Twenty Before Twenty-One

We celebrated New Years’ over three months ago, you say. Better late than never, I say.

Normally, I hold off on “New Years’ Resolutions” until my birthday, in late January, anyway. And they aren’t actually resolutions…I like to think of them as missions. And the number of missions I attempt is determined by the age I am turning.

I finally brainstormed up twenty whole things during one of my many train rides over spring break, so here they are:

  1. Try gelato: so far, my favorite flavor is melone. Other recommendations: pistachio & ricotta,
  2. See St. Peter’s with my glasses on
  3. “Learn” one piece of classical music a week. As in, be able to identify the piece when I hear it
  4. Learn a piece on the piano
  5. Run in a race: during the class trip to Greece, I participated in a footrace in the original Olympic Stadium.
  6. Climb a mountain: climbed the Mt. Parnassus in Delphi.
  7. Write a letter to my future self (post-Rome)
  8. Go to the Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis
  9. Make Dean’s List
  10. Play the lick from Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” on the sax
  11. Read 30 books
  12. Write up college advice for my sister
  13. Go to 10 performances: So far, I’ve been to Aida at the Staatsoper in Vienna, Lang Lang at the Koln Philharmonic
  14. Watch 5 new films from the AFI’s Top 100 list: possibilities include Gone with the Wind, Schindler’s List, Bridge on the River Kwai, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Maltese Falcon, North by Northwest, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, or The Philadelphia Story.
  15. Figure out Fun.’s “Some Nights” on the harmonica
  16. Go stargazing
  17. The Research Project: pick a random topic to read about each month. Possibilities: cartography, astrobiology, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pixar, operas, saxophonists, Cardinals baseball history, music theory, hair dye color theory, geology, eyes, John Steinbeck, epigenetics…
  18. Post every Sunday (at least)
  19. Punt a pigeon: kicking a pigeon is good luck in Italy!
  20. Not lose my glasses

Here’s hoping I’ll be posting again very, very soon.

Update

March has been the most jam-packed whirlwind of a month in the history of…well, my life at least, but I think it’s in the running for the history of the world category as well. I have spent the night in 11 different cities in the month of March, in 4 countries, as well as a night on a train, and two nights on a ferry.

March 1 through 10 I traveled through Greece with my class, hitting up Olympia, Nafplion, Athens, Mycenae, Delphi, Epidauros, Thessaloniki, and Meteora.

March 11 through 14 I attempted to pay attention in class, but actually was thinking about Greece, the papal elections, and Ten-Day/Spring Break. Yes, I was in St. Peter’s Square when the white smoke went up. Yes, it wins the coolest moment of my life award.

March 14 I took an overnight train to Munich, and I’ve been traveling through Austria and Germany by train ever since, visiting Salzburg, Vienna, Munich, Cologne, and Berlin.

I can’t wait to sit down and go through all my notes from the past 22 days, and start writing again. I’ve climbed a lot of mountains, literally and figuratively. Get ready for this.

Ash Wednesday with Benedict XVI

The announcement of Benedict XVI’s resignation from the papacy came right after class on Monday, and the following wait in the lunch line was about as loud as I’ve heard it here. To be in Rome for this historic occasion!

On Ash Wednesday, as the Pope prepared to celebrate his final public mass, many of my classmates and I staked out a spot near the beginning of the line at St. Peter’s, studying for the looming Western Civilization test. Two hours after we joined the line, security was opened up at 15:30, and we scrambled to keep up with the wave of people. The other Maria claims her feet weren’t on the ground for parts of the rush into the gates. I believe her.

Sitting on the right side of the altar, in the middle of the pack, I flipped through the mass booklet, took a nap, and when the lights in St. Peter’s were turned on, gazed at the lit up basilica. (Usually, there is minimal lighting in the church.)

The entrance procession began a little after 17:00. I spotted Cardinal Burke, the last archbishop of St. Louis, and then the Pope came into sight, standing on a moving platform. The last time I’d seen the Benedict XVI was when he visited the U.S. in 2008, at the youth rally in Yonkers, NY, and the decline in his health was apparent, but his voice throughout the celebration of the Mass remained strong.

