June 28, 2019 – Arrivederci (OOTD #522)

My final weekend in Rome, I finally visited the Vatican Museums.

I was there in Rome for a whole six weeks, literally 30 minutes away from the Vatican by Metro, and I never bothered to go until my final week. It wasn’t out of a lack of interest, believe me — when I was first preparing to go to Rome, I knew that the Vatican was on the top of my list of things to see.

As it turned out, though, I saw a lot of things before I got around to the Vatican. The Colosseum, Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, a climate change protest, a movie studio, a vineyard, a couple of Italian cities, and even a Danish city — some of which weren’t even places I’d intended to go in the first place — all wound up getting crossed off my list before the Vatican.

But don’t worry — I wasn’t about to allow myself to leave Rome without seeing the Vatican Museums. After fighting with their outdated website trying to find a day that wasn’t completely booked until December and finally settling for one of their special extended nighttime hours, I shelled out the 20 euro admission fee for tickets.

And I’m so glad I did. I’ve discussed things that I did this summer in Europe that I don’t think we were worth the time or money — but the Vatican Museums absolutely were worth every euro. I could have spent hours in the Sistine Chapel looking at the ceiling, and a couple more hours looking at the single Francis Bacon painting they had.

I went with a couple of my Notre Dame friends whom I had wound up spending quite a bit o time with this summer. They were the ones who went with me to Florence and Naples, and so by the end of my six weeks, we’d gotten to be good friends. I was the first one of the interns to leave, so it was kind of them to agree to get dinner and visit the Museums before I left.

But my Notre Dame friends weren’t the only people I had to say goodbye — or “arrivederci” to. There were also my two supervisors from my internship, Fr. Felix and Sr. Sheila. My final day at the office, they took me out to lunch, and I gave them each thank you cards telling them to keep in touch. I wrote extensively about my internship experience at the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Commission in this blog, so if you’d like some in-depth reflections, check there.

View this post on Instagram

the future is full of pastabilities

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

Lastly, there were my friends from the Lay Centre, whom I honestly only got to be friends with in the final two weeks I was in Rome. What took me so long to make friends? For one, when I first arrived, most of the other students there were preparing for their final exams and didn’t have much time for making friends with a random American girl who was only going to be there for a little over a month, especially when they’d already been there for a whole semester (or more) and established their friend groups. Additionally, I spend a lot of my time towards the beginning of my time in Rome not actually in Rome — for three weekends in a row, I left the city and went to other cities or countries entirely. Admittedly, that wasn’t exactly the best practice for making friends at home.

But towards the end, as I got more comfortable with the Lay Centre community and the other students finished up their schoolwork, I discovered that I absolutely loved it there. I wish I had spent more time there in the beginning and gotten to know the people even better. In the end, I made at least three English friends, an Irish friend, an Italian friend, and three American friends. I don’t know when or if I’ll get to see them again, but if I’m back in the area again, I’ll definitely try to stop by.

And with that, my six weeks in Rome and my internship came to a close. As I mentioned, I wound up having farewell lunch with my bosses, farewell dinner with my Notre Dame friends, and farewell drinks with my Lay Centre friends — so I felt pretty farewell-ed out by the time it was time to go.

Time to go — but to go where? The European adventure doesn’t end there; there are two more weeks of traveling still to write about. Check back tomorrow to see where I went after Rome!

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Dress: Forever21

June 24, 2019 – Vatican Vibes (OOTD #521)

Technically, I can now say I’ve walked across an entire country.

It took me a month and a half to make it to Vatican City. I was in Rome for a month and a half, and up until my final week there, I didn’t visit the Vatican. Several times, I made it to the outside walls or walked around the Vatican, but I never went in. Blasphemous, I know.

Well, I wasn’t about to spend a month and a half in Rome and never visit the Vatican, especially since visiting the Vatican would mean that I could technically claim to have been to yet another country. And that I could technically claim that I’d walked across an entire country. How’s that for an icebreaker fun fact?

