Finding a Needle in a Haystack

Of all the things we could have done while spending the afternoon in Florence, Italy, I decide I must be a contestant on the Amazing Race and had just been given some clue that seems impossible to figure out but I’m like all over the challenge and ready for it!  My boys were mortified that I was up for this crazy adventure because honestly they felt that I would never, NEVER find it.  Even some new friends on the tour that day asked what our plans were and were shocked to hear of our antics.

The challenge

So here it is.  Over a year ago a friend of mine had lived in Florence, Italy and met a man who I will call Rafiki. (Work with me here, I’m on a Disney Cruise after all!) . When she left she did not have any contact information for this man.  She only knew his first name and a general, and I mean general location of where he worked.  That’s it.  That is all the information I was given.  My task, to find Rafiki!

Now, let’s keep in mind that I don’t speak a word of Italian, or any other language that might have been helpful.  I only had my charismatic smile and a twinkle in my eye to help me out.  What I did have was a picture of my friend standing by Rafiki.  However even in the picture, Rafiki is half way cut off.  So it’s still going to be hard at best.  But I’m up for the challenge and ready for the hunt.  I begin walking the streets of Florence, with my iPhone 7+ in my hand showing this picture I go up to complete strangers and say in english mind you “I’m looking for this man (as I point to him) do you know him?  His name is Rafiki.”, only to be told “uhhh, no!” with a look like you must be crazy!  Honestly, it was a bit crazy to think I could find a specific stranger in a strange town.  This went on for several blocks and then like a ray of sunshine poking through the clouds I ask this woman if she knew Rafiki.  Surprisingly she said “Yes, I know him.  But I don’t know where he is”.  Wait!  You know him???  I wanted to hug her and dance around in all my excitement but I contained myself to ask a few more questions.  If she knew him, she would hopefully know more.  In her broken english I found out that he works somewhere close within the next 4-5 city blocks somewhere.  This is actual progress, really it is.

The streets of Florence, Italy are different than what we are accustom to in the US.  They are paved in stones, very narrow where cars and people occupy.  It’s a wonder more people aren’t run over actually.  I’m not sure the US could handle this sort of sharing the road as I feel like it would be a legal mess of law suits waiting to happen.  In any case, on I went with my photo and asking questions.  I was getting stupid excited over finding a stranger in a strange city, in a strange country.  Seriously, where was the little yellow and red flags like in the Amazing Race?  It would have been helpful!  I promise!  I asked more and more people if they knew Rafiki, and eventually I found someone who did inf act know him and knew where he worked.  I was then pointed down about 2 more blocks on the left…really that is what I was told.  With a hop in my step, I walked and came across a stand in the middle of the street, lined with all the other stands.  At this point I had become quite the spectacle with every store owner claiming they would give me a better deal than Rafiki would and to not bother finding him.  If they only knew there was more to my search than just shopping!  But really, I was starting to feel like a rabbit in the middle of wolves as these store owners clearly had no clue was personal space was.  In the US, we have this rule that says you need like 4 feet of clear space around you if you do not know someone.  In Florence, the streets are too narrow for everyone to have that much space, but touching is definitely out.  Do not touch me.

Mission Accomplished!

I soon found the stand where Rafiki worked but he was not there, after a long broken english conversation, I found out that he would be back soon.  So we waited.  Out of no where Rafiki appeared.  I was beyond excited!  I’m pretty confident at this point Rafiki thought I was a complete lunatic as I grabbed his arm (please note – I broke my own rule of personal space and grabbed Rafiki.  But it’s apparent that these people have no personal space so they aren’t bothered by it.) to show him the photo on my phone.  And then it all clicked! Like the snap of a Tic-Tac container.  Rafiki said “That is my friend!” with a grin that swallowed up his entire face.  He was elated to say the least.  After I explained to him that this was my friend, my dear sweet friend whom I adore he couldn’t believe it.  He smile was infectious.  He was beyond happy.  With modern day technology I was able to text our mutual friend and let her know I had indeed found Rafiki.  The best news was yet to come.  Rafiki was so excited hoping to exchange contact information and the like that I had to slow him down and tell him the good news.  That his friend, my friend, would be in Florence in just a few days!

I’m pretty confident his heart skipped a beat.  Poor guy, it will never amount to much but he can hope, right?  Regardless he was thrilled to know he would see his friend again.

Just like the Amazing Race, when the contestants figure out the clues and reach the end.  They earn rewards.  And Rafiki didn’t disappoint.  You see, he is the manager of a leather store in the leather market, well one of the many leather markets in Florence.  He hooked me up good!  These stores are more like tents with stuff inside.  Inside is also relative because these tents are lined along a street, so there is no real address, or even store, just tent after tent after tent after tent.  IT’s really daunting actually.  So to find a strange man, in a strange city, in a strange country who works somewhere in the city under a tent…well that my friends is what you call finding a needle in a haystack!

PS – Amazing Race – I’m ready!  I’m ready for the world travel, and clues, and little yellow and red signs.  Bring it on!



Photo of Rafiki and mutual Friend

Rafiki and Myself!

Proof of Life Photo

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