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Italy!

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FC: 3 Months in | Italy

1: Life brings simple pleasures to us every day. It is up to us to make them wonderful memories. ~Cathy Allen

2: Hello beloved friends and family! First and foremost-we have arrived and we are safe. Second off-we are existing in paradise. We got to our first destination with no trouble at all. Henriette, our first host, was so helpful in scheduling a bus for us to bring us straight into the nearest town, about an hour and change from the airport in Milan, from where she picked us up. I admit that the first day was tough. With unbelievable jet lag David and I were both a bit out of it but it took only one good night of rest to get us up and moving and appreciating the true fruitfulness of our situation. We are in Cheggio. A small German commune that is 30 minutes outside of Switzerland wayyyy up in the mountains. The Alps are the backyard. Everyone hear speaks German so really it is like we are spending our first 10 days in Germany. This little village (gosh, how do I do it justice to explain it?!?!) is the most beautiful living space I have ever seen. It is composed of several houses made of natural stone created all in the 16th and 17th century (imagine what the mountain villages looked like in the movie Ever After...actually just imagine any fairy tale.) Some of the structures have not been renovated and so they are falling apart but the ones that have, like that of our hosts, have been transformed with sandstone, beautiful maple, granite, stone, wooden beams, antique stoves, etc, etc. (Daddy-I think you more than anyone would appreciate the sheer construction and architecture of this place-especially because it has been done almost entirely by the people that live here.) David and I are staying in a room that was actually converted from a horse stable (as was Henriette and Robert's house) but don't be mislead-our room is now a beautiful space with brightly colored yellow walls, beautiful wood floors, ans stone walls. We have a stove to keep warm and our own toilet. For the shower we use the one in the house-a beautiful hand designed tiled masterpeice designed by Robert himself (he is an artist.) Our days (this is only our second one) start off with a cappocino always (david has given up caffeine already but i have the "when in rome" attitude and seem to be keeping up just fine.) We have a simple breakfast of homemade bread and homemade jams (OK, now just assume everything is homemade) with fresh cheeses from the market. Our mornings are spent working side by side with Henriette in the gardens-planting blueberry bushes, preparing the gardens for carrots, sifting through the rich, dark compost, picking salad greens for lunch, etc, etc, etc. Around 3 o'clock we have our big meal of the day. Always a salad fresh from the land and then usually some sort of pasta-and then of course we have a cappochino before returning to work for a few more hours (I'm drinking my cappochino right now.) I am learning all sorts of organic farming methods. For instance, onions and carrots LOVE ash from the fireplace and finely crushed eggshells. Also, Italians plant everything according to the cycle of the moon. In the evenings, we go to Henreitte's yoga and "gymnastic" classes which are very different from the ones i teach, in the closest town. Last night we drove about 30 minutes to Domodosalla, a slightly bigger city/town and David and I got our first experience of Italian culture. Even a small city like Domodossola is fantastically beautiful. We got gillato and pizza of course, and wine for 1 euro a glass. We are practicing every day with our Italian and although we are already getting better, we are hopeless. Italian's speak so quickly that it sounds like everything is one long word!! There is so much more to say but I have to go plant marigolds for now. I'm sorry for the spelling errors, eveyrone knows i can't spell well. I love you all. Please send this to anyone I may have forgotten. Ciao Ciao!! Chelsea and David ps. please forward this to my sister Erin

3: This is David now---Buongiorno!!! I am soo in heaven! This place reminds me of my dream of gathering all the people I love to start a little community in the mountains and living off ofe land, except it is ten times more beautiful than anthing I had invisioned with the old architecture and small artistic projects everywhere. Even creating the nice soil with the compost is a treat-such a deep earthy color and cool on the fingertips. Our host family is wonderful and has so many interesting and fun stories to share. I will write more later but I,ve got to get back to work. LOVE yOU ALL! And Nick, sorry I have been so terrible lately about staying in touch, I will definately work on it and learned an Italian phrase to make it up to you--Che rottura di palle!

4: Villadosola, Northern Italy: Stayed with Henriette Stodieck and family in a German community in the mountains!

