Monday, February 15, 2010

The Time I was Homesick

Written by: Brandon Imp

I was homesick once. It was winter break December 2009, the one immediately following a great semester in Rome. Already in Europe, I decided to keep traveling for a few weeks, so I found myself in Venice with friends Alisa and Katie. It was the last day in Venice and my friends left early for Barcelona; I would be leaving later that night for Bologna. Venice was flooded (two feet deep in water), the city was cold, and I had the impossible task of finding my sister a specific twisted glass ring streaked with blues and golds. This was the one thing Kate REALLY wanted from Europe. To make the task more challenging, the style had been discontinued over the summer. I searched all day, swishing through the flooded alleys in my drenched, beaten sneakers and a constant shiver down my spine. Nothing.

Around three in the afternoon I walked into a unique canal-side store. It was obvious these pieces were hand-crafted rather than mass produced for the tourist market. A man and woman were talking in Italian while I browsed the collection; they were talking about recent sales to American museums. I chose a small jewelry box for my grandmother and struck up conversation during checkout. The woman, it turns out, was the provider of precious stones and glass products to the American Museum of Natural History and other large establishments. She had never been, so I told her about the rooms of dinosaur fossils and the semi-secret room full of gems from all over the world. The man joined in the conversation, confessing that he was the keeper of a gallery containing religious Venetian paintings. Tired and craving a dry, warm place, I followed the man down the canal to the gallery. He gave a personal tour of the gallery, bringing out relics from thin air to physically show me the inspiration for the paintings. We went through the entire gallery in such a manner; at the end he asked, “Why Venice? You were not looking for this gallery, but you came here. What are you looking for?” I explained my search for the ring, and admitted that I accepted the tour for a change of pace. Unphased, the man told me of an area I had not yet explored. The area is where the oldest gondola makers work, at a point that juts into the river. I may find my ring there. I left.

The weather worsened as I got closer to my newest destination. The drizzle turned into rain which turned into a downpour. I kept going, hoping for that darn ring. Shop 1: closed. Shop 2: closed. Shop 3: closed. I kept going, thinking the closings were due to flooding and off-season. I made it to the boatyard. The incomplete gondolas bounced in their watersheds. I was the only person out. The stores were all closed. The rain turned sideways and bit my face. A wave of defeat was creeping over me when my umbrella (or poor excuse of one) tore to shreds in the wind. With a metal stick in hand, an incomplete improbable task, and being alone in a foreign, terrible environment, I wanted to go home. Crawl into my twin sized bed and snuggle with my dog. I wanted a glass of chocolate milk with a side of bacon. There was nothing worse than what was happening at that very moment. I was homesick. I left.

The walk back to my hostel was miserable. Everything was drenched, and I barely had a second pair of clothing packed for the next three weeks. This was not what I wanted on vacation. Wandering the alleys in the general direction of the hostel (as Venice is not made for street signs nor direction), I bumped into a new square. There was one store open. As if driven by an undead zombie-like force, I walked into the store and sifted through the rings. There, at the bottom of the container, was the ring. The size was right, the colors almost a perfect match. I splashed my way to the counter and choked back tears. Five euros later I was in heaven. I jumped in the puddles on the way home. I treated myself to a chocolate. I blow dried my shoes a little, climbed onto a taxi boat, and was on my way to Bologna. I have never been homesick since.


  1. Great job of painting the story, I feel like I was there with you.

  2. I remember the day I got ring #1 (that eventually got stepped on in a store in Los Angeles). It was a story very much like this one. I'd taken the midnight train to Venice, alone, stuffed in a small sleeping car meant for 2 but stocked with 4: Me, a Spaniard (who only spoke Spanish), an African woman (who only spoke Swahili), and a French woman (who only spoke French).

    Needless to say I didn't sleep, and I arrived in Venice just as the city was beginning to come alive. I had nowhere to go, and no one to see, so I just wandered. I let the vibrance of the city guide me through the markets and alleys--god I felt so alive. There was just something remarkably freeing about traveling on my own.

    At some point I stumbled into a little cafe. I saw an elderly Venetian woman sitting by herself in the corner. She had rings on every hand, bright red lipstick, and wore a thick multi-colored shawl that encompassed her entire being. She saw me staring, and before I could look away, she told me to come over.

    The woman ordered me a drink, and then asked me about my life. We talked for a few hours about life, and love, and Italy. She told me that very few people have the courage to do things alone and that I should buy myself something that can remind me of this moment and potentially give me courage to pursue new endeavors in the future.

    That night, before getting on another train that would bring me to Vienna, I stumbled half-awake into a little shop full of glass jewelry. And I bought a blue, twisted glass ring.

  3. Both Brandon's quest.....and how Ring #1 was come by draw you in the mood and the moment. Brought to mind some "expert" on a TV program once saying it only takes two seconds for someting to occur or accident....change of mood.