Monday, 12 October 2009


It's a bittersweet goodbye today as I spend my last day in London and bid all my travels farewell for now.

Marike and I managed to survive the Contiki tour. Our health is more or less back in tact and while she is preparing to get back to work in England I have packed my bags and am just waiting for tonight to arrive so I can get on that plane and head back to the dark continent. My heart has been pining for some African air for a long time now and I am struggling to keep my heartbeat at a civilised pace because of the excitement.

However, the expectation of seeing my family and my home again is a bit overshadowed by the sadness at having to say goodbye to my friends and family in London and Clapham in particular. Who knew you only needed a few weekends with your little brother who used to irritate you until you turned blue from shouting at him, into a friend and confidant. Don't know how either of us are gonna survive without the other one just being a cheap phone call away.

Anyway, enough about that, this is supposed to be a travelogue. The rest of the Contiki was just as much fun as the first half was. Oktoberfest was definitely one of the highlights. Never before have I seen so many drunk people just hanging out and having a good time... no fights, no unpleasantness, no bad Afrikaans music... my kind of drinking festival. We met Corrie and Mark there and had a ball of a time there. We both also realised that German men are by far the most attractive men in Europe and I got to know a Swedish man a little better as well. I won't kiss and tell, but I can say the Swedish sure are pleasant people.

Austria is a sparkling place with my kind of activities. We did mountain biking, paragliding (so peaceful) and listened to Mozart and Brahms. Switzerland was just as beautiful and I saw snow again when we went up the Jungfrau mountain. Unfortunately we got stuck in the elevator on our way down from the top of the viewing point and had to wait half an hour in the freezing cold before they managed to open the doors for us. Luckily the doors were glass so we could see out and managed to keep the claustrophobia at bay. That did mean that we felt like chimpanzees in a cage though, because all the Japanese tourists that passed us just had to stop and take several hundred pictures with their big cameras before they proceeded to get into the elevator next to us to go the viewing point. I'm not sure if I'll get into a lift right next to one that is broken down. We did get a free hot chocolate out of the adventure though and another story to tell.

Had another short stop in Germany in the beautiful Rhine Valley before we headed to our last stop, Amsterdam. I loved the little city with all the pretty canals, thousands of bicycles and coffee shops. Needless to say I frequented a couple of the coffee shops and enjoyed my visit to Amsterdam thoroughly. We had to say a sad goodbye to all our new friends on the tour and I set of for Clapham for a prolonged goodbye. And now this is it.

I'm excited about going home and have already applied for a few positions back there but I suddenly experienced a smidgeon of jealousy when I read a friend who just starting teaching English in Vietnam's blog. So who knows, maybe this is just "See you later" and not "Goodbye". If I get back to SA and the ants in my pants reappear you never know where the next place will be where I will be writing from.

So that's it, thanks for reading...
See you later.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Still alive... just.

In a camp site just outside Rome at the moment.
We've survived Barcelona, the French Riviera, Florence and most of Rome by now.
Marike and I have both been infected by the dreaded Contiki cough, not enough sleep and too much drinking, so we've been trying to take it a bit slower the past few days before we're sent home to make use of the NHS to fix our pneumonia.
No worries though, we are not missing the whole tour because we're drinking too much, I can't say exactly the same for most of the other people on the tour though. I don't know how they can keep on drinking for weeks on end and how they afford it, but I guess they've been practicing a long time, bloody Aussies.
Barcelona was fantastic and nightlife was even better. I also discovered that Florence's nightlife is a lot more alive than the stately Renaissance front would like you to believe. Karaoke, dancing and lots and lots of alcohol make for a lethal combination.
Rome is still hot and dirty and historic and now I'm really looking forward to the rest of the tour as I haven't seen any of the other cities or countries coming up.
Pretty soon I will be listening to Mozart in Vienna, drinking beer at the Oktoberfest, going up the Alps and paragliding over Austria.

I would like to lodge a formal apology to Mr. Kimball, I did mean John's house, and not Johannes', my brain isn't really working any more. Can't wait to make use of your hospitality once again very soon. And I still love you too Johannes.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Paris, Beajoulais (or something like that) and Barcelona

Just a quick update to let you know what we´ve been up to for the past week.

