Saturday was my first and last Saturday that was completely unscheduled so I did what I usually do when faced with the “oppression” of an open schedule – I scheduled something! Actually I had help from Amy. The other day we read an advertisement in the subway that there would be a “Fan Fest” starting Saturday in the Borghese Park for the World Cup. We both agreed that this sounded like fun and easier than the side trip I was thinking about taking south of Rome to look at some more ruins. About mid-morning we took off first by bus and then by walking another mile and a quarter to the park itself. Along the way we picked up a few foccacia sandwiches and chips with the hope to find a place to picnic before the jumbo-tron.
Gates opened at ten and the first game (Greece versus South Korea) began at 1:30. It was already noon and we wanted to beat the crowd, since the place was designed to only hold 20,000. Our concerns turned out to be groundless. We arrived and no one with the exception of workers and one lone person was there. I am not kidding. In fact I have a picture to prove it. We plopped down in the middle of the expanse of artificial turf rolled out for all the fans and ate our sandwiches while listening to Italian radio. All along we kept thinking, hoping that the swelling crowd was making their way rowdily from somewhere in the park and just have not arrived. By the time the game was about to start there were two men from Korea and a couple who apparently were pulling for Greece. I decided out of loyalty to the language of the New Testament and Paul’s missionary journeys I would stand for Greece’s national anthem, to the horror and embarrassment of my family.
We sat through most of the first half in the warm sun, but soon decided we could not take much more of this level of excitement. Folding up our blanket that we were using for the picnic I counted ten other fans. Maybe more were coming later in the day. Maybe it was the teams that were playing. Maybe the start of something is not nearly as big as the final games. Or maybe after three weeks I still do not understand this city! Oh well, there were only six cities in the world selected to host the Fan Fast, none of which are in the United States, so we at least wanted a unique experience. On that level we were successful.
Stumbling home (I have mentioned that my feet hurt) we rested for a few hours, watched Nigeria and Argentina play on television, and then had dinner at a neighborhood “hosteria”, which is what Italians call a family on restaurant. They serve wonderful pasta dishes and have one waiter who can speak a few words of English!
Following supper Amy and I watched USA play England, which as most of you know by now ended in a tie. At this point I was good and sleepy, but neither Amy nor I rested well. Our apartment has not cooled off much from the heat of the day. Without the hum of at least a fan, the still, warm night air is not the most restful environment. Yes, yes, I admit that air conditioning has spoiled me, but at this point I would settle for a small tabletop fan. Fortunately we only have a couple of more nights left and then we can return to the comfort of our own beds in a suitably cooled environment.
June 13, 2010 – Sunday
We are steadily trying to check off all the things we want to do or see that has not been done or said. One of those is to visit Rome’s biggest and oldest flea market, open only on Sundays. It is a long corridor of stalls selling cheap clothing, used items, and antiques (the difference between used and antique is the price). Everything was up for negotiation, but some of these sellers were fierce in their haggling – I needed Milton Martin, whom I have seen in action in Hungary and Israel.
Clark still had some spending money left so we wandered into the city center to look through a few stores and pick up a few things for supper tonight.
There are many things I will miss when we leave Rome in a couple of days. I will miss shopping in the local markets for fresh produce, meat, cheeses and especially all the wonderful bread. I will miss wandering into all these ancient churches and see beautiful works of art. Believe it or not I will miss walking, because at least I know I am doing some good for my body. I will miss the beautiful small Italian cars, especially the old Fiats. I will miss the helpful merchants who laugh with us (and oftentimes at me) as we struggle through our Italian phrases. I will miss seeing all the “old folks” sitting on park benches every evening visiting with neighbors and family. I will miss great places to eat on every corner and walking next door to have a morning cup of cappuccino or an afternoon espresso. I will miss gelato, cobbled streets, piazzas and all of the fountains.
I will not miss bumpy bus rides, rude merchants, honking horns and Vespas swerving around me. I will not miss having to struggle to ask even the most basic of questions in my own version of Italian. I will not miss all the cigarette smoke (it appears everyone smokes here) or all the bumping and shoving along a sidewalk.
Like every place in the world, there are things interesting to see, new experiences to have, and differences to celebrate. Like every place lived in while traveling, it is a gift to also say, there is no place like home.
Amy, Clark, Aaron and I are looking forward to being back home in Augusta, GA.
Peace be with you,