Nahawa is older now; compared to the first time I saw her in Bamako. Her husband still plays beside her, to her left in the picture. And the fantastic instruments from West Africa! I could take them home just for decoration. I cannot play, I can dance to the music.
If you haven’t, please listen & let me know what you think.
Lorde’s Melodrama is out and lawd! was it worth the wait?! I have waited. Followed Lorde on Twitter @Lorde. Followed Lorde on Instagram #Lordemusic.
I think it is most interesting how we describe sounds. Birds sing. Birds never talk. If I ever said “I walked by the talking birds” or “I was woken by the talking birds”; someone of the loving people near me would shake their heads sympathetically.
“no dear, birds sing. They. don’t. talk.” slowly. so I can hear & save. So the crazies won’t take me with them.
My boss would definitely suggest that I take a short break from work to clear the cobwebs from the grey cells.
Lions roar. Fiercely. We should either be:
afraid when a lion roars
impressed and fascinated by the lion’s roar. The sea roars when a storm is coming on.
Otherwise, the calming waves are calm, like calming music.
Hyenas scream. Or laugh.
Horses neigh. Or snort. Or whinny. Even nicker.
But do birds really sing? All of them? All of the time?
Sometimes it sounds like laughter. Other times, it sounds like a conversation. An answer to a question. Sometimes it sounds like a scream, a loud uncontrolled scream.
When I am in a good mood, and listen to birds on a nice summer day, they sound happy. Each listening to its kind. Each answering to its kind.
Is it possible, that we, who love definitions & categorizations, have defined our sounds; and then allocated them to animals?
So since we like the sounds birds make, we call it singing?
No one ever says happily to their best friend during the summer “oh! I was woken by the vultures/carrion singing this morning! So beautiful!!” No one. When we speak about vultures, we flinch. But they are beautiful birds, aren’t they, just like hyenas are beautiful animals.
Black Vultures are silent most of the time. They make raspy, drawn-out hissing sounds while feeding and fighting, along with grunting noises that can sound like hungry pigs or dogs barking in the distance.
Courting vultures may give a yapping sound.
Under which circumstances do we use raspy, hissing, hungry pigs, barking dogs?
That’s right folks! disapproving, scared, hating & disliking etc.
Snakes hiss. We are not just afraid of snakes; we hate them. People who make us queazy, who scare us, who we don’t recognize ourselves in – are snaky.
They hiss when they communicate with us.
Cats meow & purr when they are nice, cooperative, satisfied & calm. Not scary.
The same cats hiss when they are angry, scared & unhappy. Scary.
I am in the bad habit of saying “merci!”, “gracias”, “gracias muchas”, when I want to be flippantly thankful. And si signor/signorita when I am feeling playful.
I learnt Swedish as an young adult. A process that stretched my patience, my self esteem & my intelligence to their thinnest. In my learning exhaustion, I have been very resistant to learn any new language in adulthood.
Imagine my pleasure then, when I decided during this Tuscany trip that I will learn Italian! Even if I just manage to learn the basics, I will learn Italian.
It is not that Italians don’t speak English. Most Italians speak lots of good English. But; every day, we found someone who spoke very little English; like the little restaurant where we had the most wonderful quiet breakfast on our last day in Florence. The husband was totally dependent on his wife to listen to us & translate for him. It was a young-ish couple too!
We had booked a retreat to Diecimo Pescaglia in the Borgo a Mozano province. It is a nice hidden oasis hidden in the hills just 20-30minutes from Lucca. We arrived at the Diecimo-Pescaglia train station to find an abandoned station with an empty office. An old man was was approaching us at snail speed. Slower than snail speed. We were glad to wait because we needed to ask him if we could order a taxi or something to take us to Borgo Giusto Hotel. He eventually arrived. We said a jolly gracious Buongiorno! Buona sera! He answered back. In Italian.
We were so impressed with ourselves we looked at each other proudly. We then remembered why we had been waiting for him.
“Scusi signor, can we ask you how to get to Borgo Giusto?”
He stopped kindly to look at our printed booking, and read the address.
He said “I don’t know. I don’t recognize that. I cannot help you. Bye bye.” In Italian.
We, in unison asked “taxi?” we got kindly head shakes and finger wiggling. “oh no. no taxis here. if you walk up the street there, you may find someone who speaks your language & can help you”. In Italian.
We turned in the direction he pointed & saw a man unloading his bags from the trunk of a red car. A Volvo. I am convinced that one of us said “oh! another tourist! we can ask him!” We dragged our 3 bags – we were 2 adults – towards the car. By the time we got to the car, the man had gone into the building. We thought it was a B&B so we were relaxed. There were 2 men standing outside, one quite old, another middle aged.
