Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Naples, a Second View

The tune to which we sing, the ants go marching one by one, is the tune of the rally song that we heard from the unemployed, marching by us in a public protest.  We were trying to get back to the ship before it left, and while we didn’t want to retrace the path that had led us to the wholesalers street for the sale of scarves, that ended being the best way, when Wyona stopped a passerby to enquire, first, do you speak English, and then, which is the best way back to the port.

We parted with Greg earlier.  He went left to explore the older buildings of Napoli.  We went right to explore local markets.  Greg has a good sense of mapping each town we enter, and he set us off on a main street.  I am slower these days for two reasons.  When the city is new, there is so much more for me to be aware of: the right way to cross a street, the weave of the pavement, in the case of Naples, the disintegrating buildings, the laundry hung from balconies, the dry dusty smell of construction as wheel barrows are loaded with sand in the middle of the sidewalk, and pushed into the foyer of buildings that have been gutted and are being refurbished from the ground up.  The local pastries were layers of phyllo, loaded with fruit or creams or even meat fillings.  The median price point of the confections hovered at about one euro, the price at which I want to try buy five and take just one bite of each.

Wyona had passed by a street market where she bought a beautiful watch when we were in Naples with Mary.  Now we were back, and looking again for that market, but stopping along the way to inspect the goods that were out on the streets and to get a sense of what prices people were paying.  Ten euro someone asked for a scarf that we had bought elsewhere for five euro – and with that we passed on, but couldn’t find the street market.  Finally we saw people closing up their stalls and followed them, which was the right thing to do, for they led us to the wholesaler.

The Bangladesh retailer spoke only his own language and Italian.  My English and Wyona’s French were no good to him, but a friend of the retailer with limited English was hanging out in the shop and he translated for us – all scarves were 5 Euro, the right price.  We began to pick out new patterns we wanted to buy.  We asked the friend, “How old are you?”

“Thirty-four,” he answered.

“How old is the shopkeeper?”, we continued.

“Twenty-three,” he said.

“A mere baby,” we said.  We had watched him when some Italian customers came in.  “All Bangladesh are good.  All British and Canadian are good.  All Italians steal,” they told us in broken English

Wyona laughed.  “No, there are good people and bad people everywhere.”

“No,” said the young shopkeeper.  “I have to keep my eyes on the Italians when they come in for they will shoplift from me.  I had to keep my eye on both of the customers for they come in together, for one tries to distract me and the other puts stuff in their shirt pocket,” and he pantomimes how that is done for us. 

“You mean like this,” Wyona says, and she tucks some jewellery in her pocket, holding her pocket way out so he is sure to see, and making him laugh.  I ask myself the question, how does she keep doing this and never ending up in jail.

“And how old are you?” the guy with some English asked.

“Sixty-seven and she is the old one at seventy-one,” said Wyona, pointing at me.

“Jesus Christ!”  

I don't think the shop keeper was really swearing.  But the English swear words from his mouth rang between the shop walls expressing utter amazement at what he was seeing -- the two of us shopping as though we were 20 year olds.  Maybe it is a sign that Wyona and I should work at fitting the usual stereotypes, which we aren't read to do yet.

I expressed some anxiety about food this morning.  For two mornings in a row, I have been ready to eat breakfast, just at the 45 minute space during which the four large dining rooms are closed because they are getting ready to serve their lunch menu. The three boats have been different – but none of the other two every close the dinning

Bravo, bravo, brave, said three times.  That is what the captain says to begin and end the noon hour drills that occur for the staff.   I have seen cooks in their white hats, and plumbers in their blue jump suits going to their assigned stations when I have been on the ship at noon and this happens.

The passengers have their first and only drill immediately after coming on board and before the ship debarks.  We all go to our assigned stations without our life jackets, to get a feel for what we would do in an actual emergency. 

As well, I have watched them take lower the lifeboats and do obligatory drills with them.  Further, we used some of them to taxi us in from the boat to the port entrance when we were in Croatia.  But today ... things were different.  

... dummy on floor, successfully raised out of water with a big hook ...
“What is that out in the water, Greg?”, I asked.  “A boat?  It looks like a body, which isn’t making me feel all that good?”  We watched for a little longer, and the object floated closer to us – a dummy, floating in the water.  Then we heard the staff emergency drill begin with Bravo, bravo, brave and watched a lifeboat lowering into the water.  “This is what a balcony is for,” I thought, “to get to watch procedural drills that I never imagined I would see.”  

The dummy kept floating to the east.  The life boat began to speed to the west.  

Passengers from all of the balconies began to wave, yell, whistle and shout, “No, not that way.  Over here!  The dummy is over here.  You are going the wrong way,” all of us imagining now that we were that dummy floating in the water and that the lifeboat was headed away instead of toward us. 

The orange boat circled back around and someone with a long stick that ended  with a sharp hook reached out to bring in the dummy – it looked to me like if I didn’t die from drowning, I might die from infection  from that stick scraping against my body in the rescue.  The exercise ended when the captain cried out again, “Bravo, bravo, bravo.”  

I am not all that sure that the crew should have been congratulated in that way today, given that it took all of us in the balconies to help them find the dummy in the water.  And it never did get CPR -- which I am sure it needed!


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