Thursday, June 16, 2011

Those Things Unsaid

Tasty Tidbit #1: Parking Lot Talk

            I didn’t think I would have a tasty bit tonight, but like many of my bits they tend to come last minute.  Tonight I enjoyed a conversation with three wonderful friends.  We decided to make it a true ‘Ritas and Rants night, choosing our respective teams of pink vs. green.  Pink won! What I love about ‘Ritas nights is not just the conversation that happens during dinner, but the conversations that happen afterward in the parking lot.  Some of the best conversations I have ever had have been in parking lots.  There’s something about having a great evening that always makes me want to linger, to make it last just a little longer.  Tonight, by virtue of having a good friend to listen I was able to talk out some things that have been weighing on my mind.  Every once in a while I thought, it’s getting late and I have a blog to write, but I never got anxious about it as I sometimes might.  I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation and it gave me a lot to think about.  With the closing of the shop I fear losing my friends and my parking lot conversations.  I know it’s an irrational fear.  Just because one part of our connection is changing doesn’t mean that we will lose the connection to each other.  I am grateful for all of my parking lot conversations and pray for many more to come. 

Those Things Unsaid

            One thing that I brought up in our ‘Ritas conversation tonight was about my trip overseas.  Last October/November I took a two week cruise that began in Venice, Italy.  Well, that’s just where I got on the boat anyway.  For the first time in my life I fly overseas, visited several countries where I didn’t speak the language, and I did it by myself.  It’s taken me a long time to begin to talk about my experiences overseas.  As usual there are a number of reasons for this, the foremost being that I didn’t want to sound like a bragging, egotistical maniac when I was talking about it.  I didn’t want it to sound like I got to go do this and that, and you didn’t.  What I truly felt I was doing on my cruise was gathering information to share with people back home who might not have the chance to experience a trip like this one. 
            My trip started as a longing.  I wanted to travel.  I was ready to roll out of Clarksville but I wasn’t sure which direction I was going to go.  I kept thinking about the ocean.  I wanted to be floating in the middle of the ocean.  Once this idea formed in my mind, it was about a week and I got a travel catalog in the mail.  The first cruise listed was a transatlantic cruise.  Two weeks traveling with five glorious days floating through the Atlantic just like I wanted.  I called the travel agency to make the arrangements, but things did not flow so well.  As I was a single traveler, there were of course extra fees and the man on the phone told me that he only had F deck accommodations left, and only one room at that.  There was a lot of pressure from him and I wasn’t comfortable making the commitment.  I wanted a mini-suite, I had seen one in the catalog, and F deck was basically the bottom of the ship.  I told him I would have to think about it, which didn’t make him happy, and I hung up.
            I felt a lot of disappointment.  Here was the cruise of my dreams in front of me, and I couldn’t get what I wanted.  Should I take the smaller room and be grateful that I got to go to Europe at all?  I meditated on it, and it occurred to me that this was a travel company and they probably only purchased a certain number of rooms.  I checked online and sure enough I found the same cruise for a cheaper price, got the mini-suite, and $250 in cruise credit.  It snapped right into place, and I was on my way.
            During the weeks leading up to my cruise I tried to convince all of my friends to come with me.  I had been confident when making my reservations, but now I was second guessing myself.  Going to foreign countries sounded exciting, but it was also a little frightening to think of going by myself.  All of my friends had prior commitments or couldn’t go for one reason or the other.  I found myself considering cancelling the trip altogether.  Go to Italy myself, was I nuts?  I questioned my sanity more than once.  In a flash, it was time to go and there was no turning back.  Interestingly enough I wasn’t really concerned about landing in Venice, I was more concerned about flying into and out of JFK airport.  Not because of terrorists, but because I heard the airport was a nightmare.
            I did have some brief troubles in New York, but a very kind New York native took pity on my at the baggage rack and assisted me in finding my way.  New York was the most nerve wracking portion of the trip.  I ended up walking up hill, going in the wrong entrance, and then did the dumbest thing any traveler could do, I gave my passport to someone.  The airport people were checking people in through kiosks and one asked me for my passport.  Like an ass I handed it over.  It wasn’t until he turned the corner almost out of eyesight that I realized my tremendous error and panicked.  Thankfully the angels were watching out for my stupid ass, and the man returned with my passport almost immediately.  My passport had been amended when I was married so you can’t put it through a kiosk, the names never match.  I learned a valuable lesson; thankfully it was not a costly one.
            After a long stay in the lovely JFK airport I was finally on my way to Italy.  I stayed awake the entire flight.  It wasn’t too hard being crammed into the plane like a sardine and the guy next to me falling asleep on my shoulder. 
            Italy was exactly how I thought it would be.  Slightly sleep deprived we walked as a herd into customs.  Customs turned out to be one huge room with two lines.  One for Europeans and one for everyone else.  There were no lines, and the Italian guys didn’t seem to be bothered that there were over two hundred people in no kind of line and more people pouring down the single escalator.  The two guards laughed to each other, speaking Italian.  I loved every damn minute of it.  I couldn’t stop smiling.  I’m pretty sure I was pissing off people by smiling, but I didn’t care.  I managed to get through the line pretty quick, and my luggage also appeared with equal speed.  I managed to get on the second bus going to the dock, left my luggage with more Italians, and wandered in the general direction everyone else was wandering hoping that I would find where I needed to check in for the ship. 
            Turns out I wandered correctly.  I was starting to feel a little more than a little sleep deprived.  It took two hours more to get me checked into and finally onto the Norwegian Gem.  As I waited for my final check in, I couldn’t decide between a shower and passing out.  I didn’t get to do either.  Once on board, there was a drill, then dinner.  I thought I would be too tired to eat but I was wrong.  I wandered up to one of the buffets on one of the upper decks.  We were just pulling out of port and  as I was collecting my plate I watched Venice begin to slide by.  I was alone, and feeling lonely.  I walked through the tables looking for a place near the windows to eat and take pictures.  I stopped at a table with a woman who looked to be in her mid to late fifties.  I asked her if I could sit and eat with her.  Later it would occur to me that I had gotten incredibly lucky that this person was not only kind, but spoke English.  She said yes and a friendship bloomed.  By the next day I had met her friend and travel companion.  I was no longer alone.
            Except for the excursions at the different ports, which included two ports in Spain, one in Portugal and one at the unforgettable Azores, I spent the majority of my time with these two kind ladies.  One of which turned out to be a psychic.  I had to laugh.  Out of the over 2000 people onboard of course I would find the psychic.  Though our friendship didn’t last long after the cruise was over, it’s like my friend Rona says, people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.  I truly believe we were brought together on that cruise to share our experiences with one another.  I was truly grateful to have friends to share it with.
            I could spend all night describing the places I went and the things that I saw, but that’s for another blog.  Tonight it just felt important to write the beginning.  After all that’s a good place to start.  It took me a long time to get to the point where I could begin to get past my feelings of guilt and begin to talk about my experiences.  I have six boxes of photos that I have only ever shared with my husband.  It’s time to open up those boxes and the journal that I kept during that amazing trip.  It’s time for those things that were unsaid to find the words and be shared.

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