and do a bit of hoping through other nearby countries. Her concern was that she had been laid off and really couldn't find anything else. It was too early for her to retire and she was afraid no one would hire her. She wasn't the greatest looking either and you could tell life hadn't really been kind to her. But she did have vacations and holidays abroad and no one could take that away from her. I explained that we had both been looking for jobs after leaving the same company for the trip. I told her how I expected to be like her and it was important for me to travel while I could. We talked about the luxury of it and having developed a better perspective. We discussed her coming back and transitioning as she'd done time and time before. She just seemed so weary and concerned about not being able to work. Soon my friend came back and went straight to the dryer which had been neglected since I'd been talking. Inside she realized she'd forgotten one of her stupid sweaters. I showed her that I'd noticed other things and "saved" them but she really wasn't thankful. She was also put off by the presence of the woman who was nice to acknowledge her and invite her into the conversation. 

Now I'd been in this position how many times? I would come back from the restroom and find her engaged in a conversation with people just gabbing on about me. It was never clear or correct information just whatever she could muster up for attention sake. I'd have to answer to the questions of those that thought she was a photographer from D.C. and I was an aspiring French restauranteur. In this I gave her justice. To this fellow American she was the same. She was a single, childless, jobless and desperate woman. We all were. Sadly, she didn't even give the woman a chance. She was already ten steps ahead embellishing herself and even me. The lady just looked at me with open eyes as to say 'I guess this one is ashamed'. I'm sure she was. We were both looking at ourselves in this poor lady with a nylon bag of dirty underthings and a few frocks. She couldn't even realize at least we had each other. We could have been this poor woman working our entire lives, sacrificing everything and then traveling between checks and opportunities and going it alone. She just didn't get it. She was too busy trying to stretch her sweater back out and tell this lady in her weird put-on accent that we we're going to be working in sectors we weren't even interested in. I just smiled. Obviously, she didn't get the symbolism of everything. 

Here we were in Rome of all places. We're standing in an internet cafe/laundromat. Out of all the people in the world in walks someone you can take a cue from. We're all standing over the same table folding panties and balling up socks. We all have no idea what we are going to do. We don't know what were going to eat. We don't know how we'll get home. We don't know where we will live. We don't know how we will survive. We're all American woman with similar backgrounds at different places. The lady is in her 40s. I'm in my 30's. And she's in her 20s. This woman is telling us so many things without saying anything at all. Our clothes are clean. Our conscience is clean. Our slate clean. Now what? I don't want to ever go home. This lady just wants to be considered. And she just wanted me to get her sweater out the dryer and lie to this lady about who she is and wants to be. The same way the sweater and the shorts lied. The same way the whole damn trip was a lie. I promised myself then and there that I would never lie to myself again. I would accept things fully and at face value. I could have been that woman but thank God I'm not. I'm traveling! I have clean underwear! I'm going home but I'll be back!


The Colosseum

I don't like ruins. I avoid them. I was practically dragged to them in Spain. I do however enjoy history. I just avoid natural history museums. Well at least the stuffed animals and bones part. Stuff like that isn't relatable to me. I prefer relatable history. I like ancient relics and folk art. Think those Mexican art galleries that have metates. I love seeing them and knowing that was the original food processor. I can relate and retrace the steps from then to now. In Rome, there is a rich history lesson in relatable things like humanity, architecture, culture and religion. There is living folk art and relics still in use. I'm sure most tourists don't care about that sort of stuff. They don't imagine walking in ancient footsteps. They don't align with the cause and effect. They don't care to ask themselves how is this apart of me and others like me today. So as much as everyone else cares to just walk The Colosseum taking pictures and telling a friend. I much preferred walking the well curated displays and halls telling the complete story. Surely I could have walked in the blood of thousands but wouldn't have had an understanding. I may have came away with a typical response to the things I don't like. Instead, I took away the loveliness of the gathering. The idea of it all. There is the grandeur of the place. Knowing that everyone from emperor to commoner came to see. Thousands upon thousands of people sat there watching. Everyone playing at morality with thumbs up and thumbs down.


Fighting To Be A Gladiator

On our last day in Rome we planned the excursion to The Coliseum/Colosseum. We had a decent evening and planned to be well rested for the journey. I however was in a million different places mind wise. I was still negotiating my trip home. I was offering advice to a friend looking to travel to where we were. I was also horribly managing my money. I seriously kept re-counting what I had and tallying expected costs. I was coming up very short and then I'd locked up my own card by buying train tickets. I was supposed to receive money from a friend and my mother but we could never connect. Earlier in the week iMessage was down. Then when I expressed the need it was after business hours in the states. My friend would agree to send money to match my mothers for my train ticket but wound up getting underpaid. It was a real disaster. I had about 20 Euros on hand, a little over $28 available in the bank and so many expenses ahead. I didn't know what to expect at The Colosseum, the hotel would be charging us city taxes in the morning, then there was Florence and still had to make it to home. I was in turmoil.


The Papa and The Pizza

From the moment we arrived in Rome we'd been greeted by a pizza papa in a window. It didn't matter the time or day he was simply there. In that window he was rolling dough and making garlic knots. He would sometimes have it down a bit and talk to people through it. Whenever we walked by he would do some ditty for us. He'd tap on the glass or blow us a kiss. It would always make us smile. After the long hard journey to the Vatican we felt ready for some pizza. Oddly enough the papa wasn't there but his place was waiting for us. When we walked past all tired and irritated there was no papa to cheer us up. Instead there was a snarky maitre d putting on his new tie in the foyer. As we peered in looking to see the papa he quickly tidied himself and approached us. He asked did we like pizza. He said we could have pizza just for two. He then said the papa would be back in a few hours. So we told him we'll be back when papa returns.


