A Journey Through My Mid-Twenties


English Journal 7

The most powerful border that I feel I have crossed (or at least have begun to cross) is the communication barrier. Before coming into Italy I was scared to death about not knowing any of the native language. People from home reassured me that everyone here would speak English….which I later found out was not nearly the case.  As a result of working as a telemarketer this summer, I was accustomed to using my voice to my advantage. The right words and vocal tones can change the entire direction of any conversation.  However, when I arrived here I learned that in many situations it is not helpful at all to depend on words. How could I get my point across if the other person did not understand the things that I was saying? However, I feel as if eventually I got past that.

My very first time in Termini was one of the most stressful moments of my life.  I tried to order an espresso at Momento, and realized that I did not know anything at all that the barista was saying to me. I quickly panicked and replied to her in French, as it is the only foreign language that I was familiar with speaking. She gave me a really strange look as she handed me my change. It was then that I realized that while here, I would need to learn to communicate. The first step was to learn the language, which was already bound happen through Italian class. Although I learned enough Italian to say very basic things to people, I feel as if I have found within myself the ability to communicate with others without speaking their language.  There have been quite a few times when someone (usually elderly) would try to tell me an entire story, in Italian. Although I couldn’t understand a word that they were saying, I usually understood the gist of what they meant by their tone and their gestures.  It’s become a lot less daunting to be around people who are not speaking my language, because I’ve come to realize that people all communicate the same way.  Many times I find myself observing people on the train who are having a conversation, and I take out my headphones because it looks like they are speaking English.  The reality is that everyone looks the same when they communicate with each other, no matter what language they are talking in.

I feel as if I can relate to Polo in the novel, because he also had to find a way to communicate without knowing Kahn’s language.  My feeling, however, is that Polo is already familiar with this border due to his career as an explorer.  Coming to Italy and seeing how easy it was to communicate with others despite not knowing the language has opened up my mind to travelling to other countries.  I have always wanted to join Peace Corps, but feared the language barrier. Because Peace Corps doesn’t aid anyone in the UK or Austrailia, I thought that there really wasn’t anywhere that I could go.  After this experience, I feel as if I could go anywhere and be confident that I would find some means of communication.


English 6

It’s very hard for me to choose only three cities from the story as my favorite, especially since every city is technically the same one.  However, three that stood out for me were Zobeide, Leonia and Esmeralda.

Zobeide is the city that was built by men of various nations who had an identical dream.  In the book Marco Polo describes the actual dream itself as the men who built the town pursuing a woman who is running through the town, eventually losing her.  One day the men meet each other while trying to find this town, and they decide to build it themselves, however they modify it so that the woman cannot escape. Eventually, the original reasoning behind the creation of the city became lost to them: “The city’s streets were streets where they went to work every day, with no link any more to the dreamed chase” (Calvino 45).  Soon other men arrived with similar dreams, however many who chanced upon the city thought it was ugly. I believe that this entire city is a metaphor.  The “dream” that the men had could have been any sort of dream, and the girl was irrelevant. The city represents men trying to achieve a common cause, but eventually losing sight of that cause.  Other people began to see what they created in order to achieve their purpose. However, the purpose was never reached and those who look upon what they created are confused because they don’t know what the original goal was.

I enjoyed reading about Leonia because the description evoked vivid images in my mind. The way that Calvino illustrated the city, “Perhaps the whole world, beyond Leonia’s boundaries, is covered by craters of rubbish, each surrounding a metropolis in constant eruption” (Calvino 115), made me imagine the town as a giant volcano of trash. The people of the city are constantly consuming, and their waste “erupts” from the town.  Eventually, the giant trash heap of everything that is thrown away by the people is bound to collapse.

