Sunday, October 19, 2008

When in Rome...

do as the Romans do, baby.  

And I did. And it was bellisimo.

Rome has to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Not only are the people simply gorgeous, but the architecture and rich history make you fall in love...and not want to leave.

Take a walk with me....


Let me introduce you to the reason why I flew to Rome: NeuroSchool. This week-long conference was seriously unlike any conference I have ever attended in my life.  It was useful.  Well, more than that, it was innovative, dynamic, and eye-opening.  Picture this: a small room packed with social scientists and basic scientists from Europe and America who are all searching for answers to the mysteries of behavioral genetics in neuroscience.  Social scientists and basic scientists....problem-solving....together.  Wow.  

Though in the beginning we were all speaking a different language, it was such a trip to watch this group begin to slowly bridge the gap between two seemingly different worlds.  One world is typically obsessed with hard facts, obtaining answers, and having results to prove every point. The other is consumed in the process, meticulous about the kinds of questions being asked, and concerned about the rationale behind mainstream approaches to studying the brain. Whew!  Cat fight folks!  It could have been a complete disaster, had everyone not been open-minded and interested in truly understand the other side's perspective.  It was refreshing.  It was inspiring.  It was NeuroSchool (yes, this sounds like a gum commercial).

Below is a picture of me doing what I do best - futzing with the computer!


Below is a picture of the local church where the NeuroSchool Conference took place (the city name is Monterotondo...home of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory).


Long story short, these folks were, in a word, talented.  Not only did we bridge the gap in this short week, we made worlds physically collide.  Moving land masses, people!  I dig it.  My research this year is largely focused on studying schizophrenia from a social as well as basic science perspective.  I am attempting to do a cross-cultural study on the stigma associated with schizophrenia between the US and Japan while also characterizing a gene of interest.  I want more than anything to create a pathway connecting the social and basic sciences, so that we can truly understand the pathophysiology and manifestation of schizophrenia.  Wasn't sure it could be done.  Now I feel like it should be done.  And I am motivated to try my darndest! 

Okay...enough rambling.  Here are some pics of the NeuroSchool attendees (in all their glory....which means while playing drinking games in my room and at a gay club in the heart of Rome).



The aftermath...you should have seen people the next day (heehee).


Ah, the gay club....the young lady in the front has to be one of the coolest ladies in the UK ;)






That's right...the mind is the only wall!  Break that motha down!!!

Now, for all the beauty that is Rome....The Vatican (which is it's own country, by the way!)















Don't be afraid to look up!  How in the HECK did these people build this?!  C'mon!!!






And, finally, one of the holiest places in the world...outside the Vatican where the Pope does his thing (you can see they are still cleaning up from a Sunday morning service, too!)....


Before....


After...




Onto St. Peter's Cathedral....




I would have uploaded pictures of the Sistine Chapel, except I actually listened to the security guards and didn't take any pictures! Sheesh. It was truly amazing. Did you know that the Sistine Chapel was the first official painting Michelangelo ever did?! Holy smokes! And, did you know that he locked himself in the chapel for 4 years while painting the ceiling and didn't let anyone see his progress? Turns out that he didn't follow the instructions given to him by the Pope who had commissioned him for the project and instead did whatever his little heart desired! He painted moses trashed and naked, one of the angels flipping the bird, and God mooning the world. Furthermore, he drew a self portrait of himself disguised as one of the human skins being thrown into hell. Michelangelo sounds like he needed some anti-depressants. Either way, the Pope died of syphilis before he could officially punish Michelangelo. You heard me....syphilis!

Ah, the Spanish Steps (quite possibly one of the most fashionable areas in Rome!)


The Roman Coliseum (Home of the Gladiators!)


The Pantheon (the best preserved building of it's age in the WORLD). The original Pantheon was built in 27-25 BC under the Roman Empire for the gods...



Let there be light...


But still beautiful in the dark...


Castel Sant'Angelo.... 


And this is what we saw just wandering around the city...















And we wandered late into the night, where Rome looked like this....(love it!)


And, finally, what did we eat?! Well, I have a picture of my favorite kinda food below (besides the arrabiata pasta, which was actually spicy!)


So, thank you SO much for traveling through Rome with me. Is it a hot spot or what? For all you lovebirds out there, spurge a little bit and go have some fun. This place is truly enchanting.

Fast forward to now. I am back HOME in Japan and doing my thing. Feels weird to come "home" to Japan, but I am getting more and more accustomed to the idea. The people are kind, polite and genuinely caring. Much like in NY (cough cough). Hahaha. I kid. There have been some interesting developments since I returned from Rome - namely, I can read! Yes, my days of charades may actually be coming to an end. I can now read hiragana and katakana (two forms of Japanese characters), thanks to my lovely sensei, Kojima-san! She and I are going to go to the gym tomorrow to sign me up (she pumps major iron). We meet together once a week at Starbucks to break it down. So far we have had two lessons and I just love her. She feels like family to me. Here is a picture of her below.


Kojima-san, her husband, Mauricio and I all went to a mini Octoberfest celebration in Yokohama the first weekend I got back from Rome. Ah, Germany. Despite the fact that there was no German beer (not that I would drink it anyway!), we did enjoy seeing the Lederhosen (leather pants that have a flap in the front...use your imagination). I feel like I am learning TONS about the world. It may not all be rich historical content, but I sure am amused.




Finally, I met with that fantastic artist I was telling you about - Keicocco. We spent the day shopping and talking in Harajuku. I love her! Here is my new wall, thanks to Keicocco...




Wish I had pictures of my lab, but I will save that for a later time. 

Alright, gotta go and rest up for an extended date with the PCR machine tomorrow. Ah, the exotic life I lead....

Oyasuminasai (good night!)

2 comments:

BcB said...

Great series of pictures, first of all! Having never taken the opportunity to visit Rome, I'm really glad to be able to see it vicariously =)

Very good news about the conference, too, I must say. Being on the non-social-science side (no jokes, please), it is refreshing to hear that we're not all inflexible robot types!

In all seriousness (and in closing...), many congratulations on your newly acquired literacy! If travel to Italy is that kind of catalyst, I think we should all be getting on a plane as soon as possible =)

Continued wonderful adventuring to you!

Aimee said...

I LOVED touring Rome with you. I hope you know I think about you all the time and miss you like crazy, lady!!! Keep these wonderful posts coming. :)