I believe we arrived in Venice today, Tuesday, November 9. I've heard that Venice is spectacular in the sunshine but today, it's raining. It's grey and a bit smelly. Still, we're glad to get off the ship. Venice is famous for its hand-blown glass so our first stop is the glass blowing factory. It's fascinating to watch and I love it. I buy my sister an orange/yellow horse ornament; she's 13 and into horses in a big way.
We're in full school uniform in groups of five as we do the sights: St. Mark's Square, the Basilica, the Rialto Bridge, the Bridge of Sighs. Then we walk the streets, window shopping: there's a dazzling array of available Venetian goods. Equally dazzling is the array of available Venetian gods, from mid-teens to early 20s, that follow us, call out to us, and try to touch us as we pass. At first it's exciting, enticing and we almost encourage it. A few of the girls, one in my group especially, are actively egging on our admirers. Not me. The boys are a little too close for my comfort level. I like looking at them from a distance; having them look at me the same way. It's starting to get dark as more and more boys appear and now we're being crowded and jostled by them. I feel a hand on my bum which disturbs rather than flatters. I notice as yet more boys emerge from side passages that it's like they're trying to separate us and pull us into the alleys. I wonder if it's my over-active adolescent imagination but I don't think it is; frankly, I'm getting nervous. I see our headmistress notice the same thing. "Grab each other's hands!" she shouts, "Link arms!" She's gathering her groups together so there's safety in numbers. At one point, much to our hilarity but also somewhat to our consternation, she actually swipes one of the boys with her handbag. Surrounded by them, these youths are everything I've read about Italian males: at once attractive and menacing. They make strange clucking noises which I assume are meant to be alluring but are oddly threatening as if they're herding us, like lambs to the slaughter.
It's nearly dark. The rain-soaked sidewalks gleam beneath the street lights; the canals shimmer. Our headmistress herds us herself now, back towards the ship. Oh, the fickle duality of puberty -- disappointment and relief on either side of this tantalizing tightrope. Me, I'm just thankful someone is taking charge.
Safely on the ship, we peer out of the portholes. The more daring Italians are trying to climb on board, swinging from the guy ropes like paper lanterns in the breeze. As I write, I envision "Pirates of the Caribbean" -- hundreds of fervent, sex-crazed pirates with striped t-shirts and earrings, shimmying across the ropes to reach these pale English damsels. It's more like four or five eager youngsters showing off to their friends. Nevertheless it creates a journal moment.
Finally, we're told to move away from the portholes and go to the other side of the ship. "Nothing to see here, folks, nothing to see here!" With a groan of rebellious regret, we head to the common room for dinner and delicious dissection of the most interesting thing to happen since leaving the dull shores of England.