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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Take my breath away.....

The day has arrived.  My hands are sweating.  The anxiety level is extremely high.  Besides my lifelong dislike of flying, I am filled with trepidation at the thought of being in a foreign country all by myself.  Yet, here I am, about to fly to Italy…alone.

I try not to cry when I say “goodbye” to my husband.  Stiff upper lip.  Don’t lose it now, this is just the beginning.  Through the security checks….crap.  I have to take my shoes off.  I twisted my knee several days before, so I have to wear a small brace around it, which, of course, sets off the metal detectors.  Lovely.  Nothing like a nice frisking.  She was respectful, though, no horror story here.

Ok, ok… the gate.  And, boarding…which seems to be haphazard.  No announcement….Group A…..Group B.  Just a big, mushy hoard of people.  I have an aisle seat.  A nice man helps to put my bag overhead.  A good looking young man has the window seat.  He looks like an actor whose name escapes me.  He promises he will sleep and not bother me.  I have a Neurontin on me….once in the air, I swallow that puppy and hope for a nap.   What to do….what to do?   Movies.  I opt for the chronicle of the early days of The Beatles, “Eight Days a Week,” because I know the story very well and the music soothes me.  It’s hard to hear over the droning din of the plane, in any case.  No nap.  No sleep comes.  The staff passes out some kind of meal which I pass on.  I find it impossible to eat in moving vehicles and I really can’t understand how anyone can enjoy it.

My seat mate now has to use the rest room.  Which is fine, because I need to stand up.  Back in his seat, I return to mine.  I try to calm my mind and close my eyes.  After a small eternity, we arrive in Lisbon.  I left on Sunday evening, it is now sunrise in Portugal
We disembark and have to go through another security check.  Then we have to have our passports checked.  The officer says, “You are not staying very long.”  I agree.  “You will have to do a lot of walking in three days.”  I agree again. He stamps the passport.

I walk down the corridor to the airport and the first thing I see is a stinking McDonalds.  It is followed by a Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Pizza Hut.  Seriously?  A little further down is someplace called “Versailles.”  I go there and get a croissant and a nice, hot pot (yes, a porcelain pot) of tea.  I have packed my medications in tiny plastic bags, so I take my morning meds and try to wake up.  I can see the “Departures” screen from my seat… connecting flight to Rome has been delayed…..again.  It was delayed by HOURS before we drove off to Newark Airport, now they are pushing back yet another half an hour.  This really bites.  It will be rather late when I finally get to Pescara.

What to do?  Go to the bathroom and refresh a bit.  Walk around, and around, and around.  Sit.  Check the flight time again.  Try to find a way to put my feet up….I put my laptop bag on my lap and rest my feet on my carry on case.  My ankles are swollen.  Shit.

Finally, finally…head to the gate.  Since they delayed and delayed, there are an awful lot of people here.  Another not so clear boarding procedure.  I get to the front and the woman tells me that the flight is very crowded and they have to take my carry on.  Not to worry.  No worries, it will be at baggage claim in Rome.  I don’t like this.  People take far too much stuff to “carry” on these flights….big tote bags, big, fluffy coats..and they cram it all into the overhead bins.  So, I get to lose my carry on. Swell.

This flight is only two hours.  Takeoff and landing very smooth.  Welcome to Roma.  Big sign….baggage claim number 10.  Okey dokey.   The people are boors.  Some guy just HAD to step on my foot and nearly knock me down.  They are grabbing for bags like the idiots who storm through store doors on a big sale day.  I don’t see mine. 

A man behind me is equally pissed.  He is on the phone to someone saying what a nightmare this is and he had a carry on but they took it and he has no idea when the hell he is going to get out of this airport.  My sentiments exactly.  And I supposedly have a car waiting for me.  I sure hope he’s waiting for me.  Oh, dear.  Where the hell is my bag?

