Monday, August 31, 2009

Needed: Scooter Repellent

Italian people are nuts. And not your garden variety slightly-out-of-whack nuts either, but full out insane-as-can-be nuts. I spent my one week of vacation in Rome this summer. Rome is beautiful. And filthy. And only slightly less corrupt than the eternal pits of hell.

Let me tell you about our first day in Rome. To start off the day on a good note we got up at the ungodly hour of 3:30am. We drove 2 hours to the airport and then sat 3.5 hours in a plane that could fall out of the sky at any moment. I was very aware of this little fact on account of my very rational fear of flying.

We arrived in Rome dressed for the sort of cool summer weather we have over here, and immediately realized we were going to melt. Well we couldn’t very well change in the middle of the airport so with some difficulty we moved on and located the local trains. We took the first train into Rome and ended up at Tiburtina train and metro station where I proceeded to get my wallet stolen. This was a particularly good idea, I thought, since it gave us the chance to socialize with the locals. Tiburtina train and metro station happens to have a police station attached to it, so the next thing we did was spend the most disturbing hour I’ve ever experienced at a Roman police station. No one knew English, they all had massive amounts of fire power on their person and everyone was screaming at each other and waving their arms. They made me sit in a chair and questioned me about what had happened and made me write an account of it. They took away my passport and left us alone in the middle of chaos central with gun wielding maniacs and women who were giving me the evil eye. But at least they had air conditioning.

By the time we left Tiburtina I still didn’t have my wallet, I was hot as hell, I was thirsty and hungry, not having eaten anything since 3:30am. So we took the metro and jumped off at a station that was supposed to be pretty close to our hotel. Turns out “pretty close” isn’t so close when you’re toting a 30 lbs suitcase behind you on narrow cobble streets while being chased by angry scooters. By the time we got to the hotel I was praying vacation would be over soon and I could get some rest. The rest of the day we spent practically sleeping on one of the three gazillion tourist buses that flock the city like parasites. It was lovely.

The next day we started exploring Rome for real and soon realized that nothing in Rome is where it is supposed to be. The Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, they’re all just strewn all over the place in the weirdest locations. At one point we were trying to find the Pantheon and when the little back alleys got smaller and smaller we thought for sure we were lost and we’d never see our hotel again. Turns out we were wrong and some idiot hid the Pantheon behind a dumpster and then built a bunch of houses so close to it that the streets are so narrow you can barely even drive a scooter down them. Knowing the Italians they’d probably still find a way to cram seven tourist buses and a Fiat side by side down the street.

Don’t worry, though, if you’re in Rome and are having a hard time finding it, I’ll help you out. First, get on a tourist bus and ride with it for several hours until you think you might have heard the tour guide say something resembling “Pantheon”. Get off the bus, consult your map and start walking in any random direction. When the streets start to get darker and too narrow to drive on, take a left at the end of the alley with the dead rat, behind the dumpster and the scooter you’ll find the Pantheon. You’re welcome.

Romans take things seriously; especially their driving. Traffic lights and stop signs are viewed merely as friendly suggestions of how you might want to act if you were so inclined. Romans are not so inclined. The one with the loudest horn usually goes first. This made me wonder how come not more of the cars were equipped with external horns on the roofs with much bigger capacity for making noise. After a couple of days of quiet observation I realized this is due to the fact that were you to mount an external horn on a Roman car it would either A. fall through the roof of the Fiats that for some reason are made out of plastic and only slightly bigger than an average size Barbie car, or B. not work. Nothing works in Italy. This statement is of course, as stated above, based on completely scientific observation made during a three-day period while eating gelato, dying of heat stroke and trying to survive crossing the street.

Speaking of, crossing the street is something that is not recommended during your stay in Rome. M and I tried that once. After almost being run down by one tourist bus, three red Fiats travelling together, a horde of scooters and a pack of evil Segways, we realized that walking 68 miles on the other side of the street to get to the same place wasn’t all that bad after all. It’s all about perspective. After we got home my ignorant sister asked me if we rented scooters while we were away and I just started giggling like a crazy person. I don’t think she quite got the joke, but I happen to know that the life expectancy of a person riding a scooter in Rome is roughly 2.5 minutes.

It was 95 degrees in Rome. I live in a place only slightly warmer than the North Pole. While the Romans dressed in jeans and shirts, I wore as close to nothing as I got away with and carried with me 3 bottles of water at all times – one to drink from, one to pour over my sizzling skin and one in case I couldn’t take it anymore and needed to drown myself to put an end to it. Needless to say, it wasn’t pretty. At Saint Peter’s Basilica the guard told me most respectfully I couldn’t enter wearing next to nothing, and kindly asked me to cover my legs and shoulders. I considered respectfully punching him in the face, then I considered kindly asking him to kiss my ass, before finally reminding myself that I was entering the womb of the Catholic Church and would probably be struck down dead by God if I entered wearing next to nothing. The fact that I’m not Catholic somehow slipped my mind. I think it was the heat.

