[This is the post that started it all…my very first trip overseas! I sent this email to friends & family in June 2007. It still cracks me up.]
Hello, everybody! I have been in Rome less than 48 hours and so far, my trip has been like a Greek tragedy.
Act 1 “Getting to Rome”
I was booked on an US Air flight (from now on, I’ll be referring to them as Beelzebub Airlines, i.e. the Devil, or just B for short because it’s easier). Anyway, I had a B flight from Atlanta to Philly with just 1 hour for a layover before my connecting flight to Rome. Now, I knew it would be cutting it close should there be a delay but there wasn’t anything I could do. So, the flight from Atlanta gets delayed because there was too much “air traffic” in Philly. How long is the delay? One hour. Yes, I said 1 hour. The exact time I had between connections. So, the B pilot (I’m just gonna call him “Cooter”) tells us that B always pads the flight duration times so we will arrive at 5:15pm. I had a 6:05pm connecting flight. As Cooter is flying the plane he starts talking about altitude and the sunshine and other things I don’t really care about. I care about him increasing the speed on that jet so I could catch my flight. A 7-year-old girl looks at her watch (apparently the watch that Cooter doesn’t own) and announces that it is 5:25pm and we haven’t even begun to descend from the sky. I ask the flight attendant about options to hold my connecting flight by a few minutes. Of course, they can’t promise that but did say they would have an electric cart waiting to drive me over to the next concourse.
We finally land and I get off the plane around 5:45pm. Was there an electric cart waiting? I think you know the answer. My Mom calls to let me know that they’ve already boarded the flight and I need to get there now because they are about to close the door. So, I’m running like OJ thru the airport (without the knife or a Bronco) because there was no electric cart. I get to the gate and the less-than-friendly gate agent says, “We gave your seat away.” I responded with “Oh, so I’m flying first class now, right?” She said, “As of right now, you don’t even have a seat on the plane.” I just looked at her and thought to myself “Hmm, I’m gonna be on this flight if I have to sit with the pilot” and then wondered what kind of in-flight service he received because I’m sure he’s eating better than coach. She eventually finds a seat for me and I am able to board.
Act II “Arrival to Rome”
I arrive in Rome and guess who doesn’t have their bags? If you guessed me, then you are correct. I don’t have one article of clothing because I packed everything except for toiletries. I report my luggage as lost and started with my day. Rome is BEAUTIFUL. The experience of being here is hard to explain. However, I will share with you a few tidbits on the craziness that’s happened to me.
Since I don’t have any clothes, I had to go shopping. Now, something I didn’t know about Rome is that they apparently hate fat people. And, by fat people, that would be anybody that wears a U.S. size 6 and above. I go to a store and pull a couple of dresses off the rack to try on. I select a medium and a large (thinking that they might run a little small). A saleswoman (I’m calling her “Nunya” because she was all in my business without needing to be) walks up and looks over my shoulder at the sizes I picked up and says loudly (because apparently fat people are deaf too) “Jeeww need an EXTRA EXTRA LARGE”. I looked around thinking that maybe she was talking to someone else but she was all up in my face. So, I was like, “Um, I don’t wear that large of a size. This will be fine.” and go about my business of browsing the new “Crack/Smack” summer collection (because wasn’t nobody gonna fit them clothes unless they hit the pipe). So, Nunya disappears to what I thought was to mind her business. I was wrong. She comes out of the back room with an XXL size dress (I guess they leave the fat clothes in a special “Baby Got Back Room” or something) and then announces to the entire store “NOOO, JEEWWW NEED DIS EXTRA EXTRA LARGE. IT STRETCHES SO IT HELPS YO HIPS!” Um, what? My mind is screaming, “I know she ain’t talking to me.” I refuse to buy a size that I spent a year of hard dieting to leave behind. I wish I would by an XXL! I wear small and medium. I don’t care if America is lying to me about my size. Lie to me, America. I don’t want to know the truth. Clearly, I can’t handle the truth. So, I take the Jabba-the-Hut-sized dress and decided to try it on to prove to her that it was too big. Game on, sister! Well, to my surprise…that sucker barely fit. So, um…game off. My face was TIGHT! I was like, “oh hecks naw.” When did I become an XXL? Oh my God. I’m the light-skinned Precious! As I’m having my meltdown, Nunya says, “See, the fab-er-ic stret-chas fo jeww.” I just had to leave the store because my nerves were shot.