I hear another snippet of conversation from a woman. She said her bag somehow wound up at claim number 9.  I go to 9 and look and look.  I go back to 10.  OMIGOD.  Where the hell is my bag?  I can’t wait any longer, I need help.  There is a line to the lost baggage people.  There are two of them on duty.  I am very tired and finding it difficult to stand because my feet are killing me and my ankles are swollen.  Finally……fill out this form…describe the bag.  “Oh, wait!  Your bag is right here…it went to claim 9.”  Really?  Are you sure?  “Go over there, and I hope not to see you again.”  Yeah, me too.

I hobble back to claim 9.  I walk around the entire thing.  No bag.

I’m baaaaaaack.  At least he signals me to the front, but, naturally, the people behind me get angry….they are informed that this is my SECOND time here.  Finish the form, give them my destination.  Bye, bye.

It is now about 10 o’clock at night.  Honestly.  I’ve been awake forever.  I have no hope that the car will be waiting.  But, as I leave, a man approaches and asks if I need a taxi.  I explain that I was supposed to have a car waiting, but…I…doubt……I see my name!  I see my name!   He’s here!  This poor guy has been waiting HOURS for me!  Then he asks me if I want to stop for coffee!   No, no….just let’s go, please.  My husband has been calling the car company and begging them to wait.  It is still a two hour drive to Pescara….in a nice Mercedes with this nice driver.  My husband calls the driver’s cell phone and I break down and cry.  Stinking airline took my bag.  Stinking airline LOST my bag…….it’s the middle of the night…….I…can’t.

I notice that some trees look white.  What can that be?  Maybe I am so tired I’m seeing things.  Then I realize….they are blooming.  It’s warmer here.  We just had a snowstorm, but spring has arrived in Italy.

We get to the hotel.  Italians, like most Europeans, earn decent living wages and are not accustomed to “tips.”  But I felt terrible that this man, who reminded me of Bob Hoskins, waited all that time for me.  So I ask him if he will accept 25 Euros from me for being so kind.  He does.

The man at the hotel desk speaks no English.  I barely speak Italian.  He shows me to my room.  Sadly, all rooms are  up one flight of stairs. Between my feet and my knee, I climb one at a time, like a baby.

Pescara is a beach resort and it is not the season quite yet.  As with most “beach” hotels, this is a little seedy, but it was affordable, since it is off season.  They do have wifi and I have a little piece of paper that gives me the codes.  I struggle to explain that I need a “wake up” call at 8 am.  The shower is like a phone booth…way too small, with folding doors and the water is cold.  Good grief.  I hit the bed.  The mattress is ok, the pillows are like rocks.  I cannot turn my brain off.  Where the hell is my bag?  How could this happen?  I have no medications now.  I have no clean clothes.  Where the hell is my bag?  My body won’t turn off, either.  Muscles are jumping and cramping all over.  I’m a mess.  There was a weird dream, so I know I got some sleep.  Even so, I woke up before the phone rang.

I take another quick shower in the phone booth before putting on my used clothing. Ick.  Now I am officially missing my medications.  Time to hobble downstairs to the hotel’s breakfast.  But first I have to find some toothpaste.  Around the corner is a little shop…and older woman is behind the counter.  “Scusa, dentifricio, per favore?”  Si!  Oh, yay.  But she does not have any toothbrushes.  For now, this will have to do.

Back at the hotel, the breakfast is underwhelming.  I try a croissant, but it isn’t very good.  Lipton tea.  Nothing new there.  Except now the desk lady is telling me that I “didn’t sign up” for the breakfast.  “How much is it?”  “Five euros.”  Fine, I dig five euros out of my pocket change.  At this point, I just want some hot tea. 
In walks a familiar face.  I recognize Piera from her website.  But she is early.  The desk lady knows her and offers her an espresso, on me, I guess.  So we sit with our coffee and tea.  She is early because she has an appointment she has to go to but wanted me to know that Daniela will be along in a few minutes to take me to look at houses.  She rushes out and I go to brush my teeth with my fingers. (Sigh)

Daniela is right on time.  She is in slacks and a sharp leather coat.  We hop into her little red car, a Linzia.  Penne is about a half hour drive from Pescara.  There are three places to see today, then we will come back…refresh…and go to the municipal office for a tax identification number, much like the Italian version of a social security number.  Okey dokey.

