A glimpse at our ways

When the sun rose and the airport filled with travelers, my brother and I headed to our gate, ready to leave the extreme heat of Tunisia and get back to Europe after a quick detour. When we arrived, we saw a huge crowd filling the area and a long line for boarding stretched from wall to wall. Without realizing that our tickets did not give assigned seats, we waited for the line to go down and approached the gate, which would lead us outside where we were to walk up the actual stairs of the plane. We were the last passengers boarding, so there was no chance we would be able to find seats together, right? Wrong. I knew my brother enough to know there was a plan. I got a quick nudge on the shoulder and a whisper in my ear: “Ann, I’m special needs and you are my helper. Go.” There it was. He gave me no chance to resist before he put his head down and went mute. Thanks a lot. As I put my hand on his shoulder, I thought about my inevitable afterlife destination below and boarded the plane. With no help from Joey, I played charades with a seated passenger for a few minutes before a light bulb of comprehension went off and he got up. The man was barely out of his seat before my brother plopped down, brought his head back up, and gave me his signature smirk. Mission accomplished.

The Mighty, Mighty Dolomites

Goodbye Greece, Hallo Austria! (we hope)

Jonny and I did the 18 hour ferry ride, NOT with the gorgeous Portuguese students, Maria and Marta. How we failed to ferry with them saddens me. In fact, I felt a slight nausea all 18 hours we cruised up the Adriatic Sea. Jonny didn’t seem as bothered.

However, that was all apart of yesterday. Today, we sleep in back of a butcher shop with that adorable little Austrian woman our friend was so fond of, Giulia! Cute in every way. Except her father has been carving up carcasses with big bloody knives all his life… The old career butcher.  He owned the only butcher shop in the small mountain town.   Talk about an opportunity for the bold! I wonder how much cutlery he actually has… Does he enjoy the sensation of slicing through fresh flesh? Do meat grinders really work the way The Sopranos suggest?

All right! Lets not misuse the imagination here. And all those worries slipped to the far back off my mind, to join the company of linear algebra and Power Ranger nemesis.

We had a mountain to climb. A big one. The Lienz Dolomites, some 9,000 foot snow-capped mountains that presided over the strawberry fields of Austria.   It was story-book.

We’d drive until it was too steep.  A few hours from there, the steepness doubled.  I was amused by the Austrian cows.   There was something special about them.   A different coat, droopier loose skin, a more soul surrendering glare.   These were the only cows that deserve to be depicted on milk cartons!    We must have hiked all day in the open slopes.  The Sound of Music.  At some exhausting hour, we did arrive to a cabin, that was considerably the “top”.   It wasn’t but for now, we’ll play along.  The sun glistened off blankets of snow, which surrounded a deeply ominous blue lake.  The air was warmish but the water was sub-zero. Last week an Aussie went hypothermic on a dare. Apparently, he dared himself.  Aussies.

Sub-zero?  Wouldn’t it be ice?  Don’t argue with Austrians.  J, lay and lift.   Jonny and Joey were averted with boyish curiosities.  Two strapping young lads with an innocent appetite for mischievous fun.   There was higher to climb.   How could we not investigate?   We walked up the snow, and back down to re-route when we ran into impassible conditions.  We stared out and yelled in replies to our own echoes, with the assumption no one near and avalanches out of season.   We free climbed short feats and crossed snow banks towards the nearing peaks.  Alas!  Others climbing in search of the true top.  They had ropes.  And harnesses.  And an actual sense of what they were doing.   We decided them geed, and we were beyond.

We found the perfect place for a picnic!  Clean grey mountain peak, with the snow just beside, perfect for cooling beers.  Our rock was flat, and we’d be able to lay out a blanket to make sandwiches.   We didn’t actually have any picnic supplies, but had we, this would have been ideal.   A view.  Got segna! For Austria’s augustus and regal.   Far above the foliage and flat fields, the tingling rush through the toes as I tried to breath in where I was.  Heights are freakishly exhilarating.  How easily I could tumble to my death, right from my perfect little picnic spot.

We looked down on small airplanes that flew pass.  Let me emphasis that.  We were above the airplanes.   And we hiked here!  We storied and punned, jested and quipped about drinking, women and world domination.  Typical fratty dialogue.  The world slowly turned and the breeze blew.   Nothing but delight in the heart and muse on our simple American boy minds.

You ever see how happily oblivious puppies are?

