Roman Romance

19h. Hop off the motorino and park properly. An aperitivo with my dear friend Eliza by the river Tevere at Freni. It’s always busy at this spot, it’s where all the artsy youthful people go, apparently.

Order drinks, something with tequila in it (the only alcohol that’s an upper, not a downer, you know?), I’ll go outside and find a table first (hopefully get one by the flame lamp). Nope, no flame lamp. Drinks arrive and find us, we take turns getting food at the buffet. Fresh salads, pasta, breads, cinnamon apples. Aside from the flimsy plastic forks you can’t quite eat with, cozy.

Conversation with Eliza is deep, and meaningful, of course, but I notice someone a couple of times from the corner of my eye enter the space. Tall, dark, slim sharp features, curious gentle eyes, long curly hair, great black wool coat, worn leather boots, and a simple tote bag from some art exhibit. Alone? Or waiting for someone. He orders at the bar. One hour later he still seems to be alone. Or still waiting.

‘Why don’t you go talk to him?’, Eliza says. ‘I’ll go inside warm up, and get another drink, go talk to him!’.

Okay, I’m officially on my own now, no Eliza to push me any further or make something happen.

Standing in a field of glowing people, drinking, smoking, having a good time amidst the flame lamps and polished cobblestones by the Tiber. The moon still bright from being full less than three days ago. I’m alone, yet not alone, observing.

What kinds of shoes are most of the women wearing? Leather. Black leather. Oh I see a Falabella bag. Boots with heels. It’s chilly. Is everyone casually flirting with everyone else? I start thinking about what brought me here to this moment. How did I get here. It’s such a beautiful evening. Oh, I’m so lucky.

I catch a soft gaze upon me. OK so there must be some reciprocal interest. He gets up from a seated position on a cobblestone ledge overlooking another part of Trastevere. Goes in to get another drink. I’ve been outside for at least 30 minutes. I go inside too and check-in with Eliza. Follow him back outside. A mix of high strung curiosity, and guilt for Eliza waiting for me, yet not having made any moves. I have to say something.

Outside. Back on the cobblestone ledge again. Still alone. Drinking a golden beer out of a glass goblet. The occasional glance. We’ve had eye contact at least a couple of times at this point.

There’s space open to his right on the cobblestone ledge. I place myself there, but still leave enough room for 2 people in between us, of course. I peer out into the crowd, observing, and sensing what next to do. I take a sip of wine.


A couple asks if I could scoot down right next to him to give them space to sit. Perhaps I knew this would happen, perhaps I didn’t. Why didn’t they sit in between us? Oh the ways of the world. I glance up at him to make sure I’m not intruding, he smiles. The couple absorbed in their own conversation scootches in closer. I’m pretty much rubbing shoulders with him now, making the need to strike up a conversation unavoidable, seeing that neither of us is talking to anyone really.

Stai aspettando qualcuno?’ I ask .

He says he isn’t waiting for anyone. His name is Fuad. 26. Persian architect (that explains most of it). He lives in Venice, but came down to Rome for work.

He said he was watching me earlier thinking, ‘This guy is like me, someone who just enjoys observing in solitude’, and opened up a kind smile.

Our minds were lubricated enough at this point in the evening after at least 3 hours of having arrived. 22h. He’d already pulled out the intellectual card.

Secondo te, qual’è la ragione della vita?’, according to you, what’s the meaning of life, I asked.

Amare, e sapere.’, to love, and to know, he said.

A clear answer given without any hesitation. Definitely premeditated.

‘Qual’è la più importante?’, which is the more important, I asked

Amare.’, to love, he said.

And after a conversation that lasted a good 40 minutes discussing what it really means to love and what it really means to know, raising thoughts from late thinkers like Debord and Heraclitus, I attempted to reveal where this conversation may end.

Torno a Venezia domani mattina’, I’m going back to Venice tomorrow morning, he said.

A che ora?’, what time, I asked.

Alle 4, dammi il tuo numero, restiamo in contatto‘, at 4 am, give me your number, we’ll stay in touch he said.

Un baccio, and a warm goodbye.

roman romance-01




3 Months of Soap-Free Adventures

hello soap free adventures

Summer face. Senza filtro. No filter. Nient’altro, tranne un po d’olio! Nothing else, but a bit of oil!

I remember when I first bought deodorant, face wash, shampoo, and conditioner from the Body Shop because I thought I would be doing my body and the planet a favour (sulphate, phosphate…etc. free!) Here’s a photo I took to show off my products back at 17 years old:

193364_10150543797275402_888842_oThe accompanying caption on 6 April 2011 says, ‘I used to think Body Shop was just for girls, but if their products are really against animal testing/environmentally responsible, why not.’

Somehow I forgot this sentiment and bought two-in-one Axe Shampoo-Conditioner my freshman year of college. It was shiny. And it claimed to help you attract women. After that I went into a Kiehl’s phase. Not good.

