Tesoro Irlandese: Day 1 (October 2, 2021)
So, I’ve made it to Rome in one piece. ‘Hurray’, I hear you say.
Trust me, I am just as shocked as you are.
This post is a much more bloggy-style post than my usual, but I honestly have no energy for grabbing up some delicious sites and research for you right now. The best tip I will offer is to check BEFORE you move country whether the tap water is safe to drink. I am one of the lucky ones.
So, I arrived stupid early for my flight because I am usually a very anxious flier. However, I managed to arrive a whole 20 minutes before my check-in even opened. I do not recommend.
When I finally checked my hold bag in and sauntered off to security, I suddenly realised that wearing every single heavy thing you own to get through the bag weight checks was not my brightest idea. I unloaded off of myself a sheer 3 kilo weight in clothes, belts, necklaces, shoes, phones, iTouch, chargers and any other heavy-ass sh*t I could fit in my pockets. Which is fine, until you have to put it all back on again, as the conveyor belt keeps coming and more people start waddling through the security check towards you.
Finally free to wander around Duty Free, I picked up a bottle of poitín for my landlords. Nothing screams ‘Irish’ like gifting strangers a bottle of true weaponry.
I was absolutely starving hungry, so I wandered up to the T1 top floor restaurant. Big mistake numero dos. The wait for a table was over 45-minutes long. Absolute nightmare. I found myself parked in this queue behind a troop of child dancers and their mothers, a scene quite reminiscent of Dance Moms. Imagine glitter and hot pink everything, furry jackets in neon and the wafting smell of stale cigarette smoke (from the mothers, of course.)
Eventually, I made it to the plane & fell asleep almost instantly. This was an ideal situation, seeing as I am usually grossly anxious at take-off and landing, but by collapsing into sleep almost instantly, I avoided all this ugliness.
Landing in Rome: Day 0
My landlord was kind enough to inform me in advance of WeTaxi, the FreeNow or Uber of Italy, so when I got off my plane, I booked my taxi and hightailed it to my apartment. Having gotten through the doors, I realised I was in a predicament. It had become Ciara & her 40kg bags VS. Italian apartment stairs. In this moment, I thanked god for pole-dancing and the strength it has given me. I put my best foot forward, reefing my bags up two stories of apartment stairs before taking a heaving and sweaty break.
Just as I prepared to lug my crap another flight, out of a hidden elevator bounced the sweetest and most adorable dachshund I have ever had the pleasure to meet. I was overwhelmed with my own stupidity and my adoration of the world’s cutest dog. His owner came out behind him, talking very quickly in Italian with a face of pure shock at my current state of sweatiness or maybe my stupidity… Possibly both. All I understood was ‘valise’, which means ‘suitcase’. I nodded and dragged my suitcases up into this mysterious elevator while this man and his perfect pooch ran down the stairs.
Now, another added layer of confusion. I actually didn’t even know what floor my apartment was on. Instead, what I did know was what colour welcome mat lay at the foot of my door. And so began the odd event of having to travel up one floor, open the double doors and peer at people’s shoe mats, passing a face of what must seem like judgement, and continuing on my upwards journey.
Eventually, like Goldilocks, I found the mat I was looking for. I let myself into the apartment and felt such a rush of overwhelming relief. I had actually made it here alive and in one piece, with only a handful of complete miscommunications or strange events. I’d call that a win in my books.
Learning to Live
Sadly, a family bereavement kept my landlords from being able to meet with me, however, we had quite a laugh on video chat to each other as I tried and failed to figure out how to work the gas or how to open up a set of shutters. This day was not a day for my dignity, it has to be said.
Eventually, hungry and having napped AGAIN, I wandered out to find my local supermarket (I would find out later this was, in fact, NOT my local supermarket.) A 15-minute walk is nothing to me back in Dublin, so I wandered off down the road, following my Google Maps like a loyal puppy dog to CarreFour.
Having picked up all of the first-hand essentials (which apparently were ALL just massive heavy bottles of stuff) and having made a hames of buying a pepper, I walked the long and arduous walk back to my apartment.
Again, this was not the ‘Bella Figura’ moment I was imagining for myself. I had dreamed I’d pick up a handful of grapes, some oranges and some mango & peach juice, and casually stroll home, swinging my net shopping bag as I swished a long skirt behind me as I walked.
Instead, I was in a pair of hideous tourist shorts, holding two ‘fit-to-burst’-ing bags of detergents, olive oil, onions, juice, shampoo, conditioner etc., storming my way back to my apartment, enraged at the wild way in which traffic works in Rome. It was for sure ‘A Look’.
First Meals in a New Home
Back home, I decided I was too exhausted to make anything substantial for food. It was roughly 3pm but it felt like 6am in the morning. So I made bruschetta. And MY GOD. The tomatoes. I had been dreaming about the taste of Italian tomatoes for so long and they were just divine. My mouth is watering thinking about them in the kitchen right now. Incredible.
Later, after yet another long disco nap, I called my best friend while making pasta. I told her basically everything I’ve just wrote up here and we chatted about how strange living by yourself is in a new place, as she had moved from Italy to Ireland for university a few years back. The whole day gave me such a new found respect for anyone who moves abroad for Uni, especially to somewhere with a completely different language. Kudos to you all, eighteen-year-old me could have never coped. Twenty-three year old me is only just figuring it out.
(She also brought me through a video chat introduction to making coffee with the moka coffee maker. I am currently making coffee for myself so I can sit on my balcony and people-watch. I live in a place where people are always walking dogs, and it is just delightful)
Cyclicality of Life, or maybe I should travel elsewhere?
I’d been thinking throughout the day of how much had changed within my own life since I’d last been to Rome. I’d managed to survive (so far) a global pandemic, graduated from my undergraduate and completed a Master’s degree, and a few other things I was deeply proud of. I wondered what the Me-of-Then would say to the Me-of-Now about our moving away to Rome.
The last time I was in Rome, it was almost perfectly two years to this date. I had come for a trip with a boyfriend for my birthday. Despite having been to Rome three times before this trip and never straying very far from the historic centre and tourist places, I found myself completely paralysed by anxiety throughout the trip. I couldn’t relax, I couldn’t decide what I wanted and I had no adequate way of communicating what I was feeling. It was altogether hopeless. I’d loved being in my heart-city, but just couldn’t shake the feeling that something truly awful was about to happen.
Looking back on Me-of-Then, I feel so sorry for her and I wish I could show her the next few years to soothe her. Despite how absolutely ridiculous some of the situations are that I can mangle myself up into, I don’t feel that level of terror and panic anymore. I feel nervous but more excited than anything. And I most DEFINITELY have more to fear now than I did back then.
But being back here in Rome, looking out over the city last night especially, I feel very in touch with who I was at 21: when I was afraid to speak, afraid to say what I wanted, afraid to just go with the flow in case something awful happened. But I am able to take care of her now, far better than I was when I was 21. I think maybe that’s how life always is; a cyclical turning-back to mind your past-self as you venture blindly forward towards your future-self.
Ciara O’Siorain (chi desidera diventare la bella donna figa come gli italiani)