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.