View this post on Instagram

it’s not a tour, it’s a church search

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

So one early morning before work, my friend, Yvette, and I decided to visit the Vatican and more specifically, St. Peter’s Basilica. She’d already been on a visit with one of her study abroad classes, but she wanted to visit again, and like I mentioned, I’d never been.

We got there early enough (maybe like, 7:30AM?) that we were able to avoid the crowds. If you can manage, I highly recommend you do the same — busy churches are the worst. Part of the allure of churches is that they’re quiet and peaceful; you can’t really get that experience if it’s crawling with visitors with cameras and selfie sticks. Not that there’s anything wrong with visitors with cameras and selfie sticks — I think people should be able to enjoy a place in any way that makes them happy, as long as they’re respectful of the people around them. I mean, I myself often am a tourist with a camera.

I didn’t bother to wait for an audience with the Pope, I didn’t tour the Gardens of Vatican City, and I didn’t go to see the Archives. Because I went in the morning before work, I didn’t have time to do anything other than visit St. Peter’s Basilica and the Square.

Just as I didn’t spend as much time in the Vatican as I would have wanted, I realized towards the end of my time in Rome that I hadn’t spent as much time in Rome as I probably should have. I only had six weeks — so, six weekends to spend doing fun things and exploring the city. Three out of those six weeks, I spent outside of Rome, in Florence, Naples, and Copenhagen. I’m so grateful to have been able to explore these cities in other parts of Italy and Europe, but I also realized that maybe I hadn’t devoted as much time to Rome itself as it deserved. I also realized that I hadn’t spent nearly as much time as I should have with the friends whom I’d made from the international student housing complex where I was living  — something I’ll definitely expand upon in my next blog.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Top: The LOFT

Trousers: The LOFT

June 20, 2019 – Lost and Found (OOTD #520)

This was not where I was supposed to wind up.

I was supposed to go on a tour of Italian Parliament with a group of Notre Dame students. We’d been learning about Italian politics as a part of our “cultural enrichment” activities, and the culmination of that lesson was supposed to be to see the actual seat of Italian politics.

Well, like I said, I was supposed to. Turns out, my phone bill reset on June 20, and I forgot to pay for another month of data and service. Naturally, my SIM card contract was in Italian, so it’s not like I could actually read it to know this information. It took me days to finally find someone at Vodafone who spoke English and could explain to me that the reason I suddenly couldn’t use my phone was that I hadn’t paid for another month of data.

Naturally, my Parliament tour was supposed to take place during this time when I had no service. And naturally, when I left my house, I forgot that my phone was in an unusable state, and so I headed to the Metro in the general direction of Parliament, thinking I could just use Google Maps to get me to Parliament after I got off at Piazza di Spagna.

Nope. After a few unsuccessful attempts to find a place with Wifi where I could download a map and hopefully then still make it on time for my tour, I decided to give up. I was too late, and besides, I still hadn’t figured out what direction to walk in.

So what does one do when their plans to visit Parliament are ruined?

My answer was a pity McDonalds trip. McDonalds in other countries are magical places; they’re a little slice of American culture lifted straight out of the US and deposited in a foreign land. They have free public toilets, free Wifi, and often, outlets to charge your phone — which, if you’ve been to Europe before, you know are all rare finds. They’re the real US Embassies.

But before I bought my pity milkshake and fries, I stopped into a church that happened to be open. I’ve discussed this already, but Rome is littered with old, beautiful churches — so many that honestly, they all kind of run together in my memory. It really is the Catholic Disneyworld.

Even if I sometimes tire of seeing old European churches, that doesn’t mean I won’t still pop my head in for a moment. Just like McDonalds, they can be a great way to get a way from the craziness of the city for a respite. Churches (small ones, that is — not the big tourist ones) are normally quiet, dark, and cool, which can be a lifesaver in the summer heat. They have benches to rest your feet, and in the majority of cases, they’re free to enter and you’re welcome to stay for as long as you need. Unless you’re there during mass, there’s no pressure to pray or read the Bible or talk to a priest, and a good church wouldn’t treat you any differently for not being a follower of their particular denomination or religion.

