So my grasp of Italian is such that I’m not entirely sure I haven’t been using just fabric softener to wash my clothes the entire time. But living in a place, as opposed to just breezing through as I normally do, puts a whole new spin on Being Foreign.
I think I’ve always been a good traveller because I’m generally confused by most things in the world that others seem to tackle with nonchalance. I generally feel the odd one out or awkward or oversized or silly in some respect, so at my grand age am now comfortable with that. But what of being permanently thus? Well I’m glad I’m in a place where people are generally extremely kind, chatty, and community-minded! Here are some thoughts.
The length of one’s day It breaks down like this:
Brekky starts at a normal time with a 30-second espresso (see below) and a pastry, then zoom to the office/school until about 1pm, when every shop clangs shut until after 3-ish.
Queues start at the gelateria at about 3:30, increase about 4:30, keep steady through till 8pm, then all shops close with a clang at 10-11pm.
The hour of the aperitif goes from 6:30-8:30pm, with a free buffet, which is what you do before dinner. One does not go out after work with one’s colleagues in general. Dinner can be around 9pm on, although the other night after fencing I was asked to dinner at about 11pm.
During Sunday Lunch we observed ladies kicking off with Spritzes at 11:30am and families winding down at about 4:30pm.
Overseas, nothing is where you think it oughta be. Light switches disappear. Bench heights rise and fall. Window latches are weird. You look left, and a car skids in from the right. You’re always in the way; slightly off-kilter.
This is why you travel. To be shocked out of the regular. All of a sudden you hate your routine and conclude that everything in Melbourne is horrific and gauche.
Europe is a reminder of all the things we’ve left behind. Reading paperbacks in public. Taking your time. Second hand bookstores instead of phone retailers. Buying one individual thing from one individual shop. Cobblestones. Tiny, classy billboards. Going home for lunch. Dogs with balls. Bread and fruit that goes off within ½ a day. Cold drinking water flowing from bull’s head fountains. No TV, just music. Continue reading →
For years I lived in Brunswick in a dark, narrow terrace with a concrete backyard and a back view to a cobblestone laneway. When my writing business launched I didn’t have much work, so I used to take a long walk every morning and night around Brunswick’s back door.
I took a Lomo camera to document my ambles and tried to cover a different route every day. Whether it was humid or drizzling, peeking at people on their way to the pools at sunrise, or at 3am with a colour flash, I’d be out and about, sticking my nose into other people’s business.
The Eco Lodge was built on the slopes of Bali’s second highest mountain. It was run by a pair of peaceful hippies who wanted people to share in the joys of fruit and veggies picked fresh from their food forest, cold, clear water trickling through a ferny waterhole, and the calm of a tiny mountainside community in Bali.
We’d decamped to read, drift and eat. My mother had passed away only six months’ prior, and on a scale of demented and sad, I was an 11. I desperately needed rest from the voices in my head, from the city rubbish trucks, and from the pressing feeling of sadness in my chest and my bones.
I first read Bryson’s Neither Here Nor There: Travels Around Europe when it was first released in 1991. At that age I had a teenager’s omnivorous attitude to books, in that if was made of paper, promised to hold my attention for more than half an hour and take my mind off my HIDEOUS life and UTTERLY EMBARRASSING parents then I would pick it up. I recall that some parts of Bryson’s book I found so funny that I snorted hot Milo out of my nose, all over my Fido Dido nightie. Continue reading →