All in all, I had an amazing trip. Don’t let my ramblings fool you; Rome is truly beautiful and one for the most amazing places I have ever seen. I’d go there again in a heartbeat. Maybe. Now I just need to replace my lost credit cards and driver’s licence. Oh the joys of travelling. *

Friday, August 28, 2009

An Army of Jackhammers and some Friendly Furniture

Today I woke up at the crack of dawn to the sound of someone tearing my apartment building down. Naturally, this made me feel a little unsettled, but seeing as it was indeed in the middle of the night, I did my best to fall back asleep. Sleep, however, eluded me. I like to think this was due to the fact that I was already well rested and didn’t need any more beauty sleep, but when I looked in the mirror I looked vaguely like the love child of Chuckie the doll and Courtney Love. This is of course due to the simple fact that I did indeed need a little more beauty sleep and the reason I couldn’t sleep was the army of jackhammers trying to take over the earth.

When I finally gave up and got out of bed, I went to the window and realized the army of jackhammers had suddenly disappeared and been replaced by a lone worker with a shovel. But I swear, it must have been the shovel from hell, cause the noise it made could have woken up the dead. Of course, by the time I’d brushed my teeth, the shovel of mass destruction had stopped making noise and everything was quiet and peaceful, but since I was up I couldn’t really justify getting back into bed anymore.

Thankfully, my BFF Zelma called and asked me to come meet her at her new apartment, which I gladly did. She’s in the process of moving in and has been putting together furniture and stuff all week long. Today’s project was a table and a lamp.

I happen to know that when God created earth, he also created IKEA to fuck with mankind. Then he gave IKEA to the Swedes, who immediately put a bunch of blonde chicks at work on opening random packages and taking out a screw here and a bolt there, to cause maximum amount of confusion all around the world. Famine, drought and war pales in significance to that 25mm screw that was supposed to come with the package, but didn’t. IKEA furniture looks friendly, has friendly Swedish names and comes in a million pieces in teeny tiny packages and with a short, practical manual to help the customer lose the pieces in the most efficient way put the teeny tiny pieces together to form something slightly resembling the picture on the box.

When I moved into my current apartment, I bought an IKEA book case. It was white and friendly and called Expedit. It came in seven parts plus a few screws and bolts. The user-friendly manual was 30 pages long. Yep, 30. After two hours, one broken nail and an undisclosed number of colourful curses later, I finally had my book case. IKEA didn’t think I needed a hammer, but I used one anyway.

This is about how far my friendship with IKEA extends, but I’m always open for new experiences, so Zelma’s table and lamp sounded like fun. The lamp was a piece of cake, we freed it from the mile of plastic wrapped around it and put it together in no time at all. The table consisted of, not surprisingly, four legs and a table top. All you had to do was screw the legs on and you were good to go. Except each leg had to be screwed on using about 30 huge monster screws that were supposed to go into tiny little holes. We only had one screwdriver so we had to take turns trying to force the screws down the holes. After about 82 screws, Zelma’s arm fell off and I had to take over. By the time we were finished we were breathing hard, we were sweaty and warm, our arms and hands ached and the table was looking a little bit wobbly. But since it actually resembled a table we called it a victory and went out for Chinese food. Life is good. *

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Famous Last Words

When I was little, I once ate a worm just to see if it would crawl back up my throat after I swallowed it. It didn’t. Since then I’ve become many a few years older and have learned a few more things about swallowing. It won’t make you pregnant for example. It will, however, make you fat – in the non-pregnant way. Let me introduce myself, I’m Ziva and I’ll be sharing my incredible wisdom in this blog. I’m saving the rest of my extensive knowledge about swallowing for a later post – be sure to check back in for that tasty morsel of “I really didn’t need to know that.”

I’m fairly new to this blogging business, but hopefully I’m doing it right. Nothing major has exploded as of yet, so I can only assume I’m on the right track. Usually I can tell when things go wrong. When things go wrong in my life they do it with style. I’m talking catastrophic failure here. My laptop didn’t simply die – the screen fell off. My bike didn’t just break – pieces were sawed off of it. My car didn’t just stop working – the brakes became completely useless in the middle of a roundabout. I don’t know what could possibly go wrong with a simple blog, but I’m sure those could very well be my famous last words. Although, I’d kind of want them to be about something a little bit more exciting… Like “I’m sure this isn’t one of those man-eating sharks.” or “Do you think we could jump that 20-foot gap in the bridge with my car?” or “Does this volcano look like it’s about to erupt to you?” Those would be awesome last words.

What about you? What would be your famous last words? *