because none of us is fucking up like we think we are, is what i'm trying to say

Tuesday, 10 August 2010


When I called Mama to catch up she laughed at me. "What's the name of the course you're assisting with again?" she asked me. I sighed. "Lose Your Inhibitions," I reminded her. She laughed again. "They must have read your website then," she decided. I'm sure I don't know what she means.

I'm not really trained in theatre, not properly, but if I had a dime for every time somebody told me I was dramatic... Well. I'd have like, five dollars. And nowhere to spend it. Italy takes the Euro. It was a weekend of crazy, leave-your-dignity-at-the-bottom-of-this-whopping-great-big-hill, let's-all-hug-each-other-even-though-close-proximity-to-armpits-makes-us-uncomfortable F.U.N. for Italian language teachers who want ideas on how to add that little something extra to their classes. When I'm looking for ways to spice up my life I normally try nipple tassels and a few tokes on a dooby, but I'm told that's frowned upon with ten year olds.

The course was in Baiardo. And Baiardo? Uh-huh. WOW.

The view from my bedroom window. Looking at this every morning is like the high from inhaling glue. But without the chance of brain haemorrhage.

Vodafone IT didn't get the Geography memo, though, that Baiardo is in Italy. Not France. As soon as I arrived they switched me to an international contract, we were THAT high up. Maybe they were as high on life as we all were up there. That might explain it.

Sunset was enough to make even someone like me inhale sharply.

At the top of this teeny-tiny 307 population village is an old church, the highest point in the town. From it you can see the riviera on one side, and the French Alps on the other, mainly because there is no roof and most of the walls are ruined. A couple of hundred years ago, right as most of the village congregated to mark the beginning of Lent, there was an earthquake and the roof caved in, killing 1/3 of the population. Now it isn't so much a place of worship as it is a great place for teenagers to get tipsy off of their parent's contraband homemade punch and look at the stars, and a reminder that religion kills. Distasteful? Uh-uh. Probably.

So 40 middle-aged Italian teachers- two blokes and the rest wearing far too much patterned lycra- arrived and we made them jump up-and-down to a rousing rendition of Bazooka Bubblegum where we demand with gusto, "Like many things in life, if your feet are touching the floor whilst you do this, you're probably doing it wrong." Nobody laughed. One teacher stood with her arms folded and her chin on her chest. Look. I TRIED.

They were an interesting bunch, from all over the country, and pleasant enough to chat with.  But you know. I didn't expect what we got. Because, there is an AND THEN.

And then.

And then I need you to close your eyes and just think. Picture a view that was almost debilitating in it's beauty. Picture the crumbling old church in the hazy late-afternoon sunshine, shadows cast like gothic designs across the mossy floor by the odd-shaped glassless windows and the trees nearby. Picture a light breeze and the smell of history.

Picture the Italian teachers and a djembe drum in the arms of the tallest, darkest, toothiest Senegalese man you've ever seen.


It all seemed a bit awkward at first, the drumming and the stiff movements that we were trying to use to demonstrate internal and external character rhythms. Sort of like, plonk, plonk, plonk. I think I spaced out for a minute as I thought about the plonking because suddenly everybody Got It. I don't know when it happened, but the one-man drum seemed like a ten-piece band. My eyes adjusted and it took me some moments to comprehend what was happening.

The teachers filled the space as much as the sound of the drums did, and they flung their arms forwards, and then backwards, and then to the sides. They spun and turned and sang and sang and sang. "What exactly is happening here?" my boss asked me. I looked at her, mouth agape. "I think we might be doing that making memories thing again," I replied, and then as if on cue one of the older women walked past us to a nearby bench, tears streaming down her face and a smile on her lips. "The music," she said. "The church, the drums... It's just all so perfect!" she sobbed, half-laughing. My boss and I looked at each other.

And then. And then, and then.

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