Tuesday, April 17, 2012
I just returned from an 18-day trip to Italy with three high school classmates that I have known since the age of five. We all have birthdays within 1 ½ months of each other, and we creatively decided two years ago (at our 30th class reunion) that going to Italy should be our goal for the big half-century bash.
Little did we know that, in that short time, so much life would happen. One would renovate the entire upstairs of her home. Another would help begin a new family business. One would see her daughter married. And sadly, one would endure the death of her only child. In other words, we really needed this trip for rejuvenation!
There are ever-ending reasons to travel with friends one has known for an entire lifetime. We all had our talents and skills and played on them. Donna has a no-nonsense approach to life. Her favorite quote is, “It’s none of my business what other people think of me.” She also has an impeccable sense of direction, a “more guts than brains” approach to driving in a foreign country, and a love for photography that made her the designated photo historian for the vacation.
Brenda was our traveling pharmaceutical dispenser of naturopathic products, determined to keep the group from getting a cold or flu from all of the coughing and non-handwashing travelers. Who knows; she might have even kept us from the bubonic plague in a few medieval towns we visited. She was Johnny on the Spot with hand sanitizer, Handi Wipes, chewable Airborne tablets, and even a concoction to spray down the throat. Brenda also could be a sailor, because she had a keen sense of where the sun was at all times. East. West. High noon. You get the drift, no pun intended.
Beth’s claim to fame was being the one who could actually pronounce some Italian correctly. It also didn’t hurt that, being so darn cute, foreigners would actually try to listen…even if she wasn’t pronouncing it correctly. She was also our fashionista. Every group needs one of these so we know how good we SHOULD have looked.
I served as Donna’s co-pilot in the front seat, serving as the GPS interpreter. Along with messing up foreign languages without trying, my other claim to fame is giggling whenever I am told it is not appropriate.
Many say I must get this from my mother.
We began our trip in Venice where, the last time I visited, I got pooped on by a pigeon. On my way back to the hotel, I was told by every Asian I passed that this was “Rots of Ruck.” Let’s just say that Donna and I both became “rucky” on this trip. Her luck came with a splotch down the side of her hair in Bologna, and mine descended with a plop on the forehead in Fiesole.
One day we took a seven-hour food tour where, within the first two hours, Donna dropped her cheese, bent over to clean it up, and splashed red wine down the front of our tour guide’s white tee shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes. In her defense, no one should be offered wine that early in the morning in the first place.
A balloon trip had been on Brenda’s bucket list so the rest of us were determined to make it happen, especially after her loss of Michael. We were actually able to keep it a secret until the trailer pulled up next to us. Brenda’s claim to fame was being able to step into and out of the hot air balloon’s basket as if she was stepping into a shower. The rest of us, with much shorter legs, looked like we were struggling for our lives.
Beth was the only one that refused to spit off the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. She is the most refined on the trip, but the rest of us (farm girls that we are) believe she chickened out because she was never taught to properly chuck a loogie. It could also be because she works in a law office and knows certain actions get you behind bars.
Unfortunately, my biggest memory-making moment was a “Lost in Translation” one. In Italy, ciao (pronounced chow) is used for hello or a casual bye. For example, “Ciao, bella” means “Goodbye, pretty woman.” Using my haphazard knowledge of Spanish, I assumed that adding an o to bella would mean “handsome man.”
“Bello” does, in fact, mean good-looking man. What I was told, after eight days of already saying this to every male cashier I had dealt with (some of them toothless), was that I was saying something completely inappropriate. When a woman says, “Ciao, bello” to a man it means, “Let’s go to bed.”
This talent I did not get from my mother.
Despite this, the trip was a fabulous one. Few people are fortunate enough to say, “I want to relive my 50th birthday all over again” or “I’ve had a close friendship with so-and-so for a half of a century.” Even fewer can say they’ve taken an 18-day trip with friends without killing each other. Now THAT’S true friendship.