Saturday, May 31, 2003

It's 1:40 a.m. and I just dragged in from a three-plus hour train ride back from Firenze. I'm going to bed now, but when I wake up, I'll tell you all about it....while I do laundry. I did get a nice leather jacket, though. And a postcard for a lovely friend in San Diego...

Friday, May 30, 2003

Screen door slams
Mary's dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio plays

Roy Orbison singin' for the lonely
Hey, that's me and I want you only
Don't turn me home again I just can't face myself alone again

Don't run back inside darlin' you know just what I'm here for
So you're sad and you're thinkin' you ain't that young anymore
Show a little faith, there's magic in the night
You ain't a beauty but hey, you're alright
And that's all right

The days have developed into a routine. Wake up, and try to wipe the sleep from your eyes. Stand up and marvel that all the wine you had the night before hasn't given you a tremendous headache. Walk outside and check the line for the shower (there's a nearly equal number of men and women, but the men's bathroom only has two stalls, compared to the women's three). If it's short, make the dash. If it's long, opt for doing it later.

After getting dressed, head down to Rinaldi's, where his wife will attempt to engage you in small talk. Wonder if she's insane, or if she truly believes you understand everything she's prattling on about (ignore the fact that she's speaking in a dilect, and that most of what little Italian you know is worthless). Get a drink - iced cappucino, please - and maybe, if you have the time, breakfast. Afterward, go back up a floor to the class room. The smart people get water beforehand. The rest swelter through a ninety-minute class.

The classrooms are small, and are nearly filled to capacity. The only airflow is provided by two ceiling fans which spin at such speeds you expect them to fly away at any minute. The seats are tiny, and cramped, and interlocked, so when the guy two chairs away from you crosses his legs, you have to stop writing lest you scribble something unintelligent. The desks, if they can be called that, are of a type you haven't seen since high school - and even those were bigger writing surfaces. You have a standard casebook, a 3-subject spiral binder, one red, one black and one blue gel pen, your water, and room enough to set maybe one of them on the 'desk'/writing surface. And it angles down toward your legs. The room is lit by three lights, two fluorescent and one luminescent. The walls are a pale green, and in bad need of painting, and the blackboard at the front of the room is the 'old fashioned' chalk kind. There are maps of Italy in various political climates scattered about the room, and the only natural light streams in through windows high upon the wall across from the split door which neatly bisects the its wall. But since the sunlight's heat outweights the breeze created by keeping the window open, the windows are closed, and the wooden shades are nearly shut. No air circulates through the room, so that after ninety minutes, most of the students are near passing out, and the sweat is beading up on the instructors forehead. In the back of the room is a clock which is one hour and five minutes slow, so that classes start on time but end late. This is because the instructor looks at his watch as he enters, but not again during class.

On sunny days (which is a description of most days here), those lucky enough to have Comparative Criminal Procedure get to sit outside for their class. Class is held in the center courtyard, with students sitting on a concrete wall surrounding what was, ostensibly, a fountain at one time, though now it is just an overgrowing bush badly in need of a trim. Since the wall isn't big enough for everyone, some students take to sitting on the fountain's edge, while others purchased small folding chairs, and still others pulled the benches which were located elsewhere to spots outside the circle. Shade is provided by a large tree, which delights in dropping sap on the students as they attempt to write. The uninitiated at first think it's raining, but they're soon corrected by those who know better.

At noon, after second class has ended, most people trudge upstairs to sleep off the previous nights debauchery. Others stay outside to add a nice tan to the list of things they picked up in Italy. Still others head to the lab to check email, and others head down to Rinaldi's for lunch.

That little routine gets repeated every day. But today, workmen appeared on our floor, and began ripping up the bathrooms. Well, actually, only one bathroom - the men's. And at five o'clock, when it was time to go home, they stuck a sign on the door: "Do not use. Aut. Broken."

This is not good news for the women. Fortunately, it won't have it's biggest impact until Monday morning, as many people have left for the weekend. Some went to Florence, some to Venice. Others headed out to the cute haven of Cinqueterre, and still others slipped off to other hideaways. One went to Bern, Switzerland, to meet a friend. I am one of the few who elected to enjoy the peace and quiet of Rome. Hopefully, I'll be able to catch up on homework.