Went back to London on Friday after living it up in the villa in Italy for a few days.
Luggage got lost on our way from Florence to Frankfurt to Heathrow. Had to sleep dirty for the first night in London.
Luggage was delivered at Johannes´s house at 17:00 on Saturday, we started packing for our tour whilst drinking, writing articles, applying for jobs and sending e-mails.

Got on the bus to France on Sunday morning 7:00. Saw Paris, a cabaret show and had a good French dinner in Paris. Met a bunch of new, fun people.
Drove to the French wine region, got to know the bunch of new, fun people better in a chateau in the countryside. In my opinion the French countryside is even prettier than the Italian.
Drove to Barcelona today with what felt like a hangover, that got worse during the day and eventually turned out to be a cold. I´m thinking it´s probably because of all the drinking that´s been going on, hardly any sleep and closed, confined spaces.
Swine flu has nothing on us, we have the Contiki cough.

Tomorrow we´re of to see Barcelona, see Flamengo dancing, go out on the town and just a totally fabolous time.
Will report back again as soon as possible. Otherwise I´ll either see you in London or South Africa one of these days.

By the way, thanks for all the comments on the blog so far. The article is meant to be published in May 2010 or maybe a little earlier.


Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Six weeks and then some

Our time at Valgiano came to a bittersweet end yesterday and we said a sad goodbye to everyone but with a spring in our step because we knew we had three days of doing absolutely nothing ahead of us.

The weekend was so good we almost decided to stay on in Valgiano until Friday, but when we started picking and sorting grapes again on Monday we knew we made the right decision and the time was ripe for us to move on to new pastures.

On Saturday we joined in on the tasting of all the ferments where you taste almost thirty glasses of something between grape juice and wine. Since I've done that I can actually taste some more differences when I taste proper wine. Maybe I'm turning into a connoisseur? The rest of the day was spent eating and drinking around the table before going to the beach for a swim and to see the sunset. I didn't expect to find any proper waves in the Mediterranean Sea but there was a strong wind so it almost felt like swimming at Hartenbos. The sunset was spectacular, as expected, but it was overshadowed by the seafood we had for dinner. The tastiest, most tender squid, prawns, shrimp and other goodies I've ever had.

We tried to get some ice cream in Pisa afterwards but the shop was closed so instead we just went to the tower to have a look at it in the full moon. It is quite bizarre to see a building leaning over like that. That's about all I can say about that though.

Sunday was spent being even lazier than Saturday as we got up, had coffee for breakfast, started cooking lunch, and had lunch. Sat around the table until we started cooking for dinner and eventually had a huge dinner as well. I think my stomach is the size of a football by now.

As I said earlier, Monday's picking and sorting just convinced us that it was indeed time to go. It felt like the day went by in slow motion until we had a break at 18:00. Our boss decided to give us a proper farewell and before I knew it I was next to Marike inside one of the fermenters with almost a 1000 litres of almost wine. Not the worst farewell I've ever had, I even took a few sips.

So that's it for the Wwoofing experience. Now we are hanging out at Villa Guinigi. Sleeping in everyday, taking long, hot baths and not doing much. The long awaited article for the rooi rose needs to happen before Friday, but except for that we have no responsibilities and it is marvellous.

On Sunday we're off on our Contiki tour, will try to report back whenever I can. Just for fun.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

What a week

It's the end of the week and all of a sudden I appreciate the weekend so much more. We've worked hard this week, picking grapes, sorting grapes, crushing grapes, eating grapes, fermenting grapes, cleaning grapes. Oh, and drinking wine.

The work is tedious and the hours long, but we really are enjoying ourselves for the first time on the trip. No trying to convince ourselves that it really is fun and telling ourselves that it is all part of the experience. We're working during the day, chatting with lots of great people, eating wonderful food, drinking some amazing wine, learning a lot and experiencing things we will never experience again.

During all this Marike is of course being herself and charming everyone with her gracefulness. She's always walking into things, messing stuff all over her and keeping everyone's spirits up by just being herself. The highlight of all her escapades so far has been "the bidet incident", when she tried to relieve herself on the toilet like normal people do, but she was in such a hurry that she sat down on the bidet instead. Of course, she only realised this once she tried to flush the toilet and couldn't find the flusher anywhere. Luckily for us it was only a number 1.