It's Been A Year - Update Written May 16th 2014

I cannot believe it. 

A few days ago last year I came here to North Carolina. This is exactly where I didn't want to be a year later. I have been so distracted by things going on. I've been awful at others birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations, announcements. So much so I forgot this unfortunate one. I also forgot to re-evaluate my exit plan. I had recently planned to give myself thirty days to leave. On the 15th day I should have been midway right!? I'm so far from doing what I need to do. I'm not even close. I'm just as unsure about everything as I was exactly 365 days ago.

Pieces of The Sistine Chapel

After leaving St.Peter's square we were covered in water and ready to make the short journey around the city walls. We were going to call it a day but I thought it was best we do it all including the Vatican museums. By now it was around 2pm and they all would be closing within the next three hours. We approached it like other museums knowing we may not have time to see everything but started big and worked our way back down. We honestly didn't see much art or sculpture and spent most of the afternoon on a journey to The Sistine Chapel. I say journey because it is not a one stop shop. You must enter the main museum and walk past most exhibitions to get to the chapel. At some points we were outside making the trek and cutting clear through the Vatican City. I can easily say I felt mislead by the all the fanfare and expected to be disappointed much like seeing the Mona Lisa. Instead once there everything slowed a bit and it was a very intimate viewing of an amazing space. Sadly what we saw was not to be discussed and we were not allowed to take any photographs. There were many that chose to take chances ruining it for others. Today the chapel is nearing closed invitations for viewing only because too much traffic is ruining the structure. So as put off as I was about the experience of seeing it, I am one of the lucky ones. I can't share a lot of insight on what I saw that day but I did do this…


St.Peter's Basilica and The Dome

Once inside the great St.Peter's we walked around in awe of its many doors, niches and altars. There was prayer as well as a full service going on. There were a lot of barriers in place to keep the flow of people. There were also lines to various sites within the compound. I didn't pay attention to much because everything was beyond me. The sheer massiveness of the structure itself was enough to marvel at. It would take a lifetime to really explore every part of the place. It would take a lifetime and a half to even understand what you actually saw. In the moment of being there I tried to retain the grandeur versus the detail. So I didn't take many photos and I tried not to touch anything. The majority of the morning I fumbled with my make shift covering which was one pin away from a wardrobe malfunction. So instead of really getting into things I found myself in corners trying to keep my knees from showing.

Don't Get A Roma Pass

In all my glory of the Vatican I forgot to discuss our decision making process on going in the first place. We expected to get the "Roma Pass" to access all sites within Rome and we assumed the Vatican would be a selling point. Once we noticed it was excluded along with many other attractions we opted not to get one. Heres how we came to that decision and how you can figure out if its a go or a no…


The Vatican - The Good, The Bad, The Evil and The Better

It is duly noted I was not having the best day when it came to going to The Vatican. After all that happened I'd lost all faith. However, this was the one thing we discussed and planned. It was no longer about the train incident. It was more about this is the only day we can do this. I'd already wasted a lot of time in the morning. There is a lot of preparation in going to Vatican City. You have to be well dressed. You have to have your camera and phone all ready. You have to have money preferably cash. Actually, take cash! You have to be ready to receive the gift of going. The reality is it isn't just some tourist site. This is an international place of worship. This is a place people make great sacrifices to get to. While we were discussing the Roma pass versus normal entry fees someone was begging or fundraising to just get close. We were upset knowing that we may not be able to everything and some people just want to be as close as they can even if they see nothing.


7:30am 7/25/2013 Renfre 730 222 Passengers 79 Dead

I don't even know where to begin. I guess it started with my arrival in Europe. I'd like to think there are young kids that come from land locked rural towns. They eventually escape their surroundings via the train and travel far off to a big city like New York. From there they may take their first subway ride to get to the airport for their first plane ride. They may have a layover in Boston or someplace exciting to them. Then they make the grand voyage over the Atlantic to the United Kingdom. From there they take the cheapest route through the English Channel via train. Once in Europe proper they continue boarding these trains to and from. They grow used to the speed, convenience and become travelers in their own right. Then someday they return to their hometowns via slower, uglier trains to tell their story. There is a privilege in riding Europe's fleet of futuristic, high-speed trains. The unimaginable feat of going anywhere in no time. The beauty of high end stations and accompaniments. The scenery so far from blue mountains and amber grain. The honesty of it all. And then….

Footsteps to Sora Lucia

Rome has this great sense of nostalgia. You know of the places and you feel this overwhelming familiarity. Why? You've seen everyone else there … in the movies, on tv and in ads. You feel prepared to walk in the same footsteps of those before you. Those same cobblestone streets. Those same obscure cafes. In the moment you cannot breathe to figure out which direction to go. The anxiety swells up inside of you. What a magical position to be in! To walk, drink, eat, laugh, cry where others have done the same. It's like a honor and homage at the same time. Just being there is enough but that is just the start. To be able to just walk to all points of interests - ancient, classic and modern - you want to run. Trust me on one night in particular I wanted to sprint.