Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Trani Day 31 Friday July 3, 2009

It was obvious to me that I needed sleep, when after 8 hours I still couldn’t get up. I had set my alarm for 6:30 so I could write before we left, but when 7:30 came and I heard Valeria’s voice calling my name, asking if I was up and wanted coffee, I figured I should probably get up. She wanted to be out of her house by 8:15 to get to the beach before the people and the sun arrived. This was Italy; they both smother you like there’s no tomorrow. It’s likely that no matter what time we arrived, they would both be there, waiting. Something smelled fantastic in the kitchen, and I walked in to see Zia eating a tasty forkful off of a plate.

“Cosè?” I asked.

“La Melanzana, Vuoi?” She said back, pointing her fork to her plate, before taking a large bite. I shook my head. It was a bit too early for that.

After a coffee and a quick bite of fruit and yogurt, we got into Zia’s car and drove the mile down to the part of the beach she liked; the part that wasn’t free. Arriving at 8:20, it was not open yet. In Italy, unless it’s off season, the beaches are rarely free. There are certain parts that are, but they’re usually not as nice, or rocky, and paying for a spot on a private beach secures you a spot, a closet for your things, a chair, and of course, the all important umbrella. Valeria liked this, so I payed my 3 Euros and entered with her. I helped her set up her chair. As I pulled my towel out from my bag, an older woman came over to say hello. She was, at most, 5 feet tall, tiny, had gray hair with a bob bowl cut and carried a canvas bag filled with papers. She began talking to me in a high adorable mousey voice, to which Valeria very proudly explained I was her “amica Americana” and she offered me a bulletin out of her bag about Gesu e Mary; Oh Madonna. I smiled and told her I couldn’t understand when reading Italian and also I was Jewish. She just smiled back, said it was a beautiful religion, “bello hibreo” and gave it to me anyway, before walking off to meet her husband. Valeria took the religious bulletin from me and stuck it in her bag. She was getting antsy, it was water time. I put on my board shorts once again, where she just looked at me, shook her head and waved at me to follow her.

Down at the water front, we walked into the, at first, cold, but then beautiful warm, clear, refreshing, water and when it got up to our knees, about 20 feet out, we took a little stroll back and forth a short distance, attracting older women like some sort of magnetic field, along the way. One of these magnets was the tiny gray haired jesus bulletin giving lady, who walked out with us holding onto a kick board for safety. It was one of the most amazing sights I had ever seen. Older Italian women like to come out into the water but not deep and walk back and forth, in groups, talking for hours. Most of them clasp their hand behind their backs, unlatching them when they have something to say, as being Italian, they need their hands to talk. Zia was about 5 foot 6, wearing her designer glasses and blue one piece bathing suit. Her belly was sticking out, exposing rolls of fat and her hands clutched behind her back. The other women, let’s call her signora Geru Bowlcut, was piccola piccola, wearing a brightly colored suit, and clutching her kick board for dear life. The sight of the two of them walking next to each other, the tiny, the large, the bright, the dark, the tan, the pale, the sound of Zia’s powerful low voice, and Signora Bowlcut’s voice of a mouse, the contrast of the two of them, I just had to bite my tongue and smile.

As we walked out a bit further, the water still below our butts, Signora Bowlcut waved at her husband, who was out at the rocks, past the booey and was set to head out. Zia would not go and so I followed Bowlcut out further, while Zia stayed inland. Signora Bowlcut talked a lot. Well, I’m sorry for the generalizations I’ve given since I’ve arrived in Italy, but it’s true, she was Italian. Italian women can talk! She told me about her son, her daughter, her other son and her dead son. I asked her how she met her husband and she told me about that too. She met him when he worked in the office for a visa to get to the United States. She frequented that office trying to get her visa, when she was only a girl of 18 years. 68 years later and they are still adorable. We met up with him out at the rocks and he began swimming about, going ahead of us, coming back, going out again. Bowlcut asked me if I knew how old he was. I had no idea, and when she told me I was shocked. With his looks, activity, and physical shape, I figured 70s. He was nearing the 90s at a young 87. Truly impressive. Bowlcut wanted to head in now and so we did. Her husband walked back with us, going faster in front, to which she told him he was going too fast. She was too tiny to keep up, so he pulled her on her kick board closer to shore, and headed back for the rocks again.

