Friday, May 02, 2014

In November, December and also in February, the above pictures were my view on a daily basis.  Five days/week, I’d do a brisk 20 minute walk at around 8:20 in the morning so I could catch a bus to take me down via Gregorio VII (it’s always just referred to as “Gregorio Settimo”) towards the Vatican.  Shortly before the bus reached my school, the road curved and the above view of the Vatican loomed ahead.  I’d get down from the bus before it reached the Vatican, which was just another few minutes, or a 10 minute walk from the school. 

I just received an email from a long-time friend who had supervised me almost 30 years ago when I was getting my Bachelor’s degree in Social Work.  I volunteered in a program that did some small group counseling/therapy sessions (the Deferred Prosecution Program), and she was the Director.  (Actually, on a side-note, I apologize to many of you who probably received a request from me about LinkedIn – ooops.  I signed up for LinkedIn so I could stay a little in-tune with things in Occupational Therapy, and maybe international work, etc., and didn’t realize that an email would be sent to anyone I had ever emailed.  The plus side is that a few people have been back in touch with me since then.)  She received that LinkedIn invite and wrote back, mentioning that it must be humbling to be surrounded by the huge monuments reflecting so much history here.  And mostly it’s true - - but, actually I fluctuate between feeling humbled, and not even noticing.  Like the above view of the Vatican – some days I thought how incredible it was that this was my daily view.  Other days I walked along whistling, “ho hum ho hum, it’s off to class I go”, excited about going to class, and forgetting to pay attention to the rest of the experience. 

It’s kind of like when I was in Africa -- there were moments where I’d be in awe of where I was and grateful and amazed to be in Africa, doing work that I cared about and felt fulfilled to be doing, and other days when I’d think, “ho hum ho hum, it’s just another day.

Actually, I think I like that.  I don’t know if I want to be amazed in that way every day.  I don’t know that I want to feel humbled in that way every day.  I also don’t want every day to be ho hum ho hum.  I like the mix.  I remember in the past when I visited Rome that within a day or two I’d be thinking, “OK, enough of the archaeological sites; enough of the broken down buildings; enough of these huge monuments. Let me get some ice-cream.”  Maybe it was too much – I don’t know.  This time around, though, while living here, I haven’t had that feeling of “enough” --  but I have had the feeling of “let me get some ice-cream.

Anyway….in January I was fortunate to go back to Ghana to make a site/support visit to Joe, who I wrote about in my last entry.  And, of course, I took some vacation time while there to also see some of my former colleagues and my friends.  I also mentioned in my last blog entry that I would again write about some of the people I know since, no surprise, there are still some who hope for school or small business assistance, etc.  And, hmmm, again no surprise, there are a few people I would love to help.  At the same time, several months ago I still made the decision to stay in SMA, which resulted in me still, frustratingly, not being able to actually help too much on my own.  When small emergencies here and there come up, it’s manageable, but school fees? small business development? – not so manageable. 

I’ll start with the lightest one and a familiar person who I’ve written about in the past.  I first wrote about Thomas back in October, 2010, when I was writing about some of the people I was working with on the refugee camp, but I wrote more specifically about just him and shared his story in January, 2011.  In response to that blog post, someone helped him to be able to pay for the exams he needed to take so as to complete his degree in shipping.  He’s still on the camp now, still helping Elizabeth at the Harmony Center, and I think it was finally last year that he was able to complete all the exams needed.  Now, though, there’s a class he hopes to take which will give him one more important and useful skill for when he returns to Liberia.  The class costs a little under $250 - - and I think it’s about 1 ½ - 2 months long.  He is hoping to return to Liberia before the end of the year.  If anyone wants to help him out, let me know.

Meanwhile, for the past few weeks, Rome has been filling up.  A couple of weeks ago was Easter – many many people were here for that. 

Easter at St. Peter's Square

More Easter at the Vatican


Last week Sunday was the biggest shindig that has taken place here in many years.  I heard 3 million visitors were expected.  Popes John Paul II and John XXIII were canonized on Sunday, 27 April.  The city was packed.  The house we live in was full, too – and it was nice to see some familiar faces and to have some variety tossed into the standard group that’s usually around.  At the same time that it was nice to see a few familiar faces from the years in Africa and to have the variety, I ran from the house and the city and have escaped all for a few days.  May and June are promising to be busy and it's nice to have a quick break before the intensity starts up.  However, even if I hadn't run from Rome on the morning of the canonization, I still wouldn't have any pictures to put here - I had planned to stay home and watch it on TV - which is the same I ended up doing anyway.  Imagine the above pictures having been taken from further away, with even more people --- and with rain and umbrellas -- and then you'll have an idea of how my experience at the canonization would have been for me if I'd gone.  Anyway... it was a special day for the Catholic Church, and, as with many things, mixed with a little controversy.  However, all that aside, Pope Francis continues to inspire me and give me hope - he's simple, unencumbered by, even just puts aside, a lot of the usual protocols, and gets close to people.  Even on the long day of the canonization, which followed a couple of long weeks with Lenten and Easter celebrations, in spite of probably being tired out, he still lived what he spoke, got down, and mixed with people who were in the crowds.  He got close to people,touching them, being touched, looking them in their eyes, and letting them know he cared and felt for them.  The highest guy in the Catholic Church is doing what he can to live what everyone is always preaching.  It's a little sad to think that this is revolutionary.        


At 3:30 PM, Blogger MJ said...

I always look forward to your blog updates as you give a much better perspective on things going on there than the news people do. You add the personal touch--and the pictures you put on here from Easter are a different view than what they show--they focused more on taking pictures from higher up and farther away to show the huge crowds where you showed some of the actual building. I like reading what you say about the Pope from someone who actually lives in the area--it tells me that he really is what he says and that what you see in the news is just not put on for the reporters but actually his everyday life.


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