Tag Archives: Rome

Adventures Abroad: Rome

Previous Adventures Abroad post here.

We landed in Rome after 17 hours of traveling and slowly made our way to the baggage claim.

While I’ve been excited about this trip, it’s excitement mingled with a healthy dollop of terror. I find the thought of being in a foreign country vaguely frightening. Not because of culture shock, or pickpockets, or strange food. It’s because of the language issue.

There are only about three things that I’m really good at, and communicating is one of them. Well, actually that’s not true, it’s not communicating in general, it’s use of the English language. In English I’m clever and articulate. I’m funny. I’m persuasive.

If I have a superpower, it’s probably my use of words. But now, suddenly I’m visiting a place where there is no yellow sun. I’m going to be powerless, and the thought is troubling to me.

I’m not entirely monolingual. I studied German for four years in high school, but that was a long time ago. I remember phrases like, “At least the sink still works” and “I have too many monkeys playing in my attic.”

It would be hard for me to work these into a conversation even if I were going to Germany, which I am not.

Sarah has prepared herself. She listened to language tapes and bought a phrase book. She’s proactive

She says, “Are you ready? Here’s how you say, ‘I don’t speak Italian.‘”

“That’s a pointless phrase,” I say. “Within two seconds of interacting with anyone, it’s going to be blindingly obvious that I don’t speak Italian. Why should I tell someone, in their own language, that I don’t speak their language?”

Sarah gives me a look. She has many looks. You would too, if you had to deal with me on a regular basis.

“All I’m saying,” I continue. “Is that if I’m going to learn a phrase, it should be something that communicates information that someone can’t easily infer on their own. I don’t need to learn how to say, ‘I have a beard.’ They can see that. I should learn how to say, ‘I have been stabbed in the guts, and I fear my pericardium is punctured. Would you please summon an ambulance?’ Or ‘Where is the nearest methadone clinic?’ Those might be useful.”

How about ‘where’s the bathroom?‘” she asks.

“I can mime that,” I say. “How do you say ‘hookers’ in Italian?”

That’s pretty much where my instruction in Italian stopped.

So here I am, in Rome, walking to baggage claim, and utterly at sea.

Now normally this would be the part of the story where there’s a dramatic reversal of expectation. I’m expecting things to be scary, but it’s not nearly as bad as I’d feared.

Except it’s just as bad as I’d feared. In fact, it’s worse. After grabbing our bags, I go to the information booth to ask where I can change some currency. The woman there can’t understand me, so she calls over someone else and I ask him. He points me in a direction and I wander off, feeling like a complete idiot. Not an auspicious beginning to the trip.

Another problem was that I’d been focusing on how hard it would be for me to get my point across to others. What I hadn’t realized is that with no working knowledge of the language, I was effectively deaf. I can’t understand a word being said by anyone around me.

This wasn’t really a surprise, of course. But I was startled at how self-conscious it made me. As I walk to the baggage carousel, I pass a group of women who burst into laughter, and I become convinced that they are making fun of my shoes. I pretend that I don’t notice, that I don’t care. But of course I do.

I’ve been in another country for 20 minutes and I feel nervous and awkward. I’m confused and self-conscious. I knew there was a time difference between the US and Europe, but I didn’t know it was big enough to make me feel like I’m in high school again….

Posted in BJ Hiorns Art, European Adventures | By Pat74 Responses

When in Rome….

Well folks, I’m in Rome. And you know what they say, “When in Rome, do what the Romans do.”

Personally, I’m assuming that the Romans blog.

My overall impressions of Rome will have to wait for a while. As will the anecdotes of my first few fumbling days as a world traveler.

For now, I just wanted everyone to know that:

1. I did not die in a terrible plane-type accident.

2. I will be posting up a blog about my UK reading/signing dates and times as soon as they’re all set up and solid. So far we’ve got the firm details on a Manchester signing at Waterstones on the 28th swtarting at 7:00. More specifics so that will be up on the Tour Schedule page soon.

3. Lastly, for those of you that care about this sort of thing, I got the first draft of book two finished Manuscript printed and mailed to my editor two hours before I got on my plane. To say it was a bit of a rush doesn’t really convey the frantic nature of the past two weeks of my life.

The manuscript is a beast, by the way. Here’s a quick picture I snapped of it. Included is the US hardcover to give some perspective.


Align Center

Thing is huge. Took more than 3 reams of paper to print. Took six hours just to spellcheck….

Do you know what it’s like to run spellcheck for six hours? It’s like a party in purgatory. A party in purgatory where all they have to drink is sugar-free Kool-aid, and the only game to play is Monopoly, and none of your friends show up.

On an unrelated note, recently, I got a really funny piece of fanmail from someone telling me how to live my life. I was going to post it up in a blog and make fun of it, but then I wondered if that would make me a dick.

I mean, it is my nature to mock. It is my way. It’s who I am. I try to be honest about the me that I show here on the blog.

But at the same time, when I wrote the College Survival Guide, I developed powerful mocking abilities. Like superhero-level stuff. I don’t know if it’s fair to turn the withering blowtorch of my sarcasm onto an unsuspecting person who just happens to be a clueless, controling, passive-agressive fucker.

What do y’all think? Mock or not?

More later, as soon as I can get internet access again.

pat

Posted in book two, foreign happenings | By Pat269 Responses
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