April 17, 2013-RomaGypsy-4626

This was one of the seven children in the family that we visited.  He had a great time introducing himself as Spiderman, pounding everyone’s fists, and arm wrestling – until he brought out his PSP…


For our At Home in Rome class today, we had an on site visit to Monachina, a small camp/compound of what Westerners would call the Gypsies of Rome.  The trip was intended to gain a better understanding of Rome’s benign neglect of some of it’s inhabitants, along with the marginality of the poorer population.

After a ride to roughly the terminus of the A metro line, we hopped onto a PACKED bus heading off towards this ‘camp.’  Our professor was going to meet us there, so we were told to ask the driver to stop at the camp because there was no real stop there.  To our luck, the bus driver had no idea what the camp was or what stop it was until we thankfully drove by a small red ATAC sign that was the mystery stop – phew!

April 17, 2013-RomaSam-4635It was a long metro ride for everyone, including Sam

April 17, 2013-RomaGrant-4624Grant had a personal escort to the home we were going to

April 17, 2013-RomaTimur-4639 “Take a photo of me.” – Timur

The camp is what you might think: trailers, trash, and shanties.  The family that we were going to see has inhabited their plot for the last 17 or so years, living as a somewhat self sufficient family.  The families live doing odd jobs, recycling scrap, and unfortunately many of them are the beggars you see on the streets.  The families are also mostly displaced Yugoslavians, but many were born and raised in Rome.

The part that many wouldn’t expect to see or hope to see would be their cell phones, cars, PSP’s, PS3’s, or flat screen TVs.  While they live under a somewhat grey area of citizenship (they aren’t citizens, but are considered nomads), they still have many of the comforts that we all take for granted in the States. I unfortunately brought my 50mm lens, so I wasn’t able to take many photos of the camp itself, besides the photos of some of my roommates and the children.

Later in the evening, I had my last community service session.  When I arrived, there was a lot of chatter about organization of the night, which I initially thought was due to a larger number of people coming to get food – I was wrong.  After helping with cutting some pizza, I was pulled aside by one of the Italians who spoke English.  He asked me to help with ‘crowd control.’  I later learned this was due to a confrontation that occurred the week prior over some milk – that included a knife being drawn.

As I stood attempting to keep the line moving and stopping people from hopping over the chain, I was constantly having people begging me to grab them another piece of pizza or some more pasta.  While I didn’t always understand what they were saying, I’d politely turn around, and tell them “mi dispace” (I’m sorry).  Things were going okay until a man in line dropped his plate and erupted.  He started screaming at another volunteer to which a few other came over to prevent any physical confrontation.  The man was calling the volunteer a multitude of swears and cursing off everyone’s families around him.  Unbelievable that someone could be so ungrateful when the volunteers were offering him MORE plates of food to take.  Aside from this, people on the outside of the chains who were getting rejected from receiving extra food because the line wasn’t finished yet were also cursing the volunteer’s families, etc.

This all really hit home (even though I was already a bit shaken up) when the organizer came over to me to thank me before we left.  He basically told me it was getting harder and harder each day to come back.  A man who has given up countless hours to help feed those who may (or may not) be in need.  I couldn’t help but feeling completely helpless for him.  All I could do was try to show him MY appreciation for what he does, even when those he tries to help do not.

This week has continued to show me the dark people in this world, along with those who attempt and succeed at being good, thoughtful humans that I aspire to be.

A favorite quote of mine that I try to follow kind of hits the nail on the head, as said by Gandhi.

We must become the change we want to see in the world.” 

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