The GoGlobal Blog

Buon Anno!

Buon Anno!

Wow!  These first few days in Rome have already been so packed full of experiences that I feel overwhelmed in deciding where to start and what to tell.  We arrived at the Fiumicino airport Monday morning, pretty tired from the flight but happy to finally be here!  The weather was cold and wet, but of course, compared to the frigid weather we left behind in Chicago, this is practically summer.  We scoffed at the Romans wearing gloves, hats and scarves in 40 degree weather, but soon found ourselves bundling up too!  It must be the combination of cold and damp, and the buildings are definitely not as well insulated.  But enough with the weather.

We met our professor from Malta, Edward, and his wife Carmen in the afternoon, and walked to the Institute of Medieval Literature where our first lecture was held.  After learning about ethnographic research and receiving some introductory information on asylum seekers in Europe, we headed off to dinner.

The following day, our group made its way to the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center at St. Paul’s Within the Walls, which is run by the American Episcopalian Church.  It specifically provides basic necessities for political asylum seekers (versus economic), and hosts approximately 200-250 men, many of whom are Afghani, Pakistani, and some Syrian, in addition to many from different African nations currently in upheaval.  This visit was strongly impactful for me, as we were able to go into the center and engage in various activities with the refugees for a period of time.  Some gathered around a game of cribbage, while others sculpted with clay, chatted, or waited in the supply line to receive razors, soap, and other basic items the center is able to supply as much as funding permits.   Our group engaged in discussion with a smaller group of leaders from the JNRC before and after our visit, centered around our current knowledge of what it means to be a political refugee, and reflection upon what we learned following our experience meeting and spending time in the center.  The stories we learned about some of the men were very moving and disheartening, though the work of the center provided us a glimpse of something good in their lives.  We learned that during the process of seeking status as a political refugee in Italy, refugees are afforded “housing” (which are in some cases simply tents) for 12 hours at night.  At 8:00 am they must leave, and cannot come back until 7 or 8pm.  Most are not able to find much work, both because the Italian economy is weak, and because there are bureaucratic barriers which make it extremely difficult to become legally employed, not to mention the inherent disadvantage of not speaking the native language, etc.  Thus, the JNRC provides a place that refugees can come to get a small breakfast, supplies, learn English and Italian, and find assistance in determining what skills they have that can be utilized rather than wander the streets of Rome until evening.  Although this was the most substantial and moving part of the day, I am not posting any photos as we were not allowed to take any for obvious reasons.

After our visit to the center, we toured the Roman Forum, ending at the Colosseum.  How amazing!  It is mind-blowing to think that all of the Roman Emperors walked in this area, and to see ruins still standing from the time of such a vast and influential empire as Rome.  I will put together a photo album and link to it in a later blog, so stay tuned for that!

Our New Years’ celebration was fantastic and totally ideal.  We enjoyed some champagne meters from the Roman Colosseum amidst a merry crowd of people from all over the world.  A laser countdown was projected onto the Colosseum, and when we reached zero, bottles of champagne came flying open from all sides and we were absolutely drenched.  Everyone was shouting, smiling, laughing, hugging strangers and wishing one another a happy 2014.  It was wonderful.

After a late night, we had an early early start today to attend the New Years Day Papal Mass at the Vatican.  It was held in the Basilica, and wow! was that an experience.  I’ll write in full about it and post some great photos in my next entry, so stay tuned!

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