The final line of my last post is written: “Focaccia, sardines, cannoli and local wine… what could get more Italian than that?”
How about this:
The afternoon I left Genoa, I was invited to lunch by another new friend: a guy in his early twenties about to embark on his own journey in the same direction from which I’d just come. In a few days he was to leave for Monaco, France and Spain, and had a long string of questions ready to ask. We initially had a short time together, but as questions kept coming to mind, he asked if I’d like to accompany him to lunch at his uncle’s home. I hesitated, as I was looking forward to seeing Pisa’s most famous structure. And then I realized if I’d have said no, I would have been playing a hypocrite; the advice I’d just given him was, “Say yes as much as possible. If someone offers you something, they’re doing it because they want to share a piece of their life with you.”
If I’d have said no, he wouldn’t have gotten to share this slice of his life with me, and I wouldn’t have gotten to share a bit of my life with him. Aw heck, why not?
“Yes! Let’s go!” I decided. And we went.
We passed along the Italian Riviera, the highway alternating tunnel-bridge-tunnel. While crossing every bridge we looked right to see town after beautiful seaside town, each resembling the famous Cinque Terre with colorful homes perched carefully along mountainsides. We exited the highway and dove into the bustling city center of one of these towns. Bikes crossed in front of us led by women in high heels and men in tuxes. Beach bums roamed around with sun-kissed skin and we carefully navigated through the crowds. Passing through center, we turned a sharp left up a narrow road to his uncle’s home. Finding a spot to park, we got out of the car and entered through a side garden gate. The lawn was as green as a leprechaun’s lucky shamrock and looked out to the city harbor far below.
Opening the side door, we walked directly into the family’s kitchen and immediately sayt down to another true Italian meal. We ate pasta and fresh bread, more sardines and sampled coffee-infused chocolates. Afterward, we put our feet up, soaking in the Italian sun and watching bees dance amongst flowering trees. The two youngest, ages 11 and 12, practiced piano and surprised me with their raw talents. If it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill and these two have only be playing for two and three years respectively, the this town has two new Beethovens on their hands!
The youngest, a quiet little fella, worked diligently on perfecting his scales. When it was time for the older, an equally adorably Chiquita dressed in a flowered skirt and light on her feet as a fairy in springtime, had more difficulties concentrating. She had the moves and confidence of a prima ballerina and stopped many times to ask if we could dance instead of play piano.
“I’ll be leaving soon,” I said, “but maybe we can squeeze one in. Only if you get the guys to join.” Dad said no, but my new friend – her cousin – obliged. Then we realized there was only room for two to play, and he quickly backed away.
It wasn’t exactly as I’d anticipated. Her and I boogied down to Just Dance, trying our best to duplicate moves only Beyonce can truly pull off. When the dance finished, some robot inside the TV gave us each a score. We’d both earned a few stars, and gave each other a clammy high-five of congratulations.
“Your turn!” she said to her cousin, who’d been sitting quietly in the next room trying to ignore our obnoxious attempts at keeping a steady rhythm. To my surprise, he said yes. Miss Ballet chose a song for us and thereafter came the most embarrassing five minutes of dance-off I’ve ever attempted. She’d chosen a couple’s song for us, complete with spinning, dipping and some crazy move where he was supposed to pick me up and twirl in a stationary 360 degree motion. Later, I was to place my hand on his shoulder and prance around him like he was the king of my castle. Embarrassing. SO embarrassing. We laughed the whole time, and when the song finished and we got to watch a replay of our best dance moves that the system had somehow secretly videotaped, I changed my advice to him.
“Maybe be careful You don’t always have to say yes. If you do, you’ll get yourself into situations like this.”
At the same time, it’s these kind of situations that I’m thankful for. I can meet someone somewhere, make a total fool of myself, and that’s it. I don’t worry about judgements so much any more from me or about me. Just go with the flow and say yes as much as possible. Or when in Italy, say “Si”.
That day, what wonderful situations saying “Si” led to – dancing, eating, and boating on the Adriatic sea. I headed out of town that day en route to Pisa on a moped, with a helmet, my backpack, and a new story to tell.
So can it get any more Italian the sardines, wine, and focaccia, as I asked last time?
And I still hadn’t made it to Pisa!