The children had no school this morning, but Mike is still working though
really looking forward to the Christmas break. I have a slow morning
with the guys and then when Mike gets back we have our usual lunch
pasta, sauce, olives, sometimes wine or lambrusco, bread and mozzarella. We go to Lorella's
to meet up for the Christmas carols in the piazza. Her sister (Sammy's
teacher -Giovanna) is there and she brings Sammy on to school. I go and
deliver fudge with Eli and Rosa at their school. The kids have to go in to walk together to the Piazza with Sammy's school. All the kids
have torches and Christmas hats. Mike, Finn and I go and join Sammy and
we procession through the old city with the little children singing. It
is a lovely atmosphere through the narrow streets. Then we reach the piazza
and are corralled into a circle within barriers and it becomes completely
disorganized. We stay for a bit but I have to lift Finn out to Mike, and
we hear the announcer telling parents they can't continue with the
singing and raffle until people organize themselves a bit better. We
decide to find Eli and Rosa in the crowd and all go for pizza. Lorella
takes me later to a toy store in Bitonto for last minute gifts. It is
completely mobbed like a scene from that movie with Arnold
Schwarzenegger trying to get a toy for Christmas, but we manage to park
and get what's needed.
23 Dec -
Kids and I home all day. Cleaning up and getting ready for Christmas.
Weather has turned really cold, but not wet. I'm trying to get all the
washing done in time to have a break. When Mike gets back I take
Cal for a walk and hear a young couple speaking English so I say hi and
we get talking. It turns out they are a Scot- William and an English
girl-Jane, both teachers in an English language school in Molfetta and
have only been here since October. They live around the corner and are
delighted to hear about our adventures and all the contacts we've made.
As they are working and have no blond kids or dog they haven't met
many people. I am delighted to discover they have a washing machine and
they offer for me to use it. We swap phone numbers and they tell me
there are two more English girls we can meet in the New Year. They are
all heading away for Christmas.
Later we go over to the harbour to see an event organised each year
by the sub aqua part of the fire department. They light a floating
star out in the harbour to signify the arrival of the Christ child and
then deliver him to Mary and Joseph to start a play. While we are there
Mimo brings us over to meet another collegue from work who has brought
us lots of meet for Christmas (mostly pork). We thank him, embarrassed
We get the kids settles as we've been invited by Sabino, who we met
with Lorella at the Mexican night, to his birthday party in Bari.
We bring Finn. Sabino lives in an interesting modern apartment, due to
its narrow stairs, in the old city of Bari close to a really enormous
square castle. We have a lovely evening chatting and eating and
listening to a rock concert on a massive wide screen TV. We go
home relatively early as our neighbour Tzama is babysitting and asked us
not to be late. She won't let me pay her when we do return.
24th Dec Christmas Eve
Poor Mike goes off early to olives. I have to get up with kids and continue
cleaning and washing, but weather is nice again so can get kids to park
and go shopping in time to get all that's needed for tomorrows lunch.
The town is packed and I go to one of my usual bakeries and find out,
only after queuing for ten minutes, that they are operating a ticket
system today. We wait for Mike at Toni's and buy ice-cream in a freezer
container for tonight and tomorrow as Toni is shut tonight. We all have
a rest and then a nice meal for Shabbat. Toni has arranged to
bring his wife, Chantele, who is just back from Switzerland, to meet us
and they arrive appropriately in time to watch the guys eat his ice
cream. We have a lovely chat with them both. They love to
travel too and have had some very funny experiences. Toni describes them
often by using the phrase, "oh this was really special and then goes on
to say something like in Honduras the banks say 'please leave your guns
outside.'" Chantele spent 8 months on a cruise ship mostly in
Scandinavia as a beautician and masseuse and has interesting stories
too. We are sorry to see them leave and look forward to getting
together tomorrow evening when Toni is going to bring us to something
'really special.' We spend the rest of the evening wrapping as we always
25th Sat. Christmas Day
Christmas morning arrived very early for some in our family.
Sammy had been warned the night before that if he woke he was to wait
until everyone was awake before opening anything. Eli woke at almost the
same time as Sammy, about 4.30 we think. We dozed on but could
hear them talking. Sammy "How much more till morning Eli? pause When can
we open our presents? pause Is it time now?" He snuck towards the
stockings a few times and was called back. Eli told him stories about
Santa to keep him going but eventually near 5.30a.m. we had to get up
and let them start. They had a great time with their stockings and then
we paused for a nice breakfast before moving on to main gifts. They were
Sammy got two dragons in eggs, a fire and water one,
got new knight stuff- shiny swords and shield,
Eli a calculator with an
organizer and translation function and a toy Hulk,
Rosa a little
picnic tea set and small baby doll.