We looked for Zia, finally finding her with a swarm of women around her talking. I was introduced once again, as “questa é la ragazza americana” or “La mia amica americana”, to which every time, the women would look at me, do the typical sweet Italian thing, of smiling, clasping their hands in praise, look at you with adoring eyes, and call me bella. Then they would look at Zia and ask if I spoke Italian to which she would respond “si, lei parla brava” and they would turn back to me, smile some more and begin talking with me way too fast for someone of my level of Italian speaking; It was great. I spent the next hour sitting in the water next to Zia and 2 older women. One would leave and another walking by would come. Then another passer by would join. Then someone would wave and end up coming over to say hello, staying for 20 minutes anyway. One would leave, going along on their walk and another would come. A circle formed of about 5 or 6 women standing there talking, arguing, laughing, as I wafted in the water behind them, waiting to go. The circle finally spreading out along the water as everyone went there separate ways. We headed back to the sand, where Zia sat in her chair and I sat on my towel on the sand. I was about to change out of my shorts so they could dry, when Zia asked what I was doing. Apparently she wanted to go back in, so we walked through the water again for another ten minutes coming back to sit down once again.
This time as I went to change out of shorts, Signora Bowlcut came over and looked at me strange, asking me why I wore them. Trying to pull them off, she asked if I had something underneath, first. I laughed, nodded and just put my towel around my waist, as she went to change and her husband offered me her chair. They left shortly after, as did we, heading back to Zia’s apartment.

I was supposed to go to the beach again, with Valeria’s grand daughter’s, however I felt burnt and also, after meeting them the day before, I really didn’t want to. I told Zia I was a bit tired and burnt and asked if it would it be okay if I didn’t go. She told me “of course”, so I stayed home with her and watched her cook instead. As we arrived at the apartment, maintenance was being done to the elevator and Zia decided to wait ten minutes for them to finish, instead of walking up the 7 flights of stairs. I took the stairs, and was let in by Zia’s cleaning lady, Jona, who was sporting a shower cap and holding a broom as I entered. She asked me a couple of questions, telling me my Italian was good and then Zia arrived, sooner than expected. She laughed at Jona, who didn’t realize she was wearing a shower cap and began apologizing for her first impression. I just laughed and went to shower.

When I got out, I walked into the kitchen, where Zia was starting her insalata di riso, by taking boiled rice, mixing in olive oil, salt, pepper, canned corn, baby pickles, pickled onions, giardinera mix, tuna, and hard boiled eggs. She cut everything with a pairing knife on top of her hand or straight into the bowl, gave it a mix, tasted and then set it into the refrigerator. When she finished that, she sent me to the supermarket to pick up some mayonnaise; I got some watermelon too. While Zia sat and watched TV, I went into my room to read, lying down instead. Illeria arrived about 20 minutes later, and Valeria soon after and I was called out to come sit at the table.

Illeria was 16, gorgeous, the blonde beach baby look, with perfect skin, no make up, curly long hair and bright blue eyes. She at least tried to show some sort of interest in what one had to say and was sweet. Granddaughter Valeria the older sister, on the other hand, was a major bitch, pain in the ass and if I had to spend more than an hour with her sorry ass, I might go insane. She also was very pretty, but her personality out shown it completely. She was the opposite. Dark hair, dark features, bronze bronze skin, yelling angrily when she talked, making absolutely no effort to talk to me in the least. Lucky for me, I sat next to her. Giorgio, Zia’s son showed up as the table was being set and then we ate. Insalata di riso e insalata di pollo, consisting of frisee, chicken, capers, pickles and olive oil. The bottle of mayonnaise I got was put out for those who wanted it, Giorgio being the only one, took a large dollop. He served me first, placing a good helping of the rice salad on my plate and then it was passed around. It was delicious, reminding me of when I was younger and my mom would make rice, my dad tuna salad, and I’d mix them together in a bowl. While we ate, granddaughter Valeria made a comment about wanting watermelon. Zia laughed saying I had bought one and after the salads, it was served alongside plums and peaches. Granddaughter Valeria left very soon after as her lover was calling her from below, and then Giorgio and finally Illeria. Zia went to sleep while I wrote, and when she woke up, it was time for the excitement to start.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Puglia: Day 30, Thursday July 2, 2009

“Valieria!?” I called out, looking over at a woman who was exactly as I remembered.

“Ahh, La Americana. Si? Si. Tu guidi la stessa, come un Americana!” She said enthusiastically and forcefully as she gave me a hug and walked with me to the exit. “Are you hungry? Hai fame?” She said, looking directly at me. I shook my head. “Okay, we go to a bar, facciamo calazione.” She was going whether I was hungry or not and so saying goodbye to a woman on her way out, we hopped in her car and headed off to a near by bar. It was about 6 in the morning and although I was hungry, I was more-so tired; eating a heavy brioche at that time was honestly the last thing I wanted. Finding a parking space nearby the open bar, we parked and walked over.

