The muscle in my right shoulder burned, and I felt a bead of sweat drip down my back, adding to the moisture of my already dampened shirt. Heat, humidity, and strangers filled my eyes. I try to keep my composure and make myself seem appealing to the others. Everyone’s eyes are darting around. “Oh my God, it’s so hot!” We finally reached the tour bus, and I surrendered my heavy suitcase to smiling bus driver. Within five seconds of entering the tall bus, I nervously looked around, but my anxiety was cooled by the blaring jets of the air conditioning, easing myself with relief and comfort. After I took a seat, the program director stood in the front of the bus.
“Okay, let’s do roll call… looks like everyone is all here! Well folks, Bonjourno and welcome to your Rome study abroad!”
For my first blog, I wanted to recall my first few moments of my study abroad experience. From my warm, comfortable queen-size bed at home in New York, I was overwhelmingly excited and more than ready to hop on a plane and fly to Rome to begin my study abroad tour. There was no doubt in my mind that I would not be casually walking the streets in a flowing dress and gazing into the Trevi fountain on my way to meet some friends at a local trattoria where we would be served delicious mozzarella, pasta, and sweet red wine. That idea was glamorous, but as soon as I felt the sharp pain in my body from carrying my 49.9 lb suitcase over cobblestone sidewalks and the oppressive heat, which would not be complete without tiny buzzing pests flying around your face, I soon realized that my preconceived notion of Rome may have been a little far fetched.
I was there, waiting for Rome to take me in its arms and make me fall in love with it. Waiting… and… waiting. Why am I not getting a pixy cut and riding around on a vespa with Gregory Peck??? Was it my idealized dream of Rome that failed me? Or was it the reality of Rome that failed me? Either way, I was travelling. I was a foreigner in a foreign country. Things were different to me- the heat, the cobblestone streets, even the Loyola students who were in my program. It felt like a simple flip of a switch happened, and everything that was me changed. I somehow felt the need to figure out how to combat or to welcome these changes.
Applying my personal account of the first day of Rome to Wendt’s Black Rainbow, the novel begins with a description of the narrator’s daily routine. Initially, the narrator’s routine is monotonous and simple. For example, he makes small talk with his wife seemed forced, and he is always picked up by John for his sessions at the same place and same time; the jogs seem like the most adventurous action the narrator conducts. The constant cycle of this uneventful routine seems almost painful for the narrator to do, and it is evident at the end of Chapter 1 that his wife is clearly irritated by their current state of living.
Once the Supreme Tribunal grants the narrator his freedom, the goal in which he has been aiming at for some time, the narrator seems unprepared and caught off guard, similar to how I was caught off guard by the un-pleasantries of my first day in Rome. The “scavenger hunt” that he must perform after his freedom corresponds to the struggle that I needed to endure in order to acclimate myself with Rome. He is accustomed to his routine; although it seems that its monotony is almost painful, he is comforted by knowing what is coming next. Facially, freedom is a positive thing, and everyone wants it; it means sovereignty and self-autonomy, and it is a virtue and ideal. When the narrator receives the news of his freedom, he initially rejects it because he is overwhelmed with the drastic change and the spontaneity of his new life. His sudden freedom puts him in a state of shock, and, similar to my experience, he is forced into making it work.