Friday, November 13, 2009

The Kindness of Strangers

By Claire
I want to mention something that happened, and continues to happen while we are here at Camping Jonio in Cantania, Sicily. The night of the wine and chestnuts party Chuck and I wandered up to the restaurant but everyone was sitting down eating dinner and we had already eaten. I can’t stand walking into a situation that is awkward and I wasn’t sure what to do. Chuck’s inclination was to go ahead inside and wait for the party to start. Mine was to flee. We were standing on the steps outside the restaurant in the dark when I turned to go, completely missing the bottom step and landing hard on my hands and knees. I wasn’t hurt, just really shaken up and a bit chagrined. So that was it for me. It was the last straw in all that had happened in the couple of days before. I told him I didn’t want to go and headed back to Homer. He came back with me to make sure I was alright and I encouraged him to go.

I decided to change into my “reading” clothes and hop into bed. They consist of a t-shirt and nothing else. Next thing I knew, there was a knock at the door. I don’t know why I thought it was Chuck. Why would he knock? I opened the door and there was Ebe, our Danish neighbor. We both kind of reared back, mostly in mock horror at my lack of attire, but then he asked if I knew about the party and was I coming? I told him I knew and that my husband was up there. This conversation went on with me pulling my t-shirt hem down as far as it would go, about an inch. He smiled and left, eyes averted.

Something about the fact that he went to the trouble to see if I was going to the party made me change my mind. I quickly dressed and walked up to the restaurant where the party was in progress. I joined Chuck and that’s how we met Gino and Denise and ended up having such a special day on Mt. Etna. When Ebe and his wife Helle, left, he mimed mock horror and covered his eyes.

This morning, Gino was determined to solve our problem with the “O” ring. He talked to several people, and even produced another camper, David from England, who used to be a professional driver. They figured it out and determined that with practice, Chuck can just double clutch if this problem arises. I say “just” sarcastically. I can’t even imagine having to deal with something like that. Meanwhile, Gino found a bike shop and he and Chuck are walking over there right now with the bent bike wheel. Gino will lead the way and take care of the language.

I feel like a ton of bricks has been lifted off my shoulders. Chuck is feeling pretty positive too although worries about how this will work out in the end when we turn the camper in. I can’t think about that now. I’m trying my best to live in the moment. I told Gino he has added 10 years to my life and he asked if he could have 6 months of it. I placed my hands on his shoulders and squeezed it into him.

Tonight he is putting on a dinner for everyone in this campground community. There will probably be about 18 people. I am so touched by the kindnesses we have been shown. Gabriela in the office has been wonderful and signed me up to get discounts at all the member campgrounds in Sicily. We had seriously thought about driving back to Amsterdam to deal with the problem but now we will get to continue our journey through Sicily. I wish I could find the right words to express my gratitude. Life is definitely good.

The lovebirds

The more I travelled the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends. ~ Shirley MacLaine


Toni said...

I love your lovebirds. How wonderful that you met them on this trip. And now you can see them in Wales!

Pat in Santa Cruz said...

How wonderful to read about the kindness you've experienced. [Claire, I hadn't realized how similar we are in approaching a social situation such as that dinner party!!] I love the fact that you have friends as a part of being a community of campers! The views of lava, a volcano etc were amazing. That one of the 4 of you on black sand is really something. I hadn't expected that when thinking of Italy. How fun it will be to see the lovebirds again in Wales. Wishing you good fortune with Homer!

Diane said...

Your individual descriptions of the same experiences were wonderful! Claire, I'm still laughing about you opening the door in your mini-tee. The way the party unfolded and the kindnesses of those who have helped you out this past week, more than make up for the prior week's challenges. People are essentially good, but the few bad apples get the press. Some of these kind folks you will never see again and others you will have long connections with. These last two posts were very heartwarming--thanks for sharing!