I liked the city of Esmeralda because it reminded me the most of my personal experiences in Venice. According to Calvino; 

“To go from one place to another you have always the choice between land and boat: and since the shortest distance between two points in Esmeralda is not a straight line but a zigzag that ramifies in tortuous optional routes, the ways that open to each passerby are never two, but many, and they increase further for those who alternate a stretch by boat with one on dry land” (88).

If there is anything that I will surely remember about Venice, it is how easy it was to get lost there.  The city is full of possible directions to take, just like Esmeralda.  On my last day in the city, I decided to go for a walk and wander around. I didn’t pay too much attention to how far I was going, until Abby called me and told me that everyone was meeting at the Hard Rock Cafe for lunch. I soon realized that somehow I had made it to the other side of the canal, and there was no straight pathway to follow to get home, I had to follow the “zigzag” pattern that I took to get there.  The way back to San Marco square is so confusing that locals spray painted directions on buildings to help them find their own way back.  Although Polo describes Esmeralda as if its confusing pathways is a negative aspect, I think that I would enjoy it because I would much rather prefer to be “spared the boredom of following the same streets every day” (88).

Art Journal 5


   There are many striking things that one notices about Santa Maria dell’Orazione e Morte, before he or she is even made aware of the crypts beneath it.  The most notable thing is the various skeletons and skulls reflected in the art around the church.  However, what I found my attention mainly directed towards was Ciro Ferri’s Crucifixion, the large painting that serves as an altarpiece.

    One thing that surprised me about most of the churches in Rome was that very few had a crucifixion scene as the main focus of the altar.  Because my church at home has one, I was assuming that it was the norm.  It excited me that I had finally come to a church whose altar reminded me of what I was used to.

    I was very shocked when I went online to learn more about this piece and found that there is very little information available.  If it weren’t for the gentleman who gave us a tour of the church, I would have no idea about the piece’s history.  According to him, Ciro Ferri was visiting the city and painted the piece for the church, without being paid.  To me, this was an act of extreme devotion.  Most artists of the day did their work inside of churches for money. This is understandable, as art takes time and the artists need the money to survive.  However, I feel that if a person painting something for a church completely free like that, then they must have strongly believed in that church’s mission.  I think that Ferri’s belief in the work of Santa Maria dell’Orazione e Morte was also reflected in the beauty of the painting.

    As a crucifixion scene, the painting depicts Jesus Christ giving his life for us on the cross.  I really liked the use of lighting in the painting, as most of it is very dark except of directly behind Jesus, possibly directly on Jesus himself, and there is also light creating a halo around his head.  Despite the fact that he is being crucified, Jesus does not look sad, scared, angry or brave. Instead, I believe that the expression on his face is forgiveness, as he looks towards God to forgive our sins. 

          In my opinion, this is a very beautiful painting that deserves a lot more recognition!

English Journal 5

When I first read the prompt, I immediately thought of a song that has been stuck in my head for the past week and a half: Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence”. If you have never heard the song, or even if you have heard it and not watched the video, I suggest that you take a look at it.  When I re-watched the music video, it shocked me how much it reminded me of the novel.

The basic idea of the song is that shared feelings are more important and leave more of an impression than spoken words, with part of the lyrics being ‘Vows are spoken to be broken, feelings are intense, words are trivial. Pleasures remain, so does the pain. Words are meaningless, and forgettable.”  Of course, this reminded me of when Calvino stated that “Between (the Great Khan and Polo) it did not matter whether questions and solutions were uttered aloud or whether each of the two went on pondering in silence. In fact, they were silent…” (27).   At this point, they were ‘enjoying the silence’.  However, later on in the novel “words like violence, break the silence” (to once again quote Depeche Mode). According to Calvino,

“As time went by, words began to replace objects and gestures in Marco’s tales…  The foreigner had learned to speak the emperor’s language or the emperor to understand the language of the foreigner. But you would have said communication between them was less happy than in the past…” (38-39)

After realizing that using words were detracting from the storys being told, they stopped using language as a tool to communicate quite so much and began to once again rely solely on very few movements and a sort of human spiritual energy between the two.

