This is my hood, where I get down. Where political parties are frequent, everything is closed on the weekend and the people are truly old-school.
The streets are filled with graffiti, the ice cream shop and the park stay full into the late night. Dogs from small chihuahua size to full size mastiff faithfully following old men with folded hands or wear a scarf following their lady. Where football is king and the three P’s reign supreme (Pasta, Pizza & Pane)
This is my hood.
Where old ladies try to marry me off to their sons. The bar at the corner always say “Salve Bella”every morning when I head out for work. Where the building are old with character. Where clothes hang from windows, balconies and terraces. People have window conversations and a monthly mercato brings everyone out.
This is my hood.
Where cats like people and dogs are eternal puppies. Where classic Italian films were made and a popular series remains. This is where I stay.
Hello, I keep fading out. I am completely overwhelmed this chapter of my life here. The first six months have been so boggling learning a language, culture, fashion, guys and bureaucracy!
I still feel like a fish without water, actually no that is extreme. I am not dying or on the verge… I realized as I wrote that expression that it’s a horrible to image.
Okay where was …..I am an immigrant!
The first time I said this I paused. It’s a profound thing. My parents did this when I was small so I had no understanding of what it feels like to say that sentence for the first time.
I think if you can be an immigrant for a spell is great experience despite the feelings of confusion, discomfort, enculturation and the most diabolical……learning a language.
I have enriched myself even though it was never my goal. In truth, I have no goals here or a logical reason why I am really here. When I am asked, “Why Italy?” My answer is very honest and truthful…I don’t know.
Really, I don’t know. I had a very good understanding of what life would be like here, I knew that bureaucracy would be my spouse, I knew the pay was low, I knew that the culture is slow, I knew that finding a job could be very.difficult, I knew what housing would be like yet here I am.
I found a house in a trendy zone in a week, a job in two weeks, and bureaucracy is truly a motherfucker. I have friends here mostly other expats , Italians are friendly yet the guys are more willing to hang out than girls (Italian girls are not that friendly) and some nonne (grandparents). I am holding my own here.
It is a strange feeling when you travel and return home, excited to see friends and family and seeking some comforts from home. Seeing your family and friends they ask about your adventures and how amazing it must be living in another country, especially Italy. You talk and answer questions for a few hours; talking about the splendor yet making them aware of the hardships that surround the ancient world of romance thus ruining the images that films have created of how “amore filled” adventures cascaded from the sky from the gods.
This is the scene day one and maybe day two afterwards you are you to them again; the only difference you have been somewhere. Then Christmas begins and the real traditions start. And the usually statements begin…….
-“SO…. , no boyfriend yet?
-“when are you going to get married , you’re not young anymore?”
-“You DO like men, RIGHT?”
-“I would think some guy over there would marry you ”
-“well, maybe one day you will meet someone…,,,,,,,hopefully”
-“You DO want children?”
-“well , how do think you will meet a man when you keep running them away”
-“Dress up more”
It goes on and on .
I am an adult yet these moments happen , my parents thankfully are NOT the culprits of this just the rest of the family and some friends ( the- married -and -second- kid- on- the- way-friend) have disapproved of my lack of skills in “capturing” a man.
I feel pressured.
I leave the room, walk away from the conversation, or go for a walk. I hate this part and always will.
I just want to return to Italy now, where this part of my life doesn’t happen. Even though I do want a partner, I have no clue how to “capture” one to the point of marriage and/or children. I just want some one that will automatically warm my feet in the winter under the covers. I am not skilled in the art of seduction or whatever is required now a days to attract a mate.
My family and friends they mean well, it’s their way of showing concern ( I hate it) yet I still love them. This has been the way of expressing concern for centuries. It is not the best way yet it has made it to 2014 and counting.
I have to admit I do not think I will ever be able to experience a true relationship with differences and similarities involved in being a “we” instead of an “I”. I think I will never reach this place. I know they say never say never, yet never feel accurate with my track record. This pinnacle that many people reach in a relationship or at least I believe they are in the right direction; I feel is out of my realm. I am alone. I have tried and complicated many opportunities for a possible happily ever after only to some how feel alone even in the dating-relationship stages. I feel that my potential in this department becomes weaker every year.
