Sunday, 30 September 2018

Checking in on the healing process

Hey there :)

So I've been here for more than 4 months now. I don't know what to write about really. It's hard to keep my opinions quiet but its necessary too. I am learning that is sometimes better to observe, shut up and wait till later when you're around safe people. I've found myself growing a shell of complacency. But inside I'm veering from anger to crying and then to calm rationality and back again, all within a few hours. This is not Greece. I will say that. This is better than Greece, by a long way in terms of *some* refugees well being. But something is wrong anyway. I have another blog site to discuss this less publicly. 

My personal journey has finally started though, I can talk about that freely.

As some people know I came here because I wanted to start my life over and I wanted it to begin by helping other people. For the first few months here, actually this started prior to arriving by around 6 weeks- I was experiencing a scary level of depression which I successfully hid and fought off- but it was terrifying. Then for a few months there was so much drama I couldn't focus on anything. The familiar black void became a grey void which I don't know how to deal with. Grey is the worst. 

 I think in the process of choosing to  leave my old life behind I had been too brutal on myself. I've never really felt self-hatred. I've felt the effects of other people hating me and wishing I was different because I wanted peace- but I have never felt such a level of hatred coming at me from me. My face was all wrong in the mirror, my voice is still all wrong, my hair is wrong, my body language, my actual language and the words I chose. On top of that I really wanted to be able to communicate in Italian, because I wanted to leave behind my mother tongue. And I cannot. A lot of the things I wanted to leave behind are a physical part of me and I cannot let them go because it doesn't work like that. 

I had temporarily lost a person who I had an intuitive connection to and by losing them part of me died and that hurt too much, it hurt so much I stopped using my intuition, I stopped trusting myself. Losing that trust was unbalancing. Losing that connection meant I didn't have someone to help me check my behaviour. I need that sometimes. My fire is intense and needs to be calmed before I burn out.

I was unable to dream, the heat and mosquitoes got in the way of dream sleep and without the dream world I am a shell. I cannot see into the future without my dreams, I cannot heal myself or talk to my subconscious. 

Then one day around a month ago the dreams returned, the premonitions, my intuition. My soul had crash landed back in my body. I saw the future twice in one week in my dreams. 
I started to work really hard for my friend Blessing, a Nigerian refugee. But a lot of the tasks I have undertaken remind me of growing up and my family. I have been sitting there sewing whilst my childhood memories, shaped like demons sit there next to me waving. I have to deal with them one by one. 

Weirdly I always wanted to help my mother in the same way I am helping Blessing- I had the same plan for her, but my mother will not try in case she fails. NPD makes it impossible for her to grow as a person and she hurts people around her instead. But here, Blessing is a woman with 4 children who was so determined to get a better life for her kids that she took some huge risks and will do whatever it takes to keep going. I can help someone who is willing to try and wants to learn. So here I am finally able to help instead of listening to someone moan about how terrible their life is when they are unwilling to work hard and change it, demanding help but refusing it and wasting my time because they want attention and power.

I often find my domestic violence related PTSD gets set off by women shouting. I react differently to male aggression, I get super aggressive around asshole men, but even a delicate woman with a loud voice can send me into a full on crying panic attack, shaking and screaming on the floor, I can't think, it's like a siren ringing in my ears. But I am learning to not react to noise, I don't feel the need to react- it is not a threat to me now. It may be loud but it is not about to hurt me. I can feel that wrinkle in my psyche finally being ironed out. 

I've often felt crushed and betrayed by the jealousy of other women, particularly in my family. I would try to help them when they asked but they would undermine me and stab me in the back. But now... here working with Blessing I do not feel this jealousy coming from her. She is grateful for my help and helps me too, She doesn't see me as an ego threat and my ego feels settled. 

I can feel each wound slowly starting to stitch itself up and heal. It will be a slow process but it is happening. I don't know what advice to give other people who are healing from NPD families... but taking time to just be outside has helped. The ocean helped. The sand helped. Nature grounding me. When you walk away you feel you are no longer connected to anything so nature becomes your rock. You will explode for no reason, and you will remind yourself of someone who hurt you- but don't beat yourself up about it. 

