Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Delicate digestion 27/08/09

Now the most asked question has become, ‘Quando parti?’ When are you leaving? As the immigration of Sicilians back to their jobs up north begins again. Officially the end of th summer is in sight. Some friends told me with glee they had got teaching jobs up north. The bizarre thing is that there is no work for them in Sicily at all. Most of the teaching jobs are in the Milano, Torino and Veneto area where the economy is better there is more industry, higher population growth and … more need for teachers. One of the massive imbalances in Italy. My cugnata is one of these people. To keep up her points she has had to accept a teaching job in Torino, leaving her husband back here, and taking her one year old, and four year old with her, with the mamma in tow to babysit. Thus affecting three families; her own, her mother’s – leaving behind her husband on his own, and leaving us without our star cook! As my sister-in-law said, all the business she will give to the town in Torino – the food etc she will buy for her family – will contribute to the growth of the region of Torino, and is business lost for this small town. Multiply this by the hundreds of Sicilians who live in the north of Italy for work and you can see why Sicily has not developed or grown in the way the north of Italy has in the last few decades. Basically, all the educated young people are forced to move north in order to find work, leaving Sicily bereft of new brains, innovations, research.

This morning we bumped into two friends in the fabulous café down the road. They were having granita – the slushy ice which you can have coffee/lemon/fruits of the forest/raspberry/strawberry/almond flavoured…. It comes topped with whipped cream (much sweeter than our whipped cream) and a big bun they call a brioche, a bit like a plain hot cross bun. Miranda confided gravely that they were only having ‘baby’ granita (little half portions) because they were going to the beach and wanted to be able to swim. And no bun either! We are talking about breakfast of slushed ice and a plain bun. But an hour will pass before you swim, but the time you get to the beach etc. I said. Ah, but our digestion. We might get cramps, pointed out Daniele. ‘My mother always said the change in temperature when you go into the water could cause a nasty dose of indigestion.’ I couldn’t help but laugh. If it was a bistecca alla fiorentina, (t-bone steak), sure, you’d need to leave some time, but your body will have digested that by the time you get to the beach. Here I was tucking into my big custard-filled croissant and cappuccino, ready to hit the beach as soon as I was done. But I obviously have a less delicate digestive system than the Sicilians, who have been mollycoddled by their mothers up to the tender age of 33.

After mio marito was worried I had offended our friends; he takes these kinds of lighthearted comments as serious criticism of Italy from a North European perspective (lumping me in there with all the other countries from the North of Europe is meant as negative thing, as if North Europeans think they are superior). I begin to think Italians must have an inferiority complex in this regard. I would never have imagined mio marito being so touchy. When I lived in Dublin for three years the majority of my friends were Spanish, with some Norwegian, Portuguese and Korean there too, and they all had their views and opinions on Ireland – which didn’t bother me – Ireland is far from perfect. If I say that it is appalling that there is no proper waste disposal here, that there is a terrible smell of the rubbish smoldering away in the 40degree heat and what a disgrace there is no recycling (expecting that he will agree with me, as these are his own thoughts) – he riles up and says, ‘well, you wanted to come here anyway, and it isn’t all about mafia interests and it is hard to work against the system.’ But if I say that I can see such potential here, if only the town council would develop some interactive programs for kids and work on recycling education … he says, ‘ah but you know, we’re in Sicily, it is so backward here, what do you expect?’

It is like they say – you can criticise your own family, but don’t criticise someone else’s. I need to find a less direct approach to bring about change here. See? I am learning...

Lola

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