Thursday, September 28, 2006

Vacation Brain

I'm sure I'm not the only one who gets a mad case of Vacation Brain in the days (weeks/months) before a long-awaited trip.

You know what I'm talking about: long bouts of staring out the window from your desk at work while you mentally pack your bag, long bouts of insomnia spent staring at the ceiling as the fan goes round and round while you mentally pack your bag, long bouts of staring at the WB on TV while you search wildly for the remote because you HATE THE WB and should really be watching SportsCenter while you mentally pack your bag, etc. Oh, and that doesn't even cover the other waking moments of the day that you spend either practicing the native language of the country you're about to visit or trying to conjugate it's many verbs.

It's virtually paralyzing. I don't think I've done any meaningful work all week. I doubt I've had a coherent conversation in at least three days. It's possible that most of my coworkers (and possibly hubby, too) think that I've taken a leave from my sanity since I've been spouting random bits of Italian whenever the mood strikes me and then quickly receding into my Vacation Brain haze.

And, we all know what's going to happen, I'm going to finally be in this place of my recent obsession and my mouth will slam shut. I won't be worried about conjugating any verbs - no - I'll be worried about spitting out, "Due cappucinno, per favore" at the bar in the morning. Even though this is a no-brainer right now, as I sit thousands of miles from Rome, safe from the expectant eyes of the Arrividerci/Buongiorno man at the bar by my friend's house.

I'll say it, native speakers scare me. They know I'm faking it. They know that my subject/verb agreement sucks wind. They know I can't remember how to say, "Maybe", most of the time. ("Forse"- see, right now, I can remember. One week from today, I will totally forget it at the most inopportune time and will instead say something dumb like, "Quizas" which is the wrong language altogether.) It's like I'm standing around naked a lot of the time, with only the most threadbare of rags to cover my bits.

Thankfully, visiting friends means I won't be nude. No, they provide the necessary shield from which I can emerge at random intervals to spout my "frase del giorno". Last time it was "Ale, sa dove andiamo?" (Ale, do you know where we're going?) Which I used often and unnecessarily since Ale is a native Roman and has never been witnessed getting lost. But there was verb conjugation in there and it was more than one word in a row, therefore, it became the cornerstone of my conversation abilities. Oh, and let's not forget my dedication to asking people at the New Year's dinner party whether they wanted "acqua frizzante or naturale" despite their clear gestures. I was obnoxious.

This time, I'm not sure what I'll be randomly banging on about, but I will have to do it after many glasses of wine and lots of native encouragement. I just hope I can avoid having the Tazza D' Oro lady paw through my wallet to get exact change. Perhaps I should be practicing saying, "Hey you crazy broad, get the hell out of my bag while I figure out which of these funny looking coins to give you."

Oh yes, my international savvy is really something.


  1. LOL! I can seriously empathize with you. It was this very same time last year when I was preparing for my long awaited journey to Rome. Although, I am a housewife, so instead of staring out the window of my desk, I stared out the window of my kitchen dreaming of all things Italian and spewing out random phrases like, "Scusa, Dove e il Panteone?" Tazza di Oro! What memories come to mind! Mi piace molto il cappuccino di Tazza!! I learned that as long as you try, Romans are happy to help you. I envy you!! I wish I could go but alas, I am stuck here cleaning toilets and such...ah, the life of a housewife can really suck wind sometimes. LOL! Enjoy your trip!!

  2. Rome is ready for you!! And your Italian will be perfetto!

  3. I keep my Italian lessons loaded on my iPod and I go through them from time to time, but the thing is most Italians speak a little English and are very indulgent when you try out your Italian on them. In fact there's only two countries I can think of where the native speakers are impatient or rude; The French will roll their eyes when you try to speak French and the British will pretend they can't understand you when you attempt English.

    Half of the fun of traveling is mangling the language. I got into the habit of skipping the breakfast at my hotel and going to neighborhood places for coffee and pastry the last time I was in Rome and in my perfetto tourist Italian I ordered an espresso and a croissant every morning. (Vorrei una caffe normale e cornetto per favore.). Unfortunately, I was using the noun Cornuto instead of Cornetto. Cornuto means horns and and "putting the horns" on someone is a slang term for cuckolding. I was basically ordering coffee and asking the barrista to sleep with my wife/S.O.

    After the third day, the barrista corrected me and we had a lot of laughs about it for many days after.

    The Euros are easy, get a coin wallet first thing and you'll find that the 2 euro coin is pretty handy for things like coffee and snacks. Oh and another thing.. espresso runs about .85 euro pretty much everywhere in Italy, suck it Starbucks!

  4. E&I- I hope I'll be able to conjure up lots more fun memories during my trip. And I'll definitely have to remember to throw a coin in the fountain again -- since it's prophecy came true and I am in fact, returning to Rome again. I'll give Tazza d' Oro a little squeeze for you!

    Shelley - Bless you and your encouragement - it'll help me get over the hump. And Steven's right, Italians are really nice about the mangling of their language. Aside from the wallet diver at Tazza, everyone was very accomodating.

    Steven - HA!!! That is priceless! But, that is also the beauty of Italian people - they can sure enjoy a laugh and, from what I've found, aren't cruel to tourists like other places I've found. And, thankfully, this time I'm ready for the coronetti and cafe ordering since my nice friends (Shelley, above, and her husband) decided I should do the ordering last time. Such good teachers. That is a good idea about the lessons - I think I'll load my Italian CDs on my iPod and listen to them while I sit on the plane for half a day. Also - coin wallet -- I have one that I've never had the opportunity to use. Perhaps this is just the time.

    Yes, and SUCK IT Fourbucks. I'm having a REAL cappucinno when I get there. Unless it's the evening, in which case I'll have an espresso and a shot of limoncello after dinner. Oh the luxury :)

  5. I'm seething with jealousy!

  6. Have I told you this week how excited I am for you?

  7. Fin, if you ever want to chat. I am fluent. Italian was my first language. Gimme a jingle we can chat about what type of coffee to order and when :D

    I love Rome...But I think I love Tuscany more, since I lived there for a little while. *sigh*



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