It’s the perfect place to wander into if you’re like me, and you just need somewhere cool to sit after trying unsuccessfully for an hour to get your phone to work and to find Parliament. That’s the nice thing about churches. They’re open if you need them.

(As a side note: an astute observer may notice that I edited out the cross behind me for my Instagram post. That has nothing to do with religious censorship or a desire to distance myself from religion; rather, I felt self-conscious posting a picture of myself in a church with such a somber expression right next to a cross. It looked prayerful, like a penitent nun, and I was afraid that people might misconstrue the image as an attempt to glorify myself as some kind of righteous, devout cleric. I’m not, and I don’t pretend to be. I don’t need a “God Help the Outcasts” moment. I’m just a person who wandered into a church and thought it was pretty — that’s all. To avoid any potential for people to misinterpret the meaning of the picture, I decided to just edit out the cross, as the most definitive piece of religious symbolism in the scene. Make of that what you will.)

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Dress: Vintage (thrift, Brick Lane Market)

Jacket: Thrift (Clothes Mentor)

June 13, 2019 – Italian Cinema Star (OOTD #517)

The Notre Dame study abroad cultural enrichment activities strike again: this time, with a tour of Cinecittà Studios.

These little extracurricular tours have been great because they offer me the chance to see something that I likely would not have gone out of my way to see. Everyone wants to see the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Trevi Fountain — and so naturally, I did that on my own. In fact, I took a whole day off from work to do that.

View this post on Instagram

hollywood on the tiber

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

A tour of an Italian movie studio is not something I probably would have taken a day off from work to do, unless I had something special in particular to motivate me. I know (well, now I know, thanks to the tour) that Cinecittà has been the filming location for many famous movies over its history, including Ben-Hur, Roman Holiday, and Cleopatra. The thing is, I haven’t seen any of those films.

I’m also just not much of a film person. I don’t like sitting still with all of my attention devoted to one screen for so long at a time. I tend to get bored, even in action-packed American films that are meant to keep children entertained for the whole duration. Slower, dialogue-heavy classic Golden Age films are even less captivating. Film, as an art form, just isn’t for me.

But the Notre Dame Global Gateway in Rome was offering free admission for a tour alongside some other students, and I’m glad I went. Even if I’m not into films of filmmaking, it was cool to see what an active movie studio looks like, especially the fully-assembled set of ancient Rome. The tour gave me an increased appreciation for cinema as an art.

I’m also not one to refuse free stuff — and I’m never one to refuse getting to spend time with other people (especially if they can take my picture with a model of ancient Rome used for production).

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Top: The LOFT

Skirt: Forever21

June 6, 2019 – Get to the Ponte Already (OOTD #513)

Get it? Because ponte in Italian means “bridge,” and I’m standing next to a bridge?

I’d also considered some Tiber River-related puns, but I couldn’t think of any good enough. If you know of any, leave me a comment and let me know! I’m always happy to hear suggestions from people who are cleverer than me.

View this post on Instagram

all rivers lead to rome?

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

After the insanity that was my last post that featured not one, not two, but five major tourist sites around Rome (the Colosseum, the Forum, Palatine Hill, the Spanish Steps, and Trevi Fountain), I thought it was fair for me to take a break from exploring for a while.

View this post on Instagram

get to the ponte already

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

And by “some time,” I mean one day. Regardless of how exhausted I felt after my “tourist day” I had work the next morning, so I had to be up and ready to head to work at 8:30 AM. It was a short day, though, because that afternoon, my supervisor agreed to let me out a few hours early for another one of the “cultural enrichment” events with the Notre Dame study abroad students.

This time, it was a tour of the Jewish Ghetto. I actually have no relevant photos to show from that part of my day. It’s not that there weren’t some beautiful buildings that would have made excellent fashion photography backgrounds for my blog — there were — but there was never a good moment to ask someone to a get my picture.

