Today is a special day, it’s my two monthiversary of my time here in Naples. So, so much has changed, thank god. I met my first obstacle on day one when I had to cross the road. So far I’ve crossed many roads in many countries, all successfully, but this one stressed me out. I pressed the button and waited for the green light, but even after several minutes it still hadn’t turned and the traffic showed no sign of slowing, despite the fact I was at a zebra crossing. Not ideal. I remember thinking “I need help, I need someone to hold my hand.” But seeing as I knew literally no one in the entire country, let alone the city, I’d have to be a big girl and cross the road myself. By this time a few people had crossed and the traffic only stopped when they were on the road – or they slowed down at least. Okay, so here goes, deep breath, and I stepped out into the traffic…
But in all my flusterations I hadn’t noticed the high curb I was standing on, so I instantly fell on to the hot tarmac, scraping my hands and knees. That stopped the traffic!
But that was then, now I’m able to weave in and out of the traffic with ease. When I walk to Vomero, I pass a busker on the corner who always greets me in the same way, with a wink and a “Ciao Bella.” I don’t know if he recognises me or if it’s just the music from his accordion that catches my attention which leads to eye contact, which leads to the greeting. Either way, I don’t care, its the little things like that that make this crazy city feel more like home.
When I first got here I knew no one and would spend my free time walking around trying to get to know the city. I would constantly have my phone clutched in my hand, reliant on google maps, I still get lost sometimes, but more often than not, I know where I am. I used to sit in piazzas that were absolutely filled with noise; a thousand conversations overlapping, kids shouting as they played football, and moped buzzing past. But I was not one of them. I remember thinking that in a city so full of life it was strange to be silenced. That’s really what it felt like because even though I was surrounded by people I couldn’t reach out to any of them due to the language barrier. I had picked up a few words at work and from my Easy Learning Italian book, but only a handful of words that I could barely string into a sentence. I would call my mum, my sister, friends at random hours of the day, just to talk to someone. I had left my home, my family, my friends, and a reasonably-paying job to sleep on a camp bed in a house full of strangers, earning €70 a week. In the first three weeks, I felt overwhelmed by it all.
But in my third week, it all changed. I’d been trying since my first day to meet up with another au pair whos number I’d been given by my host mum. I’d cry every time she cancelled on me, leave me on read, or didn’t turn up when we’d agreed to meet. I was just so desperate to know someone besides the one friend I’d made so far. It was during these first weeks that I realised how much of an extrovert I am, and how much happiness human interaction brings me. When I finally met her she was with another au pair who I instantly clicked with and subsequently introduced me to an absolutely lovely group of people. And since then everything has changed, when I’m not working I spend time with them, exploring the city and discovering our new favourite places. On the weekends we plan little excursions which have allowed me to see all different parts of Naples as well as the stunning surrounding areas. Then in the evenings we drink beer at the piazzas in the warm night air and catch up with the English teachers and hostel workers we’ve met out here. I’m finally able to contribute to the noise levels here. It was on that three-week mark that everything seemed to fall into place.
Since then I’ve enjoyed work a lot more because I have balance in my life. The little Italian I’ve picked up goes a long way and allows me to communicate with the kids, which has meant we’ve been able to build a relationship. Only last night the littlest brought me one of his ladybird plasters. I heard a little knock on my door “Sara … per tu,” and tonight he brought me a piece of gum. Another thing that has greatly improved is my football skills. That’s all the boys want to do. It’s all any kid I see on the street wants to do. Everyone here plays football! Its really brought out the competitive side of me, it genuinely irritates me that they keep scoring against me, and it’s at something that I don’t even care about! But I’m improving. I will beat them. I will reign victorious.
When I look at it now, I think that this is the happiest period of my life so far. I’m not writing essays for some deadline, or struggling with multiple impossible reading lists that hang over me, I’m not in a crappy relationship doing stuff to make the other person happy. I’m doing me.
When I first got here I used to think “is this what I left everything behind for?” Now that I’ve been here a little longer, and even though I’m not advancing in the same way my friends are; I don’t have a master’s degree, or a proper job, or my own place, I will not be getting married any time soon, and I do not earn 30K a year, I still think; “This is what I left for.”