Every time I see the “ok” emoji, it automatically takes me back 14 years ago to the time I visited Italy. Let me paint the scene for you, as I channel my inner Sophia Petrillo. “Picture it: Sicily, 1922…”, except it wasn’t Sicily nor was it the year 1922. It was in the outskirts of Rome and in 2002. It was my first trip to Europe and I was beyond thrilled to be going over seas and to a place being one generation away from the so-called motherland. I was really looking forward to spending 5 weeks in a country (emphasis on the word ‘country’) with notoriously great food and at the time, good company.
This was a big step for me and it was even considered bold move to be going on a vacation with my then boyfriend and his family, without having any plans of marriage in sight. I didn’t care about antiquated cultural or family norms – all I cared about was food and seeing some thangs. So, I booked my ticket. But, my dream vacation quickly became a much or mush different reality upon arrival. Unlike the conversation we had back home, I knew that we’d being staying in the outskirts of Rome, but what they had failed to mention was that it would be in a remote part of the country, in the country. So, 5 weeks of the farm life was not what I had expected. The beach was almost 2 hours away and without a car at our disposal, that was out of the question. The local dialect was very, very different from what I was used to, so communication was limited. There was literally nothing to during the day. It was like being on a yoga retreat: except this yoga retreat was silent, just not by choice; there were prolonged periods of meditation, or perhaps self-induced naps due to boredom, and I too had a personal mantra which went a little something like “I want to go hoooooooome.”
But, the ultimate mush move happened one night over dinner at some stranger’s villa. Well, not exactly a stranger. It was a 2nd cousin, of a friend, who grew up with the uncle of the people we were staying with. But it was my first-time meeting the dinner host. It was a beautiful property, in the city, and they had satellite tv, so essentially, it was a night filled with things to do. As the rounds of food kept getting served, so did the wine, and lots of it. To end the night, the meal was topped with shots of homemade grappa (or moonshine) and I was feeling pretty, pretty good at this point. What felt like the equivalent of a 72-course meal and I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many bottles of wine later, we finally made our way outside to say our good-byes. As we were standing on the dimly lit driveway, which was surrounded by lush greenery and swarms of mosquitos, it was my turn to say thank you to the host. Following my awkward double cheek-to-cheek kiss, I leaned in and in my very broken Italian, I said “scusa, signora”, meaning pardon ma’am and I grabbed what I thought was a black mosquito off of the lady’s neck. As I pinched and felt a fleshy squish, it was in that moment I know it wasn’t a bug that I was trying to pull. It was actually the squish of a big, black mole on the lady’s neck. I was mortified. To matters even worse, as I quickly released the grip between my index and thumb, the lady in a state of confusion and embarrassment said sorry to me. After trying to babble out what was supposed to be an apology; I quickly made my way down to the car. I sat in silence to wait for what felt like another eternity. I guess the good news is that I already had a few weeks worth of practise under my belt. And no, I haven’t been back to Italy.
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