Roma, day Five

was... Christmas Eve! and I woke up with stomach pain. The pain was so bad that I was sure it was appendicitis so I had the proprieters of the hostel drive me to the emergency room. Oh yes, and I also threw up a bit... it was very dramatic. They gave me a shot for the nausea, and it was all very difficult because not many people spoke English. Mostly I lay on a wheely-bed in the hallway all morning. They looked at my insides with one of those things that can see through your skin and the surgeons poked at me, but they all said that nothing was wrong. Not my appendix, then. After the shot for nausea, I felt much better, and the pain did not return till the next morning. And then, it only returned tamely, and I managed to walk it off and fend it off with some ibuprofen. I can only assume that it was a very bad case of indigestion. But I swear I thought something was going to burst inside me, it hurt so bad. I might not have resorted to the emergency room had I not purchased travel insurance online before I left. However, the hospitals in Rome are of that socialist sort that doesn't charge you, and I must admit to a certain skepticism regarding services that come free. Not that I want to buy my way to health, but I just have no standard by which to assess the merit of their medical practice without some numeric figure to attach to it. Especially as I could not understand a word they spoke.

We went from the hospital to see Bernini's St Teresa in Ecstasy, which is one of my favorites. Again, being both a church and poor lighting, we did not take pictures. And all along the way, I kept expecting to buy some postcards later. I never did. Since I fully expect to return, however, I don't suppose that is too much of a problem. After all, I DID throw a coin in the fountain.

We went from Teresa to South Rome by Metro and were again just in time to interrupt the mass at St Paul's Cathedral. St Paul's was the largest church in Rome until St Peter's was built in the Vatican. There is a big mosaic in the apse (the half-dome front-part), which was very impressive. And lots of space. And carols for the Christmas season. In Italian, of course, but we tried to join in anyway. After this, we had some dinner at a nearby cafe-bar, the only thing open on Christmas Eve, and I sketched their chairs in my journal because they were like cubes, which seemed unique and cool.

We took the Metro again, this time from South Rome back up to the Vatican where tons of people were swarmed in the circley-square for the midnight vigil. We watched the Pope on the big TV screens that they had set out their for the purpose, and then, after much waiting in line, pushing, shoving, and various un-Christmaslike behaviours, managed to get our very selves into the church. We didn't see anything, though, other than lots of other people who were trying to see things, because there were these screens set up to hide the milling populace from the TV cameras or something. To actually take part in the service, one needed a ticket. And we were a bit slow with that business. It was a very weird scenario, actually. So many people were just there to see the Pope, or anyone they could find in a church-costume, for their photos, that it was very hard to tell the different between the pilgrims and the tourists. This was a confusion throughout our entire time there. I have a feeling that the distinction has been difficult since the Dark Ages when pilgrimages were most popular. It was, as far as I know, the only way for common folk to go on vacation. And the relics and churches and religious folk were the closest things they had to souvenirs, historical artifacts, museums, and celebrities. hmm...

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