Sweat built while adrenaline circulated like the Carolina Rapids. We, an American volleyball team, played against a local Italian team, a Roman team. Our cherished experience did not end on the court though. After the excitement and the rush of the games subsided, we took pictures and made plans to celebrate our acquaintance at a local pizzeria. A table, probably made to seat approximately 18 people, was barely sufficient to fit our rather large and vociferous crowd. I sat among five beautiful and gregarious women, four Italian and one American. Italian, Spanish, French, and English adorned our picturesque discussion. We ate, drank, partied, and joked all night. Our lively conversation ranged from translated cliches to arduous tales and practical gags. There most have been five different conversations going at once and we all switched from one to the other with relative ease and comfort. No one was exempt from being the butt of a joke!
As our evening closed, late into the night, the Italian group gave us a ride back to our accommodations. Business cards and phone numbers were exchanged while the intensity of the celebration persisted. Finally, it was time for farewells. I welcomed the opportunity to adopt the Italian custom of kissing all the women, a well-received mandate in my book! I then went to shake the hands of the men when: “Wait! … Mmuahh … What! … Mmuahh … Again?” Time suddenly slowed and my body tensed. My brain was in dire need of a jumpstart! “He just kissed me on both cheeks!” As my senses awakened, I regained control and was thusly able to conclude our send-off. I lingered in a clandestine daze all throughout the ceremonious Ciao realizing, of course, the fortune just bestowed upon me, my induction into their fraternity of friendship!