How do I deal with these feeling of being possible alone for maybe the rest of my days? I am not sure. I just know its time I admit I cannot function right to have a beginning in a relationship .I sabotage me. I wish it was abandonment issues with my father or neglect yet I a not sure what is the true source of my unwilling and afraid nature of accepting a life joined with another person outside of family
In many occasions I blame it on my introverted nature , yet that is not fair. I think of times I speak out and expression my feelings which get me labeled as crazy. Then if I hold everything inside I feel trapped and let things fade out in an unresolved way which I then I re-enact in my mind what I should have said or done. I need to be the protagonist of my story and not a viewer. I do not have a fairy tale life nor a hard knocks life. I just have a life in transition with ambiguous potential and I have no clue how to utilize it. What can I do about it? figure me out and maybe I can reach a beginning of where I start forming me.
I teach English to Italians, mostly children. Recently, I have been working at a summer camp. I was playing with a few of the kids when a little girl, was staring at me from a far; I waved at her. I smiled at her. I asked her if she wanted to play. I waved at her to come closer. She did. She took my hand and licked it. Then she said, ” You look like chocolate”.
Yes, I do look like chocolate and she was hoping I WAS chocolate. All I could do was smile. She was so amazed by my skin she lick it. Now she licks me all the time. I am her chocolate. It’s a living.
Here, I am called brown skin. Here,sun-worshippers ask to touch my skin. I was at first, a little weird about it but now it’s like brushing my teeth-a natural thing. It’s normal to be waiting for a bus, or to be shopping and a lady to compliment me for my skin tone; like it is gold. Tanning is a full-time occupation here , not a pass time. I am the CEO.
I live in Rome. I have been to Rome before on holiday usually only three days and then I would either head north or south (SUD) to stay with friends. I never had such a reaction to my skin before in any other region of Italy. Rome is something.
I naturally assumed that people would think I am African.It is the most logical thinking, I thought. Nope. I am asked on a regular which part of Brasil I am from. In many cases people start speaking Portuguese to me. It never fails. I have told them I am Jamaican; which they say (in the same order every time). JAMAICAN TOP FOUR/ FIVE 1) Bob Marley!
2) Beautiful Beaches
4) Where is Jamaica?
and for the bold ones…..
5) Is it true the men have big penises?
I am at times a celebrity because of my skin. I am not sure why they connect me with Brasil but they do. When I ask why , they say I look like Brasil. Go figure. So I look like Brasil ,except in this World Cup ( what was that; 7-1!!) When I don’t feel like going through the Jamaica top four/five , I just say I am American. They find me a little less interesting when I say this.
I have been told by a couple Italian males; “that you are pure chocolate, I just want to eat you up!” (Date ends and I go home-alone). Being dark makes me stand out. I have never stood out because of my skin. I am not sure if brown people of USA could handle it but to me it’s fine. It is an interesting approach to dark skin.
Working at a summer camp , I meet many children fascinated and curious about my skin. A few actually think I am chocolate, which is fine by me. Others ask how many hours in the sun I spend to be so dark. They touch me like I am fragile silk turned into a sheer gown. In many cases, I think I was the first brown person they have interacted with. I like this. It creates a good first impression about different people. Naturally children don’t fear the unknown yet conditioning creates barriers-I have broken barriers. 🙂
I know there is racial issues here. I see it. African, Indian, Asians are treated differently in certain places. Despite how well dressed they are, how fashionable they are and that they speak more than one language. I have an American friend of Korean descent. When she talks they are surprised she knows English despite the fact she was born and raised there. In many situation when she says she is from USA, they ask, ” No, where are you REALLY from?”. She takes this in strides and with great poise despite how wrong this is.
An exception I have seen is beauty. Beauty makes people forget stereotyping, sort of. It’s not only men that are amazed by foreign beauty but even women. I went to an interview at a school recently, the director came in, she shook my hand, sat down and stared at me for a minute and said “You are beautiful”. Did I get the job? No, but she thinks I am gorgeous. Score one for me!
Older women have no problem telling a girl she’s pretty. The younger girls just look you up and down and give you a quick connection with the eyes as they walk pass you. Thus you know she likes your outfit.She just can’t say it.
Men do.They do just about anything for a pretty face. For instance, there is a bakery in my building. I cannot help it, I must eat dolce. When I arrive in the morning for my morning sugar rush, the owner has something for me -gratis (free). Why, because he thinks I am pretty. Even if he is not there , I still get a special treat.It is worth the weight gain.
