(originally written Wednesday, November 29th 2006, 8:00am)
I’m in Eurostar 9601, first class cabin #4 traveling from Rome to Naples. Outside the world is shrouded in fog, something that has been our companion as soon as we left the city limits. It’s wonderfully soothing to journey through it, as somehow the on-and-off patches of cloud are not so much shrouding the world from us, but rather us from the world. A ghost train, which is perfect for a trip my trip to a city of ghostsâ€”Pompeii.
Inside the train, it’s very quiet. I think I’ve slowly gained the grudging respect of the older gentleman across the aisle from me. We were originally facing each other, but he quickly moved to a vacant seat upon seeing a young man with a shaved head, leather jacket, and a t-shirt clutching a chocolate muffin. “This is an idiot American,” his face read, “and if I can avoid him, I should.”
Since then, though, I’ve been listening to the Italian announcements (and re-applying headphones before the English translations), and holding very simple conversations with the ticket collector and the woman running the refreshments cartâ€”none of them in English. Now when I glance over and catch his eye, the look has changed. “You’re trying,” it says to me, “and your accent and grammar are sub par. But you know that you are in Italy, not America.”
And the truth of the matter is, while it’s an artificial kinship, I feel more and more at home in Italy with every day that I am here. I can feel myself falling into local patterns (even while still being a tourist), and the idea of some day living in Rome is immensely appealing, even as it is as distant a possibility as my actual home is from here.
For now, I’m content to be a visitor in a land that several generations back from me called home. I understand the siren call of ancestral lands so much more at 33 than I did at 26, my first trip to Italy. I’m at a such a different place I my life now that it seems to fill a niche in me that I didn’t know was empty.
Meanwhile I’ll just look out the window of the train and marvel at the true blue dream of a sky that has suddenly appeared before me, the fog gone, and await both my arrival in Naples and then Pompeii, but more importantly my next trip to Italy.