oh my goodness, guys. I’ve got such a story for you. It’s empowering, and full of drama and daring-do and ultimately either triumphant or super frustrating. (Hint: it’s triumphant. And AWESOME.)
So, to set the scene: we are in Rome, in June, which means that it is freakishly hot and muggy and about 70% of the people you see are tourists, and 25% are people working with, selling to, stealing from, and otherwise engaged with the tourists. The other 5% are very annoyed with the other two groups, who are probably also annoyed with each other. There are lines everywhere. There are massive tour groups, radio headphones in, following their leaders, who hold up some object (a scarf, umbrella, etc) in the air, dragging their masses of people behind them, through other masses of people. All this to line up some more. In the broiling sun. In the heat. In Rome. In June.
So, the Rice Band of Six Intrepid Travelers were firmly planted in the line to get into the Vatican Museum, home of the Sistine Chapel, among other things. The line was in the full sun, in between a wall and a fence. The line had easily 150 people in front of us, 100 behind. It was 2.30 in the afternoon, and we’d already traipsed all over the Forum and Palatine Hill that morning. We were tired and not going to put up with any funny business.
All of a sudden, through the packed line of people behind us, a guy started pushing through. “Excuse me. Scuzzi. Excuse me. I need to get through.” He was quite urgent, and when we didn’t let him through very easily, and seemed a little skeptical about his right to shove through while the rest of us waited, he escalated the intensity a bit, “ I work here. I need to get through!” and shoved past us. We let him through grudgingly and he shoved ahead, but then we saw that he had no uniform, no badge, nothing. He might have been a pickpocket, creating a distraction and brushing up against people, or he might have been a running-behind tour guide. Nevertheless, there was a separate line for tours, and he had no right to shove through.
So, of course, THEN we thought of lots of come-backs and witty remarks we could have said to him, things we could have done, ways we could have stood our ground. Isn’t that always the way it is in these kind of interactions? Grr.
If the story ended there, it would just be one of life’s frustrating episodes.
But it doesn’t.
Miffed by that encounter, the Rice Band of Six Intrepid Travelers formed a blockade in our part of the line, standing shoulder to shoulder from the wall to the fence. Some minutes passed, everyone baking in the sun, the line of hundreds of people slowly shuffling forward together.
From behind, again, we heard “Excuse me. I need to get through. Excuse me. Watch out.” We all braced ourselves, shoulder to shoulder, with my arm against the far railing. Soon the middle aged woman, who had perfected the stressed, authoritative, in a hurry voice and manner had reached us, after bullying past other annoyed people. She had reached us, and we weren’t going to move, as she was about to find out. (Can you feel the tension building? It was for us.)
“I need to get through.” She huffs.
“Why?” Mom asks, turning her head, but not unwedging her shoulders.
“I am a group guide. I need to get through!” she huffs again, and tries to physically push between mom and I. we don’t let her through.
“Let me through! I will call security!”
This is escalating quickly.
“Go ahead and call security,” mom says. “there is a separate line for groups, right over there. I think everyone would agree with me,” at this point she gestures to the other people who are quickly tuning in to this escalating situation, [Note: my mom is so clever, to go for the group solidarity.] “that we are all waiting here, and you can wait, too.”
“You don’t understand. I need to get through here!” she continues, and tries to push past again. “Please move your arm from that fence or I will call security!”
She tries a bit more blustering threats, and tries to push past again. We are unmoved, physically and metaphorically. It has actually gotten to that point, a test of wills and physical locations. This is intense.
“Where are you from?” she asks accusingly.
“why does it matter?” mom responds calmly.
“just curiousity,” the woman responds unconvincingly.
“well, we’re in line here, and that’s all that matters. Curiosity solved.” My mom is tough.
The woman turns to the people behind us who’ve been following this whole exchange, because what else is there to do in line, and also it’s really intense. She starts speaking to them in Spanish, complaining about us, and ends with, “No entienden nada. No entienden.” [They don’t understand anything. They don’t understand.]
Rising to the occasion, to defend my family’s honor, I turn back to her, just like you always imagine doing, and I retorted, “Si, entendemos todo. !Todos nosotros estamos esperando aqui en la linea!” [Yes, we understand everything. All of us are waiting here in the line!] and I turn back around. She gives it one last shot, trying to push past me again, but I don’t budge, and say firmly, “No me empuje. Por favor no me empuje.” [Don’t push me. Please don’t push me. (I didn’t say it with entirely correct grammar. Oh well, she got the message.)]