The other side of the story though... I spent a whole day crying with worry coz I don't know what she'll end up doing and I don't feel like I can help past a certain point. Italy is changing for the worse and more people will pay the price than Italians are willing to admit. 

I'm off to bed now,

Buonanotte xxx

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Capito Niente

****LINGUISTICS TIME**** Get those notebooks out!!

Six weeks before I arrived here I began learning Italian really intensely from my bed as I had the flu and was also super depressed (I joke, but it was the worst I've felt in 4 years and it only recently lifted). Italian Grammar makes me feel alive. Learning new words makes your brain light up like chocolate does apparently. 

Whilst I knew they speak dialect here, and I fully expected to hit a major linguistic barrier... and I even knew a bit about how Calabresi sounds... (run up a steep hill and yell CTHULU when you get to the top) nothing could prepare me for the reality. I also seem way more able to communicate with people from Rome. Modern Rome. Not ancient Rome.

After 3 days here my Italian kicked in.Great. Or not. Because after 5 days they stopped trying to use standard Italian with a Southern accent and switched to full on Calabresi dialect.
I tried really hard to learn Italian but as I wasn't hearing it around me I started to forget it. The disappointment in peoples faces when they realise I didn't understand them was frustrating because I know they were not speaking the Italian of the phone apps and lessons I've done. I sat down with my notes last week and nothing happened, a psychological block prevented any motivation. Until I decided to try out some dialect, this new information woke me up more than my daily espresso!😃

 I'll break it down.

A very bad example of collecting data. Pretty sure the guy helping me made a mistake... The Mayor clarified that the guy had made a mistake. Which I have corrected *without help* by using my fantastic Lady brain. 

Standard Italian: New language, influenced by the North (Tuscan)- I believe Dante helped a lot by inventing new words? Pisses off Southerners who refused to be colonised by the North during the unification process. (I'm not a historian just basing my theories on what that angry dude over there said)...(another guy told me that South Italy was once a colony of Spain, more on this later)

Standard Italian is taught by phone apps and language classes which are very little help to me now. I've seen Calabresi guys use google translate on Dialect words, and when I gave them a phrasebook (English-Italian) they were weirded out by the *Italian*- which was cute. Also they pronounce things SO DAMN HARD that they fall over when they try to say "I" in English. I literally had to press on the guys chest to stop him over pronouncing and falling... "HAAAAAAAI" he said, hyperventilating.  

Standard Italian with a Southern (depends on region and village) Accent and borrowed dialect words:
I am learning to listen to this and slowly break it down. 

Calabresi Dialect: I basically spent the first 3 months here feeling like I was stuck linguistically somewhere between Portugal and Romania. This is because I am. A lot of the pronouns are the same as Portuguese and the word endings have a forceful *U* which is very unlike standard Italian and more like Romanian. I think. I'm not a linguist but I used the Overground Richmond-Gospel Oak line a lot... 
*** A lady behind me just confirmed the Portuguese influence, apparently there may have been some migration from Galicia in the past. And there is a also a Greek influence and Spanish... so there isn't much room for modern Italian. Which I guess is why the North throws classist/racist comments at the South all the time.

Camini Calabresi- Caminitu/Caminota: This is the village dialect and a person from Camini. Every village has a different dialect. The local lady behind me was very helpful and speaks English too.

Right, now here's the fun part. VERB TABLES. So hot right. Who needs a man. 

