James Goes to Italy: Day 1 Part 2

italian coffee

When we last checked in on our hero (James DeFrange), he was stuck in the Paris airport and unsure of when he’d ever be able to make it to Rome. Check out the rest of his day 1 adventure as James heads to Italy for training on the Kemon 2014 collection

It was actually kind of fun sitting in the airport in Paris for seven hours! I observed all kinds of fashions from around the world, made friends will a cute bartender that I fantasized what it would be like to marry her! We lived on a beach in Spain, had two kids, I made enough doing hair that we opened a bar, I was the business, she was the service. Snap, back to reality.

I later helped some poor woman from Venezuela repair her phone. Maria was her name. She came over to me in the main lobby of the airport, I think she approached me because I had my Ipad, Iphone, and Macbook air all out as a source of entertainment. It’s been about 24 hours with no sleep at this point, and the airport was too crowded to feel safe for a nap. She handed me her phone and asked me something in Spanish. I politely asked if she spoke English in my best Spanish, she said no. I asked if she spoke Italian, she said poco.. So I spoke Italian and she Spanish, very slowly we worked out that she was from Venezuela, her family had given her this phone and she didn’t know how to work it. My Spanish is so terrible, my Italian is not that good either but it’s so close in some respects. I thought about my colleague’s boyfriend Alex, who’s family is from Venezuela and how much happier she would have been to run across him, fluent and from her country, but I was all she had. After and hour of trying to teach her how to use an iPhone, I slapped my forehead and realized there was no sim card in the phone, and that she knew how to use an iPhone just fine…probably better than me! My new friend Maria just didn’t know how to put in the sim card. This was further legitimized as the situation when she finally pulled a new sim card from her purse! Sheesh, I was full on describing my favorite apps and how to download them when she frustratingly said something along the lines of “Solo Questo!” (only this) and flashed the new sim. I borrowed a hair pin from her own hair, popped the sim card case, installed the card and Finito!!!!! She put her full palm on my face, said something else I could not understand, patted my head and left. Silly story but I thought I would share.

I eventually make the flight at 4 and have no regrets for how my journey is starting… but still plenty to worry about if i choose to waste time with worry. So I land in Roma at 5:45, I received a message through Viber (an Iphone app that allows you to send texts through the internet rather than cellular) from my team saying they had arranged a new driver for me. After walking around the front area for several minutes I finally see a cute Italian woman holding a sign that said Kemon! I finally made it! Total time awake at this point was 30 hours!

The Woman that drove me to San Gustino was Francisca,  very nice lady, she spoke little English so it was a good first refresher, besides Maria, for my Italian. She told me what it was like to be the only woman working for her driving company, I told her what It was like to be the only man working for mine and we made fast friends. She said in Italy woman are not respected the same as men… I wrote this off as something she decided just because she was the solo LaDonna tra la collega, only woman among her colleagues. Later I would see what she meant.

I made it to my Hotel In Citti de Castello at about 10pm on Saturday night! I was so tired. 36 hours no sleep! I was so happy to be here I did not just want to go to sleep! Too much anxiety, excitement and adventurism running through my body. I had no Idea where my co-workers were but they were not in the hotel, and they had texted me earlier to say they were going out. I have been in this town before and knew of a few bars… I thought I would go get a glass of wine, check my emails, then come back and pass out!

I have never in my life carried a wallet in a foreign country! Why? I take only the cash I need and hide what ever credit cards or identification in a pouch under my pants or simply stuff it somewhere deep but accessible. I was too tired to have any reason in my brain so I left the hotel with my wallet containing my only credit card, My ATM card that had access to the savings dedicated to this trip, and about 200 Euro.

I went to a little place called Agoria, a 2 minute walk from my hotel. The bartender remembered me from two years ago! I made a few fast friends and was very proud of how much my Italian has improved since my last visit. I was sitting at the main bar talking about hair in the US,  it was Saturday, so there were lots of people. I was almost finished with my one glass of wine when a young Italian guy came and sat very close to me.. I remember he was so close it made me a little uncomfortable, so much that I did not even say hello to him. After a few seconds he was gone. Then something happened, I heard a sound, that ominous sound of leather hitting a tile floor, the sound my wallet makes when I get up from my chair and it has pushed itself to the edge of my pocket and finally leaps! To this day I don’t know where the sound came from but it made me look at the floor and pat my pockets. To my horror my back pocket was flat and empty on my rear. I threw back my stool and started looking all over the floor, I did so with so much intention that several Italians around me started to ask me “Tutti Bene?” (everything ok?). I said “non-Bene, Il mio portafogli neppure qui” (my wallet is not here!). A few other stood up to start looking and asked where I had gone, I said only here, and at the register, I looked back and saw the boy that sat close to me near the door taking with friends, I went to the register, it was nowhere to be found. I looked up again and saw the boy and his friends were gone!

I full on sprinted from the bar, outside I had a choice to make… Through the alley to the main plaza (I stayed 4 nights in this town two years ago and know it well) or straight through to a busy intersection and much busier traffic area. I chose the ally. I bolted through the quiet dark alley looking for any trace of the suspected thief, my mind was racing with what I would do if I caught him. The alleyway was a cobble stone street, so skinny it could only be used my motorcycles and pedestrians. the back of a few business pointed into this ally. There were no lights, only trash cans an shadows that bounced up two stories of traditional Italian architecture. The alley lead to the town center, a huge square known as the Plaza that at night is usually pretty quiet. I was hoping to catch him before the Plaza! I was running faster than I think I even realize!

I had no proof he took it, but I was sure my wallet had slipped out of my back pocket and onto my chair. The few seconds he spent next to me was enough for him to snag it! I didn’t want to fight, and he had three friends with him the last time I saw him, I would just try and beg him for my credit card, he could keep the money. My heart was pounding as I emerged into the main square, It was 11pm, only two people that I could see walking across the large plaza in the center of this small town. I quickly assessed there were as many as eight possible directions he could have gone from this location. I ran to the entrance of each and peered down the long streets. Nothing; no visible silhouette would reveal the boy I was chasing. I slowly walked to the center of the plaza feeling defeat wash over me like a wave of unwanted negativity. I refused to give up tho! I ran back down the alley and started pulling the trash from every can I could find, thinking that maybe he was smart enough to only take the cash, and just throw away the wallet! After 10 or so very disgusting trash cans, the feeling of defeat returned.

I sat down in one of the dark alleys, smelling like a dumpster and physically exhausted from the intense adrenaline release. I was so turned around at this point I was not sure where I was at. I realized that I have 100 euros to my name, no credit card, no ATM card, and It was the first of my 17 days in Italy. I was rolled by some punk in a bar, and my stupidity was the biggest upset. This was not something beyond my control, this was the result of 40 hours without sleep and I have put myself in a situation that I was not sure how to handle. I did not cry, or indulge the feelings of helplessness for more than only a breath, maybe two. I walked back to my hotel to get five euros for the single wine I was drinking. After paying for the first glass the guy offered me a free one, I declined and returned to the hotel for the night. I proceeded with a one step at a time mentality. I did not know what I was going to do for the next 17 days, but at the moment I needed to call and cancel my credit card, and rest! Day one was a long one!

What a crazy start to James’ Italian adventure! How will the rest of his trip go, and what does the Kemon 2014 collection look like? You’ll have to wait for the next update here on the Pura Vida blog!

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