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Italy (Venice) Motherhood

My daughter and the peeping tom of Venice, Italy

 

It was scary to think how much time and effort this man had put into his actions that night.

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Photo: Msporch on Pixabay

Imagine being 22, female, and in Venice, Italy for a three-month internship at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, a small, yet world-renowned modern art museum located on the Grand Canal. At 2 a.m. on the day your father plans to leave after helping you get settled for a week, you notice that the motion sensor outside your door is lighting up frequently. Too frequently, in fact, for this time of night. In addition, some of the lights are brighter than others. That’s odd.

You also hear strange noises outside. You ask your father to check the exterior heating/AC unit that you assume must be malfunctioning. He discovers not a malfunctioning appliance, but a rickety lawn chair that someone has been using to stand on so they can peek inside your apartment.

Read more about my daughter’s internship experience here.

The peeping tom had made his first appearance earlier that evening, after dark around 7:30. My daughter’s landlord–let’s call her Maria–had come over to help with the t.v. reception and while they were making adjustments, my husband and daughter had both noticed someone outside the apartment loitering in the walkway. They discussed the strange loiterer, but Maria eventually dismissed him, explaining that he was likely just someone from the neighborhood who was curious with the activity in the apartment since it had been vacant for quite some time.

So, in the middle of the night, when my husband ventured outside to check on the furnace and instead found a rickety chair, and a man with frizzy, shoulder-length hair rounding the corner about thirty feet down the corridor, real concern set in. Trying to assess the situation, my husband walked further down the corridor and noticed another lawn chair that had been stepped through around the corner. My husband immediately called Maria, who then immediately called the polizei.

While they waited for Maria and the police to arrive, both my husband and daughter tried to make sense of it all. Upon reflection, they both figured the peeping tom had ruined his first chair while peering in the window, and gone to retrieve another. My daughter also realized that the brighter lights from the motion sensor were more than likely flashes from a camera. Did he deliberately walk back and forth often enough to cause the motion sensor light to camouflage the camera flashes? It was scary to think about how much time and effort this man had put into his actions that night.

Fifteen minutes later, three uniformed police officers were there assessing the situation. Then, unbelievably, the frizzy-haired man sauntered by. Actually, because of the way the walkway turned, there was no way for him to avoid the small gathering without looking suspicious. He tried to play it cool, his camera hanging from his neck.

When my husband recognized the man, he nodded to the police officers who stopped the man and asked what he was doing out so late at night. He replied that he was a photographer taking night shots of the city.

Maria didn’t stand for it. Her Italian temper flared and her arms waved in anger. She accused him of spying and told him to leave the neighborhood and never return. She informed him that a police report was being filed at that moment and if anything happened later, he would be sorry. He was never seen again.

Although this was incredibly scary for me to hear about back in Missouri, it was good to know that, in general, Venice is a quiet municipality known to be “one of Italy’s safest cities.” The full-time resident population in the historic city center has declined dramatically in recent years, and today rests at about 55,000. We had researched the city’s crime statistics before our daughter left on her trip and were reassured. What causes the most trouble for the millions of tourists who visit each year? Pickpockets. What about violent crime? According to Frommers, it’s considered rare.

The next day, my daughter actually considered returning home; maybe this adventure was too much to take on and this incident was a sign that it just wasn’t meant to be. After an anxious day of pondering her options, she decided to stay; however, she did want to find a different apartment.

After attempting and failing to find an alternative rental with the help of my husband (who postponed his return flight for three days), my daughter returned to her original apartment, where Maria assured her she would be safe.

Still, my husband and my daughter took a few precautions. Before leaving, my husband helped her cover the windows with white paper. They figured that if a peeping tom had no view, there would be no temptation. They also made a point to meet the older woman, a Venetian native, living just across the passageway.

Over the next weeks, my daughter got on with her new Italian life. She began working a routine schedule at the museum and truly felt comfortable and at home there. She made many international friends. She became more brave and confident in her new surroundings.

Gradually, her strange experience became a distant memory. Most importantly, she didn’t let the peeping tom’s bad behavior define or detract from one of the most valuable experiences of her life so far. It had been a rough start, but she was determined to thrive.


Thanks for reading! If you found this post interesting, click like so others may more easily find it. Also, feel free to leave a comment on your own strange travel experiences.

 

 

Categories
Life lessons Memoir & Narratives

The freedom that men enjoy (even though they may not realize it)

#MeToo is long overdue, but I still want more.

 

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Photo: Ryan Holloway on Unsplash

 

One afternoon in my early twenties, I went to a local lake. Alone. I was approached by two young men as I lay reading a book on a dock. They didn’t harass me, but our exchange was uncomfortable.

One morning about a year later, I walked through a quiet city park. Alone. I was followed and approached by a man in a car. Nearly stopping as his car cruised by me, he made deliberate eye contact, and drove on. Click here to read about that experience.

One late afternoon several months after that, I went for a run through my neighborhood. Alone. I was flashed by a man on foot. He passed by me, and I ran in the opposite direction. About a  month later, I had changed to running about an hour before dusk. One Sunday, he flashed me again from an adjacent alley as I ran by. Alone.

All of these occurrences happened many years ago, when I was in my mid-twenties. Even though they’re in my past, there’s one thing I still experience frequently: fear.

There are a handful of activities that I fear doing alone. Taking a hike is an example. Seriously, I just want to hike alone.

A few miles from our house, there’s a wilderness refuge and sometimes I just want to take off, drive the fifteen minutes north, exit off the highway, descend the tree-covered lane to the parking lot, get out of my car, and hike. Of course, my husband or one of my kids would go with me, but occasionally, I just want to go it alone.

Not safe. Not smart. You never know what could happen. You never know who you might meet – a young couple, a pair of women, a man, three men – on that trail that crosses a babbling creek, then narrows to a winding path before snaking up a steep hill to a pioneer homesite surrounded by a few gravestones.

But I don’t go. I stay home. There are some things I simply won’t do alone. If you’re a woman, you understand this. Maybe you feel it instinctively or maybe, like me, you’ve been approached, followed, watched when you were alone. If you’re a man, you may not even be aware of this freedom that you have to venture out alone.

So when I read these days about #MeToo and how women are unifying and being heard, I remember that, despite the charges, firings, and destroyed careers that signal a monumental shift is occurring for women, I still must be careful when I’m out alone.

I must always be aware of my surroundings. I must vary my routine or make arrangements to go with a friend or just cancel. I must bend myself around the bad behavior of men, most of whom are more powerful and stronger than me.

Yes, #MeToo is good, justified, and long overdue; however, I want more. I want the freedom that men enjoy. I want to go anywhere I want. Alone.


Thanks for reading. Click “like” for this post so others will find it. Anyone feelin’ like I do on this topic? Have a different view? Leave a comment and let’s talk.