There were things that I had prepared myself for before moving to Italy: the lecherous men (check), the crazy driving (check), the amazing food and wine (wine – definitely check). I hadn’t, however, expected thunderstorms, ridiculously expensive clothes, even in the discount stores, or being unable to show some bare-skinned lower leg without being branded a scarlet woman.
Let’s start at the beginning.
A little over three weeks ago I climbed on a plane from Heathrow to Milan, and thence to Brindisi. I carried two (ridiculously overweight) suitcases and a mounting sense of fear at what I was about to do. Moving to a foreign country of which I don’t speak the language, to start work in a place to which I’d never been, for a boss with whom I’d had a sum total of 2 email and one 5-minute phone conversations, in a job for which I (still) have no written contract, living with three other people whom I’d never met, in a flat which had been rented for me by the aforementioned boss, and for which I didn’t even know how much rent I’d have to pay, suddenly didn’t seem like such a good idea. There are adventures and there are adventures, and this seemed as if it might all be too much of a leap outside of my comfort zone. The 6-hour wait for my connecting flight in Milan only served to emphasise some of the difficulties ahead of me: how does one buy a bus ticket into town to get some much-needed lunch when one doesn’t know the words to ask? (Biglietto, I eventually work out – although once I get into the city I can’t then find anywhere that sells them, so, in desperation, hop on the bus without one and hope for the best.)
Once I reach the airport again, the flight from Milan is delayed – so much so that the screen at the departure gate suddenly changes destination while I am still queuing for the plane. Panic! Have I missed my plane? I haltingly say to the man in front of me, ‘Brindisi?’, while pointing at the screen which now reads Frankfurt. ‘Si, si – Brindisi!’ he confirms. I breathe a sigh of relief, while secretly being a little disappointed that I can’t just turn round now and get on the next flight back to England.
As I sit down in my seat on the flight from Milan to Brindisi, the Italian guy next to me asks where I’m going. ‘Brindisi,’ I reply. Then, as I realise the stupidity of this statement – he means my final destination, not where the plane’s going – I tell him the name of my town. ‘Where?’ Doubt sets in about my pronunciation, and I whisper the name again. ‘Oh. Right. OK.’ He has nothing more to say about the one-horse-town that I’m going to. End of conversation. The flight is turbulent, both in actuality and in terms of my emotions. I spend the next couple of hours fighting back tears, not altogether successfully.
On arrival at Brindisi, I climb onto the bus from the plane to the terminal and realise that I’ve dropped my sunglasses on the plane. I consider going back to get them, and think better of it. (I will regret this decision in a few days’ time – but more on that later.) I collect my bags, take a deep breath, and walk through to the arrivals lounge, wondering how the hell I’m going to recognise my boss, who is picking me up from the airport and who, you may remember, I have never met. My life as an expat has well and truly begun …
Image by DrJohn2005 on flickr