Friday, July 25, 2008

Quasi Civilization

Well I have made it back to partial civilization (out in the middle of nowhere). The other day I used a hair blower for the first time in 17 days – that warm air never felt so good in my hands…really!!! BUT after the thrill of drying my hair I looked like a skank from Trailer Park Boys – my hair was frizzy, kinda curly - butt ugly overall. One of the friends of the family here asked how old I was and when I told her I was 30 she said, “Oh so young! I thought you were 34!” Bag! Maybe using the hair blower is not doing me any favours…either that or I have forgotten how to use it. I used the straightener after and put my hair up. The friend said she liked it better like that…
Anyways I have arrived in the mountainous Cilento (chee-len-toh) Park area south of Naples. Pruno di Laurino is about 1 hour inland from the west coast town of Vallo della Luciana. This area is quiet, the air cool and clean, and the people live to motto, “piano, piano” – slowly, slowly.

I left Calabria about 1 week early. I made the decision after we combined 2 small fields of wheat (which was a crazy gong show operation in itself) and I was told that we would be raking the straw and picking more 10 foot tall weeds out of some other oregano. I was tired of that work under the blistering hot Calabrian sun but what bothered me the most was that their 22 year old son, Francesco, was the laziest ‘farmer’ I have encountered. He once told me that his passion was this land and that he wants to do this farming forever. However, one afternoon after picking tomatoes, his hands were a bit dirty which seems normal to me… He couldn’t run to the car fast enough to pull out the pamper wipes to clean his hands off and kept telling me, “che schiffo, che schiffo” (how gross, how gross). I was mortified that a vegetable farmer thinks their own soil on their hands is disgusting.
One day as the other wwoofer and I were digging holes like prisoners under the sizzling sun, ‘Frank’ decided that he would water the cacti on the terraza instead of helping. We were digging these holes to build HIS tomato drier (that he keeps complaining to his dad isn’t finished).
Of course we were building it on top of an area where there are water tanks and soft hoses underneath…and cement. We were warned not to puncture any hoses with our shovels…yeah real nice since we know where all of these damn hoses are buried…and to watch out there is cement that we might encounter. We punctured a hose. You’d think that on a farm there are many more choices of area to pick on which to construct a tomato drier. Unless we were constructing it here to hide something that was underneath… Yeah, the other wwoofer and I believed we were a part of a bigger familia than the immediate obvious. This might explain why I was taken to a Bulgarian’s house at 1 am after me and the family went out for supper and was asked this by the father as he was driving me to the farm, “Would you like to stop at my friend’s house for a minute?”
Me, “No I am tired”.
The father, “Well, we are going to stop at my Bulgarian friend’s house just for a minute. You will have to have a drink of alcohol. I need to collect some money”. God almighty! I was exhausted as this was the first evening I arrived; worked 3 fast hours with him had to take the quickest, warmest shower. I was so rushed and it was so humid outside that I wasn’t even dry by the time I had to throw my clothes on and in the process of doing so I ripped half of a cup off of my strapless bra trying to twist it around my sticky body. And this was the first day without a hair blower…all of this and then I had to humour him with attending a business meeting at 1 am!!!!!????
The friend wasn’t there and I had to knock back 1.5 shots of some Bulgarian sambucca with 3 Bulgarian men at the table while they were eating their supper…at 1 am. But in the process I found out that by knowing Ukrainian, I might be able to understand the Bulgarian language. Bonus!
And the new wwoofer I left behind?
This was JUST ONE of his million dollar questions, “Does lettuce grow on top of the ground or underneath?” Mamma mia!!!
The one thing I miss the most are the people from the area. There were the countless cousins that would drop by for an afternoon coffee (everyone seemed to be a cousin), and then there was ‘Antonio Banderas’. Antonio (Antonello is his real name) is the neighbour who grows Romaine lettuce that looks like it has been fed steroids and basil as big as sheets of paper. As far as farmers go, he just doesn’t fit ‘the look’. He actually looks like a male stripper – dark Calabrian skin, broad shoulders, small waist, black hair down to his shoulders and full lips. He loves to Latin dance (thus he always is wiggling his waist) and would blare the Latino music so loud in his car that you couldn’t pick out a single word of the song. I’m actually surprised that his head hasn’t spun off of his neck because when he drives in his car, his head whips around every which way to cat call to the girls.
“Ciao Bionda! Ciao Bella!”
I told Giuseppe (my Calabrian host), “In Canada we would have a word for Antonello…it’s ‘Ciaci’ (CHA-chee) and it fits him to a tee!”
Giuseppe thought this was very interesting and funny as he told me, “You know that Antonello has created this word ‘Ciaci’? He mixed ciao (hi/bye) and baci (kisses). He uses it all of the time to say good-bye and now people in Milan (where he works during the winter) are starting to use this word!”
Antonello is 34, single and looking for a nice girl. He drives a motor bike, is really nice, looks like Antonio Banderas and his mom makes great sourdough bread. I have his phone number if anyone is interested… (Jealous types need not apply).

This new farm a lot of people might consider hippy like. A lot of their house was built of recycled material. They really try to live as much off of the land as possible and cultivate 5 types of ancient wheat from which they make bread. They are not a family obsessed with consumerism. They don’t work to the extreme, they don’t make a lot of money and they don’t have a lot of excess items. As some would say, they are living the 4 hour work week.
I came just at the right time to experience a local festa. The sounds of tambourines and tiny accordions filled the air as a blend of Laurino and Napoli traditions were exhibited in the dancing and singing. We had a picture perfect ending to the festival. We ate sitting at the long wooden table under the kiwi and grape pergola with soft white light above. Fork full’s of fettuccini and bright red tomato sauce were hungrily chowed down. The homemade wine was in continuous flow from bottle to glass and the music of tambourines and accordions floated away into the mountain air… I think I found my ideal “cobble stone patio surrounded by vineyard…” – sans the cobblestone but with plenty of the perfect atmosphere.

1 comment:

universal elixir said...

holy macaroni! are you serious? this is the definite entry you are goin to have to tell me about when you get back?! like really. i think i would be scared.