For my third day in Rome, Thursday, I laid low for much of the day. Summer in Rome is extremely hot and sunny, so I wanted some chill time to enjoy the delightful bed and breakfast I was staying at, Domus Valeria. The B&B, as with many B&Bs in Europe, is actually a person’s apartment, and they rent out rooms to travelers. Marco Valeria, the owner, was the epitome of warm and welcoming. Compared to my first hotel, Locanda Carmel, this B&B made me feel at home. Marco gave me tips on where to go, was always available for any question I had, served a delightful breakfast on the gorgeous roof deck, and made me feel like a friend sleeping over. Domus Valeria was advertized as a gay-friendly B&B; its logo was the Colosseum colored in a rainbow, and that actually attracted me to it. I’ve realized how much I genuinely enjoy the company of gay people. I feel that gay people have had to do a lot of self-reflection and discovery in order to confidently face the world with their divergent sexuality, and I’ve noticed because of that, they seem more in touch with who they are. Most gay people I’ve met are thoughtful, witty, and unreserved, and I like that, especially after my recent break up with someone who apparently can’t figure out what kind of person he is, nor give a shit about anyone else in the world. I’m really starting to appreciate people who know themselves and love others.
Eventually, at like 5:00pm, I finally got my act together and headed out. I was now in the northern part of Rome right next to the Spanish Steps, so it was a new area for me to explore. I asked Marco where the nearest ATM was since I was running seriously low on cash and wanted to limit my credit card purchases due to the foreign transaction fees that I obliviously forgot to consider. As I was walking in the direction he advised, I passed by a store that exchanged currencies and offered cash advances on credit cards. Meekly I entered and asked the young man behind the thick glass if this was similar to an ATM. He claimed it was. Naturally I went into “Are you sure you’re not trying to rip me off?” mode, but despite all of my poking and prodding, the place seemed to be legit. I hovered while an older Italian man confidently made a transaction, so if he could do it, so could I. The young man behind the glass spoke pretty good English, but didn’t seem to mind that I wanted to practice Italian. He told me to count the money in Italian, acting as my teacher, and that sparked more conversation. He seemed to enjoy my company, and I enjoyed practicing my terrible Italian skills, so I hung around for a bit and talked to him. His name was Devid and he was 28 years old like me –I guessed because he gave me his Skype screen name if I ever wanted Italian practice, and it had an “83” at the end. He was shocked that I figured out his age. Devid invited me to grab some food once he got off of work in 10 minutes (dieci minuti), and promised to help me with Italian, so I figured “why not?”
Devid and I walked the streets of Rome while my brain absorbed and cranked out as much Italian as it could handle. “When is your birthday?” “Do you have any brothers or sisters?” “What did you study in school?” Devid helped me through all sorts of basic questions and answers. It was a blast. I can barely remember most of it now, but the experience was invaluable because it was genuine and meaningful. I wasn’t just memorizing phrases from a book; I was using the Italian first hand. I found it interested that when I asked Devid what he studied in school, he said “legge”. I thought that was the Italian word for “reading”. He said our schools called it “low, L-O-W”. Low? I’ve never heard of that subject. Was it advertising? Computers? Devid couldn’t seem to explain what it was. Toward the end of the evening, I finally realized he was talking about LAW! Lost in translation.
Devid was a wonderful teacher and a very friendly, sweet guy. We got our pizza and continued our informal Italian practicum as the sun set, having too much fun messing around with language. I got to see some sights at night, particularly the Trevi Fountain lit up all dramatically with a thinner crowd surrounding it. As Devid and I continued our walk, I started to realize that he was treating this like a date, especially when he started flinging compliments my way, wanting to take a “coupley” picture, and insisting on hanging out again. He bought me a bottle of wine, we had a glass, and soon he was pretending to be drunk. Sorry Devid, I don’t know what kinds of girls you’re used to, but I’m honorable and wholesome (for the most part) so it’s time to part ways. I finally convinced him to head home reluctantly –he was the reluctant one. By the time I got to bed, it was 2am. Even though I did practically no sightseeing that day, my brain was fried from attempting so much Italian and navigating the tricky social dynamic of making sure Devid didn’t get his expectations too high. Learning a new language truly is a massive challenge, but the best way to do it is to jump in and flounder for a while. Eventually you’ll string some words together that actually sound right and make sense! But keep the jumping and floundering outside of your hotel room!