So, I was studying abroad in Rome.
I had the brilliant idea of learning Italian while I was there. I could walk out into the streets, piazzas and cafes, and practice with my new found knowledge fresh in my mind.
Why not, right?
My study abroad comrades and I would frequent a bar called Scholar's Lounge, a massive Irish pub catered to visiting Americans with an immensely popular karaoke night on Tuesdays. When it was your turn, you stood on stage, stared out at a packed crowd on the floor and a platform above, and rocked out. As karaoke nights go, this one made you feel like a true performer.
After a few Irish beers that were made in the Guinness factory (but weren't actually Guinness), a friend and I were called to the stage to sing Fall Out Boy's "Sugar, We're Going Down," a timeless karaoke anthem readymade for that moment.
We went wild. The crowd loved us. And the night carried on.
Until, when I was getting knocked around in the packed crowd afterwards, I accidentally nudged a server. And a large security guard threw me out. He could have easily THROWN me.
Still fairly new to Rome, I had a general idea of where I was and thought I'd find my way back home through the winding, circuitous streets of this ancient city.
I was near the Tomb of the Underground, which I had visited a couple nights earlier.
To the left was the Coliseum at the end of a straight road that feels like an outdoor museum with the ruins on either side of it. To the right was my way back home.
I played it logically, and followed the main roads in the hopes it would lead me to the Tiber River, which I knew would signal a cake walk for the rest of the back.
When you aimlessly walk in Rome, you're in for a treat.
But this treat led me away from the buildings that once held an empire and brought me into the weird, oft-centered parts of Rome's residential areas, a dead end with construction, and a closed strip mall across the street from a large graveyard.
I knew some basic Italian, though.
Rome in the middle of the night is shockingly empty, but the few souls I encountered in my wayward adventure were greeted with my broken Italian.
"Di dove si Trastevere?"
Where is Trastevere, the neighborhood I was staying?
Some didn't know. Others would explain in Italian and point, and I'd pray I was following their directions correctly.
For what seemed like an eternity (it was maybe an hour and a half), I thought my fate would be decided by the far-off streets of Rome, where the Vatican, pizza, wine, piazzas, and tourism may as well have been foreign concepts.
I finally stumbled on a group of twenty-somethings, smoking hookah and hanging out at an intersection near a random park. They spoke English, and realized that my Italian was extremely limited. They told me how to get to the Tiber River, and let me go from there.
I hoped they didn't lead me astray, but I had no other option than to follow their directions exactly.
When I arrived at the Tiber River (finally), it dawned on me how far I ventured. I may as well have ended up in the Bronx when my end destination was in Brooklyn.
But after a night of eerily walking on a modern, paved roads that wound between two or three thousand year old buildings, at least I knew how far I had to go and generally speaking, where I was.
Another half hour later, I had finally returned home.
Was it because I knew a basic question in Italian? I'd like to think it was because of a basic trust in humanity.
It was definitely more than I bargained for, but that was just the beginning of a beautiful, fortunate whirlwind abroad in a magical city
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