Scusi, can you help us call a taxi, call the hotel, or something to get here? – we were pointing at the print-out of our booking. Both men of different ages poked their noses into the paper, got into a long dialog with pointing wiggling fingers, head shakes and nods. “We don’t really know, but, it must be behind the hills. Far. And there are no taxis to take.” In Italian.
We: “English?” in english
Middle aged gentle man: “Non. a little French or German.” In Italian
What the holy f£$€!
Me a little edgy: “telefono” pointing at the telephone number to the hotel.
The gentlemen spoke among themselves a little more. heads shaking. laughter.
We were stamped. The oldest gentleman pointed at the younger man and says a lot. “he will drive you. That’s his car.” more pointing. “if anyone can find it, he can. He is great, fantastico, the guy pf the month!” In Italian.
Middle aged gentleman took our 3 bags to the car. We are young, we help out.
We had no idea what kind of contract we had signed or how much it would cost us. Trust in the lord. Or not. We needed to go places and someone was willing to take us there in any language. We got into the car.
Middle aged gentleman made a call on his mobile, spoke to a friend. In Italian.
“hola Montalbano! do you know where Borgo Giusto is!? two idiots I have to drive there! they seem nice, but totally lost. Can’t speak Italian either! Who doesn’t speak Italian??! Morons, that’s who. haha! siiiiii, round the bend? turn by the big oak? I know which one! oh ja, the yellow ones? they smell nice!” In Italian
For 15 minutes he spoke on the phone. We drove through a small village or market. I felt relieved. There were people here, behind the big hill. He hang up. And kept driving. Turned right into the bushes, by the big oak tree, on a winding road.
I am brought up in Africa. I am trained to depend on & trust other people’s kindness. Ubuntu. We are one, you live, I live, you die, I die. The wars for crude oil, land & other resources continue to rage in total disregard for ubuntu. My Swedish travel partner is brought up different. I have no idea how. He was fidgety, wondering if we really should trust this which we couldn’t understand. I kept my hand on his hand. To transmit calmness and trust.
After 25-30 minutes drive, around the bend, after the old fig tree, we saw the hotel parking lot. A wonderful view, worth paying for. We were here. Since we didn’t know how much we agreed to pay, we gave our gentleman a note. It was not too big & not too small.
“no. it was my pleasure. I am glad we found it & that you are safe. Shall I help you with the bags?” In Italian.
We are Swedes, I say, My name is merry-traveler-1 and this is my person, calm-traveler-2, do you want to join us for a drink? In English. All is lost in translation. He drives off with a smile.
I am amazed at how much we can communicate with others without words. I am so happy to find that my childhood trust in basic kindness is intact. We are so humbled & thankful that with all the changes and online-lives, someone in Italy is still concerned about the safety of young people traveling in the unknown.
This happened to us so many times, I could write a story for every day. Not always someone driving us somewhere, but someone helping us out in Italian. Gladly, kindly & memorable.
Relax! I believe if you only ever speak with people who understand you on the first try, you never really learn patience or appreciation of the simple truths.
Plan some margins in travel. That way, even if you are a little delayed by language hitches, you still have time to listen in another language. It is part of the experience.
If you are even a dot of the control freak that I am, you need to relinquish control & trust in basic human kindness. All is well if you find one person who is willing to listen & reply; even in Italian.
I am back to the daily life, work and 460 mails to trudge through after 2 weeks away. Business as usual. It takes longer to get down to writing but I plan to be done with the Tuscany series before end of June.
Know yourself & what kind of traveler you are! It will help you pack & prepare to reduce stress.
For me, a neurotic home leaver, the best & worst part of traveling is packing before the trip. I love having all of my crap & shit around me. In case I need it. Mostly though, it is the shoes packing that gets me going off the hook. I want to pack, among other nice useless things; two pairs of pumps – red & black. In case I have to attend that very nice dinner that always happens when I am away and I always end up feeling under-dressed. Because of the shoes.
I also want to pack: all my other nice shoes except the training shoes. Nail polish. 3 colors of lipstick including a nude. All my jeans. All my nice tops. All my pretty dresses. All my nice pretty shorts. 3 kinds of sunscreen – 15 for cooler days, 30 for sunny nice days and 50 for hot scorching days. Just in case. All my hair brushes & combs; plus, my partner in travel laughs that I always want to pack my 2 hair dryers & 4 different sizes of flat irons. Who knows what to expect when away from home? right?
This time, I got away with loafers. I think I will keep to the loafers from now on. Easier to pack and easy to wear even on light walk days.
The thing with touring for us is we walk a lot. A lot! You know; because, & don’t go judging now, we can’t always find the places we are looking for at first try, OR, we can’t be bothered to have a plan so we just kinda:
Roam without roaming services.