How would one describe La Signora Valeria? Although she is one of those characters that is perfect for a story: the look of a stereotypical older large Italian woman, with the personality to match, there’s more to her than that. She wore a pink sleeveless potato sack sort of dress, a large necklace with big green round beads and a pair of brown Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses. She locked her car and marched ahead of me, a heavy bounce to her step, as she barged through the tiny bar filled with working men to order her food. This was the South; women don’t go out this early in the morning, they certainly don’t go to bars this early in the morning and I’m pretty sure they don’t talk like they own the place as they’re walking into a place they’re not supposed to be that early in the morning. However, it was Valeria and seeing as she knew the guy behind the counter, she grabbed herself a brioche, asked what I wanted and ordered me an espresso.

“Cafe Americano? No. Cappuccino? Gli Americani, sempre vogliano Cappuccini. Tu vuoi un Cappuccino?” I shook my head. “Come no, tutti gli americani!” While she scarfed down her brioche quite happily, I sipped my small coffee next to a man eating a coronetto and a coffee and looked around, feeling a bit out of place. We were the only women, as Zia had pointed out to me. She explained that this is the South and the men go out in the morning, but the women “Mai! Mai!” (never! never!) And this is why I love Zia. She does what she wants, not an ounce of crap about how she is perceived, and the thing is, everyone in town knows her and how she is, so no one expects anything different of her. She was a large, sweet, tough, free willed, older broad and she knew it.

Finishing up my coffee now, Valeria thanked the barista, and made it known she was leaving, with a loud “grazie! Buona giornata signori!”. We drove back to her house, and then around her block about three times trying to find parking close to her house. Finally realizing there was none close enough for her, we parked a block away, and squished ourselves into the tiny elevator shutting the doors behind us going up to the 7th floor.

Valeria was a sweaty, out of breath, mess by this point and so after showing me to her room, she change into another potato sack brown sleeveless dress and headed into the living room to sit for a second where there was air conditioning, while I took a shower. I came out dressed, with makeup on, ready to go out, where she looked at me, asked me why I had put makeup on, was I going out? Laughed a bit and then said she was going back to sleep. Although I was tired and would have liked nothing more than that when she first picked me up at 6 in the morning, it was 7:30 now, and I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I left her to sleep while I explored the town. I walked down to the water, making my way over to a park filled with religious statues, shrubs, and runners and then continued to walk, heading over to a church, trying to make my way to the main cathedral. I walked through little streets passing old woman holding bags of vegetables in both hands and past crowded little bars, filled with men getting their morning coffee. Passing a small fruit vendor, I saw giant figs and they called my name. Nothing functions quickly in Italy and I waited for 15 minutes, for an indecisive man to finally finish his shopping, before getting my one fig. Figuring I was there and had waited that long, I got 2 peaches as well and attempted to make my way back to the apartment. I passed the right street twice, but didn’t realize it, finally asking for directions, where walking a block up, I realized where I was, stopping only to get myself some yogurt and finally getting home. Valeria waited for me upstairs, where we left soon after going to her daughter’s house to go swimming in the pool.

We arrived about 10 minutes later, parking, walking up to a large gate, that opened a second later, uncovering not a house, but a large 3 floored villa, a garden of olive, citrus, pears, figs and flower trees, a tennis court, another smaller house and a large turquoise water filled pool, surrounded by tanning chairs and a small shaded area to sit and relax. This was a dream house. We were greeted by Zia’s daughter, Maria Chiara, who was holding a small, doll like child, white skin, curly dark hair, big lips, a wide smile, high cheekbones and bright blue eyes, named Greta, followed by her older three year old sister Carlotta and her mother Yolonda. Carlotta was like an older version of her sister, except she had these hazel golden eyes, that when she looked up at you with them, one couldn’t say no. I sat with them for a while, before putting on my board shorts, and walking over to the pool. Valeria was a bit confused as to why I was wearing shorts, especially in a pool. “Because I always do”, was my excuse, but she just rolled her eyes, looked at me funny and sent me on my way. After jumping into the cold water, from the hot air, I was shocked, but refreshed. Friends of Carlotta and Gretta showed up now. A mother, her two kids, a boy and a girl and her 11 year old niece Mikella. They came into the water now, too, staying in the kiddie part with the children and I made my way over. Ten minutes later, they got out to eat some brioche, inviting me along and seeing as I was freezing, I followed. They asked if I wanted some brioche, and although I said no, they were Italian, meaning whether or not I wanted to, I had to “mangia!”. It was delicious, fluffy and filled with chocolate and I ate alongside the children, making small talk with Mikella and Carlotta.

They went back into the water soon after, and I followed, playing with the kids for a while, before taking a cold and shivering Carlotta out of the water and going to lie in the sun. Unfortunately, seeing as I was extremely tired, I fell asleep, most of me luckily becoming tan; my upper legs turning a lovely tomato red. When I woke up way later, I went to sit down with Yola and Zia who began talking to me. My head wasn’t thinking at this point and I looked at her with tired eyes and confusion. She said something, but I didn’t understand, so she pulled out her dictionary, and in wrong pronunciation and a heavy accent, she told me I was “dazed, stunned”. I laughed and agreed. We sat in the shade for a little longer, meeting Maria Chiara’s daughters, and her husband Paolo and then we headed back to her house to have some lunch.