6: Cumiana, Northern Italy: Stayed with the Zaros and family and met our lovely Ina

8: Touring Torino, Scioperi and Chasing Chickens Ciao amico familia! It's been almost two weeks now since I've written last and the reason for this is that I can't stand to miss any of Italy for long enough to sit down at a computer. Italy has proven itself to be everything that I had expected from her. Everything and more. Loud and loving people, beautiful language, outrageous food, spectacular architeture, etc, etc, etc. Don't get me wrong, there are some aspects of Italy that are less than ideal. Or rather, less than ideal if you have someplace to be. Dear family and friends, may you never, ever (outside of this email) have to know what the Italian phrase "C' uno sciopero" means (unless of course you are up for an adventure and have a spare 24 hours and 40.) C' uno sciopero = THERE IS A STRIKE. Stikes in Italy among the transportation department (ie, busses, trains, metro) are common. Very common. I can imagine all the train conductors and bus drivers sitting together in a caf sipping on cappinchinos and red wine for 12 hours on a very regular Friday refusing to work while virtually languagless, silly foreigners decide that despite the fact that no trains are running ("well most trains, but perhaps some trains, if you're lucky, but we're not really sure, you'll have to wait around and see, or else you can take a train out of your way to Milan and perhaps, only perhaps, maybe a train will be running from Milan to Turino, perhaps. but we don't really know. Maybe later on in the afternoon, but perhaps not. Maybe tonight. You'll just have to see. C'e uno sciopero after all.") that they will try to get to where they are supposed to be. In American these sort of strikes would never happen. Imagine in NYC and the surrounding areas if all forms of public transportation just decided to take a day off in the middle of the week. It would be chaos. In Italy it's a wonderful excuse for everyone to call into work, cancel school and relax. Well, to make a long story short, David and I got off route and were forced to spend an unexpected day in Milan where we wondered around a beautiful city, experienced the breathtaking Duomo, walked through flower ridden parks, snacked on gelato and finally caught a train at 930pm to our destination, Torino. Really, the day wasn't so bad. In our case the strike was a blessing. Such is the Once arrived in Torino we were greeted by our first couch surfing friends, Roberto & Roberto. For those of you who don't know: couch surfing is a world wide network of travellers who connect via the web. You contact people in the area you want to go and say "coming to your area, would love a friend to show we around and a couch to crash on."

9: Roberto was truly one of the most wonderful human beings I have ever met. He was so kind, helpful and hospitable. He showed us an amazing time. We went dancing till 6am, went to Europe's largest open market, ran down the beautiful Po river, went to a GIGANTIC chocolate festival, picniced at the park with many, many other couch surfing friends, wandered through the beautiful plazas and squares, etc, etc. Truly, Torino has my heart. This particular city touched me in a way that only a very few cities in this world can do. Of course, this has a big part to do with all of the people we met. It's interesting. In my opinion, every one day of travelling is equivallent to 1 month of non-travel time when it comes to matters of the heart and soul. To clarify: I feel that much of my growth in life happens when travelling and many of my closest friends are discovered. David and I are now in Cumiana at our next farm. This time we are TRULY at a farm and TRULY in Italy. As opposed to the German family we stayed with previously, there is NOTHING non-Italian about these wonderful people. Here David and I, along with the sons, Matteo (21), and Simon (23) and our Crotian friend Ina (25), take care of the chickens, horses, and donkeys both in the morning and night, tend to the gardens and fields, pick weeds from the green houses, and do a variety of other interesting and not so interesting tasks. Every afternoon and evening everyone sits together to eat. Typically each meal lasts an hour or two and contains on average 3 or 4 courses. There is always a very large jug of red wine present. A note on Italian eating habits-anyone who ever believed that Italians stay thin by eating rich foods in moderation has been sadly misinformed. All these people ARE very thin but it is certainly not due to their dainty appetites. Italians eat food...and lots of it. In fact, their relationship with food is pretty beautiful. Each meal takes as long to prepare as it does to eat and what I CAN say is that there is nothing articficial or processed about it. It's just real food. On a deeper note, Italy and these experiences are changing me in the subtle yet powerful ways that these sort of things do. One of the main reasons I embarked on this journey was to discover just a little more about who I am and what living means to me. At 23, believe it or not, I'm still trying to fit all the peices together. I am watching more and more as the prospect of becoming some high powered business woman or lawyer drifts out of my realm of possibilities. My definition of "success" at this point in my life is to create life balance and (this has not changed since my departure) find ways to increase wellness for others. How exactly will Chelsea do this? Well, the answer is still in the cards but for now at least I am doing this by helping familes take care of their farms, learning how to take care of our planet through organic growing techniques ans sustainability methods, and teaching yoga when I can. Who knows what the future holds? For now it is time for me to go enjoy our dinner, without question there will be passionate dialogue, lots of yelling and swearing, laughter, red wine, and pasta. In parting, I want to leave you with my two favorite Italian words (I am learning new ones every day): Abbondonza (Abundance) & Attraversiamo (to cross over) (Any Elizabeth Gilbert fans will know I am not the first to fall in love with this beautiful word.) I love you all very much. Chelsea

