so this morning i woke up and i thought...yeah, i'd really like to hike for hours through hills overlooking the mediterranean today. so i did.

ciao from italia. i love love love it here; i am in the cinque terre at present. rome to florence to levanto. tomorrow is back to florence, saturday is back to rome, sunday is home. here it is something like 4pm on thursday and i can't remember the date and that is okay with me. i've barely checked email and my cell phone is off. la vita e bella.

it's so great to go hiking when it's hard. your whole life and attention focus down to small increments: just go 10 more steps, then rest. just get around the next switchback. always when you get there you find you can go just a little more, and a little more, and suddenly you're hundreds of meters above the biggest clearest sea you ever saw with little colorful towns perched up on hills around you, looking as if any second they'll start tumbling down into the water.

early in the cloudy damp morning, it was just me and the germans out on the trail. they all wear shorts with hiking boots and dark socks pulled up high. and sweaters, and most of them carry trekking poles. they are serious, resolved. they truck steadily up and up and up. they get the job done. i came up behind a pack of them and the lady in back turned around and said something to me in fast german. after 7 days or so out of the u.s. i've peeled away enough of my dependence on english to reply with little thought "ich nicht spreche deutsch. ich bin american." she seemed surprised and i flattered myself a little by thinking well well, i must look very worldly and capable! perhaps it is just that i look sturdy and teutonic.

i don't know whether germans make the american/northamerican distinction, and i really don't know any german aside from a handful of useful phrases which do not include 'i am from the u.s.', so i just settled for 'i am american'.

just as i reached riomaggiore it started to rain big fat drops but it wasn't too cold and i had my rain jacket balled up in my pack so i just zipped up and sat there for a bit. then wandered down to the train station and ran into my brother, and rode the train back up to levanto with him. i've just taken the longest hottest soapiest steamiest shower you can imagine and i'm sitting here in a bay window in the hotel lobby overlooking a town that makes me wonder why i do live in the u.s. anyway.

when i get home i'll be moving to a new home and planning for school and i'm sure i will tell you all about that, as it unfolds. for now, though, i will just be here for these last few days. soaking up the warmth of the sun and of the generous lovely people all around here. there has been a bit of anti-american sentiment of the "yankee go home" grafitti sort, but overall everyone has been gracious, kind, and accepting of my crimes against their language. i've learned to request a reservation, mostly ask for and understand directions, order a small cup of hazelnut gelato and a liter of red table wine, and communicate most of what i really need to, overall. a friendly smile seems to take care of the rest.

did i mention that i love it here?