I did not have much to do after both Enrico and Dan had left for their respective countries. One sunny afternoon Maria came to knock at my door. She had just returned from a long trip in the Philippines to visit her relatives and she was very excited to tell me everything about her land. I would have not mind to spend some more time with her but suddenly my mobile phone rang. It was my mother, the letter from the Italian military office had arrived and she told me that I only had 4 days to get there.
PERSO SULLE ALPI:
LOST IN THE ALPS
BERLIN, GERMANY March 2006
“Was können Sie über Ihren beruflichen Erfahrungen sagen?„ The German H.R. interviewer was looking at me with his icy eyes and waited for me to tell him something about my professional career. I explained him that I had lived in London for many years and that I had worked there as a technical support executive for a networking company. I had moved to Berlin about one year before and I thought it was the time for me to find myself a job. His attention shifted from my face to my Curriculum Vitae and eventually he asked me about my social service experiences in Curò.
CURÒ, ITALY May-June 1999
My parents came to pick me up at Milan Central Station on the 15th of April 1999. I had left Spain and Enrico behind and I was getting ready for my new life experience. We went to the information office and we asked how to get to Curò. “Curò, Curò, ma siete sicuri che sia in Lombardia?” No one seemed to know this place and it did not appear to be on any national map either. I was supposed to be there two days later and I still did not have a clue where this town was located. Eventually a man at the bus stop heard the conversation between me and my parents and he came out: “Io so dov’e’!” He told me that I had to take a bus to get there. I followed this kind man suggestion, I went to the bus company office and I bought a one-way ticket for the 17th of April 1999. Curò was nothing like London or Rosas, in fact it was a tiny village somewhere on the Italian Alps with about 400 inhabitants. It was 1:00pm when I arrived at the town hall, which also happened to be the castle of the village and my accommodation. mayor Bassi, a middle-aged unfriendly looking man, came to welcome me and to introduce me to the city council member who was supposed to be my other boss. “Graziella is going to supervise your job for the next 10 months, any problem you might have, you can talk to her”. She was a nice woman, not very talkative but if one had shown her respect, she would have been very understanding and caring. I insisted on the fact that although I had a driving license, I was not used to driving a car, neither in the city nor (and especially) on the mountains. Nevertheless she grabbed an old agenda, she tore off a page and she started drawing something. “This is the river. That is the first bridge. Here you must turn on the right. There you have to turn on the left…” She kept on murmuring and drawing for at least 10 minutes, eventually she looked at me again and she said: “there you go!” I guess she had not even paid attention to what I had told her. I was assigned the task to deliver some boxes of medicine to 3 old ladies, whose houses had also been drawn on that page dated 31st-of-August-1997. “That’s the day when Lady Diana died!” I remembered. I was given a Fiat Panda, I placed the map on the right seat and I started the engine. It was 3pm when I left the castle, there were no people around and in the sky some not very promising greyish clouds were pushed closer by the wind. As I was driving over the bridge, I decided to stop for a few moments, to take a look at the map again and to admire the pure water flowing in the river. Suddenly some drops of rain started falling over my head so I went back into the car and I followed the road. As soon as I turned on the right, I realized that the road was not paved and its surface was getting muddy. As the road became very curvy and steep, I started having the feeling that the map was not right after all. Suddenly the car stopped, the rear wheels were stuck in the mud and I had no choice, but getting out in the rain and try to figure out what to do next. The weather did not seem to get any better and my clothes were soaking wet. I was between the rocky wall of the mountain and a steep slope, which did not make any U-turn possible. Furthermore I had always had a terrible phobia of heights and I had spent hours of psychotherapy sessions as a kid to get rid of my vertigo problems. It was the time to act. I went looking for the branch of a tree and placed it under the right rear wheel. After a few hysterical attempts, I finally managed to get the wheel out of the mud and to drive the car away from that nightmare. It was 6pm already and I still had not delivered the medicines. In fact I decided to give up, I was too nervous, furious against the world and shivering in my wet clothes. I drove all the way back to the castle, I handed the key over to Graziella and I said. “This is the last time I am driving here!”
I had two bedrooms: one was in the tower of the castle, the other one in the hospice of the village. The first one was my night heaven, the second my daily nightmare. On the evening of my first day in Curò, I was told to go to the hospice and to meet my soon-to-be ex-colleague Franchino. I knocked the door and he opened with a hilarious smile stamped on his face. There were three men in the living room. One was sitting on a wheelchair watching a turned-off television. The second one was walking around the room carrying his oxygen bottle on a 3-wheel trolley. The last was behind Franchino and he seemed very curious to get to know me: the new social service worker. I never learnt the real name of those old men: in fact each one of them had a nickname. The one on the wheelchair was “the Wolf”, because he had the habit to howl and he had some long hairs coming out from his ears. The man with the oxygen bottle was called “Little Tube”. The last one was “The Punk” because of his funny hair. The Punk came close to me and he gave me his hand. The poor man suffered from Parkinson’s disease and he was holding my hand tight and shaking it unstoppably up and down and towards him. As I noticed he was pulling my hand very close to the intimate parts of his body, Franchino gave me his first advice: “Never give him the hand: he’ll always try to make you jerking him off”. I took my hand back and I dropped the subject.