Vorre un caffe, por favore, and other Italian things

It’s been a little over a week since settling into Roman life, and I must say: I love it here.  There is an energy about this city which cannot be described by a tourist.  You feel a sense of laid back urgency.  I think it has a lot to do with how fast the Vespas speed by yet how slow the people cross the street.  That is one thing about Rome that I wish was different: the lack safety of pedestrians.  The cars don’t care that you want to cross.  They won’t stop for you unless you stare them down like a disappointed grandmother.

It only took me about 5 or 6 days to really adjust to the different culture and level of convenience in Italy.  The only time I really experienced “culture shock,” and I’m using that term loosely, is a the grocery store.  In Italy, they don’t like accepting big bills.  A 50 euro bill is met with questioning eyes or an annoyed sigh.  Making change, to Romans, is as exhausting as sprinting a mile, or so it seems.  The best time to break a big bill is in the evening, I’ve learned, since after a full day of business they actually have enough money to give change.  These are the things you learn as a “resident” of Rome, not a tourist.

Another thing with grocery stores is how expensive most everything is.  Eggs are like 3 euro for 6 eggs…which is like $4.  The best place to go shopping, I realized after making a few trips to the store, is the open-air market.  Filled to the brim with fresh produce, meat, cheese, bread, and anything else you can imagine, this marketplace is a true example of what it’s like to live in Roma.  For example, today I went to the open air market I got 6 eggs for about 1.60 euro.  Obviously, a much better price.  Not only that, but the people there are much kinder.  The level of patience that Italians have with people learning to speak Italian is incredibly refreshing.  They usually smile and correct you, kindly, and are very appreciative of any effort at all.

I’ve already begun a routine here.  Every morning, I get a cappucino and pastry on my walk to school (after a lifting session, as usual).  Then, after walking about 1.5 mile, I get to the Deli two blocks from school.  It is extremely necessary to buy a panino before the rush, otherwise there are about 20 people in 200 square feet.  Aka, too many people.  Some very kind people work at the deli, and they help any American patron better their Italian language skills.  I’ve gone so frequently and practiced saying my panino order so many times, I sound like a pro.  The man who made my sandwich the other day even told me so!  I have to admit, I was very proud of myself in that moment.

So far, I’m enjoying life here.  Being able to walk only 10 minutes and be in Vatican City, then take a train for 25 minutes to see the Colosseum, all in one day, is incredible.  I’m already in love with this city, and I still have 100 days to go.

Mother Nature is to Blame?

While en route to Chicago for my 50 minute layover, my plane was diverted due to dangerous weather conditions that had wrapped around the Chicago O’hare Airport. We landed in Minneapolis, which would’ve been a lovely place to visit under different circumstances. Our plane sat 1.5 miles away from the terminal, with another United plane next to us. 

Our pilot first told us that we could be sitting there for upwards of 4 hours.  20 minutes later, he came on the overhead speaker and said we would be wheels up in 30 minutes instead of several hours like he originally was told. The plane erupted in applause. 

That celebration was short lived though, because 30 minutes later we got another update from our pilot. I noticed he was on a phone call out on those travel steps that airports drive up with a truck. He seemed to be arguing, and then when he came on the plane I found out what for: the FAA was pulling him off the plane. He had exceeded the legal number of flight hours in a single day, so they had to send in an emergency rescue crew. This meant that we had to taxi to the terminal, deplane, and wait X number of hours till they arrived.  But where, do you think, that crew was coming from? 

Chicago. The place where we weren’t allowed to land because of the weather. So if planes weren’t allowed to land, that meant they weren’t allowed to fly. 

We were originally told the crew would arrive by 8:30pm.  They didn’t arrive till 10pm. So many people missed their connecting flights that they were demanding some kind of compensation, like a meal voucher or hotel voucher. However, they wouldn’t help us out beyond discounts since it was the fault of Mother Nature and not their airline. One woman was filming a United staff woman to prove this employee’s incompetence. I heard that employee say multiple times “I have no idea what’s going on.”  

The original cause for the delay was weather, then it was lack of communication and poor staff. I ended up being stuck at the Minneapolis  airport for 5 hours. I missed my original flight for Rome and got the last seat on a new flight for today, August 30. The Hyatt Regency Hotel became my home for the night after one hellish day of travel. Here’s hoping today goes better. 

Time in an Airport is not the Same

I feel like I’m one of the few people who actually enjoy the airport. I love the echo of murmured conversation rebounding off the polished tile floor of the terminal, the slap of sandals hastily thrown on as people rush to get out of line for security, the ever-constant sense of anticipation and adventure pressing at the heavy eyelids of weary travelers. Then there’s the fact that airport time moves differently. The world around the airport moves on with life: work, school, birthdays, etc.  Airports are not for any of these events. Airports are for waiting. Waiting on an airplane, on security, on those crappy in-flight complimentary drinks, on arriving. As I sit here in the terminal, waiting for my first flight of the day, I can feel the stagnant aura of the airport wrapping itself around me. And I feel safe. 

This time tomorrow, I will be landing in Rome to begin my 110 days of adventure. I guess I’ll learn what Roman time feels like, and see if it’s the same as LA time.