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Success, Failure...some of my greatest failures have been a springboard to my greatest successes...the terms are truly fluid.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

11 The Changing Ideas of Different

     Spencer and I have started making videos of our experience here thanks to the help of Gabriele, our angel here, who started us with the first one. The difficulty so far has been to figure out how to post these with limited access to the internet as well as slow loading connections.

    Yesterday was our keep to ourselves day. We did not have any guests for dinner or lunch but instead opted for just being the two of us to try to understand our own rhythms now that we are truly alone in a sense.

   Since it was just the two of us we had a relaxed, super casual day. I got as much of my writing as I could in the computer, which is an all day thing now that I can’t perpetually write on the computer. Most of my writing has been on paper.

     We buy most of our stuff from Paolo’s store nowadays and it is amazing that I find new stuff to buy each day we go. Yesterday my Catch of the Day was notebooks. Since I am using so much paper writing these days my little Welsh pad isn’t going to make it for much longer.

     We now have the bus schedule into Teramo the nearest town with an ATM and library, with an hour of internet use and a great connection, so we can go somewhere if we choose.

     I think Spencer and I are really enjoying the pace here. Both of us are far more social here daily then you would think. We actually talk to people for hours…even with the language gap. Spencer has been enjoying playing with the other kids which does not require much talk if you think about it. I have been talking through my internet time since I am centrally located in the Bar in town while using the internet. I guess I am a novelty since I really desperately want to talk to and be a local, so the locals all seem to engage me in friendly conversation.

     When Spencer and I get into the Bar, we say hi to all the people we have come to know and regard as friends. There is always a crowd of older men relaxing with drinks around the tables out front, ready to smile and comment on whatever passes by. I find them entrancing. They are kind and social and ready to jump up and help at the slightest sign of distress, whether it is my son having his bag of Legos break open and spread through out the middle of the street, or a neighbor needing a hand with a big bag.

    Yesterday when the computer died from getting too hot, (a regular part now of the routine, since currents are so different here in Europe!), I had to stop and say to all the men in my best slapped together Italian, “Thank you. It was so nice to listen to all your manly voices this hour. Your Italian voices are like music to my ears.”

     They all smiled and laughed and knew exactly what I meant. Every moment of this experience is just so exotic and cool, I keep feeling like I cannot possibly be in this beautiful town, speaking a lot of Italian with real Italians understanding me.

     All of Italy is plagued with a multitude of dialects which I personally believe is part of why it took them longer then the rest of Europe to congeal into the shared country of Italy. The French speakers sort of glommed together to create France, the German speakers into Germany but the Italians took a lot more time to congeal since they have so many dialects that do not always easily understand one another. I think movies changed this, but the dialects are still here and apparent.

     So now I am picking up dialetto, for this area of the Abruzzo. Instead of  a cheery “Va bene” like they say in the rest of Italy for “It is OK”…I am sliding into “Va bone…” the term they use here. I can’t tell you how exciting it is that I am starting to pick up a dialect's slang.

     Yesterday was a banner day for me. I either speak very little in these Italian conversations or I speak a lot. My example of saying very little was in the church. I was meeting with the priest and two older ladies since I wanted to do something for the church. I specifically told them my skills are sewing, embroidering and housewife stuff since that is my primary talent to offer up from my perspective.

    They had decided that they would let me do the altar cloth for the church’s main altar for Pentecost. I took measurements using my arms and hands as length verifiers since I have no idea if bolts of fabric here are going to come in 45” wide segments like I am used to back home. I also am going to be cutting and sewing by hand which sounds like a nice project since I no longer am swimming in schoolwork.

     Conveniently, Francesca is taking me to Teramo to buy the bolt of material on Saturday. Spencer and I might get to go to Rome later to help the priest pick out the red colored embroidery work already done for the other piece I will sew to the front. I am very excited about this project…a small way to repay the community for harboring us so warmly and kindly.

     After the ladies told me over and over again what they wanted from me, (I figure I am going to have to keep checking with them as I create the altarpiece because I have no idea what they were telling me aside from the basic size), they surprised me by asking me to stay for a ritual in commemoration of something I couldn’t translate.

     Si, ho tempo…” I had committed myself now whatever it was…..

     The next thing I know the smiley older lady handed me a book in Latin, while the calm sacred speech of the priest grew even calmer. He disappeared for a moment but now had a black hat on a pillow and official looking clothes on.

    The two ladies then took me to the rear of the church and we readied at a pew. I was shown which page to read and with no preparation at all I was using my scant knowledge of Latin to actually say aloud part of the prayer that the ladies were chanting. I was so grateful that my son, Harrison, had coached me on Latin at a walk we had done earlier in the year for Cystic Fibrosis. I was quiet in my readings but as fervent as could be. There is something so holy about being allowed to witness this beautiful ritual, much less be a part of it. It is sort of like finding yourself being in the Olympics when you came to watch. Sure, I was in way over my head but just the privilege of being involved at all on such a personal level was amazing for me.

     Spencer in the meantime had been over at a house playing Legos and watching Adventure Time on Cartoon Network. He has now watched the show in 3 countries and loves how different it is in each place.

     Later when Spencer and I returned home to our little villa here, we both seemed pretty satisfied. We ate leftovers. I drank a quarter of a glass of wine as we watched our videos and planned our technology for tomorrow. We needed to have a game plan on loading these things and creating a new You Tube channel to house our daily videos that Spencer directed rather masterfully.

    As we worked, we played songs from our computer’s library and thought about how different everything is here and how different they will be when we get home.

    I have changed so much. I had applied for jobs this summer in places like Disney before I left. I knew full well that we were not willing to move so far from my family….now I am not so sure. I think I would love a Disney job and a chance to work and live in a different place. I had also been interested in State Department positions but many required being located in Washington, DC. Now, even that feels like “home” compared to the differences I am experiencing now and calling “home”.  

     I guess that my idea of “different” has shifted so much it is hard to tell where my comfort lines end now. I think I am a lot more open to opportunity wherever it may wind up being located.


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