My surprise trip to Rome at 5am

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My visit to Rome was guided by a native Italian, my boyfriend, who had been to Rome many times before and knew that I had always wanted to see it ever since I told him I had reoccurring dreams of being in front of the Colosseum. One morning while I was visiting him in Torino, he rushed me on a train at 5 am and didn’t tell me where I was going. A few hours in he looked at me and said “Don’t you want to know where we are going? We are going to Rome.” My mind nor my imagination had nearly been prepared for what I would do if I went to Rome.I stared out the window grasping on to the idea. He had everything prepared for us. All I needed to do was get ready to walk and be mesmerized.

I had been familiar with the architecture in Italy already, but arriving in city limits, I hoped to catch a glimpse of any ancient ruins visible that would tell me I was there. As I stepped onto the streets, It felt like a lucid dream. I looked everywhere for the images I had seen in pictures, books and movies, but still, there was nothing familiar in sight.

Italians are very creative with parking spaces I know this, but the first thing I noticed in Rome was to them parking was a masterful skill in the creative art department. I saw cars parked in crosswalks, sidewalks and in intersections.Walking into Piazza del Popolo we would notice the people saying “Bella Ma!” or “Bella Zi!”  and use endearing terms such as “Caro” often instead of the regular “Ciao Bella!” we were used to hearing in the North. My boyfriend would nudge me and say, “Do you hear the Roman accent?”.

I had expected everyone we passed by to have a look of wonderment on their face like I did.  Of course, people were carrying on with their usual business just like they do in San Francisco, I admit that it surprised me still. As we began walking through the stone streets of Via Del Corso, I was surprised at how many beautiful and ancient dwellings along the street were stuffed with Armani and Burberry shops. The street performance artists in front were much more peculiar than those I had seen in LA or New York.  I had dreamed of a naked Rome, free of modern commercialism, but still, the street artists were quite amusing. We strolled at our own pace through the sprinkling rain to the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, and the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi. A kiss was made under our umbrellas at every corner. I had seen so many things already and still nothing yet. I caught myself looking around wherever we went to see if I could catch a glimpse of the Colosseum. I didn’t realize that Rome is far more vast than I prepared for and there was no way I would see the Colosseum unless I took a subway ride. 

On the next day the most unexpected view awaited me as I climbed the stairs to daylight out of the conventional looking subway tunnel. The Colosseum, low and behold, was just as I had pictured it. Massive in its white and silver outlines, it’s dark eye sockets peered around  in front of a dismal sky. Many people were standing in line just in front, waiting to get in and sharing the view with their friends and family with the aid of their selfie sticks. Everywhere brown men were waving them in the air for a quick sale. Hour after hour after strolling through Ancient Rome, sitting on the stairs built by Michelangelo, I used my imagination to picture what was going on where I stood during the days of Augustus. By this time, I had toured my way to exhaustion and was almost too heavy to take a peek into the Colosseum. I thought about some Gelato and a nap back at our apartment but Matteo wouldn’t let me miss out. I settled for a nap in the Colosseum on some worn steps overlooking the center of the stadium. Instantly I dreamed. I deemed it the most peculiar nap I have ever taken.IMG_2722

The sight of graffiti and tiny pieces of trash strewn about in places along here and there in some of these sacred spots reminded me that the eternal city that resides in todays time, also suffers the difficulties of today’s time. It is still a city very much alive that will be alive for the passing of many generations, withstanding momentous periods in world history to come.

 

At last we arrived at the Vatican. Here I began to humble myself with what I had known about the world of sculpture and renaissance art.  I touched and passed by many of the most famous works in the world from Van Gogh and Raphael, to Michelangelo and Salvador Dali.  I felt as though it would have taken me at least 3 days to know the Vatican properly. I found myself filtering through pieces and giving glance overs to some of the most ancient and beautiful paintings  I had the privilege of seeing in real life. I had reached my peak of art viewing in the Sistine Chapel, where I was grudgingly disheartened at the people who were taking pictures even though it was forbidden. I was a little tired and hungry at this point so I was less patient with the public world around me. When I reached St. Peters Basilica, the larger than life atmosphere made me forget my petty concern for human behavior. Our size was reduced to field mice in a mansion. I walked through the papal tombs in silence and wonder, under the massive dome in presence of Bernini and Michelangelo. My eyes attempted to burn to memory every last detail offered, accompanied by an eldritch atmosphere of historical figures that used to occupy these spaces. Half of the day had passed, and I sighed in relief as I discovered outside under the Columns, a line of eager humans at least a quarter of a mile long waiting for their turn to have the same magical experience. The trick was to get tickets in advance, I thought.

