Luqman's Blog 3 - Travel Light
One of the most important lessons that I am continuously reminded that I need to master is to travel light. This is very difficult when preparing for a journey, as one never knows what they will encounter, and losers like me who are plagued with mild OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) try to be prepared for anything. However, the last day in Rome has shown me that as long as you bring an open mind and clean underwear with you on your journey, you are good to go. Equipped with these two necessities, you will enjoy your adventures, no matter how low the shower's water pressure or how many times you are forced to wear your long-sleeve undershirt (don't ask, I know it was a random example, but it is relevant to me). Let me explain how my Roman experiences over the last day have shown me how true this is.
Lesson 1: Never change money in a local booth near a 500-year-old monument.
Boy, was this lesson hard learned. Today, I was in need of some Euros as we visited the Pantheon, so I was delighted to see a small booth near a local café. It looked innocent enough with rates comparable to those I saw elsewhere. However, I didn't know what I was getting into. After forking over the money I wanted to change, I was quite confused when I got many fewer Euros than I anticipated. First I wondered if I had asked for Euros or British Pounds, and then I wondered if the dollar was further devalued since I pulled my wallet out a few moments earlier. When I ruled both of these out, I inquired about the problem. The clerk then proceeded to completely berate me in perfect English so even a "special" guy like me could understand. She also made sure to speak as loudly as possible so everyone else knew the extent of my stupidity, saying "the ser-vice charrrge is writ-ten plain-ly on the sigggggn." It turns out that there were two huge service charges taken out of my stack, which was already embarrassingly short. I thought the charge was a flat rate or a percentage of what I wanted to exchange (whichever was higher), when in fact it was a combination of both. After being robbed of everything short of my clean underwear, I turned my figuratively nude body around and left with much less money and pride than I started off with. However, since I decided to leave my ego in America (traveling light), I did not let the wicked witch of Eastern Rome ruin my day. Pray for me, please.
Lesson 2: Seek and you shall find
This lesson was a joy to learn by comparison to the first. It is a joy of Rome to find one of the numerous treasures hidden behind every building. I started a personal treasure hunt (with the assistance of Hannah's wonderful researching skills) to find and view all the Obelisks in Rome, which are said to number 13. Since these beautiful symbols of Asar's resurrection are native to Egypt (Asar is the true Egyptian name for Osiris), it is very interesting that so many are found in Rome. However, this required a lot of walking and even more patience when ducking down the wrong back alley is not uncommon. We found obelisks in front of churches (St. Peter's Basilica, Pantheon, and at Piazza de Minervo), government buildings (at Piazza di Montecitorio in front of the parliament building), and in public squares (Piazza Navona). If I didn't pack my backpack very light (promptly identifying myself as an ignorant tourist and potential pickpocket victim, though the thieves would only be practicing on someone as broke as I am), the trek would be much less tolerable. I will have to follow this same advice when I visit my beloved Kemet (original name for Egypt used by the natives of that land), the place where obelisks originated.
Lesson 3: The best things in life are free
The greatest thing about Rome may very well be the ability to see and do wonderful things for free. Today, we visited the magnificent Trevi Fountain, which is a cool hangout spot for locals and tourists alike, walked through an extravagant local mall, bargained with local artists while enjoying Piazza de Novana, and enjoyed regular conversations with various people who spoke English "poco" (a little). Of course their little English far trumped our knowledge of Italian, and we enjoyed countless talks about sports and American politics. It is amazing how informed the public is to things happening in our country, which embarrassingly reminded me of how ignorant I am to all foreign politics. I couldn't name their current president with a gun to my head, and here people went in depth about the historic nature of our upcoming election and we do not even know who is on the ticket yet. These talks gave added value to our trip, and it worked out well for me, cause it distracted me and kept me from thinking about how "lightly packed" my wallet is. Since the Euro has the dollar in the figure four (devastating old school wrestling move that I think Ric Flair used for those who were wondering), I look for everything free I can possibly find. Hopefully, we can find the other half dozen or so obelisks on tomorrow, which is our last day in Rome. We hope to see Ancient Rome as well, so I can relive my former-life occupation as a Gladiator at the Coliseum. Whatever ends up happening, rest assured that it will be an experience, and I will take valuable lessons home with me, even if I can't afford the postcards.