I live in a little hobbit hole, and like many hobbit holes, internet access is sporadic at best, if one is lucky enough to have it available at all. Perhaps the hobbit holes of Middle Earth have, by now, advanced to such sophisticated and wildly available technological luxuries as having reliable internet in one’s dwelling, but Italy’s hobbits must still learn survive without such conveniences. Therefore, when my need for internet arises, I am obliged to a tiny little hotspot across the street, thanks to the unprotected network of the small community of nuns who live there. When I say across the street, though, I don’t mean within the confines of the religious community itself. I mean, on the sidewalk. One particular 10 foot area of the sidewalk. Sans anywhere to sit except the ground. It must be admitted at this point that the nuns do not seem to have caught on to what I am doing.
Working as a communications contractor (or head, or officer – we have yet to settle on a satisfactory English translation of my job title), not having ready means of communication with the outside world can create complications, but I’m learning to adjust. Perhaps it is that Italy, with such parents as Francis and Clare, can’t help but bring the Franciscan resourcefulness out of this poor student of communications. This morning, for instance, I conducted my business from the curb and its magical hotspot of internet glory (only what was necessary, mind you, because I do feel a little guilty using a religious community’s internet without their expressed permission for mere pleasure). I had everything I needed: my little netbook, my cell phone, my mug of Dunk’n Donuts Coffee (yes, I drink Dunk’n Donuts Coffee in Italy, and I’m not ashamed!), and my fuzzy slippers. In any case, there I was, happily crouched on the curb like a hobo, touching base with the journalist of one TV station via email, organizing a documentary with another via cell, managing invites to meetings, sipping my Jo, stealing internet from nuns, and being reprimanded by an Italian lady stranger for happily crouching on the ground like a hobo (because, to an Italian, young ladies who sit on the ground, especially in the manner of a hobo, will incur not only a horrific demise upon themselves, but will spread their misfortune throughout all the lands in the form of plague and birth defects and overall destruction of civilization. Coincidentally, it should be noted that going barefoot indoors, going out of doors with wet hair, and drinking ice water and hot coffee at the same time, also have very similar catastrophic consequences).
What else could anyone want outside of the simplicity of life? I am grateful that I am not one of the rich folk, who come here for short periods to see the sites, to drink fine wine and dine in the most authentically famous Italian restaurants. I, rather, am the poor, homeschooled, socially awkward feral child of a miniscule Virginia town, who stumbles my way month after month through a foreign city, trying to make my way in the vast and professional world of communications (in Italian, no less) . . . and I could not be a happier misfit. My endeavors in the world of communications have not yet made me rich, and quite frankly, I’d be rather sad if they did (with the exception of having my debts paid off, that is). There is a glorious color in life’s eccentricity, especially when the eccentricity is naturally occurring, and when it is born of poverty.
For a little American from a backwoods Virginia town, living in this city can be a constant assault of noise, confusion, humiliation, and heartbreak. In order to survive, therefore, it is utterly imperative that one have a love for poverty, a love for the will of God, and a joyfully fierce sense of humor in the face of absurdity.