11: Torino

12: Barga, Italy Francesca Buonagurelli & Albenefizio

13: Easter in Tuscany

14: Photo Shoot in Tuscany

16: 17 May 2011 Of all the things that have bothered me about this farm, today, the evening before we leave and return back to northern Italy, I've come across the greatest disappointment yet. The fig trees. Beautiful Buddahesque trees with big fat green fits (my favorite) that when bitten into leave you with a mouth full of bitterness. It won't be another two months before they're ready to eat and by that time we'll be long gone. Back to the United States and a world away from this most peculiar place. From half an hour after we arrived to Osho Tudia, two and a half weeks ago, David and I began to plot our escape, each day our reasons for wanting to leave becoming more resigned if not outlandish. On day one we were dropped off by our new friend, the very friendly train conductor, to a dilapidated train station with nothing in site but a crumbling farmhouse and, i swear, tumbleweeds blowing down the street, "why are you going THERE?" the train conductor kept asking us in Italian. He was concerned, or rather curious, enough to actually get off the train and walk us to the deserted parking lot, "auto? familia? perque e qui?" Ten minutes after we had haphazardly convinced the train conductor that we would be OK and he had gone about his way, a little European car (this isn't saying much because all European cars are little) came tussling down the road and stopped in our wake. The driver of the car revealed herself to be Gila, a middle aged woman dressed head to toe in purple, attractive despite her browning teeth and leathery skin. Gila seemed "nice" in the distant airy sort of way of someone who smokes too much pot or practices too much mediation might. As if too much talking would ruin the high (drug induced or pray induced alike). Twenty minutes later we arrived to Osho Tudia but were given no tour or introduction to the place minus, of course, a plate of pasta for each of us. We were then shuffled off to the WWOOFING house, "It's been a month and a half since a WWOOFER has been been here, I have no idea the condition of the house, we just haven't had the time. Too busy," and then Gila was gone and we were left alone for the first time of many. Upon brief examination, our little house seemed extravagant. An entire house to ourselves, a ten minute walk from Osho Tudia, isolated up on a hill over looking the Sicilian country side: a high wooden beamed sitting area with a large oak table, three bathrooms and four bedrooms, the one we chose with a bright flowery bed spread and green hand painted furniture. Yet David's trained eye for cleanliness and my own high preference for CLEAN quickly exposed our sweet little house's flaws: floors caked with dirt, crumbling plastered walls, sinks covered with hair and crusty toothpaste, rancid urine in the toilets and a most unfortunate infestation of worms that rendered two of the three bathrooms unusable and presented the nightly task of removing any worms off our bedroom walls that were within two feet in any direction of our bed. A task, might I add, left up to me. Later that night, we met Sudhir. A brief description of Sudhir, Gila's husband and owner of the farm: A man in his 60s who looks strikingly like a toad due to his stocky frame, droopy eyes, obtrusively large bumpy nose, and long greasy, greying hair that consistently hangs haphazardly around his face. A chain smoker who leaves a trail of ash behind him wherever he goes and who consistently uses the word "fuck" grammatically incorrectly ("fucka this guy, ahh, this fucka guy). He can often be found watching television for hours in the middle of the afternoon and when he laughs he scrunches his chin into his chest and drops his face into his hands in an endearing act that reminds one of a naughty little boy who is relishing in his bad behavior. Just two days after we arrived Gila and Sudhir informed us that they were leaving for three days on a business trip to Palermo but not before giving us a firm talking to about our obligation of being solely responsible for the cleaning of the restaurant kitchen, forbidding us to use the laundry machine, allowing us the use of only one towel (which we were never actually given anyway) and informing us that we would be left alone with Nicoli, Rita, and Santa, the three hired helps that spoke not a word of English. It was during this stretch of time that our desire to leave began to blossom at unreasonable speed. David became painfully ill and was bed ridden for the entirety of two days, I exhausted every solo activity I could think of to entertain myself while he lay ill and at night we would stay up having nonsensical conversations such as this one: David: [as he watches a worm crawl up our bedroom wall] If you were the last living creature on earth and you found a worm that had survived, do you think it would give you comfort, that it would become your companion? Me: No. David: But what if there was really NOTHING else but you and this worm? Me: No. David: What is the lowest level of creature that would seem comforting to you?Me: I don't know, maybe a gerbal. Definitely a dog. David: I bet you would find comfort in a worm. Me: No, I don't think so. David: [said with an agitated snarl] Well I hope you never have to find out. Me: Yes David, I also hope that I never have to find that out. *At this point David erupts into uncontrollable laughter for several minutes and I continue to read whatever book I am currently reading and occasionally snicker to myself at how clever I am. And so it goes. After five days of this David and I actually found ourselves a way out. An invitation to another Sicilian farm near