They played away while Mike and I
went back to bed for a while. I was woken by a phone call from Mum and
Dad which was lovely. Then we got up and dressed and went to exercise
Cal and visit Toni who had opened the ice-cream shop to sell coffee to
church goers for a few hours. We told him he was mad, but had a second
breakfast, of chocolate croissants and cakes, none the less. Then
we went to Mass in the basement chapel of the Cathedral. It is a
lovely place with lots of stone arches very low and intimate. At
first we thought it might be a private gathering as we saw three babies
and people with cameras and videos but it turned out to be a normal
ceremony with christenings. These were quite something. The babies
were very cute and very beautifully turned out all it white coats and
dresses. Everyone was very well dressed and the atmosphere was very
Italian. We didn't last the entire time as Sammy and Finn got
restless on all the sugar they had consumed. We went back passed
Toni's and met his mother and father, and Roberto's wife and her parents.
The mother lived in the states when she was young and spoke
English with an American accent. It was all very nice wishing people Buon Natale.
We went home and as Francesca's family were all gathering
for Christmas diner we brought down our gift for her. A huge wool
blanket I had brought from Ireland in case we needed gifts. She was very
very pleased with it as she is always saying "I'm Freeeezing" since we
taught her, in English. We also delivered smoked salmon on brown
soda bread, biscuits, muffins, and chocolate chip cookies we'd made and
had a drink of something clear in little glasses. It was very festive.
We then went up for our own diner. I had bought cooked chickens
yesterday as we have no oven and we had that with lots of veg. and
barbequed sausages. We felt suitably stuffed and took it easy for a while.
Mickey and Anne phoned and Rosa got to speak to Claire. Our
phone calls made us have pangs of homesickness.
made the arrangements about bringing us to Terlizzi for a sort of street pageant later
in the evening. We got some fresh air in the piazza and the kids
gave their friends little presents they had bought themselves.
We now had enough room for desert so we went in for some more of the
ice-cream that we had bought yesterday and I added hot chocolate fudge sauce
and chocolate chip cookies. We were all in good form when Toni and Chantelle arrived and we drove them squeezed into Newbie to the town.
The decorations in Terlizzi were lovely with a huge Christmas tree and
lights on Palm trees! We got into a queue in a narrow street in
the old city not quite knowing what we were going to see. Soon the
crowd started to move and we were transported back in time to Biblical
times as all along the tiny streets were players dressed from that time
and acting as if they were going about their business washing clothes,
coming past with water jars, etc. There were carpenters with
ancient tools, potters, and a forge, as well as, the disciples have a
meal, dancers, tents with sleeping people in them, and goats and chickens
in pens. Of course, we eventually got to the stable with Mary Joseph and
baby Jesus. It was really something very 'special.' We headed home
with sleepy children Sammy didn't make it to the car -see photo.
Toni and Chantelle came in to help us with the children and then to eat some Pomodora cake and drink
champagne both traditional on Christmas. We had a another lovely chat and
it was a great way to end the day.
Boxing day was spent in the usual way resting as best we could, having
leftovers and drinking tea, but we had no long walk.
Up early and decided I had to make the effort and start Tai Chi again
to help deal with my back which is acting up due to all the heavy
washing. We then did a massive tidy on the apartment, dealing with toys
and Christmas food. Weather amazingly warm, warm Sirocco wind blowing
so we went to the park, and then had a sleepy afternoon. Sammy and Finn
both went to sleep and Eli, Rosa Mike and I did puzzles. Then Chantelle phoned to ask if I wanted to put a wash on in her machine.
Eli and I went straight there. I told her how thrilled I was, and we
stayed and had a cuppa. When I got back the small boys were still
asleep we couldn't get them to wake for diner but they wake did once Eli
and Rosa had gone to bed. Mike took Sammy to Toni's although he wasn't
there Roberto was on tonight but Mike wanted to bake the rest of the
chocolate chip batch. Sammy came back in bad form and was happy to
go back to bed but Finn stayed up and played until Mike and I couldn't
Sabino, one of Lorella's and Luigi's friends we met at the Liquid
Lounge, invited us to his birthday party in Bari. Suzie arranged
for one of the neighbors to babysit for all but Finn, and Luigi and Lorella drove us there
(FAST!). Sabino's apartment is in the old city in Bari, and is
furnished modernly, on several floors, with narrow staircases between.
I was a bit concerned about bringing Finn as it sounded like an adult
party, but as Sabino's children were there, and Finn got loads of
attention as he always does, it was fine. At the beginning most of
us were upstairs in the main sitting room, which is quite small even by
Irish standards, with a very large television in one corner playing a
DVD of a Jazz concert, which at first was background but became more of
a focus at times when people weren't talking to each other.
Sabino is a doctor and some people there called him Dottore; I asked
Tony about this later and he confirmed my impression that it was some
kind of social distinction. Also we were introduced to **** as a
"Famous lawyer". Several people called him Avocat. He was
very friendly though we didn't speak long, I told him my father and
brother were lawyers in the States.
Also met Roberto, who is a plant manager in a beer manufacturer here,
perfectly fluent in English and talked about Beer and beer markets, and
ONLY about that!