Some examples of Calabresi (learned from Camini people so it might be Caminotu)

English Italian Calabresi
I   Io   Eu
You  Tu  Tu
He/She  Lui/Lei  Idu/Ida
We   Noi  Nui
You (plural) Voi  Vui
They  Loro  Idi

To read

I read  Io leggo  Eu leju
You read  Tu Leggi  Idu leji
He/she reads  Lui/Lei legge  Idu/Ida leja
We read     Noi Leggiamo   Nui lejimu
You all read Voi leggete   Vui lejiti
They read   Loro leggono   Idi lejanu

To have Avere

I have Io ho  Eu aiu
You have  Tu hai  Tu ndai
He/She has Lui/Lei ha  Idu/Ida ndava
We have  Noi abbiamo Nui ndavimu
you all have  Voi avete Vui ndaviti
They have  Loro hanno  Idi ndannu

To want Volere

I want Io voglio   Eu vojju
you want  Tu vuoi  Tu voi
He/She wants  Lui/Lei vuole  Idu/Ida vola
We want      Noi vogliamo  Nui volimu
You all want  Voi volete   Vui voliti
They want  Loro vogliono   Idi vonnu

To be able to/can Potere

I can  Io posso  Eu pozzu
You can  Tu puoi  Tu poi
He/she can Lui/Lei Può Idu pota
We can    Noi possiamo   Nui potimu
You all can  Voi potete  vui potiti
They can  Loro possono   Idi ponnu

Yeeeah baby. Ecco qua! Verb tables. Just gonna have a cold shower to get over the excitement. If there are any mistakes it's not my fault unless it's English or Italian! I collected the words from locals after a few drinks. 

Here's some more random words: 

Lets go away Andiamo via Jamuninda 
It's hot Fa caldo Facia cardu
It's cold Fa freddo Facia freddu

No idea what this means but there's a drawing of a wasp next to it... apparently you say this when someone is pushing you to do something you don't wanna do, like at work "ti simangia u culu"

To give someone the evil eye, or make them sick with your envy or bad feelings Malocchio Taddocchiaru  -the cchi is pronounced tchy not kki.

Update: It's still very hard to communicate. But now I have gotten to grips with some dialect Pronouns and other words I am better able to orient myself even if I don't know what they are talking about.
Often their sentences start very heavily with dialect and end in dialect but the middle bit sounds more Italian...   

Here's a picture of a page in a book written in Dialect. I think it's a story about a serpent and a queen who wants to have a baby but I haven't asked anyone to translate it for me yet.  


Tuesday, 24 July 2018

White privilege in Art

I made this video a few weeks ago about a "Blackface Art" incident.
It was a local-ish art performance where one white italian woman dressed as a slave and painted herself black. Whilst another artist dragged her around on a leash. This was allegedly a protest piece about the exploitation of Africa by white people.... You're choking right now huh??? Yup. I did the same. So did all the people I asked about it, including other white Italian people.

I have since confronted one of the Artists involved about this and she pointed at a nearby African guy and said he helped organise it so everything is fine.


...well she left the room and he tried to explain it to me, but basically gave up after one sentence and said Thank you for reacting like this.

So I guess that speaks for itself. I think it is important to realise that even though you class yourself as a nice white person who helps poor black people/refugees- the truth might be that the black people/refugees in question are so underprivileged that they have to say yes, they have to agree to play your game, they are trapped in your system. They cannot stand up for themselves without huge risk even though they want to (and are waaaaay more intelligent that than they are given credit for). There is a huge risk for Black/PoC/refugee people in Italy and Europe. The white Italian paradigm- they have to fit into it or they might not survive.

Say this guy who helped wanted to be an artist (he doesn't, I asked him), as a recent Refugee he's gonna have to work alongside the nice white people. SO if he expresses his true feelings he will likely be rejected because daaaaamn, nice white people got really fragile egos. 

I flatly refuse to apologise to anyone offended by this. This was not Art. It was an attention seeking performance that did nothing to help anyone and risked re-traumatising people. I have explained a lot more in the video. I will not include photo's because I know from experience what it feels like to constantly face racial microaggressions and full on racism and I do not want anyone who is Black/PoC/Refugee to see the images because I know they'v been through enough already. I have show the images to a few white anti-fascists because they do not feel that *PoC exhaustion* that we feel.Shame I can't do the video in Italian. 


Sunday, 22 July 2018

The Negatives. Part 1.

   Before I came here I had a conversations with a guy who lives in North Italy who said I probably wouldn’t wanna come to Italy, and especially not a small town. He said it would be full of small minded religious people who love gossip etc… and that basically it would be worse than our experience of Acton, London. We’ve both lived in Acton and been on the receiving end of small minded gossip more times than I can remember. But I wanted to come here to help with the Refugee situation so I decided I would just push through any difficulties.