I was waiting for a bus to go from the center of Rome to a place across the river Tevere, a bus that was not in service stop, for me. Usually a non-service bus drives past you with no remorse even on a rainy day. At first, I didn’t know what to think. He opened the door and asked where did I need to go? I told him and he took me. We had a nice conversation in my bad Italian. When I asked why he did this for me, because I am Bella. I had my own private bus; scratch that off the bucket list.
I am pretty chocolate. For kids I am fine with it. With men ..I keep my distance; this is the one biggest drawback to being pretty chocolate…every guy wants a piece (except my baker, thank God). So don’t be stupid and let the talk game fool you. In general, the men here act like a National Geographic program entitled “When Italian Males Hunt Foreign Girls” all that is missing is Morgan Freeman’s voice.
I understand why the guys here like foreign girls, they can be easier. It’s true. As well, Italian girls are no saints, they just have a totally different way of getting their freak on; which can be more complicated for Italian males to conquer so they catch a foreign girl in the meantime as the crack the Italian girl code. Until the love bug bites the shit out of me this chocolate knows the game and has manipulated the play-by-play.
I recently have had the privilege of going to a few end-of-the year dance recitals in Rome. I teach English and some of my students are children. The contrast between American kids and Italian kids is very visible and interesting. Kids in the states are made independent , people say “stop babying him” even though the kid is three years old. Here, children stay children for a very long time, in many cases into adulthood. Overall, Italian children are truly dependent on their teacher. In fact, Italian children will have the same teacher for the first five years of school, if they don’t move or change school. The teacher becomes family, the second mother not only to the kids but to the adults. Everyone is dependent. Another contrast, parents invite the teacher out for drinks and Facebook it and the teacher still has her job the next day!! I am talking to you USA; the land that doesn’t believe teachers are people too.
So, I have been to a few recitals and they are sweet and adorable as they always are. A friend that is an adult; has been taking dance lessons. He has been practicing for a few years now. In true Italian fashion he invited me a couple of hours before it started to the spettacolo. I do like the word spettacolo, it means show but it makes me think of some death-defying feat that I would see at the circus. I love this word!
As well, I really wanted to go home. It was über hot day for June and I had been out all morning doing a photo shoot for a friend that is leaving Rome for good after three years here. I was spent but decided to support his show. So I went home,changed and again went out into the heat waiting on the bus , on a Saturday, which is so annoying, I have a better chance winning the lottery than one of the three buses by my house arriving on the weekend. I have a great dislike for the buses on the weekend. They are suppose to run…… key word SUPPOSE to yet somehow they become ghost on the weekends.
The show was at Teatro Brancaccio on via Merulana. This area is really trendy and nice. It has some great bars and is really close to Vittorio Emmanule metro stop and somewhat close to Termini (main metro /train stop in Rome). The teatro is really nice and beautiful. You can get chips, soda, popcorn and espresso at the concession stand. There are a lot of stage performances here, Louis Armstrong and the Beatles have played in this fairly intimate theater.
The show was misleading with time. It stared at 4 pm and finished at 8:30 and claimed to be two hours and a half. The dance studio where my friend practices puts on a show displaying all ages. Beginning with the children’s performances that took two and a half hours plus an intermission. I want to say that children are very cute when they are learning choreographic dance moves. They are always looking to the right side curtain where there dance teacher is telling them the dance moves. Second , I was a bit lost on watching young girls from 5 to 16 perform at least 15 dance numbers doing the same two-step continuously. I saw people walk out. I began to wonder how much the parents pay for their child to be at this dance school.
To make this show more eyebrow raising-picture it: pre-teen girls in the typical unitard bodysuit dancing the two-step to Don’t cry for me Argentina performed by Madonna, Miracles by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey and wait for it Talk Dirty to Me with Jason Derulo and 2Chainz explicit version. They played 2Chainz part three times!! If you don’t know it, which I didn’t, you will now:
Dos Cadenas, close to genius
Sold out arenas, you can suck my penis
Gilbert Arenas, guns on deck
Chest to chest, tongue on neck
International oral sex
Every picture I take, I pose a threat
Bought a jet, what do you expect?
Her pussy’s so good I bought her a pet
Anyway, every day I’m trying to get to it
Got her saved in my phone under “Big Booty”
Anyway, every day I’m trying to get to it
Got her saved in my phone under “Big Booty”
Yep! this happened.