I believe that it is perfectly feasible to communicate without saying a word. When two people are together in silence with similar trains of thought, these thoughts often lead to the same place. I believe that Marco Polo wasn’t trying to simply talk about the cities; he wanted Kublai Khan to feel the true essence of them.   When you sit with a loved one and watch the sunset, words are not necessarily needed to enjoy the moment.  In fact, one’s personal enjoyment at that time can be communicated by not saying anything at all, with simply a smile. Cats do a wonderful job at communicating without using language; often times we can tell their emotions (even though they are a different species than ourselves) by looking into their eyes.  Language can make communication easier in many cases, but some things can better be shown and not said.

                Although the music video for the song was not created by any means to reflect this particular story, I feel as if it does quite accurately. Perhaps this is because they both deal with a very similar theme.  The video depicts a man dressed as a king, wandering alone around mountains and fields with a lawn chair.  At various points he decides to place the lawn chair on the ground, sit on it, and enjoy the scenery, all by himself.  I like to imagine that this is almost exactly what is going on inside of Kublai Khan’s mind.  When Marco Polo gives him a “feel” of the areas, he is able to wander around them and enjoy them by himself within his mind.  I believe that if Polo were to use more words, than the King would be seeing someone else’s image in his mind, and it would severely limit what could possibly be there.  However, Polo chooses instead to provide a foundation for The Great Khan to explore these cities in depth with his own mind. As a result, he is able to connect with the cities in a way that he would be unable to if he had simply been handed the textbook definition of them, because he has the control to use a part of himself to build the cities that exist in his mind.

English Journal 4

At the top of my personal list of morals is what I value the most: Freedom. When I say freedom, I do not mean simply for myself, but for everyone else in the world also. I believe that everyone has the right to practice their life in any way that they want to, as long as it doesn’t directly interfere with someone else’s right to be free (and in that case, they can justifiably lose that right).    For me, anything that limits another person’s freedom is the greatest form of heresy. 

According to the Greek/Roman philosopher   Epictetus  “Only the educated are truly free”. I believe that this is absolutely true.  Without knowledge, a person can never reach their true potential.  All information should be readily available to anyone who seeks it.  Clearly with this belief, I see the way that the library in the novel is run as absolute heresy. I also see it as heresy when someone believes that under any circumstance that this sort of withholding of knowledge is okay. I believe that keeping someone from expanding their mind is a direct attack on their freedom.

 One may argue that this information may get into the wrong hands if given out so freely…. However, I believe that it should be available to everyone so that in the case it does reach “the wrong hands” then it can be combated.  Say (theoretically of course) that the library in the novel contained a book which had information on guns.  Nobody would be allowed to read that book. But what if someone were in fact able to break in and read it, and then used it to make a gun? No one else would have the knowledge to put a stop to this person, because they had never been allowed to know.  Although bad people exist in the world, it’s important that knowledge stays available for everyone.

Perhaps my view came from when I worked at my own local library.  Nothing made me feel more joy than helping someone find the book that they were looking for, which empowered them to further their knowledge.  However, it was very upsetting to me when someone would be looking for a book about a subject and we did not have any books about it in our collection. For me, these people had the right to know what they wanted to know. If I did in fact have the proper resources to assist them, and yet refused to help them, I would have personally felt as if I had committed a sin, because I was infringing upon that person’s right.

To me, a keeper of knowledge is like a priest or a doctor.  A doctor is bound by the Hippocratic Oath to help a person in need, the same way that a priest is destined by God to help others.  If a person in either of these positions would refuse to come to a person’s aid, it would be highly frowned upon by society.  I see the same responsibility in someone who is in charge of information.  It is not just a choice of theirs to share knowledge with people, but an obligation. Withholding it from anyone would be an act of heresy.

