I try to explain the small village of Giovinazzo to my family, mostly my mother who is very curious about the little place G calls home. Sometimes photos are not enough, but for now, they kind of have to do. So last March, I took out my camera from G’s home, walked around our usual route to the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, or Vittorio Emanuele II square, along the port, pass the more residential areas, through the historical areas and finally walking back home. Gelato in hand. It takes about an hour, but if you meet a friend or a friend of a friend, chances are it’ll take even two to three hours.
(Since it was March when we visited, everyone is wearing their thick winter coats. It wasn’t as cold as Germany or even here in Detroit, but for southern Italians, even the slightest dip in temperature means the North Pole. Including G.)
Walking pass the small park between G’s home and the piazza, where you get to see children, their parents, their dogs, teenagers walking, talking and laughing together and seniors reading newspapers or playing crossword puzzles.
Any piazza works as a common public area for everyone. It’s where you take walks, meet old and new friends, see your children grow up and play with one another. For the case of G, it’s quite normal to meet at least one person who he hasn’t seen in a long time and for G’s mom, it’s where she constantly says hello to old friends once in a while because she doesn’t get to come out much due to G’s father’s Alzheimer’s. People will walk around this piazza a dozen times, talking and saying hello to people and for someone who is used to meeting friends, going to a cafe or a restaurant to talk (aka me), this was at first very confusing and hard to understand the point.
Walk pass the piazza and through a narrow street and then comes the port. I never told him but I now know how emotional G gets when he gets near to this port. It was where he spent all those summers as a kid, played cards with his friends when he was a young student and sometimes walked along with his father, who has now lost his memory. We now try to come home as much as possible since we are based in Germany and every trip is an emotional ride.
Alzheimer’s is a scary illness. Not just for the person who’s suffering from it, but everyone related to him or her. Of course, we have no idea what’s going on in the minds of the patients, but there comes a point when you feel so useless and everything seems so meaningless. It’s quite difficult to even try to understand what’s going through everyone’s mind. It’s a slow process and really, an actual “process.” There really isn’t anything you can do, but to wait, endure and just go on your daily life. For G’s mom and siblings, this daily life includes taking care of the father, who was a public officer with a very talented hand in carpentry. You can try to do things to get away or even try to forget the pain, but it’s still always there. And in the meantime, there’s those moments when you tell yourself to call your parents, friends and other loved ones and cherish every small moment. Call it selfish, but it happens. Which should happen anyway, but we all know it doesn’t normally. Everyone’s “too busy,” right?
Sometimes coming out to see the sea can wash away just a little bit of that burden and pain. Which is why G and sometimes his mom insists we take these long walks. To get some fresh air and avoid getting too emotionally exhausted by what’s happening at home. But then I can see how all those memories flush into his head whenever we approach the port and sometimes it breaks my heart.
Giovinazzo is one of those towns where you can find both modern and historical areas in one shot. It’s also where we can find the famous and very popular olive sellers. Giovinazzo is the capital of olives, I believe almost 70 percent of the entire olive production in the world happens right here. Everywhere, olive farms. G’s family has been buying olives from these specific olive truck for a long time and I feel like they even recognize me when I walk up and ask for some. Because there’s not a lot of Asians around here, not because I’m special.
That light. If I could build a city, I would build it with these marble-colored stones so I can see these colors and textures every sunset. Seriously, the light.
The sun comes down and it’s time for gelato. Two scoops for the price of one. Take that, Germany. And then the walk back home, where we still always share a lot of laughs, food and recipes.
- When it comes to dealing with anyone with Alzheimer’s or anyone who is close to someone who’s dealing with it, be patient. There are no words, really, to make that person feel better, but be patient, be there and listen. For now, it’s the least we, at least I, can do. Oh, and call your mom. Dad. Sister. Friend. Anyone you care about. Just because.
All photos by rachelsanghee. March, 2015.