Friday, June 1, 2012

Fra Venti Giorni

Do I have to get a real job again? Can't I just stay in pasta-land forever?
It’s normal to be researching “How to start a business in Italy” or “How to gain your Italian Passport”, right?  I want to go home and see my family and friends; I need that individual time with them, not to mention attend three weddings, BUT what awaits me after the summer? To be honest, I’m so nervous to live in Granite Bay. What the heck am I going to do there? The last time I lived there longer than six months was high school. Granite Bay isn’t a bad place; it’s the perfect suburban town. I would like to raise my children there. Children, that’s another factor in this equation. Not for me, but I want to enjoy my soon-to-be-born niece, Naya Grace, and hear Milana say her ABC’s. 

This isn’t what I expected at all.
This isn’t what I had planned, I never though I would fall in love…with Italy, and Europe.

It hypothetically was a one-year adventure. Learn Italian and travel Europe, which turned into ‘oh just four more months until December’; which magically evolved into the past two years. So here I am at a crossroads, overseas or over Folsom Lake? Well, let me tell you about my weekend…

Saturday night carried its normal excitement. Nathalie and I didn’t leave her house until half-past midnight; by now this should be customary, but I still find it oddly strange. We strutted down the fairly dark street in our new matching black leather boots we had bought earlier in the day. We were headed to a taxi stand when we saw a car slowdown and flip around, two Italian boys in their twenties rolled down the window and said, “Ciao belle, dove andate stasera?” (Hello Beautifuls, where are you going tonight?) Like I said, Nathalie and I just bought molte belle Catarina Martin Boots, although we did get them at a major discount, they used up most of my weekend allowance, actually all but about 15 euros.
“Campo di fiori, e tu?” I said to the driver.
“Porto io, abito quasi vicino,” (I’ll take you, I live sort-of close).
I look at Nathalie with a sly smile as I hastily investigate these boys. One is wearing an ATAC symbol on his shirt, a good sign; he drives a bus or works for the public transportation.
 “I think they’re alright,” I whisper to Nathalie as she reaches for the door handle and hops into the back seat of the gray Fiat. “Yea, they’re nice boys,” Nathalie reassuringly says. We dove off and to our surprise stopped at a road side panni stand. By this time it’s nearly half after one and we still haven’t started our night.  After quasi un’ora we finally arrived.
“Campo really doesn’t change much, does it,” I say to Nath, as I glance at the half-dressed young American girls screaming things like Oh MY GOD and WHAT THE F. I can’t really say much, I’m guilty as charged. And so is Nathalie, although she’s Dutch last weekend on our train-ride home from Positanto, Nath, Kristina and I were on about something to the point of combustion. It think it was when we were trying to speak “Dutch” to each other, when it some how turned into fake “Chinese”. We were laughing so hard tears had begun to form. I felt bad breaking the serious Italian domineer that lurked in the train like the grim reaper. I tried to ‘shhh’ ourselves a bit when Nathalie remarks in the most matter-of-fact way possible, “Whatever, who cares, we’re America!” That sent the tears rolling…

But she is right, what’s so wrong about laughing?

“Hey, Peter says he has a table with a friend from Dubai at La Cabala you wanna go,” as Nath reads her text message out loud. Sure why not, it’s something different then just Campo, “Yea let’s do it” I say.

And that is when we met Mr. Abu Dhabi, as I like to refer to him. Mr. Abu Dhabi is the Nephew of Mr.‘Vice President’ (Next in command to the Prime Minister) of Dubai.

The next morning lying on the beach I receive a message from Peter, “Spa day? At The Grand Hotel, 5plus stars, come by.” Tia, having missed out on last night, was more than excited to go out tonight, so the four of us girls packed our beach bags and headed straight to the hotel. This was a proper hotel, one fit for a Queen; well in fact, the Queen of Dubai had just left that afternoon. Snuggled in our white fluffy robes and bamboo flip-flops we spent the next few hours hot tub-ing, steam room-ing, and sauna-ing. As if the day wasn’t perfect enough, Tia reminded us that tomorrow was Memorial Day, and in honor of it we should celebrate at HardRock Café. That was the best idea, and it was over Nachos and burgers that we got to meet Mr. Abu Dhabi’s uncle, the Vice President of Dubai.

And that was last weekend.

Last I left off was the end of April...

And Barcelona couldn’t have come at a better time. Although I love Rome, towards the end of April I was ready for a break. It marked the end of a ‘semi-friendship’ with the ‘semi-guy-I- liked’ who himself was in a not so ‘semi-relationship’. Things often complicate themselves when the unknown lurks above like, will I ever see him again? It’s not like we go back to our parents’ house like summer in college, and all return in the fall; we honestly don’t know who is coming back. Is it possible to share part of your life with someone, and then in an instance have them disappear? Not just in accordance to my ‘semi-friend’ but to my real girlfriends; the reality is we all leave back to our prospective countries and therefore, I might never see them again.

 I know that there are other fish in the sea or a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow somewhere. The day I said ‘Goodbye’ to my ‘friend’ was the very same day I fell in love with another man in Barcelona. His name: Gaudi. If you haven’t had the chance to go to Barcelona, fear not, Gaudi can be Googled. And if you are unsure of whom he is; I recommend you Google him now. You don’t have to be an architect lover to appreciate his work. He derives his inspiration from nature of all kinds: sea, flowers, life, animals… his work is a bit madding with endless curves and colors. It can be sensual to the eye, or deceiving in fantasy. For instance, the roof top of “La Pedrera” protrudes air ducts that are transformed into skin colored columns simulating (can I say this) the male reproductive organ. It’s alluring, yet beautiful and vast in creativity. The inside of “La Pedrera” creates an underground ocean, with iron window ledges shaped like seaweed. His work is scattered over the city like sprinkles on a cupcake. It’s simply stunning.

The second man I fell in love with in Barcelona was Pablo Ruiz Picasso. Ruiz…Yes Pablo RUIZ Picasso, we’re related (well I could only hope one day I could find out if I really was). I have studied art for most of my life. I wasn’t an art history major or anything like that, but I have taken my fare share of art classes in high school and college. Both my parents have a strong appreciation for art, my mother taught my elementary Art Docent Classes, and I would call my father a little cartoonist. I knew quite a bit about Picasso already, I knew about his Blue Period, his Paris Period (my favorite), and then his ‘off-his-rocker-ending” period. But to see his work, to actually look at his name is the corner  (all of his early works say ‘Ruiz Picasso’),see the brush strokes and cracked paint was unreal. Tia and I were overtaken and humbled by our opportunity that at one moment we both looked at each other and saw our eyes start to water.

Similar to what happened to me and Nathalie when we saw the famous National Geographic photographer, Steve Mc Curry’s expo in Rome.  The pictures draw you in like a black hole, suddenly you find yourself in the scene that is depicted. There was one picture of a young Asian boy around 4 years-old with a handgun to his head. Tears were streaming down his dirty olive skinned checks, his eyes were a dark chocolate brown, as wide as the ocean, yet capturing you in his fear. Again, humbled by what we have and the grace that God has bestowed on us, brought us to tears.

I still have to tell you all about our trip to Positano a few weekends back…but that in itself is another blog…

And the day I had a photographer stop me in the park and as if I would be his model. Now I know I am five foot tall and chunky-grazie pasta di Italia- I maybe a bit of a poser but I am no model that’s for sure. I was about to shrug off his attempt to hit on me with, “Oh my husband would love to take pictures…” when I asked… ‘How about five models does that work for you?’ And that is how we had a three hour photo shoot in Villa Burghese, on the Spanish steps and Via Venito.


Just a regular day with my girlfriends in The Ancient City that never dies.