by. Yet, ironically, after how bad we wanted to leave, when it came down to it we just couldn't pull ourselves away. Our situation was just too bizarre, too good of a story, we couldn't seem to get ourselves to walk away without seeing what would happen if we stayed. I suppose this is the point when things started to turn for the better-a bit atleast. We started to sink in a little to our situation from that point on, although never enough to unpack in the event that we may need to sneak off into the night. We started to do Osho mediations with Gila and in this way we found Gila's passion, these crazy mediations of dancing, gibberish, shaking and gasping. We were able to connect with her in the way that I might connect with my step father on wine or pipe tobacco or with a painter on Picasso. We gambled with Sudhir in clouds of cigeratte smoke and talked about there overly sexed guru who had lead them to enlightenment. We ate masses of delicious Sicilian food, swung on hammocks covered in bird shit, gossiped in broken Italian with the hired help, and played tennis with dead balls. We spent two amazing days in the cities of Cefalu and Agrigento and David and I spent hours sitting outside the worm house talking about everything. I laugh though, that even now, the night of our departure, this place is still messing with us. As I write I am finding out that after another business trip to Palermo and promise of their return for our last evening at Osho Tudia, Sudhir and Gila have sent word by way of non-English speaking farm worker that they will not be returning and that other arrangements have been made to get us to the train station in the morning. We will eat alone tonight and leave tomorrow without a word. We will not get to say goodbye to Gila and Sudhir, and we will surely never see them, or this place, again. And it's easy to admit that I will miss them both-even if the figs here were the bitter. | Of all the things that have bothered me about this farm, today, the evening before we leave and return back to northern Italy, I've come across the greatest disappointment yet. The fig trees. Beautiful Buddahesque trees with big fat green fits (my favorite) that when bitten into leave you with a mouth full of bitterness. It won't be another two months before they're ready to eat and by that time we'll be long gone. Back to the United States and a world away from this most peculiar place. From half an hour after we arrived to Osho Tudia, two and a half weeks ago, David and I began to plot our escape, each day our reasons for wanting to leave becoming more resigned if not outlandish. On day one we were dropped off by our new friend, the very friendly train conductor, to a dilapidated train station with nothing in site but a crumbling farmhouse and, i swear, tumbleweeds blowing down the street, "why are you going THERE?" the train conductor kept asking us in Italian. He was concerned, or rather curious, enough to actually get off the train and walk us to the deserted parking lot, "auto? familia? perque e qui?" Ten minutes after we had haphazardly convinced the train conductor that we would be OK and he had gone about his way, a little European car (this isn't saying much because all European cars are little) came tussling down the road and stopped in our wake. The driver of the car revealed herself to be Gila, a middle aged woman dressed head to toe in purple, attractive despite her browning teeth and leathery skin. Gila seemed "nice" in the distant airy sort of way of someone who smokes too much pot or practices too much mediation might. As if too much talking would ruin the high (drug induced or pray induced alike). Twenty minutes later we arrived to Osho Tudia but were given no tour or introduction to the place minus, of course, a plate of pasta for each of us. We were then shuffled off to the WWOOFING house, "It's been a month and a half since a WWOOFER has been been here, I have no idea the condition of the house, we just haven't had the time. Too busy," and then Gila was gone and we were left alone for the first time of many. Upon brief examination, our little house seemed extravagant. An entire house to ourselves, a ten minute walk from Osho Tudia, isolated up on a hill over looking the Sicilian country side: a high wooden beamed sitting area with a large oak table, three bathrooms and four bedrooms, the one we chose with a bright flowery bed spread and green hand painted furniture. Yet David's trained eye for cleanliness and my own high preference for CLEAN quickly exposed our sweet little house's flaws: floors caked with dirt, crumbling plastered walls, sinks covered with hair and crusty toothpaste, rancid urine in the toilets and a most unfortunate infestation of worms that rendered two of the three bathrooms unusable and presented the nightly task of removing any worms off our bedroom walls that were within two feet in any direction of our bed. A task, might I add, left up to me. Later that night, we met Sudhir A brief description of Sudhir, Gila's husband and owner of the farm: A man in his 60s who looks strikingly like a toad due to his stocky frame, droopy eyes, obtrusively large bumpy nose, and long greasy, greying hair that consistently hangs haphazardly around his face. A chain smoker who leaves a trail of ash behind him wherever he goes and who consistently uses the word "fuck" grammatically incorrectly ("fucka this guy, ahh, this fucka guy). He can often be found watching television for hours in the middle of the afternoon and when he laughs he scrunches his chin into his chest and drops his face into his hands in an endearing act that reminds one of a naughty little boy who is relishing in his bad behavior. | 17 May 2011: A letter to our friends & family

