Sadly this doesn't involve me but as it's such a wonderful story, I felt compelled to write about it and share this short romantic tale with all of you. Perhaps it might even make you smile if you're having a bad day.
It involves the owners of the hostel/b&b I've stayed at this first week here in Palermo. To start the story we need to rewind only 18 months ago.
Her name is 'Cha cha' (shortened) and she was a 35 year old IT systems engineer originating and residing in South Korea. Before she departed for her vacation to Italy, she went to her local doctor who happens to be a long-term family friend. I can't remember if this was to do directly with travel to Europe or just a random check-up.
What I do remember from the story was that the doctor was saying 'Still not married yet Cha cha?' 'What are we going to do with you?' - that type of banter.
eanwhile across the other side of the World, Giuseppe, a 40 year old Sicilian, was working in a hostel here in Palermo, Sicily.
Could people from such differing backgrounds attract, bond and unify? What about the massive long term distance between them geographically? What about the distinctly different career paths and cultural differences!?
Cha Cha had a two week vacation planned and out of the nearly 200 countries on this planet, she chose to backpack in Sicily. Great choice I must say.
That one single and somewhat random decision would turn out to shape the rest of her entire life (to-date at least).
She flew into Palermo to start her Sicilian adventure and booked accommodation at the hostel Giuseppe was running at the time. There were delays with the plane and problems with the airport bus when she did eventually arrive in the country. This made her already late arrival time for 10pm turn out to be more like 1am. Giuseppe was not happy when she arrived and expressed himself in the manner Italians do. The next morning he regretted his firmness with his late arrival and sought forgiveness, Italian style.
Somehow this marked the start of a little spark between them that would eventually develop into a much larger flame.
Cha Cha stayed a couple of days in the hostel and then continued to explore the island for the next two weeks and they continued to remain in contact, electronically, for the remainder of her stay. She came back to Palermo on the last day/night as that is where her departing flight was from and so she stayed at Giuseppe's hostel. They went out in the evening but nothing happened in that way - other than him pleading with her to stay here in Palermo for longer but she couldn't. (FYI, South Koreans average somewhere between just 10 and 15 days holiday a year - and that's at the professional working level. Lower skilled people will be on less than half of that!).
As their communication increased in the weeks that followed, so did their feelings for each other whilst simultaneously believing that nothing substantial could come of this. How could it!? There were far too many seemingly impossible hurdles to overcome not least that her holiday allowance was used up for the foreseeable future.
You'll never guess the main turning point of the story and so here it comes...
At some point in the weeks that followed, Cha Cha made a return to her doctor. The conversation went something like this:
Cha Cha - "I have some news for you".
Doctor - "Go on..."
Cha Cha - "I've finally met someone and I really like him and I think he really likes me too. His name is Giuseppe".
Doctor - "Wonderful news. Giuseppe!?"
Cha cha - "He's Italian and lives in Sicily and so I need your help. You see I'm feeling a little poorly. So poorly that it might take me a few weeks for my heart to recover... The only way it can get better is for me to go back to Italy. Please, please sign me off work".
Doctor - "Cha cha, what you're asking of me is crazy, against the law and I could lose my job".
Cha cha - "I know but you have been saying to me for years that I need to meet someone and now I think I have. The only way I'm going to know for sure is if I spend more time with him".
I understand that the Doctor deliberated over it for a short period of time before signing Cha Cha off work for a several weeks.
Wow. Just wow. And in South Korea too!
All the above happened in the last 18 months and so within the last 15 months they have setup and been running the hostel I'm staying at now here in Palermo.
Often when we read things we don't fully process them or properly stop and really think about what we've just read. Don't let this story be one of those. Try and really appreciate what she risked and gave up including her family, her friends, her country, her familiar and comforting home life, a good job in IT - all to run a hostel with the love of her life.
Could you do that? Would you do that?
The romantics amongst you might probably believe they could but as we know, saying and doing are entirely different. I am one of those romantics but my actions of doing what I'm doing over these last six months confirm I'm mad enough for you to just about believe me.
Anyhow, here is the lovely couple and this is the end of their love story.
Earlier this year the two of them went back to Korea together for the first time and therefore for some essential family introductions. They also made one very important stop too and that was to see the Doctor who has made this story (and reality), possible #lovethatpart :-)
Thanks for reading and I hope this made you smile a little or gave you belief that there just might be hope for the rest of us.
PS - Italians really do, do it best.