I have arrived! Mostly safe and sound. Today we were filling out paperwork for our permisso di soggiornno (I probably grossly misspelled that), which is the first of a three step process that has been a great insight into standard Italian bureaucracy. My friend Tosh and I looked up the date and realized that today is only August 27th...Friday..the day after we arrived. I feel like I left for Rome a week ago--Yesterday we easily the longest day ever! I've also learned that traveling abroad is approximately 10% sweating your ass off, 40% standing in line, and 50% actually traveling...
After an INSANE morning on Wednesday, my two friends Molly and Brooke took Caitlin and I to O'Hare airport. In that morning I managed to lose my cell phone, bust a zipper on my suitcase, discover that my stupid computer just needed a new power cord (see previous blog post and you will understand why this is SO ridiculous), lose my camera battery changer, and finally, actually go to O'Hare. After we arrived we stood in the wrong line for a little while because we didnt have boarding passes. We finally get up to the counter and Caitlin discovered that her bags were a combined SIXTEEN POUNDS too heavy. It would cost $300 to check the overweight bags, and my bags were completely full, so naturally, our only option was to go through her bags, in line, and figure out what to do. In the end, a pair of flip flops and spandex got tossed, a big bag of brand new Aussie hair products found a new owner with the baggage check lady, and I ended up with a swim suit in my travel pillowcase and two pairs of shoes in my purse. We also got the name and email of the baggage lady by the end of this--she was travel updates! We finished with a bunch of "congratulations" from the people in line, and a well-deserved victory dance.
Our ridiculous day of traveling was, of course, far from over. We waiting in an hour long security line (see previous ratios on time spent traveling), and made our first flight uneventfully. However because the flight was overbooked, we were delayed about 15 minutes and landed at 6:45 in Detroit. Our flight from Detroit to Rome started boarding at 6:30, and left at 7:25. We got off the plane and found out we, thank God, didn't have to switch terminals. But as we powerwalked toward our gate, the final boarding call was announced. We broke into a full-on sprint for a length of 40 gates and were the last two people to get on our Rome flight.
So we landed in Rome, sweaty and exhausted. We found a cab and found out that cab drivers (or at least ours) drive between 150-160 km/hr...which if I remember my 5th grade conversions correctly, is about 95 miles an hour. They also have no qualms about straddling two lanes, for miles, until they decide which is better.
The Rome Center is gorgeous, but the main building is definitely dated. Few rooms are air conditioned, and we have definitely been frequenting the air conditioned rooms. Our neighborhood is northwest of the city center and directly north of the Vatican. Every street is lined with beautiful flowering trees and the apartments all have balconies with greenery draped all over them. We are located on a private drive up on a big hill.
Our first day was spent registering (more long lines in the heat!!), dropping our stuff off in our room (Caitlin and I live on the 4th floor....its a lot of stairs to lug out 50lb suitcases up in 90 degree heat! However, we do have balconies!), and having safety seminars. We walked around the city and found the local supermarkets, conveniences stores, gelaterias, and bars, which was an absolutely beautiful walk but the hills are killer! We then bought some cheap wine at the supermarket and enjoyed wine, gelato and pasta all in our first night. BEST DISCOVERY: Their "cheap" wine is 3 euro for 1.5 liters--and it's better than most American "good wine." Also, the stereotype about Europeans and tiny cars is SO ENTIRELY TRUE, at least in Rome. About every 5th car is a SmartCar, and the rest are teeny tiny hatchbacks that are just as small. I have yet to see an SUV or a van since I've been here!
Today we had an "Italian Survival" class to help us get a few basics under our belt before classes start. Afterward, My friend Nathan and I determined that our Italian skills pretty much amount to speaking Spanish with Italian hand gestures, and hoping people understand. Also, saying "Grazie" like there is no tomorrow will get you pretty far--people LOVE when you are polite here! We also walked around the city and successfully bought stuff at the supermarket, found a bathroom, and bought a snack at a little shop, in broken Italian :) Tonight, we will be going to dinner at a nice closeby resturant called Cappelli, and then we are hoping to actually venture into the city afterword, instead of just exploring our neighborhood of Monte Mario. We are about 30 minutes to the city center by bus--hopefully I'll get a taste of "real" Rome!