Also, no one else was getting pictures. That’s a big one for me. I really dislike being the only person or the first person in a group to ask someone to take my picture. I’ll do it if it’s an important location, and I’ll just die without getting a shot for Instagram or Snapchat, but otherwise, I try to get a feel for what the rest of the crowd is feeling in regards to stopping for glamour shots. Not every group of people is big into photos. I always hate to be the single narcissist in a group who is.

After the tour, though, my friends and I split off from the group and walked back along the Tiber River to the Colosseo area where we all lived. That’s when I got these pictures. I’m less concerned about being the single narcissist in a group when I’m with a group of friends.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Dress: Zara (thrift)

June 5, 2019 – Tourist Day (OOTD #512)

I think every trip to a new city over a week long needs a “tourist day.”

Of course, only if you have time for one. Not every travel experience is meant to be vacation, and that’s fine. But if, on your non-vacation travel experience, you have the time to take a “vacation day,” you should go for it.

View this post on Instagram

one step at a time

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

At this point, I’d been in Rome for well over two weeks, and I had yet to see most of the major tourist sites. In fact, I’d seen more of Florence’s tourist sites than I had seen of Rome’s, the actual city where I was staying.

View this post on Instagram

roaming rome

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

It’s hard to go out and see a city when you’re more there to work than to simply visit. You’re there for an extended period of time, and it’s not like any of the sightseeing destinations are going anywhere, so it’s easy to just convince yourself that you can put off exploring for another day. You have work and chores and responsibilities to deal with; your purpose for being in the city is not to see the city, as is the case when you’re just a tourist.

For example, I lived within five minutes walking distance of the Colosseum, but I never had the desire to see the inside of it. That’s not because I didn’t want to see it for its own sake —  I did — but I didn’t have the time to deal with the hassle of ticketing and crowds when I had work. I was usually too tired after work to try fighting off the tourists, and the weekends were so insane with swarms of people that even with extra time on my hands, it didn’t feel worth it.

And that’s why I believe giving yourself a designated “tourist day” is so important. Sometimes, you just have to push yourself to get out and see the world, even if you don’t feel like you have the time or energy. Imagine how much I would have regretted it if I had been in Rome for two months and I never saw the Colosseum, the Forum, Palatine Hill, the Spanish Steps, and Trevi Fountain.

But don’t worry — I did see all of those things! Rome has a deal where they offer entry to all of their historical sites for free for one day a month. In anticipation of this deal, I asked for the day off of work (and yes, I was honest with my bosses about the reason I was asking off), and I made it my mission to see as much of Rome as I could in the afternoon that I had.

IMG_1740.jpeg

At this point, I had finally established a small group of friends (my Firenze pals), and so I invited them to join me. It was probably only the first or second time in the two weeks I’d been there that I actually got to hang out with a group of people my age, and I didn’t realize how much I missed it. Up until that point, I’d pretty much been completely on my own — another factor that was keeping me back from going out and doing tourist things. That first one-third of my time in Rome was kind-of lonely.

View this post on Instagram

this is what dreams are made of 🎵

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

My friends and I made it everywhere I was hoping to go except for the Pantheon. Spoiler alert: I never made it in the whole two months I was there. A friend told me it wasn’t super exciting, and so every time I told myself I was going to check it out after work, I ended up coming up with an excuse for why I was too tired to go, and that I’d just go tomorrow.

But eventually, I ran out of tomorrows, and the Pantheon remains for me unseen. I guess that’s one for the bucket list for the next time I visit.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Top: H&M

Trousers: Thrifted (Salvation Army)

May 30, 2019 – Vineyards and Vino (OOTD #510)

I never expected to see the day when Notre Dame would pay for me to taste wine.

