16 Aug

One afternoon, with a little more than a week left in the homestay, I get dropped off in the center of Cosenza with a few hours to wander the streets by myself.  My quasi-homestay mom, Maria, has to work.

I’m dropped off on the main shopping street of the town, Corso Mazzini.  There are a random collection of all sorts of stores—Zara, H&M, Gucci, etc.

Corso Mazzini in Cosenza

So I’m walking down the road with the idea of getting to old Cosenza (Cosenza vecchia, for all you Italian speakers). There is an awesome gelateria, called Gelateria Zorro down there.  It gets its name from an old mafioso (member of the mafia) that was gunned down there in the 1960s.  The area is also very old and beautiful, and I’d never had the chance to explore it alone.

So I’m walking down the road.  First, I pass Piazza Kennedy, where the large group of us would meet to explore downtown during the homestay.

I keep walking down the road.  A bit further down, there is another piazza that has a local courthouse in it, I believe. I’m walking past it when suddenly I hear “Mama Goose!”  I look up and find Travis, Bajia, Rob and Sam, along with their various host siblings sitting down and chilling out.  I decide I’ll stop and chat with them for a bit.  Sam and his host brother leave quickly.

The rest of us hang out for a while.  The Americans express the need to find a bathroom, and I say that I have to go buy something to drink.  Thanks to Antonio (Rob’s host brother) I go to a supermarket and find something, telling everyone I’ll be back in a bit.

I return, having bought some yummy chocolate for everyone.  And…. everyone’s gone. I was gone maybe 10 minutes. No sign of anyone.  Then, I run into the Italian host siblings.  The Americans “are in the bathroom” they tell me.  I figure I’ll just wait and say goodbye.  10, 15 minutes pass.  Then 20, 25.  By this point, one of the host fathers shows up, wondering where the Americans are.  He has to drive the family back out to the ocean and then return for a flight to Brazil later that night.  He’s already pushed for time.

So… I get panicky.  I run up and down the street trying to find Bajia, Travis and Rob.  We call Rob.  He informs us that Bajia and Travis have gone off in search of a bathroom, but he has returned to his family’s apartment in the city (whish is close).  He gives the impression that Bajia and Travis have returned to Travis’ home, which is halfway across the city.  They’d have to take the bus!

40 minutes later and still no sign of them!  I get really freaked out.  I’m thinking of finding a policeman and, unfortunately this would be the best way to describe them in Italy, ask him to put out an APB for two African American Americans in Cosenza.  They would make quite the novelty walking around together.

The other Italians around me start planning. Two of them (the two that want to become a couple) would take a bus home and find them.  Just as the situation starts to get crazy, they come running!  Travis and Bajia.  The day is saved and they are safe.  They just couldn’t find a bathroom all that time.

The lesson:  when in Italy, always use the bathroom when you buy something.  Public bathrooms are very hard to find. Crisis averted.  Lost children found.  Unfortunately, this is a theme we’d have to revisit later in the trip… But more on that later.

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