L&R 2014 – Reflecting on London & Rome

Part of my study abroad trip to London and Rome in September was a series of blog posts about the things we saw and did while on the trip. This is the last post, a reflection about the trip and my experiences.

It is hard to look back at the trip as, despite it being a couple of weeks now since returning, I don’t quite feel like I have made it back home yet. I still wake up before the sun is up, lay in bed a while and listen for church bells, for the sound of a city waking around me, before I remember that I am back home again in Milwaukie and the only sounds I’ll hear outside are those of the machinery clanking away in the near distance at Precision Cast Parts.

One of my concerns going into the trip would be that I wouldn’t be changed when I returned, now my concern is that I won’t ever be able to understand exactly how I have changed. Some bits are obvious, I feel confident now that I could travel to London or Rome again on my own (or similar European big city) and be able to fend for myself, but other changes are a little more subtle.

Walking through downtown Portland I can’t help but find myself comparing it to London or Rome. During the trip, in my mind, I thought of London as being “cleaner” and Rome as being “dirtier” than Portland but I am not sure now how accurate that was. Portland now seems dirtier and dingier in comparison, having neither the polished solemnity of London or the serene antiquity of Rome.

I still find myself looking to the right first, instead of to the left, when I come to a cross walk. Remnants of London still in my head. I still find myself saying “grazie” instead of “thank you”, and found myself once asking for “il conte” instead of “the check”. Small habits, learned quickly, not yet unlearned again.

I am going to go back. I think I have to go back. Both to London and to Rome. I never quite felt like I clicked with London, the pacing of the city never seemed quite to mesh with me. Rome though… There was a way people walked in Rome, a sense of pride in place, an unhurried pace, along with the bit of arrogance you needed anytime you stepped off the curb and had to be certain that your crossing the street was more important to the world than the drivers getting to wherever they were going. I wish I’d spent a day in Rome doing nothing, not trying to see anything or be anywhere, but just being there. I think that is what I missed, what Doerr described so well at times, the sense of just being and living in Rome rather than traveling through it.

I didn’t find the time to look up through the occulus of the Pantheon. I never made it up to Piazza Garibaldi to look over the city or hear the noontime cannon being fired. I never managed to climb all seven hills of Rome, or if I did I wasn’t aware of doing so.

I have software and books to study Italian with now, maps to find my way around the city when I return to Rome, and guidebooks so when I do return I’ll better be able to understand and appreciate what I see. It is going to happen, I think it will have to happen, because I think a part of me is still there in Rome sitting on the steps of the fountain in Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere waiting for me to return so it can show me what I failed to see last time I was there.

One thought on “L&R 2014 – Reflecting on London & Rome”

  1. Hello Aaron,

    What a beautiful elegy to Rome and, I feel certain, prelude to your return. There is something about Rome that is so beguiling, despite the chaos, the graffiti, and the grit. There is, too, a beauty and sultry shimmer that, well, that makes one resolve to return.

    On the day all of you left, I spent the afternoon walking (certo!) and visiting a few quiet churches–Santa Maria in Trastevere, St. Bridget, San’t Ivo–it was a good way to wind down and experience yet another part of Rome. Rome — always unfolding, something revealed where you have walked a dozen times before. I too left some aspect of myself there–and plan to return.

    Thank you.

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