Well, there are some weeks that one just has to sit back when they’re over and say, “Wow, I’m still alive. I guess I made it through in one piece.” This past week seems to have been one of those weeks. A little of everything was thrown at us. We had finals for two of our classes, the major paper for our art history class was due, Italy almost experienced major political upheaval and riots ensued (which included Romans blowing up police vans, tearing down traffic lights, tearing up cobblestone streets, and damaging anything they could, and which some of us found ourselves accidentally in the middle of), and we had our Bernardi Advent/Christmas party (including Advent Angel presents for all), as it was the last week before our three week Christmas break. All in all, a pretty full week, I’d say.
I’m pretty sure that none of the academic work that I’ve done this week will be my finest, but I did what I could in a crazy environment with a lot less stability than I am used to for a finals week, and there is something to be said for perseverance under pressure. I guess sometimes you just have to push through and do the best you can. Perhaps the greatest lesson I will take from Rome is that you can’t always have things just the way that makes you most comfortable, and in such times, you have to pull it together and do your ‘darndest’ anyway. A valuable lesson, I think.
Now we all go our separate, merry ways for the duration of the break, and many of us will travel throughout various parts of Europe. Without a doubt, these past couple of months have been full of unexpected challenges and delights, and we are all in need of a bit of a breather. I am confident that we will come back in three weeks with renewed energy and excitement, so that we can fully appreciate the last weeks of our semester in Rome.
I’m pretty sure there are not many places in the world like Pompeii. Where else can you go to catch a glimpse of the life of our fellow human beings from two thousand years ago? At least, where else can you go where you can wander freely about an ancient city full of well-preserved ruins for an entire afternoon? But that’s what you can do at Pompeii, and that is what I did this past weekend with three of my friends. Its rather surreal, really, to be walking through ancient Roman cobblestone streets, exploring ancient Roman houses, public bathhouses, bakeries, restaurants, temples, theatres, stadiums, halls of justice, various other political buildings, and perhaps the most bizarre experience—an ancient Roman brothel (random fact: Pompeii supposedly had 30 brothels). Here we were, touching the same walls, walking the same streets, and looking at the same views as the Romans of so long ago (minus the 1000 foot chunk of Mount Vesuvius that blew off), and all the while I’m thinking, “These people were not so different from us. They had families, houses, gardens, dogs, cats…they went to out to dinner and theatres…they loved art, presumably music as well…they laughed, they cried, they prayed…and they died. Now, here I am, walking through the ruins of their city, frozen in time by a freakish natural disaster of epic proportion. Now it is two thousand years later, and I have my little moment in the same Roman sun. I wonder, in another two millennia, what will people go to see from our day? Will it be interesting to them?” Then I reenter the modern world, and hop back on a train for noisy Rome. “Ah yes, a wonderful, quiet day exploring a city of the ancient Roman Empire…no biggy…just another day in my life!”
Thanksgiving, for me, is about family. Yes, I can wax eloquent about my many blessings, about living in a country that is “free,” about having food on the table, a roof over my head and numerous things and privileges that others don’t have; I could go on regarding the many talents I’ve been given and the opportunities to use them, but ultimately all that doesn’t hold water if I’m not surrounded by family. Thanksgiving, for me, begins with family, and everything else follows. Of course, I must be thankful to God above everything else, for He has given me the greatest gift of all—life—but God placed me in a family, and without my family I wouldn’t even know about God.