I was in Rome for meetings with the UN High Commission for Refugees. I’ve been participating in a working group for a couple of years to discuss partnerships with non-governmental organizations. As in the past, it was a week filled with interesting yet sometimes heated debates. I suppose in the long run what comes out of this will be good. It’s a rather novel forum where the UN is soliciting feedback in a meaningful way and thus giving partners a voice in the end result. There already has been considerable evidence of the integration of partner input though I suspect in a few sensitive areas, the democratic process will face some limitations. Overall, though, it’s been a pretty good process and as some other working groups are feeding into it, we should be in a better place when it’s all said and done.
I arrived last Saturday morning at 3:00am. Meetings were scheduled to begin on Sunday morning at 8:30 (I hope this is not a new trend) so I pushed through my lack of sleep and headed out to spend the next 6 or so hours walking around the beautiful city of Rome.
I was here many years ago though I admit it took me a bit to get my bearings, relying heavily on my little hotel map. Once I got going I found myself consulting the map less and less and feeling my way around based on memory and sense of direction. There are a few key streets and landmarks that help. Besides, who cares if you get a bit lost?
I started off sort of angling my way towards the Vatican. I’d roughly planned out a loop around the city that would take me from there to the Pantheon, to the Coliseum, the Fountain, the Spanish Steps and back to the hotel, with lots of other stuff mixed in, of course.
It should be said, the best parts of Rome are probably not the places I mentioned above. It’s what is in between, and the unexpected things you find around the various corners of the old, narrow streets. It’s the food, the wine, the cacophony of accents you hear milling about the city. I nonetheless felt the need for the pilgrimage back to these well-known places that I’d seen many years ago and that are portrayed in film and other media. It can be a disappointment for some. Seeing a lonely perfume model sitting, seemingly having the Fountain to herself in a romantic ad is in stark contrast to the reality of the hordes of tourists elbowing each other and pushing to get their snapshots.
This is partly what makes the lesser known parts of the city so appealing, at least to me. It’s still a little taste of old Rome. No one trying to sell me something. No one asking me if I can take a photo of them in front of something (happens to me a lot when I travel alone). Just a peaceful stroll through the cobblestone streets, taking in the sights, sounds and smells (good and bad).
The weather could not have been better. Choosing to travel light, I opted for my point and shoot rather than the good camera. I figured I wouldn’t have much time outside of meetings anyway. I was probably a good decision though I must say there were moments I really wished I’d had the Nikon.
This is my last evening in the hotel. The plane leaves at midnight so I’m squeezing in some last minute tasks before the flight to Addis Ababa, Nairobi and Buj. It’s been nice but I can’t wait to get home.