Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My New Best Friend

When we first arrived in Italy, it was recommended to me that I go to the local bar each day, learn the language.  I thought it was also a great way to meet some people, maybe make a friend or two.  So, I would go to the bar and while enjoying my delicious and ridiculously inexpensive (by Canadian standards) cappuccino, I would scan the comers and goers in search of 'my new best friend'.

One Sunday morning, a particularly busy day in the bar, I saw a woman, I guessed to be similar in age to myself. She looked fit and healthy, she was wearing running shoes and exercise pants.  After drinking her coffee, she left with another patron and I later saw them returning from a walk or run.  There was something about her, and I thought 'here she is, my new best friend!'

The next time I saw 'my new best friend', she entered the bar wearing full make-up, sky-high heels and some sort of fur collar.  Nothing wrong with that, shouldn't judge by appearance, but perhaps, I may not be her type.  I thought I would give her another chance.  Oh, and I think she smokes.

Our beautiful dog.

Let me just clarify a picture here, we live on a beautiful property on the edge of a small town.  It is only a 500 metre walk through the olive orchard to the main road into the village. 10 minutes and I am at the bar.  Tuscany is covered in a beautiful thick clay like soil, which when wet sticks to your boots like cement.  So each morning, I would dress in jeans, blundstone boots and a rain coat, I would then take our lovely dog on a walk and end at the bar for a cappuccino.  I am pretty certain that the village folks thought my sense of style was limited to jeans and blundstones or wellies!  If I was walking off the property in winter or spring, it was dressed this way.  There was no other way to escape the mud. But, in Italy, even in a small country town, people are pretty well dressed.

My daily walk 'uniform'.

So, one morning as I returned home from my walk, a man I had met once pulled over to say Buon Giorno, not unusual in a small town.  In my limited Italian and his limited English he proceeded to tell me he was going shoe shopping in Firenze.  I am fairly certain he even asked me to come along.  Perhaps he thought he could save me from the shoe hell he surely thought I was living in.  I politely refused, but later found out he was a shoe designer, perhaps I should have gone.

One day I am in the grocery store, which is really an experience in Italy. I could do a whole post about it. While I am weighing my avocados, I see 'my new best friend', and she sees me and she says 'Ciao', I am making progress, perhaps there is hope.  I say 'ciao' back and she disappears into the crowd.  I am excited by this event.

Fast forward to another morning in the bar.  I walk in to see my 'shoe' friend.  He greets me warmly, I order my cappuccino, and as I wait, in comes 'my new best friend'.  She greets my 'shoe' friend with a warm 'Buon Giorno Babbo'!! My 'shoe' friend is 'my new best friend's' dad, this is awkward!

As the weeks and months go by, I see my 'new best friend' often, she says 'ciao' when she sees me, she waves from her car. I feel this is moving along swimmingly.  I see her father often, he too waves and greets me warmly.  Then the big break through.  I stop to get gas and I see her at the station.  I am not wearing my regular uniform of jeans and boots, it is now spring, so I am wearing a cute skirt and some super cute sling backs, they are not however, high heels.  We wave we exchange buon giornos, and I am very excited about this forward move in our friendship.

Parking outside the bar, notice they are all parked in the bus stop,
and yes, that silver car is 'parked'.

The next time I see 'my new best friend' I have just finished a walk with Mark, we are sitting outside the bar, me with a cappuccino, Mark with an orange juice, and she pulls up.  Apparently I am one of the few people who actually walks to the bar, which may explain the whole rain boots versus high heel phenomena. As she glides across the street, she smiles when she sees me, she then says 'Ciao, come va?', I am soooo excited, I stumble over my response which comes out something like 'Bene,? ?anche? tu?', please note my total question of the right words, all mumbled like I had a mouth full of marbles.  The smile evaporates from her face, she sort of answers 'si?' and proceeds right past us into the bar.  I am mortified, I think she realizes I speak no Italian and our friendship is over.  Better yet, I realize I speak poor Italian, she likely speaks no English and that our friendship is over, and I never even knew her name.