17th August, 2011
We have a day to ourselves today, before our tour is due to start. We walk the streets of Rome - and it is so hot and sticky. My poor peaches and cream complexion takes on a permanent angry red colour - very attractive.
By day, Rome is just so hot. Everyone you see has bottled water - but there are these most amazing aqueducts, all over the city and the water tastes outstanding and is ridiculously cool. I'm in love with Rome just for this fact. I'm not usually the type to drink water from the street - but our guide assures us it is safe; my cousin who has been here before, also confirms this - so I though, bugger it 'when in Rome'.. I never look back after my first taste.
While walking the sights we see our fair share of the 'gypsys'. They can be intimidating and kind of scary - but I get good at spotting them, and really good at saying assertively "NO, grazie!". I secretly love that I can say that, without seeming like a complete knob. And there are just so many people everywhere, that gypsy dodging can get quite difficult - but I suppose it works in our favour that there are plenty of potential customers for them to hassle.
A lot of places that we go to, have these little mini-markets set up, with all these glorious portraits, sketches and paintings - real talent. And I wonder if perhaps Rome has a lot of art school drop outs. Seriously, if I had the room in my luggage, I would've gone crazy!
Other note able happenings from the day - more lovely gelato, and paying five euros for 330ml of coca-cola - ouch, and, never again.
That same night, we go for a walking tour with our newly met tour leader. We see some of the same sights, however they take on an entirely different vibe as they are bathed in the warm light of the setting sun. It is dark by time we reach the Pantheon. I notice over by the building that there are some candles and a little alter set up. It intrigues me, so I get closer to see what it's about. I find a Tibetan monk - chanting. There is a female companion seated next to him, a picture of the Dalai Lama and candles lit on the ground forming the words 'SAVE TIBET'. A westerner lady, who I assume is perhaps an escort to the monk starts to explain to some of us what this display is about. The monk is praying for a fellow brother who took his own life days earlier. She goes on to explain the monks have been living in very poor conditions since the Dalai Lama's birthday. The monks celebrated this occasion, against the will of the Chinese government - so they had been punished, with all utilities like gas, water and electricity being cut off. It was such a strain on some of the monks that, unfortunately some started to take their own lives - in defiance, or desperation. This particular monk who was being remembered, had set himself on fire. I just remember thinking how awful - that governments can do this - not be accountable - not care. The westerner lady said we as people have the power to change this, but people have to want to do it. I wish I had been able to understand what the monk was saying. It was special to see, but sad to be reminded that a difference of opinion can have such dire consequences.