Some of the first gossip I heard about me here started around 3 weeks after I arrived in Camini. Apparently I am sick, sick because I am thin, sick because I want to stay in Camini for a while- but mostly sick because I am a SLUT who is full of Sexually transmitted diseases and can’t be trusted to stay faithful to one man… I laughed, this is exactly what people used to tell me about the guy who told me not to come here.

 I gently pointed out to my distressed new friend -who was asking me how people know this about me- that my Medical records are in London. Literally no one here knows anything about my physical well-being. It’s so obviously bullshit. He agreed. I was a bit sad that people are really this stupid.

Anyway. I never thought the grass would be greener in Italy. I thought the guys might be more confident than clammy English men and the food nicer and the people more sociable… but then I moved to Camini… The food made me anaemic. The guys are sometimes cute but like how sometimes you find a heart shaped Jacket Potato and you Instagram that shit with some sappy message about Loving everyone coz it’s Tuesday again and then you leave the potato on the work surface as decoration in case Tuesday turns bad. Only… the Jacket Potato goes totally Bat shit if he thinks you looked at another man… whilst he’s flirting with another woman… coz ITALY.

Potatoes of love.

Naturally in a mostly Catholic small town I don’t fit in. But I didn’t fit in South Wales, I didn’t fit in in Bournemouth, I didn’t fit in in Leicester, I didn’t fit in in Acton. I briefly felt at home around some Musicians from a Gypsy band, and felt very at home in my job for Natoora- because I was mostly alone. Talking to Radicchio… they’re very open minded for a bitter Italian lettuce.

My leaving party from Natoora

 I’m from a family of miserable black sheep and I’m the sparkly mentally drained empathic dancing rainbow sheep. I’ll NEVER FIT IN ANYWERE… Fuck, even my Tarot readings keep giving me the Hermit card. So not fitting in in Camini was something I was already prepared for. I also knew that the African people here would accept me more than anyone else. And boom. True.

 The Africans have accepted me. I’ve been to their birthday parties, met their babies- just turned down the opportunity to go to a prayer meeting coz… I support LGBT rights and the Nigerian Church really really doesn't.

A baby.

The way I dress is a problem. Actually it isn’t because the only real difference between my clothes and their clothes is that I’m wearing my clothes… so the problem must be that they’re scared of skinny tall women, and I’m super tall here. I’m like freaking Giraffe- even without my cool shoes on.

Who cares, the local teens get judged too so it’s mostly generational.

One of the local Big Men (he's like 3rd in the local male hierarchy) has decided that I am dangerous, a threat. He is upset because I’ve been getting a lot of attention from his **adult** son.  

His father ordered his son to “stop messing with that piece of crap” which freaked him out. The son is afraid of his family’s disapproval whilst also trying to provoke it. This caused some MAHOOSIVE CALABRIAN DRAMA. There was shouting, I won the shouting. I later tried to smooth things over by talking to his Boss and both the mother and father, but the mother threatened to call the police... because... I am a CRIMINAL. 

This little Big Man and the rest of his family then started to passive aggressively push me out of public places. At one point they stopped me joining in a food event and a few days later told me to get up and leave the Bar when I was chilling alone with a book. I walked away both times, because I can kick ass but didn't want to.

I met an African Lady on the way home who has had plenty worse experiences of him, so I decided to fight back, like she did- the next day after some good sleep.

The next morning I had huge shouting match with this man outside my flat. He was complaining because I told his son what he'd done the nght before. I let loose with my broken Italian. *VAFFANCULO!!! NON HO PAURA DI TE!!! CAPITO??? VAFFANCULO!!!! I yelled. He ran away round the corner saying he’s gonna call the police. I reported him to his boss. He did this in front of 2 volunteers so his behaviour is gonna problems unless someone reigns him in.

