It has now been over a month since I moved to Rome.
I want to take this opportunity to take you aside and mention that I did not know anybody before moving here: no family, no friends, not a single sod. As you can guess, the language is unfamiliar and off key to the French and Russian I learnt at school, the city vast and beautiful, ancient and lonely.
“I did not know anybody… not a single sod”
This morning, I woke up early, feeling for the first time, at home in the apartment block in Via di Nazario. Our flat is near the top and the kitchen windows look out over the back of the building, to a long, drop down into a tiled hall. Looking up there is a handkerchief of blue sky. The tall apartment was one of many that lined the narrow street, and it was a stones throw away from Piazza Farnese, that breaks out into Campo di Fiori, a very pretty and multicoloured market square.
“Looking up there is a handkerchief of blue sky”
Early in the morning men and women of all shapes and sizes set up stalls of fruit, vegetables, trinkets, treasures, books and oils. The bars brim with boisterous conversation, espresso and freshly baked cornettos. It is here I pass through with the children on our way to school every morning.
“The bars brim with boisterous conversation, espresso and freshly baked cornettos”
It is the weekend and I feel relieved. Weekends always have a different rhythm. There is no routine, and although I am expected to still be around for the children I am often free to do what I choose. As wonderful as that sounds, I still had no friends. Nobody I could talk to outside of the immediate family. It is a strange, unnerving feeling and as I rummaged around my room getting ready for the day, I thought how odd it would be if my friends could see me now. Lonely, old me.
This morning Benjamin, the father whom I live with and work for, prepared coffee in a small mocha pot, and the strong perfume filtered through the house. The day was bright and blue, which in Rome was terribly normal. For me though, a born and bred English girl, the day felt full of possibility and fresh.
The house is full of minimal luxuries, my favourite of which are the enormous, white linen curtains that waft about the living room, waving cheerful to passers-by outside. A lady comes to help every day with the cooking and cleaning leaving the place spotless. It often makes me feel inadequate, but I was not there to be the cleaner or the cook. I was the au-pair and taught English to the children who begrudgingly accepted lessons.
I could hear Teresa in the bathroom, and popped my head around the door.
“Good morning, sweetie.”
Teresa was intelligent and angelic. She had long, blond hair that she was exceptionally proud of. Someone had taught her to brush it many, many times to keep it shiny and the bathroom always occupied.
She danced into the hall after breakfast where there was a large table with colouring paper and pens. I was drinking my creamy coffee, and once I started drawing Teresa plopped herself on the chair next to me and followed suit. Anna, Teresa’s mother had already left for work, and Teresa was to meet her at four.
There are a few things I like to do when I am alone in the foreign house– namely, make sure I get in touch with those who love me. This is a small window of time where I make sure I catch up with people back home and touch base with those I miss to ensure that they know I am thinking of them and am still alive. (My mother has a wild imagination). You are probably wondering what happened to the first few weeks, and why this doesn’t start at the beginning. One word for you: homesick. So desperately and surprisingly homesick. Nothing lasts for long, adaption changes everything. I have blubbered over frothy cappuccino, overlooking the view of the golden Colosseum, while waiters hover close by wondering if there is a problem with the coffee? That seems a silly, rather embarrassing memory. Now there is routine, I know where I am with the family, who have been nothing but kind – (well, the boy often looks at me as if he is plotting murder.)
“Nothing lasts for long, adaption changes everything”
It is now beginning to get colder, more autumnal. The sprinkling of tan I had gained upon arrival is being ripped off by chillier weather that only makes the city appear more unique and crisp.
I don’t know if you have ever lived far from home, but if you are english and nodding then one phrase for you when craving comfort: A cup of Yorkshire tea, love? Have a sit down, chat with your granny, and everything will be alright. My own granny has had to listen to some blubbering down the phone more than once since I got here. Not a delicate tear, but full on sobbing that forces me to hide in the bathroom and talk, feigning a normal, chatty voice. Come on! We’ve all done it.
My advice to a lonely soul getting chubby on pasta and feeling sad: allocate time to talk to, write and catch up with home and those far away faces that love you. Other than that, throw yourself into where you are otherwise you will miss it. You will simply miss out on all of it. And that is pretty sad.