Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Roman Holiday, Part II

Day Three
Sunday morning, I woke up early and met Amber at Bruno (the giant statue of a hooded figure in the middle of Campo Dei Fiori). We grabbed some coffee, got to talking, and discovered that we are both from the foothills of Northern California and went to the same elementary school. Wild!

We followed the Tiber River to this flea market. Stall after stall after stall selling second hand clothes, straight-from-the-factory footwear (Amber bought a pair of BFRSPRIKENs for the soccer tourney), jewelry, antiques, purses, mirrors, bottles, keychains, DVDs, scarves, hats, leather jackets, rugs, anything and everything you can think of. We wandered about for two hours and didn't actually find the end. It was a beautiful morning for marketing.

Next, we all ventured further out from the center of Rome for a soccer tournament between what we now understand to be all of the universities and colleges from the United States studying in Rome. Not really knowing what to expect, the UW rag-tag team of misfits and hooligans (okay, "misfits and hooligans" is a stretch...more like, rag-tag team of English majors) assembled for its first match against some university from Colorado. The tension was palpable as Julie set up for a penalty kick:

After a nail-biting tie-breaker volley, we won the game! During the downtime, we watched Cornell play Dartmouth. The Cornell team came with about twenty players, all suited up in matching red Cornell shirts with Roman numerals in masking tape on the back. Their "coach" came equipped with a megaphone, and everyone who wasn't on the field cheered from the sidelines. We observed their unparalleled excitement at every pass, every goal, every step of the fifteen-year-old violin prodigy playing forward.

The second game ended 1 to 3, UW. After our victory, we discovered we had made it to the championship round. And who were our challengers for that elusive plastic trophy? Cornell.

I wish I had pictures to demonstrate the juxtaposition between their side of the field and ours. Alas, I will just have to describe it to you. Imagine twenty-or-so red-shirted camrades on one side of the field. Some indulge in stretches and silent laps in a circle, while others chatter nonstop, "Omigod this is gonna be SO much fun like I LOVE soccer! Woo! Go Cornell!" As the game starts, the other teammates not playing dangerously edge the field, their excitement spilling onto the green with every pass, every goal, and every step of that damn fifteen-year-old violin prodigy. The megaphone sounds every minute with "Keep it up Cornell!" "Good hustle!" "Double-team him, girls!" Mind you, the field is small and fenced in. The need for a megaphone, or why someone would even think to bring one, is beyond me.

Our side consisted of three supporters, all trying to avoid the sun's rays, silently pining for coffee, watching the massacre. At one point I shouted, "SHOULD WE BE MORE SUPPORTIVE?!" thinking maybe this was the competitive edge we needed, envisioning some kind of three-person pyramid and then wondering what exactly this would accomplish.

We lost, zilch to four. However, we did maintain our dignity and didn't embarrass ourselves in front of the whole of the tournament by shouting sexual positions through a megaphone without actually knowing that is what we were saying. And we got a genuine hand-written certificate.

That night, Julie's friend came to visit, and we took a nighttime stroll through Rome. The whole of the city was just as alive as it is during the day. Restaurants were open, tourist attractions stuffed to the gills, everyone milling about with wine or beer in a perpetual cloud of cigarette smoke. Julie and I, while sitting by Bruno, even heard an American tourist ask the young gentlemen next to us, "Avete certa mary-wahn-ah?"

A magical night, truly.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Roman Holiday, Part I

Did you know "grazie" was pronounced "graht-zee-ay"? I did not until my third day in Rome.

Day One
Needless to say, Rome was gorgeousawesomecrazycool. The great thing about Rome (and the great thing about Julie basically living in the center of it) was you could walk just about anywhere and run into something interesting, as we did my first day there, be it

The Pantheon:

The Trevi Fountain (featuring Julie and Gelato Spoon):

Or perhaps Rome's Cat Sanctuary (imagine it crawling with a million cats, as it is at night):

Our day was mostly filled with conversation and coffee. We also wandered into a nameless shop run by two older Italian women who spoke Italian at me (and with Julie), smoked endless cigarettes, and used the back room of the shop, which was filled with dresses and had a window, as a dressing room. We aspired to be like these women one day.

