(image by Konrad on Flickr)
As I walk tentatively out into the arrivals lounge, I see two men, one holding a sign bearing my name. The man holding the sign is slightly built, with buzz-cut dark hair, looking to be in his early 30s. The man standing next to him looks rather like a trendier version of Father Christmas, with closely-cropped, thick, silver hair and a goatee. This, it turns out, is my boss – the other man is Alex, who is one of the existing teachers and my flatmate, as well as being one of the main contributors to keeping me sane in this place. There is general introduction and shaking of hands, and we head to the car to wait for George, who is the other teacher arriving that day. George is someone who I have worked with before, and I am looking forward to seeing a familiar face. There is some general chit-chat about whether I have been to Italy before (yes, but only the north), and whether I speak Italian (no, apart from hello, please and thank you). I mechanically go into actress mode, smiling for the cameras and being far more enthusiastic than I actually feel at that moment. Having been travelling since 5am, I’m officially shattered – it’s now nearly 9pm.
George’s flight arrives and we all troop back into the arrivals lounge to greet him. There is some joking about how you can tell these are the foreigners, in their winter coats and pale skin, arriving into a night which is still not just warm, but hot. George finally appears, looking just as nervous as I feel, which makes me feel better. We chat about mutal friends and our respective journeys, while the boss greets someone he knows, who happened to be in the airport. It’s nice not to have the spotlight on us for a moment.
In the car, I rest quietly, tempted to doze, but not quite able to just yet. The boss and Alex chat a little in Italian, but mainly in English, which I appreciate. I learn a new phrase from the SatNav: ‘svoltare a destra’. She’s quite insistent, in the way that SatNavs tend to be. Alex is amazed the next day when I repeat this phrase back to him. How did I remember that? Just one of those things that I do, I guess. This is turning out to be my main method of learning Italian so far: hearing words and storing them up to ask Alex the meaning later on. It may not be the most conventional way of learning a language, but since when did I ever do things the easy way?
We arrive at the flat. It’s dark by this point, as it’s past 10pm, so there isn’t much to be seen until the morning, but first impressions are good: the flat is big and I have an ensuite bathroom. I lose no time shifting the room around to make it more livable and unpacking all my stuff, which seems like pitifully little as I hang it up, despite it being so stupidly heavy in the suitcase. George, Alex and I chat briefly around the dining table, but it’s not long before I have to admit defeat and say goodnight. We arrange that we will go into school the next morning to have a look around and get our bearings, and I retire gratefully to bed, where I fall into an exhausted, dreamless sleep.
Tomorrow is another day.