I thought that by staying up till 1am on my first night back in Toronto that I would be able to beat the jet lag and be rested enough to get back to life.
It’s now Friday night and I am still having a hard time thinking clearly and keeping my eyes open.
Totally and completely worth it.
As you all know, my mom and I went to Italy so that I could speak at the World Ostomy Day conference for the FAIS [Federazione Associazioni Incontinenti e Stomizzati], otherwise known as the Italian Osomy Association. The conference was held at a hotel in Montesilvano, a city 2 hours outside of Rome.
The purpose of my trip was to make a presentation on my story and about this campaign, as well as participate in a “talk show” style presentation in front of the 1000 attendees, composed of both ostomates and medical professionals alike. Since I did not know a word of Italian, the organization set me up with a wonderful translator. She not only helped translate the conversation between myself and individuals who came up to speak to me, but she actually stood beside me on stage while I read my speech. She translated every single sentence of mine to the audience. She did an amazing job.
I was already so honored and delighted to have been asked to attend this event that I didn’t think it could have been better-but I was so wrong. The hospitality that I received while I was there was above and beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. Not only did my hosts for this event ensure that I had a bed to sleep in and food to eat, but they went out of their way to shower me with thoughtful gifts and kind and meaningful words. I was there for just 2 days, but I felt like I had been there for months.
Sadly, before I knew it, the event was over and my mom and I left Italy to take a vacation in Israel.
When I knew I was going to Italy to speak, I suggested to my mother that we take the opportunity to visit Israel. I had never been, (though I had almost gone twice) and I knew it was something I had to do. She agreed, and we booked our flights to go once the conference was over.
Unfortunately, our flight to Israel actually had a 4 hour stopover in the Istanbul airport, so the trip was much longer than it needed to be. Running on a high from the conference, though, I didn’t mind it too much. Besides, the in-flight safety video on our flight made up for it, completely:
[It's not in English, but it's pretty easy to understand. Watch it. Seriously. It's adorable]
After a long day of traveling, my mom and I arrived in Israel and were picked up by our cousins who brought us back to their house. They had graciously offered us accommodations for the week and we were thrilled.
I was especially excited about staying in their house because they have two daughters; one a year older and one a year younger than me. The three of us had always gotten along on the few occasions that they had visited Canada, but, because of the distance, we never had the chance to spend time together. I was excited to actually get to know them.
I can’t tell you how happy I am that I did.
My cousins are the kindest sweetest girls I have ever met. They went out of their way to make sure I was comfortable in their home, they took me around the city, they booked off work to make sure they had time to spend with me, and they even refused to let me pay for anything (and yelled at me if I tried.)
The two of them cared about me so much that one night, when we were planning to go out, they noticed I was tired. They knew with my disease that if I got too tired, I could get sick. So while we were getting ready to head to a bar, the two of them sat me down, gave me straight faces, and asked me if I was sure I was ok to go out. They didn’t want me to get sick.
I felt like I had sisters.
There was very little time that I wasn’t hanging with either one of the sisters. Or, if I wasn’t hanging out with them, I was hanging out with a friend of theirs whom I had met before, and a new friend of theirs that I met on this trip; both amazing women. There was barely a moment during the week that wasn’t full of girl time. All we did was shop, lunch, and go out on the town.
My kind of vacation.
I’m not someone who really enjoys the touristy crap you usually get on foreign vacations so I loved the chance to experience Israel from a local point of view with these amazing girls.
Ok, so apparently you can’t go to a foreign land without doing a bit of touristy crap, so my mother and I, with the guidance of our cousins, did do some site seeing. Luckily, we managed to do it all in one day. In this one day we saw the Dead Sea, Mt. Masada, the Wailing Wall, and the Tower of David. Though the experience was your typical tourist experience, I did actually enjoy it a lot. Who knew?
My mother and I also made sure that, on this trip, we set some time away to visit my aunt, my late father’s sister, who also lives in Israel with her large family, yet in a different city than the family we were staying with. Though I have seen my aunt and a few of my cousins a number of times in Toronto, I had never been visited their home. It was nice to be able to see where she lived. The experience of being there was also a little surreal because I ended up meeting a first cousin of mine, who is my age, whom I don’t remember ever meeting and vice versa. It was about time!
The week was so jam packed full of activities and traveling and dining out and drinking that I didn’t have a second to sit down, or even sleep. I actually think I slept an average of 4 hours a night. I did get a small nap in while my mom and I laid out on the beach on our last day of the trip, but that was in no way enough to catch me up for all the sleep I had missed.
But sleep? On vacation? No way. I only had one week there and I wasn’t going to miss a thing.
So now, Friday night, I sit writing this blog as I yawn every couple of minutes, remembering all the fun I had. Going to Italy to speak and meet wonderful people. Having an amazing week in a new country with adopted sisters. This was a once in a lifetime adventure that I am so thankful to have had.
Will I ever have it again? Probably not.
Will I forget it? Never.
Ok, now seriously, excuse me while I sleep forever.