We hadn't had dinner before we left, and there was no cause to be
concerned: this was an Italian birthday after all! There was
lots of food, with the usual progression of courses.
Later in the evening I was getting sleepy so went downstairs to the
kitchen where it was cooler and thinking of asking for a coffee, even
though it normally is the last thing you have. There was great
carry-on when the "famous" Lawyer started opening up Sabino's presents
for him, and waving around expensive bottles of wine.
Around dessert time we got a call from our neighbor who was
babysitting, and so headed back with lots of goodbyes to all. We
got back after 1 pm, and I have to work tomorrow!
It was very hard to get out of bed at 5:15am this morning. I worked in the
fields today, and thought it would be the last day picking olives.
started the day giving me a Panitone box with sweet sparkling wine (Spumanti). Early on, he told me
that we would finish early (we didn't) and then work a few days next week.
Work was easier today because Pinuche was there, we finished quickly in one
field which had mostly almonds, then moved on to other fields, again
with more almond than olive, the olive trees very spread out. We stopped
at the masseria for our break, Pasquale opened another Panitone, I
brought out some Guinness and we finished it off with champagne. We only
had a few trees left and Mikele told me Emilia was going to give us
money today. He asked if I got paid, I explained I was a volunteer but
got petrol money. We
finished and got back, but Amelia wasn't there, much to Mikele's
disappointment. However we met up with them on the road back to Toritto,
and we pulled over, Pasquale in his tractor, me and Mikele in Newbie,
and Amelia and Domenico in their old Lada. As we stood on the road
talking and exchanging gifts, tractors, cars with
ladders and other vehicles passed, honking a greeting to Pasquale or
others honking in annoyance at our parking!
We got another cake with champagne, this time Pandoro, which is also
tradition but unlike Panitone it has no fruit, just a dusting of sugar
on the outside. I saw Mikele getting paid. They also gave
us presents for the kids and some cash for petrol.
It turns out that
my work next week is for Pasquale, Domenico's fields are done. I
am pleased that he thinks me good enough to do his own land, despite
wishing the olive harvest was done.
In the morning, Tony opened his shop, despite Chantelle's comments about
him working on Christmas day last night, so we called into him and hung out there for a while while
the little guys ran around outside playing with the knight stuff. Suz
wanted to go to services at the cathedral in the old city. The main part
of the cathedral was being restored, so they were having services in the
lower floor, slightly below ground level. I was surprised it was so
small and intimate, walls of white stone, most seats taken and I noticed
some people with videos and cameras there. Suzie asked someone if this
was open to the public and the man answered in English, "Everybody".
babies were getting christened today. The priest , using a microphone,
was friendly and engaging. The children were named and the service/mass
began. Our kids were too full of sugar to sit still so I took Finn out
and went back to Tony's shop, while Suzie braved it out a bit longer.
Afterwards we called into Francesca's and enjoyed a long conversation between several
of us, pleased we were making each other understood. As usual, the
content was rather simple, about our travels, why we weren't staying, what
Ireland is like, parents visiting, etc.
Were offered her own fermented lemon drink again so had a shot as well
as finishing Suzie's, which made the conversation easier.
As her family started arriving, we went upstairs to have our own
delicious and very filling Christmas lunch, with BBQ sausages courtesy
of Mimo's friends from Bari, a cooked chicken Suzie had gotten the day
before, fried and mash potatoes, carrots, and onions.
After a nice relaxing day hanging out at home, we went out to Terlitzia
with Tony and Chantelle. The town had set up an outside walk-through
creche/crib in the old city. The old city in this town had even narrower
stone streets than Giovinazzo, and people were broken up into small
groups to walk through a living tour of Bethlehem in Jesus's time. While
we waited we watched 4 young women dressed in silks dance to eastern
music. As we moved along we came several people drinking in a tent in a
corner a tent. Then women doing washing by hand, with others bringing
them water in old jugs from a "well" set up opposite the women against
the old city walls. The streets got narrower and we saw women making
bread, live (but sleeping) hens, a goat and her kids, a man turning a
real clay pot with a foot operated pottery wheel, a blacksmith with hot
fire blazing, carpenters hacking at bits of wood, and then the manger
with Mary, Joseph an Angel and the baby Jesus. All of these were real
young people dressed up and moving around in the half darkness of
evening. It was an amazing experience; I didn't have any connection to
the religious aspect of it, but really felt like I had experienced a
middle eastern town two millennia ago.
When we came back Tony and Chantelle helped us carry the kids to bed,
and we stayed up with Pandoro (cut by Chantelle into stars), champagne,
tea and talked about food, business ideas for Tony's shop and elsewhere,
27 Dec (Mon)
I was supposed to work today for Pasquale but he rang Domenico last
night and told me not to come, no explanation but I imagine I'll still
be working later this week.
Late this evening Domenico rings me to say I should meet at the 5
crosses in Toritto for work tommorow morning.