The fun and games continue unabated in the Eternal City. Our daytime sessions are about the Brothers' Rule of Life, and despite being about more or less serious stuff, we are getting into some good stuff about what the Rule actually looks like in the day-to-day of our communities, especially given the multitude of cultures that are figuring out how to apply it in their situations. My small group is three Americans and one Zambian, and it goes without saying that the issues they are dealing with are literally and figuratively worlds away from ours. The days are nicely paced to intersperse prayer and formal sessions, free time and impromptu trips around town. Have managed to zip through three or four books in the past week, and am currently working on Dostoevsky's The Idiot, a surprisingly easy and quick read given that it's a pretty hefty tome and translated from the Russian in a fairly ponderous idiom. Had been worried about getting enough physical activity with no gym facilities close at hand, but the four flights of stairs, plus all the walking, are keeping me busy, and doing pull-ups on the assembly they use for clotheslines hasn't broken anything yet.
Took a long walk yesterday afternoon looking for stamps (figuring out how to ask for that was an adventure in itself), and while looking up at the balconies and terrazzos, saw a kid, probably 5 years old, standing in his underwear on a tiny skateboard on a terrace two or three stories up. He waved. So, wave back and try not to laugh too hard until I'm out of sight. Found a gelato place - no, there are tons of them, so there is no finding to be done - chose one of the many gelato places on the way home and asked for Nutella gelato as one of the three flavors I could get. If you aren't familiar with Nutella, it's a spreadable chocolate-hazelnut dance party for your mouth, and I was expecting chocolate gelato with a little hazelnut flavoring - you know, Nutella FLAVORED gelato. Not quite - they must have just given me a glob of Nutella right out of the jar, like asking for peanut-butter ice cream and getting a glob of peanut butter on your cone, or asking for rum raisin and getting a shot and a handful of grapes. Believe me, I wasn't complaining, but now I owe the body about 400 pushups to make up for that little splurge.
Last night tagged along with a group of about 10 French-speakers to the Tiber River. The ride there and back on the unbelievably crowded bus was a lesson in letting go, especially of things like personal space and expectation of hygiene, but hey, when in Rome, right? Anyway, once we got there, it was just amazing - there are all kinds of kiosks, outdoor restaurants, even dance clubs right there in the open air along the river, right in the shadow of stone walls and bridges that are hundreds and thousands of years old. Right next to one of the several outdoor hookah bars we saw was a sushi place with a little conveyor belt - the sushi comes along on a little plate on the belt, you take what you want, they charge you for the number of plates you take. For a small-town boy like myself, a novelty. Then we found an Italian band doing a concert at a restaurant (all open-air, mind you); the singer had a pretty solid Elvis impersonation going on, and he did 3 or 4 classic Elvis tunes mixed in with a range of Italian something or another. More soon - too much hilarious and interesting stuff going on here not to write about.