The Italian is not coming along as fast as I had hoped. I expected that I’d be speaking like Roberto Benigni in just a few days. Just review some grammar, get a fix on the accent, a few vocab adjustments here and there, zip-zop I speak Italian. But no. Unfortunately, it’s like a, like a foreign language! Curses!

The reason I had all this false confidence is that when you speak Spanish and Romanian, like I sort of do, and put those two languages together you’re about 75% of the way to speaking Italian! So, no-brainer, right? Not at all.

It’s not just that other unrelated, haphazard 25% of Italian words – which seemingly came out of nowhere – that’s messing with me, though it sure ain’t helping. It’s that these three languages are so similar that my poor brain can’t keep them straight. It’s like trying to neatly divide and organize white marbles with off-white rocks with whitish gumballs.

How the hell do multi-lingual people do it? I’ve realized that I’m good for two languages and that’s it; English and Broken-Something-Else.

So rather than learn a third foreign language and become the suave international lady-killer that I richly deserve to be, I’ve only succeeded in losing track of the boundaries of all three and merging them into a whole new hybrid language that no one from any country can understand; Italspanmanian.

I manage to insert a few bits of each language into virtually every sentence and, not surprisingly, I rarely get more than a bewildered stare in return. A recent exchange in a mobile phone shop went something like; “Goodbye! Happy birthday? How much does the bicentennial pink hippo handjob cost? No, no, this bicentennial pink hippo handjob. OK, thanks big melons! Hello!”

It’s gonna be a long winter.

In other news, I’m finally settled in my new home on Sardinia. It wasn’t an easy trip. I took an overnight ferry (because Buddha forbid that I ever travel during the daytime) from Livorno, Italy (just south of Pisa) to Oliba on Sardinia. Then I boarded a train that crossed the island and deposited me in Oristano, the nearest “big” “city” to my little beach village.

I had to wait for my ferry in Livorno for four hours. Since I didn’t want to eat overpriced, yucky ferry food, I decided to eat a huge meal before boarding to get me through until morning. The ferry left at 9pm, I needed to check in at roughly 7.30pm, so I needed to eat at about 6pm so I’d have time to slowly stagger the one mile from the city center to the port with my bags.

Well, this is Italy and Italian stores and restaurants are notorious for being open for about two and a half hours a day, four days a week, usually at whim, during times when us dumb foreigners are off doing other things, so when we want to eat or shop, we’re screwed.

The restaurants in Livorno were no different. Nobody serves dinner before 8pm. But I needed to eat. My options were a cafe serving day old sandwiches and McDonald’s. I also had urgent bladder maintenance that needed attending to and the cafe didn’t have a loo. So, guess what I did? Yep, McDonald’s.

This was only the third time I’ve eaten at a McDonald’s in 18 years, each time being a dire emergency, where no other food was available for miles around and I was starving to death (or I needed to use the loo).

I got a Big Mac, fries and a Sprite. Grease oozed out of my forehead like frying bacon for eight hours after that meal and to make matters worse I couldn’t stop flashing on the scene from the movie “Super-Size Me” where the guy pukes extravagantly after his first super-sized McDonald’s meal.

Also, this McDonald’s had a Playland or whatever they call those things where the kids run wild and lose their tutti-frutti little minds in those gerbil habitrail labyrinths. And we’re not just talking about normal kids here, these were Italians, one of the most crazed, exuberant societies on the planet, programmed to behave as such from birth.

It came to pass that the only inconspicuous place that I could sit, eat and surreptitiously recharge my laptop batteries with a complimentary McDonald’s power outlet was right next to Playland. And dio mio, did those Italian kids ever play.

It was a veritable hurricane of pure energy in that place, fueled by six kids who had presumably just consumed super-sized Happy Meals and were riding an unholy grease/sugar buzz. The energy generated from their screams alone could have lit Vegas for a week. If correctly harnessed, the power from their spastic frolicking could have driven a inter-galactic ship, like the Enterprise. I imagined a proud Mr. Scott opening the Dilithium chamber to demonstrate to Captain Kirk how he achieved Warp 17 and escaped the Klingon hoard by chucking the dead Dilithium crystals and hooking up a McDonald’s Playland loaded with all of Kirk’s illegitimate children.

Finally, it was time to walk to the ferry. I had been hauling around my bags (including 14 books for winter reading and guidebooks) all day – with a stopover in Pisa to finally see the Leaning Tower – and my shoulders and back were nearing the failure-point. I starting thinking that trudging around homeless, with all my bags for more than 24 hours was my second least favorite scenario while traveling. The only thing worse is doing the same in the rain.

Then it started to rain.

God likes to regularly remind me that I’ve still got a ways to go before I’m a travel writing all-star.