See you in 20 days!xxxbaci

Monday, April 30, 2012

Paris, Afro, and Easter...

After an freezing February, we ended the month in Paris. Paris is one of those cities that captures you into their culture and swallows you whole. I fell in love with Paris! The little café’s with amazing fresh bread and delicate sweets and all the beautiful colors of clothes and corky little trinkets brings you into the fairytale land of Pari!  The window shopping was a treat, not to mention the cute little French men and their laid back approach to girls; it was a nice change from the forwardness of Italian men.
Paris Treats:)
Paris wouldn’t have been the same if it wasn’t for my fabulous French Friends. This summer I was blessed to have a few of my girl friends visit, two from Italy, and one from England. On our road trip around California we meet 10 French boys; honestly, my first impression was that they were all gay. They were so cute with their tight collard shirts tucked into their skinny jeans and fabulous Euro shoes and Zara sweaters. They actually came down to Orange County on a Wednesday night and partied with us girls at La Cava on 17th street.  It doesn’t get anymore local then La Cava on a Wednesday. We all ended our trip in Las Vegas, and finding out later that they were on a 10 day bachelor party, that’s what I call a last go at it. Needless to say, I was excited to reunite with my friends and see where we would end up that night.

 Friday night we met the boys at a club called ‘No Comment’, it was a new club opening and apparently the ‘hottest club in Paris’. The fashion was nothing more than hot. Girls in YSL tennis shoes with cut off jean shorts and long see-through collard shirts. All of their hair was a messy, Kate moss look, and red lips were a must. I felt overly Italian in my 5 inch heals and fancy party dress, but as posh as this club looked from the line of smoking ‘too cool’ trendy upper twenty something’s, the inside was unlike anything I have ever seen.


The club was underground, after walking down 20 steps or so and pushing back a leopard print curtain, there was the dance floor. Each light-bulb was red, and the walls had a cave like domineer. To the left was a giant bar and then a small dark hallway, it reminded me as if I was in a mine. To the right was a small room about the size of a walk-in closet, there was a rod-iron door that stood in the entrance and a six by four cut out window with rod iron bars. Entering inside this room was a round bed and on the wall were chains and hand cuffs. “What was this place?” I asked the boys as they watched our faces in astonishment.
“This used to be an old swingers club, for meeting and engaging in sex,” my friend said. This was the underground world of Paris and recently they had transformed the old vacant swingers bar into a hip new club, but leaving most of the artifacts and small meeting rooms as a component to the decor. It was fascinating entering the little rooms, some had bars of their own with different music playing inside, and others were large with full-size beds and couches. There were bras and panties in the trees as decor and feathery masks pinned to the walls. I knew that I would have never experience a piece of Paris’ history like this, if it wasn’t for my fabulous French friends I had met this summer.
Their hospitality was commending, buying our drinks and making sure we enjoyed ourselves. These guys are truly great friends for they expected nothing in return. They merely enjoyed our company as we did theirs, without hidden expectations or desires and for their sweetness and sincerity I am greatly appreciative.
We actually enjoyed Paris a bit too much, because we happened to mix up the airports and miss our flight home, which wasn’t such a bad thing. I didn’t mind spending an extra day in Paris.
March brought a few surprises such as an old friend named ‘Afrojack’.

Last October Afrojack (DJ) came to Italy; I somehow managed to get us back stage to meet him, simply because I have a loud annoying mouth, yes I know. This time we were going to the Afrojack concert a bit differently. My friend, shall we call her Samantha ;)? Kept in touch with Nick (afro) over the months, as he returned back to Rome, we were actually on his list to get in thanks to Samantha.  
We walked in front of about 500 people standing inline outside of the venue.
“Noi siamo la lista di Afrojack, possiamo entarare?”  I asked the guard who was obviously annoyed that we had just cut through the enormous crowd, gave us a laugh and said, “la lista di Afrojack? No non che.”

He said there was no list. Just then a man on his cell phone showed the guard an email he had received from Nick’s manager and said my friend’s name. We were immediately escorted into the venue, and then personally introduced to the owner of the venue and the production team. We were handed free drink cards and told if there was anything that we needed just to ask. The most amazing part of the night wasn’t just the VIP treatment, and spending the whole night on stage with Afrojack and his friends dancing, but my 15 year old boy that I live with was there! Yes, in Italy at 15 years old, my oldest kid and his friends bought a table with two bottles of Vodka and experienced their first night at a concert/club with their aupairs on stage partying with Afrojack. At that moment, I think my oldest saw me as a person and not just some annoying girl who makes him study English, and I saw him as a mini adult, enjoying life the same way I do. It was truly a special night for both of us to share together.

Easter brings thoughts of family and friends, and the sweet pictures I received of Ms. Milana brought a few tears. I find it more difficult this year to be away from home than last year. I feel like I’m missing out on the little things that truly bring a smile to my heart. Like my baby niece or seeing my sister-in-law’s tummy grow once again.
This year I wanted to be home, but being an impossible wish, my two best girlfriends and I made our own Easter celebrations. We had spent the weekend together going out and dinning out. For Easter Sunday we made a full five course dinner, with lamb and roasted rosemary potatoes. I also went to see the Pope on Easter Sunday morning. Standing in Saint Peters and seeing the devoted Catholics from all over the world, praising God and celebrating this day together was a moment that I will never forget. Having this experience and our glorious Easter dinner helped soften another holiday away from my family, and create new lasting memories that I would otherwise never have.

Easter dinner

I feel like this blog is such a cheat for the details of the true experiences we have here. I could write pages on just one hour of one of these events and I wish that I did. There is so much more to say, so much more to explain, and so much that I have learned. It seems that above all through this experience I have learned about people, trust, and simply growing up. When is it worth it to make a big deal, or when is it better to just let things be. I have had the chance to see the world, and experience the world in a way that opens my eyes to the realities of life, ugly and beautiful. Eternally grateful for my time here, and now excited but scared beyond imagine to return to a life outside of Europe; which leaves me at my 6 week mark, a post Barcelona trip, and enough love relationship drama to last us girls a life time!!

Monday, March 19, 2012

The X

There are days when you read a message from your best friend, the one who names her child your middle name, you know that sort of friend;) and you can’t help but cry. You want to see her so badly, you want to tell her everything that just happened, and although she is thousands of miles away, she knew just when to message you and just what to say.

Last week I was at a loss for words, and that in itself is a strange thing for me. There is a time when every woman has to stop and think, what the hell was I thinking, or better yet, what the hell is wrong with men? I had met a new friend, and many of his characteristics remind me of home, not really anyone person in particular, but the outgoing, fun, laid-back atmosphere of southern California. We really got along well and it was the perfect new excitement that I need during the cold snowy month of February. It’s been impossible for me to date here, it’s so hard to find someone to even start to like, mainly because I know this isn’t my home, or typically it’s not theirs as well. Which is fine for me being single in Italy isn’t something to complain about. This was the perfect situation for me, nothing more than a new friend to enjoy for the last few months in Rome. That was until I found out he had a girlfriend back at home, after lying to me and saying his last girlfriend was 3 years-ago.

I should have been way more upset than I really was. I just thought, well at least he wasn’t my boyfriend and I found out after we were already living together that he had a girlfriend for 10 years. How sad is it that? Our standers have been set so low in liability to our ex’s? Have we as young women forgot what it’s like to date, and settled on a Mr. right now, or a one night stand? That was the worst part about my new friend, he was one of the sweet guys I’ve met, and not only sweet to me, but also my friends. I asked him once, why are you so kind to me? His response was simply, “When it is time for you to choose a boyfriend, I want you to know how you should be treated”. Now who knows if it was a sack of shit or from the heart, but I will take it for what it reads, in that, yes girls we should know what good behavior is and what is not.