Daniela is talkative and I am surprised to learn she has a husband and two sons, fourteen and five.  She tells me she is forty nine.  Honestly, I thought she was about twenty five!  She and Piera have had their own business for about 7 years and they deal only with expats.  We are their second American clients.  They just sold a house to a couple from Texas.  I joked…hahaha…the first wave of American refugees.  Haha….not.

The first “house” is a working dental office.  No kidding.  There are four or five anxious looking people in the waiting room, which could be a bedroom, or small living room.  The floors are a lovely, realistic wood laminate.  There is “music in every room,” as pointed out twice by the dentist.  The problem is, there is no kitchen.  What would be a kitchen is an exam room…so, there is a sink.  No other appliances.  The adjoining room, nice and big with lots of windows and light, is a lab, with a large, industrial fluorescent light fixture taking up most of the ceiling.  My mind is going “cha ching!”  Ms. Dentist needs more space, and while it is very nice, there is too much work to be done to change this office into a home.

The second place I recognize from the website.  I hope it is as nice inside as it appears in the pictures.  We enter an outside door that opens into an enclosed cortile (courtyard) that is totally shady as it has a roof.  The door to the house, or apartment, is to the left.  There is an entryway….the living room is to the left.  It has a sunny window and a fireplace.  All of the floors are new and they are white tile.  To the right is the bathroom, which has also been redone.  Small but serviceable and warm, inviting.  It reminds me of walking into a sauna.

Beyond the living room is the bedroom.  Restored, curved stone ceiling…another sunny window.  A built in shelf on one side and a recessed area where there is a highboy and a dresser…perfect. 
Down the hall is the kitchen, which is bright, light and cheery.  New backsplash tile.  Washer and dryer.  BIG plus.  At the end of the kitchen is the glass door leading to the terrace.  Daniela opens it and out we go.  Spec. Tac. U. Lar.  I gasp.  The view is astounding and literally takes my breath away.  We can see all the way to the Adriatic.  Stunningly beautiful.  Not a big terrace, but enough for two chairs and two small tables.  It has an eve, so we could even sit out there in the rain.  I’m sold.

Back inside, one, or is it two more rooms?  They are linked….there is a wall and a door to a room that could easily be a guest bedroom.  The “window” is glass block, to let the light in from the adjoining room.  It is small, but has a real window that looks out to the terrace and amazing view.  It is big enough to hold my husband’s computer screens and such. 

I love this place.  I love it.  I love it.  There is no work to be done other than some paint and a light fixture or two.  Washer and dryer.  Fireplace.  Terrace.  All on one level, no stairs.  Love, love, love.

We move on to the third and last place of the day.  We have to meet another realtor…the ones contracted by the seller, I suppose.  Off we go….this place is up three flights of stairs.  Somehow I manage.  It is large, almost too large and the ceilings are very high.  It echoes.  Although large, it is a “railroad” home…each room leads to the next one behind the other.  Each room has a double door to a Juliette balcony….but I don’t care for the layout or the acoustics.   And the kitchen is old.

Daniela suggests we take a little stroll up the block (all three places were within a couple of blocks of one another).  We stop at a cafĂ© and she orders something for herself.  She does not understand what a “mocha” is, so I say, “just an iced coffee is fine.”  She comes out with something in a small martini glass….it is coffee with chocolate….about three sips worth.  Odd.  She has a lemonade and a small bruschetta.  We get to know one another a bit more…I talk about my daughter…she talks about her family…we laugh, we cry, we bond.
Now it is time to head back to Pescara.  I hope against hope that my bag has arrived.  It has not.  I take another shower and crawl back into my dirty clothes and try to nap.

A bit later, Daniela shows up right on time to get to the municipal building.  We get some forms…she helps me put the right information in the right places.  As with our own Social Security offices, we had to take a number and we have to wait until our number shows up on the LED display.  344.  We wait.  342….Daniela gets a call that she has to take outside.  “I’ll be back in just a minute, don’t worry.”  She left her car keys.   Naturally, 343 is skipped and 344 pops up.  I hear them say “Quattro.”  OMIGOD.  Daniela!   I grab her keys and my forms and go “running” to the best of my ability….as I turn the corner, she comes blasting through the doors….I’m waving her keys….”What number?”  Quattro…four!!!!  Ah, it’s right here… we are laughing……my heart is racing……a nice lady reviews the forms, copies my passport and issues me a tax number and an official form.  Done.

