Wow. I found this (quite long but unfinished) blog post I wrote in a word doc well over a year ago. Considering it’s over a year ago I laughed at myself at several points while rereading. Here are some of my first adventures in putting myself out there and making friends. I should have done it sooner, but I am quite happy with the lovely friends I made out of my first photography meet up. 🙂
Sitting in my apartment with no internet, which is why I am able to sit and write this blog post right now. No internet to distract me from blogging. Let’s just hope I can hold my attention long enough to post this when the wifi is up and running!
It’s been almost six months here in Rome. I cannot believe half of the year is over already. If I had been accepted to the Fulbright Teacher exchange, I would be halfway through my teach abroad experience. Six months is nothing. I’ve finally gotten settled in to my neighborhood and my school. I’m learning some Italian (although quite slowly). While I’ve had some great trips in Europe during my school breaks, I have not seen any of Italy. I can’t imagine packing up and going home after the end of this school year. While I do miss my friends and family so very much, I am 110% sure that I will be in Rome for at least one more year.
Now something a lot of my friends and family ask me is, “Have you made any Italian friends?” Honestly, outside of work, I have made zero friends and haven’t even really met very many people. While I adore my work friends, I’ve been feeling like it would be a good idea to reach out and meet other expats or maybe even some real live Italians! I finally decided I needed to get over my fear of talking to people I don’t know and just socializing in general. So began Mission: Meet Up. I’ve gone to a few meet ups back home. I was a part of a photography group for quite a while and while it didn’t lead to friendships, I met a lot of great people and learned a lot. I started searching for meet ups in Rome that had to do with anything I could possibly interested in…. that were in English. I am now a member of groups for photographers, music and movie lovers, adventure seekers, language exchanges, and happy hours. My goal is to go to at least one meet up a week, unless I happen to have a jam packed social calendar or I’m traveling.
First, I joined a group that was lead by an archeological expert. She took about 15 of use on a tour that ended up the ancient Mithreaum of Circus Maximus. She was deeply passionate about the topic, and while she was interesting to listen to there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for interaction. Just how I like it. Oh, wait… I’m supposed to be making friends here. After the tour, most people left, but there were a few of us left standing there awkwardly until one Australian woman asked if anyone wanted to go for coffee. There’s my opportunity! While the thought of sitting in a café with a group of strangers sipping strong coffee out of tiny cups made me a little nauseous, during my meet ups, I am Yes, Man. As this Jim Carrey persona, I must accept all invitations to social events. I hadn’t even talked to anyone so far except for one guy who made a comment about be being late (Psh… the bus never came and I had to take two taxis to get there. Who know there were hundreds of churches in Rome with the same name?) So off we went, the Italian archeologist, a Roman man, and an Australian woman. We had cappuccinos (my first!!!!) standing at the top of the Capitoline museum (apparently standing while drinking coffee is an Italian thing). While it didn’t lead to any friendships, it felt amazing to visit a new place and have some interesting conversation with people that I don’t see every day!
The following weekend, I joined another tour. This time, it was a photography tour on the streets of Monti. Like the other meet up, there was a tour guide who shared his knowledge with us, however we had much more time to interact with each other and talk about our pictures. This was an interesting meet up. We were supposed to take photos of strangers. Now, usually when I look over my travel photos, my favorite ones end up being ones where local people accidentally end up in my shots. While I love these candid photos, I get super nervous pointing my camera at a stranger. While the only good pictures I got were of people are the ones where they are walking away from the camera and have no idea I’m taking a picture of them, I did learn some good tips that I will need to try in the future. After the photo walk, (which by the way, started with coffee. All of them involve coffee.) we all went to lunch after. The people in this group seemed to be around my age, and again, were very diverse, friendly, and interesting people. It really made me wonder why I’ve been hiding in my American bubble for so long. Luckily I’ve been able to keep in touch with these guys and hope to have photo walks with them in the future!
Last weekend I tried out my third meet up group. This was the largest group by far, with probably about 30 people. This was another historical tour which took us from Piazza Venezia to Piazza Navona where we learned about the Borgia family. Since the group was so large, it was the hardest time for me socially, even though I liked not having to talk to people. I brought my camera and tried to implement some of the photography tips I learned last weekend. Finally when the tour was over, some girls were talking about going for appertivo. This time, I moved beyond Yes, Man and actually invited myself to come along. After appertivo, we had probably my most favorite meal in Rome yet. (So far digging Naples style pizza over the Roman pizza!). However, we met up with some additional tour leaders for dinner and suddenly the conversation switched from English to Italian. The girls from England and the Netherlands (who have lived in Rome less than I have) actually were quiet fluent and were able to participate in the conversation. I picked up a phrase here and there and individual words.