Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Behind the theater scenes true faces appear

Believe it or not, I’m sitting in my room drinking campari-aperol. I just spent one of my best days here. Italians never seize to amaze me. When you think they’re all cold and introvert, and only care about their own families, somebody opens up and shows you true hospitality and generosity.

Let’s rewind and take this from the beginning.

Seeing as we are in Italy, it’s “normal” to emphasize appearance and stress how you look. Today our boss did something outrageous. She approached one of my colleagues who works in the bar and told her that the shirt she is wearing is not good enough and that she can’t continue to walk around in the sandals she has because they hurt her feet and therefore she must use bandits which is not appropriate for the hotel. Of course she was right, that shoes that hurt one’s feet should not be used at work. But come on, we are women! How many of us don’t use shoes that hurt us? It’s a matter of being a woman. If we have to face the choice between comfortable shoes and pretty shoes, which ones do we really choose? Be honest.

But above all this, can you picture this situation in your head? Your boss approaches you, in public in front of hotel guests and bar customers, and tells you that you dress in an inappropriate way and that you use the wrong shoes?! Is this possible??? I don’t know if you remember, but in the beginning of my internship I told you that I was chocked about the fact that my boss asked me about me staying in Italy in front of other people. But as unhappy as I was, this scene was far worse. This only proves that she acts the same way with everybody, in fact in a way this eases my anxiety. But nevertheless, today’s scene was absurd. If she has a problem with how my colleague dresses, she can give her something else to dress, or am I wrong? No, instead she actually demanded that my colleague should buy some new shirts and shoes! It’s beyond my understanding. I have never worked in a hotel like this before.

My colleague of course was chocked and sad about what happened, and I can’t blame her. My boss better not tell me something similar, because I am sure to make her understand that she has little to expect from me since I am working in the hotel for free. The only thing she is giving me is food, sometimes, and logging underground. Wow. Actually I have tested my boss. Upon my arrival, she gave me a work outfit which consisted of a jacket and a skirt. The whole outfit was far oversized. The jacket made me look like something from the 80’s and the skirt started right under my breast and finished below my knees. Do I need to add something more? Therefore once my new colleague at the reception arrived and I noticed that she was wearing a white collar shirt and dark pants, and not the outfit, my testing started. First I started leaving the jacket in my room and putting on other shirts with long sleeves. Later on, I changed also the skirt. Right now I am working using only my own clothes; a black shirt with a black skirt or a white shirt with dark blue pants. And my boss has until now not said a word. Instead she has started to copy me using shirts of linen.

So what was the result of this horrid scene? My colleague, sweet as she is, decided to go and buy new shoes today. I grabbed the chance to follow her, since it included the possibility to see a new place and leave Lignano, hehe. So therefore after work, me and my colleague A headed for the shoe shop.

First we passed by her place. She lives in a small town of 2 000 inhabitants called Ronchis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronchis). It’s a very cute town with local stores and bars. Before going the shoe shop, A showed me around. They have a house with a continuously open door and a garden where they grow salad and herbs. They even have chicken, hamsters and a bunny rabbit. Situated only 20 minutes away from Lignano, Ronchis seemed like an idyllic Italian town.

The shoe shop Bidon was a piece of heaven. Shoes as far as you could see. It was huge and filled with shoes, I thought I died and went to heaven. There were all kind of shoes, from sporty shoes to high heels. I took a great leap and dived right in. Of course I found shoes of my liking. Two pairs. Shh.

Heading back to Ronchis. A had the idea that I would stay at her place for dinner. I had nothing to object since I have nothing waiting for me back in my room. So I stayed. Her parents were fantastic. Really, they left me speechless. The generosity they showed me without asking anything in return was breathtaking. There I was, in this small town having dinner with an Italian family. I felt very privileged in that moment. Her family offered me eggs with salame and gorgonzola on top (one of my new favorite dishes), Russian salad (that we in Finland ironically call Italian salad) and a mix made of sausages and parsley. Delicious. After dinner A took me to a local bar and we had an aperitivo there. Prosecco and aperol (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aperol). Here the locals drink aperol with everything. Later we also had some ice cream.

A’s parents astonished me with their kindness and interest for Finland. Especially her father continued to ask me questions about Finland. I guess it’s useless to say that I was thrilled since you all know it’s my favorite subject. At work they all threat me as one of them and my nationality seldom comes up in conversation. Therefore it was incredibly refreshing to be able to talk about the place I think so much about and miss greatly. I might not talk that much about Finland at work, but me being Finnish is never wears out. I think I’ve passed the point when I could forget my home country. Where I come from constitutes a great part of my personality and identity.

Obviously because of this, I enjoyed the dinner to the fullest. This day truly showed what I love about Italians. Their vitality, energy, flexibility and ability to adapt to new situations. They are true actors and chameleons in that sense. You never have a dull moment in an Italian family. I was very touched by the fact that both parents told me several times that my Italian was very good. I know they probably said that just to be nice, but then again, how often do Italians really say things they don’t mean? Less than seldom I would say. They might be good actors, but they know how to play the game. Only when they are in the company of people they are forced to show respect for, like employers or friends of the family, they act. Once they are at home, the acting stops. I have realized that for Italians a home is a sacred place where there is no acting. An Italian home is where you see the true face of Italians, where you get a real idea about them and where you above all see them relaxed and as themselves. Once the acting stops and you get underneath the surface, you have reached the goal and you experience something truly unique. Genuine Italians.

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