Wednesday, August 10, 2011

TURNING THE TABLES ON THE TEACHER:ITALIAN (GARDEN) CULTURE 101


It can be a good thing for a French teacher to be on the other side of the desk--even if the classroom is the Italian countryside and the lesson concerns generations of contadino wisdom.

I notice that Farmer G has far more patience with me than Marcello, a short guy with a tall ego who said, with a smile, "if you don't follow my advice, maybe I won't come any more."

Marcello is right that we haven't always done what he said, but that was mostly a communication snafu. It is interesting to watch the mutual admiration tinged with a smattering of rivalry between these two farmers, one of whom is a fruit and earth moving expert with his own company.

Marcello in a pensive moment

I see Farmer G struggling, with a certain bemusement, to figure out how to explain to this so-called professoressa (moi) how to do things that to him are instinctive. For example, how to swing my little sickle, or how and when to slow-water the parts of the garden that need it, taking advantage of his brilliant, homemade, irrigation-friendly layout. The rows have just the right slope to water the roots with minimal need to move the hose. (This is in contrast to the fancy, timer-based irrigation system installed here by Marcello.) I am also eager to learn the trick of how to tell if a cabbage or eggplant is ripe just by eyeballing it from a distance.

Farmer G, in professorial mode

Let's have a closer look. Farmer G looks good from all angles. I have been in love with him every since he and his tractor pulled my car out of a ditch--an experience I hope not to repeat. But as his daughter said, "people in the country need to help each other." At the time, he  tried his best not to make me feel like a total cretina, but pointed out that when going up that part of the road, it's first gear, OR ELSE! Lesson learned.
 

As everyone here loves to say, "piano, piano." To learn anything new is a process. So why would anyone expect it to be easy to learn a whole different way of life ?

I just had a flashback to my 1964 high school yearbook, which I edited. Someone else picked a quote to stick under my photo:"and gladly would she learn, and gladly teach." It sounds kind of hokey, but it's true.

While swinging my little falce/sickle to reclaim the spaces between the flagstones on the terrazza, I had another flashback, this time to Dr. Seuss's "Oh! The Places You'll Go!" He and I are both surprised to see me at age 64 swinging a sickle.

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