My travel blogs are intended to provide my readers with the vicarious pleasure from my sharing my travel experiences.
We spent two tourist days in Rome prior to boarding the Viking cruise ship. Our hotel was located in the Trastevere section of Rome, an older residential area across the Tiber River from the central city, home to Rome’s most famous architectural landmarks. Susan and I met our travel companions, Bill and Linn, our dear friends from Columbus, Georgia, my old home town.
In spite of rainy weather, we were able to explore Rome’s famous tourist district in the ancient city center, home of the amphitheater, the Forum, and the Pantheon (the ancient Greek-inspired domed building originally dedicated to all gods and religions.)
The most unexpected discovery was the Basilica of Our Lady of Trastevere, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The centuries-old cathedral contained impressive sculptures, paintings, and mosaics. In the evening, we returned to the cathedral for a free concert by an a cappella men’s choir from Armenia, who sang the music of an obscure Armenian composer active in late 1800’s who went insane after witnessing the Turkish genocide of Armenians. There are reminders of history’s traumas all over Europe.
Visiting Europe presents a different media landscape. The international edition of CNN doesn’t carry domestic CNN’s “talking heads” discussing American politics. How refreshing! However, we didn’t have access to Al Jazeera, which provides its excellent Middle Eastern perspective when we visit Jordan and India. The chief media source on this trip has been the BBC. The British Broadcasting System, together with Britain’s Star News networks, provide in-depth news and cultural programming from the British perspective.
I happened to view a program that reported on the Syrian and Iraqi refugee camps which house literally millions of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Jordan and Lebanon. The BBC program was produced over the last three years. It focused on young children, many of whom were orphans. Some were lucky enough to have other relatives, siblings, grandparents, etc. to care for them. But some of the children were completely alone. This is the under-reported tragedy of the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East
One particular young boy still had a piece of shrapnel in his brain, incurred in the bombing attack (by the Syrian government? Russians? ISIS?) that had killed his parents. The shrapnel caused paralysis on one side of his body. When report first presented him at age five, he expressed himself like a typical five year old, aware of the loss of his parents, but not obsessed by their deaths or his handicap. But by the end of the program, when the boy was interviewed at age eight, he was expressing the trauma of his losses, as well as lamenting the stigma of his paralysis. Of course, prompt surgery could have removed the shrapnel perhaps avoided the boy’s lingering paralysis. But there is minimal medical care available in the refugee camps.
Though our American refugee camps housing refugees from Latin America are not forced to treat shrapnel wounds, the psychic damage inflicted upon Latin American refugee children is comparable to the Iraqi and Syrian refugees. Many of the Latin American child refugees have also seen their parents murdered. They have also abandoned their homes, possessions, and anything familiar to them. How desperate do people have to be to leave all their possessions and family members behind to make a perilous journey to the US, only to have their young children taken from them for an indefinite separation and incarceration?
Here are a few photos from the streets of Rome.