Monday, December 27, 2010

Merry Christmas (or) Roman Holiday Part Two

Remember that time we went to Italy?

Our visit to Rome, in an unexpected way, helped us to put Fez into perspective. Ever corner you turn seems to hide some millennia-old treasure, just as it does here. And the fact that most Roman ruins predate their Fessi counterparts makes it all the more impressive. Being able to wander around and see the inner constructions of these early wonders of human invention put our own walled city into its proper relief, shaking us from our (often imprecise) assumptions. Walking these streets in the days leading up to and immediately following Christmas proved incredibly striking...

I'm only choosing a handful of photos here to attempt and represent the indescribable experience of touring Rome. Our time there, for the first time in a while, was spent as true "tourists" - speaking Italian straight from the phrase book, bumping into people because we were feverishly reading our Rick Steves' guidebook, all those things that people do with the express concern of pissing us off here in Fez. We saw the sights, got ourselves lost, missed busses, and stumbled into some of the most outstanding (and understated) restaurants imaginable. In so many ways, the time we passed in Rome was just perfect.

Then we went to Florence and Tuscany...

Check it out - we're in Agustus' house. Yeah, that guy who called everyone to head back home for a census. You may know the story.

The view of the Roman Forum and the Colosseum from the hill. This was what the Emperor saw when he peeked out the window. PS: Got to stand on a rock in the ground where the throne was, where history was decided.

This is what remains of Constantine's Basilica. (The Christians snagged their method of construction from these older justice halls, which then lent their name to the large churches.) If you look really, really closely, you may be able to see Annie standing tall under the arches.

Baby it's cold outside.

Behind the Pantheon.

We snuck into the Colleseum right before we had to leave for Florence. Quaint.

"Do you think that I'm allowed to touch it?"

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas (or) Roman Holiday Part One (More Photos)

Taking a much needed break with one of Italy's real treats, literal hot chocolate (what seemed to be melted chocolate in a cup)!

Even Santa went to the "Blessing of the World" after a long night of work.

It's a good thing we ended up in the front row. I can only imagine the sea of umbrellas behind us (and the need for some safety goggles if walking around back there).

In case you missed it, Papa says "Merry Christmas" (in Italian, English, Japanese, Spanish, Esperanto...)

Merry Christmas from the Trevi Fountain! (And yes, we threw our three coins in the fountain, so we should be headed back soon.)

Merry Christmas (or) Roman Holiday Part One

St. Peter's and a Christmas tree donated by Indonesia... Unexpected, eh?
We made it, and we made it back. Upon looking through the photos from our Christmas/Anniversary/Birthday/New Years excursion to Italy, I am stunned by the sheer mass of things we saw and did (and forgot about!).

This was one of my favorite statues that we saw in the vast Vatican Museum. The priest (center) is being held back by the gods because he is trying to warn the Trojans that letting the horse in is a bad idea... and therefore divert the fate set for the city. This is his punishment and his pain.
The internet here in Fez has been spotty, which I'm sure has absolutely nothing to do with the noisy construction that we returned home to. Workers are tearing out the road and replacing gigantic pipes in the street (2-foot-wide alley) behind us. At the same time, I've been seeing folks in blue lab jackets on ladders playing with power lines and, presumably, phone cables. Thus, these posts will be short. Consider it an effort to get something up before we have a communications blackout once again. (Today we had to climb over a pile of mud and rocks to get out of our house! But by the time we got back, the world was flat once again.) (PS: I don't think that was a pun about Galileo, whose museum we visited, but perhaps I should pretend that it was.)

After so many rooms and so many works of art, the world gets a bit dizzy.
Returning to Rome... I'm struck by the number of photos and stories we have of the Vatican. We made it back there more times than I had expected. My parents had told me that they went every day, and I was surprised. But we had more than enough reason to make the subway pilgrimage over and over again. This is partly due, of course, to our impeccable timing. And our absurdly inefficient efforts to see the vastness of what it has to offer. And Annie's last desire to get a rosary bracelet. I'm going to include mostly pictures here, simply implying the stories behind them. If you want to hear more, 'cause you're that kind of listener, you'll have to ask. Otherwise I'll get bogged down in the not-so-interesting details... (Like our Vatican Museum tour guide, who spent a half-hour in front of a TV screen talking about what we would see instead of showing us what was there!) So, here are some photos, and I'll try and post soon in an effort to embellish the rest of Rome.

Merry very belated Christmas to you all!

Michelangelo's Pieta at St. Peter's.
St. Peter at St. Peter's. After the museum, we took a short cut into the church. It was late, dark, and an impressive mix of massive and intimate. This was our first visit, we returned two or three more times after (and never had to wait in the long line!).

Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy New Year!

So I decided that this deserves a blog post.

Annie and I are sitting in our living room at 8:42pm waiting to find out if we have classes tomorrow. If so, we have to get up to get to school by 8am, and I probably won't have my homework finished. But if we don't, we sit and relax for a day.

See, tomorrow is "ras al-'am" or "ras as-sina." The head of the year, or the Islamic New Year. We should be singing "Auld Lang Syne," but instead I need to find out if I have to write a dialogue in Moroccan Arabic about going to the doctor for my early morning classes. I feel so not-festive. Earlier I told someone that we might come visit tomorrow since it's the New Year and we may not have classes. He thought I was crazy, and told me "It's only December 6th." "Hijra!" "Oh yeah, that's right." With a potential day off of work, you'd think people would be more interested!

So the change of the Islamic month depends on the moon (it's a lunar calendar). You can't tell when a new month begins until you have a sighting late at night. If you have a TV, you find out quickly, but if you don't (like us), you have to go around asking people whether or not it's the new year.

Our Advent wreath, burning bright
Keeping with the holiday season, we started an Advent wreath. The only candles that we could find on short notice, however, were from near the Moulay Idriss mosque. Shopkeepers line the neighboring streets selling these candles (and much bigger ones), all varieties of incense, prayer beads, rosewater, scented oils, and items from the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). All of these things are for specific uses during ceremonies and rituals, so we figured that we were alright using them for a wreath. Eh? You make do. Purple candles aren't very popular for some reason or another.

Turkey dinner!
Thanksgiving was a treat as well! Thursday afternoon we found ourselves turkey paninis. With great french fries. Yes, nothing says American Thanksgiving like a turkey panini and french fries. The next evening, though, we were invited to a Thanksgiving party that included a roasted turkey (brought live from Marrakech) and PB&J sandwiches.

PS: Just got a call from a friend, it's New Years! Happy New Year everyone!