That is our business for today.  Daniela has to pick up her youngest.  She takes me back to the hotel, but first she points out a restaurant she recommends around the corner.  I tell her to just let me out, since it is, literally, just around the corner from the hotel.  “Go get your child!”  With that, I decide to explore further, while I still have the energy.  I won’t be going to any restaurants in the clothes I’ve been wearing for I don’t know how long.  I have my eye on a little pizza joint.  So I walk to a main intersection.  Gelato.  Gas stations.  Bistros.  Restaurants that don’t open until 6:30 or so….I may fade before then
Ah, a wine store.  A man and a woman inside.  Buona sera!  They say something I can’t understand… I say, “Un vino bianco e secco, per favore.”  Si, si.   “Come chardonnay?”  Chardonnay?  Si, si.  I noticed taps when I walked in, along with shelves full of wine bottles.  I wondered if they sold beer, too.  Silly me, the wine came from the taps.  The lady filled an empty plastic liter bottle….while doing so, she pointed under these things….like the tops of  cat pans…..I thought there was a kitten, perhaps.  So I look more closely.  It’s a bunny.  A black bunny.  He was afraid of me….he came out briefly but I could not approach.  A wine store with a pet bunny and wine on tap.  Four euros.  Grazie.

My walk back brings me to the little pizza place.  It’s pretty much like any pizza place.  Located close to an elementary school, mothers and fathers take their kids here for an after school snack. I look at the menu…and I ask for a pizza marguerita.  The man behind the counter looks and sounds like the Soup Nazi of Seinfeld fame and I clearly have displeased him but I can’t understand his tirade.  As he finishes up his diatribe, I pick up a word or two…….oh, I get it.  All the little pizzas are in little iron pans….what you see is what you get today.  One does NOT come in and order.  They are all individual, small pizzas.  I choose two.  Due.  3 euros.  Grazie.  Sorry I made you mad, I’m a stupid American.

Oh, one last stop.  Since I still have no bag I have to stop in the open pharmacy and pick up a spazzolina…a brush for my hair and another for my teeth.  I find a toothbrush right away, and I see hair products, but no brushes.  A young man in a white jacket comes out from behind the counter and offers to help.  He understands what I need and looks in exactly the same places I have just looked.  Then he goes into a back room behind the counter.  There is a girl back there in a white jacket.  They talk.  She looks out at me and seems somewhat bemused.  Am I really that funny looking?  I see the young man reach into a drawer and find a brush and he slips a cellophane sleeve over it.  He comes back out and rings both brushes up.  He seems a bit nervous.   6 euros.  Grazie.

I notice that their sign has a word that appears to resemble “veterinary.”  Once back at the hotel, I get the joke.  I have just bought a cat brush.  I don’t mind, it works just as well on my hair as an overpriced human brush….but, now I know why there were giggles and anxiety. 

The wine is VERY good, as are the little pizzas, which have somehow managed to retain some warmth.  You would think that at this point I could sleep.  I can’t.  The pillows are still like rocks and my muscles are jumping and “Where the hell is my bag?”  It is a long night with a couple of strange dreams, so I guess I did sleep some, after all.

Day two begins.  Same old clothes.  I sniff and hope I am not kidding myself that they don’t smell bad.  I skip the hotel breakfast.  I would like to go to the cute place around the corner called “Miss Littlecakes.”  It is a tea room with pastries and rolls all decked out in pink and white and most likely owned by a British ex pat.  I generally am not a fan of pink overload, but this is done very well. However, I have neither the time or the energy.

