Perfect strangers

14 Aug

“Are you sure you should be doing this?” said my friends when I told them about my house swap with a family in Italy. Perfect strangers in your home, with two little children, on top of everything.
I admit I was a bit nervous, when Kitty and I finally found the address. As I was crossing the street, a bunch of curious kids welcomed me to their neighborhood. “Ciao! You must be Kirsten from Amsterdam! It’s right there, on the corner!” The key was where they said it would be, underneath the flower pot next to the door.
And there I was, in a picturesque Italian village in the middle of nowhere, where only the sound of crickets kept me up at night. If I could please feed their cat, they’d asked me. But which of the five hungry creatures in front of the door was theirs? I decided to feed them all, so in no time I had not five but eight new furry friends. The second day the door bell rang. I recognized the neighbour’s kids through the peephole. “Ciao! Will you join us for pranzo today?” Thanks to my How-and-What-in-Italian I could answer I would love to join them for lunch. Not much later I found myself sitting amidst three generations of villagers, enjoying a sumptuous lunch, like I’d been living there for years.
The Italians were finding their way in my street, too. “Nice people, those Italians!” my neighbour texted me. Perfect timing: they were lucky enough to witness Amsterdam’s Gay Pride, which sailed by only a few blocks from my house. “Quite something, that that’s possible over there!” they said when we finally got to meet each other in person, at their house which also had become a bit mine. And their daughters? They want to live in Amsterdam, when they grow up. “Will you come stay with us again soon?” they asked me when we said goodbye. “Mia casa è tua casa!” Perfect strangers in your home? I say: just do it!

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