Cose dei pazzi: literally translated from Italian as “thing of crazy” – to describe a situation in which you’d never have imagined yourself. Like sharing a dinner with a French couple at a Bed & Breakfast in Caltagirone and feeling at ease speaking in a language that no longer seems so foreign. Like picking my way through woodsy underbrush in search of Sicily’s unique orchids with a team of Italian and Dutch adults. Like finding life-long friends in two middle-aged Sicilian women. Like getting on a plane to do a work exchange with a woman I had never met before in a small town I had never been to before to speak a language I had never learned before. Like my entire two weeks in Sicily. A thing of crazy. Cose dei pazzi.
The pazzi started about a month ago when I contacted Francesca through Workaway, an Internet-based medium where “hosts” and “volunteers” can find work exchange, as well as cultural and linguistic exchange, opportunities. In other words, volunteers work for the hosts in exchange for room, board, and ultimately the chance to understand and appreciate a new culture or language. It’s an amazing way to not only save money, but also travel the world beyond a tourist’s perspective.
And so I found Francesca, an adorable little Italian woman who owns a Bed & Breakfast in Caltagirone, Sicily. I agreed to spend 10 days volunteering at her B&B while also teaching her some English. (Little did I know that besides a limited vocabulary and a few simple phrases, Francesca didn’t speak much English! She had forgotten to mention the little fact that our email exchanges were all thanks to Google Translate. Having never taken a course of Italian in my life, I didn’t even know how to properly pronounce grazie.)
I had never been to Sicily and spending two weeks in fresh air away from city life was exactly what I needed, but mostly this seemed like it would be an experience unlike any other I’d had before. And since I am The Girl Who Jumped, I took a leap of faith. Not knowing what to expect when I got off the smoldering bus at the Caltagirone station, I was greeted by a smiling, dolce Francesca waiting for me. And so began our 10 days of cose dei pazzi.
One evening, during a dinner with Francesca and her English-speaking Italian friend Maya, they said the same phrase at the same time in Italian and starting laughing. Confused, I asked what they had said. “Cose dei pazzi!” Crazy that they were sitting there eating dinner with this American teenager in the countryside of Italy with Maya acting as translator between Francesca and me. But just as crazy as it seemed for them, so did it to me. By the end of the two weeks, Francesca, Maya, and I had broken down the language, age, and cultural barriers, and with tears in our eyes as we said goodbye on my last night, we all agreed this was a thing of crazy. Cose dei pazzi.
Truthfully though, aren’t those the best moments? The ones that we never could have predicted? Life is a little bit like reading a book or watching a movie for the first time; you can guess as much as you want, but you can never really be sure of what will happen next in the story. And isn’t that what makes every new day exciting?