Sunday, October 14, 2012

My little laundry community

I've lamented before about the lack of a clothes dryer in our little apartment, but getting used to it was disturbingly easy and now it's something that I don't really even consider a necessity.  One of the things that used to be a phobia of mine and my broken Italian has now become something I kind of enjoy, especially when I step back and realize this is a very funny situation when you break it down.  Hanging out the laundry in the late morning is something I am hardly ever alone in doing.  Like many Italian homes, we have a little balcony with our clothespins and clotheswires that meets the balcony of our neighbor.  Our neighbors above and below, to the left and the right, across the courtyard and down the street have the same set up.  This means that on most days, when you are shaking out your sheets, glaring up at a rain cloud and mentally willing it to stay put, you are in good company hanging out your laundry.

First, it started as just my neighbor - a wonderful, brassy, outgoing Monterosso woman who would yell out advice and gossip to people as far as across the courtyard.  She engaged me every time in conversation and would translate the older women's dialect into more understandable Italian for me.  I would run inside and slammed the door, petrified.  I developed slight anxiety about hanging out the laundry, as having just woken up and getting thrown into conversation with several older Italian ladies in their various states of undress and pajamas, my brain was just not ready.  After a few months, without my neighbor present, I exchanged good mornings or waves with the other ladies.  One particularly tough one finally warmed up to me when I shouted good morning to another old woman passing by, who happened to me Manu's grandfather's brother's wife's sister.  The old woman yelled down, "Ah, she speaks Italian, the girl here?".  Manuel's relative (loosely used) responded, laughing, "Yes, she's learning, she can speak".  The older woman in question then looked at me and glared, but nodded, satisfied, and went inside.

Two days later she asked me if I was Brazilian.  I said no, and responded that I was American, and she again glared and nodded, satisfied (I'm not sure what she has against Brazilians), and went inside.

Finally, one day last week, with all the women outside shouting morning greetings, my neighbor yelled over, "Criiiiiiii," and asked how I was doing in the local dialect, I answered in Italian.  My old woman peeked down, glared as usual, and queried, "You understood that?".  "Yes," I replied, grinning, explaining that Manu's gram speaks it at home.  She nodded, again, but didn't glare, and I was convinced she smiled a little as I joined the conversation outside.  Slowly, the women started asking me questions, asking me if I had gone mushroom hunting yet, and I started asking back - what vegetables do you put in your polpettone?  A sentence here or there over a few months, and my anxiety has mostly gone.  I've gotten to know my neighbors a little bit through this incredibly normal daily task that is incredibly strange to someone who grew up in a house with a yard, a fence, bushes and a clothes dryer.  As I rattle off what's said outside to Manu inside, excitedly telling him how an old lady told me (vaguely, people are a little possessive about their secret mushroom spots) a porcini spot, I stop and grin and then talk about how wonderful it is that all the women talk out on the balconies.  He laughs back, constantly amused that something so incredibly normal here gives me such a kick, and, above all things, a blog entry.

1 comment:

  1. Isn't it wonderful how "daily life" varies so much around the world? It hardly ever bothers me here in Italy that I have no clothes dryer. Unfortunately, I have to hang my things inside as we have a pigeon problem on our terrace. I wish I had a laundry community with whom to practice my Italian. Hope you did not get too much rain yesterday from Ciclone Cleaopatra.