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Ciao Italia!

sunny 26 °C

Cruel or marvelous, I am not sure, as I look out the window and see miles and miles of beckoning beachfront. Perhaps it is both at once. Marvelous to enjoy the scenes of Italy on our last day, cruel that we have to leave it behind as it taunts and leaves us longing for more.  A perfect sunny day on the coast, a Sunday filled with people out enjoying their weekend at the beach, wide expanse of ocean blue, fishing boats and sunbathers.  All this beauty outside the windows passing by, and we cannot get off and explore

We are on the slow train from Lucca to Milan. Today is our last day in Italy and we are taking the scenic ride up the coastline toward Livorno. The scene out the windows is enough to make me want to jump out at each stop and go 'on the lam'. We cannot stay longer, our visa has run out, yet there are miles and miles of sea, and one can really never have enough of the Italian coastal towns. The rugged dark charcoal cliffs, small pockets of sandy beaches absolutely covered with colorful umbrellas and people, the glittering Mediterranean sea, a deep turquoise blue on a perfect sunny summer day in July.  My heart wells with sadness that we can't stay and spend the weekend enjoying the beach and exploring the Cinque Terre. I want to stay for so many reasons now. Lucca is less than an hour from these amazing beaches and stunning coastline.  We spent our last morning in the cafe next to our apartment... we have been many times, but I still want more. And as we are walking home, I am hit with disappointment that there are so many more places in Lucca and in the surroundings that I didn't get to see.  It is difficult to leave a place that feels so much like home, and a place that has so much to offer. Last night on our evening passeggiata, we went to the botanical gardens in Lucca. On our way, there was a spontaneous concert in the town square, an orchestra outside playing with hundreds of people gathered round. 

Perhaps we have found our love of this country after all, and are willing to overlook the sometimes infuriating parts and the challenges in order to have the good life.  It is difficult now to leave Italy, as rough as the start was, we are now truly adjusted to the lifestyle and feeling very much at ease here.  We are consistently getting by with our fumbling preschool Italian. Not glamourous, but it works. The other day we are in the train station, waiting at the coffee bar for our early morning cappuccinos, after our long trip back to Lucca from Paris.  It is busy and the baristas are rushing around. Our cappuccinos come and they are cold.  No sooner do I muse to my husband, 'gee I wish our Italian was good enough to complain and get new capps'... then I hear him call the barista and say, 'fa freddo'! (it's cold!) and explain to her that our cappuccinos are not warm and he is not having it! She whisks them away and brings us new steaming ones apologetically. I am thoroughly impressed and stunned that with his gesturing and enough language, he has pulled it off. It is essential to learn how to politely yet firmly argue your point in Italian - it is necessary to life here, and apparently, we are reaching that level of competence. To know what is appropriate to argue about, to know how to get your way without offending, to get a good price, this is quintessential Italian. This is where we are with OUR Italian, right on the verge, on the cusp of being conversational, and it is hard to leave it behind.  Our last week in Lucca, two Americans stopped me on the street and asked if I spoke English. Then asked me directions, and I actually was able to help them find the sight they were looking for. That same night, we were mistaken by a local for Italians, as she rattled away to us about Bodhi, her dog, the weather... and I said to Chris, apparently we are looking more the part these days.  It is always fun to look like you belong, and to pretend you are local for as long as the ruse lasts.  He can really play the part with his dark curly locks and tanned skin. Fairer skin and hair on me, likely never will I be mistaken for a native Italian, but perhaps as a misplaced Italian, which is our aspiration. 

The train to our airport hotel in Milan feels longer than it actually is, and we are already thinking about what our last meal in Italy will be.  Pasta? Veal? definitely antipasti and a limoncello.  Hopefully a nice half liter of delicious house wine and Bodhi will have his three favorite Italian dishes: pasta with olive oil, black olives, and sparkling mineral water. Ciao Italia, ti amo.

Posted by globalmomma 08:29 Archived in Italy Tagged beach native airport train day lucca italian terre sunny milan cinque conversations cappuccinos Comments (1)

The Kind Heart

I have a story to tell about our train ride yesterday. We were traveling in the high speed ICE German train (Deutsche Bahn) from Frankfurt, Germany to Brussels, Belgium. The total trip was just over three hours. We hadn't reserved our seats, which was a mistake at 9 Euro extra, we had only purchased the tickets to board the train. We found a non-reserved spot after hauling our bags and pushing the baby carriage through the tight aisles of three train compartments. We sat down, had two seats and a table for Bodhi to play, and all was well.

It always amazes me how much humanity you find on a train. You can meet amazing people, angry people, difficult people, unhappy people, busy people, and kind people. In an instant you know often know them, before any interaction. There was a family that got on at the first stop, three kids in tow, all complaining and fighting. Many bags, much difficulty, and total disorganization. They are coming toward us and our feeling is "utoh". They get into their assigned seats next to ours, but one child will not move over, so they ask us to give up one of our seats. It takes us a few minutes to gather up our things, Bodhi's toys, the food, and move over; and just five minutes later, they get off at the next stop. My husband is extremely irritated. Why would they make us bother to go through all of that effort just so they could place their bags on one of their reserved seats? Why was it so important to make us move over for only fifteen minutes' ride on the train? It was difficult to understand except to understand that perhaps they were just the difficult types.

Not five minutes before, we had met this other man who got on the train, and had reserved the two seats across from us: Late 40's, grey receding hairline, blue clear eyes, his smile like a laugh. He was traveling alone with a boy about 4-5 years old, who was handicapped with muscular dystrophy and unable to walk. The man carried the boy to his seat, then carried all of their bags. They could have taken many of the more convenient handicapped seats near the entrance. They had the two seats across from our table and we began moving our things and trying to help with his bags. He sees the baby, and says, no no, I will take these two unreserved seats one row behind, it is no problem. We say it is no problem, we will share it, but he insists. We chat for a minute and offer the boy a large German pretzel. Bodhi has the other one in his mouth, he loves them. At first, I am struck with guilt and feel badly that he reserved the seats and is taking lesser seats without a table, when he likely needs them more. As the minutes pass though, I am listening behind me to their interactions. The man is incredibly kind and tender. He is cradling the little boy on his lap and they are watching a nature film in German. I am playing with Bodhi and tickling him, and he is laughing. Then they are laughing and he is tickling the little boy, the boy is giggling. I glance back and see such a happy little boy, and his father has a look of absolute contentment. When they are getting set to get off in Aachen, we again thank him for use of his seats, he thanks us for the pretzel, and I sense not a single ounce of self-pity or frustration in him, only contentment. I realize I have received another invaluable gift of traveling, and after the man and his son get off the train, I burst into tears. I am so thankful to God and the universe that the little boy is so obviously loved, especially one that needs to much extra care. I feel so blessed to have witnessed this man's joy and wisdom.

I find now that it is of utmost importance to me that all children everywhere be loved. Maybe this will be my main calling in life, somehow. When I feel children are not getting this basic right, it tears me up inside and I want to scream injustice and swoop in, gather up all of these abused or neglected children into my arms, and give them all the love I have left. And when I see a child, especially one with such special needs and challenges, being so fully attended and adored, it fills my heart with a flood of emotion and gratitude. Bless that man with his kind, giving heart. His kindness was like a splash of cold water in my face, telling me to stop worrying about things I cannot control, to stop focusing on things that don't work out, and to appreciate my many blessings, realizing that the ability to give and share love is really the best gift that we have.

Posted by globalmomma 01:45 Archived in Germany Tagged children train ride frankfurt aachen disability Comments (0)

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