Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fish Out Of Water Rule # 3 Learn the Language Basics Before You Leave Home!

The view from a side street in beautiful Assisi 

How many of you get all fired up to learn a language before you head off to visit a new country? I’m raising my hand. : ) How many actually do it? You’re not alone. 
Two months before I was going to leave on a four week trip to Tuscany, I checked out several Italian language books from the library. Being a good Girl Scout, I wanted to have at least a few basic phrases memorized before I left. The books sat in my office gathering dust until I looked at the calendar and realized I was leaving in five days! I crammed like I was studying for a college final. Then life took over and the books once again sat gathering dust on my desk. 

Once on the plane with my Italian cheat sheet, I realized I had only managed to memorize two phrases. How much is that? And, Where is the toilet? Better than nothing, and certainly useful, but once in Italy I realized I should have hit the books with a little more gusto. Eight words weren't going to get me very far. 

My trip to the beautiful medieval town of Assisi is a prefect example. The town is  full of impressive cathedrals and quaint cobblestone roads. The layout however, is very confusing. The labyrinth of streets all seem to be heading farther and farther away from civilization and up the steep hillside. Once I l left the popular churches behind, the chances of finding a bathroom diminished until large bushes were looking very attractive. 

Crossing my legs and wishing my jeans were a size larger, I staggered over to a group of older women and said, "Where is the toilet?"

They proceeded to wave their arms and point down one street and toward another and then they smiled and said, “Ciao!” 

I stomped my feet in frustration. Why hadn’t I learned the basics? Turn right, turn left, go down the hill three blocks, all would have come in very handy. Instead, I wandered around the towns back streets until I finally found a caf√©. I practically knocked a woman over to get to the toilet. The relief was short. When I came out of the bathroom I faced a very unhappy husband who’s words needed no translation. He called me every name in the book.

Moral of the story, do yourself a favor and always follow Fish Out of Water Rule #3, Learn the Language Basics Before You Leave Home. Your bladder will thank you.  



  1. Haha, Anne! I remember asking - in what I thought was good Italian - which way to the Trevi Fountain and being answered in perfect English. They can spot an American a mile away!

  2. LOl Nicole. I was lost in the Assisi version of boonieville. : )