Daniela arrives promptly once again and off we go up the hillsides.  The first house on the agenda today also requires another realtor.  His name is Vittorio, another young man who looks much like the guy from yesterday.  We park on a flat, cobblestone piazzetta and start to walk down the street.  Down…really down.  “Daniela, where is this house?”  Just over here.  Over here….where?  Then the street curves and I go into panic mode.  It is like a roller coaster…straight down.  How does anyone live here?  How do you get anything inside?  It is so steep that some of the stones regularly stick out…as footholds?  I can’t do this.  Daniela senses my anxiety.  “You don’t want to see this?  I should have known better.”  Omigod.  My palms are sweating.  “Vittorio!  Vittorio!” 

I begin my labored climb back up while Daniela explains to Vittorio that the road is too steep.  I know my husband and I could never do this.  I can picture stepping out with Harry and falling flat on my face.  No…no, never.

I’m sorry that this didn’t work out…..I apologize to Vittorio and Daniela apologizes to me.  No matter, there is another house to see with Vittorio.  This one I can reach.

We pull up to a two family stone house with a terraced stoop in the front.  A middle aged woman is on the small front terrace.  It is just a few steps up. 
Right away I see new and beautiful windows and a lovely front door.    Inside, it is clear that this lady has good taste and I like her style.  But the place is small.  Oh, there’s an orange cat.  Hello, piccolo gatto!  

There is no dining room so they have the dining table plunked in the middle of the living room, between the fireplace and the sofa.  It is rather cramped, especially with four people in the room.  Oh, there is another cat, a black one.  In front of the fireplace is a large pet bed, as large as the one I have for my dog.  I wonder how many cats this lady has? 

The kitchen is way too small.  I cannot imagine how anyone can prepare a meal in here. With two of us in the kitchen at the same time we were on top of one another.
There is a hallway to the bedrooms.  Look at the beautiful marble floors!  Yes, they are lovely, but there is so much large furniture in a small space, it is hard to appreciate them.  The first bedroom is also claustrophobic.  Each room has a lovely window with a view of Gran Sasso mountain.  My eyes are drawn to the windows and my mind is saying, “Escape!” 

The bathroom is nice, a decent size and contains the washer and dryer.  It is the only room that has enough space.

The second bedroom, again, meticulously decorated with beautiful things, is tiny and cramped.
“Grazie, grazie. Arrividerci!  Grazie.”  We step out to the front terrace again.  There is a fat calico sitting there.  I notice that there are cat pans tucked into spots on the terraced stoop but the little orange guy is peeing in one of the potted plants. Ah, cats.  I miss having a cat.  Just one though.  Just one.

The last house is Campogallo.  From the realty website, it looked like a possibility.  In person, however, it is somewhat run down and echoes because the vaulted ceilings are so high.  There is water damage in one room that, to my eyes, is quite severe.  So, rather than feeling homey, it is giving me the creeps.

“Do you want to see Bella Vita again?”  Yes!  We go back.  I love this place.  I want to stay here.  I want very much to put a bid on this house. 
Daniela and I then go down the promenade to the gelato store.  She has pistachio.  I have chocolate.  We will put a bid on Bella Vita.  She is confident that it will be accepted.  The owners are retiring and already have another place and just want to sell and not worry about it anymore.  Yay for us. 

That’s it for today, so we head back to the hotel.  As I walk in, the desk lady says, “Your bag is here!  It’s in your room!”  Oh, hallelujah!!!  Yep, there it is.  Someone put a plastic strap lock on it.  I have to hobble back down the stairs and ask for scissors.  “Is it ok if I return them later?”  “Si, signora.”

At last.  I plug the adapter in and charge my laptop.  I turn my phone on…it knows that it is in Italy….wierd.  I shower once again.  I put on CLEAN clothes.  Oh, what a wonderful feeling.  Catch up with home via email.  I know the restaurant that Daniela recommended doesn’t open until 6:30 pm, so I will take a walk along the beach front.

The actual beach is not open yet, but there is a bricked path for walkers, joggers and a bike lane.  People are walking their dogs, strolling with small children, jogging and biking.  It seems about 70 degrees, the sun is shining…gorgeous afternoon.  Finally, I can take some pictures.  There are tiny green lizards darting  around in the shrubs and flowers.  The Adriatic is calm and so very blue. No waves.  Daniela said that kids at the beach get so excited whenever there is any kind of wave!  Closed concession stands, playgrounds, places to play…something…volleyball, maybe.  Lots of clean, smooth sand.  Restaurants everywhere.

