Sunday, April 18, 2010

New Faces, Deep Tans, Deep Ties.

I've met a lot of people while in Italy. Australian guys, New York girls, Minnesota couchsurfers, a Singapore traveler, and accidentally Vermonters. Without meaning to, I kind of stumbled right into the world of when I made instant friends with a girl couchsurfing her way back through Italy and Europe. The day she left, I got a phone call from another couchsurfer, asking if I could show her around Florence. I wasn't expecting on doing anything that day other than eating Nerbone's lampredotto sandwich and catching up on all of my past-past-due Portfolio homework, but I broke down and said "sure" after listening to how enthusiastic and eager-to-please my new Florentine acolyte sounded. I grumbled about it all the way to the Marcato, but promptly fell right into friendship, just like always, with this fun, spunky girl from Singapore. I ended up spending the day with her and Arielle, just having Girl Time in our apartments and gelato shops across the city, and the homework remained not done. (Or even started.) This morning, I was reading one of my favorite travel chick-lit books by Jessica Morrison, "The Buenos Aires Broken Hearts Club", which I brought with me for comfort reading, when I found this passage:

"These things may have happened only months or weeks ago, but it is our only history, so we hold onto every moment with both hands. It's all we have...Zoey and I promise to visit each other back home and to email constantly, but behind these promises we harbor the unspoken truth that the friendship we embraced so voraciously here-- for travelers, I have learned, must be voracious with their friendships-- won't be easily reconstructed. 'This was the best time, you know,' she whispers to me the next morning as we wait for her taxi to the airport to arrive. 'Nothing will ever be the same as Buenos Aires.'" (Morrison, 200-201).

Just like nothing will ever be the same as Italy. The people I've met, the new faces that I hold as dear from three months, or even just three days, as the ones I've known for years; the sights I've seen, the smells, the tastes, the things that whispered against my skin-- hot air, warm sun, soft fabrics, chilly water, ancient dust, cold stone, countless strangers-- the adventures with both old friends and new ones-- none of this will ever be the same. I may be counting down (27 days,) but the shifts that have opened up in me to rearrange to fit new people into my life are forever. Easter and exploding carts with Aussies. Drinking on a pebble beach in Cinque Terre at 3 AM with Alli. Thursday Night Girl's Night (dinner, drinks, dessert, dishing out gossip,) with the Ghibellina Girls, and our mutually-enabling shopping, chocolate, and lazy afternoons with Arielle. Missed trains with Naomi. A group of drunk 30-something Americans and a bartender with bulging biceps in Montorosso. Cannoli-slinging Sicilian twins Massimo and Jean-Luca in Vernazza with the best ricotta cream filling in the world and saucy wit. Equally frustrated Italian classes with Erin, dissolving frustration into laughter with sentences like "Albero e mio ragazzo," "Tu sei caldo come il pane," and "Io lavoro a banca," the last of which does NOT mean, as those of you who may have taken a few years of French like we did and be horrified, "I wash in the bank"-- instead, it means "I WORK in the bank."

Without meaning to, and kind of hesitantly, Arielle and I sort of became Couchsurfing's Florence mascots, but in the end, I wouldn't have had it any other way. Traveler's attract each other. That's the way it is, the way it should be, and the the way it has to be. I've learned more from these people about life, relaxation, indulgence, mellowing, making things happen, taking chances, Aussie slang, how women and men are the same the world over, and just taking life one step at a time than I ever could have by myself. I whole-heartedly encourage you to seek out other wanderers when you wander away from home, because you'll find that where they are, you and a feeling of home is, too.

Now, unlike some of my more genetically-gifted new friends, I am white-white-painfully-white. I'm a Northern European snow princess. But there is nothing I love more than sun and a good, natural tan. I've been spending two hours of every blisteringly sunny day sitting out on the balcony in my bikini, trying desperately to achieve a color other than "fish-belly white", to no avail. Today, finally aggravated beyond everything, I stomped back into the kitchen, grabbed a paper towel and the bottle of extra-virgin olive oil, and slathered myself in the oil like I was basting myself to marinate. And back out and marinate I did. Not only did the oil soak right into my Mediterranean-dried skin like an oasis in the desert, but the smell and the suppleness it gave to my skin felt incredibly sexy, like some sort of Grecian sun goddess. And I was browning nicely within ten minutes. Huh. I suggest this trick to anyone fed up with dry skin and slow tanning, and not a redhead. When in Italy, you have to live like the Italians do.


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