Jan. 10 – Sunday with Sooba and lasagna. Today was my first Sunday in Rome and the last free day before class begins tomorrow. My friend Jamin found an English speaking British Methodist church so I went with him to the service at 10:30. He went on earlier for breakfast so I walked there myself and met him there. It was not a very far walk, maybe 20 minutes. The church, Ponte Sant’Angelo Methodist Church, is located by the river (opposite side from the apartment) just across from the Vatican. I met Jamin nearby and we went in a little early. To my surprise the church was very small – the entire sanctuary perhaps 50 by 50 feet. We were invited to practice today’s hymns with other members congregated around the organist, a Methodist minister from New York who is now studying music in Rome. Eventually a crowd of about 35-40 people filled the church. We were not the only visitors today – an older British couple was there (they have an apartment in Rome so they come visit a number of times each year), and a woman from South Carolina planning to eventually bring some students here.
Following the service was coffee and fellowship upstairs. I talked briefly to the organist from New York and the British couple. A short man named Sooba, originally from Myanmar (Burma) kept talking to me, but initially it was difficult to understand each other. He came to Italy a few years ago after not being able to get a visa to the US, and works at a restaurant and a bar. He offered to show us around the city. I was reluctant to accept, intending to return to the apartment to meet back up with others, but figured I would not want to miss out on this experience. Indeed it was.
Neither of us were certain exactly where or how long he was planning to show us around. We first took a bus (route 64) from near the church to Termini Station. I had not used transit here yet, so I suppose it was a nice way of getting familiar. Sooba had a month pass, but we needed to purchase a ticket first. In Rome all modes of transit (bus, tram, metro) use the same ticket that must be pre purchased and validated once on board. He seemed to think you could buy a ticket on the bus. We didn’t think so, but we went along. Of course it ended up you couldn’t. An older Italian man was talking to Sooba and offered us a single ticket he had spare, so only one for us. Luckily we arrived at Termini without encountering any ticket inspectors.
When we got to Termini I figured we were going to connect to the metro to go elsewhere in the city, but instead walked a number of blocks nearby to a small Chinese area (as much as there is in Rome anyway), centered around Piazza Vittorio Emanuelle II, a large, lush piazza surrounded by arcade facades and all sides. We spent probably a half hour or more in this area, Sooba in search of fish paste. We stopped in a tabacchi (tobacco / convenience shop) so we could purchase transit tickets and Sooba got a small coffee.
We then took the tram line 5 far east along Via Prenestina to Sooba’s apartment. He told us his generous boss gave him a bottle of champagne, but he could not drink it himself because he lives alone. He went to get it as we waited on the corner near his building. Out this far the city was much newer but still quite dense. The two of us were hungary so we picked up pizza as we all walked back to the tram. Then returned to Piazza Vittorio Emanuelle II to eat and share Sooba’s bottle of champagne. Only in Rome.
At this point it was getting pretty cold and cloudy again so it was quite uncomfortable. Sooba wanted to have Chinese food for dinner but we told him we needed to return to the apartment. It took a very long time to finally get back though. From the piazza we took Metro line A to Flamino (from far east of our apartment to a good distance north of) and then further north to Piazza Mancini. There we crossed the street and went into a phone center (we past a few of these that he pointed out – basically several phone booths for making international calls). He told us to wait for him to call his mother… At this point we were both getting a little frustrated. The phone did not seem to work for him so we finally got on another tram line (19) back south and across the river to just north of Piazza San Pietro (St. Peters / Vatican). Once we walked into the piazza we ensured Sooba we could find our way from there and finally went along on separate ways. Neither of us had been to St. Peters yet, both we were both pretty exhausted at this point so walked along the Tiber back to Trastevere (quarter that our apartment is located).
It was an interesting afternoon with Sooba. (See a rough map of our journey here.) He seems to be expecting us to hang out every Sunday afternoon now. I wouldn’t mind occasionally, but certainly not the long, seemingly random time we had today. At least next week we will have homework as an excuse.
For dinner I made lasagna for myself and four other friends. I had planned to last night but came home to discover we had no baking pans. My friends picked up an aluminum pan so we were good to go. With mozzarella, ricotta cheese, and prosciutto, it turned out very well. At first I was apprehensive to cooking and admittedly never been my favorite thing to do. But I was pleased with how it came out and my friends seemed to enjoy it as well.
I apologize for this rant of a post. My hope is to keep this less of a travel-blog and more of an observation, but I found today’s adventure worthy of sharing. Tomorrow class begins at 9:30am in our studio just across the river at Piazza delle Cinque Scole. Also today I uploaded some photos of the apartment here. Ciao.