Saturday, 7 July 2007

Josh’s Month 2 – Sicily & Italy

Our drive through Italy was full of beauty and wonder as we drove through the mountains laughing and learning Italian as dad drove; stopping to watch the last rays of the red sun go down behind a mountain or little village. The sights are unforgettable, sticking in your mind and filling it up with questions and thoughts that just make you cry, whether because of sheer amazement, or love for the planet that we live on.

We are having lots of fun driving through the tiny village streets with Italians speeding down in their scooters and Ducati’s or even a 40ft coach! No matter how annoying the experience we never can hold back the laugh of Italian driving! The funniest parts are when the five foot Italian men step out of there BMW’s look up at our six foot two dad, struggle to find words to tell us to get off the road so the only thing they do say is ‘Midispiaaaaaaaaache’, and scamper back into their cars and reverse as fast as possible towards the next turning, eyes wide and red in the face. Luckily we have enough self-control to hold the laugh back long enough to take our turning and then let out the ear-splitting-laugh that stops us from breathing for a good 30 seconds!

It is amazing how the people react to the temperature. When its warm (which it can be) they are warm, when it’s hot (which it almost always is) they can be a bit grumpy, and when its cold (which seems almost impossible) even the coach drivers have an ear to ear smile that is impossible to erase (they have the same face when they get their way!). The Italian culture is similar in the places we have been so far. The boys have short hair until they become 14 – 15, and so I’ve had some pretty nasty looks from adults and children alike. To be polite almost all the men over 30 have stomachs the size of three beach balls! The strange thing is that the girls like boys with long hair (which I hate because my hair is constantly being played with), and the men laugh and call me Ronaldinho! What makes us laugh almost as much as their driving is the way they move in groups. For example, theirs a 250m beach that’s exactly the same all the way along, and only 35-50m of that is used up by about 100-175 Italians, so 200m is left for anyone who wants it!

Our first week in Sicily was spent wondering where all the people went between 12 and 4. I don’t have to say why they disappeared at mid-day, 40-50ºC is too hot to do anything let alone drive, which, is what we were doing at that time because it takes a good 3 hours to get the mosismobile ready and another hour to get ourselves ready, and by then it’s 12 and 5 is too late to drive, we would still be in France if we left at that time!

If it seems like the Italian driving is too bad for you, don’t go to Sicily, you might explode. If I wrote a list of the bad driving it would be about one word long. If I wrote a list of terrible driving maybe ten words long. But if I wrote a list of unthinkable driving in Sicily it would stretch round the world 100 times with 50 metres to spare in the tiniest writing possible! For example in one instance a 4.5ft Sicilian man with a 4-beach-ball-belly got out of his coach and ran at dad at 5 mph his personal terminal velocity because he wanted to come down a narrow road first. Before dad could open the door fully the man slammed the door on dad’s fingers and shouted at him in quick rough Italian, trying to scare him by saying they will call the police. Dad knows when to let his temper go, smartly, this wasn’t one of those times. He may not speak much Italian, but dad knows how to silence a Sicilian, the only problem is Sicilians hate to be silenced, so he stormed back to his coach wide eyed and red in the face with anger.

Parking, don’t get me started because I might never stop! The amount of double parking on roads just wide enough for a SICILIAN car and truck to fit through could fill Asia the US and Europe! When there are no parking spaces they stick the nose of the car in between two other cars and call that parking! The Sicilians may be crazy drivers but they are warm expressive people and have been lovely to be with.

It’s funny, everyone has a dog, but everyone is afraid of dogs. If you went to Sicily you would see why. Dogs are frequently locked up going mad with boredom. Funnily enough (or maybe not so funny) they use one of the friendliest dogs, the golden retriever, as guard dogs, which give Moses a bad name. But when they see Moses lying down oblivious about what his teeth can do they swarm round saying “Bello canne, Come si Chiama?” And we reply “si chiama Moses.” They start pampering Moses and he replies by rolling on his back and thinking ‘left a little, no, no right, up, down, Ahh that’s the spot!’ We have had some scary moments with dogs attacking Moses; the most recent one was when a golden retriever attacked Moses going for his throat but caught his foot, he now has a plaster on it. This was a time though for dad to let his temper go and he did just that. The dog went for Moses again and dad shouted, “NO! STAY!” (Then something in Italian) Now he started to speak to the owner who was an old farmer “LEI MOLTO STUPIDO! IL CANNE é MOLTO PERICOLOSO!” (You are very stupid! That dog is very dangerous!) Since dad is English and he just cussed the old man in Italian, the old man must have felt very stupid! As for dad he felt very proud of himself (as he should do), he defended the youngest of our very small pack.
The other way Moses pulls people towards him is by his swimming! He loves swimming so much Mummy got him to do left right and out! Mummy finally got over her fear of the sea and is swimming with the rest of us. Once you overcome your fear you look back and think how silly you were, which is true for many things. We are still beaching everyday (almost), and snorkelling. There was a very special snorkelling moment where mummy finally realised she could float. There were fires all around us one just a couple of streets away and mummy dad and me were snorkelling oblivious. We saw a huge shoal of BIG fish and I dived down to touch them. It is so easy to fall in love with something as beautiful as the sea, and that is what happened to mummy, she fell in love.

Biking has been a miracle. Mummy has learnt just as much as me and Ellie and maybe more. She has learnt how to play cricket, swim and bike! Before we left my great aunty sally gave mummy an old fashioned bike and that is how mummy has learnt to ride. She is no longer the beginner who crashed into fences; she is the intermediate who rides 6km to the shops to get us dinner! Mummy now has the same pleasure that Dad Ellie and I have biking and swimming. One last thing, roller-skating!

Ellie has listened to her MP3 loads. Get driving, MP3. When she’s bored, MP3. When she’s got nothing else to do, MP3! It is like she is addicted to music!Ellie has also learnt how to play cricket, and a lot about maths. Sometimes she is a pleasure to be with (when Ellie and I have full stomachs), but sometimes She can be a royal pain!

We have all learnt something, I have learnt about KS3 chemistry and algebraic equations. Mummy has learnt how to play cricket swim and bike. Ellie has learnt to play cricket and maths, and dad has improved his Italian.

We are now driving through the Pollino mountains in Italy at 12:35 4th July, we still haven’t got used to mid-day siestas!

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