week 1 in Martignano, Italy @ MIRA (Martignano International Residency for Artists) and although it's been a whirlwind of meeting the locals and getting to know the town itself and some of the surrounding area, I've managed to get down to business in the beautiful new studio.
I will talk about the studio "journey" in successive blogs - but for now I want to describe what it's like to be here - in Solento, in the south of Italy (the "heel" of Italy) - and for me, so much more "real".
Whenever one travels, adjustment to new places and customs is a given, and you have to expect that as much as you might like to make plans, keep to a schedule, or depend on a "system", that these things are often completely out of your hands. The rhythm of each new place is what you grow into and the new experiences gained in learning this rhythm are so much fun! (I say "are" here, rather than "can be" as even the most seemingly disastrous events can provide an unexpected turn - the beauty of the synchronicity that change provides - and in my case at this point in my life, it's good and necessary change, and fun!)
As I have been travelling for some time now (almost 2 years!), I am used to adjusting to this rhythm - the last two months have required an adjustment every 5 days on average with each new place - and I am constantly being challenged to adapt. These challenges are also helping me understand myself better.
Language (or lack of) is one big problem, but it is possible to move around and connect with your surroundings with broken moments of communication. Somehow I make myself understood - or at least I think I do! - and find the information I need.
On day 5 of my 2 month residency, after exhausting the supplies I had with me, I needed to find an art supply store to replenish and stock up for the next few weeks. I was told there was a bus from Martignano to Lecce that made several trips every day and there was a large art store there where I would find everything I needed.
Bus schedule in hand and my return tickets from the local tabacci shop, I stood below the "FERMATA" sign across from the local (caffe) bar in the hot sun of midday and waited (10 minutes early) for the 12:25 bus. It is easy to be entertained while waiting - watching the locals drive past, dodging the cars that jump out from the side streets; or waiting for one of the local street dogs to get hit as they cross back and forth along the one main street whenever a potential new person or "handout" appeared; or listening to the casual chatting either on the street corner, or from passing cars, or the men sitting in front of the bar watching the lady who was definitely not from here (because they hadn't seen me before), waiting for the bus. And so, when 12:45 arrived and no bus, I was no longer finding it entertaining - so I walked back to the studio and bought some milk on the way back to have a coffee, and then return for the 13:25 bus to Lecce...
And return I did - this time I had some company in another young lady who was obviously also waiting for the bus. But by this time the bus stop was no longer in shade and even the dogs had relocated to the park for a cool spot under the trees. One came to say hello briefly - already I had understood that these dogs are like the ones in Mexico or the cats in Greece, and have a very rough life, but it was heartening that the locals let them roam the town.
When the time was 13:40, I knew something must be up with the buses that day, as the other lady called for reinforcements. She got picked up by a friend and off they went to Lecce (perhaps) leaving me behind with the dogs, the heat and the same boys at the bar. So I walked back to the house to have some lunch.
My last chance was the 14:25 as I needed to be back at Martignano by 18:00. Three times lucky?? I walked back the stop - by this time I felt there must be bets being placed in the bar as to whether I would make it or not!
Looking across the street to the church square I noticed the clock was 15 minutes early than the time on my watch. A digital sign in the square announcing local events had a time of 14:15. Was I actually too late for the other busses? When the time rolled around to 14:25 on my watch - and my phone - I really wasn't sure whether to give up for the day or not. The precise moment I decided to head home and give up for the day, a large blue bus appeared from out of nowhere! He was on (my) time! So - they do exist and when I showed him the schedule and tried with very good hand movements to ask about what happened to the other buses - he seemed to be telling me emphatically that they had met their earlier schedule.
So - here I was several hours later but now finally and happily on the bus to Lecce. The quest for art supplies was on!
I had a map of Lecce and a rough idea where the shop was located. I did have the choice to take a local bus from where I got off the regional bus, but I chose to walk as I find it is a better way to get to know a new place. As I walked north to the centre of this much larger town, I soon realised that it was awfully quiet. I knew everything shuts on Sundays and Thursdays, but it was Saturday... but.... it was now 3pm, and of course - things shut down between 1 and 4.
I smiled to myself, loving the fact that I hadn't caught the first bus after all!
I had a lovely lunch waiting for the shop to open. At 4pm, they were ready for business with others already in the shop. they had everything I needed (including some very expensive Italian oil paint - which I treated myself to), they gave me a discount because I was at MIRA, and they had their shop assistant deliver my supplies - and me - back to the studio in Martignano - by 17:30! Everything worked out just fine and has since then in lovely synchronistic ways.
More from me @ MIRA here soon! Ciao for now and happy travels to you also!