I was falling asleep when I heard “you can suck my penis”. I thought I was having a weird delusion but nope this was happening. To make in even more inappropriate. The instructor, who is a really beautiful, petite, blond lady with a six-pack abs; came on stage did a belly dance routine with a mature appeal while the girls tied the belly dancing hip wrap on and then proceeded to have the girls do a sexy dance , booty shake , sexy spin , with the pointed toe body dip. Not once but several times and then they turned their backs to the audience and did a booty dance , with a stripper pop-lock-drop. I was looking around to see if I was the only one seeing this. I saw some people looking lost and uncertain on how they should responded and other on their phone checking Facebook.
When they finally finished this number a few people applauded. I want to believe they had no idea what the lyrics were to this song that their little angels just stripper danced to it. I want to believe the dance instructor thought the rhythm was great and bypass knowing what the song was saying. I want to believe I was the only one who saw and heard it. Yet, during intermission I heard a few people at the concession stand questioning what they just saw.
After this big number the rest of the children’s show was quite mellow , they did another inappropriate dance for I’m a Good Girl from Burlesque, otherwise they stuck to normal kid stuff with a two-step. It was something I never expected. Compared to the other kids shows I have seen in Rome and in the States, I expected cute and adorable without awkward dance numbers.
I was extremely happy the kids portion was over. I don’t think I could have stayed for another Burlesque-kid performance. Finally the adult show happened. When my friend finally performanced; I was on my second macchiato to stay awake in four hours. They did the tango, a lot. It was nice. I realized I dislike choreographic dance. I will stick to nonsense dance moves. I have no patience to learn. My friend has been driving everyone crazy about his dance practice. He has been going twice a week for countless months. I am not sure what he did but we watched, we cheered and we congratulated after the show.
I grew up watching Cheers. I have always like the idea of having a bar that was similiar to home. Although, if home is like a bar that is still very questionable, possible troubling yet …it could be nice….. maybe. Back to the bar. I want a bar to call my own, the people know me, telepathically know my drink order and is a chill place. I am not a big drinker just have my own bar, where everybody knows my name and their always glad I came…most of the time at least. When I think like this I always rememeber when Norm steps into the bar and they all say “NORM”!! , that to me is kudos yet again troubling yet it rocks. In the States I frequent some bars and I was getting the Cheers feel. It was nice , just not frequent enough.
Now, I live in Roma, Garbatella to be exact. I have a bar! Bars here are not just for night life, but all times of the day life. In the morning, they have fresh cornettos , slightly warm and delicious. Here a cornetto is more than just a croissant looking pastry, but a variety of pastries filled with all kinds of surprise yummy goodness or without; sprinkled with cocoa, glazed or not. They have variety, I have big eyes so I have tried just about everything. Note: there is also Cornetto the ice cream, very popular on-the-go treat about a one euro and fifty. My bar is lovely. I walk in they know my morning drink ; caffè macchiato. It is ready by the time I reach the counter. I am then greeted with a smile and chocolates by my lovely bald headed bartender ,who wants to date me. By midday the cornettos disappear and are replaced with cold and colorful gelati and little pastries. They also serve simple and tasty lunchtime choices. Then to end the day its a free for all of choices including aperitivo. I like my bar they know my name, they know my drinks, they are always happy to see me despite my horrible Italian.
When people ask me about appetizers in the states , I say peanuts and hot wings on a good day, but a full on meal is reserved for all you can eat buffets. They find interesting that a bar in the States is not like here. The bar is the foundation of every neighborhood here. practically every corner has a bar. The bar is natural. It took my family a bit to understand when I said I was at the bar , I wasn’t just drinking myself into a stupor. My mom was getting nerve, now she has eased up on the idea of me always being in a bar. ( Love you MOM) !!
I must say America is slacking when it comes to aperitivo; appertizers. In many different bars, you pay maybe 9-12 euros ( 12-15 USA) depending on the zone( area) and it’s an amazing feast of food from 7-9pm, all you have to do is buy a drink. The food choices also depend on the type of bar. For instance, some bars only serve bruschetta ( bru-sKe- ta), Americans we say it wrong ( bru-She-ta) with tomatoes, olives, and chips. While others give you mini sandwiches, olives, brushcetta with different topping, fresh meats, cheese and fruit. And the ultiimate places to do aperitivo serve you dinner. At Caffe Letteriario they cook you a full on meal, you name it , it is there and it’s all you can eat plus desert and all the others foods I listed. It ‘s a great way to eat on a budget or when you want to eat a massive mix of foods without going home to cook after a long day. They place nice music and the place has a mellow atmosphere to it. Caffe Letterario is located in Ostiense, which a trendy area with out-the-box street art, contemporary style and lively night life.
