Thursday, July 1, 2010

Getting through hell to get to heaven

My journey began with the seemingly inescapable problems that come with traveling. I boarded my plane as scheduled to John F Kennedy airport but as we taxied out to the runway the ominous voice of the captain came over the speakers to report that as a result of fuel contamination, we were being forced to turn back to the terminal. We were corralled off the plane only to find ourselves in the same terminal we had just departed from, a few gates over. After more waiting in the airport terminal where I was faced with an overabundance of complaining and a lack of information, we were finally re boarded and on our way. The flight flew by with the aid of technology; I was fortunate enough to borrow both mom’s kindle and dad’s Bose noise canceling headphones for the trip. Luckily, my departure gate in JFK was just across the terminal from my arrival gate and I was not too pressed for time, even with the earlier delay in Orlando. I even managed to grab a quick bite to eat at Burger King where I was confronted with the horror of the nutrition facts, New York’s latest attempt to fight obesity. Ah well, the indulgence of hot fries and crispy chicken nuggets was allowable as it was my last bite of American food for a month!
I boarded the flight to Pisa and was pleasantly surprised to be seated next to an Italian man who was not in the slightest bit overweight, smelly or intrusive. Together, we delighted in the prospect of having our seats to ourselves rather than sharing it with a molto grande seat mate. After a mediocre dinner of airplane style manicotti and cheese and crackers, which is a meal I swear I eat on every international flight, I read for a bit on the Kindle. In a short time I gave in and was lulled to sleep by John Mayer’s lovely voice through my headphones which shut out even the loudest screams from nearby children. Five blissful hours later I woke up for breakfast, a sandwich whose odor discouraged me from even attempting to stomach it. I opted for a semi-brown banana which would hold me over until I arrived in bella Italia!
As we landed, I couldn’t help the tears that without fail come to my eyes every time I am back in this wonderful country. It’s always the same, a wave of emotion as I arrive feeling welcomed by the beauty of what is beginning to feel like my second home. My mood wasn’t even hampered by the blatant American tourists seated behind me raving about their upcoming trips to sink-way-tear and discussing their dietary restrictions they would expect Italians to adjust to. I escaped the airport with minimal delays, and although I was prepared for an empty handed departure, my luggage arrived to my delight! My last two trips to Italy left me without luggage for over a week, so I didn’t have high expectations for this trip.
After a short train ride to Pisa Centrale, I indulged in my first Italian meal, a “ham and cheese” sandwich whose simplicity filled me with happiness. The fresh, crunchy round of foccacia layered with prosciutto di parma and mozzarella, accompanied by a glass of Prosecco gave me an immense feeling of satisfaction and stifled all reservations I had about spending a month so far away from home. Eating the sandwich, sipping my bubbly beverage and looking onto the small square outside the train station, I couldn’t help but feel like I was exactly where I belonged.
Now, I am attempting to guide myself on a series of train rides to the small town of Acqui Terme where Carlo Zarri, my gracious and generous host will be to greet me and take me to my home for the next month! As I watch the Italian countryside fly by I can’t help but feel butterflies in my stomach, an inevitable part of such an adventure, but I am comforted by the vibrant, colorful Landscape and the promise of what is to come.

Images from top to bottom:
train station in Genova
ham and cheese sammy

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