Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

March 18, 2013

I remember Italy

By Gelene Simpson
Corsicana Daily Sun

— Seeing some scenes from Rome, Italy on television lately, I have been thinking back to a whirlwind view I had of that city during my teaching days.

My attitude toward the trip was not too positive. I was mainly influenced by my teacher friends who couldn’t understand why I was dragging my feet. The truth was that I had just recovered from major surgery, and I was not a little nervous about flying off “across the water.”

Nevertheless, I had purchased a new soft-sided bag and a little metal fold-up carrier to take care of transporting my clothes. I even bought one of those fanny packs which several friends had suggested I would need to carry my passport and traveler’s checks.

My best friend Sara Wilkinson kept encouraging me with the argument that if we didn’t go this time, we probably never would. I knew she was right, but I still dragged my feet, even though I went ahead and had my picture made for my passport.

I guess I packed that new soft-sided bag about 10 times. Of course I had a lot of advice about how to pack from colleagues who were to travel with me and especially our tour leader.

Then too, my prospective travel companions gave me suggestions as to the proper way to pack for the trip. They said to pack only old underwear and throw it away after use so as to have room in my bag for my souvenir purchases. However, that suggestion did not set well with me as I did not care to have my under garments deposited all over Western Europe. Besides, some other advisors had suggested that mailing souvenirs back home would be better than wagging them along for the  whole trip.

This tour was going to go through England, France and Germany, but much of the time would be a bus tour up and down Italy. My main interest was in touring London and other regions in England like Canterbury because these were places I taught about in my literature classes at Irving High School. Consequently, I was not really looking forward to that long ride all over Italy.

Besides, many well-seasoned European tourists had warned that some Italian men might be rather forward and familiar and that I should be sure to have my valuables and fanny pack hidden on my person. But by the time that we got to Italy, we were all so tired of rummaging inside our clothes to get out our traveler’s checks that we have given up wearing the fanny pack at all. And guess what! Not a single Italian of any age or description accosted us in any way. Still I was glad that I hadn’t left any of my unmentionables anywhere abroad.

We didn’t stay long enough in one country for me to get a good grip on the value of the paper and coin of the realm before we have to move on to the next stop. I still have some of the coins left over just as souvenirs. One incident I remember from visiting a souvenir shop in Italy was that the shop keeper was very irritated with me because I just held out some money in my hand and told her to take what was required for the purchase. She insisted that I must haggle over the price. Such an expression of disgust I have never seen before or since.

What a thrill it was to be in Rome and see all the famous landmarks! I cannot believe that I was ever dreading to make that tour. When the various buildings showed up on television during the news about the important meeting to select the new pope, I couldn’t keep from letting out a whoop-and-holler, “I’ve been there!” And I must say that my heart beat faster and I felt the tears well up.

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Gelene Simpson is a Daily Sun columnist. Her column appears on Tuesdays. Want to “Soundoff” on this column? Email: soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com