Finding a Source of Food Supplies Becomes a ChallengeIt’s Thursday morning and for the for two days I have been living on a box of chocolates , a pack of powdered milk, Mad Cow is raging in Europe this year, a box of tea bags from home, some vegemite and a pack of muesli bars.
This is a foreign land and I am alone. I am a female in a male-dominated environment. I also struggle remembering my left and right and get lost easily. I feel walking in the middle of the day is safest so around 11am leave the safety of my 5000-year-old apartment. I struggle down the dark, narrow staircase to the city street. I am almost blinded by the light as I step out into the sun. I have a map and I have asked various strangers and passersby about the whereabouts of a food or fruit and vegetable shop, finding a source of food supplies becomes a challenge. I have a destination. I am excited now as I feel I will replenish my dwindling stock today. I walk the 1kilometre to the Santa Spirito Plaza – everything here is named after a saint which is of absolutely no value because as yet my prayers are falling on deaf ears.
Nothing that vaguely resembles a supermarket or deli reveals itself to me. I have spied a local with a bag of fruit but can no longer see him. My chance has passed. I keep looking and walking around in circles, I am tired and now I consider my prospects of actually finding my apartment in a city that has millions of them that all look the same and has streets that go in all directions, following the paths of ancient chariot wheels. I think I best head back I don’t want to be out after dark. Perhaps I will venture out tonight to the little restaurant down the stairs from my apartment. I will risk the eyes and comments of people who never see a female or any person for that matter, walking alone and one that dares to eat alone is an almost unacceptable patron, one to be shoved in the tiniest corner where no one can possibly see her and perchance smile or engage in a conversation that may happily lead to an explanation as to where the food comes from.
Hunger provides courage and I go to eat, pasta, long white strings coated in rich red Mediterranean tomatoes, delicious, I am glad I came out. I eat my pasta and drink my wine alone. I speak to no one and no one speaks to me. I go home and enjoy my last chocolate for dessert. Tomorrow will be the best day ever, and I will find that supermarket. Friday I am a woman on a mission. More directions exchanged in faulty English and even more in even more faulty Italian. I start to worry, then I force myself to stop, the inhabitants of this amazing historical city must eat, not everyone eats long white strings of pasta served in a restaurant every night, do they? I think not. I walk! Three hours I walk, it is raining now, not heavy but just enough to be wet and bleak. I ask once more for directions and finally, resort to begging for someone to walk to the shops with me. The gesticulating and pointing to blank walls is confusing me even more. ‘I need help I say’. ‘ I am desperate I say.’ ‘ I need to find a supermarket’. I am not kidding the apartment has not run out of the supplied roll of toilet paper which I so generously allowed myself to squander when I first arrived.
The tissues are being rationed but it is touch and go, one more days use. I tell my sad story to a travel agent and he seems to get it when I start saying ‘carta igienta’ and indicate I have run out of the same. ‘Right outside across the road directly from here,’ he says, looking at me with an uncertain expression, it may be fear or maybe he wants to laugh. Who knows? I know he is lying to me, I have walked up and down this street at least a dozen times today alone. Remember I am a female alone. Street walking can be misconceived and dangerous but I am risking all in my quest. ‘Please walk with me there’. He gets up walks to the door and points across the street. ‘Here.’ ‘Here it is. Despora!’ What! He is gesticulating wildly at a dirty corrugated iron garage door. All I say is, ‘What are you saying?’ ‘It is closed’ he says ‘doors drawn down’. ‘What?’ I say. With all the intelligence of a stunned frustrated alien expressed in my face. ‘All Despora closed until 5 or 6 pm. They open at 8am close at 11am.’ It is 4.15pm. It is dark because of the rain. I am cold wet and yes, lost again. So no I must choose, homemade dinner and toilet paper and a 45minute wait on tired feet and anxious mind, or just try to find the apartment collapse in a heap, eat white strings in red sauce in the corner, out of sight and mind, and hope I don’t have to go to the toilet. I decide prudence to be the better part of valor (whatever that means) and off I go. I consult the map for the 1ooth time this week. A map I have absolutely no faith in, and I walk. I mark the supermarket on the map, note the street name and the cross street, pray that the shop will still be here in the morning, hoist my backpack and set off in grim determination for home.
Some men loitering in the street pass comment as i walk by. I don’t’ want them to know they have unnerved me so I give them the look. You know the one men give each other in traffic. Obviously, they understand this look because they laugh and wave at me but don’t bother me. Good luck and a God, who operates independently of the saints, cares for me I see a road I am familiar with. Via De Maggio. My street comes off this one. Two streets more than turn left and my street will be in front of me. It’s not. What have I done? Now I will have to go back the way I came but I don’t want to because of the men. I turn back uncertain. How could I have missed my street? I have been walking for nearly 2hours I am really tired and heavily aware I am way outside my comfort zone, on aback streett in Florence in Italy in Europe somewhere. I am alone a long way from home. Any home! Then I see my street, it is on the right. Somehow it has moved, Well actually it is now on the left because I am walking the wrong way. Sorry don’t get confused, it was actually on the other side of the road in exactly the opposite direction than I had supposed it to be. How do buildings and roads move like that?. It is beyond my comprehension. Thankful and relieved I am home I collapse on the coach. I am too tired to eat anyway so I have a cup of tea and go to bed., Saturday, I am up, showered, dressed and had my tea, eaten the last muesli bar and prepared to be out the door by 7am. I study the map. I take into account my inability to recognise left from right and my inability to read a map. I write down every move I must make from here to the shop. Today I will do it, I must do it. I walk out the door and turn left. Walk down the Via De Maggio and keep walking. It is a long windy street, just stick with it, no shortcuts. Via De Maggio doglegs to become Via De Romano, walk fifty meters approximately, and there is the Desporo. It is open! The roller door is gone and a neat little shop window is in its place. Can you imagine how excited I am, it is like discovering Aladdin’s cave. Across the street near the Travel agent a little greengrocer has manifested overnight. No wonder they call this the country of miracles. I purchase all sorts of amazing stuff. I walk triumphantly home. I think I will go out tonight to celebrate, I deserve it and I am too tired to cookArthur: Dawn La Puma Please visit Serendipity Gallery Face Book Page, link bellow