Presently, the swift notes of Vivaldi streaming from my laptop and the Roman traffic flowing outside my window compete to see which can drown the other out with sheer force of volume. It is a Sunday night, and though outside the air is dark and damp, life has not ceased to exist vicariously in the city. For myself, I am content at the moment. Perhaps it is because I spent all afternoon out filling my soul with sights and sounds I've previously only ever experienced in films, or perhaps its because I am tired and happy to be inside the convent, looking out my window and watching the lights outside my window flash as horns honk and break are applied, as smart cars and vespas careen around ancient corners. Or perhaps it is merely because I have a cup of warm African tea in a white china cup sitting two inches from my left hand as I type this and having drunk a cup and a half already, I fell warm and happy inside and out. Perhaps I feel content because it is Sunday and today is the Lord’s day and he is oh so good to me. Maybe it is a combination of everything, but right now, I couldn't be happier to step away from my group of loud, rambunctious, and terribly delightful fellow Roman-ites for just one moment, smell the damp air and feel the afternoon raindrops still clinging to my window sill and then taking a deep clean breathe sit down at the table in the middle of my room and begin typing all that has been circling in my head these past three days.
Rome is not what I expected.
The nuns are not what I expected.
Nor is the convent exactly what I expected it to be.
But then again after declaring that I have learned to always expect the unexpected, how can that surprise me at all?
Rome is full of hidden beauty. It reminds me of StoneTown on the Island of Zanzibar which until now has been in my mind the most beautiful city on earth. Behind the rumble and the graffiti and each carless piece of trash lies something hidden and exceptionally lovely. Zanzibar’s hidden beauty was its carved Arabic wooden doors, so intricate and so breathtaking, that it seemed a shame to see them attached to hovels and broken down building, behind dumpsters and littered with dirt and plastic bags. But I found that their charm lay in the fatc that they were not pristine and perfect and on display for the world to see without getting their hands dirty.
Rome seems to be somewhat similar. At ever turn on ever street stand tall erect building that I can’t take my eyes off of. Mustard coloured plaster walls with dark green shutters and wrought iron balconies embody the typical European image. I love it. But what you don’t see in the travel guides are the potholes in the cobble stone sidewalks or the graffiti that mares the bottom of the beautiful buildings and high stone walls. I never expected so much graffiti. It is everywhere…along ever VIA and every STRATTA. Yet I cannot complain about it. They are not mine to complain about. Modern art meets ancient architecture, wouldn’t you say?
Naively, I also thought that the grand ancient symbols of Rome would be somewhat set apart from modern European life. I didn't realize that one could round a corner and come face to face with the Colosseum its entrance only a few feet from the curb where cooper minis and motorbike race the bus around the round about. I also did not expect to slip through an alleyway and find myself in the middle of a piazza face to face with the Pantheon and about a million and half tourists getting their picture taken with a man dressed as a gladiator. The ‘gladiator’ did not impress me. The Pantheon did. As did the other ancient structures that popped up out of no where. It seems to me to be just another form of hidden beauty—in this case less hidden but still sucked into the chaos of ever day life. I can’t get over it. I cannot get over the fact that I am here.
I've had a crush on Italy since I could walk, and now here I am walking its cobblestone streets without a care in the world. I watch the tourists with their sweating brows and stressed red faces, and smile to myself. “You know you won’t be able to see all Rome has to offer in the short 4 days you are here, and you are sad.,” I think, “But I will be here three months. Three months to wander and get lost on my own, without being distressed because if I don’t throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain today, I’ll never have a chance to do it again.”
When she came upstairs to visit this afternoon, Sister Ernestine informed us that, “You can live in Rome 12 years, like I have, and not have seen everything. Surprises are hidden everywhere and it is so beautiful.” I know three months is not nearly enough time. But I am grateful for it nevertheless.