There's a certain anticipation I feel when I'm going somewhere for the first time. I'm not sure what I'm expecting, but I'm usually most surprised at how familiar some things are. And how strange it feels to find these things in unfamiliar surroundings.
The first time I set foot in Italy... actually before I set foot, it was from the plane window... I found myself amazed by the farm equipment scattered in the fields. Farm equipment. It wasn't the realization that suave romantic Italians also farm the land, or that they use machines instead of ox and carts... it was how the equipment and the fields, barns, silos... looked familiar and different at the same time. It's very unsettling.
The past few days I've been in a new city, Trieste. It was beautiful. Rainy, green, some fall foliage scattering on the hills, choppy seas and hoards of sail boats.
But I had that irksome feeling that I get in a new place. The constant buzz in the back of my head as my brain tries to make sense of all that is familiar suddenly just a nudge out of place.
But I was there for a scientific conference. Which is a lot of fun and I went alone. When you go to a conference alone, you really have to pull out all the stops on your outgoing side if you plan to have any fun at all.
Mingling my way through the second coffee break of the day... after a first awkward one trying to make eye contact with anyone who seemed approachable, and a pleasant lunch with a friendly woman from Bari, but enduring lots of looks from the rest of her group, all of them not sure exactly what to say to me, wondering how good my Italian was (or as I find out the next day, why it was so good and if I am my husband's sister)...
Mingling my way through the second coffee break of the day, starting to get desperate and scorning the clicks of scientists that traveled here together... I spot a guy with my name on his chest. My family name. And I get a sudden wave of familiarity surge over me and immediately pull this guy under with me.
Me: Hi! You have my name... my family name... I mean the one I had before I was married.
This required so much explanation because in Italy women do not take their husband's last name when they get married. This has caused a great deal of grief for me... more on that another time.
Friendly guy, brightens up, humors me, god bless him... I now call him cugino (cousin).
Cugino: Really? Where's your family from?
Cugino: In Abruzzo? Mine's from Sulmona! (also in Abruzzo)
Me: Wow! Some of mine also lives in Sulmona!
How cool... so we really could very likely be cousins of some sort.
And in my joy of the following two days, of finding a friend, and making friends of friends and contacts with new people... I still wonder at how cool it is to find something familiar in a strange place.
to be continued on the matter of me being my husband's sister...