Wednesday, January 21, 2009

1997


When you're 20, you don't have 30 years of memories fighting for space in your mind. Ever closer to your 32nd birthday, you realize memories begin to soften, and should be archived and protected before they are faded by the light of time.

So, I begin my blog with an old story. My first trip to Italy in 1997. I was 20 years old.

When I think of it now, I laugh and cringe all at once. How could I have been so bold? So scema?

...I have a great idea. I don't speak a word of Italian. I'll throw together a heavy backpack with the essentials: my birkenstocks, a sundress, a sweater, and a couple of items made out of that horrible slinky material that makes up the bulk of my mom's wardrobe (it is supposed to dry quickly).
I will head to Italy with my Rick Steves' book and no hotel reservations. Tanto, Italy is small and I will find my way around. I'll "do" the Cinque Terre on my way to Lucca, where I'll be studying Italian....

I will save the story about my airport departure for another blog. Back when, unfortunately, your ENTIRE family could escort you all the way to the gate!

...On my flight to Rome, I have the good fortune of meeting Sumi, a girl who is on her way to see her sister, Uma, who is studying for a year in Bologna (where many of Italy's great foods originate). Sumi doesn't really want to go to Italy. It seems that she has been put on the plane by her parents- against her will. She is frightened and at the most 18 years old. We make a deal: I hang out with her at the airport while she waits for her sister : Her sister will call and find me a hotel reservation (since she speaks perfect Italian).
Sumi and I wait on a bench, Italians passing by with their cigarettes and their perfect shoes. Uma appears eventually and calls every place I hope to sleep in for under 40,000 Lira. Long story slightly shorter: there is no room at the inns. Rick Steves' recommendations can only accomodate so many people. Uma invites me to sleep in her student apartment and the next thing I know, I'm on a train with the reunited sisters, bound for Bologna...

I remember my first lunch, my first dinner... and my first morning the following day: the first time I woke up in Italy. These will appear in my next blog entry: THE PUFF BALLS.





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