That night we watched this piece of class cinema history. It made me miss Richard Pryor and the classic, campy way the Superman movies used to be done:

Day Two
Saturday was Julie's birthday. Again, a day filled with wandering, although we did have a couple destinations in mind, including the one thing I knew would be in Rome and that I wanted to see:

The Mouth of Truth

I wanted to see it not because it is possibly thousands of years old nor because of its mysterious origins. I wanted to see it because Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck both stood in that spot in front of it in Roman Holiday. However, we really didn't feel like standing in line in order to reenact that moment in the movie like every other tourist in Rome was doing, so I managed to snap a picture between tourists and left it at that.

The places we went were really touristy, but that was okay. Julie had a knack for walking in front of every camera poised to capture the centuries-old monuments. When asked what the reactions were, Julie said, "No one's said 'fuck you' least not in English."

Another place we did not want to pay to see or stand in line to get into:

The Colosseum:

And the Ancient Roman Ruins:

A gladiator accosted Julie, stopping her with his gold-painted sword and sticking a plastic-jewel encrusted tiara on her head. She adamantly denied his request for a picture with him (which we would have had to pay for) and took off the tiara. True to Italian Stallion Stereotype, he called after us: "Come-a on-a! I kiss-a you!"

After a birthday dinner, we gathered in Amber's apartment for wine. From her terrace, I saw the only way Camp Dei Fiori should be seen:

What did I say? Gorgeousawesomecrazycool.

Friday, April 18, 2008

When In Rome...

I am currently in Rome, ora, visiting my lovely friend Julie. First, my atm card didn't work. Then the hair dryer broke. Then the adapters we had didn't work. Then my atm card still didn't work after calling my bank twice. Then, when I finally got cash, the guy at the grocery store didn't have enough change for the giant bills the bank gave me. And then Julie almost ran into a dog. 

But then all was well, because I found out that I got into the 2008 Summer Institute in the Arts and Humanities research program I applied for earlier in the year. I have been named a Mary Gates Scholar and all of that ridiculous extra work I did Winter Quarter was worth it. (This moment of conceit and self-praise brought to you by The Best Americano This Side of The Seattle City Limits)

Full update, including pictures, later. 

Monday, April 14, 2008

Faux History

Took me long enough. Due to a power-outage (which only affected my homestay), I am writing about events that occurred almost a week ago. So forgive me for skimping on the narrative and focusing mostly on pictures.

We went to Stratford-upon-Avon last week. We learned a lot of historical facts, like that the house they include in the Mary Warden's House exhibit isn't actually the house she grew up in. And that the Tudor peoples made boots, ate, and played board games all at the same table:

We also learned that de-feathering a dead chicken in the parlor of your home and looking okay about it and even like you're mildly enjoying it was perfectly acceptable (shortly after taking this picture, I was told there was no photography allowed in the house, and then if I understood English):

We then walked around Stratford, learning about all the different types of buildings. Like that the church across the street and the arbor in the garden were probably Shakespeare's inspiration for Twelfth Night. Or, that if I lived in Tudor times, I would most definitely be found here:

One can only hope it was a public library back in the day.

And then our professor got in a fight with a goose.

That night, we saw the Royal Shakespeare Company's version of Merchant of Venice. Usually, I prefer contemporary, minimalist sets with Shakespeare, because it forces you to pay attention to the words. However, this production really just made me pay attention to how ill-fitting the women's clothes were. The men all looked dapper and smashing it nice, tailored suits, and the women looked the best when they dressed in the nice, tailored suits. Despite this distracting detail, I enjoyed the play.

The next day was Warwick Castle. We climbed to the top of the tower, and the obvious Monty Python jokes ensued:

"You don't frighten us, English pig dogs. Go and boil your bottoms, you sons of a silly person. I blow my nose at you, so-called "Arthur King," you and all your silly English K-nig-hts."