Learning to trust strangers

Departure from Genoa

A tap on the shoulder came from a tall, middle-aged man with dark skin. I looked up from my position on the carpeted floor, startled, but curious at the same time. I couldn’t think of what he could want from me. At first, the man tried a French greeting with no luck, moved on to Italian- our ticket’s departure read Genoa, so I saw the connection- and finally, brow furrowed and seemingly unsure of his next move, looked to my sleeping brother. I gave Joey a shove and repeated his name as the curious Tunisian joined in. Pointing at my brother, I said, “hermano.” Spanish? Worth a try, I guess. Joey’s eyes opened and he jumped up, hitting his sleepy head on a table of the vacant dining area along the way. The man motioned for my brother to follow him and Joey complied. I, on the other hand, sat frozen in the same position for what felt like a lifetime. I urged my phone to read anything but No Service, knowing full well that no magical bars were going to pop up in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. There were no other white faces around and the English language seemed non-existent on this boat. How did I not notice any of this before? By the time the pair returned, I had envisioned everything from my kidnapping to my funeral. The movie Taken flashed through my mind, the only difference lay in the fact that my father practiced law, not crazy, ex-CIA-type stunts like Liam Neeson. And what would they do with Joey? He could probably pass as a Tunisian, right? Escape and live on to tell the tale of his blonde little sister that just couldn’t cut it? I also kept picturing the look on the faces of my parents when they learned that their two middle children took a 24-hour ferry to Africa without telling a soul. It turned out, though, that our new friend just wanted to offer us the extra bed in his room. We called him Bene, unaware that his repeated use of the word only meant that he thought we spoke Italian. My brother slept with a makeshift handkerchief-tied-to-metal-water-bottle weapon, and in the morning, Bene brought us bread and showed us pictures of his children on his iPhone.

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From a young age, we are taught that strangers can be dangerous. Plenty of parents warn children against talking to strangers, refuse to let them play outside without adult supervision, and keep them at their side while department store-shopping. They can’t help but picture their child on the side of a milk carton, and that’s because other people’s children have ended up on a milk carton. We women have all been told never to leave a drink unattended, walk alone at night through a dark alley, or pick up strangers on the side of the road. We avoid these situations so bad things don’t happen to us, and that’s because bad things have happened to other women. We are taught that strangers can be dangerous, and that’s because they can. But what we have to learn for ourselves, even if it means half trusting our gut and half planning our own funeral in the process, is that strangers, even if they are from a foreign land, even if they don’t speak the same language, and even if they definitely have the upper hand in the situation, can also be kind, giving, wonderful, harmless individuals that we just haven’t met yet.

The Pink Palace: Playful, Naked & Drunken Good Fun

The Greek Islands are where revels’ dreams drink. After a month of performing in Rome as hired-partiers, promoters and all else hedonic, we hopped ferry from Bari to the explore the islands.  We ventured as if it was the righteous responsibility of American Frat Boys.   We had the the internationally-acclaimed Party Paradise: The Pink Palace on the island of Corfu in our crosshairs.

Corfu’s history is ladened with battles and conquests. This region shaped our world. The entirety of earth is, one way or another, enriched by Greek thought, politics, games, fables, people. The stories are savagely inspiring.

Today, the terrain is lush with olive groves and vineyards. Nestled in the serene, peace-green and the breathtaking calm, is the Pink Palace. These vibrantly painted pink playgrounds are the definition of “PARTY HOSTEL”. Regally watching the morning glisten on the Mediterranean, the Pink Palace invites travelers from around the world to challenge the legends and fulfill the myths.

A fresh inhale of island air, becomes my breath, and I nod agreeably with the infinite sky. As if Zues, in all his might, brought the morning to me.

WARNING: Only visit to the Pink Palace if you are willing to wage war on your own chaste and virtue. The Pink Palace will get the best of you.

The Pink Palace will strip you naked for an extra 3 points in volleyball or convince you to chug from the jug of sun-warmed wine. After that, the Pink Palace will suggest you full-frontal lick a stranger’s face, even after she’s been sporting in the thick island heat all morning… You might oblige.  I did.  It all made too much sense at the time. Every which way, the Pink Palace encourages boozing and nuding as core principles for irreconcilable fun. The blaze of the Mediterranean warmth burnt us umber. We 50 hostel guests draped our bear bodies in soft pink silk togas.  This was the dress code for our gathering in the grand dining hall for a celebratory supper.  We feasted gloriously with no mind for gluttony.  Indulging to excess had become expected.

With stories and laughs, songs and anecdotes of the brave and the brazen, an evening of shameless celebration commenced.  We stuffed our faces with fruits and cheeses, breads and fish, washing It all down by the gulp, until the jugs of wine hallowed. Beneath the night stars, listening to the lapping Mediterranean. A cool breeze after a long day of booze-cruising to private pebble beaches and bluffs we drunkenly climbed & jumped.

Here, there are no evils, and the thought of danger was too distant to acknowledge. Johny jumped from a 45 foot cliff ass-naked for a can of cheap beer. He splashed into the water, cautiously cradling his junk. Johny learned from the German who jumped before him, and was now moaning and coddling his battered testies….and waving good-bye to his ego.

Fornication and drugs, sun shine, blue sees, food, a light breeze and no world beyond our peripherals.  If you need me, I’ll be belching at the top of my lungs until we wake the pits of hell.  There was no mercy for the timid, the palace was a challenge of endurance and most will lie saying they can handle it.

The Pink Palace is the paragon of promiscuity, laughing in the face dignity.  It is a delightful debauchery that will suck you in and spit you out. Again I heed you, Only visit to the Pink Palace if you are willing to wage war on your own chaste and virtue.