Kind­ness of Strangers

The big adventure of a young back­packer comes to a sud­den halt with the last ferry gone for the day

Reader's Digest Asia Pacific - - Contents - BY CAS­SIDY JACKSON- CAR­ROLL CAS­SIDY JACKSON-CAR­ROLL, 36, is a teacher. She likes to spend her leisure time trav­el­ling, seek­ing adventure and catch­ing up with friends.

AS A BACK­PACKER in my early 20s, I worked in Lon­don for a while. Dur­ing a break, I de­cided to take a quick solo trip to Europe. I’d stayed with a Span­ish friend in the Ca­nary Is­lands, had an Ital­ian friend show me around her home­town of Verona as well as Venice, and crashed on the ho­tel couch of some Aus­tralian friends in Rome. Now I was en route from Rome to visit my friend Maya in Malta.

In the train car­ry­ing me to Si­cily, I en­vi­sioned my­self skip­ping over to the ferry ter­mi­nal, timetable in hand, and sail­ing with the day’s sun­set to Malta. The train ar­rived but the ferry ter­mi­nal was not where I had as­sumed it would be. In­stead it was about 100km away on the other side of Si­cily!

In bro­ken Ital­ian, I con­vinced a taxi driver to de­liver me to the ter­mi­nal, at a highly dis­counted price. When I ar­rived at the ter­mi­nal, only cus­toms of­fi­cials were present. The last ferry to Malta had al­ready de­parted for the day. Ap­par­ently I had the win­ter sched­ule, the sum­mer sched­ule hav­ing be­gun the day be­fore. Now a damsel in dis­tress, I did what I thought was highly

ap­pro­pri­ate at the time and cried.

The Ital­ian men sur­round­ing me were in a co­nun­drum of what to do with a weep­ing blonde. How­ever, the head cus­toms of­fi­cial quickly took com­mand and rec­ti­fied the sit­u­a­tion.

He rang my Mal­tese friend from his mo­bile and ex­plained the sit­u­a­tion. Then he took me home to meet his fam­ily. His wife and two teenage daugh­ters took me to a lo­cal fes­ti­val where I was treated to pasta and ge­lato for din­ner. The el­dest daugh­ter even gave up her room to me for the night. Her fa­ther roused me early in the morn­ing with fresh dough­nuts and drove me to the now bustling ferry ter­mi­nal. He and his work col­leagues then bid me farewell and good luck.

I’ve never for­got­ten the gen­eros­ity and com­plete kind­ness of this Si­cil­ian stranger. I am now pedan­tic about read­ing timeta­bles, and of­ten give cus­toms of­fi­cials a wink when I pass through bor­ders. >>

Plans to take the Ital­ian ferry sys­tem for a quick 90-minute

jaunt went badly awry

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