Take a cold bear or something in the middle of the day.
That kinda gets you tired so we:
Roam a bit more and oh! hallelujah!
we always, many times, find something we always wanted to see.
We are always photographing that shit and cooing over how talented graffiti artists are. Even when traveling, we still can miss the Dome and see all this street art everywhere we walk & we walk A. LOT.
The featured image is a painting by Barbara Marchiori that we found in a gallery in Pistoia. That was a perfect, easy day trip while we were in Florence. 30 minutes on the train on a hot day, to the most wonderful lunch we had in Tuscany.
We wanted very much to see the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral & theIl Duomo built by a “a buffoon and a babbler” as described by the guys who later hired him, Filippo Brunelleschi. We had watched a documentary about Brunelleschi before we left Stockholm and were looking forward to the Dome. We did not see it from the inside. At all. We saw it several times, from all angles, from the outside. And then we saw the drawings & designs of the dome at the Il Duomo Museum.
Before the trip, we were just interested, like “oh, how interesting is that!?”
Now, we are freaking enthusiasts. Dome lovers. We must go back to Florence to see this F#¤%&¤#G dome. It is beautiful & fascinating.
I think my grandfather’s stories have influenced my brain during travel. “Where you find water, you find people with plenty” he said. “Where there is water, there is enough for all so there is less animosity from the locals. And, they are used to travelers just ricketing in on rickety boats”. He reasoned. All ancient settlements that have formed our present lives were built near water. Wars fought, empires built, love found & made. The beginnings & ends of fantastic adventures on rickety boats.
My grandfather was an epic wanderer. Disappearing for months on end in a time without mobile phones and Facebook. Wandering through Africa. Taking the rickety boats to India or whatever place the boat would ricket to. Some times, we thought he could have died on one of his adventures. But then, he would wander right back to our home with all sorts of friends and stories.
Boy, did he tell stories about these escapades?!
So the first walk for me always is “let’s find the river/lake/sea!”
We arrived to Florence on a hot afternoon, so we found the Arno and walked by it in search of a good gelato. Plus, we really wanted to see the Ponte Vecchio where trade, all sorts of trade, has been ongoing since the middle ages. Some things should never change.
Find the bridges on the map is my tip. Fiume=River. Ponte=Bridge.
Then you know when to cross & re-cross to wherever. If you have goals. If not, think a zigzag movement with the river as the middle point. Otherwise just go with the flow.
We took the train to Firenze SMN Stazione (Santa Maria Novella) from ROMA Termini. That is so easy, you need no tips or heads up. Just go to the train stations with your credit card or some Euros and buy the ticket. Trains left on time & the trips were easy & pleasant with beautiful views of the Tuscany country side.
Tip: It is hard to see a country if you fly everywhere. Driving takes your focus from the fun outside. Take the train or the bus. Sit back & enjoy that someone else is taking you there. Close your book & look out the window.
Unlike Rome where we stayed at the Massimo D’Azeglio hotel, in Firenze we stayed at the Le Stanze del Duomo B&B. Both highly recommended. Since both are quite central, we could walk all day and come home in the evening exhausted, fed, fed up, drunk, happy, pissy; basically anything without any problems. Both are also very close to regular supermarkets with late closing hrs (22:00) so we could buy bites, water, wine etc to take away to the room when we couldn’t be bothered with the “Go out & eat” farce.
Tip: Find your go to places for essentials such as water, aspirin, sun screen, wine, beer or whatever rocks your rickety boat.
We had a map with us, which I can read to 70% proximity, and a red pen to mark places, of course. My partner’s eye rolled almost every time I said “we turn right!” My map reading can spice the walking a great deal. He is good with the “well done! you are a life saver! what would I do without you?!” part when I get it right though.
Tip: A supportive travel partner is essential; otherwise, go it alone if you want to enjoy the trip.
I lied, I had my training shoes with me. For all the walking. Asics in black, red & white bought in 2015.
Tip: Take your trainers or comfort shoes with you! They will save your life.
Next entry: Tuscany 2017: For the “I don’t speak Italian smile smile” Traveler
It is interesting how instinct works. Like love. Or hate. Or fear. You get these feels that you really don’t know where they are coming from and can absolutely not control. You consider ignoring the feels but the “inner compass” just won’t let you. If you try to ignore the feels, you start to get nervous, anxious, fidgety, itchy, neurotic, edgy and irritable. Best way to deal with this is to act on the feels and move on with it.
So, on the day we are to find the Pincio gardens, I wake up with lots of feels. Instinct tells me that a pimple is coming on. So I start the morning with touching my face. I touch the exact place where a huge zit is going to show up because instinct tells me there will be a zit on precisely this spot.
