Saturday, November 7, 2009

Getting to the roots of Rome

Dear friends and family,
I have really been enjoying exploring Rome with all its secrets and treasures. Just this week I was able to go to the Scavi (excavations) of the Necropolis (where the dead were buried) unnderneath St. Peter's Basilica. This has been a high light of my time here in Rome, and I recommend everyone who visits Rome to book a tour of the Scavi! Underneath the present St. Peter's Basilica is the Basilica of Constantine and underneath this is the Necropolis and then underneath the Necropolis is where the tomb of St. Peter is. Constantine wanted to build his basilica over the tomb of St. Peter so during his time he covered the entire Necropolis with soil and built on top of it. In the 1940's the discovery of the Necropolis and the excavations took place where the bones of St. Peter were found. There is much scientific evidence that the bones were St. Peter's because of where they were found, that they were of a man of 60 years of age and of robust built and had stains of the colour purple which meant they had been wrapped in purple cloth after the body had decomposed which was a sign of great reverence. The tour was amazing because the guide was a PhD student studying classical Latin and Greek and could read all the inscriptions in Latin which made the experience more real for me. The Necropolis is like a whole village underneath St. Peter's where each house was where urns were placed and sarcophagus's of deceased relatives. The structures and bricks date back to around 100 AD or earlier and the time of Constantine. Just knowing this makes your jaw drop. I felt like I had been transported into a different world. Seeing the bones of St. Peter was so amazing!
Every day here in Rome I begin to enjoy myself even more. I took a trip to Tivoli which is outside of Rome where there were some magnificent gardens which date back to the time of Hadrian.
A few cultural things I have encountered:
- going to the doctor to get my shots was quite an experience. The doctor came in with his shirt unbuttoned with his chest hair sticking out and a big gold crucifix. He didn't even clean my arm with alcohol before he put the needle in. He just casually went over to me, stabbed me with the needle and walked away. No swab, no cleaning, no words, nothing. And before he gave me the injection he took out his stethoscope to check my heart where he literally placed it on my chest and back for no longer than 1 second and then put his hand on my stomach for 1 second as well. Hahaha, honestly, it was quite a joke. Now I have experienced the medical system here in Italy.
- Men here really do say "Ciao Bella" ALOT!!!
- The Italians actually send their reject wine to North America. An Italian wine maker admitted it to me.
- Italians aren't very prompt or time conscious. Stores close at random times during the day and even if they say the hours they are open this doesn't mean much.
- Gelato is eaten anytime of the day here
- the buses here are all Mercedes
- Men here are romantic and are gentlemen (ie they will ALWAYS hold the door for you, let you take a seat if you are standing) I like this :)
- A sign of a true Italian is when you drink your wine with water because that is the way the Roman soldiers used to do. They said that to kill the germs in the water you need to add wine to cleanse it.
- "Piano Piano" (slolwy slowly) is a common theme here in Italy

I am so happy to be here right now in Rome preparing to go and serve in Africa. Some important messages that have stuck with me during our formation have been that we should not go thinking that we will come and change the people there by the things we DO. We should go there with the mind frame that we need to be witnesses and that the people there just want to see that you love them and listen to them. It is also important that we enter their culture by observing and listening first and then by talking followed by reflection. I am getting really excited to enter their culture and to learn much from the people there. I'm not if I mentioned in my blog yet but this coming summer they are going to be making a beach volleyball court which is going to be great! We have our tickets bought for Africa leaving Dec. 1 from Rome to Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia and then to Kampala, Uganda followed by a 7 hour bus ride to the border of Uganda with Congo. One of the volunteers who was there this past summer told us that he would not wish this bus ride to his worst enemy! hahaha, because it smells and is really cramped. Wow, that makes me feel really excited for the journey! Also, a few things that past volunteers have told me is that we will have to kill chickens for meat, that the vegetables there consist of potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, and some other greeny vegetable. They also eat termites there, haha. It is going to be quite a "neat" experience. I am also not sure how it is going to be to live with 3 Italians (1 girl and 2 guys...1 of which doesn't like soccer or Nutella - can you believe it!), 1 guy from Czech Republic (not to mention he only eats meat and potatoes) and 1 American girl. I am just meeting the 3 Italians now and I think we are all going to form a great group. I am glad though that I have Karen here from Denver, Colorado because we have things in common that we can share together (and of course we can speak English together). My French is coming along quite well. I feel really pathetic when people assume I can speak fluent French because I am from Canada. Yes, it is true, Western Canadians do not speak French! I am thankful though for my 10 years of French education in school...finally I can put it to use, although the problem is to remember it all.

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