Chapter 17 : In which I find my feet (they were in Brindisi)

There are many reasons why I would recommend doing a year abroad. Broadening cultural horizons, employability, language skills, yackety yak yak…

For me, though, the year abroad really comes into its own for the timid young woman such as myself (I’m a delicate petal). Don’t get me wrong, I’m perfectly able to take care of myself, make my own decisions and argue my own case, but sometimes I just lack the self-belief to follow through.

In England, for example, I used to dread having to make phone calls for no particular reason. Half-cured half-exacerbated by the telephone campaign, the problem has been blown out of the water by the fact that I now have to ring people up and speak in Italian. (Last time I tried to book a hotel, a task which drew predominantly on GCSE level vocabulary, the kind lady asked me, a supposed ‘near-native speaker’, to hang up and send her an e-mail instead. Whoopee.) Ringing the overly polite English lady from Expedia to alter my flight schedule the next day suddenly seemed a doddle in comparison.

And that’s another thing: flying. I do it so often now (this week I took four flights in three days – my carbon footprint is the size of my face) that for me it now seems no bigger a deal than catching a train. Sometimes I don’t even pay full attention to the safety demonstrations. Edgy.

This weekend in Brindisi did teach me that I still have a little way to go, though. Power-walking confidently through Rome airport to catch my connecting flight, getting into that smooth groove that comes with long legs and a shiny floor surface, I contemplate how far I’ve come since the last time I was here, just a week after moving to Italy. Passengers look on, no doubt marvelling at my togetherness as a young woman alone in the big bad world.

As I power-walk back past them in the opposite direction moments later, I ponder how easy it is to count one’s chickens before they hatch, and question why the gates of terminal B aren’t in chronological order.

So no, I’m not quite as savvy as I could be. Anna virtually had to drag me into a wine bar that I was convinced was closed despite there being lights on and people inside (I’m so glad she did because it was the cosiest thing ever) and on our return I confidently marched us in completely the wrong direction to the train station (never take the words ‘I’m 100% sure’ at face value when said by me in relation to directions).

Still, with every new embarrassment comes a new place to see, and Brindisi this weekend was glorious – once the sun came out that is. Italy is a sleepy land on Sundays. Shops are closed and the only alternative activities are going to church or for a leisurely stroll with the family. I’m not sure what the female population of Brindisi are usually up to of a morning (please don’t let it be cooking lunch for their husbands) but the men all congregate on the main street, drink a coffee, have a smoke and generally catch up with their friends. They’ve probably done the same thing every weekend since they could walk. Nice, really.

It’s a lifestyle that I’m starting to really enjoy. I mean, I’ve lived here for four months now, I’m practically a local. Arriving back in Reggio, I tell the taxi driver my address to take me home.

‘Is there a B&B there?’

Oh.

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