Saturday, December 10, 2011

3. España

I wanted… to stay in Spain forever!

When I was 5 years old, my parents took me to Spain with them. My dad had to stay in Cadiz for 4 months, due to his work and my mum being relatively newlywed and very much in love with her husband couldn’t think of keeping away from him even for a day.  So they left little Nicoletta with my grandmother and they decided to take me, their oldest daughter, with them. Although I’m not known for my memory (this can be confirmed by my sister, who calls me ‘goldfish’…for Christ’s sake!), it so happens that I have some scattered memories from our stay there. I remember characteristically:

1.       Me being on a table, surrounded by girls and boys that were applauding.
2.       Me crying heartbreakingly and a cloud of smoke.

So I recently asked my mum if the pictures I had in the back of mind had any meaning, if any of these had actually happened or if they were just figments of my imagination. She was pretty surprised when I asked her, exclaiming: ‘You can’t even remember what you had last night for dinner, how is it possible to remember what you did when you were 5 years old!’ (I have to admit that she’s got a point, even I find it weird, what can I say? Add another X-File case to my CV) So she told me the following stories:

The hotel where we were staying had a bar and organized flamenco nights with flamenco dance and live music. Some evenings that my parents had nowhere to leave me, they used to take me with them. So according to my mum, all the staff of the place knew me and they would come to our table to play and dance with me. They even gave me the microphone and I would start singing – was I an attention-seeker or what?  And although I probably didn’t understand any of the things they were saying, I was obviously having the time of my life! I would sit there with my eyes wide open, staring at the dancers and the singers. Then I would go up on the table to do my own stuff and everyone would applaud me and shout:  Olé! Hola guapa! Of course I was madly in love with one of the guitarists. Every time we went to the bar, I was an angel. No moaning and no crying until they had to drag me home by force. If the bar was open 24/7, I’m almost positive that they would leave me there with the guitarist as my nanny. How exciting!

As for the smoke I mentioned earlier, there’s also an explanation. My parents were both smokers, and since I was watching them puffing on cigarettes all the time, well I wanted to smoke too.  So, one day, I got so annoying that my mum said yes and ‘Checkmate’! Instead of placing the lit cigarette in my mouth, she just brought it close to my eyes which started tingling because of the smoke and of course… I burst into tears. Traumatic experience!


1.       Since I was a little girl I used to be an attention-seeker and I loved being applauded and cheered for.
2.       I loved the flamenco dance, the loud music, the dancing and singing and all bar related activities.
3.       I’ve always been stubborn and guess what, of course I started smoking, maybe not when I was 5 but in my twenties, which leads me to my next conclusion…
4.       I was far more intelligent when I was little.
5.       I was so happy in Spain that I wanted to stay there forever, grow up and marry the guitarist.  He’d play music and I would dance. And they lived happily ever after…


I want… to go back to Spain!

For many years I wanted to visit this country. There has always been something pulling me towards it but I didn’t know what that was. Two years ago, in the summer of 2009 and while I was trying to recover from yet another breakup, I got the idea of a trip abroad. I wanted a change of scenes, to forget everything and have an adventure. I had never been abroad on my own so I addressed the travel agency that my parents used to pick when they wanted to travel. Our destination; Barcelona! I told my sister and she loved the idea. At that time we were better off financially so it was easier for us to make the decision and go through with it. So I went to the agency and booked the trip. We were flying with Vueling at 4 in the morning and we were so excited that we couldn’t sleep a wink all night. We packed our things and arrived at the airport about 3 hours earlier. That gave us enough time for our usual ritual: cheese pie (and what a cheese pie, worth every bite!) and coffee from the airport outlet, followed by a ciggie and loads of chatting and planning. The time flew and we went for the check-in with a smile glued on our faces.  For me, personally, the airport is something like Santa’s village. You never know what you’re going to see and what magic things might happen. I get butterflies in my stomach just at the idea of me being at the airport with a ticket in my hand!
We arrived in Barcelona at 6 in the morning.  Only when we got in the bus, did we realize that the majority of our travelling companions consisted of couples. How gee! We’re the only singles in a sea of couples! Yes, I felt like a spinster, yes I was dead tired, yes I wanted to have a shower because the heat was unbearable and yes I was dying to go to the hotel. So we sat in our seats, dreaming of the shower and the gurgling water spraying our sweaty bodies when the guide tells us something that none of us expected to hear.

‘And now we’re going to Park Güell.’

Did I hear right? What is he talking about? What park? It’s not even 7 in the morning yet! All those thoughts crossed my mind when he added…

‘After Park Güell, we’re visiting the Sagrada Familia, Barrio Gotico and we’re stopping for a coffee at Port Vell. After we enjoy our coffee by the sea, we’re going to see the Estadi Olímpic and we’ll finish our tour with a visit to Pueblo Espanol, where you will have an hour at your disposal to stroll around. Finally, at noon, around one o’clock, your rooms will be ready and we’ll drop you off at your hotel.

What?! Is he for real? He hasn’t left anything! In 6 hours we’ll see the whole city! Should I burst into laughter or tears? I turn around to look at Nicoletta and she’s speechless. There is no way of escape. We have to follow the group, whether we like it or not. And that’s that.

So the tour went as follows:  climb down the steps of the bus, walk, admire the monument, and climb up the steps and all over again. We were sleepwalking, couldn’t see past our nose, we were sweltering from the heat and humidity, our quadriceps were aching from climbing up and down the endless stairs and we were running to catch the bus because it seems that we were the only ones who wanted to take a bloody picture or buy a stupid souvenir (where are those Chinese Sayonara people when you want them?). When we reached Pueblo Espanol and we had a bit more time to wander around by ourselves, then I finally realized where I was. I was in wonderful, bright and magical Spain. The Pueblo was a patchwork of different Spanish cities and you could get a general idea. It was as if all those hours I had been asleep and I finally woke up in a fairytale castle. Nothing mattered anymore. Yes, we were in Spain! And a strange feeling overwhelmed me. I felt like I always belonged here. As if I were home...

