Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sick in Rome and The Pope

So here's the story:

Apparently every year JFRC sets up a Papal Audience for the students, meaning that we get tickets to go see the Pope give some blessings and speak in person on a stage in an auditorium with hundreds of other groups from throughout the world.

While I have many thoughts on Catholicism (which are more for an in-person kind of conversation), the chance to see a respected world spiritual leader in person is too incredible an opportunity to pass up. So of course I grabbed a ticket.

I made plans to leave at about 7:30 in the morning, knowing it would take about 30 minutes to get there, which would give me a few hours to get in and hopefully get a decent seat before it started at 10:30 (which in retrospect was very smart because apparently I heard a bunch of JFRC students who arrived a bit after me were not allowed in because it was too full).

Mistake #1
Early morning = no breakfast. I managed to grab a peach and a yogurt, but being the kind of person I am that's not enough to sustain me from 6:30-12:30.

Mistake #2
Rushed in line after getting off the bus instead of buying a cornetto (croissant) or some other type of food to sustain me once I outside the Vatican

Mistake #3
Underestimating my level of sickness left over from the weekend. I got a little throat cold Saturday night and thought it was gone by this morning. Wrong.

Anyway, we get in at 8:30 and get decent seats. The auditorium looked a bit like this:

9:30am: I read, look around, try to close my eyes to pass the time. Look at my watch and I'm already starting to feel what I think are hunger pains. Great. Suck it up Sarah, only ~3hours to go.

10:35am: The Pope comes out. Awesome! My stomach is at this point stinging a sharp and continuous pain, but... the Pope is up there! Two hours to go, I tell myself, you can make it.

[Hi Pope!]

10:40am: The Pope begins an address in Italian, and then different Cardinals come up and speak representing all the different Catholic languages (Italian, Spanish, German, English, French, Polish, Portuguese (?), Russian (?)). They speak to the crowd, calling out all the different groups from their languages, and then the Pope addresses each one in that language. I make it up to the English one.

10:50: I turn to my neighbor and tell her I feel like I'm going to pass out. She nods sympathetically and holds her stomach.

11:05: I start shivering and the pain in my stomach is so intense I can no longer sit up. I lean forward and put my head between my legs, close my eyes, and start breaking out in a cold sweat. My fingers go numb and I feel like I actually AM going to pass out.

11:10: They're addressing the Spanish speakers of the crowd now I think. I still can't see straight. I begin contemplating lying on the floor, or running to find a bathroom if I can even stand.

11:30: Everyone stands up to say a final prayer in Latin. In retrospect I think the idea was nice because it was a way for everyone of every language to come together on some common ground and connect, but I couldn't really open my eyes to appreciate it at the time. Ah well :-/

11:45: "Sarah don't fall asleep! We have to go" "I'm not falling asleep guys... I don't feel good" "Oh... oh wow, Sarah you're dead white, what's wrong?" The next hour is a blur of people talking, someone trying to give me a bit of a peanut butter sandwich, Father B. (from the school) coming over and then calling a Doctor in the room, being lead down to the First Aid by some men and being followed by a girl at my school, Hope. The doctors taking my pulse and trying to speak to me in English, ordering a cab and giving me some bags (for in case I get the 'sensation to vomit' which I was definitely having), one of the security guards saying "Andiamo" ("let's go") and being rushed out and into a cab.

12:30: I arrive back at the school, step out of the cab, and vomit profusely. Hope tells one of the SLAs (Student Life Assistants) and then helps me to my room and gets me some bread from the Mensa (cafeteria). She tells me to find her if I need anything. I spend the next 5 hours curled up on my bed in immense pain, throwing up three more times.

4:50: SLA Gabriella comes into my room to check on me. Gets me some Gatorade and Sprite and some little tubes of medicine she claims will help ease the acid imbalance in my stomach.

5:00: I take the two capsules (which taste like tap water and say "Milan" on them) and lie back down and wait.

5:20: My stomach unclenches and for the first time since 11 in the morning I feel like a human being again.

Anyway, I was feeling pretty weak the rest of the evening. I chugged the drinks and had some crackers that my roommate was sweet enough to get for me at the store, and now I'm feeling almost normal. Whew. Obviously the issue was not lack of food and was probably a stomach bug of sorts, but either way I'm almost fine now. Sad I had to miss half the Papal Audience, but at least I got in a got to see him at all.

C'est la vie!

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