Ciao ragazzi, I hope you're all doing well today. Today marks the less-than-two-week portion of my journey, which is really just insane to think about. I mean, two weeks from now I'll be in my own bed back in Portland, how weird! But I can't say I'm not actually pretty excited about coming home and seeing everyone, since I most certainly am, and I have seen so much already that no matter what, I'll go home with more experiences and stories than you could shake a stick at.
Today was another day which made me realize, once again, just where I live and the cultural and historical significance of my home for the past 3 months and change. Bert and I got up this morning and got ready earlier than we needed to by far, about two hours so, and headed to the Vatican to hear the Pope speak. Usually (note this, now), the pope speaks from the steps of St. Peter's.
Not today, apparently.
We waltzed right into St. Peter's Square and then into the Basilica itself, spending about an hour in there, almost completely alone in there. It was 37 degrees this morning, which apparently deterred some people from coming, and it was early enough that we didn't have to struggle through crowds. We expected to, however, since Wednesday is Papal speech day, and there are (supposedly, I never am there to see them due to class) loads of people waiting to hear him speak at 10:30. Bert and I just saw the Pieta once again, checked out all of St. Peter's, and just spent as long as we wanted touring the grounds, never once feeling rushed in the least. Awesome how that works.
If you squint, you can see that that's me in this picture. How cool, I know. It's tough to show how large it really is, so Bert had to step way, way back to take this picture of me. But I'm there, on the very steps Swiss Guards died trying to defend the Pope in times past. Weird to think about. Supposedly Michaelangelo climbed them most mornings before the Sistine Chapel work, which is also crazy.
Anyway, I really got to take some pictures and see the place without feeling rushed, which was really pleasant. It's free, too, which means it's always crowded and people are not too kind about personal space. All around, today was great.
One really odd thing in the Basilica which I think I've yet to mention are the bodies left in status in some of the tombs, supposedly left intact and unspoiled from God's will and such. But these bodies are just out and on display in these glass tombs, I mean, what?! That's a dead body, sometimes several centuries old, and still have skin on their face and everything? Creepy but kinda interesting. I'll post a picture, and know that that is, indeed, Pope Paul VI, and yes, he's been dead a while now. It's the picture on the left, not the other one. That's the Pieta people. Just making sure we're keeping it straight (laugh here).
From there, Bert and I checked out the bookstore and Post Office of the Vatican, which is really cool to see. There were books in tons of different languages and subjects, but Ratzinger (aka Pope Benedict XVI, or Benedetto, as the Italians call him) had about 10 books in tons of languages in there. Not as pope, but as Cardinal. I don't know why, but sometimes it's weird to think of the Pope as someone before they are Pope, it just seems like such a high office that you are just it forever. I know that's probably stupid, but it got me thinking about it anyway.
But we then tried to find out where the Pope was, and the police assured us he was speaking (although this was all in Italian, and they really did not seem very interested in helping us), but as to where, it was unsure. They said we needed a ticket and had to go somewhere for that, but as it turns out, you don't. We weren't the only ones confused, as some people were asking me (in English, they were American) what was going on and telling me to ask questions for them. Not asking me, telling me. As if I was some fluent speaker or something and it was my job to help them. It wasn't, but I still did. And the guards sure appreciated that I would translate for them.
I guess my Italian is ok. At least I can ask some necessary questions, some too difficult to gesture. Made me feel kinda cool.
But we got in just in time to this hall where the Pope was to speak. There were thousands of people in there already, with Cardinals, Bishops, and eventually, yes, the Pope, St. Peter's heir, Benedict XVI. He got a rousing ovation, and then we were all bored to sleep as Cardinals and Bishops from all around the world read an introductory statement in about 7 languages. I understood most of the Italian and French ones too, which was nice, and the English one was very welcomed. But if you enlarge this picture, you can see him in between two guards, in full Swiss Garb, and some Cardinals and Bishops off to the side. It was pretty cool to see such a powerful and influential person in person, so to speak.
I also took a video of the Pope speaking, so enjoy that. It's really him, he has a mic and everything. Il Papa, right there, speaking to this huge hoard of people, but only in Italian. Sad for me, who did not understand anything but really just "Violenza" and "Gesu Christo." He wasn't the most annunciated speaker, and spoke much like an Italian would. Go figure, for a German.
Bert had to bail to go to a site visit a bit early, but I stayed until the last possible minute and left to get to my last 11:30 class. But what an experience, the Pope! Besides being a little boring (which hearing anything in languages you can't understand for an hour can be), it was really pretty darn cool to think about. Another story for the life's history.
I made it to class on time and when it was over, it was kind of a sentimental moment, as our professor is such a goofy and loveable guy (who we all talk about all the time as being hysterical, because he is) and it was our last class with him. We asked if we could take a picture with him too, and he quickly replied (in his Oxford speak mixed with a bit of "hipness" to it): "ahh yes! Of course! But what shall we have for a backdrop? How about we all squeeze together on this couch, it would be quite lovely, really"
So we squeezed, so much so I put my arm around him to avoid really getting all that close, but we're still friendly (laughing is occuring right now on my end, so feel free to join in. Picture is below. Enjoy Gregory O. Smith with (from the left) Phil, myself, G.O. himself, Cara and Amber.
Until next time,