To be continued…

Sunday, December 4, 2011

2.2 I can… offer my help to children.

Based on my previous article and taking into consideration that I haven’t been the best of sisters as a kid, making Nicoletta’s life a living hell, I had been looking for ways to atone myself. Having in mind that I would like to offer as much as possible, I concluded to volunteering. I looked up on the web (thank God for google) and found numerous volunteering organizations and programs and I picked the ones that have to do with kids. After taking into account all the parameters, I was excited to find an Orphanage in my area, close to my home asking for volunteers. I logged in and completed the necessary application. I caught myself waiting impatiently over the phone and only then I realized the necessity I felt, not only to get but also offer my help to other people. While I was waiting for the phone to ring-ring, I found all my old forgotten toys and teddy bears that I used to play with when I was a child. If my toys were alive they’d all say with one voice: Wash us up! So, I started the laundry but the anticipation was eating me alive. Finally I gave up and I decided to give them a call. I spoke to a very sweet lady and booked an appointment. Two days later I put my toys in a box and the sweetest smile on my face, got into my car and went there. The lady who welcomed me was kind and obliging. She informed me about the 100 years old Institution, which functions without any help from the government and for the activities of the 72 girls who inhabit it. I told her that I am a dance instructor and that it would be a pleasure to teach or play, to help with their homework and to be in direct contact with them. The answer that I got was totally unexpected. I will state her exact words:

Since we are preparing our annual Christmas Bazaar and there’s a lot of work to be done and we need people to help us, you can come tomorrow to help us in the cracking of the nuts for the Christmas cakes! We don’t know how long it will take us…we’ll stay as much as is needed. The girls will be passing by from time to time and you will see them.

What! I was staring at her like a retard. My thoughts of being close to the girls immediately vanished. All my dreams were crushed like nutshells. That’s certainly not the way I imagined the whole experience to be. I would teach them ballet, we would play together, I would tuck them into bed and read them stories, they would confide in me their secrets, give them my advice and so much more… But the only thing I can do for now is crush a tone of nuts. But after giving it some thought, I realized that volunteering has nothing to do with what you’ve dreamt missy, but doing what’s necessary to help the group you chose. And this is how things are. If my cracking nuts can help these kids get a plate of food on their table or a warm coat, then bring on the sacks! 
Besides, the Nutcracker happens to be one of my favorite stories and since it’s nearly Christmas, it’s perfectly suitable!

I said yes and we shook hands. There’s no greater feeling than offering unconditionally your love and knowing that you will put a smile on the faces of 72 little girls!

So in the spirit of Christmas and the Nutcracker, I uploaded Tchaikovsky on my Ipod and off I go to crack some nuts!

2.1 I could… torture my sister.

In 1977 my mum brought to the world a weird little girl that was so tiny, they used to call it ‘’hamster’’.  But they had no idea that such a small little thing could make so much noise. Yes, I was a cry baby, yes I was annoying, not a soul could stand me, neither a human nor an animal, yes I was a little devil. I have no recollection of the first 4 years of my life and when I asked my parents about those years, I realized that they preferred not to remember them either. This is why I choose to move on to the next chapter of my life. In 1981, Mr. Stork brought us a second baby, my little sister, Nicoletta. With her curly blond hair and her fluffy rosy cheeks, she looked like a fairy. And of course she was the exact opposite of me. An angel. It was like that toddler didn’t exist, no moaning, no complaining, no crying, she could stay by herself all day long in her room, mumbling and playing with her toys. And obviously, she was getting on my nerves. She was so perfect and benevolent that every time I did something naughty, she would run and tell mum all about it. That’s why I used to call her ‘’Freaky Nicky’’ and as her older sister I always came up with sneaky ways to punish her. The tortures were slow, devious, tricky and always presented to her in the form of a game.
One of my favorite ‘’games’’ was the following:
You put on your little sister a sleeveless blouse. Then you place her in the high chair and you make sure the seatbelt is fastened and secure, so that there’s no escape. You tell her that she has to be very quiet while you play, otherwise dad will scold her. Then, always with a smile, you explain to her the terms of the game. You have to raise your arms as high as you can. I will tickle you continuously for 2 minutes and you must not lower them.  If you manage to keep them up, then I challenge you to last for 3, 4 or 104 minutes. I knew how to push her button and I kept telling her that she can’t make it because she is a baby and that if she lasted longer, then it would be her turn to tickle me. That’s how I succeeded tickling her excruciatingly for hours and when my turn came, I threw her off by telling her that I am too old to play such silly games.
My sole disappointment was that she never complained no matter what I did to her. For example, every time she got a new doll, I would immediately go to exercise my hairdressing skills by cutting off its hair (I’ve always wanted to master the frigging ‘’carre’’ haircut and of course I never did). When she was eating chocolate, I would grab it from her hands and she wouldn’t make a sound. When I read her stories, I would make up my own (un)-happy ending for the sweet princess and she would listen to me quietly without objecting. In vein I was struggling to get on her nerves. Was I asking too much? I just wanted to see a damn tear in her eyes, to hear her complain. Do you know what it is to have Mother Teresa in your house? Well, I do. And although she made me so furious that I used to throw my BiBi-Boes against the wall, now that I’ve grown up I can state with certainty that there is one thing I wouldn’t change in my life: my sister…

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