decision is made to leave a bit earlier for Pisa, being that it’s fuuucking snowing! Not the ripest weather for trail walking. The hotel noticed, regrettably, that there were 3 of us in the room, and promptly, as all hotels are when it comes to the bill, raised our rate 50%. Hard to argue when they have my passport. Shouldve stolen the scrambled eggs at breakfast…I am engaged in conversation by a loquacious Senegalese on the bus, who speaks in a mixture of French, Italian and English, and whom I somehow easily understand; he is residing illegally in La Spezia selling umbrellas and wooden cats to tourists. we chat about Africa, Obama and my junker jacket for about 20 minutes before he writes down his email and disembarks. He asks me, between chews on a toothpick dangling in the crevasse of a split lower lip, to take his picture next time I’m in town. And I have a strange, compelling idea to actually take him up on it, to return here and photograph his tribe of immigrants, how they came to be here, what their stories are, how they manage… Perhaps for many, with soaring unemployment rates in their home countries, selling tat to tourists is the only option outside of crime. Sure they’re a pain in the ass when all you’re trying to do is explore and enjoy a new city; but I wonder if they merit more respect than we mete out? One thing he said sticks; that Italy is racist, hard to endure, but America is free of racism, because we elected Barack Obama, a black man. During my most recent meanderings across europe, i have heard on more than one occasion, a newfound respect for americans based solely on our mutual decision regarding the presidency. If you travelled after 9/11 like I did, breaking against the abysmal opinions of Americans inspired by Bush and his foreign policy, a statement of such brash, but utterly positive naïveté, makes me feel as though even if Obama does absolutely nothing in office, just plays foosball with his valet in the nude while watching the Twilight trilogy and Ginger Snaps, the simple reality of his election has done so much to repair our battered national image. We can finally stop pretending to be Canadian.