You can read about Part I so-to-say of my adventures searching for personal care products that actually care here.

Living in Rome, and studying the ancient Baths of Caracalla among other things, it’s unsurprising that I came to the conclusion that I don’t even need soap, shampoo, or Facebook face-wash (Clearly my mind is telling me I don’t need Facebook either.). The ancient Romans simply used oils, hot water, the occasional scrubbing tool, and the frigidarium to close the pores and seal in all of those nutritional oils into the skin. And now I’m craving gelato.

I didn’t come across any sources that mentioned the Romans being smelly after bathing. These grand public baths, when maintained well, actually helped keep people clean and disease at bay. I came across a couple of other bloggers on the no soap/shampoo topic and found encouraging evidence.

‘As for odor, that hasn’t been a problem at all. Even when I get all sweaty from working out for a few hours at the gym, I’ll shower right after, spray on my usual dose of deodorant, and come away feeling perfectly clean, no lingering B.O.’

‘If you don’t believe me, you can totally smell me when you see me in public. Really. Just ask. It won’t be weird at all. Okay, maybe a little bit.’

I was in Rome (And I felt like some ancient Roman spirit was with me), so I decided to try it. I walked into the shower one morning with a little bottle of lavender oil (just for fun), warm water, *scrub hair*, *scrub body with hands*, finish with a cold water dance. The only word (uttered twice) I know that can express the way I felt is 뽀송뽀송 pposong pposong – a Korean word to describe that fresh feeling you get when stepping out of a great shower experience.

Since that faithful day, I’ve never scrubbed my body with soap ever. Unless of course, I got some paint on me or some other stain on my skin that wouldn’t easily come off.

Out of ridiculous insecurities I have come back to soap (oh soap…) to wash my face when some pimples were bothering me. But now that I have a good supply of castor oil that’s not going to happen anymore. You can read up about oil cleansing here . Just a personal tip- skip the wash cloth step, just do the oil thing before you shower and wash the excess oil off in the shower with warm water.

In closing, not using soap anywhere on my body except for my hands (staying way away from short-term antibacterial soap) has been great for my body, my mind, and my wallet. If you use AXE and are thinking of switching over, this no soap method may actually help you attract women.

I dare you to try it! And reduce the number of resources you need to consume to live a happy, beautiful life.



P.S. If you’re in a profession where blood and spit may get into your hair on a daily basis you may want to reconsider this suggestion. Also, here are my modern essentials:

modern essentials

-Don’t mind the disfigured label of that frozen hempseed oil bottle that I got at an erboristeria that reminded me The Shire in Lord of the Rings (hempseed oil keeps better in the freezer- the oil doesn’t freeze, and it’s highly perishable, and good to eat!) Great to use as moisturiser, but I eat it more often than I put it on my skin.

Natural Grooming, Forest deodorant smells good. It may complement your natural scent.

-Mason Jars are great for storing things- and they even have little measuring marks on the side when you prepare your own oil blends.

-Hair brush: Whenever I brush my hair I remember how I would brush horses after riding, to clean them. So, if you’re not going to shower at night, brushing your hair before bed is nice. It helps remove any dust from the day (if dust bothers you).



L’alba sul Tevere

l'alba sul tevere

Sunrises are always special- partially because I’m rarely up as the sun comes up, but more because of the cliché and symbolic faith and hope that a sunrise, a new day, brings along with it. The symbolic sunrise doesn’t seem to be quite too cliché these days however, particularly because they are more of a novelty given that I’m rarely awake to see and experience them (another reason why I like jet-lag sometimes).

‘I think the world might end tomorrow. Oh wait, never mind, the sun is rising!’

im rising

It’s a completely different feeling to rise as the sun rises, versus getting up late in the day and missing it. Waking up as the sun is already high above the horizon, it’s almost as if the sun never rose from the horizon- or at least you don’t know for sure that it rose, because you didn’t see it rise. It’s analogous to the joy that I receive when I see who makes a ring or something else that I buy, and how they made it, rather than just logically concluding that it was made a certain way according to its informational label, assuming that it’s accurate.

Sure, you wake up at noon in the summer, and you know the sun rose, but how did the sun actually rise that day beckoning in with warm rays of gold all the faith and joy that comes with the new day? Were clouds covering the sun as it rose above the horizon? How big was the sun? Did it smell good as the sun rose? You’ll never actually know unless you were really there.

Thoughtful Scribbles: Reflections from life in the capitals of the Roman Empire


They say that travel is one of the few things you can buy that makes you richer.

Sure you can buy stocks- if you buy them well they’ll make you ‘richer’, in the poor man’s sense.

A man wanting to sell me a cup of coffee for 7 lira in Istanbul told me, ‘You look rich’. I replied, ‘I am rich in the heart, but not in the wallet’.