Art Journal 3

One of the most important aspects of art (and yet often the most overlooked) is the lighting that is used to illuminate three-dimensional artwork.  I believe that the pattern of lighting is an art in itself.  Many objects would not look the same if exposed in a different light. Light allows the shadows to play perfectly with the figure so as to define it.  Proper lighting can make a statue seem more powerful, and improper lighting can make it look bland. There have been many times where I have seen a beautiful piece of art, and then snapped a photo only to find that the piece in my photo looks completely different.  This happens because the artist (or perhaps whoever is choosing to exhibit the piece) either chose to place the object in a spot where sunlight lands on it perfectly,   or chose to add artificial lighting that enhances the piece. When I take a photo that uses my camera’s flash feature, the extra lighting causes the piece to look strange. 

An example of this is shown above, using photos that I found online of “The ecstasy of St.Theresa”. Although both photos are of the same statue, in the same church, they are noticable different because in each photo the lighting is different.  

At night, the lights on the various buildings around Rome make the city come to life.  Often times when I see pictures of landmarks, the photos were taken at night.  This is because of the way that the artificial lighting spotlights the detail and beauty of so many historic buildings.

The area that was my inspiration for this journal entry was the Piazza della Repubblica (shown above, using pictures that I also found online). In the daytime, the piazza’s color scheme is fairly monochromatic.  However, by night the white building is used as a canvas of sorts for many different colored lights! Whoever designed the lighting did a fantastic job, as there are many places on the building where the lights create colorful shapes (such as perfectly aligned triangles).  Beautiful lighting such as this is imperative for a big city such as Rome.  If the city was only lit with the traditional street lamps, the buildings would look very imposing and probably creepy.  But creative, attractive lighting creates a friendly and fun atmosphere that makes people want to see what the city has to offer at night.

Lighting is a very interesting art to me, because it revolves around putting focus on someone else’s work.  However, I do believe that the artists who design the light scheme deserve a lot of credit because without them art could not be enjoyed in the most pleasant way possible.

Annotated Bib

Annotated Bib #3 – Jamie, Abby, Angela

Find a venue with live music and sit in (don’t pay more than a cover charge, and don’t see a band that you already know-unless they’re cool). Again, write up the experience from the perspectives of the audience you are trying to reach.

The venue I am writing this annotated bibliography on is one I happened to stumble upon by accident. After a planned trip during the week, Catie and I went off on our own exploring. We happened to find Piazza Navona. We were amazed by all the massive buildings, two gorgeous churches, and a giant obelisk in the center of the piazza. There were also tons of artists selling hand-painted pictures of different churches and scenery around Rome. The weather was gorgeous this day, and it was so refreshing to see a piazza full of life and with a fountain gushing with water. What was the best, though, was the live music. As we finished our tour around the piazza, we ran into a band playing phenomenal music. It was unlike any live band I’ve seen before. All the musicians were smiling and laughing with each other, and the saxophone player literally walked around and continued to play even while smiling for pictures. As I stood there, I couldn’t help but tap my feet and get the urge to dance. Catie immediately crushed this urge, as I didn’t want to embarrass her, but their songs were so original and catchy. We were inquiring about their CD, thinking they would wait until the end of the song to answer our questions, but the saxophone player came right up and told us how much it was and what song they were currently playing. The members of the band were older, but it seemed like they all enjoyed each other’s company even if they weren’t playing their instruments.

I looked around to see if other tourists stopped, and there was a huge crowd behind us. It seemed like everyone was mesmerized by the music, and it just completed the whole atmosphere of the piazza. The music was loud enough that it could be heard throughout most of the piazza, it was like a scene you would see in a movie or something. I usually don’t pay much attention to street bands like this, especially since most of them aren’t very good. I was so happy that Catie bought their CD, as I sit here listening to it now, their songs are even better on the recording. I wish the second time we visited the piazza the weather was nicer, it would’ve been a great experience for the rest of the group to hear the band play in the type of atmosphere we heard them the first time.