Also, I must take responsibility for my own actions that aren’t always appropriate; I get to a point where I just don’t care. I know that is wrong, and I had another guy friend tell me that I always blame someone else for whatever situation has unraveled.  I thought on these words for a few days, rethinking situations and their outcomes. There is a simple truth I tend to forget: We can not control what happens in our lives cause by actions of other people, but we can control ours. When I found out my Italian Ex,( let’s call him Lorenzo), truly did have an off and on girlfriend for ten plus years, I should have ran far far away, or at least kicked him out of the house. I did something that I would never do again, I gave him a choice, and I said if you love her go be with her, if you don’t, then we can try to work this out. This in itself was pure stupidity, and would have saved me eight more months of pure insanity, and embrace the truth that he would never truly breakup with her. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Yes, I couldn’t control his actions, or the actions that had happened in his past, I could have responded differently to the situation, but because of his choice to stay together, the two of us needed a break from Newport and moved to Italy for the summer, which was four years ago in June 2009. That summer I fell in love with Italy. Their laid back culture, four hour dinners, the most beautiful beaches, the fresh bread and little coffees, I was in love, just not with my lying boyfriend, but with his hometown. I also met one of my best friends that summer, who thankfully has been my life saver while I’ve been here. Whenever I can I go to Naples, I stay with my best friend and her family and feel somewhat at home. It also helps that she has stayed with me in California and met my friends and family, and when you are living away from home and you don’t have to explain who or how someone is, it really makes a difference in the strength of your friendship.

My Napolitana friend had spent the winter in New York. I would have been at her house the first weekend she was home, but I was snowed in, so the following weekend I went for less then 24 hours, I arrived at 8:30 and left the following day at 6. We always go out when we are in Naples, but we always go out in Rome too, we made a joke the other day that all Italians do is go to the club, and my Naples friend’s response was, “Yes that’s because they have nothing else to do with their lives, but to think about what will happen this weekend.” Well I guess I don’t either, so we went to a great new club on the water down in the center of Naples. Around 4am were out on the dance floor just goofing off and a familiar voice yelled, “Wii, Nicolaaa, How are you?” I turned around as my mouth dropped open. I often wondered what I would do if I ever saw ‘Lorenzo’ again. Would I cry? Would I be pissed? When I saw him, we ran to each other like two best friends who haven’t seen each other in years. I grabbed his face with two hands and squeezed it as he wrapped both his arms around my neck. It was good to see his face; it has been three years since the last time we spoke or saw each other. We had worked together, lived together, and spent almost every second together for one year. I was happy to know I didn’t want to kill him or kiss him, I felt nothing towards him.

We spent the next hour talking, he said, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, don’t hate me” over and over, but it didn’t matter, I already forgave him. I looked at him and said, “I don’t hate, I pray that only good things will happen to you and that God will bless your life. I should thank you; I learned far more from our failed messed up relationship than any single event in my life. I changed the most, I grew the most, and I live in Italy now. How can I hate you?” He invited me out for coffee, and dinner at his house, I just looked at him and said, “Darling I don’t hate you, but I still want nothing to do with you or to be friends with you ever again-Tesso’, ti non odio, ma io non voglio niente con tu anche fare amichi, per tutto la mia vita! Hai capito?”

This time I had a choice to make, to let someone back into my life, or stay strong and walk away, knowing that it was the best possible thing I could do for me. And I did just that. I walked away, and I didn’t think about him again, until two weeks later when I was back in Naples and of course I saw him again. This time there was no long hug or hour talk, I simple looked at him, said ‘Ciao’, ‘fare salutare’(kisses on the checks), and went off with my friends. That was it, I had nothing more to do or say, and it felt incredible.

Over Christmas I had found my old journals from when I was18-24, providing endless stories, prayers and crazy bucket lists, like skinny dip in our Christian Uni’s Hot tub.  I had found this list of “My 15 Life Dreams” written in November 2003, I was 19 years-old.  It was the start of my second year at Azusa Pacific University, and my number one “LIFE DREAM” as I labeled this list was nothing more than, “1. Live in a different country”.  If that is all I wanted in life why did it take me 7 years from that very moment to do it?

I remember after ‘Lorenzo’ and I moved back from Italy in September 2009, I heard of a girl who was teaching English overseas, saying how easy it is to find a job as an English teacher. I was overtaken by excitement of this idea and ecstatic to tell my boyfriend what I had heard, that the sentence came out something to the sort of, “Guess what, when we break up, I’m traveling all over the world to teach English!!” I froze in the truth behind what I had just said. We had been planning our lives together (or at least I was, who knows which girl he was really planning with), but out of my mouth with a smile I said “when we break up”.  He stood there wide-eyed wondering if I recognized the words I had said, “I mean…IF, If we were to break up, I would…” I had been wondering if I really wanted this life with him and deep down I knew it wasn’t right. A few months later he flew back to Italy, where his ‘girlfriend’ was, and within one year I had managed to finally end a relationship that needed to end months earlier, quit my job, sell all the furniture I had, and a few days after my 26 birthday in  2010, I had finally accomplished my number one ‘life goal’ and moved to a different country. The best part is I had forgotten I had written this list of goals, and I had stumbled upon it only this past December, it was as if subconsciously I knew I had to accomplish this, and anything that stood in my way I was bound to destroy it, or it would destroy itself. To visit Italy was number 5, and speak a different language was number 7. I have made so many poor decisions, yet I have nothing to regret, some how God loves me and takes care of me, and through this mess I have been blessed in a incomprehensible manner, I am so thankful for every one and every event that has occurred in my life.

I have three months left in Europe. It’s this weird sensation; it’s a blend of excitement and fear. I went back in time when I moved to Italy. I moved LA on my18th birthday, and had my first really job-the kind that offer insurance, 401k’s, and a 2 month training program at 22.  Taking giant steps back in life, and striping everything that I held dear, reminded me what it is that makes me truly happy, what matters most to me, and for the first time in many years I had the chance to be completely selfish and enjoy every ounce of life. But as Michael Buble says, “Another winter day has gone away, in Paris and Rome but I want to go home…I’m just too far from where you are, I want to come home.”

One of the best parts of being here is making new friends- even if they lied about their girl friend to get laid. One of the hardest parts of being here is that I simple miss my friends. I have the most amazing friends and family. You all know my family, my friends enter the house without knocking, I don't have to explain something from my past because most likely you were there for me through these events, you shared these memories with me or partook in creating the memory. I miss you all so much; it has been so hard living two years without you all! I try to place you out of mind, but some days I look through old pictures just to relive the part of our lives that we shared together. I miss home. Whether it be my best friend I bonded with on a Mexico Mission trip, my GB friends, my cheer girls how many memories do we share:)? My college roommates 3 in a room;), my Newport roommate-coworkers-neighbor-tennis partner;) our dinner and wine evenings. Every cook, busboy, server and Crazy Italian that ever worked at Cucina, I truly miss you. For now, I’m here and I am going to saver these last months I have before stepping back into a real job and the real world, but who knows if I’m ready for that;). I love You: family and friends, New and Old, and I am so thankful for the men I’ve dated along the way. I’ve learned a lot, but I have so much more to learn, as I embark on these last three months before I return home. I have a new outlook on my time here. Saver the moments, laugh more, find pleasure in difficult situations, pray when I am not strong, and give thanks each day for the voyage it has taken me to arrive here in this present moment in time. 

Let it Snow!

The snow has come and gone and the sun is actually starting to shine; Rome is truly beautiful in the spring.

