Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Summer Wedding (Part 3)


Monday night I had slept like a baby with the cool breeze coming through the screens on the huge French doors. The first thing Marta said to me on Tuesday morning... "Zia! You forgot to pull down the shutters last night."

But no, I didn't forget. The thought never even entered my mind. I was only aware of the breeze and the church bells...such a dreamy perfect night. Apparently there are Romanian gypsies in the area who specialize in night-time entries when residents forget to shutter down. Last night (Tuesday) the window was already shuttered when I returned back to my room.

Well. It was very uncomfortable last night with the shutters down. No air movement at all! Around 1o'clock in the morning, I pulled the shutter up about a foot and it was better. At 4 am I almost just put it all the way up. Tonight I'll take my chances with the gypsies.

Rosa works as a social worker with special needs adults. As she explained to me last night, this morning at 8 am Rosa, Marta I will drive to Rosa's office and stay for one hour. Then we will all go to the pool. It sounds like we, meaning the whole office. We will have a picnic there and read magazines and then go back to the office around 4 pm for an hour. I am to wear a skirt and top, casual, but NOT to wear my bathing suit under my clothes. She was a little horrified at my suggestion. We will all change at the pool.

Last night after our discussion, I had organized my pool time bag so I'd be ready to go this morning.

Here in Italy, events sometimes happen suddenly and unexpectedly. I always used to think when one doesn't speak or understand perfectly, events do sometimes sneak up. But now I know there's more -- the Italian culture tends to not stay strictly on schedule.

Leo tells me he loves how organized I am. But I think it's more than that. Americans tend to plan, organize and work out any issues ahead of time and then we follow through with the "Plan" as expected.

Rosa and I left the house this morning without Marta. Marina asked her to stay home and help out. She needs to go buy the confetti for the wedding.

According to my little Italian book on weddings, the confetti colors represent the 5 things we should never forget: health, fertility, a long life, happiness and economic security.

Rosa and I drove 20 minutes to arrive at her workplace. She has worked here for I think about a year. She does not work with a contract, which is good. Contract workers have no guarantee of work beyond the limits of their contract, which is usually short term. Once one becomes an employee, future work is almost a certainty.

Rosa is a social worker and her clients are mentally challenged adults. This morning 14 "ragazzi" have arrived. There are 4 social workers here today; 3 young women the same age as Rosa and one man. The supervisor and others are on vacation.

Ragazzi translates to kids/children, but it's really more of a form of endearment...more personal. I recall my Italian teachers always called us ragazzi when speaking to the class.

Anyhow, the ragazzi arrived this morning, one by one, dropped off in front of the building. They then made their way up the three flights of stairs. They have varying levels of mental and physical capacity. The point of this school is to teach both social and work skills. They also have a kitchen where they have cooking lessons.

One sweet young man took me on a tour. They have a workshop where they do arts and crafts. Also here they disassemble old furniture, which they then strip, refinish and lacquer. The pieces I saw seemed to very well made antiques. The finished pieces are gorgeous! Wow. I also saw some fabulous decoupage.

Families pay 400 euro a month for the services of the school. The students attend from 9-5, Monday through Friday.

Rosa introduced me to everyone and made sure they greeted me properly. Two of the boys kissed my hand. Then with the map we discussed from where I had come and where I live. One young man asked me my opinion of Obama, if I thought he would be the next president. We talked a bit about soccer. I told him I work all day at a job and then study Italian in the evenings. He complimented me on my Italian. His age is 42.

One of the social workers let me know there had been an earthquake today near Los Angeles. I checked news on-line. No real damage and nothing I would have done anyhow. I'm here.

Five of us walked to the magazine stand in anticipation of our trip to the swimming pool. Wednesday is street fair day here. I love street fairs. One student who follows politics, picked out a newspaper. Some of the shopkeepers and shoppers greeted us by name and I was introduced. I was very pleased to see the integration of these sweet ragazzi into the community.

Here we are, now at the community pool. We walked about 5 minutes single file on the sidewalk, all carrying our own beach bags. Entrance is free for our group of 19.

There is a snack stand at the compound entrance and it seemed to me that the two girls behind the counter also act as Life Guards.

We split up into the dressing rooms. Boys to the left and girls to the right. Here on the girls side, there is a communal changing room with lockers and wall hooks for clothes. A big shower is near the exit.

