I will fake it until I make it!

All about the escapades and thoughts of a girl who thinks WAY too much for her own good!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Lesson in Humility

Italy is an exciting and beautiful place. Although I have been here a little over a month, I still cannot believe this is my life; that I actually get to live in Italy. I have nothing but appreciation for this opportunity, but the reality is it’s not that easy to be here. Living in a foreign country sounds ideal, but let’s face it, when a dog understands more Italian than you do, it’s a humbling experience.

I’ve had many lessons in humility over these last few weeks. Of course there’s the typical, I can’t figure out how to work my Italian mobile phone because all of the instructions are in Italian, or the,"Oh! You’re not supposed to enter the bus in the middle section because that’s where people exit." kind of stuff. But recently I had a great reminder regarding the importance of not taking yourself too seriously and being humble.

Two weeks ago, I arrived back in Rome after 11 days in Florence. The night I got back an acquaintance of mine, named Pam called out of the blue to say she was in Italy for the next two weeks and could we meet up.

I wasn’t expecting a visitor for another week when my long-time friend Jen would fly to Rome for a short visit. Now, I feared, I would have to change what I had planned for the week and focus my energy on making sure Pam was taken care of and having a good time in Rome. I resented the intrusion on my time in Italy and was not that excited to meet up with her.

I made plans to meet her the next day by the Spanish Steps; Spagna as the Italians call it. I had not done any significant sightseeing yet in Rome so this was my first time in that area. I got lost several times and had to pull out my map to gain my bearings. This frustrated me because I didn’t want to look like a tourist. I kept getting turned around in the confusing narrow streets of Rome.  For quite a while I could not find my way, but was too intimidated to ask for directions because of my limited Italian. I was grumpy, frustrated, and resented that I was in this situation in the first place.

After 45 minutes of being lost within the same 5 block radius, I eventually found the cafĂ© Pam was waiting in. As I walked up to her she stood and gave me a big smile and hug. She started speaking English a mile a minute as loudly as she wanted. She wasn’t obnoxious; she just did not bother to hide the fact that she was American.

Seeing her was like a breath of fresh air! I hadn’t spoken full-on-rapid-fire-girl-style English in weeks. My bad mood melted away and I jumped into the conversation with just as much enthusiasm as she had.  I realized immediately I had been a selfish jerk.  I didn't have to take care of Pam, she was quite capable on her own!

Pam wasn’t ashamed that she stood out as an American, she embraced it. And, at 5 feet 10 inches tall with platinum blonde hair it’s a good thing she embraced it because there was really no hiding it. Her approach was that she was on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation and she was going to enjoy every moment of it.

That was such a great reminder for me to relax, enjoy the experience, go with the flow, and not worry so much about looking stupid or even worse, looking like a tourist! After all, I AM a tourist; just a longer term one.

Pam and I were practically inseparable for the next two weeks. In that first week together I did things on my own that I had not tried before, like driving a car in Rome and conquering Rome’s underground Metro system. Both were not as hard as I imagined they would be.

I traveled to places I had not even heard about, like a tiny town in the Mountainous Abruzzo Region of Italy named Calascio (kind of pronounced like kah-lodge-e-oh, without the d in lodge), where Pam and I had wonderful Italian dishes that were just added to the fall menu, as most Italian restaurants prepare dishes with what is available in season.

Pam had a chestnut and ridiccio filled ravioli with venison, olive oil, and a little sea salt served on top of the pasta. She said it was the best meal she had ever eaten! Of course the pasta, and ricotta cheese (from my tomato ravioli) was made fresh in the restaurant that very day.

The owner of the restaurant treated us like royalty and provided many extras to our meal like several after dinner drinks that are specialties of the local area.

We had a fantastic time and saw breathtaking views of the mountains and the countryside on the 3 hour drive from Rome to Calascio.

Earlier in the week, we stayed up until 4 AM dancing in a “high end” night club. Night clubs in Rome are just as bad as night clubs in Washington DC, but the drinks are more outrageously priced (a glass of no-name champagne was 15 euros!) and there are more men than women. Most of the Italian men in this club were on the prowl for American woman.  As one man explained to us, they do this because they think American women are “easy.” DAH! Considering most American woman in Rome are either college students or on vacation, I imagine they are “easier” to get than Italian women who are looking for their future husband.

Although “clubbing” is not my thing, it was fun watching the dynamics of the crowd. Imagine a typical dance floor with disco ball turning, lights flashing, music blaring and EVERY Italian man singing American songs at the top of their lungs with a horrible English accent. I still can’t get the sound of this out of my head… “I got a fill-ing, that to-night gonna be a goohd night. That to-night gonna be a goohd, goohd niiiigh…” It was great!

My friend, Jen joined us exactly one week after Pam arrived in Rome. Jen was happy to have the extra company and was up for anything that week. The three of us had a blast! We toured around the sights of Rome, went shopping at the local market, and drank way too much wine! We were on a mission to find the best Aperitivo and Gelato in Italy.  We went shopping in Florence.  We toured Sienna (one of the most beautiful Tuscan towns I have seen yet!).  And we just had a fun laughing and being in good company!

After Jen left, Pam and I jumped a train to Venice for the weekend. SERIOUSLY, who gets to say that?  Who gets to say, “Okay, I’ll meet you at the Coliseum in 30 minutes.” or, “Hey, do you want to go to Venice this weekend?” I am indeed a fortunate woman!

Venice is like no other place on earth. The bridges, the architecture, the canals, the morning mist that hangs over the water, all add to the romance and mystery of this place.  I have decided that I must live in Venice for a short time while in Italy.

These past two weeks have been exceptional and have served as a great reminder for me to be appreciative, to be humble, to be up for anything, and to not take myself too seriously.

Thank you Pam for being you and for reminding me that it’s okay to be me!


  1. Val --

    You're fabulous!!! Great to see you living the good life in Italy!

    Colleen McGraw