17: Just two days after we arrived Gila and Sudhir informed us that they were leaving for three days on a business trip to Palermo but not before giving us a firm talking to about our obligation of being solely responsible for the cleaning of the restaurant kitchen, forbidding us to use the laundry machine, allowing us the use of only one towel (which we were never actually given anyway) and informing us that we would be left alone with Nicoli, Rita, and Santa, the three hired helps that spoke not a word of English. It was during this stretch of time that our desire to leave began to blossom at unreasonable speed. David became painfully ill and was bed ridden for the entirety of two days, I exhausted every solo activity I could think of to entertain myself while he lay ill and at night we would stay up having nonsensical conversations such as this one: David: [as he watches a worm crawl up our bedroom wall] If you were the last living creature on earth and you found a worm that had survived, do you think it would give you comfort, that it would become your companion?/Me: No./David: But what if there was really NOTHING else but you and this worm?/Me: No./David: What is the lowest level of creature that would seem comforting to you?/Me: I don't know, maybe a gerbal. Definitely a dog./David: I bet you would find comfort in a worm./Me: No, I don't think so./David: [said with an agitated snarl] Well I hope you never have to find out./Me: Yes David, I also hope that I never have to find that out. *At this point David erupts into uncontrollable laughter for several minutes and I continue to read whatever book I am currently reading and occasionally snicker to myself at how clever I am. And so it goes. After five days of this David and I actually found ourselves a way out. An invitation to another Sicilian farm near by. Yet, ironically, after how bad we wanted to leave, when it came down to it we just couldn't pull ourselves away. Our situation was just too bizarre, too good of a story, we couldn't seem to get ourselves to walk away without seeing what would happen if we stayed. I suppose this is the point when things started to turn for the better-a bit atleast. We started to sink in a little to our situation from that point on, although never enough to unpack in the event that we may need to sneak off into the night. We started to do Osho mediations with Gila and in this way we found Gila's passion, these crazy mediations of dancing, gibberish, shaking and gasping. We were able to connect with her in the way that I might connect with my step father on wine or pipe tobacco or with a painter on Picasso. We gambled with Sudhir in clouds of cigeratte smoke and talked about there overly sexed guru who had lead them to enlightenment. We ate masses of delicious Sicilian food, swung on hammocks covered in bird shit, gossiped in broken Italian with the hired help, and played tennis with dead balls. We spent two amazing days in the cities of Cefalu and Agrigento and David and I spent hours sitting outside the worm house talking about everything. I laugh though, that even now, the night of our departure, this place is still messing with us. As I write I am finding out that after another business trip to Palermo and promise of their return for our last evening at Osho Tudia, Sudhir and Gila have sent word by way of non-English speaking farm worker that they will not be returning and that other arrangements have been made to get us to the train station in the morning. We will eat alone tonight and leave tomorrow without a word. We will not get to say goodbye to Gila and Sudhir, and we will surely never see them, or this place, again. And it's easy to admit that I will miss them both-even if the figs here were the bitter.

18: KundaliniMeditations | Toad Man | Sweet Puppies | Run Away Attempt | Dead Tennis Balls | Sick David | Fava Beans

19: Osho Tudia | Worm Haven | Gila & Sudhir

21: Agregento

22: Spannocchia

24: Spannocchia | Spannocchia

26: The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. St. Augustine | London | Big Ben

27: I have wandered all my life, and I have also traveled; the difference between the two being this - that we wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment. Hilaire Belloc | Zia & Sat

28: "I think music in itself is healing. It's an explosive expression of humanity. It's something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we're from, everyone loves music. " -Billy Joel

29: Geneva, Switzerland

31: Rome

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  • By: Chelsea F.
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