Yesterday was a good day. I received a hit in the ass from an Italian voice. A female voice.
No problem, I thought. You might be right but, boy! you are in a deep mess, sister.
I have to say it, Italians have a problem with females. I am referring also to the relationship between sexes, female-male-male-female-female…
Ever since I started having contacts with the Italian planet I felt the tension regarding females, especially, and foreigners,in general.
The story started with my job in an Italian company in Moldova.
At the beginning they had small office, a rented apartment, where me and my colleagues from the IT department went every day for more than 8 hours. The Italian boss was coming from time to time. Watching him wearing those pink pants and yellow sweaters, vanting with his Italian origins bringing light to this God forgotten part of the world, it was clear that he was just looking for a new stage. I was sitting in my little room learning the language, the process of work and most of all learning to understand these people.
In order to train me, the italian colleagues were supposed to come to Chisinau one by one for a week each. There were a lot of difficulties before they decided to move and come.
The first colleague was tough to swallow but since I am used to tough motherly love, I survived. I felt analysed and measured and put on whatever scale you want. During the time we spent together elbow to elbow I come to the understanding that they hesitated to come to Moldova for different reasons. To mention a few: they had a conflictual attitude towards their boss, because there is nothing going on in Moldova, it is full of women hunting for a good catch (italian men), women who only care about their asses and make-up, and because it is dangerous. This first italian female, after all the complaining and hesitation, decided to have a positive approach. She found her way around Chisinau, went out, tried plăcinte. She kept the distance with me though. And so, I also decided to keep it business -like and learn. I hardly could speak any Italian, she had a broken English but I understood.
After a few weeks the second italian colleague arrived. This time I had to go to the airport, to take her to the rented apartment, to assure her that it was not so dangerous as she thought, it was situated right in the center of Chisinau on an important boulevard a place that I could not afford, but still she was so afraid. She did go on and asked for a change. The next day, instead of training and learning, she spent it on sending messages back and forth regarding this new place where she wanted to move. We even went to a nearby hostel to see. She said she did not feel comfortable in the already rented an payed apartment. At the time I just wanted her to calm down and teach me something. She was so happy to go home. And me too, I never enjoyed or launched into babysitting. Work was supposed to be the objective.
After more weeks the third colleague came. She is a veteran in the company even if not so old. With her I managed to have more human conversations. She suffered a big loss in her life which caused her losing a little bit of that italian comfortability in dealing with the world. I did not feel so much tension regarding me and we managed to have good time together laughing a lot. Maybe she felt accepted since I am not a typical Moldovan female creature. I even made a joke about her becoming the lonely old lady with a house full of cats. A joke which probably made her think, as black humour does.
Then I went to Italy.
There were days in the office when I felt like dying. I was drained by all those people. There was a heavy atmosphere. They all hated the boss which, as I also could see for myself, knew how to make himself important by igniting even more hatred and intrigue.
I decided that the best solution and survival method would be to have a neutral attitude, to talk to everybody, listen to everybody, not make any move that would be interpreted as hostile and still be true to myself. Difficult to make reality but I did it. Also, I never mentioned a word about me having worked as a model, it would have been my death. In a country where good looking women are measured according to the berlusconian stereotypes it is highly advisable to think twice before talking or presenting yourself. Even the way you dress is life saving.
After a while, I started making jokes and insisted on questions regarding work, which still was not taken seriously, it was dipped in confusion. I was months into work and still anxious about not knowing how to deal with it, with the people calling. My Italian was still in development but I was supposed to know it all of a sudden and even be proficient at work.
Earlier this year, as I have mentioned already, I did an Advanced Course in Conference Interpreting. There were about five lecturers in front of us, depending on their area of proficiency. One of them was an experienced, successful and tough woman. With this kind of people you just feel it. Their presence is suffocating because they need to be everywhere and be the best. She clearly did not like competition. As always, I really do pay a lot of attention and thinking when choosing the attitude I have towards people, so I knew my place. I know very little and was there to learn, she was the expert. That was clear for me. She was also controlling herself, taking care of her words until one exercise when she just cut me off with the remark: Il tuo Italiano non ti aiuta. Your italian is useless. I nodded acknowledging her opinion but..Shit! I knew that, that is why I am here in this room for more than eight hours a day, to learn! I am not going to steal your jobs, woman! There is a long way ahead of me and I am conscious about it. Just help me, teacher.
All my colleagues were a little mortified after that two days long session. They all said that it is better to have a teacher like that, at least you learn something. As for me, remembering the anxiety and fear at school during the lessons with cadaverous and frightening teachers, I would prefer to teach myself if no other solution was possible.
Yesterday on the phone. This Italian woman is calling with a problem. I am again the novice trying to do my best and not screw up things for me or them. Italians like to be pampered and powdered and swayed like babies when they have a problem. I am more concerned about understanding what the problem is about, asking someone to help me and send in off into the ether as resolved. Yesterday I did the same. I listened and then put the woman on mute. Just for a second to get help with the problem. It seems that she did not appreciate that. She started talking with someone thinking that I could not hear.
She said: Perchè mi risponde sempre questa, che mi dice un cazzo e poi non e neanche Italiana! Why does this one always answer to me, (it was the second time actually) she tells me shit and she is not even Italian!
I listened. It was interesting because it was the first time these voices on the phone spoke for real. All the time they are just pretending being patient or understanding, just like she did as soon as I went back to her and told her that there was no problem with her files. The error message was clear enough, if you care to read and proceed. And she is the Human Resources Manager of something. I don’t know what is she managing there but no human resouces are im Sicht, weit und breit.
So you see, it is always like this. A present moment, an action, voice, word triggers a train of memories. If you don’t deal with the past pain it will feel like pulling the weight of the world. One slight sparkle of tension and you might vomit everything out, at the wrong moment and at the wrong time. I could have answered to her and to all these women in negative ways if there wouldn’t have been understanding and clarity in my mind regarding the past pain.
I am still struggling in listening to the female voices in my reality, my sister, my mother. I am offering understanding and hope for the best. On Sunday, after asking something to my sister, she just disappeared into silence. Maybe it was the wrong question at the wrong moment. Moldova does not feel like home.
Italy does not feel like home, yet. But I am still learning to understand it.One of my favourite female writers is Italian and she, cleverly, chose not to have a phisical presence.Even if she will choose to reveal her identity in the future, her voice will always remaine a guidance.
Now, she is just a voice talking through her stories. Perfect.
And this is the voice I am going to listen to.