When I think of New York, I immediately think of street performers and young people trying to bring their talents to the ‘Big City’. Bands like Musicisstii di Piazza Navona would be the type of band that would play in restaurants or on street corners, but would never succeed in the American music industry. However, what I like about the Sex and the City movies and TV show is the diverse neighborhoods the characters take themselves too. They find unique restaurants that are ‘out-of-the-way’ and off the beaten path. I can totally see Carrie and Guy taking in a performance in piazza Navona with this band, sitting at one of the near-by restaurants having a bottle of wine and some exquisite Italian cuisine. It’s the type of date girls dream about, one so unique to Italian culture that you just couldn’t go wrong. With late summer/early fall weather, you couldn’t go wrong. piazza Navona captures all the essences of Italy in one simple square, and the Musicisstii di Piazza Navona just puts the icing on the cake.

Gianni’s Market

When walking into Gianni’s market, a small store in Castel Gandolfo that sells grocery items and more, you are struck by how comfortable, homey, and family oriented the atmosphere is within the store. This feeling becomes even more present when you discover that the business is owned, ran, and operated by family members. The small store is filled with items that represent the Italian food culture. For example, Gianni’s sells authentic pastas native to Italy, the bakery makes cookies and bread, and a deli that displays an array of meats, cheeses, and breads that entice one to create their own sandwich. Any visitor is greeted when walking into the store with a hearty boun giorno and a smile. All shoppers are made to feel like family, so much in fact that the owners know many of the shoppers by name. For instance, one day when shopping at Gianni’s, a woman came in with peppermint leaves in her hand, and after the owner greeted the woman by name, they began talking about the peppermint leaves and their lives. Although the discussion was in Italian, it was clear that the women knew each other well. As shoppers come in and out of Gianni’s, they grow acquainted with the family that owns the business, and a mutual friendship forms. This provides a welcoming atmosphere to the environment and makes the store a pleasant place to shop.

Gianni’s market would be a great place to include in Sex and the City Three because it showcases not only the culture of fresh and rich Italian food, but also how important family and friends are within all aspects of the Italian culture. This is a very important piece ofItaly that viewers of the movie would fall in love with and appreciate. Family is emphasized within the store by its ownership and employment, but also in the customers, who are treated like family. The relationships between customers and store owners in other countries is not always as strong or friendly, so I believe that the movie audience would enjoy viewing an environment that is unique to the Italian way of life. Gianni’s also represents a life away from the stress and anxiety of a big city. The store is very relaxed inside, operating on independent hours, and because it is not a chain it is very unique. These aspects of Gianni’s are unlike many of the stores that can be seen inRome. Gianni’s proves that the Italian way of life is a beautiful one, filled with business, family, and friends.

Via Del Corso

The Via Del Corso is a long, straight road in the heart of historical Rome.  It runs from the Piazza del Populo to Piazza Venezia.  Along the road, there are many historical buildings and churches. In the evenings, the city shuts the road off for cars so that it’s exclusively for pedestrians. I walked down the road on a Saturday and was amazed by the way that the street brought together so many things, such as art, culture, shopping, food and religion. There were street artists, locals, and tourists. I didn’t see near as many illegal street vendors as in other parts of the city. There were plenty of shops, but in between them were beautiful churches. There were also many resturants and cafes. The beautiful column of Marcus Aurelius is also right off of the road, it is very close to the Spanish Steps. In my opinion, that single road encompasses everything that Rome is about.

To me, the Via Del Corso seems like the best possible place for Sex and The City to take place, as it offers everything. Il Corso is one of the few places in town where you see many locals shopping right beside tourists.  Just the fact that it’s perfectly straight means that from either direction one usually has a good view of Piazza de Populo or Piazza Venezia. Ibelieve that the movie should be focused around this road as there are many beautiful things to be seen, outside of the normal “shopping” that one immediately thinks of.