So between all the grapes, Marike is keeping the trip interesting, the people are amazing and the food even better. I have now ticked everything from my little to-do list and am ready to go back to London and start the Contiki tour and work on my other list. We have both crushed the grapes in the barrels and have had countless meals at a long table under the trees. Usually I eat so much that I am almost crying after lunch while I'm sorting grapes, luckily we're only here until Monday, so after that we can hopefully try and eat normally again.

A word of warning to you all, the Italians are saying that we are now nice and tanned. They've even stopped calling Marike Mozzarella, so don't be startled when you see us again.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Harvest torture and food heaven

The real harvest has started and I must confess I’m a little bewildered.

We sorted grapes until 21:30 last night and even when we left the other people being paid to do the job were still going and probably only finished at 23:00. When we were called out of the vineyard at 11:00 yesterday morning I thought we were lucky to be removed from the midday sun, but I soon realised as I was stuck in grapes up to my elbows that this was not the best job on the farm.

The sorting of the grapes require at least six people. My job was to remove as many stalks from the berries as possible before the next person did the same and the other four people as well. The grapes come too fast though and two hands aren’t enough to remove millions of stalks at a time so very soon you’re basically using your whole body to remove as many stalks as possible. In between there are wasps and heat and a sore back and sticky feet to also try and handle. I now realise why the people used to the job are almost permanently sipping on a beer or something stronger, they need it. I can’t imagine anyone doing for a job and going through this torture twice a year, once for grapes and once for olives. I don’t think the young people going to study viniculture have any idea what they are letting themselves in for when they register.

Despite that, the people and the food have made it all worthwhile. Every now and again, while you are sorting grapes we stop for ’n dinner of fresh bread and pancetta. Or we have a seafood fiesta for lunch (yesterday). I don’t even like anchovies, but the Italian peasant dish of anchovies, lemon, onions and garlic was divine; a good precursor to the mussels and potato and eggplant waiting for main dish. We ate mussels and built towers with all the shells we collected... a memorable and delightful lunch.

Another highlight was the Italian barbeque we had on Thursday evening. Different types of salami and bread for our first starter. The different types of Italian sausages for the next course – I lose track of what each course’s name is and I don’t think the Italians really care, they just want their food. And the best and most tender T-bone steak I’ve ever had. The steak was about 7cm thick and we shared it between about 12 people. I was a bit disappointed when the fillet side was already taken when it reached my, but the other side was as tender as marrow and I had to stop myself from hogging the whole thing for myself. That and the fresh bread with chilli in olive oil made me a very happy girl. The meat deprivation I suffered in Tagliacozzo is now well and truly erased; I think I actually have credits in that department again.

Now only one week of work left before we move on to the next pasture, but I think this is our last weekend. It sounds as though we will be working straight through next weekend so I will post again in about ten days time. That’s if I haven’t drowned in fermenting grapes by then.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

The romance is back

All the hard work, unbearable heat, mosquito bites and money spent are now worth it.

We began picking grapes on Monday. Because it is so hot at the moment we had to start picking every morning at 7:00. That meant we had to get up at 6:00 to get a lift with the farm manager, Saverio, at 6:30 to the vineyard. On our way there we stopped for breakfast before starting the sticky, hot job of picking lots and lots and lots of grapes.

The job isn’t hard, but it gets really hot at about 10:30. The initial plan was to keep picking until 13:00, but the Italians decided it is too hot so every day we stopped at 12:00, jumped in the cars and stopped for an aperitif on our way home. By the time we get back to the farm for lunch every day we’re hardly hungry anymore because we had too much beer and snacks at the bar. Today we finished with the last little bit of the current vineyard at 9:30 and it was, once again, impossible to go directly back to the farm and start working again. We had to find an open bar first (most of the bars in the area are closed on Wednesdays) to have a coffee before we could even think about working again. After driving around for 20 minutes and getting a little panicky we eventually found an open one, had a coffee and some food and went back to pick the last few rows of white grapes on the farm.

Though we’re glad to be done with the white grapes, it sounds as though the real hard work will only start once we begin with the red ones. Apparently once we start picking them, we work straight through from 8:00 to 22:00, except of course the three hour lunches the Italians love so much. So the hard work is still ahead but all the other things make up for it.

