Sunday, January 17, 2016

And just like that…

Leaving CT to head to NY, to fly out to Rome, to take a bus to Teramo, to be fetched by car to Isola.  One week and one day, 2 airport runs, and 33 hours later (for that last NY-Isola leg), my geographic journey is done.  

I stow the carry-ons and strap myself in to seat 20C for the plane ride.  All departure tasks are done or on hold.  No last minute errands, glitches, phone calls, or curve balls.  Everything stops now for the voyage.  The deep exhale familiar to the seasoned traveler--now I only have to sit in a plane.  

I have a window seat and no seat mate—a mercy.  Mind, body and spirit are somewhat numb and need to be decanted.  I’m also in a window seat; bathroom breaks are easier than waking or climbing over a sleeping seat-mate.  The snacks arrive. 

I dig out reading material and computer, but mostly I will relax and enjoy the journey.  Watch the movie.  Eat the dinner.  Rehearse the truths, the memories, the dreams.  Anticipate the next 3 mos.--passionate work, Italian cuisine, the mountains, language and cultural adapatations, a new home to settle into, reunions with dear friends and colleagues, expecting to make new ones. Digesting, while preparing a feast.  Recalibration.

A party erupts behind me with 4 people clustered to socialize just as the fuselage lights go out for sleeping.  Dang.  I sleep well enough though, another mercy. 

Arriving in Rome, I follow the pack to Customs, breeze through the kiosk with my Irish passport, and marvel at the upgrade Fiumicino has had since I last came through.  I forget about the cigarette smoking but not about the coffee, which I order up while waiting for my bus to Isola.  Maxi Cappuccino: 2,50. 

I watch the nuns and priests go by, and note shoe fashion--boots and the thing with sneakers--hairdos, veils, saris, jackets, coats and jewelry. 

A congenial, fast-talking bus driver pulls in and starts bust-a-moving: Destination?  Luggage?  Payment or invoice?  I manage with rudimentary Italian and hand gestures (their second language).  We are loaded quickly and efficiently; I text all parties tracking my voyage, grateful for wifi on the bus, looking up at the palm trees and darkening skies.  Snow is predicted. 

exit the airport along a long alley of a highway, to dozens of flagpoles flanking and saluting us on either side, with the fluttering flags of Italy and the EU.  I feel regal.  

The parasol pines--I forgot about them and smile immediately upon seeing them again.  A flock of white birds that look like egrets fill a green field.  Low-hanging clouds fill the sky and in the distance, shroud the spine of mountains to which we are headed: L’Aquila & Teramo.

Familiar French chain stores also bring a smile: Leroy Merlin, Carrefour and Total.  And on the highway: Renaults and Peugeots.  Some international staples, like IKEA and the trance-like stare into iPhones (if not loud conversations in several languages) on the bus. The blue highway signs.  The palm and cypress trees, first glimpse of an olive grove.  First hillside towns.

As we ascend, the temp drops, as does the snow, from mountaintop to hillside to field to road.  The clouds lower again and we study the sky, wondering if we will beat the snow.  I shoot a quick prayer that my connection will be on time, and/or there will be a bus shelter to wait in if not, and/or the fitful freezing rain stop long enough for me to transfer luggage and myself into another vehicle.

 Not to worry.  The freezing rain changes to snow as we arrive in the bus terminal, and as I unload the luggage, a kindly-faced elderly man taps me on the shoulder.  “Pat? Gianpierro”—my chauffeur!  I silently bless him for being on time.  Stunning punctuality by both the bus driver and him--for Italy.

Gianpierro and I exhaust our tiny vocabularies of each other’s language, and just as well.  I’m tired, and he needs to focus: it’s snowing well now as we wind our way to Isola, and getting dark.  Gianpierro threads the narrow mountain roads to a country house, in which is my apartment. 

Marco, Teresa and Pascal meet me at the door—all smiles—and our tiny vocabularies of each other’s languages is quickly exhausted…Marco calls for a translator and we go over what I need to know about lights, oven, recycling, shutters, keys and showers.  My mind locks up on Italian and instructions but we’re done soon.  Teresa gives me a big hug and tells me to rest well.  We are going to be friends before this is over, I predict.  (And we’re each going to learn a lot of each other’s languages!)  They live upstairs.  I have a downstairs living area and and an upstairs bed and bath. 

And just like that, I am in a new country, a new home, a new lifestyle, for three months.  From the salt marshes of my home town to the Abruzzo region of Italy. Time  to stop now, thank God for safe passage into Italy and up the mountain, and into an inviting home. 

Now I lay me down to sleep…

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