Naurally, you will be in the center where all the sites are. There are a places that are good to have a meal on a budget without forgoing the European feeling. Now people say that places in the center are expensive. They are. When you walk in at random times that are not lunch or dinner , they charge you big. The key to eating is to go in during the lunch time or dinner time so that you can get the affordable rate. Tourist forget that by being in the center everything cost more and is outrageous. Restaurants and bars charge crazy prices because they know tourist don’t know about the lunch , dinner buffet. So, if you go in before 1pm and order a cappuccino it will cost you close to 5 euros, it’s business not personal. However, if you went during the lunch time special the same cappuccino comes with an endless meal.
Bulldog Inn, it’s English friendly and pub style. A hot spot to watch sports. They have an amazing variety of choices for lunch and dinner. At lunch you pay 9 euros all you can eat and the drink is extra , evening time the drink is included in the price.
Another place that is worth visiting is La. Vi Latteria & Vino off via del Corso , it have a hip, posh atmosphere yet it is very laid back place in the heart of the city. They serve a very nice buffet style lunch that is affordable, otherwise it can be expensive. Another place to eat in the center is near the Spanish Steps, is Il Pastificio on via del Croce. this place is far from fancy -it’s simple and clean. No chairs no fancy anything, in fact it’s plastic plates and cups , eat on a shelf enjoying amazing pasta for 4 euros including house vino (upon request ) and water. This place gives you a hearty helping of pasta that at a fancy restaurant would cost maybe 10-16 euros. Pastifico usually has a long line between 1-3 pm because this where many Romans go on their lunch break. I have been told they do this also around 5-7 but I haven’t tried in the evening, so I cannot verify. To make life easier at Pastifico bring exact change.
There you have it. Some tips on place to go when in Rome and you are hungry. If you want to do the Bella Notte moment from Lady and the Tramp, don’t act a fool when the conto(bill) arrives and you feel that’s it’s too much, pay it and take a stroll, look into your lovers eyes and if no lover eat a gelato.
I am scared. I wanted to be somewhere far away from my familiar and yet all I crave is my familiar-my crutch of safety. I am scared half the time because although, I have made new friends and am having a great time; I am lonely. I am a scared introvert half the time. I am in Italy, Rome to be exact the Eternal City of Love. It is a nice city from a touristic view, full of OO’oos and AAAaaa’s yet working here is a totally different story.
I wanted to try something different since I didn’t do anything stupid enough as a youngster, I decided to leave my miserably cushy job of constant work, no free time and lack of social life for teaching English in Rome. This life so far is full of social time, countless free time, uncushy work schedule with espresso in three hour intervals and little work ethics. I never thought I would join the bandwagon of countless expats, but it’s true ..Italy is straight confusion. Sorry Italy, maybe it’s because I am a new arrival still on a US schedule but there are some things that just baffle me.
I have learned so much about the system here I am surprise Italians are still living here. This country is a treasure of archeological finds, sweet people with a naïve nature at times yet they are stuck in a cycle that is not good. I will say I respect their values always placing family and socializing first. This is the main reason I am here.. I am getting drawn in at the same time I pull out. I am not sure what to make of it. It’s a corky place with many wonderful things , yet so confusing.
So I ask you…..Why does the bank close at one for lunch and open at 3:30-4pm only to close at five?? Why does the Metropolitana go on strike between the hours of noon-4 & 8-midnight on Wednesdays and Fridays. Why does the bus driver drive the bus like a race car seeing a bunch of people waiting at a stop and still pass by only to stop in the middle of traffic so passengers can board? Why after a person turns 25 years old they cannot really find work because companies won’t hire them since they will have to start paying tax for their pension plan? Why do cleaning crews clean the city at night when they cannot see the garbage thus it looks the same the next day? Why is it that Italians know English grammar rules way better than English speakers yet they cannot speak in English? I can keep going.
The answer to all these questions..” E ‘solo cosi ”… It’s just so.
So, I am here for a few months of my life. A new adventure in a new world. I needed to try something outside of my comfort zone and this is it. I believe my thought will change the more normal these things become to me and soon I too will say ” E ‘solo cosi” about everything here and abroad.
So torturous ..the agony of being able to walk in peace on a beautiful day.
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