Again, I’m sorry it has been so long since I’ve updated with an actual post. It seemed that in January there wasn’t really much going on, and in February there was too much going on, so I have finally found a balance with the start of March. In January, the girls and I hung out around Rome doing the usual weekend outings, but for the most part I remained quite calm and focused on reading, running, writing, and trying to grow up. By the time February came, I was running around 30 miles a week, and (because of the lack of drinking, not at any help of my Italian all-carb diet) I lost about six of the 14 pounds in gained in Italy, and was feeling healthy for the first time since I’ve moved here.

Running is marvelous, it’s my time to clear my head, get out of the house and be in this beautiful city; well it was, until the temperature dropped to 24 degrees in the beginning of February. I wasn’t going to stop just because it was cold; I learned this wonderful thing called layering. It’s a foreign concept to those who grew up where the current winter weather reads 75, and a cold trip to the snow involves snow shoes and feet warmers. At any rate, I kept running in the 20 degree weather, snow hat, earmuff-looking headphones, double gloves, double pants, tank top, under-armor, sweatshirt, jacket, and knee high socks. One morning at the end of an incredible cold run, I noticed my left hip start throbbing, I had tripped earlier in my run (a common occurrence) and by my last mile I was in tears, because it was so incredible painful; I knew my granny hip was out of place :(.  This all so familiar strain came back, and just like that my number one goal for the year was gone. I had to miss my first marathon already. I was so devastated; I know everything happens for a reason, but this one I still don’t quite understand.

Towards the end of this 20 degree hell-freezing-over week, it snowed, not just a few little flutters, but it snowed and didn’t stop for the entire weekend, and continued off and on throughout the next week. That first Friday snow, everyone had to walk home from work, for the entire city had shut down, no school, no buses no metro, but there was this excitement in the air. It was really special walking home with my bum hip and healed boots almost slipping a few times, but I wasn’t alone, all of us Romans were in it together, which made me feel, for once, Roman.  My boys were so amusing! They actually wanted to play with me and invited me down to hangout with their ‘gang’. I think they needed a target more than anything and I was just that, and so we started a giant snowball fight ending with a few big lips and complaints that ‘holding someone down in the snow is against the rules’ I beg to differ.

Snow the next week in a poorly equipped city that hardly functions already just leads to more disorder, or lack of transportation, so you can just imagine Rome covered in snow. My boys had No School Snow Days, and I had to cancel working at the school to stay home, not to mention I had no means of transportation, literally the 990 bus didn’t work for a week. I was snowed in.  Exciting, until you remember why Aupair girls party so much, it’s not that we are these crazy wild girls gone bad, it’s that we actually become mad if we do not leave the house in which we live and work after a certain number of days. You see going out for us is our separation between Church and State. We can let our hair down, breath and bitch, eat what we want for dinner, talk as loud as we want on our cell phones and just relax. Imagine working all day with three boys, now I have the most amazing boys and I am so blessed to have them in my life, but after 12 hours a day of correcting poorly structured sentences, chasing them around with English books trying to get them to study, and explaining parts of  Eminem’s songs, like what’s the meaning of a ‘trailer park girl’, by day five I was in desperate need to get out of the house! My girl friends and I did what every Aupair wants the most, their own space, and so we rented a little studio apartment in Rome just for the weekend.

I remember looking down the main street in Balduina, and seeing the road covered with at least two inches of snow. A broken street light laid on the ground, and cars topped with at least a half a foot of snow. I was wearing my first pair of galoshes, my new (non-ski) snow jacket, an umbrella in my left hand and my baby pink wheeled suitcase in my right. It was around 8:00pm and there wasn’t a single car driving in my neighborhood.  The snow continued to lightly fall, as I started my walk down the hill pulling my suitcase through the snow, knowing that at the end of my snowy and wet journey there was freedom, well at least for the weekend.

After a much needed night out, the three of us decided to spend the afternoon snuggled in bed. We watched the snow fall from the window and drank green tea as we dished our recounts of the past evening. Every detail told, every question answered, nothing left unknown, and through laughing, crying, and sham we relied how much we depend on each other. “Girls, we must treasure these moments because they are so special, we might never have them again in our lives,” I’ll never forget when Nathi said that, because it is true. The truth is, I’m old, and I’m not getting younger, and although this has been one of the most difficult things I have ever done, giving up everything I had defined myself in and completely swapping it for a different life here in Italy, it’s moments like this that make it worth while. It’s the friendships I’ve made, it’s the lack of anything convenient that has made me stronger, it’s the pages of stories that may one day be told, it’s rigid, tiresome, demanding, contentment, discovery, pleasure and adventure all in one, it’s my current home, (you know) it’s Rome.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ciao Ciao Ciaooo
I know it's been a while and I will post a real blog update about life in Rome later on tonight...this is my first ever short FICTION story that I have written, it was for my writing class, but although it's fiction, it comes from stories that I have heard or things that I have seen. It was fun to write in this manner, it's a little crazy, but it is: 

I called our house from my office, there was no answer. He's late again, I thought. I finish work at 8, but his shop closes at six and he has a thirty minute walk, or if there's a bus it's possible to be home in ten. This is the third time this week.  I called home at 7:30, and surprisingly there was no response.  I know living in a chaotic city such as Rome can be unpredictable, but three times? I am late from time to time, sure, but I can blame it on the dreadful public transportation.

 I remember one afternoon I was at the 'capolinea' or end stop, and normally the bus driver has a quick 10 minute smoke, or grabs a ‘cafe’, but on this particular afternoon there was a bit of a distraction. In the bus door window stood a flirtatious twenty-something-year-old Italian girl. This wasn't your ordinary girl, like most Italian women, sexuality is something that pores freely out like wine, and drinks just as easy as it’s poured. Sometimes I sit back and wonder how it's possible to have that much sex appeal? At any rate, this girl was pouring a gallon of wine this evening. She stood in the door way with knee high black leather 6 inch heel boots, the right toe of the boot was gently crossed behind the left and would lift a few inches as she pelvicly laughed at bus driver's attempt to take her home.  Her left hand was elevated beyond her head and placed on top of the glass behind her. On her right hand swung a few gold bangles lined in red rubies, she had this hand placed on her hip, although most of her weight remained in an upward left lean, in a full-frontal body language engagement.

Like a snake charmer playing a flute, she had mesmerized him in such a way I’ve never seen. She flipped her long hair to the right as she spoke in quite flowing Italian. I was now mesmerized, I felt like taking notes, staring at her every move, touch and voice.

 Glancing at my watch, the bus was now ten minutes over its ten minute break. For I had lost time, but the Signora next to me surly did not, as she marched right to the bus drivers window, reached out her old hand carved wooden cane and pounded it eye level at the driver.“Andiamo, ADESSO –We go, NOW”, she said in a firm Grandma like way.  This is Italy, this is normal.

You never know when a bus will arrive; you never know when a shop will be closed. If you were to explain this story to an Italian man his response would be something like, “Ma sa una bella donna, e’ una bella donna,- But if she’s a beautiful woman, then she’s a beautiful woman”. It’s an excusable excuse. This mentality has been the Italian way for generations and will always be the Italian way. Where is my husband?

It’s 7:45, no phone call, no text. This work day seems to never end, by now I hardly understand the Italian documents I’m translating. The words just seem to blend together with English, if it closed at 6, and it’s now fifteen-till eight, that leave an hour and forty-five minutes. I have to stop this thinking, it was my choice to marry an Italian and leave everything I loved in Napa behind. I was too busy translating my own thoughts to translate anymore; I closed my books, packed up my leather satchel and headed for the door.

