Happy New Year everyone, I heard it was a bit of a scorcher in Melbourne for the festivities so I hope you all rang in 2011 in air-conditioning!
Anyone made any resolutions for 2011? Apart from the usual lose the tyre around the waist or lower the credit card debt? One of my resolutions for 2010 was to get my driver's licence. And I did it in late November - less than a week before I came to Europe. At least I made it in the year, even if it was late!
It's not yet 2011 here - this evening the main festivities are happening in one of the main piazzas in Rome - I've heard it's crazy there and if it is crazy busy and loud by Italian standards then it's going to be mega crazy loud and busy by my Australian ones! So, I am doing my usual New Year's Eve and having a quiet one. I'm not really that sentimental about the turn of the year, in fact I find the thought of a new year always quite daunting. I much prefer to finish the year than start a new one. Kind of morbid I know.
Had a pretty quiet day today. I actually found myself in the slums of Rome - I was making my way up to a park because I was looking for a break from the business of Rome and obviously the hostel I'm staying in now isn't in the same kind of area that the hotel I was in before. However, I actually really enjoyed being there. It was the area that seemed to be mainly inhabited by Asians and Africans with all their shops. Honestly, the difference between here and the touristy main areas was startling. In a Melbourne context, it was like going from Brighton to Laverton. But I found myself so much more at ease here. I think this was due to a number of reasons.
The first was a lack of beggars. I haven't mentioned this before but Rome has an extraordinary number of beggars on every single street corner. It can get frustrating always being hounded by them (and they always know I am a tourist becuase of my pale complexion and red hair so they pounce on me) but today there was not one around - most likely because this is where they live and they were all out at work. Another reason is the lack of designer and exclusive stores. Warning, rant coming! I've always been vehemently opposed to paying for a brand name and have felt ashamed at times seeing my own sex's behaviour towards the acquisition of such goods (remember the frenzied scenes at Target for Stella McCartney's range? And they say that if women ruled the world there would be no wars!). I can appreciate something for its beauty, but the fact that it is Prada or Gucci means that a) obviously I won't be able to afford it and b) I don't want to buy it becuase I think of all the other things I could do with my hard earned money that would do far more for others and myself. Now there are a lot of these stores wherever I go in Europe and in the beginning it was nice - I could have a quick look and see some of the nice things and then move on and see something much more culturally signifcant. But after 2 days of this I'd had more than my share. And now, after 5 weeks of constantly being surrounded by it? I am totally sick of it. I admit I am sensitive to these things but I find it hard being in places that promote narcissim. I have a hard time enough trying to fight my own selfishness without being told I should embrace it because "I deserve it"!
Ok, I think I got that out of my system - it's just been playing on my mind lately and I have no one to vent to, so this blog gets the full force of my anger. Of course, it's exactly the same back home - there are the exclusive shops and designer boutiques in Melbourne. But at home I can avoid them like the plague, whereas over here, they're everywhere I go because they are targeting the tourists.
So anyway, today it was so comforting to spend time in reality as I walked through the poorer areas. And the mere presence of Asian and African people reminded me of home. Over the past year, through various experiences and now especially on this trip, I have totally fallen in love with how multi-cultural Australia is, especially Melbourne. So, give me the choice of shopping at the markets or at the big name boutiques and the I'll take the markets.
Just to finish up, I have to add how noisy Rome is! Either my hearing has gotten much better in the last week or Italians live with the volume up a notch or two above what I am used to! I think it is the latter. And I'm not complaining about this as a cultural thing - I think the enthusiastic approach to life is great - they certainly don't seem afraid of showing genuine affection for their friends. Sometimes, however, especially at night, it would be nice to be able to sleep without some guy called Guido professing his love for Maria by shouting accross the street and revving his Vesper engine. Just saying.