Bored with my daily work routine: wake up, ride horses, saddle horses, ride some more horses, saddle some more horses, ride some more horses, try not to fall off, ride some more, jog, eat, sleep, repeat—I was thankful for my day off.
It was my first day off after having worked in Sicily for a couple of months where I was spending the full day alone. My boss and the groom had left for a big competition in Rome. Six straight days of pushing wheelbarrows up hills that I swear had a ninety-degree angle, lifting hay bales, bucketing water, sweeping the aisles, bandaging and unbandaging the horses’ legs twice a day, multiplied by four legs per horse, and riding horses all day long had begun to wear on me. Needless to say, I was grateful for a half day of rest (since I still had to feed the horses of course.)
Here’s the thing. As tired and exhausted as my body was, I did not plan to sleep in on my one day of rest. I was going to take a jumping photo. Of me. Alone. On the beach. At sunrise. (And yes, it had to be sunrise and not sunset because the beach was facing East.)
That’s right. On my day of freedom, I woke up an extra hour EARLIER, 4:30am to be exact, and scrambled to get dressed so I could walk down with my camera in hand in time to watch the sunrise. The only thing was…the sun started to rise without me. About halfway down the big hill, which I swear is at a ninety-degree angle, I realized I might not make it in time for my perfect camera shot. What’s a girl to do?
I start running. Down the hill. A hill that I swear is ninety-degrees…
At last I make it to the beach, just in time for my perfect camera shot. I choose a decent spot on the beach for me to jump and begin toying with my camera. I settle it on a nearby rock and begin fiddling with the zoom, buttons and timer. Then I proceeded to hit the button, race to the place I had picked on the beach and try to time my jump just in time for the camera flash.
Three…two…one…now! Jump. Flash. Miss.
Three…two…one…Jump! Flash. Better…
Finally, I got the jump shot I had been hoping for. I smiled as I looked at my accomplishment on the camera film. Jumping photo in Italy: Check. Now to tell you the truth, I hadn’t actually planned anything much further than that and when I looked at my watch it suddenly occurred to me that it was too early to go to a patisserie for early morning breakfast. What to do other than head back home and sleep, right?
What I hadn’t realized while I had been jumping up and down like a ridiculous fool trying to get a decent photo of myself, and was thankful no one was around to see me, I had been wrong all along.
A small, local Italian fisherman had seen everything. He had been fiddling with his boat nearby, preparing to launch when a stranger—me—had caught his eye. He approached me shyly, greeting me with a good morning in pure Italian. After attempting to converse with one another, we both realized very quickly:
1) I didn’t speak any Italian
2) He didn’t speak any English
Luckily for me the little Romanian I understood and spoke was similar to Italian and somehow, I found myself able to understand the gist of what he was saying, don’t ask me for details though.
What would have been a lazy day spent inside my bed sleeping and feeding horses, somehow had turned into something else entirely when the man invited me to go fishing with him on his boat.
Now a normal person would most likely NEVER go with a strange man who 1) was alone 2) didn’t speak or understand your language 3) was smelling strongly of fish and 4) offered you a ride on a small dinky boat to who-knows-where for who-knows-how-long
“Andiamo!” I clapped cheerfully as I climbed into his boat. He handed me a pair of his spare fisherman gear, which turned out to be very useful while fishing, and I suited up. I’m one hundred percent sure I looked foolish for the second time that morning, but I didn’t care. I was going fishing!
The man climbed into the boat and revved the engine. Before I knew it, we were off sailing our way further and further into the sea towards Messina. After an eternity of wave jumping and coasting casually across the sparkling blue waters we slowed to a stop. Now I didn’t know the name of my so-called fisherman friend, so I asked him as best I could. Imagine my delight when I found out his name, no it doesn’t get any better than this, was Nemo.
Blonde girl that I am, I have never in my life gone fishing. Sure, I had grown up most of my childhood living on the Sacramento River had spent every summer on the coast of Oregon with my grandparents and learned to go crabbing…but still I had yet to test my skills in the art of fishing. And from the smell of things I was content to simply watch Nemo fish.
He would put the bait on the line, throw the long string into the water and continue to unravel the long string that he attached to the boat. He would play with the string and move it this way and that but to no avail. For over an hour I watched as he moved from one spot to another attempting to catch a fish. Other fishermen came and flashed smiles and friendly waves before we would move to a different location and start again.
To tell you the truth I was beginning to think my spontaneous adventure wouldn’t be so adventurous. I also hadn’t realized just how freezing cold sitting out in the middle of the waters was at 6 in the morning. I was shivering. I was wet. I was hungry. (Yes, I was hungry for fish. Stupid fish. Just take the bloody bait already!) To top it all off, the language barrier between me and the Italian man sitting across from me made for one very dull chit chat. The few times we attempted to speak to each other just ended with a few polite head nods—the universal signal meaning: I don’t understand a word your saying but let me nod my head and politely pretend I do so you can shut up and we can sit in silence.
And just when I thought nothing interesting would ever happen, something interesting happened.
My Italian friend began pointing and waving and shouting in Italian. He kept repeating the word: “Delfino, delfino!” But of course, I didn’t understand what he was excited about so I glanced casually in the direction he was pointing. I had my camera ready and began aiming it randomly, trying to figure out what the big hype was about. The man became very frustrated and tried even harder to grab my attention. His hands waved furiously and his sentences became too fast and lengthy for me to comprehend.
“The birds?” I said aloud as I attempted to take a photo of a seagull swooping into the water and catching a fish.
“No! No! Mama Mia…”
And then I saw it.
“Dolphins!!!” I squealed. I had never in my life seen a dolphin, much less a pod of wild dolphins. The following ten minutes were the greatest ten minutes I could have asked for as I watched the wild dolphins swim right past our small fishing boat. “Baby dolphins!” I laughed as I took photo after photo. We watched the dolphins swim until we could see them no more in the distance. I was truly stunned.
And that is the story of my first day off alone in Italy. After that I returned home to the stables, fed the horses, ate some delicious Italian pastries and caught up on some much-needed sleep.