She pulled out six gigantic purple figs, bursting at the side from ripeness and a paper wrapped package. It was filled with prosciutto which she had me place on a plate, while she stuck her Eggplant Parmesan in the oven. I placed half of the cured pork on the plate, sticking the rest back into the refrigerator. After we sat down and began to eat, Zia had a hearty helping of it and had me take out some more. I took out some more and when she was almost done, I took out the last portion. I couldn’t eat all four figs, so I gave Zia part of mine, who looked at me funny and told me if she helped me with that, I had to eat another bite of prosciutto, as a gift from her. I looked at her and finally agreed. Then the Melanzana came out of the oven; it was hot. As she cut into it, below the browned cheese on the top and the red sauce, were layers of soft fried eggplant, more sauce and oozing cheese. It was super and unlike most Parmigiana’s I’ve tasted, her’s was not overly greasy. Zia shared with me her secret; not adding any extra oil to the sauce. After she helped herself to another portion, she brought out a bowl of fruit which neither of us ate, seeing as how full we were and then she suggested a nap. I never nap, but somehow I agreed, waking up a good two hours later to her calling my name.

Around 5:30 , after Zia changed into another potato sack dress, and put on some jewelry, we headed into the center of town, stopping at a travel business to find out about train tickets, continuing on to her hair stylist so she could make herself beautiful. They were busy at the time, so we went to get some granita while she waited to go back. We sat down outside at a bar and ordered. Zia got coffee topped with whipped cream, I got lemon; a large bowl was brought out to each of us. It was the most delicious refreshing thing I could have asked for on that hot hot afternoon and even Zia, with her fan in hand, began to cool down. Zia asked for a glass of water and I said no, seeing as I didn’t want to pay for water;I got one anyway. Unlike the rest of Italy, in Trani, the water was free and, as I soon discovered, so were the plastic bags at the supermarkets. I payed for Zia, a whopping 13 euro in total and we walked over to her hair dresser. She gave me directions to the Cathedral, told me to return in an hour,and went inside.

Meanwhile I waked to the Cathedral. It was 7 now and although I got to see the outside, at this point, the inside was closed, so I walked on. I walked past the castle, through a bunch of side streets, to the port, where an evening fish market was in the works. Men and boys sat around at their stands, yelling out their prices and products, while others cleaned seppia, black ink spreading across their hands. Older women and families flocked around to get that evening’s dinner and I looked on as a picture taking tourist passed by. A little before quarter to 8, I made my way back to Zia, who was just finishing up; her hair a bit fluffier than before. She thanked them and we walked home, stopping at the store first, so she could buy a frozen pizza and some watermelon.

Upon arriving home, neither of us was hungry, so we changed into our PJs, sat at the tv in the air conditioned living room and munched on some cold watermelon as we watched a terrible variety show. It consisted of a scenes from different variety shows over the years, from the 50’s til the present, singing, comedy, and strange acts. It could quite possibly have been one of the worst shows I had ever witnessed, yet somehow at that time, sitting with Valeria, watching her smile, or laugh, or sing along with the terrible old singers like bad karaoke acts of drunken middle aged women, I found it amusing. I actually found it hard to stay up that night and at 9:30 pm, settled into my room, read for a bit and went to bed by 10. Well it had been a long day and I had to be up early the next.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Day 29, Wednesday July 1 - ITALIA

I need to stop thinking this way when I travel. It screws everything up. Once again, the thought of an uneventful boring day to catch up on all of my writing, reading and music listening was before me. After Spain, I had a layover in Zürich for an hour and then a train from Rome to Puglia. It would be a long, dull day; I knew it. It was so far, but I also had no idea of the rest of what I was in for.

Finally waking up at 6:20 AM, I was a quite tired. The 2 1/2 hours of sleep barely did me justice. I got ready, walking with Lissy a few blocks down to Catalunya square to catch our bus to the airport. We got on at a perfect time, squishing ourselves and our bags in; I was saving the last seat for Lissy. It took about a half hour, shorter than expected and we arrived around 7:45 in the morning, much earlier than either of us needed to be there, really. After waiting in line with me to get checked in, I waited in a long line with Lissy and then we proceeded on to our gate. Barcelona’s airport is filled with shops and even this early in the morning, there were woman in them flocking to the sales racks. Lissy and I headed into one, where she bought me a new wallet, a much needed item that I had been meaning to pick up for the last year or so. We walked towards what was supposed to be my gate, B35, however when looking at the computer there was nothing posted for Zürich. We stopped at the area anyway, where I asked a Swiss woman in Spanish, only confusing her and so we waited until any sign of Zürich came up.