On Monday we went to a local restaurant for magnificent meal. The bill was covered by the monthly delivery of the farm’s wine, so you actually make money when you go out for a meal because we usually get change for the meal as well.

The other ritual they have is to go out for drinks after work at the other local bar which is on the hilltop and has a breathtaking view over Lucca and the surrounding mountains. Of course, it never stays one drink and we usually stay until the owner has to tell us to either leave or have dinner because they want the table. Us foreigners have then filled ourselves with the accompanying bread, olives, ham, salami and cheese by then because we are under the false impression that this is dinner. However, we have been told that this is only Miranda (or something like it), the meal between lunch and dinner. Dinner only comes at 21:00 or 22:00. We usually skip this though and just jump into the pool when we get back to the farm before we head of to bed.

We are enjoying this farm a lot more than the other one. We work hard for six hours every day and then we are basically free to do as we choose. Sometimes we help the other people, because there is a lot of cleaning to be done before the red grapes start coming in. Other times, like today we just pass out on our beds for a necessary siesta. It’s amazing how quickly your body gets into the routine of this siesta tradition and how angry it gets at you when you don’t give it a siesta one day. I even had an allergic reaction yesterday evening to something, today I think it is because I worked through the whole day and it was my body’s way of telling me to never ever do that again.

Pictures coming later this week, now I have to join the Prosseco party on the veranda.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Tuscany: Part 1

23 August 2009

New farm, new people, new jobs.

We arrived at Tenuta di Valgiano after our long travel from Istanbul to Milan and from there to Luca. All the travelling went without incident and we quite enjoyed sleeping on the airport on Sunday evening as we found a big McDonald’s with long leather seats that served as beds to all the backpackers and other smart travellers sleeping over in the airport. The other, not so smart people, were sleeping elsewhere on small airport seats and concrete floors. The train ride was long and hot and we should have known the temperature in our compartment was a sign of things to come as the temperature here reaches the 30’s at about 10:00 in the morning.

We don’t realise how hot it is in the morning at the moment though, because we’re washing the crates they use to pick the grapes in with a water blast. We’re working from 8:00 until 12:00, after that it is too hot to do anything except sleep or swim. However, by 10:00 when you are soaked and still in the shade it gets very cold and this morning we had to rest for about 20 minutes to let the sun reach the spot where we were working to prevent hypothermia. I also developed a nasty cold because of this and at the moment my voice is sounding a bit like a sexy stripper’s, that’s if I can manage to talk between sneezing and sniffing.

On Friday we drove up the Apennine mountains to a restaurant very high up. The view was amazing, the food lovely and the weather absolutely perfect. It’s a lot cooler up there than down here and it was a bit of a shock to arrive back in this heat and humidity again. First thing when we set foot out of the car was that another bug bit Marike, what a lovely welcome back. The mountains were lovely though, it’s just like I imagined the Alps and Heidi’s theme song was stuck in my head the whole time we were there.

Although there are only three people who can speak English everyone is very friendly and try to communicate with us. They are saying that we will begin picking white grapes next week as it is too hot for them and the red ones probably the week after. It also sounds like we will have real early mornings next week and only pick until lunch time... I wanted summer weather and boy have I got it.

The people Marike worked for in England was so kind as to offer us a few days stay in their villa nearby, so we'll probably go and stay there for the last three days we’re in Italy to rest before we set of on our Contiki tour. I’m afraid I might have bitten off a bit more than I could chew and we won’t really enjoy the Contiki tour if we have to start it feeling the way we did on Monday. Hopefully it all works out.

That’s it for this week. No real funny incidents so far but we are having lunch underneath a big tree with a view and a bunch of Italian people and eating real tasty Italian food (with meat) every day, so I can now tick that on my list. Some other Wwoofers from New Zeeland and the USA will also arrive soon and the local people that help with the picking every year, so we should have the festive harvest atmosphere real soon. We did go walking for 10km yesterday without the proper shoes for an ice cream after under estimating the distance to the closest town considerably, so today we’re both trying to recover and just enjoying a real chilled Sunday. Another one of those real bad decisions. At least we only have three more weeks to try and top the last one.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Istanbul Sprints

Our joy at being finished at our first farm caused us to be extremely eager to leave Italy and Friday and meant that we were ready to board our 22:00 flight to Istanbul at 14:00. The hope that there will be a restaurant with wireless Internet in Rome also didn't pay off so we had to pass eight hours without Internet. We did manage however and eventually did board our plane.

