I slept comfortably and late, and woke up alone in Mal's apartment. He had gone to work early and left me there to get some things done before I headed out. I had some cereal from his huge selection of American kid cereals (Lucky Charms, Fruity Pebbles, Captain Crunch...the classics) and spent a while working on the computer, putting out a blog post and planning my next couple days. I was enjoying the peace and didn't start running until almost three o'clock.
The run towards Mondragone was long, and I took it pretty easy. I was pretty anxious for the whole run...and as I ran all these crazy thoughts were simultaneously running through my head. I was imagining gang violence and mafia scenes...and to be honest, I was pretty excited to get to where I was going. When I came into town, it was the early evening and from the way people were speaking, I was expecting gun shots and baseball bats. Instead, it was old guys sitting on the side of the street in lawn chairs in front of pizzerias. I did the safe thing and went into a pizzeria and got a couple slices. I spent some time talking with the guy who worked there. He was the same age as me, and we spoke in English. He couldn't host me, but he pointed me in the right direction of the beach, where I would more likely find people in the evening.
Somewhere it got dark and sometime I found myself near the beach. Apart from a couple people offering to sell me drugs and a slightly different feel of the city, the place really didn't resemble the nightmare that it was put out to be. I still felt like I should take the advice that I was given and not sleep outside, so I began my process of talking to random people. This time, it was in search of a store where I could add minutes to my phone. I spoke with several people, including an ex-semi-professional German tennis player before I walked into an online Poker bar (that also sold phone minutes) and asked if I could buy some credit. For some reason the credit wasn't available, but I got into conversation with all the young people that were hanging out there. Just awesome people, nice and joking all the time. They let me use one of the computers and told me to take a "shower" in the sink. I went in and wiped myself off with a towel and changed my clothes. When I emerged, one of them (Antonio) sprayed me with some Italian cologne (a lot) and I was ready to party. We looked over my blog, and everyone was excited to take the above photo. Enzo (who ran the restaurant next door) made me a mean sandwich, and as I ate, Antonio wrote my blog post for the day:
"Sono stato a Mondragone in provincia di Casserta. Sono stato accolto molto bene da tutto le persone. Infatti sono stato invitato da Enzo "Big Show" a mangiare uno buonissimo panino. Dopo sono stato nel Pokeroom di Armando, dove ho conoscuto tanti ragazzi: Alessandro "polpetta," Mario, Valerio "Sidis," e Antonio "Tropicale." In fino sono stato ospitato presso il lido Cin Cin da Gianluea "Zanna." Ora sono diretto a Napoli."
No one was really in a position to offer me a place to sleep, but the guys helped me out by talking to a man who ran a private beach/bar thing down the road. They brought me there, and I spent the rest of the evening talking to some another funny group of young people. It was someones birthday party, so people kept bringing me plates of food and birthday cake. I washed my things in a sink before going to sleep on a beach bed in a kind of sketchy garage. A man who was working there would be guarding the place all night, so I fell asleep feeling pretty safe some time around three in the morning.
The south of Italy might be famous for mafia lifestyles and crime...but I didn't see any of that. Instead, I saw the other things that this region is famous for: happy, helpful people and delicious Mozzarella di Bufala. I think I found the better part.
30 August 2009