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Caught in a storm in the Piazza Navona

Four Weeks in Rome, 2001

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I finished my first month of school, had visitors from America, and traveled to the village from which my grandparents emigrated.

All righty–the picture pretty much said it all…my fourth week in Rome was a bit of a blur. As I was wrapping up my last week of school–for the month, anyway–I was showing my aunt and uncle around Rome. A bit of a challenge because, despite my limited knowledge of Italian, I became the Great Interpreter.Ruling Woman Circa 2001
I realized this week that the longer I live in Italy, the less I really know it. I had grown accustomed to certain day-to-day differences — like how to order coffee, and how to navigate streets full of mopeds, trucks, bikes and automobiles. But, the nuances of social intercourse continued to elude me.

School was pretty interesting, as we ended the month with an International party. We were asked to bring a typical dish from our country to share with the other students. “What should I bring? Hamburger, coke and fries?” “My God, no!” they replied. “But,” I exclaimed, “America is a land of immigrants! How about spaghetti and meatballs? Burritos? Sushi or fried rice?” I finally decided on that all-American dish: guacamole and chips. It took me three days to find tortilla chips. With my broken Italian, I kept getting polenta. Or, a can of corn. I finally got it together, and the dish was a hit!

Spanish Steps

Looking at the world from the Spanish Steps

UN PO P.O.V. Week Four, Roma 2001
Contemplating La Guerra from Rome.  It is clear to me that though we refer to Europe as “across the pond,” it is not only an ocean, but worlds away.

I think I am beginning to understand, a little bit, why I am experiencing America’s war against terrorism in a different way than my friends back home. It really is not just the distance. It is that I am being spared the constant barrage of news coverage over here. The story is being covered thoroughly, from the point-of-view, of course, of the Italians. But, I can get away from it.

One friend tells me that each day, in her morning paper, she reads another biography of someone lost, and weeps. Another friend, a journalist who witnessed people jumping from the towers–writes “it’s always there in my mind, in the shadows, just constantly there when my mind wanders, as if it were the reality and what my eyes see the dream.”

Part of my “survivor’s guilt” is that my grief is somehow different than that of my friends back home. My American friend, in Rome with me during the time of the attack, tells me that he got into a fight with one of his best friends who suggested his pain was somehow lesser because he was not in New York at the time.

I am afraid. Of the war. Of being in Europe where we are warned that we may be the target of anti-American sentiment. And, of never knowing what these days have been like in the city that I love more than any other place in the world.



About Janet

The author of Ruling Woman is a television journalist, based in Manhattan who spends her workdays at 30 Rock, her nights on Broadway, and her weekends at the Farmers Market. Likes to knit, commune with the angels, and travel.

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