24 January 2008

Culture SHOCK

Wednesday the 16th was the morning we left Firenze for Rome, and we were at the train station by about 930. The tickets, get this, were either 16 for a four hour trip, or 38 for a two hour trip. We almost took the four hour. I was really leaning on trying to convince them to do it. But then we found out that the train wasn’t going to leave for another two hours, putting us into Rome at 1600h, which was pushing it, lateness-wise. So we shoveled out the moolah. I figure if nothing else, it was all the money we’ve saved by not using any metro or taxi or bus rides. We have literally walked everywhere except for between the cities, which we managed to do on our butts.

Rome is a monster. At least, when we first got in, that’s what we were thinking. From the train we walked to our hostel, which told us that we could store our bags and stuff, but that our room wouldn’t be ready for another two hours. That sounded familiar. Apparently Rome takes breaks to clean everything every day. At least, the hostels do.

So we grabbed a map and Ariel and Maggie found out where the shopping was and I led them to it. I almost wish that there had been someone following us while we were walking around Rome for the first time. Our brains were so used to Pisa and Florence, the slow, small, short-buildinged cities of happiness, and getting dumped back into a real city with cars and roundabouts and buildings higher than three stories tall was horrible. We got cranky and short with eachother. There was so much tension, oh man. I kept on looking at Maggie and saying, “We need to get out of here. We need to go rest and let our brains recuperate.” She would nod with wide eyes, but then we just kept going. Our first days in Pisa and Florence we had spent getting a little lost, and I think we kinda felt like we should do the same thing.

Our room was going to be ready at 1400, about two hours from the moment we walked off the train, but instead of heading back to the hostel after two hours of walking, no, we kept going for another hour and a half. The hostel dudes didn’t see us again until almost four hours after we had left the front desk. We didn’t even buy anything, we just got pseudo-lost and kept on running into monuments and ruins. Finally we went and checked in and paid. Paying was fun, rather, the process leading up to it was hilarious. Hilarious as in, I really wanted to shoot myself. It was my turn to fork out money, which was fine; it meant that we all were finally going to be even and everything. So I walk up to the ATM and slip in my card and push all the lovely little buttons that so many Romans have touched and the monster says, “We have been instructed to return your card. Please contact your own bank.”

Of course I had to try another ATM before I let myself truly believe that I had been an idiot. I had gotten euros in the states, and hadn’t spent a lot, so I had not yet had to withdraw any money. That morning I had used my credit card to pay for my third of the hostel in Florence, though. When we were walking back up the hill, I suddenly remembered that I had never told WellsFargo that I was leaving the country. Genius. They thought that my card was stolen and was making its way across Europe. On one hand, it was nice to know that they had such a fast response time in making my card unusable. On the other hand, the dumb card was unusable.

Maggie and Ariel were able to put forward the cash to take care of the bill (we had to pay in cash because their credit card machine was broken, and had to pay up front for some unknown reason) but I was still frustrated with myself for forgetting something so important. The next morning I sent my parents an email and told them what was going on. I had to do this because I have no phone here, and the hostel didn’t wanna give up their line because it’s super duper uber expensive, so the only people who could call up the bank and tell them what was up were my parents. Thank God before I left I added them to my bank account and gave them power of attorney while I’m gone. My mommy who loves me took care of it for me and I can now use my money!

Dinner was at the hostel, because breakfast and dinner are included in our price. It’s pasta and really cheap wine. Really cheap. Like, I like wine, but I almost can’t drink it. Or maybe I’m just picky. Yeah, that’s probably it. Maggie laughed at me when I drank it and then said that it wasn’t that great. “Well, no, but I’ve had worse,” she replied. :P Of course you have. Oh Maggieness. But the pesto pasta was yummy. After dinner, which we ate with friends of Ariel’s from the Hebrew University (the second group from Israel which we met, the first had been in Florence, also staying at the same hostel), the three of us headed to a mini market to get our allowance of crackers, bread, salami, oranges, and nutella. Ariel drank half a bottle of tea in front of a sign declaring eating and drinking in the store to be absolutely forbidden, and Maggie and I bought juice cartons. I thought I loved the oranges….now I also love Italian orange juice in a box. It’s in the fridge right now, and the box is more than half gone. You have no idea how much I want to get up and go get it right now. So much. Yum.

On the walk down to the store, it was just spitting rain, which wasn’t too bad. We hadn’t actually planned on doing that right after dinner, though, so we hadn’t brought our umbrellas. Bad life decision. When we got out of the little automatic doors onto the street, it was raining. When we got to the top of the hill a few minutes later, it was pouring. Four minutes from our room it was dumping, and we had to towel off in our room before touching anything, for fear of making everything completely soaked. I didn’t dry my hair, and it wasn’t even dry right before we went to sleep an hour later.

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