A Day in the Life of Shanti
Jul 14, 2011
|To see the pictures, click on the first one. This will bring a larger version up, and you can scroll through from there. Also, the facebook link to the Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia pictures is:
Sorry about the delay. Every time I sit down to write this entry, I end up taking a nap, or get called to dinner, or decide I want to take a hike. But, here we go. I suppose I’ll just describe an average day, and let the pictures provide the rest of the description (even my vastly eloquent linguists cannot adequately describe this place). Actually, let me first start by describing the people.
Martina: Martina is the business mind behind the Shanti B&B. She’s not stereotypically warm, but she is still extraordinarily nice. She speaks English fluently, but cannot understand me due to my American accent and rapid talking speed. Also, my special brand of sarcasm does not translate well, so most of our interactions end with me saying “never mind, sorry!” and her looking confused. Martina works during the day, so our interactions are limited to the night.
Franco: Franco, who speaks very limited English, is Martina’s partner in both business and life. Franco is one of those insanely intimidating people; upon first meeting him, I literally tip-toed around him. Fortunately, he took this as one facet of my quirky sense of humor, started to like me, and now refers to me as “mia cara” (loose translation- my dear one). He’s taken on something of a fatherly role, and is quick to inform me that he does not like my dark nail polish (too gothic) and that walking around barefoot has given me “primitive feet.” He also says things like “you’re a strange girl. A very nice girl, yes, but a strange girl.” Since Franco has these crazy bushy eyebrows and hair that he routinely twists into horn-like protuberances (like an antelope… or a two-pronged unicorn…), I kind of think this is an example of the pot calling the kettle black. Franco’s “one grand passion in life” (his words, not mine), is mushroom hunting. He’ll disappear into the mountains for several hours and return with baskets of Porchino mushrooms. He then slices these up, covers them in salt and olive oil, and serves them on a platter. They may be one of the most delicious foods I’ve ever tasted… and this is coming from someone who despises mushrooms because they remind her of those creepy dancing mushroom creatures on Fantasia.
Pippo: If mushrooms are my new favorite food, Pippo is my new favorite person. Ever. He has this *giant* nose, is maybe 5’10”, and weighs less than I do. He walks around singing to himself—sometimes just his name in various tones (“Pippo, Piiiippppooo”)—and is perpetually stoned. He’s also the resident cook. At lunch and dinner, he produces masterpieces involving pasta, zucchini, eggplant, fresh tomatoes, various cheeses… before I came to Italy, I would not have touched zucchini or eggplant. When Pippo cooks, I ask for seconds and sometimes thirds. Since Pippo speaks no English, and I have a very limited Italian vocabulary, I often follow Pippo around repeating random words. When he hums to himself, I’ll occasionally attempt to harmonize. This is the foundation of our relationship. Fortunately, Pippo finds me as amusing as I find him, and our interactions always end with some elaborate charades and the other saying “Non capisco” (I don’t understand) and walking away.
Oliver: Oliver is the other workawayer here. He’s 24, from England, and went to Leeds, which is a fine-arts university. At first, Oliver annoyed me as much as I annoyed him. When he wasn’t spouting clichéd “deep” philosophies, he was telling me I needed to relax and be more Shanti (side note: my pet peeve is people telling me to relax when I’m not stressed. This is just my personality). Fortunately, after continual blank stares, Oliver stopped the philosophy, started the sarcasm, and we became friends. He has a quick wit and a good sense of humor and we both enjoy having another English speaker to compare stories with. We’ve mutually discovered that our sense of humor does not translate well, and now, at least we can laugh at each others’ jokes (when Oliver is not around, or I’m not around, and one of us tries to be funny around our Italian friends, there are only blank stares and nervous laughter. The worst is when someone asks “Wait, was that the whole story?”). It’s been raining for the past couple of days, so Oliver and I have started a Backgammon tournament on a tiny travel set we found tucked away. The loser has to take shots of Grappa, which makes the game more entertaining.