I’m waiting to see how this will affect me work wise and socially. I have some plans to set up a craft market in the evening near the Bar to sell my work and refugee crafts. But this little Big Man will disapprove and possible try to stop it.  So I will have another fight on my hands. I have been told not to speak to his son. But of course we are both adults and not living in Saudi Arabia.

So whilst I feel like I’m in a mash up of Chocolat by Joanne Harris and that Sicilian Movie Malena… I’m just gonna keep going, I trust myself and my intentions are good. I came here to support the Refugees and small minded judgy people aren't going to stop me this easily.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Day of the Migrant

Day of the Migrant

This was a really fun day from Refugee Week (2 weeks ago)
I might interview someone about it at some point but... This week was a bit more than a normal person could handle. Thankfully I am not normal. 
Anyway some context... It was Refugee Week. What I have grasped from my crappy Italian is that this is an old Harvest ritual, but they decided to re-jiggle it to include Refugees from Syria and various African countries. There are people from other places here too, but these are the main ones. 
First we cut the wheat and sheathed it. Then chillaxed. Then had a picnic of local produce... bread, pickled veggies, cheese and pork products- stuff that the Syrians obviously avoided.
(The whole eating/not eating pork has been used to attack/expose Muslims and Jews for hundreds of years and recently Islamophobes spread bullshit about Muslims wanting to make ALL FOOD HALAL... so it was interesting to observe this not so little spicy local sausage just sitting there with no political drama unfolding round it...just casually integrating)

The grain was ground into flour and made into... more bread. Coz CAMINI LOVES CARBS. Jokes, Breaking bread is obviously hugely symbolic. There was a big Political gathering in the Piazza later on in the day with speeches from the Mayor and a few locals including Mohamed, who is a super awesome kid. 

The day ended with the Full Moon rising again between the mountain hill things (perspective is warped here- is it a mountain and giant Cow or a small hill and a normal cow? I cannot tell.)
The Moon was rising again between the mountains over the ocean, it was blood red. A sign that the Gods had accepted the sacrifice. Sorry, more joke's. There was no sacrifice. Battery running low now, sitting on a doorstep to catch some Wi-Fi ;) Ciao ciao xx 

Me. Harvesting wheat. By hand.

Me, and a small baby Gorilla.
The Mayor, Mohamed and Bobby and one local boy

The Full moon was opposite the rising sun! 

A mix of refugees, volunteers and locals harvesting wheat


The sun opposite the moon

Old timey stylee

Mohamed and some wheat

Syrian refugees

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Cat Pictures

I'd said I would do a whole post just about cats. So here it is. Just a buffer zone before I get too real for some people to handle ;) Italy isn't that nice to its felines. But lets not go there right now.
Wi-fi hotspot

Wi-fi hotspot again...

Gave this dude a pile of chicken legs from the pre-bin rubbish.

He's my friend now

Possibly can't see yet. Doesn't know how legs work either... very cute and smelly


Defiant Cat mamma

Sunday, 17 June 2018

One month later...

Been here for over a month now. Rented a small flat, I really like it- but an unexpected issue has hit me... I'm pretty tall for South Italy, my flat is for small people. My neck is fooooked (Hypermobility syndrome) from bending down all the time. Had to take 3 days off to straighten everything out again. And then there's the Mosquitoes (Zanzare). I've got an Achilles heel thing going on with the Bug spray that a local was kind enough to buy for me. You miss a single body part and they'll find it and bite you (the Mosquitoes, not the locals)... Every part of me itches- they were never that into me in London (Mosquitoes and the Locals) so it's difficult to concentrate. I wonder how many Anthropologist notebooks were filled with Mosquito hatred...

Deliberate selfie. A refugee friend said White people love this shit and I should keep taking pics of old buildings. Hehehe.

