Often times guests will ask me what about home I am missing. Sometimes the answers come quickly and easily (I don’t even count family and friends as an answer, this is simply a given) and often times I will remain stumped at this very simple query.

Among recent answers I have given: taps that turn in the "proper" (ie: North American) direction, newspapers in english, door knobs not handles, not having to translate every word, sign and paper you see/ read/ touch/ encounter (albeit likely this would change in time with more language lessons) crunchy natural peanut butter and raspberry jam on spelt grain bread sandwiches, and coffee.

In the land of all things 'cafe' (cited as both the name of the institute and what it serves) as a coffee and caffine lover I should be in absolute heaven.  After all, nothing delights me more than a small dark americano or a soy coffee misto. Even a small dark roast coffee with a bit of cream and brown sugar can put a serious smile on my face and a spring in my step. However missing "coffee" here isn't the delicious drink itself I refer to, but the actual social intercourse in which I like to enjoy it in.

We didn't grow up with coffee being part of our daily routines, my parents were infrequent coffee drinkers although they come from stock where coffee is an integral part of the daily routine. To me, the presence of the coffee pot meant something special was coming: Christmas morning, a long weekend with my Aunts, Uncles and cousins, a friend or two coming over for a visit. I came to associate coffee with special moments, events or occasions. Waking up to the smell of coffee brewing for me brings about the pavlov dog response of immediate happiness. Surely something special must be occurring outside my bedroom door as the heavenly aroma wafts upward to my sleepy self if coffee is in the air.

My Grandma and I will frequently have a coffee date, a time where we will walk, drive or meet somewhere to visit over a hot cup. My siblings, various friends and I will do the same, "going for coffee" evolving into the social interaction of sitting together, opening a conversation, starting a thought or idea, sharing our lives.  It means lingering somewhere to laugh, cry, visit and banter. Alternatively, I can render just as much enjoyment out of walking to a coffee shop with a journal, pen and book, sitting with a cup of coffee, writing, jotting ideas, people watching. This little pause in my day sometimes is just the period I need to break away from the routine I find myself in, and grab a little piece of time for me alone. I find it soothing. I find it a happy moment. I walk away from that break refreshed, refocused and with a lift in my step.

I would be lying if I said I didn't at times drink coffee for the effect (I still try to self regulate to three cups a week or less) but I would have to argue the way it is consumed is as much a part of the enjoyment as the warm buzz it can give me.

In Italy, I find myself fumbling with this very discourse I have come to understand as part of my North American life. We are not to sit, linger, visit, laugh over a steaming cappuccino, in fact this is strongly discouraged by often increasing the price for a cup if you choose to stay (copeto- cover charge) and the tables are often small and not readily accessible. Almost all Italians take their coffee small, short, dark and standing. Come in, shoot, leave.  Like being pushed towards a bar in a nightclub while all chaos breaks loose around you, except it is little old Italian ladies, women with strollers, men in suits, kids on skateboards shove, push, chatter and press forward to the bar. Shoot an espresso. Walk away.

This past week on our seventeen person cycling trip, mid way through the trip my co-leader and I find ourselves on a short, blissful break from our people. We plow through lunch and walk to the nearest bar (read: cafe) and order. I ask for Cafe Americano (espresso with hot water), add a small amount of milk and sugar and stand akwardly in my sweaty bike clothes, flanked by other folks hovering around the bar, feeling pressured to put back my cup at a speed. I sip back the last of the liquid quickly, the hotness stinging the back of my throat, not enjoying any moment of the swallow but rather in fifteen minutes relishing in the effect the caffeine has on my system.

Somehow what I miss about this is the event of it all, not the effect of what it does to my body. In all of what I miss, I am very much looking forward to returning home, walking to Bumpy's, Beano or HG for a hot cup of coffee. More so, I am looking forward to whoever might be waiting for me on the other end to share it with.