So the next day I woke up and started to pack all of my stuff into my bag again. My bag is beautifully packed, but it had kind of exploded during the week in the tent. I gathered all my dirty laundry, electronics and other stuff together, packing them into their respective colored bags. I went through the checklist in my head and then got a sinking feeling in my stomach. I had lost my passport! I tore my bag apart again, color-coding be damned, turned my tent upside-down and searched high and low in the gypsy trailor. As you may already know (if you have been following my blog) it was in a secret pocket in my backpack. Oy.
I met the italian while going to brush my teeth. We gestured at each other for a while and went our separate ways. I finished packing and went into town to get some money and provisions for the trip. I bought some quiche, and several croissants along with a big bottle of yougert, orange juice, and sausage. The Italian shows up late and waves me over to his car. I have looked up on google maps that he should be driving through Oulx, Italy, which is near the French border. I pull out a map and show him this, asking in spanish if we can go there. He says no, he is going through a different way, but I can go to Susa, 50 km further away. It seems I don’t have much of a choice, so I say ok and we head out.
We start driving and chatting. Once we are together in the car with nothing else really to do, it is amazing how easily language comes. We talk in a mix of Spanish, English, French and Italian, switching in the middle of sentences as our knowledge reaches its limit. Maybe if I learn nothing else from this year (unlikely!) the notion that if you have enough determaination you can communicate complex thoughts to someone in a different language. Once I decide that I am not content to simply say “Hi, my name is Jeremy,” everything changes. Language is only as constraining as you think it is. We talked about musicology, religion, girls, the history of Italy, dance, food, philosophy and US politics. When there are no other options, you make it work!
We had so much fun talking that we went rather a long way in totally the wrong direction. It was at this point that I realized that the large red glasses we not at all stylistic, but my driver was ridiculously near-sighted. This resulted in me learning Italian numbers very fast and reading out road signs to him. We made it to the alps with no problems, but I was a little bit intimidated by the winding roads!
We took the pass where Hannibal took his army of war elephants through the mountains. I’m assuming this was in commemoration. It was just sitting in a field next to the road, not much around it, and no one nearby. I can understand why people didn’t think Hannibal was going to get through!
We hadn’t stopped in a while, so while we stretched we paused for a bit by probably the most beautiful lake I have ever seen.
I got dropped off in Susa. We first tried to go to the highway, but almost as soon as we pulled over the police drove by and flashed their lights at us. It seemed like a bad idea for me to hitchhike right after that! (NOTE: In Europe, Hitchhiking is also called Autostop. Good to know!) I ended up on a little road with my backpack and banjo.
I always get nervous just as I start to hitch. There is something a bit scary about getting out of the nice, familiar, safe car you have been traveling in, strapping on your bag and throwing yourself on the universe to take care of you and bring you where you need to go. Luckily, I didn’t have much time to worry. I made a sign, stuck out my thumb and Boom, a car pulls up.
Actually the first car. I guess there was a motorcycle before it. but Wow! I hoped in and met a women going 20 km up the road to another town. The town was tiny and beautiful and so I just held out the sign and walked down the road, passing beautiful alleys and houses along the way. Five minutes later I get my second ride all the way to Oulx! This ride was with Mario, a ski instructor in the area who worked in natural conservation during the rest of the year. He spoke the most English of anyone yet, but most of the conversation took place in Spantalian. He dropped me by the bus station in Oulx, where I had been told that there was a bus. What a friendly guy! Hitch hiking makes you have faith in humanity!
I tried to call my host, GuyRo, because he had asked me to contact him when I got there. Unfortunately there was no signal on my phone this high up so I found my bus and then set off to play the banjo! I sat by the tracks and looked up at the Alps around me. I still can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that this is my life for a year. So thrilling! Anyway, I took my bus to Briancon, where I got cell signal and found out that GuyRo, his wife Celine, and three of their four children had actually driven to Oulx to meet me. This made me feel a little silly for making them go out of their way and spending an extra 10 euros for a bus, but they seemed happy to have dinner in Oulx and then drive back and all things considering my trip averaged out to 2c per mile. I got my passport checked, but not stamped ;(, and sat in the Hotel de Paris drinking wine, writing in my blog, and relaxing. GuyRo showed up and took me to his house, fed me dinner, and gave me the warmest welcome I can imagine. I could talk for a long time about the generosity and kindness of this family, but that will wait till next post. This is where I stayed:
Be well, kind readers!