Linguistic challenges: Here's a list of languages here.
Calabresi, Camini Calabresi, Italian with a Calabresi accent, Standard Italian... (and then English, French and Arabic and few languages from South Asia.)
They often deny speaking Calabresi, and then refuse to speak Italian. I'm struggling with the language now, way more than before I got here. Thankfully I learned a lot of verbs before I arrived so I can just say the root verb and rely on my creative sign language. I'm confident/competent enough to be able to use my basic language skills and humour to berate the men, which is very important. They like me now. I think. I did hear a rumour that I'm a whore full of disease... but that was from a jealous man who failed to get my attention and also the crazy Mafia lady who hurls racist abuse at everyone who walks beneath her balcony. "Troia Inglese!!!"... "Giapponese go home"... at another volunteer.

The other thing I'm finding unsettling is the Siesta. I've never been a morning person. Their siesta period begins just around the time when I've finally resumed my Human form... I'm rearing to go and they're all off for a 4+ hour nap. Why even go to work??? I get it though, it's dangerous to work in heat like that. I think I'll learn to appreciate it as the Summer intensifies.
accidental selfie during siesta

Even the African migrants complain that it's too hot here. Oh yeah- Calabrians complain about the weather as much as English people. It's either too cold or too hot. I tried saying "maybe if you eat more fruit in Summer instead of double portions of pasta with a heavy sauce twice a day you might sweat less???"- But this place has given over to Junk food, they're eating things that Ants wouldn't touch. I'm apparently unhealthy for eating fresh Apricots and yogurt for breakfast. The skinny shaming is a daily experience- I was too kind to explain that my sudden weight loss and refusal to eat was because the *only cafe here gave me food poisoning from too much cooked tomato sauce/questionable hygiene. I've been trying to influence a bit of change here but they're resistant to everything except Junk food. I'm cooking in my flat now, but finding vegetables and herbs is weirdly hard. There's a market once a week, but usually nothing green. A local guy has been taking me to the supermarket in Caulonia once a weekish to stock up.

Me trying to help.

Anyway, I came to help with the refugee crisis. That's been a weird one, I think it's been a weird one for most of the Volunteers. This part of Calabria is not part of the 1st world. I've heard plenty of Italians say that too, it's not an insult... although I've heard it as an insult from Northerners.
They need help as well as the refugees. So part of our work here is helping with integration and trying to create a harmonious atmosphere by working on various projects that can bring people together. Its a nice idea.
But it has its problems. I think there have been a lot of miscommunications between the people of Camini, the Refugees and the Volunteers. A lot of the projects are stalling for reasons I won't go into. And a lot of the Refugees didn't understand why we were here because they weren't feeling the benefit directly- something we've decided to work on by creating a monthly newsletter and directly interviewing Refugees to find out what their needs are and providing info on what resources are available i.e. Legal, counselling and languages.

I've left the project as I'd only booked it for 2 weeks, but decided to stay here and try to re-develop the Library. It's little more than a collection of almost useless books at the moment and the walls are crumbling. I've had a few meetings with the Mayor (I ambushed him in the Cafe with a 3 page To Do list translated into Italian)- I'm not sure how achieve my goals yet as things stall for silly reasons here- an example is... They can't decide who to name the Library after, so I can't make the Library Logo, cards or website, so I can't publicise my fundraising campaign.
I've spoken to a few Refugees about how they could potentially use the Library to learn new skills, languages etc. So I'm intending to develop a plan that fits needs rather than using this gathering of Dante texts books and Housewife Erotica... Currently due to the lack of books I've resorted to filling the Kids section with plastic Dinosaurs and some colouring in Posters of dinosaurs... coz Dinosaurs RULE. YEAH.

The kids books. That's all of them.


 I am doing this for free, I'm not getting paid. But I'm also looking at various other ways to get an income. My living expenses are super low here- one can go for days paying only 80 cents for an Espresso. I've got a few other plans in the pipework too.

Stopped painting to say hi to someone- Mohamed a Syrian kid took over. He's got skills.
My painting of Prickly Pears

Honestly there's been so much happening here everyday I don't know how to write it all up. Personal emotional stuff- I'm gonna need a whole new post for that. My attempt to befriend cats also probably deserves a whole post of its own... (I've been feeding a kitten and a Tom Cat)

Signore Snuggles.

SO, I'll stop now  and leave the rest for another day.

Ciao Ciao ;)
Troia Inglese