Before I start talking about my trip to Europe, I should mention that in many ways I am embarrassingly American. I'm monolingual. I'm fat. And in many ways, I'm terribly ignorant of the shape of the world. For example, until a couple years ago, I didn't know where Belgium was. True story.
This means that about 95% of my knowledge about Italy comes from two sources. 1) The movie Hudson Hawk. 2) The episode of Angel where they go to Rome to face down the Immortal.
This is important because Rome was going to be our first stop on our European walkabout.
Sarah was good about preparing herself for the trip. She did research. She got phrase books. She looked at maps. I was too busy getting the first draft of the book ready to do much preparation. I didn't study any languages. I didn't look at any tourist guides. I know that somewhere in Rome there's old stuff and a cool fountain. I know that somewhere in England there's Stonehenge. Somewhere in Amsterdam there are whores. Other than that, I'm flying blind….
And I do mean flying. Our flight goes from Central Wisconsin --> Detroit --> Amsterdam --> Rome. I've done a lot of flying in the last couple years, but this is different by an order of magnitude. Pretty much a whole waking day spent in the air.
Interesting fact: When you get pregnant, your body makes a bunch of extra blood. Pints and pints. Sarah told me this. She's a font of bizarre information about pregnancy. "Today Oot is growing a pancreas," she'll say. "Now he has gills like a fish."
I'm fairly certain that she makes a lot of it up. But still, I look attentive whenever she gives me these facts. Partly because I prefer things that are interesting to things that are true, but also because Sarah will cry at the drop of a hat under normal circumstances. Pregnancy has magnified this amusing quirk in a exponential way.
I actually took a video of her crying on the trip. Yes really. These things need to be recorded for the sake of science. She cries because she's upset, then I cheer her up and she cries because she's happy. Then she cries because she loves me. Then she cries because she's crying.
I probably shouldn't post that video without asking her, but here's a picture, just add a little verisimilitude.
Witness my mad comforting skills. She was weeping just minutes before this picture. After all these years with Sarah, I can stop someone's crying jag with two hugs and less than 50 words. You'll be tear-free in 60 seconds or your money back.
By the way, Oot is the baby's in-utero name. I figured we couldn't just call it "it" until it was born, so I gave him a temporary name. It's pronounced like "boot" without the "b." Just so we're clear.
Anyway, the point is that pregnant women have a lot of extra blood. So Sarah says. I can't remember her saying if it happens to all women, or just her. For all I know it might be something Sarah decided to do on her own.
Either way, apparently all this extra blood makes it a bad idea for her to sit still for long periods of time. There's a risk of blood clots. To prevent this, she has special stockings to wear and instructions to get up and walk around regularly.
Luckily, the guy next to me is willing to switch seats so Sarah can sit next to me. It's easy to forget if you watch too much news, but the vast majority of people in the world are kind and generous.
The down side is that Sarah's fear of blood clots combined with her favorite hobby, peeing, means that she wants to get up every three and a half minutes. This means that I, sitting in the isle seat, have to get up so often you'd think I was doing jumping jacks.
Why didn't I just give her the isle seat, you ask? Well... mostly because I like the isle seat. And jumping jacks, for that matter.
Eventually we made it to Amsterdam. And while Sarah and I were walking to the new gate so we could catch our connecting flight to Rome, I hear two people talking behind us. They're speaking Italian, and I hear one of them exclaim, "Mama Mia!" He says it twice in the time it takes us to get to the gate.
What really throws me off is the fact that he sounds like a bad stereotype. His accent sounds exactly like someone pretending to have an over-the-top Italian accent. If a really bad sitcom was going to have an embarrassingly unoriginal Italian character, that character would say "Mama mia!" in exactly this way.
Since this is, in many some ways, my first European experience, I can't help but wonder: is all Europe going to be like this? Are all the stereotypes true? Will a dark, handsome Italian man try to seduce Sarah? Will English food be horrifyingly bad? Are the French going to wear berets and mime at me?
These were my thoughts as our plane touched down in Rome….
posted by Pat at 2:25 AM