After living in Prague for about two years and struggling with the obtuse Czech language, a broken relationship and missing the feeling of being around people who understood me or vice versa, I was ready either move back to the U.S. or venture to another European country.
I always wanted to go back to Spain, I think, but I wanted to go somewhere I hadn’t been before and where I had a relatively better grasp of the language.
With my Spanish background, I figured there was only one logical place for me to go: Italia. I figured Italian would be relatively easy to learn, COMPARED TO CZECH! And what the hell, I always heard Italy was everything it’s cracked up to be – food, art and culture. After researching employment opportunities I stumbled across a “Public Relations Job” in a city called Rimini, Italy.
The job consisted of walking the beach during the day and standing on the corner of busy pedestrian streets at night handing out fliers promoting a nightclub called Life Disco. The more people I got into the club, the more money I made. I was to get free accommodations and free drinks at the club. Basically, my only expenses were food and cigarettes.
I didn’t have a clue as to where Rimini actually was, what the job really entailed, or how to speak Italian, but free room, board and drinks eased my apprehension. So in the summer of 2002, I went for it. I packed everything I had in Prague and took another grueling bus ride through the Alps to arrive in the “Miami of Italy,” one of the most popular beach resort cities in Italy.
I was notified by my new boss, Thomas Agostini, that upon arrival to Rimini, I was to take Bus #22 from the train station to a certain bus stop. I waited and waited for over two hours for a bus when I was informed that the Italian bus drivers were on strike.
What a great start to an unknown job venture! So I took a taxi to my new address, Via Modena 23, the Life Disco house, a larger home that was a hotel at one time. Each floor had rooms with bunk beds in them that could sleep four. I was given my own room – and since it was early in the summer, I was lucky to have sole custody of a room.
Weeks later three guys moved in. The house consisted of ten to fifteen girls and six to ten guys between the ages of 18 and 28 from all around the world: Italy, Ireland, England, Holland, America, Mexico, Germany, Hungary, Spain, etc.
I was one of the elders (at 25) and inherited the role of Beach Manager. I was in charge of making sure scantily clad female employees did their jobs correctly while walking the beach advertising for Life Disco.
I had to make sure they all walked in a line up the beach, stopping at all the tourists sunbathing topless and/or wearing speedos. My job also was to coerce these Europeans tourists to go to Life. Needless to say, I learned how to speak Italian right there on that beach. It was terrifying at times to walk up to a group of beautiful Italian girls and mumble and bumble out some ill-formed Italian phrases, but that’s the beauty of learning a new language!
At night – actually every night I was in Rimini that summer (65 days) – I was paired up with another Life employee and we were stationed at busy street corners or piazzas that had a lot of pedestrian traffic, where we’d hand out more fliers for Life for about three hours.
Rimini has over two dozen clubs, and we competed against several other Public Relations Representatives. I did, however, become friends with several of these fellow club advertisers (expanding my language abilities) because we saw each other every night.
There is an art to speaking to complete strangers on the street. It takes balls to talk to a stranger on the street, especially in a foreign language, and I was quite scared as you can imagine. People don’t like to be approached in public. I admit it – when I see someone coming up to me in the street, attempting to sell me something, I put my head down and keep on keepin’ on. But in Rimini, people expect to be accosted by club employees.
Many of my encounters were cordial. Most people gave me the respect of at least hearing my spiel: “Ciao, questa sera a Life Disco, abbiamo un festa. La’entrata nomale e 15 Euro, ma questa sera e solo 10 Euro.” I must have said that line about 10,000 times that summer!
I managed to add on several phrases and sentences once I left Rimini. Actually, I was able to answer people’s questions in Italian, whereas before, I had no clue what they were asking me. I became quite good at it. As my confidence grew, so did my numbers of guests I got into the club.
After persuading tourists into going to Life, I’d usually see them at the club after my shift was over on the street. Each night we, the Life Disco staff, had to go to the club for a couple hours. We all got free drinks and the party would go on all night. Well, believe it or not, partying is a hard job to do night in and night out.
Some nights at the club were so boring with groups of a hundred eighteen-year-old Macedonians or Germans. Some nights were completely, downright nuts with a group of fifty Dutch people. Each night was different, with interesting people, but at the same time, each night was the same: loud music, drinking and lots of people.
I learned a lot about the Italian culture that summer. I learned that Italian men are very touchy with other men but are quite put off by homosexuality. I learned that Italian men love groping women even when the women are adamant about not being handled. I learned that Italian women are very hard to talk to because they always have Italian men trying to grabble them! Also, there are books out there that explain the many hand and facial gestures of Italians, but when I got to see them firsthand, I was blown away by their punctuated form of communication.
In fact, I had a brief romance with an Italian girl who didn’t speak a lick of English and I learned firsthand how fiery Italians can be!
I ended up working at Life Disco for two consecutive summers. It was an extremely entertaining job. I met a group of amazing people whom I still talk to. However, after my second stint in Rimini, I wanted to go out and experience more of Italy. So I headed south to the Eternal City of Rome to write the next page in my life.