That One Time…When Rome knocked me down, then picked me right back up

Part I, as told on Instagram: 

I’m breaking my “I never post pictures out of order” rule to give the latest evidence of my complex relationship with the beautiful yet even more complex city of #rome️. Every time we see each other, this city knocks me down and then somehow sets me back upright, stronger than ever. In this photo taken on the last morning of a fantastic trip, please observe my über trendy getup (love) that I decided to wear on the metro (because I’m a super-savvy traveler, right?) on my way to #terministation to catch the train to the airport for my long-awaited flight home. Now please re-observe through the eyes of one of Rome’s famously abundant pick-pocketers (cha-ching) and the rest is history. Here goes the story… my wallet was stolen out of my purse (through the latch and zipper and everything!). Luckily it didn’t have my credit, debit, and Japanese residence cards in it (at least I’m smart enough to separate things) but it did have the one and only thing I care about as a #tck #expat #traveler #girlgi … mi pasaporte. It was nearing 8am and I resorted through my tears that I would not be making my 11:15am flight back to #tokyo that morning. And then the part of Rome that I love and know so well did what it always does. It took care of me and somehow got me on that damn flight. Now this post is getting way too long so you’ll have hear the rest of the story in the blog post that I realize now I’ll have to write. #travelmiracles #thirdcultureteacher #expatlife #tcklife #girlgoneinternational #girlgi #expatproblems #tckproblems #firstworldproblems 

Part II, #travelmiracles

I choked down my tears at the thought of going another day without seeing my husband (it had been practically 3 weeks) and wandered up to the Rome polizia like a lost little girl, feeling more vulnerable and distraught than I can remember feeling in a long time. The towering officer seemed kind, yet lacking patience for the girl who could barely steer her suitcase and carry her overstuffed carry-on baggage.

“No problem, you go to your embassy.” As he pointed to my iphone, dangerously peeking out of my pocket, waiting to join my passport in pick-pocket heaven. I ripped it out of my pocket and into my tight grasp, then pulled off my stupid Sorrento sun hat (actually it was adorable, but in an I’m-lying-on-the-beach-in-positano way, not an I’m-a-savvy-city-traveler way), and sheepishly trudged to the line of taxis where I proceeded to get ripped off by the taxi driver who conveniently “forgot” to turn on the meter until minutes into the short ride through the historical center. At this point, my anger perked up and I fired back with my rusty negotiation skills, yet settled on the easy (ridiculous) price of 10 euros out of pure annoyance. Thank goodness I still had my euros packed in my second wallet (take that suckers!).

I got to the U.S. embassy and marched straight past the long line and up to the, once again, towering yet kind police officer. Oh, and guess what – this one was as patient as could be.

It was at this point that the wave of gratitude came over me, along with a familiar sense of security that I have had the privilege to experience throughout my overseas life (ahem, all my life). I have had, currently have, and will surely continue to have many beefs with my home country, but the benefits I experience, especially while living in familiar yet foreign lands, is certainly not lost on me. How many people can look at an American flag amidst a foreign language and feel relief? I fully realize that this symbol can represent something completely other than freedom for so many around the world, and this still hurts my heart. But I have to humbly admit, that in this moment, the relief is what I felt. (Like I said, #firstworldproblems.)

My exhausted despair gradually turned into a childlike elation as I was enveloped into a world of calm and cool logic, a sense of safety, and confident smiles. I handed over my electronics, breezed through security, took a new set of (bewildered) passport photos, filled out my application for a new passport, and looked at the diplomat in disbelief when she told me I would still be able to make my flight. (WHAT???) As she handed me my shiny and new emergency replacement passport, she apologized that they “couldn’t complete it sooner,” as if 20 minutes wasn’t amazingly quick enough. I took the passport and thanked her dumb-foundedly and giddily, not sure of what had just happened.

I bid arrivederci to my new best friends at the security gate and gave away my stupid Sorrento hat that had mysteriously ripped during this whole ordeal/miracle and found my way to the taxi. I chuckled to myself, remembering how I had decided to avoid the hefty taxi fee from Rome’s center to the airport in the first place by taking the metro, yet mused that as always, fate’s hilarious joke was on me (#can’tfightfate).

My ecstasy continued to skyrocket as I stumbled upon my second taxi driver of the morning, whose honest eagerness and excellent English skills completely contrasted the first. “I will do my best to please you,” I heard as he stepped on the pedal and sped out of town. Somehow, we made it to the airport at 10:10. I showered him with gratzies and a fantastic tip and ran (ok, speed-walked with that dumb suitcase) to the Etihad counter to check in for my 11:15am flight. “Abu Dhabi??? You need to check in NOW!” The attendant rushed into action and shook her head in disbelief at my story and brand new passport (which I had been obsessively gripping the whole way to the airport). I then literally ran to immigration, pushed to the front of the priority line, met a nice group of gals studying abroad at Auburn (sorry to all my Alabama relatives!), and then flew past them to my gate, just barely arriving with time to get on wifi and text my husband to have him cancel my Japanese bank card that had been in the lost wallet.

When all was calm, I slowly sauntered into the aisles of the plane, found my seat, plugged in my earphones blasting with classical sitar-filled yoga music, and just breathed.

I was in shock. Of my many travel and expat escapades, this one was the most unbelievable so far. Perhaps in retrospect, I should have known that Rome is the second most likely place to get pick-pocketed and that looking fashionable on the metro with a buttload of luggage is not a good idea. But the should-have-knowns are what make us stronger and wiser (and less fashionable) and this is what makes all the difference.

Will I return to Rome? If you know me well enough, you don’t even have to guess. If you’re still getting to know me, the answer is “claro que si.” (I no longer have the energy to pretend I speak Italian and will revert to Spanish.) Rome and I go way back and have, as mentioned before, a complex history that cannot be recreated with any other place. I will allow myself to believe that Rome is like the older sibling I never had, tormenting me and protecting me all at once in order to school me in the lessons of life, love, and the pursuit of adventure.

So now I am home, with my husband (home is where he and I are together), enjoying my well-deserved peace and quiet. Rome took me on yet another exhilarating ride this time around and now it is time to rest.

Arrivederci, ladies and gents. And hold on to your purses!