Pauline Marek: Italia as Text 2022

Photo Taken by Pauline Isabelle Marek

Pauline Isabelle Marek is a 20 year old Junior attending the Honors College at Florida International University in Miami, Florida. Pauline was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York City where she developed a deep appreciation for her Polish heritage through her constant involvement with the polish-american communities within New York City. After graduating from high school in 2019, Pauline initially majored in Nutrition and Dietetics before officially deciding to change to be a double major in Psychology and Natural and Applied Sciences on a pre-med track. Pauline plans to attend medical school once she graduates in order to fulfill her career goals of becoming a pediatrician.

Roma as Text

“Colosseum: Center Stage”, Pauline Marek of FIU at Roma from May 9-23, 2022

Being one for statistics and numbers I couldn’t help but look up everything and anything I could possibly learn about the Colosseum before my own visit. On my way over to the renowned landmark I found myself impressed by the masses that prioritized their visit to the site, annually over six million tourists flock from all over the world to see the historical wonder. I, one of six million tourists, was now approaching the famous landmark and I couldn’t even begin to imagine how truly momentous the occasion would be. I had previously never ventured into any European country outside of Poland, the Colosseum was a landmark that I had only learned about from textbooks and seen in television series. Yet here I was, my opportunity had finally arisen.

All photographs taken and edited by Pauline Isabelle Marek/CC by 4.0
All photographs taken and edited by Pauline Isabelle Marek/CC by 4.0

In person the Colosseum was tremendous and overwhelming in a way, the amphitheater became alive in front of my very own eyes. I could immediately envision tens of thousands of Romans encircling the Flavian Amphitheater awaiting a performance. The grand archways that framed the exterior of the building created an imposing atmosphere feeding into my imagination of what it once was. Walking into the Colosseum and getting the chance to stand almost at its center stage made me feel as though I was stepping into the shoes of a Roman. The saying “to step into someone’s shoes” took on a whole new meaning as I could visualize the mass crowds, thousands of people sitting up in the stands to catch a glimpse of the show. What truly amazed me was the variety of performances that they offered to the public. I was blown away by their ability to switch out among various stagings varying from reenacting sea battles to hosting gladiator fights. The way in which Romans organized their events reminded me of how modern day stadiums such as the Barclays Center in New York City are able to switch out among concerts, hockey games, and basketball games. The Romans were far more advanced than I could have ever imagined. 

All photographs taken and edited by Pauline Isabelle Marek/CC by 4.0

The Colosseum was an introduction into the world of classical Rome as the Roman Forum followed shortly after, however, it left the biggest impression on me. The grandiose amphitheater is a perfect example of the timeless and powerful impact that the Romans continue to have on the rest of the world. 

Pompeii as Text

“Unearthing History”, Pauline Marek of FIU at Pompeii on May 16, 2022 

The story of Pompeii and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius has been one of the most intriguing history lessons that I have ever had the pleasure of learning about, the concept of an entire city disappearing for approximately 1,700 years was almost hard to believe. The 85% that had been restored and brought to light for the public to witness was breathtaking to see in person, despite all of the tourists that crammed the grid like streets of Pompeii it did not impose on the atmosphere of the desolate city. Being in the presence of an area filled with such devastating history could not be ignored, the dilapidated buildings and remnants of a past life echoed “ghost town” in my mind. 

All photographs taken and edited by Pauline Isabelle Marek/CC by 4.0

More impactful than the buildings themselves were the molds of those lost in the explosion of Mount Vesuvius. Giuseppe Fiorelli, a well known Italian archeologist, discovered numerous empty spaces under Pompeii which he plastered to produce what are now referred to as “The Casts”.  The plaster casts were those of the lost people of Pompeii, those who decided to remain in the city of Pompeii and risk their lives to protect their own personal belongings. Viewing the exhibits brought about internal turmoil, the shocking expressions and grotesque body positions of the casts obtained by Fiorelli were more powerful than the city itself. The experience left me with many questions and as well as thoughts to reflect on, I often find that visuals have the biggest impact on me. Seeing casts of people covering their mouths to try to prevent suffocation to others containing whole skull fragments prompted a whole new perspective on the meaning of life.  

All photographs taken and edited by Pauline Isabelle Marek/CC by 4.0
All photographs taken and edited by Pauline Isabelle Marek/CC by 4.0

Pompeii is one of the most interesting cities that I have visited thus far, it is history that has been unearthed after laying dormant under layers of rubble and ash. I feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit the ancient city. 

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