I’m getting tired and the restaurant should be open. My little celebratory treat to myself.  The lights are on.  The door is locked.  Hmmmmm.  I look in the window…….then right behind me I hear, “Buona sera!”  A somewhat rotund man in white, accompanied by a younger girl.   Big smiles.  Must be the owner. I have the place all to myself.

The specialty is fish.  Tutti pesci?  Si.  Non pasta?  Oh, si, si!  Spaghetti, ravioli……Ah, ravioli!   Pomodoro?  Si…..pane….acqua…e un bicchieri di vino bianco.  Perfetto.

The girl is trying to convey something……she is making a motion with her hands…like in the Hawaiian hula dance…cascading fingers….I’m baffled.  She brings two bottles of water….sparkling and natural.  Oh, I get it.  Naturale, per favore.  I sip my water and my wine.   She brings out a bottle of olive oil and a basket of bread.  How can I describe the bread to someone who has never had fresh made, real bread?  The texture alone is so wonderful.  It’s chewy on the inside, crusty on the outside….it tastes like something!

The ravioli arrives with tomato sauce.  This is homemade pasta, not the kind you buy in a box or bag in the supermarket.  Each piece is like a little taste of heaven.  I use the bread to soak up any leftover sauce.  Perhaps I will sleep tonight.  Ravioli to die for, chewy, crusty bread, an entire bottle of water and two glasses of wine. 19 euros.  Wow.

Back to my little room.  Check the computer.  Sleepy time.

My last day.  Today is bank day.  9:30 sharp, Daniela is here. We go to the bank…I’m glad it is the one that my husband is familiar with.  We have an appointment.  I am also happy that I am dressed appropriately and that I am clean.  Oy. 

Everything is computerized.  I sign and sign and sign on the tablet.  I give the information to the bank lady.  A little old man recognizes Daniela and they talk.  “Italians like to talk,” she says.  Yes, I can see that. 
There is no such name as “June” in Italian, except as the label for the sixth month of the year.  Everyone is confused by my name, which in Italian is “male.”  Perhaps I will have to reinvent my name when we move and use a form of my middle name, which is Alyce.  Maybe I will be Alisa.  I’ll have to think about that. 

Finally, after quite a while and many signatures, I have bank account.  I then have to go to Massimo, at another desk, to  make an initial deposit, because only Massimo can change US dollars into Euros. 
Now, Daniela and I go to the ATM with my new bank card.  I have to activate it and make a password and pin.  Errrrrrr.  I write it down quickly before I forget it.

That’s it.  My business is done.  Everything has been accomplished that could be accomplished in such a short time.  Daniela takes me back to the hotel and gives me a big hug.  She explains what comes next.  Thank you so much for all your help!!

Back in my room, I catch up again via email and decide that I will have to try and sleep or rest as best I can before the odyssey of getting home begins.  I trot down to the pizza joint again…this time I know the drill, so nobody gets mad at me.  I still have some wine from the rabbit wine store.  I also have mountain spring water that Daniela collected while in Penne…collected from a cistern in a piazza.  Wow.

Naturally, not surprisingly, sleep evades me as usual.  I stare at the dark….but I know what an ordeal lies ahead.  I have to be up in the middle of the night so my brain refuses to turn off. Torture.

Alright, it’s that time.  Get dressed again….pack everything up.  Head down the stairs…..the man behind the counter hears me and takes my bag.  Grazie.  Mille grazie.  Ugh.  It must be one-thirty.  Where is the cab?  Every expletive known to man is going through my mind.  I see a car with a light on top.  It pulls up.  Hooray….a guy gets out…he has a Bogart thing going.  He’s in a trench coat, glasses…his graying hair seems a bit dirty.  He takes my bag, I have the laptop.
Right away I nearly gag...the cab reeks of smoke. I see the time and he is fifteen minutes late.  The car, besides stinking, is not in the best of shape.  I have a bad feeling the driver isn’t either.  He has to stop for gas.  Then he attempts to ask me something…caffe?  Do I want coffee?  NO.  Do you?   He wanted something because he stopped again and got a soda, I think.  Oh, please tell me he hasn’t been drinking.  What the hell? 

