It’s the details
a long series of challenges and puzzles
all day, every day
Oh, sure, the sights are wondrous
But it is the interactions
the map reading
and the trivial accomplishments
Nothing can be assumed
All to be deciphered, understood
How do I order coffee?
Do we drink it at the counter?
That’s only in Italy
Where do we buy the tickets?
Can we get a weekly pass?
You can’t buy a ticket on the tram
Those are the wrong tickets
Say all the ladies on the bus in French
You’re going the wrong way
Says the man in Italian
As the rental car gets stuck
trying to turn
down a medieval lane
And he makes the traffic behind reverse
while he escorts us out
I am so grateful I would kiss him
But he is gone on his scooter
As a child, I watched my three older sisters leave New Zealand for Europe. One by one they left, in tears, always the tears – and I waited for years for them to come home. In my early 20s, when everyone went off on their ‘OE’ (overseas experience) I didn’t. It was too big.
Twenty years later, in my early 40s, I feel the pull. With New Zealand so far away, it takes a strong pull to leave. Then my son’s class at school plans a trip to Europe. Now I really want to go. I’m ready. Why should he get to see Europe before me? I’ll go with the school as parent help.
I get home one afternoon to a letter advising who the parent helpers will be. I stand in the hallway, keys still in my hand, and read that I have not been chosen. I feel myself sinking hard. This was my chance and now it’s gone. But in that second I make a decision not to go to pieces. I wave the letter above my head saying, I’m handing this over, sort it out. I put the letter away and don’t let myself think about it.
A couple of weeks later my partner hands me another envelope. It’s a $10,000 travel grant awarded by his company – completely unexpectedly – for us to use however we like.
So I got to go to Europe. A special trip with my partner, meeting up with our son in London.
The next few posts are a few of the odd experiences I had in different cities.