About a half hour later, it was posted. We were at the correct gate, however my flight was delayed. I asked one of the men working there if I could make my next flight and he firmly and confidently told me, there should be no problem; I believed that son of a bitch. We were supposed to board at 9:45; it was now 9:50 and nothing. Finally the plane had arrived and seeing as at least my flight would be leaving eventually, Lissy left me, nearly flooding the airport with her emotional tears as she walked away. Oh the drama.

Boarding the plane now, a skinny Chinese boy was in my seat; I was off to a great start. By the time we took off, it was about 10:30, and things weren’t looking promising for me in the least. I had less than an hour originally to get to my next flight in Zürich and as of now, I was really left with none. If there was time for me to run through, what would happen to my luggage? I began to panic slightly and to calm my nerves, I chewed some gum and read, falling asleep shortly after. I awoke to my book falling out of my hands and onto my lap. The Chinese boy was taking up part of my leg room and partly leaning his head against me; all was well. I got up to go to the bathroom, coming back to see him asleep over half of my chair. I tried to squish myself back in without disturbing him, but he woke up, looking like a lost puppy. He then fell back asleep again, waking up as he heard the sound of the drink cart coming down the aisle. One woman was passing out croissants and he stuffed one in his mouth, eating it in about three large bites. He asked for another one with a third of the first one still in his mouth. Aside from the fact that it’s hard to understand someone with a full mouth, he also spoke Spanish with a Chinese accent, so after a few attempts of trying to get another one, he finally opened his mouth some more, and pointed inside, holding up a finger for a one. The woman finally got the idea, and he shoved that croissant down in a few seconds as well.

As the flight came into it’s “preparing for landing” stage, an announcement was made, and shown on the tv screens were the gates of the connecting flights. The next thing to show up the screen were the flights that were to be rescheduled; lucky me, I was on that list. I began talking to the man next to me on the other aisle. He was Nigerian, lived in London, went to Barcelona for a three day vacation and was now going back to his new home of Zürich. The man in front of us heard us talking about missed flights and such and so I began talking to him. He lives in Spain, teaching English to Spaniards, but is originally from Mexico city. He came to the U.S. when he was around 21, joined the army and got to live out his dream of traveling around. Now he was heading to Chicago, but luckily for him, he had enough time to make his flight, as did my friend in the middle, going to Shang Hai. Lucky me, getting to take the next flight, right? The train I planned to take to get to Zia would be out of the question now I suppose.

“Oh, you’re flight isn’t until 5:30.” The Nigerian man said to me. I laughed thinking he was joking. He claimed he saw it on the screen but I didn’t see anything of the sort, so I waited. After all, I was going to Rome, there had to be more than 2 flights out right? When the plane landed, those of us who missed our flights were sent to a transfer zone.

“Rome, oh the next flight is at 5:30” the woman said to me. My face of optimism and hope turned.

“There’s no other flight. Not one, that goes earlier?” I asked. The lady shook her head, gave me a consolation prize of 20 Swiss francs to use for food for the next five hours in the airport and I was sent on my way. I don’t want to wait one hour during a layover, let alone 2, but 5? What was I to do? I walked around looking at the dull shops, passing a Burger King employee on his break, at least four times. I went upstairs, then back down, then up again. After an hour of this stupidity, I sat down, attempted to get internet and seeing as I had to pay, sat down and wrote for a while, before walking around some more. I was sitting in an area, flooded with African men and one woman walking around and sleeping on the available rows of chairs. I sat around, people watching, when a large sweaty man sat next to me, started asking me computer questions and then began to use the outlet I was about to plug into. So, I packed up and decided to walk around again. I went to use part of my 20 swiss franks on a bottle of water and the lady told me that if I used it for only that, that would be it, as she could not split it, it was a one time use. I left the line, grabbed three apples, two bananas and a yogurt and went back. She looked at me a bit funny, and then told me I could take one more piece of fruit on my way out. I took an orange and a yogurt accidentally slipped into my bag too. I went back to the seating area to continue to be bored out of my mind.

Four o’clock hit and my gate was finally up, so I headed over to it. A boy in front of me in the line through security was smiling and got a friendly goodbye from the security officer. As I headed over to my gate, I saw he was sitting in the same seating area, and so I went to the bathroom, deciding to make friends with him when I returned. Perhaps he was staying in a hostel in Rome and we could go together. When I returned to the gate, he wasn’t there. A blonde guy sat there, wearing an Italian belt and I figured he probably lived there. Another couple speaking English sat across from me, making lovey dovey faces at each other and so, I went looking for my soon to be friend. He was sitting at a table over by the bathrooms on his computer. I took mine out and did the same. He left about 5 minutes later, heading back to the seating area. A French family sat next to me and began talking, so I left pretty soon after. As I had a seat back in B83, the blonde haired boy, sitting on the seat facing my back, began talking to me.