Opps I said, I"m too shy to strip down here! Luckily there must be a few shy people here, because they have a few single changing rooms.

In our bathing suits, we all went to the next room to pick up our plastic lounge chairs. Everybody was responsible for dragging their own chair to the grassy area behind the two pools. One pool is shallow and the other one must be deep. We're now setup on the other side of the fence, under the trees and close to the shallow pool.

We have all lathered up with sun-screen lotion and some students were fitted with waist life vests.

In Italy one is expected to wear a cap when in the water...even the boys with short hair. They're small caps, shaped like the kind Olympic swimmers wear.

Almost everyone in our group is in the water now, tossing and catching a soccer sized ball. One of the boys, Leo, is still in his chair nearby quietly watching the fun. He lost his father a few months ago and is dealing with his grief. He's holding his goggles in his hands now, smiling at the fun going on in the pool.

I like that there has been no pressure on him to join in. When he's ready he'll go in. He's a nice handsome boy in his late twenties I think. He has some tattoos on his arms I see.

I was right, those girls at the "bar" in front also act as life guards. They have that universal look of attentiveness to everything going on. They must trade off with each other for a little down time by working in the bar.

This is a working day for the social workers. One of them is reading out loud from a magazine.

I see Veronica listening. She would like to make a comment, but has trouble verbalizing. Veronica looks like a teenager but she is actually 37. Her hair is in pigtails today for swimming. Veronica is so beautiful. She used to take the train to a regular school and get around on her own. But when her father died, a part of her died too.

On purpose today, I have only taken pictures from a distance. These ragazzi are so special. Rosa is very good at this work.

Great exercise and teamwork in the pool. Lots of bravi ragazzi!!! Vai Vai!! (Great work kids! Come ON!!)

Oh, I see there are two little shallow pools to enter the pools. They act as gates into the pool area and clean grass off the feet. So practical.

Suddenly over the loud speakers, our group is called to the bar for lunch. They keep calling us and one of the workers is waving her hands! Basta!! Enough!! We hear you...we're coming!!!

Italians believe in their food...and it must be served hot..right off the stove.

For the outing, each student paid 5 euro this morning at school. When we arrived at the pool, one of Rosa's co-workers left a list at the bar, detailing what each student had chosen for lunch.

No junk food here on the menu! I saw hot sandwiches, pizza, veal cutlets and sandwiches which are delivered hot, right off the stove. Amazing for a small bar like this.

After lunch we went back to take some sun for several more hours. I saw the students setup a bocce ball game in the shade.

It was so humid. I did nothing...nothing at all.

The outing ended and we each dragged our own chairs back to the concession stand, took showers and walked back to the school. There, the students surprised Rosa with a huge Bromeliad plant as a wedding present.

---We've been truly roasting up here in the "school" now for 2 hours, waiting for parents to come for pickup. We've drunk 3 or 4 big bottles of water. It's so humid! We are all dripping wet.

Finally, it's time to go! Rosa locked up and we drove back to town. But first, we made a quick stop at her father's laboratory. The family business was started by Primo's grandfather many years ago. Primo has a degree in chemical engineering. The work compound also contains his brother's home.

While Rosa looked for her cousin, I spoke briefly with Primo's brother, who has become a recluse since his wife's death 5 years ago. He politely tried to avoid me, as he usually does. I was expecting this and did my best to make conversation. He told me he needed to go see his mother, Nonna and scampered off.

Rosa and I left and drove just around the block in this same industrial area and picked up a roll of plastic table cloth for the wedding luncheon tables. Then straight home! We arrived and changed clothes once again. My clothes were soaking. It's very HOT.

Marina was less stressed tonight at dinner. Tomorrow Henrique will be arriving by train, from Berlin. She and her boyfriend will be staying at the nearby hostel.

Rosa is now officially on vacation.

We are all collapsed on the living room couches, in our jammies now. I think it's around 9 pm. Primo has closed off the room and the air conditioning is ON, thank goodness. We're relaxing in front of the TV. I love Italian TV. It's a mixture of mindless silliness, games and political commentary.

Primo has taken Marina's hand and is squeezing it. Their feet, propped on the coffee table, are touching.

It's so nice here. So much love in this family for each other and for me.

Buona notte! Good Night!

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