This man has been helping make my dreams come true for more than 25 years. This is the third time he’s agreed to pack up our lives in Australia and move overseas. And it’s the third time we’ve landed in Italy to live, work and play.
This time is different though as we now have Miss S’s interests and needs as a driving focus. Attending school, embracing new friendships and childhood play and having time to learn the language have all been major influences in our decisions as a family.
However, it’s this guy who has sacrificed the most. He gave up the property, his animals, his fulfilling work as a healer, his livelihood, his developing passion for woodwork and his sense of peace to make this trip a reality.
This photo was taken at Castel dell’Ovo, the oldest of the castles in Naples, it was built in the 15th century upon what was originally a 6th century BC Greek colony and later a Roman fortress. It is one of Naples most iconic structures and from the top it affords a unique view out to sea and of the Neapolitan waterfront.
As he stood there looking out towards the city of his birth, a city that engenders feelings of conflict and contradiction in him, I was struck by how different he is to the 22 year old I met all those years ago.
He was wilder, less grounded and certainly much more of an urban creature in those days. Now, he reminisces about the forest we left behind, his woodwork tools, his love for the goats now sold and his rewarding connections with his clients.
He struggles with just being in Italy. The politics, the state of the economy, the current cultural environment and the incivility see him venting frustration and disappointment, and yet I know he keeps a lot of it to himself.
I always find work easier and faster in Italy. Being a mother language speaker of English, female and having been born on the other side of the planet provide privileges and opportunities never extended to Gigi, despite his inherently superior language skills and chameleon ability to change and adapt. He most certainly gets unfairly judged on his physical appearance, but he also has to join the long queue of underemployed and disenfranchised men already in Italy who have long ago lost hope that they will ever be fully and actively employed. There is also the sense that as an Italian man who long ago decided to seek opportunities elsewhere there is a need to shun and punish his decisions, instead of acknowledging and respecting them as happens in other countries where young people head overseas.
It’s a hard space to be in. Theoretically, he’s on board with the notion of Miss S learning the language, connecting with her Italian family and spending time at school, but emotionally it’s taking a toll. He’s stifling parts of himself just to be here, and while it’s not forever, the months stretch out before him like an endless road to nowhere.
Life is never perfect, and we are safe, comfortable and happy together. Miss S’s Italian language skills improve everyday and she’s learning more about herself and her Italian heritage than any of us surely realise or appreciate at this point in time. In ten years time she’ll have finished school and I know we’ll look back upon this experience with amazement and a sense of pride.
But in the meantime, the reality of knowing one of us isn’t entirely comfortable and at peace means that there is a drip, drip of worry and discontent.