Right before the end of Mass, Cardinal Bertone, the Pope’s right hand man, addressed the Pope. Despite the speech’s Italian delivery, he was clearly thanking the Pope for all he had done in the past 8 years of his pontificate. At the conclusion, we gave Benedict a standing ovation that seemed to go on forever. With all 10,000 occupants applauding, it sounded as though rain were falling inside. It was all very poetic.

After stepping through the Porta Sancta, the great doors that create the middle entrance into St. Peter’s (usually only opened during a Jubilee Year), I managed not to get trampled for a second time, and made the mad dash back to campus for dinner.

I apologize profusely for the lack of photographs…I forgot to bring my camera in the excitement of the day.

Happy Stupid Birthday to Me

I had big plans: my birthday was the first Friday in Rome, and there was no class and no other orientation obligations of any sort. So what if an 8am class was scheduled for Saturday? My grand plan looked something like this: go into Rome for a morning run with one of my guy friends (who’s a part of the running club back at school), freshen up back at campus, then head out to take Rome by storm.

Remember what I said about flexibility…first, a scavenger hunt was reschedule to Friday afternoon because of weather. I quote myself: “I’m not doing some stupid scavenger hunt on my stupid birthday.” Then, class was rescheduled to Friday morning.

Okay, cool. Guess I’ll just go into Rome, convince people to hang out with me instead of scavenging, and stay in the city later. Nope. The Roman transportation workers go on strike every once in a while, just to remind everyone what would happen if they aren’t paid or whatever. And they decided Friday, January 25, was the day to do just that.

So, great. At least school was providing transportation in and out of the city for the scavenger hunt. My team was easily persuaded to go off and not scavenge; I tried gelato and saw St. Peter’s with my glasses. I did the whole look at the ground until you get to the middle, which was fantastic. St. Peter’s in detail. For my birthday. What.

St. Peter's: Please note the glasses.

St. Peter’s: Please note the glasses.

We explored some more churches along Corso Vittorio Emanuele, including Santa Maria in Vallicella, Sant’ Andrea della Valle, and Il Gesu.

Barocci's The Visitation. My art history professor is cited on the Wikipedia page for Barocci, and I saw her exhibit on the altar piece painter at the St. Louis Art Museum over winter break, where my Barocci obsession was ignited.

Barocci’s The Visitation. My art history professor is cited on the Wikipedia page for Barocci, and I saw her exhibit on the altar piece painter at the St. Louis Art Museum over winter break, where my Barocci obsession was ignited.

Basilica di Sant' Andrea delle Valle has my favorite altar pieces so far, depicting the martyrdom of the apostle Andrew. He's being crucified on the left, his death is the center, and on the right he is being taken down. Expect to see a lot of altar pieces here...it just blows my mind how someone can paint something in a space so big.

Basilica di Sant’ Andrea delle Valle has my favorite altar pieces so far, depicting the martyrdom of the apostle Andrew. He’s being crucified on the left, his death is the center, and on the right he is being taken down. Expect to see a lot of altar pieces here…it just blows my mind how someone can paint something in a space so big.

A beautiful image of our Lady I found in Sant' Andrea della Valle, called "Madonna della Purità." It's a copy of another painting that can be found in Naples.

A beautiful image of our Lady I found in Sant’ Andrea della Valle, called “Madonna della Purità.” It’s a copy of another painting that can be found in Naples.

The ceiling of Il Gesu is so detailed they have a mirror so you can study it better. It was pretty dark, so I'm planning on coming back during the day.

The ceiling of Il Gesu is so detailed they have a mirror so you can study it better. It was pretty dark, so I’m planning on coming back during the day.

I did get to go on the first run of the semester, too, early in the morning before class. The run up the hill was awful. My stomach was complaining (probably all the celebratory brie cheese from the night before), and the road was not built for pedestrians: no shoulder, no sidewalk, and uneven ground. It ended up being more of a walk. On the way back down, though, the sun streamed over our shoulders, lighting up the valley below. The running felt like flying instead.

I love how much light matters. I’ve seen the Colosseum and St. Peter’s by both day and night, and that got me thinking about how other sights change depending on the lighting. I can’t wait to start studying paintings in art history, how the masters play with light, and to see Il Gesu by day,  and the Trevi Fountain by night.

I ended the day with an Italian beer, sitting in the lounge of the dorm. It was a little stupid, but mostly good. Most things are, I guess. The day, not the beer. The beer was all good.