With my head down I rushed through the brightly light corridor, trying to go unnoticed of my five minute early departure. As I reached for the door handle I felt the soft strong touch of a man’s hand over mine. My body jilted from the familiar touch, “Oh William, it’s you, I’m sorry I didn’t say bye, it’s just, I.. umm… I needed to slip out a bit early today and head home”. He looked at me with his soft green eyes and strong jaw line, and reached out his hand which was holding something inside.

“Here, my cleaning lady found this under the nightstand yesterday, and well I think it belongs to you.”

I slowly lifted my left hand, leaving my right hand grasped tightly on the doorknob as William dropped a small pearl earring into it. I clasped my hand tightly and swung open the door as I headed home to find my husband.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Year...

New Year...New Diet

Warning: This post is more for my “single ladies”. I spent my Christmas holding my baby niece as she and I impersonated Beyonce’s Single Ladies dance over and over and over. To see her with her little arm in the air and sweet innocent “uoohh oohhhh ohh” voice, gave us all a laugh and love for this song. Miss you Mila bean!!!

Each evening for the past 3 nights around 9:30 I lie on my slightly uncomfortable bed with my computer in my lap, and gaze at a blank Microsoft Word screen. My thoughts on this New Year have run through my mind over and over. My new Goals… Dreams… Life…Good stories, but everything I wrote seemed to be a bore. Around 11:45pm surfing and procrastinating on writing, I stumbled upon an article titled the “Man Diet”. How fitting for the New Year, isn’t it?

A few weeks back a dear friend inavertedly peered at her boyfriend’s iphone that lied on the kitchen counter only to discover an alarming amount of dirty Skype messages. She said the simple thought of the words exchanged were so vulgar it can causes her to vomit. It’s time for a “Man Diet”.

My other dear friend spent an incredibly romantic New Years vacation with a boy from home, although not officially her boyfriend, he flew half-way across the world just to be with her. One week later he had slept with another girl and kissed a different one the night after. When my friend’s messages were ignored day after day, her instincts and Facebook reviled the truth. “Man Diet” is a must for her.

Another great friend sent a simple “Happy New Years, I hope you have a wonderful night” to the boy she has been dating for the past three months. Only to received a message that read something like, “I can’t talk now I’m headed to the cabin with my girlfriend for New Years.” So her suspicions of him having a serious girlfriend are true, I wonder if his girlfriend would have liked the hotel room he surprised her with.

A “Man Diet” such as described in the article, shares the basic principles of a regular diet. Get ride of the crap, no chips, no soda, no chocolate, fast, cleanse and start over from the basics: pure whole nutritious foods.  Doing the emotional equivalent of a juice cleanse on your love life--detoxing from all the toxic trappings of dating. In order to properly cleanse, you need to rid yourself of “junk food love”--negative experiences, obsessive thoughts and damaging actions. Like delicious Cool Ranch Doritos, bad dating habits can be unfulfilling, yet still really addicting, so you need to wean yourself off of them and start fresh.”

What a great diet! It’s one that actually feeds your emotional health and nourishes the soul. We all have bad habits, maybe too much Facebook or ‘hooking up’ with a guy we know we shouldn’t. We’d never save spoiled milk in our refrigerator, so why save the things we know that are harmful to our bodies? Would you eat five doughnuts everyday morning and assume your body wouldn’t change? As if your heart was your refrigerator, it’s time to throw those doughnuts away and grab a crisp new apple instead.

But then there’s a problem,

What if you have been on a “Man Diet” for almost two years and now suffer from anorexia?
It’s been almost two years since I have been dating someone. I’ve been talking to guys and gone out on quite a few dates, but actually dating. Chatting is we’re “talking” or in contact semi-regularly, but “Dating” involves a level of exclusiveness, not fully commitment but there’s a good amount of time spent together getting to know each others’ likes and dislikes, almost a trial, “humm, I can see us together” sort of thing.

I have been in starvation mode for over two years. It’s almost impossible to date someone at home. Take this summer, my mother bagged, almost forced me to go on a date with her co-worker’s son. It’s not that I don’t like dating, I enjoy that weird exciting feeling in your stomach, and the ohh what to wear question, but how is this dating thing going to work? “Hi, our mothers set us up, I live in Rome, and leave in 4 weeks for a year”, nice to meet you. He was such a sweetheart though and I did enjoy our dates, but I found after the first or second date I was annoyed, I didn’t want to get to know anyone, no matter how great he is, I wanted to throw my baby niece in the air and bug my little sister. I didn’t want to date. If I meet a person a home, what’s the point, I live in Rome, and vis-versa.

 Dating in Italy, well I should just join a convent and become a nun, it’s nearly impossible.  I don’t date Italians, I’ll have fun with an Italian boy, but I would never for a second consider them more than a friend. We do have English speaking boys from all over the world whom somehow all know each other, which leads to an environment worse than Junior High School. Receiving messages asking if I have been with people I don’t even know. Everyone knows everyone and everything about everyone. It’s ridiculous. Again I prefer my “Man Diet”.

Maybe I’m trying to bake a Cake, but have the recipe for cookies?
Or maybe I think I want to bake a cake, but really I want to cook a pot roast. Whatever it is that I want to cook, I must make sure that my recipe is correct, and then check that I have the right food in the frig. I think I want something more than ‘just friends’ and then relies that I don’t want anything at all, I’m just not hungry. Or some days I’m craving a certain food and know there is only one person who satisfies it. But whatever the case maybe, my first step out of “man dieting” is to slowly put those ‘good foods’ back in my refrigerator, so when it is time to decide what I want to bake, I have the right ingredients handy.
This year I will encourage my girl friends to start their very own “man diet”.  Throw out that old doughnut that never texts back, or put down that mid-night ‘cookie’ visit after the clubs. While I’ll ask my friends for encouragement to put forth a little effort into something I want to ‘bite into’, but until then, I guess I’ll just keep looking through cookbooks awaiting  a recipe that can’t go without a try, and enjoy every  minute that I have as head chief in my kitchen..

Eat  - good whole foods
Pray- all day everyday
Love- the life you live

Here is the link to the hillarious book review:

Friday, December 9, 2011

My Little Honey

December is finally here, and my third month (of round two) in Rome has passed. November had been quite a long month…

The week before Halloween I had a 10 day vacation, which just so happened to fall equal with a visit from a dear friend I had worked with at Nordstrom, in San Diego. The truth is we didn’t plan this trip based on my vacation, I actually didn’t even know I had a vacation until a few weeks before, but at any rate I did, and seeing a familiar face was the honey I needed in my tea. Let’s call her…Sophia ;). There is something about San Diego girls, true home grown San Diego girls, born and raised, it’s like seeing a long lost cousin for the first time, you just fit as if you can sense the familiarity in each other. Sophi is my fashion diva and her over all chill domineer brought a field of memories from home. By the way, SD girls are innocent; LA is the town that corrupts you… ;)

The day the girls (Sophi and her friend, another amazing ex-Nordstrom girl) flew in to Italy they landed in Milan, I was already on the train headed to meet them. I called Sophi when I arrived, “Oh meet us at La Scale, we are with a professional opera singer that we knew from Nordstrom”.  That’s not something you hear everyday. We spent two nights in Milan, and then frantically ran to catch a train to Venice Sunday afternoon, although we had booked a hotel in Florence, we only had 1.5 hours to tour Venice. If you could picture three girls running through the tiny streets, over the bridges and pausing to take pictures with our big floppy hats and sunglasses, and an ice cream in one hand, that was us.  We ended our weekend with a Sunday night out in Florence, again running to our train, and arriving within minutes of departure. Sophi’s friend said, “Boy, we do a lot of running with Nicole don’t we?” I had laugh because each train we barely made, and litterly ran to catch it. In Florence we meet up with one of my best friends in Rome, who also had her sister visiting. It was exciting for us to be tourists with tourists, in ‘our’ country.