Leaving the Vatican, the attempt to go into another church seemed meager and unsatisfying. The only thing I needed now was food buon pranzo and my love sitting across from me. Without going further into food, that is how I remember my Rome.

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The Deadliest Parade in San Francisco

A part of what makes the historical Mission District of San Francisco is the rich culture, art and celebrations. The Day of the Dead brings a deeper meaning with it, along with beautiful costumes and handsomly morbid face paintings to roam the streets at night. The Day of the Dead is to remember those who are no longer here.Originating in Mexico, it is celebrated all around the world in most Catholic families. Such things as parades, visiting grave sites, creating alters and lighting candles are also ways El Dia De Los Muertos is celebrated. In San Francisco, and other places like L.A., it can be a large spectacle that residents and tourists come to see regardless of beliefs. For more information on the Day of the Dead go here.

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The dead

The painted

The haunted

Loved

Lost

Forgotten

Souls perched up on rooftops and window seals bellowing their lust for remembrance upon death

For those who forgot to live

For those who live a lie

Sickened by the living world which feeds them leftovers of life

Soak every inch of cloth and hair in paint and radiate the screams of which you hold within

Starve on life and only consume the richest of it, the most precious, so that every last taste is a golden memory

– Inspired on November 2nd, 2015 Mission and Bryant SF, CA

This is not Holloween. A part of what people love about the historical Mission District of San Francisco is the rich culture, art and celebrations. Pictured above, The Day of The Dead is one of them. El Dia De Los Muertos brings a deeper meaning with it than just beautiful costumes and handsomely morbid face paintings. The Day of the Dead is to remember those who are no longer here in ones family. People will dress up and display a picture and/or candles to parade through the streets during the evening. Originating in Mexico, such things as  visiting grave sites, creating alters for the lost ones, and lighting candles are also ways El Dia De Los Muertos is celebrated. In San Francisco, and other places like L.A., it can be a large spectacle that residents and tourists come to see regardless of beliefs. For more information on the Day of The Dead visit here

The California Bear has a name, it’s Monarch

http://www.monarchbear.org/monarch/
Monarch’s image is the image adopted by the California State Flag in 1911.

After the Spanish settlers came to San Francisco in the 1800’s,  they essentially wiped out most of the wild and more exotic animal population including the Grizzly Bear from the Bay Area. One of the ways humans managed to achieve this was by fighting Grizzly bears with wild pigs for entertainment.  William Hearst, who is the founder of the San Francisco Examiner, wanted to bring the Grizzly bear back to San Francisco for a publicity stunt, so he hired one of his Journalists to scout for one. The Journalist ended up with a successful catch in Northern California after months of searching. Hurst initially asked Golden Gate Park if they would be willing to house this massive bear, unsurprisingly they refused. Hurst ended up finding a home for it in a place called Woodward Gardens, a small park and petting zoo off of 14th and Mission Street in San Francisco. Some people may know this area today as The Armory. The bear was proudly named Monarch by the organization who housed it. Monarch went on display and spectators came to marvel at him for a small fare. Monarch eventually became so popular amongst the crowds that Golden Gate Park ended up receiving him after all. There, officials introduced a female bear and they created a family together of three cubs. In 1911 Monarch died. His image became the model in the new state flag that would be adopted that same year.  Monarch is now stuffed and on display at the California Academy of Sciences where spectators used to be able to walk by and rub his nose for good luck. Now, he is on display in a glass case to protect his nose and keep him intact from the ongoing spectators. The last Grizzly Bear in California was seen in 1929 in the Sierras. For more information on Monarch the Bear, visit http://www.monarchbear.org/monarch/.