You buy travel, a plane ticket, a boat ticket, or whatever means of transportation, by charging something on your debit or credit card, or taking a few wads of cash out of your wallet. Unless you travel by foot, or horseback, or bike, you aren’t necessarily buying travel directly, but rather you’re buying the supplies needed to travel, and thus ultimately buying travel…. Anyways you get the picture.

But how does travel make you richer? It’s dramatic metaphor time:

Every time you open your heart in a new place, when you open it to different people, people you never thought could have existed, to new ways of thinking, new ways of living- when you open your heart and allow such threads to be woven in, you create for yourself a more invaluable rug, double knotted, that only gets more valuable with time, and more travel.

This strange metaphor of ‘the rug’ is actually an extension of the ‘culture quilt’ metaphor that my mind synthesized earlier this month.

Before the metaphors come in, I redefine culture as such:

1) What is culture? Culture, like the air we breathe, simply exists as the collective thoughts that form a fabric in which we view and interact with our world. Culture exists at different levels, namely the personal level (one’s individually developed personal culture), or at differing group size levels that collectively share a culture. 2) What can one do with culture? Culture cannot be consumed nor produced, but only influenced or experienced at the different levels. Culture can therefore not be commoditised, and therefore should not be appropriated.

These definition points are elaborated upon using the cultural quilt metaphor in the paragraphs below (It’s a bit long so you can skip it unless you’re rather curious- or want to help me edit it!).

We will explore and flesh-out definition point number 1 which answers the question, ‘What is culture?’ in applying it to a number of examples to gain a firm understanding of the proposed definition of culture. Definition point one states that, culture ‘exists as the collective thoughts that form a fabric in which we view and interact with our world’. This said fabric of collective thoughts might take form in language, science, music, food, and any referable stimuli that forms the way in which we see our world. We must now take into account the different levels at which culture exists, ‘namely the personal level (one’s individually developed personal culture), or at differing group levels that collectively share a culture’. Tackling the concept of culture at the personal level, take to mind and accept the statement that no two human beings see the world in the exact same way at any given time given the unique stimuli each human may uniquely respond to at any given time. Two human beings however may respond to a broader collection of stimuli over time in a similar manner- and thus may create a culture at that level of two human beings. One such example of this may be the culture between two best friends, who together, share their unique quirks and inside jokes. Expanding this level to a group size of, let’s say, one billion human beings, we can say that, for example, a chopstick culture exists that is shared between these one billion human beings who all use chopsticks to pick up food during meals. It is important to note that within each level above the personal level, the personal level of culture still exists, as although all of the one billion humans form a chopstick culture through the notion of using chopsticks at meals, the particular ways by which the chopstick tool takes form, is used, and is viewed, differs according to small groups within the one billion, and small groups within them again, until we narrow down such particular ways of viewing chopsticks to the personal level, as one may attach memories and stigma to the chopstick tool according to one’s personal memories and experiences throughout one’s life.

A particularly useful metaphor to assist in understanding and fleshing out definition point number one of culture is that of a quilt. When the human foetus is inside the womb, the soon to be born, the assumed to be unconscious, human being is yet to receive squares of differing material to stitch together a quilt. As soon as the baby is born and gains consciousness, the human being’s receptors, whatever they may be-sight, sound, smell, touch, or only a combination of a few of these (perhaps if the baby is born blind)- begin to receive or ignore particular stimuli, or metaphoric squares of different fabric, from the human being’s surroundings. In receiving or ignoring these stimuli, the human being’s mind may then synthesize these stimuli in a unique quilt pattern, a quilt pattern than can change, that can be unstitched or re-stitched, or grow larger or smaller. This human being’s quilt pattern represents the personal level of culture at any given time. Two people’s quilt sharing the same square of fabric, or multiple squares of fabric, but stitched in a different pattern on a quilt of varying size, create a shared culture at the level of two people- represented by the same squares of fabric on the quilt that these two people share. This concept is extended to greater levels at which culture may be shared between greater numbers of people. Again, keeping in mind that regardless of the number of squares of fabric shared, each individual’s quilt is uniquely stitched together at any given time, emphasizing the constant existence of smaller levels below the stated group (greater than two people) level, and the personal level.

