"East Europe 2005-06" story # 34

Sempion, Switzerland           April 10, 2006

After I'd eaten the worst pasta that sixty-seven-year-old Mario has ever cooked, I couldn't get a ride, so I walked the remaining six miles to Switzerland. I camped there, at 2700 feet altitude. I watched up from my cold tent, past the four Alp mountains that walled me in like a golf ball in a hole, to a nice night of stars.
     The next person to offer me a ride was Italian trucker Maurizo. He was forty-eight, with tanned aged skin and thin blond-ish hair. He looked like the old guy from Northern Exposure who was married to the really young woman.
     He was a pleasant guy who drove across the same beautiful plateau (snow-drowned in April and fresh-aired) each day. He wanted to tell me in Italian about everything he knew. We had deep conversations, he handed me a slice of pizza from his lunch, and he told excitedly about bungee-jumping on his birthday. Because we then knew one another well, he told me his political views: like my driver before him, he was communist. It seems communists are often more compassionate than the rest of us ...
     But, I also like non-communist drivers who pick me up. One of my favorite Italian rides had come a few days earlier.
     A twenty-eight-year-old named Marco rode passenger-seat, his pretty older sister Julia drove, and I sat in the small car's backseat with my bags. Marco was an Italian party-boy. He had slick short hair, dark sun-glasses, a stupid-looking face, and a lot of beer in his blood on this Saturday morning.
     Marco loved me as his fun-party-loving friend. He treated me to a tea in the cafe of his old village whose pink architecture spiralled three-dimensionally upon hills. He told me speeding Italian jokes that the people around him delighted at, and Julia reminded him many times that I don't understand well Italian. Then, I understood him telling Julia that he was going to wait with me until I got my next ride.
     This was a first. One car passed us, and Marco promptly showed the driver his middle finger. Marco's girlfriend called to us from a building above our road. He argued with her, joking he was going to leave her and go find a girl in the Czech Republic. Shortly thereafter, he left me to go get another beer. I don't know Marco's political preference; but, he enjoys a good time.
     Continuing with my theme - leftover from the last story - about recent good times, I'll mention Greece.
     Even if the only things I did with silly little Simona while I lived with her was laugh and listen to her telling me how crummy all my ideas are, it was still a good time.
     A Spanish university student named Sergio lightly wore brown facial hair, a tan surrounding colorful eyes, and a smile as friendly and innocent as a small-town surfer's. Fellow Spaniard Isabel wore a piercing below her bottom lip, had watery egg eyes, shook her fists while jogging to any music that played, and always wanted to make me feel welcome as an outsider in her student group.
     And Petros was awesome. He was a Greek student with curly black hair and a happy clown smile. He and his friends liked the good things in life. They made creative photography and sketches, played music, listened to Jeff Buckley's CDs, played in the grass when the weather was good, trusted one another, and smiled at everyone.
     I also had some good times while selling my stories. Every day, I would stop in at least one store and have a long friendly discussion with the person I'd just met.
     But, make no mistake about it, I was happy to leave Greece. The country's long history has been based on three strong principles: democracy, (Greek Orthodox Christianity) a religion that promotes the division of humanity into those "saved" and those "unsaved", and family. All three cause individualist sentiments rather than community ones.
     Greeks also value sex, materialism, business, cafes, football, and backgammon. The former three also drive the country towards selfishness. I think life is better where the people care for each other.
     Here's an updated list rating, as best I can, how good the life is in the places I've gotten to know:

1. SAMOA - 98
4. ICELAND - 80
5. FRANCE - 80
6. COLOMBIA - 62
7. MICHIGAN - 56
9. SWEDEN - 40
11. FLORIDA - 30
12. BRAZIL - 30
13. ARGENTINA - 26
14. ENGLAND - 24
15. GREECE - 22
16. TRINIDAD - 13
17. ANDORRA - 2

There's still a lot of places out there.

- peace,
your Modern Oddyseus

Thanks to Maurizo for the ride!

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