“What are you doing going to Budapest?” He asked me. I wasn’t going to Budapest. “Why are you sitting in the seating area for Budapest then?” he asked me after. They were the only seats in between the two gates, so I made myself comfortable. He asked if I knew of a card game, one I had no idea of and so I moved next to him. We began playing this strange mathematical card game all the while discussing what we were doing. His name was Adam, he was 21, and he was heading to Budapest, before taking a bus over to Romania for a 5 week dig. His flight was set to board at 5 to 5, and as that time came near, there was no announcement for it, however as I turned around to look at my flight, everyone stood in line, waiting to get on, and so I left Adam, finally boarding my plane to Rome, never making friends with the other kid, who happened to also be going to Budapest.

My mom sent me a text before I left with the address of a hotel near the train station in Rome, for an option that night, since I had no idea of what I was doing yet. It was expensive and sounded a little shady and I wanted another option. I sat down next to the right people for options, let me tell you! I began talking to the couple to my left. Silvia e Leonardo, were coming from Denmark. Silvia gave tours around her town, and Leonardo was a chef. They were not from Rome, but from Leche, a city in Puglia, and knew exactly where Trani was, taking it upon themselves to help me out.

As we landed, I walked with them, got my luggage with them and waited for the train from the airport to the train station with them. Italian trains are generally late, however today, something was wrong, as we waited over an hour for it. Finally pushing our way on through the swarms of people. We got 3 seats, and an older woman sat down in the fourth. She was wearing a long jean skirt, had a tight white shirt on and short curly gray hair. She seemed somewhat frail and in looking at her, a bit traditional in her ways as well, like an old fashioned Italian nonna; I was terribly mistaken. She pulled out her cell phone and began talking about it, saying something to the person on the other line about “Leche”. When she got off of the phone, Silvia questioned her about going to Leche and the woman said she was taking the night train. This is when everything began to fall into place. Although Silvia hated taking night trains, the hotels in Rome were too expensive and Leonardo, the older woman, and I convinced her to take a night train that evening so that the following morning she would be home. Arriving at the station, we went to wait in line, where an hour later, we bought our tickets, asking for them together, perhaps we should have checked.

Silvia was hungry, and so we all headed to McDonald’s, where I got excited at the door, seeing there was free wireless. Silvia took her tray of food up, leaving the luggage for Leonardo, but the older woman took two bags instead, not letting anyone help her, while she lugged her large bag and a slightly smaller one up the flight of stairs. She was a feisty one. I took out my computer, attempting to use the internet, but it would not work. A Philippino guy sitting near me, tried to help me but instead we just ended up talking in a mix of Engl-itali-anish for a good ten minutes until he left. We left shortly after as well; la Signora dragging down two bags once again.

We walked to the binario where the train was supposed to be. However, knowing Italian trains, systems and people, nothing works the way it is supposed to, everything is always delayed, not where it is supposed to be and the people are never doing what they are supposed to be doing. We waited on the supposed binario where no one else was. Taking out our tickets now, we looked at our them only to realize, each one of us was in a different part of the train. At least the train looked empty though, so there should be no problem; wrong. Ten minutes before it was set to leave, we saw it was on a different binario and a large group of people flocked to get on. We did too, all going together onto the same car, despite the tickets, and after everyone had settled in, we found an empty room flooded with a mystery liquid and called it our own.

It was a little after midnight as we began leaving the station, pulling the seats out into beds and sprawling ourselves out; the older woman sitting herself down in the corner. Silvia was not a small woman in the least, and sprawled herself out across a good 1/3 of the room if not more. Leonardo slept next to her, in the corner next to the door, and I sat across from the older woman, not wanting to squish her by lying down, She grabbed my feet, and moved them so I could lie down, and then gave me a kind of wave hand gesture, like “don’t even worry about it.” I’d say aside from waking up a few times to bright lights outside the window, at train stops, from Silvia’s feet in my face or from the ticket guy coming into the room, turning on the lights and asking for tickets, the four hours of sleep I got were pretty good. Upon 5:20 in the morning, when our tickets were checked again, I was told my stop would be the next one, and everyone in our cabin began to wake up a bit. Leonardo helped me get my bag down, and as we got to Trani, I said goodbye to everyone, and he got up, and helped me to get off the train. Looking around for a second, I saw Valeria standing there, waiting for me, and turned around to wave goodbye to Leo for the last time.

From now on, on days of travel, I will not think it to be an easy day.

