I am writing from a sultry, humid, but not altogether unpleasant Singapore. Experience has taught me that if it can be afforded, a stop over somewhere (especially closer to the destination) is a good idea on the way to Australia. It was Dubai on the way to Italy, and Singapore now on the return trip.
In some ways being here makes me realise how far I am from my birthplace, somewhere that I want to keep some connection with, but also how I am closer to home. Somewhere where I lived most of my life and I feel really confortable in. And this is giving me a conflicting feeling.
After we landed we went straight to our room (thank heavens for transfers) and after a shower we crashed and slept for a few hours (this was the idea after all). Then after dinner we went back to bed and managed to get to sleep about 2.30 am local time. As we were trying to convince our bodies, that yes, it was sleepy time, not the middle of the afternoon, I was lying in bed and the underlying conflicting feeling that has accompanied me for this whole trip came to the fore with force. Now that I am far away from Italy, now that I am just a few hours away from home I tried to reconcile the swirling of feelings: Sadness that something that I’ve looked forward for so long was over. The happiness that I’ve was coming back to my home, members of family, my bike, my TV. Coming back to things that worry me and that I was able to momentarily forget while I was away.
This trip has brought to the surface unexpected reactions. While I was in Bergamo, the town where I grew up and has the more emotional punch for me, I flipped out. We were waiting for the funicular to go to the low city to the high city. And we were confronted by a large group of tourist. Not sure where they came from but they spoke a Slavic language. We were running a bit late and the next port of call was going to see my childhood home with my son. This for me was to be one of the main reasons for the trip (I discussed this in my previous post) as the cable car could only have 50 people it ws obvious we were going to miss out. They were not moving, the organiser of the group was continously talking to them and then going back to the ticket office. Then I did something which was so out of character that I might as well run naked through Bourke St. Mall. I barged through to the front shouting (in Italian) “Someone has to move here! ” You know when you do something and then it is like somebody else was doing it instead? That was me at that moment. It was like somebody else was doing the pushing through. I am the meekest person in the world. The one that tries to avoid conflict even if I am in the right. And here I was doing something which was clearly wrong and obviously making everyone around me very angry.
The Bergamo Funicular station in the Cittá Bassa. The scene of the crime.
The other thing that I thought (which was ridiculous as well) was that my partner and my son would follow me, which they had no intention of doing. So when I went to the front they were still at the back, my partner fuming and my son laughing bemused. With 50 angry people behind me telling me off (there were some Italians as well as I then found out) Then I snapped out of my state and realised what I’ve done, I quickly ducked down to go under the side rail and joined my parner and son which were (to put it mildly) very unimpressed. As the group went on the funicular, and laughed at me as they were doing so, I was thinking why did I do such an impulsive thing. I put it down to flipping out in such and emotive day, but this was partly the reason.
A few days later while discussing this incident with my family (they were not going to let me forget in a hurry) my son made an observation that was breathtaking in its accuracy and I never realised. That somehow I wanted to re-assert my territory, and thinking about it later I realised how spot on it was. Here I was in my ‘home town’ a place where I grew up, where I had a strong emotional link. A place that I was taken away from. But the tourists represented was I’ve become, a tourist as well. I didn’t want to be like them. I wanted to be a local again, to be part of the city again, to regain something I’ve lost. My barging through was an expression of reasserting that I wasn’t like them, I belonged here.
After the ‘fuck what have I’ve done’ feeling, I have put it down to my emotional state. Many other people have flipped out more publicly and in a worst manner and survived. And of course my reflections on this incident has been useful.
Coming back after so long has reduced the longing of my childhood in some ways. The imaginary Italy that I’ve created for more than a decade has been replaced now with a reality with my partner and son. The only thing that makes me sad is that things like a much needed home renovation, and other issues with family, school, work etc. will mean that a relatively quick return (within 5 years) may be impossible.
In a couple of days I will be back in Melbourne, to my job and my house. And somewhere in Eastern Europe someone will tell their friends of an idiot they encountered in the queue at the Bergamo Funicular.