And, conceding defeat in the face of the Rice moral and physical fortitude and linguistic ability, she slunk away. And no one else tried to jump past us in the line again.
BAM. Guys, isn’t it just everything you always play back in your head and wish you’d done after an encounter where someone takes advantage of you, or thinks you’re stupid?
1. We didn’t let her shove by us and everyone else who was waiting in the sweltering sun, even when it was awkward and escalating and high-stakes not to give in. 2. I retorted to someone in Spanish who was assuming that we were stupid Americans who couldn’t understand them. 3. We stood for justice and not jumping in lines when everyone else has to wait, so you should, too.
We are awesome.
Yes, Jess has finally put up lots of pictures from our time in Italy!!
So while I (1) have and (2) document my current break’s adventures (for instance: it’s 3.38 in the morning,and I’m at London Luton airport. and have been for a while. and earlier today I was in Malaga, Spain. crazy.) you can enjoy some pictures from my last adventures.
This post is probably my favorite. Those pallet-tarp-pallet sandwiches were darn hard work, and we were good at making them! So you can look at them here.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you what is potentially my favorite picture of Cynthia and I that has ever been taken….
I would leave it at that and just end the blog post here to increase the impact of its awesomeness, but, really, there’s so much to talk about.
1. The rad dinosaur hands going on. We’d watched Jurassic Park in Italian the night before, so Cynthia’s raptor noises and gestures were even more spot-on than usual.
(Her pigeon noises in Rome were hit-or-miss, but when she nailed it, it was impressive. Please just ask her to make animal noises and do accents for you sometime. worth it. even if she tortures you with her Brooooklyn accent. still worth it.)
2. The fact that it was on the night that this happened, and also the spontaneous making up of a song that got stuck in Cynthia’s head constantly for LIT-erally a week. It was such a quality night. later that night, Ethan, another one of the volunteers, wore these pants, which made the night even better (how could it not?):
3. It’s as abandoned in laughter as I get, and I like laughing that much.
4. I get to see Cynthia again in two weeks! In Spain! That makes the picture even better.
and now the post is done. just do yourself and favor and scroll back up to the top and enjoy the picture again. I know I will.
On the farm where we stayed in Italy, our jobs every day were determined by the man I have previously described as
the Romanian farm hand, Adrian, who speaks paragraph after paragraph of rapid Italian to whomever his helpers are for thd day, regardless of thier ability to understand. He can get really frustrated and intimidating when he thinks people are being lazy, but he also has moments of pure enthusiasm. For example, when he saw the finished wind-blocking wall of an animal shelter we’d bult out of wood pallet-plastic tarping-wood pallet sandwiches, he started skipping and singing with excitement, and then pretended to be filming a documentary of it. (…we think. again, he was speaking very fast italian/romanian as he did this.)
Sight of the day: the Romanian farm hand, drinking coffee with one hand, cigarette hanging from his mouth, the other hand holding a blow torch, using it on the goose he’d just butchered. All this while sporting impressive facial hair and wearing a bandana. After a night out that lasted until 6.30 am. He out-macho-ed Chuck Norris.
Here is this epic man’s photo:
Did I mention he regularly downs a glass of wine like a shot during his morning work break, is fairly sketchy/inappropriate when it comes to female volunteers, and lifts barrels by himself?
Or that his favorite person/thing in the world is the farm pig, named Johnny, whom he claims he has taught to speak Romanian? He calls the pig “John” sometimes, with great seriousness.
He makes various noises while he works from “ep! ep!” to a whistle to singing songs that he may or may not being making up.
This is the prototypical moment of attempting to communicate with Adriano, who speaks very Romanian, very fast, very slang-y Italian. And expects everyone else, including people who he knows only speak English, to understand his paragraphs of rapid fire Romanitalian. and in those paragraphs, he likes to include tangentially-related stories, which are really inessential to the key point. so even if you catch a few words, they might have VERY LITTLE to do with the point at hand.
And that’s the guy. Our time in Italy would have been so much less entertaining and challenging and story-worthy without him.
These poor buddies were really tired. it had been a busy couple of hours/week in Italy…
click on it to see it larger. it’s worth it, I’d say.
This is a picture of us with Karolin, our lovely Estonian friend who is hopping around Italy, volunteering with various agriturismos and learning Italian, in addition to the Estonian, English, and Russian she already knows. It was so fun to hang out with her. She showed us the ropes around the farm, let us in on the gossip, and put up with our ridiculousness.