Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Story I've Never Told Ya'll

It was the summer of 1999. I was on tour with the Houston Children's Chorus, traveling throughout Europe, singing in the most beautiful, historic places. It was my last hurrah before I graduated out. We had already been to Rome and Florence. Our last stop on our two week trip was to Venice. Every place we went took my breath away. I was amazed that there was so much "world" out there that I had never seen.

There were about 160 of us total on this trip. On our first day in Venice, we took a tour of St. Mark's Cathedral. That was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. I found a picture online:

Later, we all split up into groups to go through the markets and do some shopping. My group had 5 girls and 1 adult chaperone. We were all 6th-8th grade, so she didn't have to watch us that closely. Anyways, we ran into another group of girls with their chaperone, so we began to walk the streets of Venice together, a group of 10 energetic American little girls and 2 chaperones. We had a ball.


We were in this beautiful hand blown glass shop. It was a 2-story store, with lots of vases, figurines, and beautiful things that I probably would appreciate more now that I am older. I found this beautiful bright blue glass ring that fit just perfectly on my middle finger. I turned to my friend Julia to show it to her, and she wasn't there. "She must have gone downstairs", I thought. So down I went into the lower level of the store... I was expecting to see 9 girls in the same bright blue t-shirt I was wearing. No where to be found.

I walked outside, and looked to the right and the left of the alley we were shopping in. No bright blue shirts. "They cannot be this difficult to spot. I saw Julia like 90 seconds ago", I thought. So I walked into the stores directly to the right and left of the glass shop I had been in. No girls.

"Don't panic", I thought. I stood outside the store, knowing that of course they would realize in about 30 seconds that I was not with them, and that they would turn around and come back to the place they last saw me. After an hour passed by and I was still standing there, I knew that things were not going to be that simple.

It was around that time that I saw a man in his early to mid thirties staring at me. He slowly walked up to me and said,

"Sweetheart, are you lost?".

Cue crying. Lots of tears.

"Y-y-y-yesssss!" I sobbed.

"Are you an American?" he asked.

I told him I was. He was from Ohio. He wanted to know if he could walk me somewhere. I didn't know where to go. He asked if he could get me a ride back to my hotel. I didn't know what it was called. (It was some long Italian name). He wanted to know if I wanted to use his cellphone. I didn't know who to call. I didn't know the number of anybody on the tour with us, and what was I supposed to do, call my mom back in the States? "Hi Mom! I'm all by myself, lost in Venice!". That would've been pretty.

So he gave me $40,000 lire (which I think is about $50 American dollars, I may be wrong) and gave me his cell phone number. I could tell he was worried about me, but didn't really know what to do. After he left, I decided to start walking. I just knew I was bound to see some bright blue shirts... I mean there were 160 of us!

So off I went walking. Looking back, I really wish I could've enjoyed this walk more. I spent 4 hours by myself in Venice, exploring... too bad I was looking at the color of people's shirts, rather than the architecture and culture around me! At one point, I was walking over a bridge. As I looked below, I saw alot of my friends from the tour, in their bright blue shirts, passing below me on a gondola. "YOU GUYS!!!" I yelled. They all smiled and waved as they passed below me. I tried to follow their gondola down the waterway, but I just got myself more lost.

There was only one moment I remember panicking. I had walked into this area that was not at all tourist-y. This was a shadier area of Venice, and as soon as I walked into it, I got stares from all around me. I was red-headed, pale, freckle faced, and could not look more like an American tourist. I ran back in the opposite direction as fast as I could.

As I was walking, I remembered the cathedral. There was a big square where people congregated and fed the pidgeons. And there was a big clock tower... maybe if I could just go there, it would be easier to spot people.

So I walked and walked and walked...... and I came across this bar, with their doors wide open. I stopped in front of the doors and asked the bartender, "How do I get to St. Mark's Sqaure?". Blank stare. "St. Mark's Square... with the cathedral?" I asked again. Blank stares from the drunk patrons of the bar. Finally, the bartender seemed to have a lightbulb... she said "SAN MARCO?". YES!!! "Si, si, San Marco!!" I replied. At this point, she went off on this unbearably long explanation in Italian, using her hands and fingers. I knew she was telling me exactly how to get there. Language barrier. Yikes.

Anyways, I finally had a breakthrough moment. I walked upon a archway and saw this: (It's pretty cool actually, I found all these pictures on google but I am almost certain this is the exact archway I walked through. I just remember thinking it was so beautiful!)

So I walked into that square and sat right down against the tower, me and my periwinkle Jansport backpack. And my bright blue shirt. I probably sat for 45 minutes, wondering how in the world this happened.

It was then that I saw one of our male chaperones, with his group of 6 boys. He saw me, and his eyes got huge. "JENNY!!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE? WHERE IS YOUR CHAPERONE?!?". Again, cue tears. I barely got it out, but somehow explained to him that they left me and I was lost and I've been by myself for hours. He and his boys sat down on the ground with me as he explained to me the importance of "not wandering off". Gee, thanks.

Finally, I saw them. 10 girls in bright blue shirts, sobbing. 2 female adult chaperones, sobbing. And we ran. And we hugged. And they all said "I'm sorry, I'm sorry" about 1100 times. And my dear friend Julia was unconsolable.

Turns out, they had left that store, and some girls wanted to shop, while other girls wanted to go get some ice cream. They split up into two groups, each group thinking the other group had me. It wasn't until a few hours later when they met back up that they realized I had not been with either group.

I wish I would've enjoyed it more. I wish that the leaders didn't ask me if I thought my parents would sue. I wish I would've taken some more pictures. I wish I would've bought that blue glass ring.

I wish I could go back someday.

And that, my friends, is the story of my Venetian adventure :)


  1. omg....if you had called mom she would have lost it!! So scary! I remember you brought me back a snow globe...your trip was happening during my snow globe phase :)

  2. Geesh! I can picture poor, sweet little Jenny frantically lost and scared to death :(

    I have somewhat of a similar story, but it has nothing to do with getting lost! In my senior year of high school, RIGHT after Mo and I started dating, I was in Salamanca Square in Salamanca, Spain talking to him on a payphone when I ran out of coins. I was very homesick and of course "Mo-sick" and ran around the entire huge square trying to get change to call him back. It was too late though, and we had to get back on the bus for another 4 hour drive, so I just remember crying thinking of how much I wanted to talk to him and how he was probably thinking I just didn't want to talk to him!! LOL

    Funny to look back on these things!

    Love you sweet girl!!

  3. aaaaw I can imagine how scary that would've been for you!

    I was half-expectng the story to end with you saying after you'd all reunited and hugged, you realised you were still wearing that blue glass ring! :)