Photo by James Wong. Written by Lindsay Gattis. Connect with her on Tw.
Yes, the ancient city that long ago was covered in volcanic ash. You see, I was on a mission.
Not just me. My best friend at the time was also on a mission with me. We were going to climb to the top of Mt Vesuvius, look the crater in the eye and say,
“Explode. I dare you.”
Truth be told though I really didn’t want anything exploding while I was in the center of it. But it makes for a hell of a story.
Let me back up a bit to explain to you how I found myself in this Indiana Jones-esque adventure in the first place.
I was studying abroad in Firenze (Florence), Italy in the summer of 2009.
My apartment happened to be right across the street from this wonderful place called Cillo’s Gelateria. It was like Italy knew about my love affair with ice cream and had prepared accordingly. I spent a lot of time in Cillo’s. Not only because of the free wi-fi and delicious gelato but also because Cillo was fast becoming a friend of mine. He even let me help him make the gelato some days!
Cillo had a worker there named Kirill. Kirill was Russian and didn’t speak a lick of English. He spoke Russian and Italian, and as I would later find out he also spoke fluent Lemoncello. I didn’t speak a word of Russian, my Italian was horrific.
But, this guy became my best friend.
My relationship with Kirill, my new best friend here in Italy, was amazing. We would laugh and cry together, jump up and down, and speak louder when the other person didn’t understand. As if the volume level was our communication problem. We got really good and expressing ourselves through hand gestures and I became really good at saying things that sounded Italian and seemingly getting my point across.
One day, to my dismay, he told me “I’ll be right back. Run the shop” in his best Italian. By this point, I did understand some Italian so I knew what he was saying and I couldn’t believe it. I was a bit excited by the fact that I could now add running a gelateria to my resume but also a bit anxious. What if customers come in? I don’t know how to speak italian! Was Kirill certifiably insane? What would Cillo think? Surely, I would damage his business if a customer happened to come in while I was there!
And it happened… A whole busload of Italians came in at the same time and started clamoring on in their native tongue and assuming that since I was standing behind the counter that I must know what I was doing. Little did they know…
I managed to point and charm my way through most of the transactions and finally Kirill came back to take over. I sat down on the bar stool and made an explosion gesture with my hands and a “death” look on my face. After everyone left he started laughing hysterically and said “Since you like explosions, let’s go to Pompeii”. Or at least, I imagine that’s what he said. I did catch the word Pompeii and the next thing I knew we were at the base of Mt. Vesuvius.
Kirill and I had a strong connection.
We didn’t speak any of the same languages but language sometimes just gets in the way anyways. The connection is what matters. We understood each other’s dreams, fears, excitements, and joys because deep down we are all human. We connected with each other on a deep level because our hearts spoke to each other. Our hearts spoke the same language.
Sure there were times when not being able to communicate was frustrating. There were times we both felt left out when we couldn’t join in conversations or jokes. And there’s a lot to be said for that but that’s a post for another day. Mostly, when you look someone in the eye and can see their soul, you understand them on an intense level. They are human just like you. They desire belonging and community just like you. They have a need to feel respected and appreciated just like you. When you see that, you can hand gesture your way into a great long lasting friendship.
And as I’m sure you can guess since I’m telling this story now, Mt. Vesuvius did not erupt and blow us into oblivion. Even though it was being taunted. The view from up there was amazing. And the one word I spoke up there was “bellisima.” Kirill and I grabbed each other’s hand and looked out over the city of Naples and smiled.
He will forever be a part of one of my favorite memories. Not just climbing Mt. Vesuvius but my whole Italian life. My dolce vita. And it never once mattered to me that, in the beginning, we couldn’t really understand a word we ever said to each other. All I needed to understandd is Lemoncello and a hug.
Lindsay is a passionate soul on a journey. She loves with all my heart and feels with all her being. She is always searching for the next adventure and embracing the misadventures she has along the way.
Check out her blog, To Live in Freedom
Connect with her on Tw.