"One day son, this will all be yours." "What, the curtains?"

"On second thought, let's not go to Camelot. It is a silly place."

We also decided that Warwick Castle was Warwick's equivalent to a coal mine. "You're smart, Billy. You gotta grow up and get out of here. You don't want to work at the Castle like your father, do you?"

The castle was purchased by Madame Taussaud's in 1978, and it seems like they needed some place to dump all of their Medieval wax figures. In every corner there was some kind of figure doing something that looked old-timey, like arm-wrestling or reading with ancient glasses. I don't think I actually learned anything, except that a trebuchet demonstrations can be quite anti-climatic.

We also toured a peacock garden that was dominated by ducks and this half-assed attempt:

I lie, there were actual, beautiful peacocks there. I found this one the most endearing though.

Did you know that Warwick Castle is battery powered? This view is from the watermill:

Monday, April 7, 2008

Snow Day!

So I woke up Sunday morning to snow flurries gathering outside of my window. I don't know if London got the message, but it's April. Maybe it was an honest mistake. I'll give the city the benefit of the doubt. It's not really my place to tell an entire region that it mixed up its seasons.

So Lucy, Ed, Caroline and I (and everyone else living in North London, I noticed) ventured out to Hampstead Heath. Caroline and I, of course, didn't pack for snow, so we borrowed some of Ed's old coats. And we bundled up real good.

And then Ed decided to go for a swim. Yes, I am very serious about this. Here is photographic evidence:

Yes, this was voluntary. He was not pushed in as a practical joke. The man chose to swim in almost freezing temperatures. I don't think this is a universal trait in all English people. I will have to investigate this phenomenon further.

So we frollicked, like you do:

I'm the little head in the giant coat. I couldn't even reach down to the bottom two buttons.

We also saw some lovely views. I think this looks positively Dickensian:

Friday, April 4, 2008

S'mores, Sh'mores

So I flew 9 1/2 hours on a plane. I passed over an entire country. I crossed a whole ocean. I am an ambassador for my country and generation. A representative of all things United-States-of-American.

So what do Caroline and I deem as appropriate as an introduction to North American cuisine?


The recipe is simple:

1 Box of graham crackers
1 Bag of marshmallows
1 Giant Bar of chocolate

Joe and I ran down to Budgen's on the corner to purchase said ingredients. First, we couldn't find marshmallows. Joe asked a clerk, who handed us a bag of mini-marshmallows. This simply would not do. Joe said there was a shop across the street. We, willing to risk our lives for proper-sized marshmallows, ran across the street and convinced the shop owner to stay open just a little longer in order to fulfill our mission. We then went back to Budgen's and searched for graham crackers. They did not have these either. So we settled for HobNobs. I don't think graham crackers exist on this side of the Atlantic. We then grabbed the final, essential ingredient and hightailed [as I write this, I am considering henceforth to only write in what some may call a Southern Twang or Cowboy Vernacular, as to fit with the theme of "What One Eats Around a Campfire", but upon further introspection, I have decided against this notion] it home.

As we didn't have a campfire, we decided to use the gas range with some what looked to be antique skewers. The following happiness ensued:

These were the most ridiculous things I have eaten in a really long time. I was reminded why people don't have them on a regular basis. I think I had one a half, and I was done. Overall, a hit with the kids, a sugar rush and subsequent crash for me, and funfunfun for everyone.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Tube Is Tip-Top

I just returned from my first solo trip on the Underground, and I got home in one piece. The Tube is surprisingly very easy to navigate, as long as you know the direction you want to go in. Any Tube stop can get you to any other Tube stop.

I have noticed that it is completely SILENT during the morning ride to school. Jenny and Caroline and I generally talk, but we are the only ones. I wonder if this is the same on Seattle buses, and maybe I've missed the silence because I'm usually in my iPod cocoon?

Regardless, it is easy to use. I don't know what I was so worried about.

Of course, it has only been a week.