However, not knowing the personal affairs of all planes and airlines over the world meant that we were smart enough to fly with Alitalia. The unfriendly check-in lady didn't check Marike and me into seats next to each other so we had to shout to each other across the aisle. What was even worse was that the lovely people from Alitalia were waiting for some passengers and their luggage to arrive for an hour. After that we had to wait for some maintenance person to fix something in the food cupboards. After an hour and a half waiting on the runway we took off to Istanbul at last. I was extremely grumpy because they were eating into the few hours we had in Istanbul, I was tired and hungry and at that moment I was irritated with everything remotely resembling anything Italian. Marike was giggling away, especially when I just grunted at the air hostess when we could finally disembark in Istanbul... We didn't even get a sandwich for a three hour flight, just some dry crackers and gross wine.

Customs in Turkey was a breeze and we were even called on the public information system as the poor driver from our hotel were probably waiting for almost two hours for us to arrive. In Istanbul at last and it was nothing like what we expected. In my imagination I was imagining something like Lawrence of Arabia with a little bit of Durban. What we found, at 3:00 in the morning, were wide highways, with clean and green gardens. It felt like arriving in a Sandton on steroids.

In the hotel we couldn't resist looking at Facebook and our e-mails to fix our craving for the Internet, but soon enough out batteries were completely empty and we fell deeply asleep.

We only had a day and a half in this amazing city so we were up very early to have breakfast and look around. Being girls we went straight to the Grand Bazaar to do some shopping. We controlled ours urges until we got to the middle of the bazaar when we just couldn't resist all the temptation any more. The salespeople are all so charming and persistent that we eventually walked out of there with gifts for all our family, despite not having any spare weight available in our suitcases. This, of course, meant we also had to buy another back pack to carry another piece of hand luggage on the plane. It's one big vicious circle.

I think our biggest joy was the sight of a MacDonald’s in the distance when we were walking down the main road. I stopped dead in my tracks and clutched Marike's arm and she immediately knew what I was looking at and gave a little squeal of joy. We're not usually addicted to trashy fast food, but since we both flew to Italy on a hangover three weeks ago we have had an incredible craving for it. We have also realised in the mean time that no airport or small country town in Italy has a MacDonald’s so the sight of that big M was a sight for sore eyes. All my previous good intentions of eating the local food flew straight out of the window and we immediately sat down for a lunch of Big Macs, fries and Coke. The shopping continued after lunch until we couldn't stand on our two feet anymore and retired to the hotel for a siesta - damn Italians.

Saw a show of Sufi music and dancing last night but realised soon enough that we're either very shallow and don't understand all their traditions or we were just some more innocent tourist victims of the Istanbul charm. The dancing just entails three men spinning and spinning and spinning on some prayer music for about half an hour. I must have found peace during it though because I almost fell asleep a couple of times.

The last adventure of the day was the biggest. We took off to have our very first Turkish bath. On arrival we weren't exactly sure what to do and were just shoved into a little booth with some towels and shower shoes and told to undress. When we came out we were led to the bath area by two Turkish ladies in black bikinis, a big sauna type room with a granite slab in the middle filled with more naked ladies.

The two of us were completely shocked at the sight of all the boobies and we were split up and told to lie down on the slab. At some stage I received a panty and was told to put it on by the Big Momma washing me. After lying on my back for a while, while wearing nothing but a panty, the Momma returned and started scrubbing me. Every now and again she would ask: "Good?" and I would say "Yes", although she almost winded me a few times. She washed very thoroughly and everywhere and was finished very soon. Then I was led to another tap where she washed my hair while I sat between her legs and told me to take a shower in another room where there were no showers. I just tried to rinse of the soap and went to a room with an ice cold pool to wait for Marike's arrival. I could only relax once I knew where Marike was because I was a little afraid that she got scared and ran away but I did see her just before my wash started so I could enjoy the scrubbing and bubbles eventually.

