I'm still reading Trollope, but I had to put it aside for a bit to read my book group January selection, so that I can pass it on if I need to. So, I'm reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.
This was funny last night:
I'm bad (or, rather, lazy) at researching a place before I travel, tending to show up and see what happens. when you travel this way, what typically "happens" is that you end up spending a lot of time standing in the middle of the train station feeling confused, or dropping way too much money on hotels because you don't know better. My shaky sense of direction and geography means I have explored six continents in my life with only the vaguest idea of where I am at any given time. Aside from my cockeyed internal compass, I also have a shortage of personal coolness, which can be a liability in travel. I have never learned how to arrange my face into that blank expression of competent invisibility that is so useful when traveling in dangerous, foreign places. You know--that super-relaxed, totally-in-charge expression which makes you look like you belong there, anywhere, everywhere, even in the middle of a riot in Jakarta. Oh, no. when I don't know what I'm doing, I look like I don't know what I'm doing. When I'm excited or nervous, I look excited or nervous. And when I am lost, which is frequently, I look lost. My face is a transparent transmitter of my every thought. As Daniel once put it, "You have the opposite of poker face. You have, like . . . miniature golf face."
And that's exactly ME. When I went to Rome, I set out one afternoon, misjudging how late it was and how far I had to walk, to go to Santa Maria in Trastevere. By the time I got there, it was too dark to really see anything, though it wasn't very late. In those narrow, winding streets, it gets dusky FAST. Then when I left, I got turned around and ended up walking through all these little streets, getting what seemed like further and further from anything I'd ever seen befrore. I was doing the whole "look confident" thing, but I'm sure it wasn't working.
I've never been so relieved to hit a major street in my life. Of course, I'm also map challenged, so it took me a big cup of tea and a long time poring over my folded and refolded map until I figured out that I was sitting at a cafe on THE BIGGEST STREET MARKED ON THE MAP!
I made it back to the convent without having to try to converse with an Italian policeman. And I never admitted that I got so lost.
I pretended that I looked confident. But I'm sure every old Italian lady I passed in those neighborhoods thought, "What is that crazy American woman doing walking along here?"