So seeing as I am a poor student and thus never do anything but sleep, eat, watch comedy shows and look at the occasional book or twelve, I have decided, in the interest of you, my readers, to rewind back to 2007 and write a few bits and pieces about my favourite ever summer adventure thus far: Italy.
I had a wee inkling back in the Arts days to do a bit of travelling (inkling currently on mute until financial situation looking a bit happier) and so it came to me- the clouds parted, the sun shone upon me and the heavens spoke to me. And they impressed upon me the idea of TEFL… Of course! To teach English would suit perfectly. I mean, I speak the language, how hard can it be?!
So I signed up and Tefled myself up the walls for a week or two. And then promptly forgot about it until I received an email telling me my time to complete the course was up. I hurriedly paid another fee (via the parents, bless their wallets) and finally finished it up a while later. And voila, just like that, I was a qualified to teach english as a foreign language.
Flash forward a few months to Oxford, where I was sitting at a grey desk in a greyish room in a greyish type of student accommodation: I believe I was transcribing what I distinctly remember to be 30 hour interview, despite the total time of it misleadingly reading a mere 45 minutes? Nonsense I tell you, it was most certainly around the 29.5 hour mark. So I was sitting there at about half past 11 at night, bored and procrastinating. Aaaand as one does, I happened to check my email. And I happened to find the TEFL summer jobs email that gets sent round every so often. And I just happened to browse through it. And, just for the hell of it, as I had nothing else to do, I clicked apply on a few of the summer camps jobs, knowing full well that I wouldn’t get the job anyway. However apparently the camp were on the look out for randomers such as myself and they asked me nicely to prove someone such as myself can speak english, and on production of my certificate and a copy of the auld English degree they double checked it, frowningly triple checked it, and gave it a ‘well it looks real enough, lets see if she can make it over’ doing and asked me on board.
Well, that sorted it. I was going to Italy for a month in the summer. Most excellent. Given that most of what happened for the next few months revolved around exams and such and nobody really gives hoot about such things, I shall fast forward again to the day before I flew to Nice.
Just to bring you up to speed – the plan was to fly from Dublin to Nice (in France), hop on a bus to town, find the train station, get a train to San Remo in Italy. This is all without a word of Italian in my vocabulary, you understand, and about 20 or so of french. Such as the one phrase we taught Orla going into Leaving Cert french spoken exams: ‘Je deteste la francais , l’ecole et la (le?) prof’ (This stuck with me over the past few years of course). By the way if those la/le thingys are incorrect I apologise profusely and beg your forgiveness. I am not a language person I’m afraid. But I was going to San Remo! (Like in The Talented Mr. Ripley – wonderful film!)
There we would be trained in the art of shouting at Italian children or such and be assigned to our Italian homes, where we would receive a new mammy and daddy of the Italian fashion. Beloved Italian homes… Anywho, so the wonderful Christina who was organising the whole shebang found out our flights and kindly emailed those who would be on the same ones. I was to meet a ‘Liz from Belfast’ and a ‘Derek from Florida’ at Dublin airport. We all got each others numbers and such and the plan was to find each other and become ‘BFFs’. Yeeaaaah. I was a little apprehensive about this whole meeting shenanigans, and pictured myself ending up sitting beside a couple of crazies and such, possibly due to watching just a little too much telly (Red eye anyone?). Speaking of telly I am currently watching The Shining. That kid is all kinds of scary… As is his charming father.