The next week we spent in Rome, I was on vacation and my host family was in Turkey, meaning I finally had the house to myself to sleep as long as I like! It was also the week I found out you could party every single night, if desired. Tuesday we had an amazing 15 person dinner that lasted three hours, with all of our friends and guests. This night I introduced my best guy-friend in Rome to my best girl-friend from home. And you can imagine where the story leads from here. A few nights out and a few nights away, she fell in ‘love’ with her first Italian lover boy.

If you know me at all, you know, I am100 percent against Italian men. I love their confidence and romance. There is nothing like it to wake up and hear, “Baby I made you coffee, breakfast in bed, did your laundry and drew you a hot bath, you’re so beautiful, Ti Amo…” they are the worlds best Lovers, but the worlds worst Husbands, as in, they will love you and every other girl they see. Knowing this, the reality of my little Sophia and this Italian Louvarrr, scared me to death.

But there is trust. And it was something that I have to have in both of them. Trust he won’t hurt her, and trust she knows what’s best for her.

And what they have is beautiful. Their ‘love’ story has started a new chapter in their lives, one that hasn’t finished, since after her week in Rome, she came back for another four weeks, and is currently in the Canary islands next to Morocco and Spain, with her Italian Louvarrrr bathing in the sun and taking in what living life is all about. Living.

The problem is, when I am here in Rome, I am in my own world. When Sophia was here we spent our time reminiscing of our lives together downsouth, what I found that had happened, is when I went home to my big empty Italian house each night, I was alone, and I would start to cry. I cried because I felt selfish in my desires to live here, while I have been so incomprehensively blessed with the most amazing people throughout my life, the simple reality of living away again for another year had sunk in. What am I doing away from these people? These people are my life; I have my family and friends. And in Rome? I have my desire to experience something different, but is that enough?  In life, what is it that truly matters?

 A friend in San Diego was just diagnosed with stage two lymphoma cancer, she is 24. There are things I don’t understand, there are actions that I do that I may never understand why I did. But even when things happen that I don't understand, I have to have faith.

What do I want? Isn’t that the question we all ask? Sometimes I wonder if we really have a choice. Instead of what do we want, we should ask what really matters? I’m learning how to surrender… everything in every aspect, letting go and trusting that if God can ‘feed the birds in the sky, surly he can take care of me’.

The first two weeks of November were long, not only do I want to share stories of the parties and ridiculous things we do, but also the reality of living in a different country. It’s an intricate processes which requires a certain inner strength that I don’t always have. There might have been a few long weeks in November, and funny last year I had titled my November blog entry as “Never ending November”…The thing is, it’s now December and November did end and it ended with a routine Sunday dinner with my three best girlfriends.

I really could not live here without them. They need nick-names, so why not, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte…

We do everything together when we can, coffee and tea, shopping on Via del Corso, or Sicilia Pasticeria after Italian class. There is a tradition that we had made in October, every Sunday we have a dinner/ lunch that can last hours. It began after a long Saturday night, when we finally went to bed at 7:30 or 8am, and all woke up around 3 in the afternoon. Being starving and a bit hung over, we wanted to sit outside and drink a bit of wine and bask in the most splendid part of Italy: it’s pasta. Campo di Fiori was the perfect place, but the main reason for our meeting is that somewhere around 4am we all went our separate ways, and what we want to know is what happened between the hours of 4 and 8. How do we know what time we sleep, or make it home? Well there is a wonderful yet evil little invention called Whatsapp, an instant messaging system which allows us to chat on a group chat, we chat non-stop all day, everyday. When we go out, and then go our ‘separate ways’ we must message when we get home, it’s our golden rule. So when we all message at different times, there leaves stories that are obligatory to be told.

Our first Sunday Lunner lasted five hours, starting with a simple appetizer, and two liters of water, which magically changed into wine, and a four course meal. I wish I could tell the stories that are told between 4-8am, they involve Smart cars, taxis, fences, wrong buses to the other side of Rome, skinned knees, and lost keys. We dish about Big, Steve, Harry and Smith, we laugh non-stop until our stomachs hurt, and we eat amazing homemade pasta accompanied with house red wine. After that first Lunner the owner of the restaurant approached us upon our departure, I was ready for the un-invite back to the restaurant for holding a table for 5 hours and our annoying high volume level, yet to my surprised he grabbed me and kissed me, and said, “Thank you, because of you girls we have business, come back, please come back.” Ever since that Sunday, if we are in town, a few hours after we wake up, we go to our Sunday Lunner spot and spill the dirty untold secrets of the night, and laugh at the stupidity of each other. We aren’t just friends, but we have become sisters, who know all, tell all, and cry together.

Although “What am I doing here” floated through my mind, it’s moments like these that I will never have again. It’s the joy of new relationships, and the blessing of old, it’s unexpected life of the unknown and being away from home, it’s Rome.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Acting Up

Famous Italian writer
When you live in Rome, you find it funny when the Italians treat you like a tourist, although I have found this to be sort of a game to me. After a year you learn what’s considered a “tourist spot” an “American Bar” and the strictly “Italian” spots. I don’t have a preference, you would assume I like to do only what Italians do, but that’s not particularly correct. I enjoy drinking a beer at the Drunken Ship, which is the equivalent of Sharkee’s down south. Drunken kids running around being loud brings a small comfort to my soul.

Aloe Blac
There are times I love pretending to be a tourist, like the night of Vogue Fashion Night. Vogue Fashion Night transforms all the main designer stores into Parties. There are DJ’s and free drinks, Celebrities and Concerts all for the pure glory of fashion, and how could I miss a night like that? For some reason I wore jeans and a white tee, now if you know me and know my love for beautiful fashion, this just isn’t me, at any rate the low key style worked in our advantaged as we met the band of Aloe Blac (I need a dollar dollar-that song), and a professional soccer player that in his elder age was stunning.  Tia and I walked by the Louis Vuitton store and saw a line of 200 people trying to get into the shop. There were live models dressed in French Maid costumes posing in the windows and butlers serving tray passed orderves and champagne. Usually, I enjoy this store, but do not have a desire to enter, but tonight it was the challenge that enticed me. We walked straight up to the front of the line and started a conversation in English with the incredible sexy door guard. He was half black half white, 6’3 in stature and of course the perfect body. I looked at Tia and smiled; at that moment I did something that even to recall such an act causes my cheeks to turn a few shades of pink. I looked straight at this beautiful man and said, “Are all men in Italy as good looking as you, because if they are I could live here forever.” Did I really flirt with the door man at Louis Vuitton so we could enter this private party completely underdressed for the occasion? I sure did, and within seconds we were escorted in with a personal photographer who followed us around the stores taking pictures of us as we drank champagne next to my best friends: Speedy 35, Alma MM, Cirrus PM, and all the rest of the fabulous handbags in the store.
The Girls: Charlotte, Miranda, Carry, Samantha

The following weeks I picked up where I had left off last summer…working during the week, meeting the girls for coffee in the park in the mornings and weekends, well the weekends are sleepless, truly sleepless. Remember living with a family puts a pressure on the weekends. For us girls it’s our time to breathe, get out, and travel around Italy. Although most of the time we spend our weekends at our favorite places in Rome.

