Helga Hayse









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Discovering Helga Hayse was a godsend!

We have long wanted to offer our newly solo visitors something extra — now we can!

Helga has agreed to feed SoloDining.com an array of bite-sized columns.

We find her writings insightful and comforting. We hope you do, too.

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Helga Hayse is an award winning journalist, writer, public speaker and video producer.

She conducts seminars on financial safety for married women and has presented workshops for New York Life, Allstate Life, Merrill Lynch and other financial and community groups. Hayse researched, wrote and presented these seminars before her husband died.

In an ironic twist of fate, she relied on the information in the seminars to help her navigate through the difficult emotional, physical, social and financial journey from wife to widow to solo.




Helga enjoyed a solo visit to Spain.

She unpacked a terrific solo travel tip which she shares. Click here




The Kindness of Strangers

© Helga Hayse 2001

If my daughters had done this, I would be furious. Yet here I was, getting off the train on my way to Lucca (Italy) with a stranger I had met 45 minutes earlier. Mario was a chef on his way to begin a new job at a restaurant called Puccini, located in the house in Lucca where Giacomo Puccini was born. Mario's cousin was meeting him two stations before Lucca. My head said I was crazy; my intuition told me I could trust him. It seemed like a good way to practice my Italian. Right!

Marcello the cousin was waiting in his rusty ancient Fiat. He looked like the crazy derelict in a bete noir Italian movie where the men wear baggy pants, sleeveless undershirts and sport four days of stubble with a cigarette dangling out of the mouth. Marcello appeared to have one glass eye.

I climbed into the back seat, while Mario explained to his cousin why he had arrived with an American woman.

As the car barreled down the narrow main road, hitting every pothole with a back twisting thump, I panicked. Marcello glared at me with his good eye through the rear view mirror. I wondered how he was keeping track of the road.

"Where is her man?" he kept asking Mario, rotating his good eye between his cousin and me. I decided to take the lead. "Sono nonna," I said, hoping that Italian men treat family elders with respect. "I'm going to see my grandchildren."

The car veered onto a dirt road leading into a bamboo forest. Mario explained, "We pick up my sister. She is a nanny in a house near here. Then we drive directly to Lucca."

Marcello stopped the car in a grove of bamboo trees across from a tall iron gate. Mario explained it might be a few minutes. We got out of the car. Marcello disappeared into the trees.

I leaned against the trunk, my heart pounding in my ears. Here's where I get raped and robbed, I thought. To have come so far only to be violated in a forest in the middle of nowhere. Stupid decision, Helga!

Marcello swaggered back and forth in front of me, chain smoking and tugging at his belt. "Nona, nona," I repeated, pointing at myself, counting on his fond memories of his grandmother.

Finally, the iron gate opened. Mario's sister emerged. She approached the car. Mario introduced us.
"Molto piacere, pleased to meet you," his sister said. To her, the situation seemed normal. We chatted amiably as the car headed for Lucca. Marcello's good eye was finally on the road.

Mario and his sister went inside the hotel with me to make sure the room was fine. His sister hugged me, bidding me buona fortuna. I wished Mario good luck in his new job. Marcello lit another cigarette and scratched his stubble.

I went to my room and pondered about the kindness of strangers.




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