The first week hasn't been bad; most nights, we've enjoyed a nice dinner, some wine, and good conversation. Most nights, we haven't strolled in before 1:00a.m., which makes getting up at 7:15 kind of difficult. People are beginning to learn the same lessons I learned when I was here with the MBA group: going out with 10 or more people overwhelms restaurants, and draws attention from everyone else. You never get to talk to everyone, so why bother? Instead, it's much better to pick four or five people, and enjoy a nice meal. Same goes for sightseeing.

Last night I took J and JW to dinner at the Ristorante where the MBA group had their going-away dinner. J and JW enjoyed the atmosphere (the view overlooking Rome kicks ass), but they had no idea they were being insulting by only ordering a 'first course' at an establishment used to serving four or more courses. I didn't have the heart to tell them. Instead, I enjoyed my swordfish steak, pinot grigio, and the good conversation. We watched as a group of mostly women spoke with an older gentleman in Italian, and tried to discern what exactly was going on. Our best guess is he was retiring, and they were taking him out.

No sightseeing yesterday. Wednesday had more than made up for it, with the tour that took us through St. Paul's, the Catacombs of St. Benedict, the Forum, and the Pantheon, before dropping us in Piazza Navrona. All that walking, combined with my run in the early afternoon, was enough sightseeing for a while. Besides, if I see it all this week, what will I do the next three?

Time for some coffee. I didn't get that nap this afternoon, and I'm starting to get sleepy.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

I want to run
I want to hide
I want to tear down the walls
that hold me inside
I wanna reach out
and touch the flame
Where the streets have no name....

Rome is a challenging city in a number of ways. The most obvious, of course, is the language. I'm slowly remembering more, but I never spoke it well to begin with. Italian has a lyrical quality about it. Kind of a sing-song rhythm which sounds like music to your ears, even if you have no idea of what's being said. Actually, that's better, because if you do, it's likely a mundane conversation.

Everyone here is getting used to being abroad. This trip is markedly different from my two trips to Europe with the MBA program. For both of those, people had managed to travel pretty extensively (except me, of course, who didn't have that kind of vacation time). By the time they arrived in Athens or Rome, they were veterans, and able to get around. Here, they're still getting used to the idea of a language and custom they've never experienced before. Not that they're all wet behind the ears. There's J, of course, who's been to Germany. And S and L, who've both lived here for extended periods of time. Not surprisingly, people have clung to them like small children to their mothers at a mall. And there's a smattering of others who've been abroad and can competently handle themselves.

But there are others who have a lot to learn. There are three divisions of students here - the law students, who stay for a month; the MBA students, who get a two week blow-through; and the undergrads, who stay all summer. Some of the undergrads have been here all year. Unfortunately, I'd like to say that the undergrads are the worst-behaved, but I can't. They're immature, sure, and loud (especially at night, when it's quiet), but there are some MBA, and, unfortunately, law students, who rival them. Rome has great food and great wine, and despite the efforts of the staff to ensure that we are all 'cultured' Americans, we lapse into stupidity almost nightly. Not the same people, but different people every night who come in drunk, make lots of noise, and wake somebody up, who'll spend the next day whining about it.

And the intrigue. Take seventy people, put them together, and watch what happens. Le Grande Grande Fratello - the Big, Big Brother. There's T who likes Gr, and J who says "nothing" is going on with H, and all the guys who are scamming on all the girls. And yes, I admit, I like someone here, too. E is her name, at least to you it is, and she's absolutely adorable. And twenty-five, outgoing, nice, intelligent......and I have absolutely no chance here. But what an enjoyable way to spend a summer.....

Right now, the scramble is on. The most popular question here is "what are you doing this weekend?" as everyone lines up their weekend trips. I'm hoping to head to Florence, Firenze here, and get the leather jacket I wanted two years ago, but didn't have the cojones to buy. Now I have the cojones, but not the dinero. I just don't know who I'm going with - the Firenze-only group, or the Firenze-Venezio(Venice) group. I've heard the canals stink to high heaven,'s Venice, how can I not go? And then there's the trip to Interlachen. And Paris. And.....oh, man, so many side trips.

There's good news, and bad news as well. The bad news first. I didn't do very well in Contracts. C-plus. Not what I'd expected, but then what did I expect, with all I'd juggled this semester. I've sent an email to the professor, requesting an accounting on my grade. We'll see when (if) she responds. The good news is Professor Civ Pro is now Professor Bus Ops. This made me very happy, as it opened up my entire morning, and made it possible for me to do some clerking work part-time. It also gave me Fridays off......

Well, it's 8:45. Dinner time here in Roma. I think I'll get the pasta.