A San Francisco Wordsearch

Get a visual of one of San Francisco's oldest most controversial neighborhoods. The Mission was the first place of settlement in the Discovery of San Francisco. Here, the Mission Dolores was built by Father Junípero Serra of the Catholic church. Junípero Serra, with much controversy later, attempted to convert the Native American Ohlone to Christianity. During this time many natives were killed and died due to the stresses of the change. Today, some people might compare the tech boom to one that is repeating history in pushing out the natives to make the mission a place for the people of money and status to reside, as the city gets more popular and crowded and the tech industry becomes the main source of employment for San Franciscans.
One of San Francisco’s oldest most controversial neighborhoods, the Mission was the first place of settlement in the discovery of San Francisco. Here, the Mission Dolores was built by Father Junípero Serra of the Catholic church. Junípero Serra, with much controversy later, attempted to convert the Native American Ohlone to Christianity. During this time many natives were killed and died due to the stresses of the change. Today, some people might compare the tech boom to one that is repeating history in pushing out the natives to make the mission a place for the people of money and status to reside, as the city gets more popular and crowded and the tech industry becomes the main source of employment for San Franciscans.

The Happiness that is Costa Rica

Pura Vida or Pure life is a saying that I had hardly heard of before I began considering traveling to Costa Rica to see what the surfing was like. I was looking for a great place to surf with warm water that hopefully wasn’t a tourist trap. Costa Rica has some of the most outstanding surf spots in the world along with the most diverse ecosystem in the western hemisphere. Monkeys, crocodiles, scorpions, parrots, dogs and dolphins all live here.

I traveled to Costa Rica alone for my birthday in order to escape the city life and to surf. I did not know anyone else who had been there, and my family thought it could be dangerous to travel to Central America alone but this was something I needed to do. It is one of the things I think all women need to do once in their lives, travel alone. Dominical, the place I chose, is a small dirt road village of about 200 people. Home of the Costa Rican national surf competitions. Many surfers around the world frequent here as well as the music and yoga culture to make the beach a dance floor during the Envision festival.

My first experience as I got off the plane was being greeted by my driver, a laid-back bleach blonde Costa Rican native, let’s call him Toad. He greeted me to a van that made me a little weary at first, but I decided to trust in the Universe… and the girl on the phone at the hotel who sent him. By one hour in the drive we were both singing Red Hot Chilli Peppers songs cruising down the highway and he asked me to move to Costa Rica to be in his band. I wasn’t going to do that but a lot of girls did move to Costa Rica after the first time they visited. I soon found this out. After all of the singing in the car I made it safely to Dominical and Toad was alright in my book.

I experience so much here that enriched me. I had an iguana who hung out on my front porch. I came home to a group of crabs dancing outside my door. I had a scorpion crawl above my table at lunch. We caught our own fish, swam in crocodile infested rivers and surfed amazing waves.

The locals never really went inside their homes unless it was to sleep, there was really no need to. All of the restaurants were outdoors and the sunsets were the most beautiful I had ever seen, the water was water was a constant 82 degrees.

Here live the happiest dogs in the world. The dogs here do not have owners, but rather the community takes care of them the same. Leaving food out in different places and letting them sleep, well, wherever.

Blankets and hand woven tropical articles of clothing hang from lines connected to palm trees in a maze to give tourists something to spend their money on.

There are many places in the world where we could go and realize that people are so much happier than us with so much less. Most unnecessarily, we go against the grain, stress ourselves out and destroy our bodies to achieve what we think success might be. We end up with bodies that we don’t feel good about, poor health, in a nice car and a big house to show everyone.We are told that this is the definition of successful. We know deep down inside what we love, but we are scared of doing it. Many times we are afraid of going after our calling because it seems unconventional, or it might make less money. That takes away our sense of self and our unique identity?

We can easily fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others, which unfortunately is easy to do now with social media. We compare ourselves with our friends and colleagues’ personal marketing campaigns for their identities.  It resembles a secret competition to check in with each other and see where normal people are supposed to be in life. The humor is, others are going through the same struggle.

What I have learned from those people who live in Costa Rica, who don’t have big houses and give surfing lessons for a living, live in small cottages and have no masters degree is that they are happier than most people I have met with access to all of those things because they have friends that they see every day, they get exercise and they eat good food. Let us not forget that they have dogs running around everywhere. They are surrounded with an appreciation for natures forces and embrace all other people who come from around the world that want to spend time with them. There was no exclusion in this community. These are the things that matter. This is why I beleive that Costa Ricans are so happy.