I know I owe you all a bit more information than you could glean from the one-liners on Facebook, but I have been in an emotional holding pattern for a while –somewhere between “What am I doing here?” and “Everything will be OK.”
The Waiting Game
I have been typing up my notes from class since it is has been rainy and cold for three days and a trip to the beach is not on the agenda. I have lot to catch up on since I am probably 2 months behind in getting them into the computer. I did my laundry and hung it up to dry but don’t have any expectations until the sun comes back, or I crank up the heat in my room and bring them indoors.
I am now the only resident at the hotel, although after the big wedding that is happening in the hotel tonight I imagine I will see the esposti in the morning. I have access to the large suite a few doors down from my room so I can cook my meals and keep a few things in the refrigerator. It works out well. I hike to the store a few kilometers away and get some water, wine, pasta and some sort of vegetable. The walk keeps me fit and gives me something to do every other day. However, three days of no activity, called due to rain, and I swear my jeans are getting tighter.
There were only 2 students that requested a stage in the beginning of class and about 4 more that asked during the class. Without VISA’s they could not stay legally so 3 left when school was over, one found an apartment and a job as a ‘Handi-boy’. This fellow seemed to establish questionable relationships with local ‘providers’ of after-hours drugs and seems to have no difficulty obtaining whatever he wants, in relative short order, from these associates, VISA or no VISA. The two assistants hung on the words of chef that they should ‘not worry, he had work for them’, but soon after school ended, Chef told them he had nothing for them. They departed sadly, one still loving the Chef, the other, not so much. Rinnah and I were supposed to hear on Friday, but she couldn’t wait any longer and left on Wednesday. I am 51% sure that Chef will come through for me, mostly because I have not provided a single issue upon which he could hang an indictment and thereby find a loophole through which he could crawl and not provide the promised stage. (Are you sensing my enmity here?)
I did hear from him yesterday, by email, after running into Maestro Umberto who said it was all arranged. I the world I live in, this would be confirmation enough, but on Planet ICI* the adage “I’ll believe it when I see it.”, applies, with the corollary that it might not last longer than a minute before vaporizing.
I’ll keep you posted. And, yes, all my recovery friends, I know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be and that I will get all the lessons eventually. I am just having a little fun rolling around in sarcastic doo-doo like a dog in the woods. In the words of my beloved daughter-in-law, “This is a present; it is just in really crappy wrapping paper.” She was totally right on.
*Italian Culinary Institute
Our Final Execution
How scary does that sound? Our final menu execution was actually really fun. It was the girls against the boys, but not so stated, and we each had our token male/female, but the truth was – girls run things differently than boys. The Team Leader (TL) actually asked me what I wanted to do and I told her. Then she let me do it! Result – perfectly boned chicken, right down to the wings, completely intact, seasoned and seared under the weight if huge saucier filled with canned tomatoes, to moist doneness and served up ready to carve. Also, a gianduya spumoni that was killer and some additional breads and other pieces where I lent a hand. It was really nice to be part of the team, to actually be allowed near the stove.
I wish I had a video tape of the last 10 minutes when chef gave the go ahead to start cooking, and everyone, both teams, were jamming the range trying to get everything out at once – in 10 minutes! Betzie was our token male and sure enough he was busy burning the fish to the bottom of a skillet and pushed my Pollo Fra Diavolo to the back burner, where I, at 5’2”, could not reach around it to get to it. In an act of determination, I left the front of the range, circled around to the counter behind it, and climbed on it with the aid of a chair. There I crouched and checked my chicken, hauling the weight up off the sizzling chicken with both hands and balancing on the counter, my big butt the counterweight. Chef walked by and said next time, work in front of the stove. My unspoken response was that “Yes, Chef, but first, I have to kill Bentzie.”
Hangin’ with my Homies
Katia doesn’t speak English. She does speak Croatian, her native tongue, German, Italian and a few dialects, so why should she. I, on the other hand, don’t speak Italian, German, or Croatian, so it’s hard to imagine that Katia is my lasting relationship here, but she is. Perhaps you remember Katia from a previous post, she is the one who makes such bad coffee, she is actually quite famous for it around here, although she remains blissfully unaware. Every morning I see Katia. She is always ready with a smile and a long Italian greeting, most of which I do not understand. Thank God for hand gestures. We have settled on a daily exchange of intelligible greetings; she says, Boun Giorno, come va? And I respond, Va bene, e tu? I added, sometime in early March when the weather actually cleared up, “Un altra bella giornata in Paradisio.” She laughs and says, “Fa freddo!”
I’m not sure why I particularly found a friendship with Katia, but somehow I did. Could be that I see her as another human being instead of the coffee girl who the young’uns toss a request to and then ignore without as much as a per favore. Could be that we swapped pictures of kids and grandkids or that I bring my Italian/English dictionary with me when I go to breakfast with something I want to say. Whatever it is, when I returned from Terlizzi I got the full 3 cheek kiss from her. That was nice, sort of like coming home. My extended and solitary stay here since April 8thh has been punctuated only by my morning exchanges with Katia and a few brief chats with Francesco who speaks perfect English, but is always under the watchful eye of the owner, well the owner’s mother, much worse.
Raffaele, and absolutely GORGEOUS young man who works here cleaning up the place for the summer tourists, is also a daily respite from isolation. I saw him every day for weeks, and then one day climbed down his ladder came over to me while I was on the computer and started talking. Facebook was the only word I got, but eventually he had me log on and become a friend of his site. It has 10,000 friends – amazing. He posts pictures of beautiful things in nature and videos of his cooking or wonderful people singing. Turns out he is a fireman, and trained in the culinary arts. I haven’t got enough language to ask him why he isn’t doing that for a profession, but it doesn’t really matter. I check his postings everyday and he checks with me to see if I am keeping up. It’s fun.
Then there are the plants around here. I have watched them come to life, sprout up and flower, like watching your friends little children grow up. When I arrived it was the dead of winter, which has a different context than an Alaskan winter, but things were clearly dormant. I like the flora and fauna of a place so I had watchful eye on things in my little hilltop. I noticed that after a rainy spell tons of little yellow trumpet flowers would bound up out of the greenery along the edges of the road. Then, after the 21st of March, as if someone flipped a switch, it became spring. Pretty soon a half dozen types of little yellow flowers popped up along with tiny purple bells, nasturtiums, what looks like morning glory, thistle and sweet peas started climbing around each other vying to be the most beautiful and noticed.
I started in Taromina smelling the tiny white flowers of a budding lemon tree. I thought I was in heaven. I sniffed so deeply and so long that I am sure the lovers on the bench behind me thought I was a little off. Those little blooms have showed up here now, orange and lemon trees blooming new fruit beginnings while big juicy oranges still hang from the branches of last season’s bounty. The air is filled with a sweet scent that is so delightful you just want to stand and breathe it in forever. It is like the perfume of plumeria in Hawaii, that you start to smell even as you enter the airport terminal. I went for a walk last night when the rain abated and sniffed my way down the hill and discovered yet another fabulous plant. It resembles a rhododendron in leave and structure. Kristine says they call it oleander in the south, I waited for the blooms to start to see what would actually materialize. It turns out it has small bunches of white flowers and they are wonderfully sweet and aromatic. I just want to plant them all over my yard and lie beneath them enveloped in their perfume.
So here is a whole bunch of pictures that I carefully placed along the appropriate passages, but got lost somehow.