Contemplation, Self-Reflection

Making Hay

Yesterday Cassi found a scorpion in her salad at school.
Apparently its just a sign that the food is so fresh and free of pesticides. Nice spin on behalf of the staff there.
You probably won’t find any scorpions in your salad today. and that’s a shame for you.

Tuscany, or at least the hills surrounding Florence have seasons back to front. The hardship comes in surviving the summer.
And while scorpions are not welcome in my salad, I do not include them in my reasoning. The summers are tougher here than the winters because we are entering “the season”. Its harder to find anywhere to live, due to demand and prices. We’ve sorted that one, but it has left me considering how the year cycles in this part of the world.
I have inadvertently noticed that, when it was winter time, I was greeted with smiles and helpful concern from shop keepers. There was a sense of recognition and a feeling of solidarity, as we wintered together in sub-zero temperatures. I remember Florence feeling something like a ghost town. All shop fronts closed with iron gates. Just a hand-full of places were open, and only ever then, in the afternoons. I wasn’t sure this was a temporary situation, until now, when I walk down the same cobbled roads and notice the shop fronts’ shutters opened like outstretched arms waiting for your embrace. I had romantically put it down to fundamental differences between our cultures. Not to mention the fact that London is an overcrowded metropolis, whereas Florence is not. Well at least not during the winter.
This changes.

Already, coaches are clogging the riverbanks of florence unloading crowds of pasty pale aliens in rucksacks. They flow out of the narrow exits and flood the streets, unaware of the multiple near death experiences they are causing while they gather their bearings and belongings.
Some are foreign students, some are culture tourist, some are here purely to go to the fashion outlets. The latter, a garish scar on the southern hills, courtesy of the Gucci empire, who own most of the area. Thousands of people spend thousands of euros daily, in an extensive mall, all on sunglasses and handbags, without even venturing into the old city.

Foreign students, huddle together and are directed to the assigned accommodation. 16 sqm per bedsit with a shared bathroom.
You can see the group dynamics evolving at light speed. Cocky Jocks in baseball hats take the lead. A girl with extra white teeth and straightened hair, in a tank top shows off her best talents – namely chewing gum while making high-pitched nasal noises?
A couple of Emos lag behind, hoping they can find a bedsit with enough soundproofing, so as not to be kept up everynight with all the drunken debacles and high-pitched nasal noises, which will no-doubt ensue.

So this is landscape of Florence and its surroundings for the next few months. The heat will intensify, as will the crowds.
And here belies the contradictory dilemma of the summer. It is the season on plenty. Foreign money pours in, saturating the city walls and the farm land; enabling a fragile economic ecosystem to strive and make hay in the bright and stifling sunshine. But there is a distinct lack of common ground between locals and foreigners at this time of year. One inevitably sees the other with a degree of contempt despite a mutual dependency on each other. Holiday makers need the Italians to make good gelatos. Italians need seasonal holiday makers to see them through the year.

As a result I have noticed changes in attitudes around me. While during the winter months, there was a lot of respect for us as foreigners willing to endure the out-of-season months with them. They shared with us their time and their resources. Now their attention is elsewhere, and for most, we have become indistinguishable from demanding tourists who have paid top-buck to be here. I make extra effort to talk with what little italian I can, to differentiate myself from a herd I strongly feel i do not belong to. But I am clearly swimming upstream. Years of conditioning have undoubtedly left their mark and I expect I will only find our friends again, come September.

In the meantime, I consol myself in eden (among the scorpions).

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