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narrativa e di portafoglio

narrative and portfolio of Ian Siegel

Blogging tonight to the flicker of citronella candlelight and the beat of a percussion class while waiting for dinner to be ready. It’s warm but now that the sun is down, not hot anymore. Relaxing, even, when the wind blows a little. This feels like a vacation again.

This afternoon I finally got around to posting all the photos I put off uploading for my last post, so feel free to check that out (with images this time). While uploading I reread the I Miss Rome and Rough Transition posts—and would like to apologize for whining.

For a moment I am going to try to justify the emotions I was feeling that actually led me to complain, since it’s not something I do often at all. When we first arrived, our conditions did feel unlivable, especially after coming from such a comfortable, air-conditioned hotel room so close to the center of the city. I was used to warm, indoor showers. To arrive under such opposite circumstances made for quite a rude awakening.

Then our job became to make the place our own—prepare our open-plan living and sleeping space for comfortable use (without mattresses or pillows), clean up the showers and build a canopy over them, and put together a grill and dining table for twenty-some people. As I mentioned in my first post in this new location, my bitterness (yeah, I’m ashamed to call it that, but I suppose it’s an accurate word choice…) subsided a little after the first day of work. In working on the space we took some ownership of the space; it was no longer just a kind of dirty, abandoned mental hospital building, it was something of home (in a sick kind of way).

Lorenzo, our peppy, animated, and free-spirited leader of Stalker, explained to us after two days of complaining a concept that led me to begin to think differently: Rome is designed with spectacle in mind. Roads are oriented to grant views and access to its many breathtaking monuments and arrival points, both ancient and contemporary—the city is organized to squeeze money out of tourists’ pockets. This week would be a liberating experience from what I had loved so very, very much last week in the heart of the city.

As we change the place, the place should also change us.

Immediately after this talk was a chance (unbeknownst to Lorenzo) to vote our way back to last week’s hotel, or to stay in the asylum. And I must be honest—I found myself very much torn between the two. Living on-site for four days had improved conditions from our move-in day beyond explanation. By now I had become somewhat used to sleeping on a thin air mattress and taking cold showers in the bamboo shack we had built. And, in a way, it was a sort of home that we had made for ourselves. And the dinner parties we have each night—the food is so delicious, and the relaxed atmosphere that opened this post has a way of erasing whatever complaints I may have had during the heat of the day.

The deciding factor was that I remembered the phone call I made to my parents earlier in the week, when I (again, sorry) complained regarding our sleeping conditions. It was the sleeping conditions and the state of our outdoor shower that led me to vote in favor of the hotel. As much as I would love to complete the live/work/sleep workshop according to plan—after all, the community of students was coming along—if I can get a good night’s sleep at night, I’m all for it. The few of us who voted accordingly move in again tomorrow and will commute to the ex-asylum for the workshop.

Now onto the things we did today—we went on a walk around the asylum complex with a former nurse on site, to learn many surprising and intriguing things about the grounds on which we squatted. Then in the afternoon was another walk that took us beyond the limits of the facility gates. Our trek is included below; beginning and ending at the “x” and mapping or trajectory and experience. (By experience, I mean our reaction to the images observed today.

The most notable segment of the trip—aside from climbing through fences, ducking through gypsy-owned and –upkept gardens—was probably our way back up the cliff formed by the River; there was only one exit (as compared to the zero to one exists everyplace elsewhere. The exercise built community,” stated Julia, another organizer of Stalker, possibly unaware of this place’s future. See the map below to try and track our trajectory:

I didn’t take any pictures on this walk, but it brought us through holes in containing walls, along gardens kept by Roman gypsies, across a creek between two mountainsides, next to the property of a former jailkeeper (Lorenzo talked with him for close to 40 minutes while occasionally translating), and then—most exciting—up a 70- to 80-degree incline for roughly 40 vertical feet, in loose soil and grass that pulls up easily. I had doubts regarding whether or not we would even make it back up. The very end of the hill was the greatest challenge; it was steep enough that feet would slip in the loose dirt. A few of us were able to climb up a little bit and as we would we would grab onto trees with one hand and reach out to pull up the climbers behind us. Somewhere in the middle of it all Adam R (the Raptor) slipped back down and hurt is already-injured knee. We got him, along with the rest of the group, to the top of the hill–no man left behind—and headed back to shower off. Adam got back and sat outside in a chair for close to two hours with ice on his knee even before he showered (and we were disgusting) because of how much it was hurting him. His knee is still in really bad shape, and we’re hoping he doesn’t need to get to a hospital.

This brings me to where I am now, another one of our excellent dinners. Somewhere in the middle of this post I stopped to eat some of the best pasta I’ve ever eaten in my life. Wow. I say this about every city I visit, but I might just have to move here someday.

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