He has an annoying radio station on…sounds rather like “talk radio” in the U.S.  Whatever.  As long as it keeps him focused.  It’s a long drive.  Two hours.  Luckily, there is no one on the road.  But, it is dark and sometimes I fear we will go flying through some barriers and off a cliff.

When he opens his damned bottle of soda he used both hands…meaning no hands on the steering wheel!   Then, he does the unthinkable…he takes his glasses off!  What?  Should I say something?  You wear glasses and you’re driving and you take them off?  I’m going to die before I get to the airport. This is a nightmare.

At long last I see signs for the airport.  He misses the turn off.  Now I’m pissed off and terrified at the same time.  I am now learning over the front seat and when I see the next turn off for the airport I start yelling.  I seem to have startled him out of a stupor.  He makes the turn.  Now all we have to do is get to the terminal.  To me it seems a small miracle that he pulls up to the terminal and I am still in one piece.  I have the money in an envelope.  This creep isn’t getting one more euro more out of me.  I slap the envelope into his hand. He already has a cigarette in his mouth and he starts counting, but I have turned my back and am already walking away. I feel soiled and hope I don’t reek from all the time spent in his little portable hell hole.

It’s the wrong terminal, but it is not a disaster because it is not a large airport. Just a short walk to the correct terminal.  Find the check in.  Window or aisle?  Aisle, please.   Off to the gate.  Here we go again.  Take my shoes off.  Open the laptop.  Haul the bag up to the scanner.  Alarms go off because of the knee brace.  Another pat down.  Get my shoes back on, close my laptop.  Find an uncomfortable seat and wait. 
This hop to Lisbon has more cushy seats than the one that came in.  All goes smoothly but I didn’t realize that we would be steered to a different place in the airport.  So, my plans for tea have to be adjusted.  There is place, but they use glass and since I am alone, I cannot handle that.  Luckily the girl who takes my order understands, but the only paper cups they have are small.  I have no choice.  It’s enough and I can take my meds. 

Another gate.  Another uncomfortable chair. Another wait.  The sun is coming up.  Some men haul in a couple of tables.  I see police officers.  Those of us waiting at the gate are instructed to get up. ????? An extra security check.  That makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.  Line up and have our passports compared to our tickets.  Some people have to open up their bags on those tables.  I’m allowed through.  Sick, sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

We board. I have a middle seat.  Not happy that I will be scrunched between two people, but my bags are stowed above, so I have as much room as possible
Amazingly, no one sits on either side.  I have all three seats to myself.  The arms pull up.  I take my shoes off my swollen feet and ball up the blanket and little pillow and try to stretch.  Restless.  Try to find a movie……start “Manchester by the Sea” and get bored and depressed very quickly.  Let’s try “LaLa Land.”  Ugh.  Are they serious? “Loving.”  I watch that all the way through and cry and cry.  Trying hard not to sob.  Now, maybe I can stretch out a little and snooze.  So tired.  I’m so tired I think I hear the captain say that the “plane is going through something terrible.”  What?  Did he really say that?  No one else is panicking.  Geez, am I hearing things? 

Dreamlike.  Maybe I did sleep a little.  We are nearly there, so I watch the little computer plane approach Newark.  Fifteen minutes out.  Ten minutes out. We had winds in our favor and we are an entire half hour early.  That would be great, but the passport check line is enormously long and out of about twenty counters, they have all of four people working while scads of international flights arrive.  This takes an hour.  Take off your sunglasses.  Did you buy anything?  Nope, not a thing.  Welcome home, dear.  Dear? 

Walk, walk, walk……finally.  I see my husband…….”I have to sleep for the next four days.” 
Chinese food.  I am craving eggs, so he got eggs foo young for me.  I’m swollen, sore and Harry is crazy mad at me for going away.  Suddenly a curtain is coming down on me.  It feels like I’m going to faint.  Jet lag.  I have to sleep now.

Daniela told us the bid was accepted.  The adventure continues.

                                                                            ~ March, 2017