She eventually turned up and we sat giggling in the pool for a long time recounting our experiences. I will leave out all the gory details but she had more or less the same experience than I did, except that the thin lady washing her didn't bother putting on the top of her bikini until halfway through the bath, making her even more uncomfortable.

Up until then we felt like we were in Durban or the Oriental Plaza, but that made us realise at last that we were firmly in Turkey and in a completely different culture than anything we had ever experienced. Amazing how something can be so normal for one person and so uncomfortable for another.

We once again fell straight asleep after getting over the shock of being violated by two naked ladies and woke up this morning to do the usual sightseeing. Went to the Blue Mosque, dressed up in sheets to go inside, saw the Hagia Sophia Mosque, walked past the Topkapi Palace, had some terrible ice cream look-a-like and bought some spices at the Spice Bazaar.

Had a blast of a time and feel revitalised for the next four weeks of working. The original reason we came to Istanbul was because we could only stay in the Schengen area for 30 days at a time because of our visas but we are both very happy we did. Not only did we get to experience all of this we are also looking forward to eating some more Italian food and meeting some new people.

Will probably post a big blog again in four weeks. Check out the pics of the weekend on Facebook.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Three blogs in one... suffering from a severe case of internetlessness.

31 July 2009

In Italy for almost a week now. It’s been hot as hell and we’ve been working very hard, but hard work has never killed anyone so we’re still enjoying ourselves.

We’re staying in the Abruzzo region in Italy in the middle of the mountains. It is pretty but a little bit of the romance has been lost on us because we’re working so hard and not just sitting around sipping Peroni and sun lounging. Despite that our tans are coming along nicely and we are already the proud owners of skin that is two shades darker than it was a week ago.

The main lesson we’ve learnt so far is no matter where you are in the world, be it in picturesque Italy, Cape Town, Soweto, London or Hong Kong there is no such thing as paradise. It may be paradise for a couple of weeks on holiday, but all over the world, everybody is just working and trying to get by. Everyone is doing what they have to do to survive, make a living and attempt to achieve happiness. The grass may seem greener on the other side, but it really and truly is just the same colour, despite it being warmer or colder, wetter or drier... we are all just the same species and trying to do the same thing, survive.

We’re mostly working in the little fields around the house. Removing thorns and weeds, cutting grass, getting the vegetable garden in working order again and all sorts of jobs that seem small but turn out to be a lot bigger than anticipated. Our bodies took a few days to get used to the shock of working hard again for the first time in a year, but I think we are over the worst now and will only get fitter and browner every day.

It’s satisfying sitting down in the evening to a good meal with a tired body and enjoying the view, food, local wine and good company. Our hosts, Luca and Fabiana, are friendly and have made us feel quite at home. We have our own little wooden hut about 50m from the house and an outside shower. This doesn’t mean they don’t want us to shower in their house though. They also use the outside shower, with only cold water, since the best part of the house is being used for the bed & breakfast. They’re all about being organic and we both feel a bit sorry for Fabiana because she is nine months pregnant and still taking cold showers. They have all my respect for sticking to their principles, but I’m extremely grateful that I have different principles and allow myself some small pleasures in life. Like warm showers and a comfortable bed.

The food is wonderful. Luca and Fabiana are vegetarians, but we don’t even miss the meat. Their vegetarian meals are tasty and healthy and we really do enjoy all the meals, lots of zucchini, tomatoes and pasta. Last night we had homemade pizza baked in the wood burning oven and I am pretty sure it was the best pizza I have ever tasted. Focaccia for starter and after that wonderful vegetarian pizza with tomatoes, cheese, olives, anchovies, zucchini flowers and all sorts of other secret goodies on that make it sooooooo tasty.

7 July 2009

Two weeks down, one to go.

We’re both pretty tired at the moment after a very busy week. We had a nice day off on Sunday when we went to the nearest town, Scurcola. We rode on the bicycles and spent the whole day there. Walked up the hill to the castle that is perched over the town and admired the views and pretty little alleys. Found lots of stray cats and a dog and overheard some heated conversations in the houses that face directly onto the street. Enjoyed the atmosphere on a Sunday morning in a very rural Italian town with absolutely no tourists, except for the two of us.