With this tool of the quilt metaphor, we will now explore and flesh out definition point number 2, ‘What can one do with culture? Culture cannot be consumed nor produced, but only influenced or experienced at the different levels. Culture can therefore not be commoditised’. The culture-quilt metaphor needs further explanation here given that in reality, physical quilts can be consumed or produced. Quite obviously, for the sake of this metaphor, we assume that the quilt is not a physical object that can be consumed nor produced, but rather, the quilt is a mental process that begins in the human brain as soon as the human being is able to receive and interpret stimuli from our world (our world being anything that defines our existence). This mental process of quilt making that takes place within the human brain is therefore an on-going process throughout the human brain’s functional life. This process of quilt making can therefore only be influenced or experienced. Influenced as the brain receives stimuli, or pieces of square fabric, and stitches these new squares into the quilt, or removes existing squares and replaces them or not. The human may share and explain his or her quilt, highlighting certain parts of the quilt through self-expression, producing stimuli for others to interpret and experience. For example, when artist Lady Gaga produces a new record album, she has produced stimuli expressing a section of her culture-quilt, or her quilt in its entirety as it stood at the point at which the record album was produced, for others to experience.

It is here that we must take particular notice of the key differences between experiencing culture, influencing culture, or being influenced by culture at all the different levels at which this definition assumes culture exists. When the stimuli of Lady Gaga’s songs on her new record album play on the radio, those humans listening to the songs may only interpret and experience the stimuli and metaphorically not transform their own culture-quilt. This is experiencing culture. On the other hand, if the songs influence the humans during the experience, then the human brain will experience and interpret the stimuli from the songs, and stitch and re-stitch the cultural-quilt at the personal level. This is being influenced by another culture (in this case, Lady Gaga is influencing other cultures in expressing a section or the entirety of her personal level culture-quilt as it existed at the time at which the songs were recorded). This is a way of explaining the meaning behind the phrase, ‘That song really changed me’. This process of influence may occur consciously or unconsciously. It is important to note that when culture is influenced in this way at the personal level, the level at which culture exists at greater levels in relation to the personal level may also be affected, but this extended discussion will be explored in another paper.



Personally I have found that there a number of ways by which to open the fibres of your rug (or quilt- being in Turkey I decided to switch it up a bit) and allow yourself to allow someone else to weave in different threads, or rearrange your threads (influence your culture—it is also important to note that switching from the quilt to rug metaphor, the quilt’s patches of fabric are parallel to the threads of a rug). These ways include learning the local tongue of the place you are visiting, in addition to speaking to locals (being clever about it of course-don’t be taken as a fool), being courteous, and loving- giving hugs and kisses on the cheek, sharing time over tea or coffee, and most important of all- listening.

Socrates once said, ‘The perfect human being is all human beings put together, it is a collective, it is all of us put together that make perfection’.

So travel- open your heart to as many people as possible, and maybe, you might just reach perfection! But actually everything in existence at any given moment is perfection (But you may not realise that until you start opening your heart to more people). xoxoxo

Roman Drinking Fountains

the fountain 1

Upon arriving in Rome a good friend back in Ithaca told me about a particular saying…That a True Roman returns to the city when he (or she, or they) is able to stick their thumb into a fountain and successfully get water into their mouth the first time.

Apparently, I am a true Roman and have returned to the city, perhaps after thousands of years, if you believe in reincarnation that is.

After traveling about to other Italian cities this past weekend, I quite missed these free standing and free flowing Roman water fountains. My colleagues have often questioned whether or not such fountains are a ‘waste of water’. This sentiment is clearly debatable, but honestly, as a city planner I am intrigued to find out exactly the path of water flow to and from these fountains.

As I was walking past this exact fountain in Trastevere once again and saw someone struggling with how to drink from it, I thought back to saying and silently giggled, Questa persona non è una Romana vera…

Bed Side Stories: La Lingua and Learning Italian

la lingua

In my experience, learning and becoming comfortable speaking the language of the new place you are going to be living in is one of the greatest things you can do. Not only is it great for your brain, but it is also, arguably, a sign of respect to the new state and its people you are about to (and are encouraged to) engage yourself with. I mean,  going to Italy and not making an effort to speak Italian is comparable to going to Japan and eating McDonald’s every day and staying away from sashimi.

Although yes, you can get by in Rome without a single word of Italian, but you don’t want to go to Italy just survive, you want to blossom! Some benefits of speaking and understanding Italian include:

-Meeting local Italian friends and knowing that they’re not talking about you in some language you don’t understand

-Helping your non-yet Italian speaking friends order things at restaurants or bars and impressing them

-Having the ability to make your taxi driver believe that you’re a quarter Italian and that you have family from Torino so that he’ll drive a bit faster for you and lower the total cost of your trip

-Being able to assertively order something at a bar when it’s crowded and you need to run to class

-Communicate with Italian organizations to work and perhaps intern with them

-And many more practical things!

Anyways, italiano, la bella lingua…è la lingua più bella del mondo! Italian is the most beautiful language in the world! (OK French, German, Hindi etc. are beautiful too). Not only is it beautiful to the ear, but is also scientifically categorized as one of the easier languages to learn for English speakers (Fluency attained in 23-24 weeks!)[1]. Once you’ve got Italian down, then you can start reading some original Leopardi as you settle down at the end of the day.

Buona notte! Sogni d’oro.