No, it’s not what you think. It’s not that Mafia. I’m referring to a few experiences I’ve had recently here in Rome, and the foundations of a whole different kind of mafia. Let me digress for a moment to apologize for the recent silence – work has been keeping me busy for the better part of the past two weeks, but with luck I’ll be completing some of my assignments soon and can get back to what I do best: being an American tourist that despises American tourists.
A little over a week ago, I managed to meet up with a friend from Fletcher (the graduate school I just completed a one-year MA at) who was busy traveling around Europe before stopping for a one-month course at the Hague. Tuck is his name, he hails from Malaysia, and we grew close after a few courses together over the past year, and sharing a tent for a weekend simulation of a humanitarian crisis – in which we ate only MREs (military pre-packaged rations called ‘Meals Ready to Eat’), slept little, and were harassed by Egundan militia. Long story. Anyways, it was great to see Tuck, even if it was for only a few hours to grab a pizza and some gelato.
Last weekend, another mafioso from Fletcher, my workout buddy and great friend Morgan, ventured to Rome with his wife Jeanine to start a couple weeks of Italian travels. Now Morgan and I had been through many a morning workout, yet it was great to see him in a more relaxed setting and enjoy some great Italian food accompanied by stories of their new Arizonan life. I luckily got to see this fool three times – for dinner, gelato, and lunch, before he and Jeanine hit the road. It reminded me the importance of true friends, and instructed me on the appropriate way to take a selfie. He had become somewhat of a master at the art after numerous morning jogs throughout Rome – a necessity when training for an impending 50-mile race, and a reality when adapting to a 9-hr time change!
The mafia I am talking about is the friendly name for the Fletcher alumni network, and my recent encounters here with friends from my brief yet fantastic experience there have shown me how strong the mafia bonds really are. As of now, I plan to see at least a few more mafiosos in Italy before the summer comes to a close!
I should also mention a fun experience from last Sunday. I had planned to visit the Vatican museums with a friend from work, but those plans were quickly abandoned… The immense galleries (and the Sistine chapel, all part of the same complex) are FREE the last Sunday of the month. My friend Manon and I agreed to meet around 0830 at the museums to take advantage of such an opportunity. As I live just a stone’s throw away from the Vatican, it was an easy commute for me. However, when I stepped outside of my door, the laughter began almost immediately.
I could see the line – or ‘queue’ as they say in Europe – from outside my building. The museums had not opened, yet this things stretched from the entrance all the way to St. Peter’s Square, approximately 1.5km away I’d say. Not to mention, it was about 3-4 people deep in places. Heinous.
Manon and I agreed that waiting was a waste of time, and quite futile. As she hadn’t been to the Basilica, we decided to pay it a visit and climb to the cupola. Another 550 steps baby, seems like I should make it a weekend tradition! What was more interesting this time around was that they were holding a full-blown mass in St. Peter’s, as it was Sunday.
We descended from the top of the building after enjoying some time admiring the view. As it was nearly 1200, we decided to hang around the square until that hour for the weekly address by my boy Francesco. Every Sunday, he addresses his flock (which FILLS the square, has to be about 20,000 people) for a few minutes from his papal apartments. Still pretty irked by the whole situation, as he failed to give me a shout-out. Guy is taking advantage of our friendship left and right.
After not understanding the entire address (save for a few pieces of Latin, and a few choice Italian words), it was time to put the head down and get back to work grinding out my report. The grind continues even today!