At 13:00, when we developed hunger pangs all the restaurants and shops suddenly closed for siesta, so we had to wait it out on the piazza al by ourselves until some life reappeared at exactly 15:00. Eventually we found an open restaurant and the best tortellini with ragu we’ve ever tasted... I think we were both just really hungry. An ice cream later and we were on our way back to the house to while away the rest of the day in our little hut.

The break did us a world of good and on Monday we started work with a new zest for life. We helped Luca to rebuild the platform in front of the pizza oven on Monday and started to dig a ditch at the back of the house on Tuesday. On Wednesday and Thursday we had to paint a tiny little bathroom for the B&B. This almost caused the end of our friendship as Marike is very precise about little things and I’m not. We both worked on each other’s nerves and it seemed as though the room was getting smaller by the minute. I think Luca and Fabiana realised we needed a change of scenery and took us out for pizza in Avezzano. Fortunately we’re both like little puppies and our spirits rose considerably at the sight of food. So I am pleased to announce that we are still friends.

Today we finished our ditch and are again looking forward to a day off tomorrow. The work is getting a little monotonous and feeling more and more like a summer holiday on our farms in South Africa than like a trek around Italy. We’re both getting somewhat agitated at the sight of zucchini and tomatoes but we know we only have another week left before we move on to a new region and have another change of scenery.

So don’t despair, we’re not. We’re keeping each other’s spirits up and still glad that we are experiencing the reality of Italian countryside and not just the romantic, touristy side. It just makes us look forward to struggling in our home country and our own language even more.

14 August 2009

Our first three weeks in Italy have come to an end sooner than we thought. On Sunday Fabiana told us we are not enthusiastic enough and we have to work harder. Since both of us do not react entirely favourable to negative criticism (understatement of the year) we were both a little negative at the start of the week. Nevertheless, we survived and just kept on doing everything in exactly the same way we had been and were popular again by Monday. We decided that Fabiana’s almost ten month pregnant body just got the better of her hormones.

The week passed without any further incident. We finished the last few jobs we had left on the farm, helped with breakfast every morning because the B&B is very busy at the moment and just waited for today to come.

We did go out for dinner on Tuesday to a local restaurant in a small village called Verrechie. We had all the regional and vegetarian dishes they served. The gnochetti and ravioli was very tasty but is pretty well-known over the world. The second course was a little unusual though. We had Scamorza, something neither of us had ever heard of before, except when we watched Heidi when we were little. It is a block of cheese melted over the fire and served with mushrooms, oil and bread. The shepherds used to eat it in the fields and although I can see how they probably liked it the first time they had it, I can’t imagine them enjoying it more than once a month.

Luca and Fabiana forgot to inform us that one block of cheese is more than enough for two persons and our strict Afrikaans upbringing prevented us from leaving any food in our plates. Needless to say, despite enjoying the first half of the dish immensely, the cheese was literally pouring out of our ears by the time we had finished our enormous chunks of melted cheese for dinner.

We did not feel like skipping through the Italian countryside like Heidi used to do in Switzerland when we arrived back home.

But do try some Scamorza whenever you find yourself in Abruzzo again. Just make sure you have a friend to share it with, it is worth it.

That’s all I have to report for the first three weeks. As you can see the Internet availability was a problem and I don’t expect to have Internet on the next farm either. At the moment we are waiting at the airport in Rome to board our plane to Istanbul. My family freaked out on me all of a sudden last night and insisted that I make sure no one puts any drugs in my suitcase as I pass through customs and I don’t get stolen or arrested while I’m almost in the Middle East. So hopefully I will return to Europe again safely on Sunday evening and will report back some amazing experiences from Istanbul.

All the best for the weekend.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Almost done

At last. After almost eight dark months I am almost finished with this caring thing and Marike and I will be leaving for Italy in two weeks to try and experience a piece of the true Italian lifestyle.

In exactly seven days I am going to try to survive a week of double birthday celebrations in London before we hit the road. I will try to keep you up to date with what we get up to, but we will be working hard most of the time and I'm not sure what the Internet situation is going to be in the Italian countryside.

Will write whenever I get the time and hope to hear from you as well.
In the mean time, you can count with me, only seven sleeps left.