While in Rome for my internship, another Notre Dame study abroad program was going on. I actually lived really close to the Notre Dame building — like within a five minute walking distance — but I didn’t interact with the other ND kids much. They had their classes, and I had my work, so there wasn’t necessarily a lot of opportunity for us to overlap.

On some afternoons though, the ND study abroad program would have extracurricular, “cultural enrichment” activities, which interns like me were invited to participate in for free.

View this post on Instagram

take me home, country roads

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

Most of the time, these were short classes, such as a crash course Italian lesson or a brief lecture on Italian politics, but sometimes, they’d be actual field trips. One day, we visited the Jewish ghetto, and another, we visited Cinecittà Studios. And one day, probably the most exciting of our field trips, we visited a winery in Frascati.

Up until I went to Italy, I wasn’t a huge wine person. In fact, I wasn’t a huge drinking person in general (and I’m still not). With the exception of the time that I attended a New Year’s Eve party at my host family’s home in France , I’d never really had more than one drink at a time. Rome changed that.

IMG_0381.jpeg

For one, every night at dinner, I was offered wine, whether I wanted it or not. To be honest, most of the time, I did not  — but I took it more often than I wanted because it seemed that everyone around me, especially the Italians, were drinking. It seemed rude not to. I was there for a cultural experience, and drinking is inextricably woven into the Italian culture.

And over time, I found that I liked it. Does anyone really like alcohol the first time they try it? I’m inclined to say no. It’s not really the taste you’re after; it’s the effect.

Though at the wine tasting in Frascati, I have to say, I found myself going after the taste more than I ever had bothered to before. I can’t describe it to you; I don’t know enough about wine to discuss flavors. One tasted like “red” and the other tasted like “white.” They tasted a lot better than any of the other reds or whites I’d ever had before, however — not that I have much to compare them to. An authentic Italian winery’s own homemade wine isn’t really on the same level as something out of a box at a dorm party. Maybe that’s why I’d never liked wine before; I had never had good wine.

But when in Rome, do as the Romans do, as they say. And the Romans like to drink.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Top: FreePeople

Skirt: Express (thrifted)

May 27, 2019 – Meander (OOTD #509)

Wandering around Rome without a plan for what to do or where to go is a great idea, in theory.

Rome is full of cool sites — the Colosseum, the Vatican, Palatino, the Spanish Steps — which are easily accessible and easily visible from within the city itself. That’s what, if you ask me, is the best part about Rome: its main attractions are right there in the city, and they’re not too far from each other. You could, with a lot of stamina, take an entire day and simply walk from site to site.

Here’s the worst part about Rome — if you’re not in the cool section where all the ancient ruins and tourist attractions are, it’s not a very pretty city. If you’re in one of the less attractive neighborhoods, you can walk for quite some time without seeing anything other than trash, uneven pavement, and stray cats.

When I went out for a walk on the morning of May 27, however, I didn’t know this. I didn’t think I needed a game plan or direction for walking Rome; I just thought I could start walking and I would run into the Trevi Fountain. I of course, was wrong. I didn’t see the Trevi Fountain or the Pantheon or the Roman Forum. In fact, I basically walked in the opposite direction of all of those things.

View this post on Instagram

oh no, i’m ruined

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

Here’s what I did find: a man on a motorcycle who honked at me as he went by. Muddy pavement. A homeless person yelling at an umbrella. Strips of the road where the sidewalk just…inexplicably decided to not exist anymore. And the Baths of Caracalla, which, admittedly, were cool to see from a distance, though not worth the entrance fee to get in.

So yeah, my Spidey Sense didn’t exactly lead me in the right direction. Sometimes your spontaneous, anyway-the-wind-blows type adventure goes well, and sometimes all it leads you to is a homeless man with an umbrella. You win some, and you lose some.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Top: Pitaya

Jeans: Hollister

 

May 26, 2019 – Days In (OOTD #508)

Even in the Eternal City, you can have a day where you just feel like going nowhere.

