Saturday, November 20, 2010

How Not to Prepare for a Month in Italy

Decide you are going to go to Genoa, Italy for a month to have treatment and surgery and make that decision a mere ten days before you go. What’s the matter, you like pressure right? Let’s leave the tiny matter of how you will pay for the trip aside; thanks to very generous relatives that is resolved after a couple of days and will be sorted upon your return. Okay, make a list; flights, accommodation, packing, time off work (you still go to work for that week and a half; you’ve got client commitments), insurance (including house insurance to be sorted while you’re away), foreign money, inform family (this will take up many, many unanticipated hours), get checked to make sure you’re safe to fly, oh, and then remember you’re committed to a paddling trip in Nelson for a race for the middle weekend. Remove three days from your schedule. Remind yourself that you like pressure and sleep is over-rated anyway.

Enter the many, merry, mishaps along the way. Find flights online Рsorted! Discover that your credit card has a limit on it and will not allow you to purchase business class tickets. Have minor meltdown in small café on the way to Nelson. Be saved by teammate whose phone you use to call travel agent to book flights on your behalf. Discover that if you transfer money to an out of town travel agent your bank will ring you to see if you really want to do that and twice more when you transfer funds to Italian surgeons. Nice to know! Arrive in Nelson, race Рnot your best effort due to above lack of sleep and minor meltdown but still third is nothing to be sneezed at. Weekend is lovely and peaceful as brother is running interference with the family and fielding phone calls. Remind yourself to buy him something nice in Italy.

Final week: Gradually check off each item on the above list. Some things are easily sorted; thanks to friends who have travelled before and provide useful things like power adaptors and travel clotheslines. Some take more time and phone calls and more patience than you feel you have. Don’t worry, you will get there in the end. Final night, pack: passport – check, laptop – check, useful travel things – check and feel smug about these; clothes – check.

  1. Things that you did not pack and you will wish you did; skirts, more baggy pants, more pictures of New Zealand to show people, and your mP3 player as the laptop is not always practical with its short battery life.
  2. Things you will take that are of no use to you whatsoever: most of the travel stuff you were so proud of yourself for (you can dry underwear on the heater in the bathroom, which also has plenty of towels so your travel ones are not needed), pretty tight-fitting clothing, and your so so cute blue argentine knee-high boots (go and give them a quick pat in the wardrobe. Poor lonely things. Go on, there’s no one watching).
  3. Things that were an absolute "save the day" item and you would consider selling your soul for if you ever repeat a trip like this: your laptop and its internet capability, House DVDs that play on your laptop and remembering to bring headphones, your camera (because your Dad’s will die on the trip and you can give him your to use to keep him amused while you are under house arrest after the surgery), your Dad (hunter gather, chef, bag carrier, and endless source of amusement as he refuses to speak Italian and has many misadventures while shopping. Not so good as a nurse and managing anything related to illness but don’t worry, the universe will provide other people for that role), and a book purchased in the airport under your usual rule of the most number of pages for the least amount of money. Mr Stephen King, your “Dome” story is a great hospital read. Hats off to you.

Then your adventure begins; more than 30 flying hours later, one expensive airport taxi, one moment of over-sleeping in Milan due to the 30 hours flying, one missed train but free breakfast in hotel, one moment of panic when finally in Genoa and trying to get to hotel (okay, more than one moment), one rush of pride at mastering the metro with only a handful of Italian words, one lovely pair of English girls who provide a map of the city, one short walk to hotel with only a few mis-turns on the way and one eyeblink later and you are safely ensconced in the B&B with your new friend Shawn ready for the treatment to begin. And you were worried it would be difficult? Pshaw!

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