My partner in zit & acne control says that I get all these zits because I touch & scratch my face. It is a chicken-egg situation. I feel the zit coming, instinctively, I touch scratch, squeeze, peel violently, point my nail directly at it & push, use the pincette, apply aloe vera, apply sun cream, ooh too much sun screen, wipe with toner, apply more sun cream, the zit, it comes.
It can’t be any other way.
Does my touching my face cause the zit, or, does the zit cause an itch that I have to deal with before the zit pops up?
Anyways, whatever I do, by breakfast (09:00 am), a spot on my face hurts.
Life goes on!
I place my wonderful hat on my head and it lies right on the zit. It, the pimple itches and hurts all at once.
La vita va avanti!
I have to walk through Rome because my find the best city views partner has a garden he wants to show me. Pincio. We have with us the book Top 10 Rome, & in it is a map. I turn the map upside down, decide which way we have to go and start walking.
If you look at the Google maps navigator below, it should take 40 minutes, tops.
We walked the whole afternoon. From 12:15 to 16:30.
The whole freaking hot afternoon (28 Celsius).
To be on the fair side, it is a wonderful walk in the sun through the best parts of the city. Brushing by the Colosseum, St. Peters Cathedral, Spanish Steps, the shopping district etc. When we find ourselves near the Trevi Fountain, we decide to come back to the Fountain later. I have been saving my 3 cents all week for the Trevi visit.
Because we will always be back to Rome.
We took a break on the way, took a coffee at a small café near the Flaminio tram stop. Just one stop from Flaminio Tram stop. After the coffee, my legs, feet, back & pimple hurt so bad I wanted to take the tram back.
My we are better than that partner said it couldn’t be that far to walk. I did not believe him so we had a short irritated conversation while we walked.
Me “I want to take the tram!
Me “I am tired”
Me: “You don’t hear me!?”
Him “. a look.”
Me “Are you listening???!”
Me: “Oh, there is the Flaminio stop.” Just look at the map, a little north west of the destination.”
Him “. Smiles at me. touches my hand.“
Embarrassed silence. We turn left or is it right?. Up the stairs, definitely up the stairs, and there lies the famous garden in all its glory. A wonderful view of the city and statues of the historic famous in one place.
We have been traveling through #Tuscany for 11 days and the experience has been, wildly rewarding; to put it mildly. We have known each other for over 8 yrs and have not done anything like this; just us; finding places, getting lost, using a map (that is an entire story).
I will be sharing our Tuscany experience in the coming posts, to share information, tips and the fun we had!
Prima: I was not singing or whistling. SO i am certain I did not set this up just to be in luck. Though to be fare to the Judases, I am known to speak to birds & cats.
Suddenly, my partner in travel & all sorts of drama says jumping dramatically he is a tall handsome guy; so try to imagine the sense of drama
“oh, bird shit! bird shit!
ooooh, on your hat!
Stop, you have to take it off!
It will stink!
And you can get Salmonella from bird shit!”
I calmly ask him if he can just wipe it off? kindly. He kind of hops away from me, you know like “NEVER! that will not happen” kind of hop
I take our bottle of water from the bag I am carrying. He snatches the bottle from me. “give me that! we could get salmonella!”
“Just drop some on my napkin so I can wipe the hat?”
I am starting to loose it a little. Many years ago, I got salmonella from in-flight chicken dinner and that was not pretty. Apparently, in the throes of it, I asked the doctor to “help me send a note to my sister because I am dying”
“maybe you have to throw the hat away and buy a new one!” he says
I snatch the bottle, pour some water on a napkin, and wipe the hat. And back on the head it goes. It is freaking 30 degrees Celsius out in Rome! I would rather lie on the floor of the hotel loo for 10 hrs dealing with Salmonella that have that heat on the part of my head that covers my brain.
It took MINUTES hours? for him to believe he could come near me & my hat without catching something. I mean, I was still walking and I seemed fine, right?
I am just hoping the wiping the hat with water doesn’t ruin my luck!
Did you ever hear that when a bird drops on you, you are in luck? Droppings from the bird means bird shit. Not diamonds, or saliva, or sperm or anything that exciting. Bird shit is’all.
I imagined that there could be some science behind this myth but after scouring the net this morning, I feel assured to declare this just another of those, “Myth or Fact” things that should come on the Myth or Fact? TV-program to put us all out of our misery.
I chose the USA today story, which is in no way scientific. It serves the purpose since I am not trying to prove anything right at this moment. My intention is to warn brag & inform you that I will be becoming very rich, or loved, or happy or something really lucky. Shortly. More lucky than I have already been.
Because a bird actually shat on that beautiful hat you see on my head in the photo in which I am standing by the river Arno (Fiume Arno) in Florence (Firenze).