Day 28, Tuesday June 30

Day 27, Monday June 29

Day 26, Sunday June 28

Day 25, Saturday June 27

Day 24, Friday June 26

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Pézenas France - Day 23, Thursday, June 25, 2009

Did my eyes deceive me? Was my clock correct? Was it, it couldn’t be. It was 8:30 AM and both Lissy and I had actually awoken to my alarm without a problem. We got up, dressed and ready and joined the rest of the gang in the kitchen for some breakfast. Anton had planned to take the girls to the beach this morning, so after we ate, we decided to follow along, the twins wanting to come too; oh goodie. The seven of us were loaded into Anton’s car and off to the beach we went. The car ride was a joyous twenty minutes, as I was sitting next the the boys.

“Am I touching you? One would say, twirling his right index finger about an inch above my palm.

“No” I answered.

“Na Uh, I am look.” He would say pointing to his left hand that had been holding my wrist.

“Well what do you know.” I said, in a tone of sarcastic amazement.

The boys weren’t satisfied with the fact that all of their little games weren’t annoying me, so they continued. Lucas started with a question; I answered. Then he would question my question; so I’d answer. This went on for about ten minutes, until we arrived at the beach. However, I have a feeling I was pestering them more than they were me, because I was not getting annoyed. Therefore, it was annoying them that they couldn’t annoy me. It’s all part of my game you see. After confusing them off of their own questions by using gigantic words or speaking at a difficult to understand speed, the boys finally stopped, running to go dig in the sand instead.

While the girls went off to find sea shells, Lucas was in the water and Dominic was trying to start fires with his dad’s magnifying glass. Anton watched the blunder of chaotic events and Lissy and I went for, what was supposed to be, a quick coffee. I don’t need to say it took about five times longer than we thought, do I?

Well at least let me explain myself. You see, all of the places alongside the sand were very expensive and touristy, so we took it upon ourselves to go into the small beach town, and find one that wasn’t. In doing so, however, we stumbled upon an open market, and well, the rest was history.

Oh my! I say this every time I hit a new market, but leave me here to die, bury me. I want to remain here forever with the cheeses, the smell of the cured hanging meats, the olives sitting in pails of vinegar with herbs de provence and other seasonings, the ripe peaches and fragrant melons. Oh yes. After buying some cheese and a dried sausage for a hefty price (we thought we got ripped off), a mix of black and green olives, some sun dried tomatoes sitting in herbed oil, some peaches, a melon, a whole roasted chicken covered with pan juices and all of the caramelized vegetables from the cooking process and a crusty baguette, we headed back to the beach a good 45 minutes later. We stopped before we got back to get the coffee for which we originally set out. I was not hungry. I was nowhere near hungry. The yogurt I had earlier for breakfast and the large cappuccino from five minutes prior remained in my stomach and so, although all of this food looked incredibly appetizing to me and Lissy, neither of us desired it at the moment. This all changed, however, when we returned to the beach. Anton and the girls set out to get some mussels at a restaurant nearby and the boys began digging into everything else. If Lissy and I wanted any of our goods, we had to eat them then, or they would be gone in a flash. Gorging myself on fresh bread and aged french cheese is a difficult task, I kid you not. After a piece of melon, I was done for, and I walked around holding my stomach for the next four hours, talking about how sick I felt.

The water didn’t help. A chubby full girl bobbing about in a cold calm sea is not exactly the image for which most come to the beach. Lucas came out to join me and we planned to swim out to a large platform further out. We both got cold and headed in. As we did so, the grandparents arrived, bearing quiche and smiles. Lissy offered them some cheese. Dominic and Lucas hung out with them, before Anton and the girls came back and we all went in the water. Lissy came in now, or should I say, made her way in to her knees after fifteen minutes of easing her way in, screaming in pain after each step. Along came Grandma, who I have to say, could quite possibly be the quintessential sweet tea drinking, high voiced, English grandmother you see in the movies. She came in, in an old style bathing suit and a white bathing cap with the ruffles on it, like from the 40s. She walked in slowly, alongside Lis and I could hear her from way out. She speaks like a British Julia Child, except louder; seeing as she is for the most part, deaf. Finally making it out to where we all were, Lissy went under the water, and came up looking as if she’d just witnessed a gorilla riding a bicycle on top of a tight rope under water. Now we started having a lot of fun. The girls swam about, playing games and being thrown into the water by Anton and I continued to bob around, playing with them and swimming out. Nikita and Dominic followed, but as we went, she began to get tired and Anton worried, so she went back. When Dominic and I just about reached the platform, he decided he was tired too and so i followed him back to the sand, stopping in the middle to bob around a little more. I was talking to two French men, who, once they realized I spoke English, began stating the obvious; either practicing their English or mocking me. I really couldn’t have cared either way, it was amusing. Having enough, I made my way back to the sand with the rest of the crew, where we washed the sand off, and went back to the house.

The girls were crazy, jumping straight into the pool when they got back. I followed shortly after and wished I hadn’t; it was cold, terribly cold, and I had no idea how these two little bean poles could stand it, when I and all of my insulation had to get out after two minutes.