There was a famous Dj named Afrojack coming to Rome.
( I want to say I knew who he was before, but to be honest if it wasn’t for my sister updating my itunes once a year, I would still be listening to Maria Carry. Thanks to a few great friends we had free tickets and our own vip table for the concert. My 3 girl friends and I couldn’t wait to go. The concert was unlike anything I have been to before, maybe concerts have changed, instead it was like a club, but with the best DJ I have ever heard. My dearest friend is from Holland (Afrojack lives in Holland) and so for her a picture with him would be amazing. By the last song she asked me if I would go up to the DJ both and ask if we could snap a quick photo. Our table was close so we walked right up towards the booth. Surrounding the Dj was a few body guards dressed in black suits and ties, I started to chat with one in Italian, puzzled he stared back at me and stuttered, uh do u speak English? I laughed and started to explain how my girlfriend is from Holland and would love just to snap a quick photo with him. He looked at me and said, “I can do better, come with me”. So leaving our friends behind, we were ushered through a back door and into a tiny makeshift hidden room outside the concert hall. Within minutes Afrojack  himself came running through the door, panting and dripping with sweat. Our mouths dropped open, for I had no idea what was happening. I guess my loud mouth pays off, for we spent the next few hours chilling with Nick, one of the most respectable men in today’s music world.

Forgetting that we just ditched our girl friends for hours, they were calling upset, and right fully so because not once did it occur to Nat and I to call them.  Afrojack picked up the phone as Tia called, and on the other end Tia had no idea who she was talking to, and being as pissed off as she was, the conversation went as you could imagine…Can I please just speak to Nicole, I’m already Pissed…. I love to tease her about this ;) Not only was this an amazing night, we were the only girls in all of Rome to meet him, but this night also marks the bond of  4 friendships that grew and will continue to grow for the next year as we simple share our lives in a city, stepping forward into the world with confidence and true contentment that we are exactly where we are suppose to be…

In time..

Starting my third month in Rome, I have to ask where does the time go? Last I knew I was on a plane dreaming of my new life in Italy, leaving everything and everyone I loved behind to embark on a life changing adventure, to breath free of the known, and embrace the unknown…and that was a year and three months ago.

I wish I could stop time, I don’t want to grow another year older, or miss another moment at home, but to experience a life in this world is unlike anything else I have ever known. For instance, everything is a bit scary, every action I make is uneasy, things are new, you feel things deeply and differently, you do things you would never do, you make friends with people you would never encounter otherwise, you experience life in a whole new manner, thus inevitably changing who you are…

This to me is Rome.

It’s an adventure with ups and downs, gives and takes, building life-long friendships, or feeling heartbreak: it’s actually truly living my life.

At times I feel guilty, I genuinely do. Here I am at 27 years-old (yes it’s old) spending my mornings with my girl friends drinking tea and eating cake, taking walks down one of the world best shopping streets, and enjoying four hour lunches that turn into dinners, while drinking bottles of red wine. I have this gift right now, I have the gift of true freedom, at the drop of a hat I can leave for the weekend to Milan, or meet a friend in Venice. When I think of what my life was before, working 80 hours a week, (which kept me out of trouble), but what was life? I was away from my family living in Orange County alone anyways. Working to pay rent, to buy more things, to somehow make it in this rat race of life…Italy is different. Italy is about life, passion; you work to live, not live to work. You have a coffee, and smell the coffee, and add sugar to the coffee, a touch of milk and then you drink your coffee there in that moment, you savor the flavor you feel the hot thick crema in the back of your throat, you truly enjoy and know the pleasure of that coffee. As American’s what do we do with our coffee? We take it to go. We grab it and go, we have places to be and work that must be done and we drink our coffee because we need our coffee.
And here lays the difference in life itself, are we made to take our coffee, or drink a coffee?

For now I’ll drink my coffee and savor every sip because it might just be the last time I will ever be able to drink a coffee in this way…

(the rest of the story...)

So there Tia and I were in Padova at 2:00am, looking for something to do, to our luck our new friends had found a little club called the ‘Q’, and off we went to dance the night away. After a few hours the men from the dirty south of Italy turned a bit too dirty, Tia and I had become a bit worried and quickly encountered ‘new friends’. The club closed at 4:00am leaving us 2 ½ hours before our train to Feltre left. We went sight seeing with our new friends all over Padova, seeing every Piazza and fountain in the city in the middle of the night. Making it back to the station in time for our train and blowing kisses to our new friends, we were off to see the world championship of bocce ball!

Snow White's Village
Feltre is a storybook town with small stone streets and petite Snow White cottages lining the streets with wooden shutters, window flowers and potted plants. In the distance lies the world renowned Alps, with their snowcapped jagged edges and deep crevasses, the town felt like a dream. When Tia and I reached the hotel we were greeted by players from all over the world, all professional bocce players. I have to laugh; to me bocce ball is Sunday afternoons with my Nonno, playing outside their ranch in Ramona, California. Who would have thought this game could be taken so seriously? At any rate it was, and we got to experience it first hand; The World National Bocce Tournament in Feltre.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

First Few Weeks in Rome...

Round Two in Rome: The First Two Weeks

Now being a sophomore here, there is no more ohh God please help me get on the right bus, or please please send me friends. Nope, I was headed back to a place I now call home; where the food is delicious, the men are sleazy, and the scenery is astonishing! Breathtaking. I have chosen at this point in time (and for the next three years I have left in my twenties) to live a breath taking life. Starting the first weekend I was back.
I have a dear English friend, Gemma, who was a part of my circle of friends from last year; she had spent the summer in Lake Baracciano and invited me up for the day. There was a small board walk around the lake, with restaurants right on the street in front of the water. The small quant little town with tiny paths and doorways, wooden window shutters, and stone steps was equally as breathtaking as the lake itself. There was one house in particular that sat on the boardwalk facing the lake. They some how managed to build a garden on the sidewalk itself, tall sunflowers, lush greens and bright red and orange Gerber daisies, yet the most amazing thing was no one disturbed it. It was made for admiring and it demanded respect, and it was granted by everyone.
Gemma and I spent the day lying on the beach and paddle boarding together on the same paddle board, falling every 15 seconds, one after another and laughing uncontrollably, I could only imagine what the people on land were thinking. Stupid Americans/English girls, paddle boards are made for one person…

Restaurant on the lake
We ended our evening at that perfect little restaurant on the lake, we had made a reservation earlier and there on a tiny white paper writen in black Sharpie sat my name on the exact table we had requested. No wonder Katie Holms and Tom Cruz got married here, and it’s simply marvelous…

Settling into my second week in Rome, I found a familiar routine with the boys back in school, making the weekends never looked so sweet. When Tia’s family is out of town we usually spend the whole weekend basking in the simple splendor of our own apartment. Acting like roommates we cook dinner, drink wine, stay up late telling boy stories, and dance around in bras. It’s my favorite way to spend a Friday night, although usually by midnight, we have found ourselves getting ready for a big night out.

Saturday morning we were up by 9, ready to hit the beach for the whole day with my surfing buddy in Ostia. Ostia beach looks somewhat like a lake, with tiny waves and mix of rock\dirt they call sand. It’s not the best beach in Rome, but it’s near and the key word is ‘beach’ and some days just the smell of the salty sea makes me feel at home.

Ostia Beach
Tia and I were lying in the sand wondering what trouble tonight may bring. My surf buddy had invited us to an outside reggae concert in the park, which had seemed to be a great idea until five minutes after Tia’s cousin called. Her cousin is a professional Bocce Player on the US National team (who knew such a team existed?) and was playing in the world championships in the small northern town of Feltre, situated underneath the Alps.(5 hour train ride)

Earlier in the week we had sought after this cousin of hers, trying to organize a day in Venice with the players; we have been unable to reach him until now. It was 5:30pm and Tia and I are lying on the beach covered in sand,
“Should we do this?” Tia asked.
“Let me check the train tickets”, still having no desire to move from the heat of the sun, I reached for my iphone and glanced at the next train time.
“There isn’t a direct ticket to Feltre, you have to stop in Padova in order to get there.” The next train leaves at 7:05! We are an hour train ride outside the city and we would still have to go toTia’s to grab our bags! At this moment we kissed our friends good bye and headed straight to the train station.