So, those are the consistent people. I suppose I’ll now describe the typical day.
The Shanti area is divided up into several Shanti “houses,” which are large stone buildings with wooden floors. There’s Main Shanti, which has the dorms (like a hostel) upstairs, the living room and kitchen one level down, and a bathroom and Franco/Martina’s room on the lowest level. The next house over is subdivided into Jungle Shanti and the Squat. The Jungle is another place with beds for guests (a film for the Sundance festival was actually just filmed here) and then the Squat is our area, which houses a recording studio on the lower level, and Oliver’s, Pippo’s, and my room upstairs. Then there are several other Shanti houses for the guests, including Pre-Shanti which is a whole house, Old-Shanti, which is another house, and Squattina Shanti, which is just a random 12x12 stand-alone room with a bed downstairs and a an additional room upstairs. Sex Shanti (don’t worry, there’s an innocent explanation that does not involve orgies) and Secret Shanti house yet more people and are maybe 150 feet away from the other houses. The entire Shanti area is huge, with gardens, patios, chairs, outside bathroom/showers, etc.
Anyways, Oliver and I usually wake up around the same time, which ranges between 10 and 12 depending on how late we were up the night before. Whoever makes it from the Squat to Main Shanti first makes some Italian coffee (like espresso… but better) and we slowly wake up. Breakfast is light, and usually consists of some bread with goat cheese or a piece of fruit. Then, if it’s a Monday through a Friday, we do various chores. Some days, there are only 15 minutes of tidying up, but other days we might need to clean Pre-Shanti or change all of the beds in preparation for guests. Saturday and Sunday are our off days, more or less, but we rarely work more than 5 hours a day. Since I work in my bikini top and shorts to perfect my tan, I actually enjoy the days where we work more.
Pippo serves lunch around 2, and it usually involves fresh vegetables from the garden and pasta of some kind. Before coming to Italy, I had no idea how many different kinds and shapes of pasta there were. So far, my favorite is this long skinny pasta that looks like lasagna, but is a fifth of the width. There’s always bread and cheese, also. Martina buys fresh goat cheese from the neighbors down the road, and sometimes guests will bring their own cheeses. I’ve fallen in love with this local guy whose family has been making parmesan cheese for 200 years; whenever he comes, he brings with him the best parmesan and wine that I’ve ever had.
After lunch, Oliver and I are on our own. If all of the work is done, we might hike to the cascata (waterfall) that’s 10 minutes away, or we might go for a longer hike up the mountain. There are a ton of really cool areas to explore—today, we climbed down to a hidden grotto and dipped our feet for awhile. If we’re feeling really adventurous, we might take a bus down to Chiavari or Sestri Levanti, which are towns with beaches and shops. Oliver and I try to go to the beach at least once a week, if only to be around civilization. Shanti House is located in a “town” called Zanoni Alto, which is composed of… us. If we walk 15 minutes down to the next town, Sopralacroche (pop. 25, average age 70), there’s a post office, some houses, and a market. Unfortunately, the market is closed, as the owners are currently on vacation, and the post office is only open three days a week at variable hours. Borzonasca is the closest legitimate town, but it’s a 30 minute drive away. If we want to go there, or to Chiavari (one hour away), we have to take a bus. This is the ultimate test in courage, as the roads here are the size of a single-lane one-way road in Boulder. Cars beep as they go around the curvey roads to warn other drives, and there have been several occasions where we have to back up to let someone else pass. On one side of the road is a steep wall of cliff, and on the other is a 500 foot drop down said cliff, but people just laugh when I ask how many deaths per year there are.
Dinner is between 8 and 10, and slightly more elaborate than lunch. The gallon jug of wine has a center spot in the middle of the long table, and breads and cheeses abound. The whole affair usually lasts around an hour but, if there are lots of guests, we might not finish until well past midnight. While Oliver and I clean up, Franco, Pippo, and assorted guests light up joints, pour shots of grappa for Oliver, Martina, and myself, and blast reggae music. It makes me feel like I’m back in Boulder.