Friday, July 2, 2010

Cinque Terre, Trust, and Bathrooms


It's July 2nd, and we are now in Paris, It has been many days since I have been able to write and we have had many ups and downs. But I’ll start with where I left off. The bizarre bathroom experience occurred on our trip from Cinque Terre to Venezia. We had about an hour to wait in a train station, so after our Indian “kebab” lunch, I searched for the loo. I found some people waiting outside of three doors. Beside each door was a machine for you to put .50 Euro. The machine told you what to do, in Italian. So I waited. When a woman came out of one of the doors, I figured I’d just go right in instead of paying the .50 E. Bad idea. Luckily a nice tourist also in line pantomimed to me that the bathrooms are self cleaning and of you go in when the other person emerges, you will be sprayed by the soap and water that basically is like a car wash for the bathroom. So luckily, I waited. The door, like a high tech elevator door, slid closed and I heard the water being sprayed in the little room. I thanked the guy, and waited till the machine told me to put my money in. When I went in, the door closed itself, elevator style, and I noticed a red button you could push in case you got trapped in there!! Then everything in there had a button. The toilet paper, the flush, etc.. really tres bizarre! Before our train came I told Cierra she had to try it, and she was as weirded out as I was. But before that, we were in Cinque Terre:

Tuesday, June 21st

We got to Cinque Terre late on Tuesday afternoon. We stayed in the 2nd of the five towns, Cinque = five, terre = land, so literally it’s the five lands. Our town was called Manarola, and it’s one of the smaller towns. Each town is kind of built on a steep peninsula. I LOVED it there. Manarola is actually built over a stream that runs down the mountain and so parts of the village are built above or around this stream. I can’t quite describe how magical it was to get off the train and find the restaurant of the people who rented us a room. The restaurant was down near the center of town close to the water. We talked with the owner who then told her husband to take us to our room. I first thought we would be in the building above the restaurant, but we were told to follow this nice man, the husband, who began walking us up the road through the town. As we walked he and I tried a little communication in French and Italian. It was very VERY steep, and we kept climbing. Cierra was carrying her backpack, but mine rolls on wheels and the very nice man was pulling it for me, so I had much less to carry, and could begin to take in the things I was seeing. It’s like a dream, the beauty and perfection of this place. We finally got to our room at the tippy-toppest part of the town. Above this the hillside is all filled with gardens and more trails. It was all so breathtakingly, almost shockingly beautiful, and I felt like the luckiest person in the world to be there!

Our room was clean and airy, with a small balcony. Here is the incredible view from our balcony:

After settling in we changed clothes and took our time walking back down into town.

We then bought a two day Cinque Terre pass so we could hike the trails and take the trains. We decided to hike to the third town of the five, Corniglia. By this time it must have been 5:00 pm and the hike was still pretty hot, but gorgeous.

Cierra and I were very tired though, having gotten up at 5:00 a.m. So we stopped for a drink in Vernazza, the fourth town:

then we took the train back to Manarola and had a nice (expensive) dinner. We then went back up to bed. The next day was also breathtakingly beautiful. These pictures don’t even do it justice!

We had to leave the next morning which was sad, but we had a train to Venice to catch. This was when we ended up in the crazy toilet train station. It was another long day of travel north and it took all day and several trains. The trains in Italy are very different then I remember from when I was a teen. They mostly smell bad, are packed, and hopefully you get a train with air conditioning. So when I planned this trip, I had images of being on the trains based on my experiences of 25 years ago, and I was in for a rude awakening! The worst part is that being in Italy, getting information from anyone is like pulling teeth, so most of our train experiences were stressful, frustrating and exhausting. They also warn you in the guide books that on the Italian train system, even if you buy a ticket, and it has the date on the ticket, you still have to validate it in these little yellow boxes before you board the train. The boxes on not on the platform, but are inside the stations. If you are caught on board with an un-validated ticket, you get a large fine from the people who work checking tickets on the train. On one ride I realized I had forgotten to validate our tickets, and I waited anxiously for the duration of that train ride to see if we would get caught. We almost did, but the conductor got involved in some other problem with some passengers tickets, and he never came and checked ours. Phew!!

One thing that has struck me often on this trip, are the differences between me as a teenager, and Cierra. I unfortunately was raised by parents who did not really take care of me. Both emotionally and physically. I grew up struggling with really bad situations that were extremely difficult or painful without having a parent who could help me solve problems or who might take some responsibility off my young shoulders. I have done years of work on myself to try to learn how to trust in the world, to feel that I deserve to ask for help and to receive help, and that I don’t have to do everything on my own. But being a single parent often re-awakens the old experiences of having huge responsibilities that were so overwhelming as a child. So you must guess where this is leading, right? Being alone with my daughter in Italy and traveling on multiple trains trying to get help from people who mostly don’t speak my language and who respond to requests for help in gruff or even hostile ways was a re-triggering for me. I see how I tend to go through life with a worrisome cloud over me, and it shows on my face. I mostly feel I've handled it okay here, but there were several times when I would feel like I wanted to hop on the next plane home and as if I have failed in bringing Cierra to Europe. It doesn't make a lot of logical sense, but that's about as best I can describe it right now. It was emotionally exhausting for me and it is only now, writing from the relative safety of my brother’s flat in Paris that I realize why it was a rough week for me in many ways. Cierra is different when there are problems. She gets worried, but she also knows I will handle and take care of things. She has had the experience since birth of two parents who take care of her needs, and thus she has such a deep sense of trust in just being in the world. She doesn’t mind taking up space or depending on the help of others. She doesn’t have deep shame and feels good about herself most of the time. I see it in her as we wander through Europe. It’s nice to know she has this solid self that I am only getting a grasp on now in my life.

So I will write about Venezia next time. Venice was where we had the best high and the worst low of this trip so far. But I’m hot and have to go out to the store for some vegetables to make a kale salad tonight. It’s 4:00 pm and wont get dark here till about 10:30 tonight. I’m praying for cooler weather tomorrow!

Ciao, Au Revoir, bon nuit!


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