To our luck the train pulled in just as we had arrived. We both looked at each other and agreed it was a sign from God that we are suppose to go. Laughing at our current ridiculous spontaneous adventure, we started to pre-pack our bags, delegating who would grab what when we arrived at Tia’s home. As I took a closer look at the train times, I noticed that the last train to Feltre was 10 minutes after we arrived in Padova. I spent the next 30 minutes on our train ride home from the beach devising a plan to connect the Bocce players  for the night. Finally, it occurred to me that Padova must provide a more thrilling and entertaining night life than Feltre, the boys could just meet us in Padova, then we could stay up all night and catch the first train to Feltre in the morning.
Tia’s cousin agrees that Padova will provide much more entertainment for the night and promises to take the last train at 8:10 to Padova, arriving at 10, and remain in the station until we arrived at 11. Everything will work out just perfect!

We arrive at Tia’s house at 6:45, we have 5 minutes, to throw as much as we could in our beach bags, and with our partially  wet bathing suits still on, the two of us ran to the station, beach bags in one hand and our over stuffed purses in the other. My hair was in its natural curly sea-salt state, wearing a floor length white and black maxi dress that was too long on my 5’foot frame,  I had to hold the bottom of the dress so I didn’t trip. We were the epitome of tourists.  We reached the station within 5 minutes of departure.

As we approached the ticket machine I remembered that last year on my way home from Torino I was able to purchase something called a ‘Globe Pass’ it was a first class ticket incredibly discounted.  I don’t know how I was able to use it or just simply how nice the conductor was, but when he asked for my ‘Globe Pass’ I handed him my California Drivers license and he let me on, not asking a single question.  So I had the brilliant idea to test my luck again, yet when I know something is wrong and I do it anyways, there will be a little voice inside of me that asks me what are you doing? You know better!!
Often I don’t listen to this voice, so we bought the ten dollar tickets for first class and hopped on the train.

It wasn’t before long the conductor was making his rounds for tickets,
“Posso vedere i biglietti ?”
I look at Tia and in English said, “Huh, What did he say?”
He glances up and down, and through the little smirk on his Italian skin he can see in an instant we’re ‘tourist’; although I normally jump at the chance to practice Italian, in this case, I better keep my big mouth shut.
I handed him our tickets, shaking like a child who stole a pack of gum at the grocery store.
“Here’s our tickets Sir” I said and tried to smile, “and your passes” he replied.
I looked at Tia and said, “umm he needs our ID’s” so we handed him our American ID’s.
 “No signiorine, this is no Global Passes”
Wide eyed and as innocent as a little sinner could be, I said, “We entered the numbers of our passes and we were able to buy the tickets that way, you see…,” and this is when my creative imagination started to take off, as I begin to tell a story that we had been at the beach all day (true) and one of our bags was stolen (not true) that had our passes in it, and I had called Global Pass for our pass numbers so we could buy our tickets, and they told us to show you our ID’s. Starting straight at me, this man didn’t know whether to laugh or kick us off, because obviously we look like hooligans gypsies trying to get a free ride in first class (partially true).
“Ladies, la next stop a Florence, a questo stop you must buy one ticket of 50 euro.”
“Oh really? Our passes don’t work anymore?” giving my most convincing confused faced I could possibly make.  So at the next stop I did exactly that, I bought One ticket for 50 euro from Florence to Padova. I even showed the conductor on the way back into the train, “Guarda, adesso tutto bene?”, slipping and speaking Italian, with a small tilt of his head he started at the ticket and said, “Si, va bene cosi”. As I was walking back onto the train still in my bathing suit, long maxi dress and crazy hair, I see him glace at me with the most puzzling look, later as he came back around to check tickets it became evident that we knew just what we were doing, when he asked why is there only one ticket of 50 euro, and two of you? Staring straight at him I simply replied, “I’m sorry sir you told me to buy one ticket of 50 euro didn’t you? And you see Sir, I showed you the ticket before we got on the train and you told me everything was okay, so I believed you.” with a small shake of his head he mumbled, “Dai non fate niete, ciao ciao regazze..” (come on, don’t worry, bye bye girls).

Tia and I looked straight at each other and the second he walked away started to giggle, for we have known what we have done, and we are guilty as charged. We both said a prayer out loud in forgiveness promising never to lie for train tickets again. And asking God to walk with us on the adventure for we are in need of protection! Shortly there after Tia receives a message from her cousin, “I missed the F*ing train, because no one speaks English!”(that’s what we get for lying!) everything up to this moment has been in our favor. We look at each other in dismay, oh my God what are we going to do in Padova, alone? It’s shocking we are foolish enough to leave for a night knowing that it’s impossible to reach our destination until 6 am, but knowing that a male family member would be accompanying us somehow brought comfort. Now we are arriving at 11pm alone on a Saturday night.
I changed in the train bathroom and gaving myself a sponge bath, trying to de-crevice sand in not so friendly places, after all, we are going out all night we better get ready. I did Tia’s makeup in the train seats while she helped fix my rat’s nest of hair. When we finally arrived we found a bathroom nearby and tried to make the best of what we had.

For our current circumstance we didn’t look half bad, Tia was wearing a bright red summer dress and I was in a black mini skirt and heals, and both of us had two bags in our hands and no indication where the hell we were. And off we went down the streets asking everyone we saw where we should go. A friend who lives in Padavo had mentioned a few Piazza’s in the center that we should find, and so we did. Unfortunately, my tour guide couldn't make it at that time, because his knowledge would have been priceless that night. Nevertheless, we found a bustling piazza, covered with teenagers and young adults. We found a small little table near the corner end of the piazza, and sat outside with a few glasses of wine.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
 The strangest thing started to occur, around one am, every little rigazzini started to disappear, it was as if the flood of people that surrounded the streets slowly melted away, and the vast amount of 200 or so  denigrated down to10. In Rome this is never the case, the streets are bustling with tourist all hours of the night, and besides it is only one in the morning, and in Italian time that’s equivalent to around 10pm.
Empty Piazza di Padova

“Ladies I’m sorry you must go, we are closed now” the waiter said as politely as he could, nevertheless asking that we leave.
“Where does everyone go to dance here?”
Noticing my accent he started a friendly conversation and informed us that in the center everything closes, there are no clubs, the only clubs that exist are outside the center about 6 kilomiters away.

How is that possible? We are still in Italy right? I know the north is different but every Italian city I have been to has dicotecas in the center, it’s part of their culture to stay out all hours of the night, especially on a Saturday night. Astonish we had no idea what to do, we have 5 hours before our train left for Feltre at 6:40am and we are alone in this town. Having an idea to sight see at 2am we started to walk around admiring the piazza when two somewhat older gentlemen approached us. One was short around my height in his late 30’s with tan skin and spiky gelled hair; he wore tighter jeans and a halfway open button up white collar shirt with two gold chains around his neck, and a few sliver bracelets dangling from his wrist. The other man was tall and thin, with gray hair and soft kind eyes, if I had to guess I would say he was in his late 50’s. They had a puzzling look on their faces, as if they could see we weren’t from Padova, and I returned the stare, because obviously they too were not from here.  They were from Bari, the south of Italy and they too were stumped to find nothing open past one. Four is better than two, they said, stay with us, we’ll find something to do…..    to be continued...soon I promise....xx