View this post on Instagram

greetings from the 1930s

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

Or maybe you don’t even feel like going nowhere — maybe you do feel like going out, but you can’t muster the motivation to haul yourself out of the house. Maybe the day began by feeling like going nowhere, but by late afternoon, you realized you’d made a mistake. But by then, it was late afternoon, and it wasn’t going to be worth the effort to go anywhere.

Besides, you’re in Rome by yourself. You have no friends to go anywhere with, not yet at least. The best tourist sites have admission fees and huge lines, even on a rainy day like this.

View this post on Instagram

*dean martin plays in the distance*

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

So instead, you content yourself with taking the time to do your hair and makeup as if you’re going out and as if you’re going to have your picture taken in fun locations with your friends. The problem, then, is that after you’ve taken all this time to look nice, you feel like you have to at least take some pictures to document all that hard work you did. To compensate for having a useless day, you should at least go out and scout for some good photography locations.

Oh, and did I mention you still have a partially twisted ankle from tripping on the steps to the metro earlier in the week? 

So instead of venturing off somewhere fun for pictures, you’re stuck in the garden of the place where you’re staying. To be fair — it’s a beautiful garden with a gorgeous view of the Colosseum, and you’d been meaning to get some pictures there at some point anyway. But it doesn’t really satisfy your urge to get out and do something, because ultimately, you didn’t really get outside of the garden gates, and you didn’t really do anything but get some photos.

Also, while you’re outside, you end up slipping in the wet grass and twisting your ankle again, which really sucks.

But that sort of thing has never happened to me, of course. I always start my day with a clear purpose, and I don’t waste whole days sitting around my room doing my hair and makeup when no one’s going to see me. That’s just silly.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Dress: Thrifted

Blouse: Forever21

May 24, 2019 – Climate Strikes and Religious Sites (OOTD #507)

One doesn’t often go on strike with their boss.

There’s something ironic about marching alongside your supervisor in a packed Roman street, the sound of Italian teenagers’ chants overwhelming your senses and making an already-unusual situation even more surreal. I hadn’t been in this city a week yet and somehow, I’d already traded my quiet office space for the pulsating streets. As cries like “change the system and not the climate,” and “don’t rob us of our future” swelled through the crowd. I couldn’t help but feel the corners of my mouth tug upwards in bemusement – it was my fifth day on the job, and, in a quintessentially Italian experience, I was already on strike.

And here I half-expected I was going to be stuffing envelopes all day.

May 24 began for me in front of Santa Susanna in Rome, with a morning prayer with members of the the Global Catholic Climate Movement. Though I’m not Catholic, my internship was with a Catholic organization, and so a lot of meetings and events began with prayer. “Thoughts and prayers” as a phrase has been mocked for its overuse in the mainstream media to indicate a lack of willingness to do anything about an issue, but I actually found that the GCCM’s prayers offered some meaningful insights and reflections about the impact that climate change has had upon the planet. And more importantly, they weren’t just there to pray — they were there to protest.

Around the globe, it was estimated that 1664 climate change protests took place in 125 countries. The time of the marches coincided with the (then) upcoming elections in Europe, as well as the fourth anniversary of Laudato Si, Pope Francis’s second encyclical (look at all of these things I’m learning in Catholic school!). Several thousand gathered in the Piazza de Republica to march to Piazza de Venezia. I was one of them.

Some of my favorite messages on the signs included: “More ass, less gass” (though I don’t think my boss, Sr. Sheila, was as much a fan of that one), “Change the system and not the climate,” “I am away from school to teach you a lesson,” and “Don’t rob us of our future,” to name a few.

 

It was so inspiring to see so many young people— most of them the same age as me—come together to advocate energetically for the care of our planet. Often, I think, the youth get a bad reputation— we’re rebellious, we’re selfish, we’re too idealistic.

This march, with so many teenagers and young adults walking peacefully along side elder climate change advocates, demonstrated that if we seem rebellious, it’s because we’re passionate about this issue. If we seem selfish, it’s because climate change will affect our gen- eration and each one that follows—and we want our children to know we did everything we could to give them a healthy planet to grow up in. If we seem ideal- istic, it’s because we are. We truly believe that a drastic but coordinated effort by our governments and fellow citizens can help prevent catastrophic climate change.