So on with the story. I headed down to Dublin for an 8am flight to Nice and give Liz a text. We were to meet at the desk. Now there is little that you will do in life that will make you feel quite as noticeably awkward as standing beside a check in desk not queueing, and looking out for a person that you do not know and who does not know you. You stand there, giant rucksack propped against your feet, keeping one leg in the strap in case somebody tries to rob the bloody thing (I’m from the country, you hear stories). If someone had tried they still would have gotten it and probably would have broken my leg to boot. In retrospect this was not my most intelligent decision regarding stance. You must remember that this was approximately 6 o’clock in the morning though, and it can be (and has been) said that I am not a morning person. Ar aon nos, every few minutes a grumpy looking ruffled person dragging a clicking wheeled suitcase (my rucksack and I snorted in laughter at these squares) would come and stand behind you until you shuffled around, trying not to trip on the aforementioned strap, and awkwardly mumble something about ‘not actually queueing if you want to go ahead there’. You were, in return for your honesty, fixed with a stare that would have turned Hell into a place resembling the North Pole, and the grumpy person would snatch their roll-y suitcase up, mutter under their breath (a lot of this was en Francais) and saunter off to stand behind another unknowing traveller innocently waiting to meet their soon to be BFF’s.
And so I stood there, giving shy smiles to anybody who looked as though they were looking for a clueless Irish girl who was off to Italy. I got a lot of confused looks from people passing by. And then I heard a resounding Belfast accent from behind me ‘Sarah?’ It took me a second to put this information to use. I remind you of the 6.30am thing. It went something like ‘…Sarah.. That’s my name… Ha, imagine’ *No reaction. ..Hey that sounded like a someone with a Belfast accent. *No reaction. Oh hang on am I not I looking for Liz with a Belfast accent looking for me i.e. Sarah?’ Theeere we go *Wheel around. ‘Oh, Hey, I’m Sarah! Hi. Yeah that’s me! Hi, how are you? How was your bus from Belfast???’ (And then ‘Eh, you are Liz right? I’ve just babbled onto you for a whole minute please be Liz’)
Sidenote: Just got to the ‘All work and no play’ part of The Shining. Rather scared the bejaysus out of me.
Well it was Liz! That is how I met the lovely Liz. She was training as a teacher and up for the craic! We chatted away about the usual awkward mundane stuff as we made our way through security and during the hour or two we had to wait! There was no sign of Derek, however, until we arrived in Nice (FRANCE, I WAS IN FRANCE!!! For all of 3 hours). His adjoining flight had come in late and his luggage had been mislaid (shock!). We all found each other in Nice though, and had a wee chat and such and got to know each other. And neither of them were crazies! It was all rather lovely.
We somehow managed to figure out how on earth to get out of the airport and found a bus that looked like it might be going in a direction of some sort, and any direction was good for us! Hey, we were in France! Miraculously it dropped us off in a place resembling what may have been the town centre and dotted with pastry shops and cafes. We were in France! In fact we were famished in France. And surrounded by dainty looking cafes with the most amazing scents wafting out. My chocolate radar was buzzing. We stumbled, bleary eyed, over to the nearest dinky little shop, a tiny affair with shelves behind a glass screen loaded with delicious looking pastries of all types. We each bought about 12 and hastily devoured them in a single bite. All 12 of them (I never exaggerate). It was heaven.
Following this massacre of French (real French!) pastry, we hopped to it and, having acquired some unclear directions from a cafe worker/random lady in an apron (I don’t know how the french fashion rolls in Nice) involving much gesturing of weird wheel type movements and ‘chooo-chooo’ sound effects, we deduced that the station was about a days hike south over a mountain, through a jungle, and I believe a final 4 hour boat trip away. So off we went.
It turns out that it was 2 streets away, and since we found it on our way to the mountain, no harm was done. We were able to obtain tickets without the same level of gesturing as ‘San Remo’ and using an index finger as a universal sign for ‘1 ticket’ and ‘1 way’ seemed to do the trick.
We boarded a train for San Remo and lo and behold it left the station on time! It was madness!
But there, my dear readers I shall leave it for part one. Part two will be forthcoming, but for now I have to go and cower under my blankets in fear, as I know that if I leave my room after watching The Shining there will most certainly be an axe-wielding maniac waiting for me. It’s just a fact of life. So it’s hiding under the blankets for me. Until I remember the 6th sense and that terrifying bit.. Oh deary me.