July 20 2010
We pretty much knew things were going to be a bit special here after the first evening in Bari.
Unfortunately, many of these little incidents and side notes that created such a special place are far too inappropriate and damaging to certain individuals that I can’t really write about them here…maybe in 10 years time I’ll write a book called ‘no knickers in a cathedral’ and reveal all. Until then I shall tell the rather less interesting, though still fairly bizarre, tale of my time in Bari…sans all the damaging, lurid details…
So essentially we had 200 kids (yes) gathered in an abandoned stadium (mmm) at a sports camp with a little bit of English thrown in for good measure (read as not good measure for the kids…perhaps torture).
The first Monday was probably one of the most challenging days of my life. Twenty-five 7 year olds who boo English, run for the gate repeatedly, stare you down, stab each other with the handily placed metal poles kicking around and who try to rip up/destroy/kill/hide anything of any significance whatsoever. To help me in my plight I had Nicolo, my Italian coach, who would routinely scream at the kids, scare them shitless and then leave to smoke away his anger…which would make them behave for approximately 5 mins and him appear to resent me deeply for the next 5 hours. I must admit, I felt totally out of my depth. I cried out of sheer frustration for the stupidity of the situation…how can you have an English immersion camp with a bunch of Italians everywhere?! However, after a few well-directed chats and a good moan I soon found my groove with the kids. By Wednesday I had established a powerful symbiosis of a kick-ass sticker system, a much-used naughty chair, and a technique I call ‘chase, throw over the shoulder and carry back to camp’. At first I’m pretty sure my 20 boys hated me and my 5 girls thought I was the coolest girl they had ever met, but by the end of the week the boys were loving the tough love approach and unfortunately found out I could kick a ball, wrestle them and beat them at basketball…so finally…using every inch of my energy and all the patience I could muster, I made it through the two weeks.
I came to realise during these two weeks that you really can do anything if you have good people around, especially if they force you to take an amusing view on all the chaos that surrounds you. Usually I don’t need this, or look for it, but I am so grateful for people looking after me for these two weeks! I was reunited with some of my good friends from orientation and we were put with a truly stella group…a group that really came into its own after what I would call, and I think I speak for us all, one of the most bizzare weekends of my life. This is where you should insert most of your horrific, lurid and ridiculous imaginings, as this was the defining 48 hours of the whole two weeks.
I shall tell the rest now.
So it began, in Italy as it always does, half an hour later than it was intended- usually due coffee and insane traffic- this time however, I will just say that the outfits witnessed that fine morning resulted in a good 30 minute hysteria, during which it seemed impossible to contemplate moving at all, so I can’t really blame the Italians- well, I can. Eventually all 30 odd of us, English and Italian, loaded on to the bus to set off on our all-expenses-paid weekend of sightseeing, beach and vino. As soon as the bus set off the party began: we sang every Bari/Puglia chant known to man, a fair few random Italian songs and the odd British anthem, we danced in the isles, we squished into chairs every which way, we waved at fellow motorists…it was pretty much like been 15 on a school trip again…I even sat at the back! The day was pretty much normal then (from what I can actually tell you), we saw a Cathedral, went to the beach, took a ton of photographs in front of a million different ‘best views ever’.
Then came the night!
We got put up in a well swanky 4 star hotel with an infinity pool on the roof and lifts and couches and mirrors and art on the walls and all that jazz! We had a slap up dinner, three courses, all you can drink wine of any colour- and then we got dumped in the centre of Lecce at 11pm, no directions home and with nobody who knows the city at all. It was rather hilerious…once we had figured out what we all wanted to do, split into smaller groups and had a couple of drinks to ease the shock of course. I often find that these kind of situations spark creativity and what occurred that night goes to show just how much fun you can have on next to no money and next to no navigational skills. My friend came up with the genius idea of doing everything that starts with the letter C. We had already had a few coronas so we were well on our way…next step crepes, cigarettes (sorry Mum), cubba chubbs lollies, we performed a concert to baffled Italians, we got photos with randon cars, children, coconuts, we went in a casino and had a lovely chat with the bouncer…and we somehow managed to meander our way home…where the C action didn’t end…we tried to brake into the conference centre and the swimming pool (if we got wet, we would be cold), we ran from the lurking receptionist to take photos on the couch and finally ended the night cuddled up watching a dubbed (in German?!?!) Jackie Chan movie.
Needless to say we all felt a little worse for wear the next day…not that that stopped another bus party to our next destination. The morning was spent in some funky little towns with more amazing views and sickeningly good smells and people and leather sandals…and then we drove out of the town to a random venue where we had lunch…at a wedding reception. (yup) Did anyone know these people? Nope. Did we know we were booked into a wedding reception? Nope. But there we were. So we pretty much spent the next 4 hours dancing and singing and eating with the wedding party. A total crash. Now my life’s dream is complete I really don’t know what to do with myself. I kept having those moments, mid YMCA, where I would just stop and freeze the situation, hover above myself and look down thinking, ‘what the hell is going on: I’m in Italy with a bunch of random people that I love a little too much given I’ve only know them a week, singing the YMCA at some knocked up Italian Ladies wedding, in shorts and a tank top, sweating all over the joint and absolutely loving every second of it’. I think I can die happy now. After we left the party, drunk as anything, full as is possible, dangling wine bottles taken from the tables like drunks…we went to some caves. Now I don’t know if you have ever seen 30 drunks in a cave, but it’s a pretty special sight! How we made it back alive is anyones guess, what with more bus dancing and a journey to the centre of the Earth- but we did, and it payed us back for our tough first week, and sailed us through our next.
If these two weeks taught me anything, it’s that free stuff, friends and ‘what the F’ moments really can make anything bearable. That and a kick ass host family that feed you well, do all your laundry and have Matisse on the walls!