As I left the store and fumed all the way up the street, I started wishing I had some gelato to ease the pain of being called fat. Eventually, I find another store, and pick out a couple of outfits. But since the clothes are sized different, I wasn’t sure which size was appropriate. The sales guy (let’s call him “Antonio”) told me that I wear a 2. I was like “Is that a fat girl size? Because I ain’t buying a fat girl size.” At this point, my Mom is just looking away and laughing because other people in the store are looking at me like I’m crazy. Whatever. I was serious. NO FAT GIRL CLOTHES! My experience with Nunya had scarred me and I needed someone to talk me down and it was Antonio’s job to do it. He turned on the Italian charm and I finally found an outfit that fit then paid an astronomical amount because everything is expensive. If any of you are looking to do an outreach ministry, consider donating to me. Thanks!
Act III “Fat Brownie does Rome”
I thought my bags would arrive the next day…they didn’t. Thanks, Beelzebub Airlines! So, I had to go thru the shopping process all over again but decided to check out a different area. During my second sojourn into the trials and tribulations of being a big girl, I noticed something else…they don’t sell underwear. Well, they sell it sparingly and for a small fortune…like it is illegal or something. I asked at least 3 or 4 women where I could find underwear. At one store (I’ll call it “Skelewear” because you had to be a skeleton to fit the clothes), nobody spoke English. I know very limited Italian and used it up ordering a sandwich (big girls gotta eat). So, the lady says “yesa, I speaka a leetle englese.” I ask if she knew of anyplace that sold underwear. Her response? “Yes. No. No. Grazie” and she walks away. Yes, no, no, grazie? The hell? After walking around to a few stores, I finally found a pair of underwear. One pair costs $25 euro (since it wasn’t Spanx and that is apparently what I need to wear some clothes around here, I just passed)! I thought about finding Fabrizio on the corner and asking him if he could get me some Hanes off the black market for $5 euro. Somebody has to have the hook-up around here. I tried on more clothes, of which nothing fit. By now, my nerves are shot, I’m joining Weight Watchers online and looking for an Italian Lane Bryant. I end up borrowing clothes from my mother and other people on the tour. Because I’m too fat for Rome and have no luggage. How about that?
Act IV “My Daddy”
We went to see the Trevi Fountain and there was a guy that was dressed up kind of like the Statue of Liberty — faced painted gray with a gray robe holding a torch. I then realized it was an actual person…not a statue. So, I say discreetly to my father, “Dad, watch your step because you are about to back up on that guy.” He looks around and says loudly to the entire group of 37 people “HEY!!! THAT’S AN ACTUAL GUY. I THOUGHT IT WAS A STATUE! BRENDA, GET ME THE CAMERA SO I CAN TAKE A PICTURE.” All up in the man’s face. I was like, “What didn’t you understand about me being discreet?”
All in all, Italy really has been an amazing experience — 10,000 Miles by Air, 700 Miles by Bus, and 100 Miles by Foot (well, that may be a slight exaggeration). Seeing the ruins up close is something I really can’t describe.
Here are my favorites:
The Roman Forum — All Roads Lead to Rome
The Fonatana di Trevi was created by Nicola Salvi in 1762 and is Rome’s largest and most famous fountain. You can see the central figure is Neptune and he is flanked by two Tritons (one trying to master an unruly seahorse and the other leading a quieter beast). This is supposed to symbolize the contrasting moods of the sea. It’s estimated that each day 22 million gallons of water flow thru the fountain. This is the original site of the Aqua Virgo aqueduct built by Agrippa in 19 BC to channel water to Rome’s new bath complexes. It may have been named for a girl named, Trivia, who is said to have first shown the spring to thirsty Roman soldiers. Legend has it that if you toss a coin into the fountain, you are guaranteed to return to Rome. I’ve been back to Rome twice since that time.
The Spanish Steps (aka Piazza di Spagna) is the most famous square in Rome and takes its name from the Palazzo di Spagna, built in the 17th century to house the Spanish embassy to the Holy See.
The Colosseum is known as Rome’s greatest amphitheater. It was commissioned by Emperor Vespasian in AD 72. In this theater, up to 55,000 spectators could watch gladiators fight each other or wild animals. During the inaugural games in AD 80, approximately 9,000 wild animals were killed. Slaves could gain their freedom by fighting men or wild animals to the death. I guess you fight for freedom or die trying.
The Pantheon is also known as the Roman “temple of all the gods. It’s the best preserved ancient building in Rome. It was built (and possibly designed) by Emperor Hadrian in AD 118. It’s interesting in that during the 7th century, permission was granted to turn the temple into a church when Christians claimed by be plagued by demons as they passed by the building. Today, it’s lined with tombs and holds the bodies of Italian monarchs.
Other than the clothing situation, things have been wonderful. The men are absolutely gorgeous and I’ve had several people say that I look like I’m 18. Which is great since I’m just a couple of years older than that 🙂 Please pray for me that I receive my luggage soon. Otherwise, no telling what you might see on CNN. I might be in the studio with Sir Mix-a-lot working on the Italian version of “Baby Got Back”! Ha! Until then…ciao!