...Guido and I did not get along very well when we first met. In fact, one could say that we were complete polar opposites.
So I think by now I can give an adequate, unbiased description on how Guido and I met in the first place.
When I first arrived in Italy my expectations were maybe a little too high.
I imagined going to school with a bunch of guys with flowing black hair, being served spaghetti sauce fresh from the garden (okay, I was gullible, I admit it), and travelling through Rome in a horse drawn carriage.
As I got off the plane and was met by my host family I walked through the airport on the delicate illusion that I was about to be swept into a whole different time period. In fact, I'm fairly certain people who watched me thought I was in some kind of stupor. Not only did I vaguely recall skipping in circles around my host family while emitting high pitched giggles, but I also remember flapping my arms, as if I were some strange sort of psychotic penguin that was trying to get air.
In reality, Italy is a bit different.
And I quickly realized that all the “Italian” that I’d been studying before my trip had only taught me three usable words—ciao, salve, bon giorno-- all of which meant the same thing: HELLO.
Needless to say, as my host family was babbling off to me in Italian, I could do nothing but smile and nod my head, at the same time searching for some sort of escape route in which I could take a plane back to the United States.
Our first conversation:
To placate my culture shock my host family decided that the best thing they could do was stuff spaghetti in my mouth every time I tried to speak. Whenever I tried to protest “mia madre” would smile and shove another forkful at my face. What’s worst, I made a discovery that was almost a deal-breaker for my exchange trip… my host mom didn’t actually know how to cook. Instead all the spaghetti was from the supermarket on the corner of the street. She cooked it in the microwave!
In desperation, I finally fled, feeling like my stomach was going to spontaneously combust. I called up my parents begging to come home and they gave me their best advice: “Drink some warm milk and you’ll feel better in the morning.”
Obviously my blubbering did not get much sympathy.
I stayed in my room with a terrible stomach ache for the next two days. Finally the growling of my stomach forced me to face the harsh Italian outdoors again (at which point Guido would like to add that on that day it was a record 94 degrees outside).
I bought a panini at the shop down the street. If you’ve ever tried to order from an Italian you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say that I had no choice in the matter. I pointed at one sandwich, he pointed at another, I said “I WANT A CHEESE PANINI” and he only shrugged and shook his head. Finally I gave up and handed him five euros and waited for him to make me a sandwich.
And then came the pivotal moment where I met Guido, who until that point had simply been another mouse on the street who enjoy mooching off of tourists’ food.
And this happened (I have circled the crime in question):
And my distress:
And then the chef (who I have aptly nicknamed the “Pillsbury Doughboy”) got us both kicked out as if it were my fault for bringing the mouse in:
Eventually I just sat on a street corner staring at my hands while a bunch of Japanese tourists took my picture (I was a “genuine Italian”, so they thought). It was at this point that I became dead certain that I was never going to survive my sophomore year of high school, or even one week for that matter. Soon I was blubbering and waving my hands spilling out my life story to a mouse and what’s more… he listened.
In a process of what may have been hallucination I became certain that Guido was talking to me. He told me his name was Guido. I was certain of it. He told me he liked art. When I walked home the mouse followed me all the way into the house (about a quarter mile’s walk, I might add).
By that time I was so grateful for the company of a creature that understood me and did not speak Italian that I swore that we would stick together no matter what and that we would pull through. I would be his interpretor (and protector from rogue cats) and he would help me out in exchange.
I’m not sure what my host family thought when they saw me talking to a mouse in my room, or when I began typing while he either a) sat on my shoulder or b) sat on the edge of the desk. But thus, Guido and I became a team.
This is a photograph I have found similar to the "closet nest" that Guido has made in my host family's house. Cozy...
Guido’s Quote of the Day: Tenere su la coda quando si arriva ad una pozza [Hold up your tail when you come to a puddle]