A little later, we walked into town with Katia, an all dolled up Lena, baby and Lucas to get some oysters and other goodies for dinner. When we got to the Center, the women thought they may have left the stove on. Lissy and I went back to see the guys watching tennis in the kitchen, no fire on the stove. We returned to town, once again, and stopped at a patisserie so I could get a raspberry macaroon, before meeting up with Katia. Shopping completed, they walked back to the house, while Lissy and I went around the town, staring at passerbyers while they ate their dripping ice creams under the hot sun. Then it was back to the house, to relax until the sun went down; time to eat.

A large helping of about 5 dozen shucked oysters was first, and the kids dove into them. I have never seen kids go so crazy over seafood, an aphrodisiac, unless it be chocolate. They gobbled them up. As the oysters neared the end, Aleric wanted a group picture. After a few minutes of bad pictures and an angry Katia, a fight broke out, where she left the table and was not seen until the next morning. She had thrown pasta into boiling water and taken out ingredients to mix in with the cooked pasta prior to this event. Lissy and I took it upon ourselves, or more like, Lissy asked if I would come and do it, making a large bowl of pasta. She didn’t salt the water, the 1/4 of sun dried tomatoes was not enough for the two pounds of pasta she had cooked and so I rummaged around the cabinets and the fridge to doctor it up. Roasted peppers, more tomatoes, fresh herbs, and fresh mozzerella were tossed in. Olives from the market earlier were pitted, and Nikita watched in amazement as I’d smash one by one with the back of the knife and pull the pit out. She stood next to me, and I urged her to help. She did, excited and smiling the entire time. A large helping of olive oil, another toss, and the pasta was ready, from bland to yummy in 4 1/2 minutes flat, thank you very much. It was followed by some more horse sausages, that the the kids also enjoyed immensely, cheese, salad, and then the other hit of the night, a gigantic chocolate mousse cake; rich, and decadent.

Dessert was coming to a closing and Nikita now on a slight sugar rush, saw my camera sitting next to me at the table. She grabbed it and began taking pictures; a look of delight on her face with every shot.

“Oh Nikita, those are terrible. You don’t know how to take photos at all do you? What are you doing?” Aleric would blunder. “Don’t take bad pictures, especially with a camera that’s not even yours, now Jami is going to have to erase all of those. Uh Nikita really.” She looked up at me, her smile turning downward a bit.

“They’re not very good.” She said to me as she put the camera down. I handed it back to her, told her I liked them and to continue. Her smile came back now and she ran around taking pictures of everything and I mean everything. The house, the sky, the table, the ground, Alliyah, Alliyah spinning, Alliyah chewing, herself, everything, giggling and being creative. She was sent to bed after this, asking Lissy to come with her, where I was left making small talk with Aleric at the table. I asked him questions about his life and he all of the sudden began to let his guard down, talking to me with a bit of conviction and truth instead of his usual show off crap. It surprised me.

Nikita came down now, with Lissy, about 20 minutes later. Seeing as it took much longer than I thought, I asked if she had a story read to her. She misunderstood this as I would read her a story and a minute later I was upstairs speed reading The Nutcracker so Lissy and I could get out of the house for an evening stroll. As I read, the boys, who shared the room, gathered around as well to listen. When I finished, at a record speed, I said good night, and went downstairs where Lissy and I got out of there. Everything was supposed to be open late today, it was a special Thursday summer thing they did there in Pézenas. A few restaurants remained with people eating, but other than that, the rest of the shops were closed; still, it was nice and enchanting. People ate out in the courtyard in candlelight under the shade of the church. The charming little streets were barely lit and in the cool breeze, the laundry hanging off of the balconies would sway. Strolling along more of a major street than the center of the town, we came upon a cozy little restaurant courtyard, old style live French jazz music and singing coming from four guys in the center. We watched for a while and Lissy spoke to one of the musicians sneaking out. Turns out he was from the States, was trained in the army and stationed in France, fell in love with a French girl and stayed, now probably in his 60s.

It was getting late by this point, and so we walked slowly back to the house. I looked up at one window along the way and eyes followed me. I didn’t realize it, until I looked back and saw a face up to the window, barely visible through the dark; it was creepy. Lissy went back to look, waving at the old man who lurked behind the curtains, saying how sad it was and how lonely he must have been. She went on about this until we got home. I just thought he was creepy.

As we got into our rooms, we sat on our beds. I was about to go into the bathroom, when the door began to creak, shutting slowly and banging as it came to a close. I saw no one enter, didn’t hear a person and began wondering what it was. The shower turned on and Lissy and I looked at each other completely confused and somewhat concerned as to who it was, since we thought everyone was sleeping. When we heard the water shut off, I crept up to the door and knocked. A sweet high voice answered in Russian. It was Lena. She popped her head out, said goodnight and we all went to sleep