Many Names in Many Places.
I spent two lazy days roaming the almost ghostly city of Bologna as this student centered city has all but emptied of it’s local inhabitants over the holiday period. In some ways this was quite nice, I could walk the streets of the University under the arched porticoes that stretch 40 kms throughout Bologna (I only strolled about 1 km) and I would barely see a soul along the way. This historical city was vibrant at night time as many came from out of town to enjoy festivities such as the movie festival playing in the town square, where Italian movies of all decades have been playing over the last couple of months. I caught the silent movies of the 1900s whilst I was there with background music supplied by an orchestra set at centre stage. I had a short lived visit to Bologna as I needed to take a train and a bus to the small town (very, very small town) of Sassaleone. This is where I was to complete my first Help Exchange with a family of Mr, Mrs, two little miss’ and one little master. I was greeted immediately by the Italian Mr and the German born Mrs as Genoveffa.
I began my trip as regular “Gen” or “Genevieve” in rare cases. When I hit Sydney I was “Gin” as those bloody Aussies have no idea how to pronounce an “e” properly. In San Francisco I took on a new identity as my very kiwi pronunciation of the letter “e” had me ordering my coffees under my new pseudonym “Jane” or in some cases “Jean”, after my first week there trying to explain that my name was “Gen” it started sounding strange even to me so “Jane” it was. And now I have reached Italy and I have become the very Italian sounding Genoveffa, making homemade passata di pomodoro (tomato paste) and succo di pesca (peach juice) whilst smothering absolutely everything in extra virgin olive oil as the Italians do. Sometimes the children just refer to me as “signora” usually early in the morning when little boisterous master of 3 years yells up to my attic room “signora mangiare” when he is ready for breakfast, literally meaning “lady eat”.
So far in my first Help Exchange I have spent many an hour in the kitchen cleaning and chopping tonnes of fruit and vegetables, mainly tomatoes and peaches, and also tearing up the fields and gardens ready for sowing new produce. I have spent nights at Italian family gatherings where apart from Mrs I was the only person in a room of 15-20 that spoke English. These nights were an awkward mix of fun and isolation as I listened and watched the highly animated, slightly intoxicated Italians throwing their hands and projecting their voices across a table crowded with food. Im hoping that after this kind of full immersion I will be able to say more than just “grazie”. I still have three more days at the farm in Sassaleone until I move to my new home not far from here in Dozza. I am not sure where my hard work will be placed in Dozza but I am certain I will continue this leg of my trip under my Italian identity “Genoveffa”. ¡viva Genoveffa!