Wednesday, July 07, 2010

A Rome with a View

So something really fun happened tonight. Elise was playing with our camera in the cabin, and figured out how to take pictures. So the grabs the camera, comes out of the room with it, and starts taking pictures of everyone she sees.

It’s a great little sequence of about 50 pictures or so. It starts out with tentative pictures, of walls and fingers grabbing the lens, but then quickly becomes this dynamic sequence from her little point of view… where she runs to people she’s really excited of seeing of seeing, and tells them she’s about to take a picture of them. It’s just pictures of happy people so happy to see her, and see her so excited, and crouching down to her level.

And, of course, she took many pictures of students she never met along the way. It was a great icebreaker (and right before she crashed an Insanity workout class and apparently tried to follow along with everyone. Wish I had pictures of that). I’ll post the sequence sometime after Croatia. I have a smile on my face just thinking about it.

Which, by the way, were doing a late-night docking as I type this. Immigration will happen in the morning, so we can’t leave the ship until tomorrow. Monika’s parents will again join us at this port, and everything seems to point to a wonderful four days here.
And why do I think that? Because we just had a fantastic seven days in Italy.
(Ah, Italy. Your architecture reminds me so much of Las Vegas.)

(Alright, just kidding.)

Remember when I said we did approximately 20% of what we normally do because Elise is around. Well, scratch that. Maybe it was because we worked out the kinks in Spain, maybe it was because we had a fantastically-located apartment in Rome, or maybe it was because we had the extra helping hands of Monika’s parents who met us in Rome and will meet us in Croatia. Or maybe it was just the gelatarias on every corner.

Whatever it was, we did everything we wanted in Rome. I checked all the major items on my list, and I got a great sense of everyday life over there. We even managed to walk from the Colisseum to the Vatican with Elise – one of our many walks – due to the perfect timing of her afternoon 2-hour naps.

We arrived in Civitavecchia after single day at sea, in which we went right between Corsica and Sardinia with an amazing full moon on the still water. We immediately venture in the intense summer heat with Dave, Tanya, and their kids, to the train station to purchase an express ticket to Rome. We were there in 40 minutes.

Much to Elise’s delight, Mimi and Baba were waiting for us at the train station. I really wish I had captured it on tape, because it was something out of a movie. She saw them from a distance, and as soon as she recognized them, she darted off into their arms. They are her favorite people in her entire little world.
And we were off to the apartment, which belongs to a Nagy family friend, and which was close to everything. We were immediately off to explore Rome, chasing Elise, eating gelato, and visiting playgrounds.

Which reminds me of a few things.

First, because the playground was amongst ancient ruins, as was everything else in Rome I mean, everything in Rome is old. There are ruins everywhere, and I’m assuming that everything is built on something that is over 2000 years old. It has to be a nightmare to build something new there, because I can only imagine the bureaucracy (beyond the typical Italian bureaucracy) to get permission to dig up in the city. I imagine that if you do get permission, and do dig, you’ll find something interesting. I imagine that has to be a problem with Athens and Istanbul and a bunch of other old world cities as well, which have a rich history, all where people have been living continuously in mass for centuries.

Second, I’ve come to the feeling that one of the measures of quality of life in a city is the number of playgrounds and park benches to be found. It really makes a big difference. Italy had great playgrounds (and an inordinate amount of park benches), but my favorite was in Naples. Beachside, really nice, and full of old Italian grandfathers bringing their kids to the park. Naples is a really “gritty” city by any measure, but walking around on that part of town really made me (us) fall in love with it.

Third, I had a wonderful conversation with one of the professors tonight about the environment, and where we are going. Things aren’t looking great right now, and he thinks it is too late to reverse the climate changes that we already started, and that things will change and that the third world will suffer most from it, but that he doesn’t think all is hopeless. Humans will have to adapt, and I can’t help but see Italy as a window into what countries like the US may look like many years from now. Things are crowded, and fairly polluted, but there is a great use of communal space. And since one of the biggest problems with dealing with global warming in a a world of increased standards of living, is that people are living in bigger houses. But the Europeans are using a lot fewer resources than we are, and part of the reason for that is that they live in smaller spaces, and make much better use of their communal spaces, going out for everyday entertainment (instead of making big living rooms with huge back yards). Imagine if WE had a pub on every corner.

And you know what? They’re happier because of it.

(This is what I love most about Semester at Sea – this sense of communal living. We have a small cabin, and we have to get out and be social to live – and luckily, we live amongst some amazingly interesting and well educated people to talk to.)
(I also love that I get to attend the lectures. We had a brilliant guest lecture in Global Studies about Croatia today. I may have to do a whole blog on it).

(But I digress).

This is all a long way of saying that we saw all the tourist attractions in Rome, and even hosted a party at the apartment where 22 shipmates (mostly parents and kids) came. And Tom and I made sure to take as many goofy pictures as we could. It may have annoyed our wives to the fullest, but doggone it was fun.

We even made it to Florence for two days, where Monika had lived a bit after college, before we went to Naples to meet the ship. Florence was pretty packed with tourists, and was extremely hot. Monika felt very nauseous the night we arrived there, and we later attributed it to sleep deprivation, dehydration, a possible heat stroke of some sort. Which makes her (according to her), a ninety-year-old woman.

One of my favorite things about Florence was seeing the statue of David. The museum opened at 8:15am, and because of the extremely long lines the day before, we decided we would make see it as soon as the museum opened.

So after a fantastic morning stroll seeing Florence wake up, we realize that everyone else had the same idea to show up early to the museum as well. Which means we waited 40 minutes to get it, but it was well worth it.

It’s a stunning statue – bigger than I imagined, and beautifully rendered. I always thought David was just passively posing, but going around it, you can see that he actually has a pretty angry “determined” face on him, like is about to cause some damage. And of course, Elise had to point out that “David has a small pepito”. That’s our daughter.

I can go on and on… but I need to go to bed. We posted pictures at, and will have lots more in a few days.

And we can’t wait for a few more days with Mimi and Baba. They are the best inlaws. And I may need to send some Tom Nagy-isms instead of Elisey-isms on the next post.
(One more quick story before I go. I was swimming on the ship pool yesterday with Elise, and she was laughing her head off as I threw her as high as I could and caught her back in the water. In between the laughter, she manages to say, “I have poops!”, which turns out is the last thing you want to hear while throwing a little kid in a small swimming pool.

I managed to catch her before causing too much damage, but man, there was poop everywhere. Monika and I quickly do the “I’m carrying you with the least amount of contact as possible as you dangle in front of me” that every parent is familiar with, and had to wrap her in towels since the inside of the ship is SOOOOO much colder than the outside. By the time we got back to the cabin, there was poop everywhere. I don’t think we could have gotten more poop on the towels and close if we had tried to catch it directly.

And it wasn’t even the worst poop story of the moment… as Cash had, at that same time, woken up from his nap with a poopy diaper, only to decide to take it off and smear on his bed before his parents got back in the room.

Just look at the picasa pictures and you’ll see it’s all worth it).

1 comment:

Emily said...

Those pictures made me smile for at least an hour this afternoon. What an amazing trip. And the Tom Nagy pictures are incredible. If Mon gets annoyed, remind her to drop her shoulders and breathe :)