Orange You Glad…

I didn’t say banana?

This post isn’t about one specific trip or place, it’s about certain feelings that go hand and hand with trips. If anyone asked me what things make me happy in life, exploring the world would be one of the top items. But, the happiness and wonder of seeing a completely new place and meeting new people doesn’t come without a taste of fear, uncertainty, and vulnerability. Having a balance of good and bad makes the positive just that much more rewarding (yin and yang folk, it’s really something). So, I’m going to tell you a story about simplicity, vulnerability, realization, and oranges.

Buying Oranges

Social center in Ostiense, check out the trees!

 

In Rome, oranges quite literally grow on trees on the street ready for picking. However, I was advised that the fruits found at stores and stands are usually tastier because “they grow in the south with fresh air.” One day I had an intense craving for citrus (happens pretty much every three days) and I went on a lone venture to find a grocery store with succulent orange fruits ready for eating. My lone venture wasn’t a very long venture, as there’s a store downstairs (literally around the corner) from Alessio’s apartment.

Villa Gordiani ruins, near the Largo Preneste neighborhood where I say while in Rome (opposite direction from the grocery store!)

 

I made short time gathering the ripest seeming oranges (all guess work, does anyone know how to tell if an orange is really ripe?) and with arms full of fresh fruit I meandered my way to the checkout counter. As I plopped the golden globes down on the cashier’s belt, the woman gave me a strange look and asked “*something* *something* *something* prezzo *something*” I stood there very unsure, prezzo means price, and my mind was racing trying to decipher the rest of her speech. Was she telling me they weren’t priced and she needed a price check? Was I supposed to know the price? Wasn’t it normal for the fruits to be weighed and priced at the register? Eventually I settled for “Non capisco, non so prezzo” meaning ‘I don’t understand, I don’t know the price’ and was answered by a tired sigh and a shout of “Salvatoreeeeee!” Feeling like a huge nincompoop of an inconvenience, I gathered by oranges and followed Salvatore right back to the fruit section, hoping that I wasn’t going to have to dump the oranges right back into the bin and leave the store in disgrace. Luckily, in my confusion I had been a bit dramatic as I played out the situation in my head, and Salvatore didn’t demand I replace the fruit. Instead, through occasionally words and lots of pantomiming, he showed me I had to bag the fruit, take it to a scale tucked away in the corner, plug in a number, and print out my own price tag! Feeling a bit silly, but glad that I’d learned how to buy fruit at a grocery store, I minced my way back to the cashier, paid, and left with the fruits of my labor.

Mandarin, melon, and blueberry gelato. Because sometimes I need a fruit fix from other sources

 

When you get to the root of it, my orange buying adventure was just a silly mistake that was corrected with the help of nice people. I had been unwittingly thrust outside my comfort zone, which checked me back into a reality where adventuring and learning are things which don’t occur within comfort zones.  I’ve been lucky in my travels, especially within Italy, as I’m usually with Alessio or one of his friends and family. It’s easy to let their familiarity form a nice cozy bubble around the both of us, buffering me from the real experience of being a total foreigner. Lone adventures like this one bring me back to the reality and wonder of a place, where something so simple and necessary as buying produce can be totally foreign. Something so tiny leaves a lasting impact reminding me I want to learn the culture, the language, how to buy fruit, and more. Since then, I broke out of my comfortable routine, went for more solo adventures and walks (to the ruins in the picture above!), and have bought many more oranges (In Scotland, they price them at the counter). It’s safe to say that a simple orange brought me back to balancing everyday life and adventure yin and yang style, and best of all I’ll never get scurvy!

Ciao from Roma!

1 Comment

  1. Brittany Veldkamp says:

    Haha, I also made this mistake in a grocery store when I was getting clementines (which are so much better than the ones in the US!). I also didn’t realize that they use disposable gloves to pick their fruit when I was shopping at Eataly. I found out the hard way as I received stares.

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