For me, as a student of history and peace studies, what I appreciated most was that the march was non-violent, from start to finish. The-students were assertive, but peaceful, and that is the kind of action I hope to see more of in the world.

I walked alongside Sr. Sheila and her friend, Sr. Cecilia, in what must have been a very odd grouping of people: an American nun, a Filipina nun, and an Chinese-American student. Sr. Cecilia and I carried a sign that read “Laudato Si” in remembrance the encyclical, in which Pope Francis offered the Church’s promise to care the environment and for the integrity of creation.

Sr. Cecilia was a cool nun. I haven’t met many nuns in my life to compare her to, but I’d have to say that she’s probably the coolest nun alive. Not only was she there at a protest, a little old Filipina lady in a crowd full of Italian teenagers, but she would yell at them if they looked at us funny  (which they did, because like I said, we looked rather out of place).

View this post on Instagram

i don’t know what to do with my hands

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

And she took invited me to lunch the Basilica Santa Sabina, her convent, after we inevitably got tired of walking slowly in a huge crowd for what felt like forever (a theme that I’ve found across the marches I’ve attended — they’re boring and slow most of the time). Between the walking during the march and the walking tour of the as the Aventine Hill Rose Garden on the way to Sr. Cecilia’s convent, I really got my steps in that day.

View this post on Instagram

stop and smell the roses

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

That fifth day of work with Srs. Sheila and Cecilia captured fairly accurately my experience at the Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Commission in Rome. During my internship, what I learned to expect was only this: the unexpected. One day I’d be dutifully making my way down a list of 100+ countries to compile research on their most pressing social and environmental issues; the next, I’d be shaking hands with the UK Ambassador to the Holy See and introducing myself.

But that was simply the culture of the office. Though the uncertainty was, at once, exhilarating and daunting, it quickly became part of just a normal day. Trying to tackle a massive issue like refugees fleeing the war in South Sudan when we were just a team of a few people in a small office in Rome could feel like an insurmountable challenge. Yet even though coordinating volunteer activities when we were not physically there in the community to see the impact of their actions could feel trying, it was also enlightening.  In a field like diplomacy or international aid, it doesn’t matter that a challenge feels insurmountable: it must be treated as if it is not.

More so than any language barrier or social norm, this was the cultural value that stunned me the most about this Italian office: their tenacity and optimism despite the misfortunes they worked in. It stunned me, but it also stuck with me.

So while the American in me chuckled internally at the irony of attending a strike with my boss, the developing Italian in me understood that this too was important work – the kind of work that could not be accomplished from a desk chair. Sometimes, you must go out into the streets to try to make a change, even if you are unsure if anything will ever come of your actions. With my broad interest in law and social justice, this internship gave me some insight on what it takes for change towards social justice to actually occur.

Sometimes it takes stuffing envelopes, because those envelopes contain information that may inspire a brother or sister to not just hear “the cry of the earth” or “the cry of the poor” – but to actually tend to it. Sometimes it takes protesting in the streets among a swarm of passionate and hopeful teenagers, because their nonviolent demonstration must speak louder than politicians’ special interests. Sometimes it takes hammering away at the computer keyboard on a 40+ page document that summarizes the shortcomings of over a hundred governments, because we have to acknowledge what is broken in order to fix it.

But if I’ve learned anything at the JPIC, it’s that just as important as whatit takes is whom. Who is needed to tend to the cries of the earth and the poor, to organize the nonviolent demonstration, to fix what is broken?

Anyone. Anyone at all: from the teenager in a gas mask marching next to you, to your beaming boss behind you, to you, a small but idealistic intern who somehow wound up on strike on her fifth day of work.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life in Europe this summer. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Dress: Thrifted (it’s good for the environment!)