THE LONGING TO TALK TO STRANGERS ABROAD, by Alain De Botton

Alain De Botton wrote the following post, over on Facebook, and I had to share it here. 

Share it because it touches on my goal, to offer travelers a behind-the-scenes experience, while attending one of the photography workshops  I organise, here in Italy.  

My goal ... is all about opening doors and introducing people to one another.  Closing the distance between the tourist and the locals.

I fell in love with Genova back in 2008.  I've been returning ever since, and finally moved here in the summer of 2016.  No regrets, just an ever-deepening passion for the city.  

And I have this ever-growing list of favourite bars, restaurants, and secret places that are off the tracks beaten by tourists.

But here's Alain ... 

THE LONGING TO TALK TO STRANGERS ABROAD

The tourist industry has been spectacularly successful at opening up foreign countries and introducing us to their most important and worthwhile attractions.
Except for one extraordinary omission: the people. By some unseen, undiscussed but all-powerful rule, tourism tends to separate us from the inhabitants of the countries we’ve come to visit. They remain shadowy, occasional figures: the guy by the pool, the taxi-driver from the airport, the nice lady who took us on the trip through the forest. But the real focus is always elsewhere, on the culture and the monuments, the natural spectacles and the food.
This is a source of serious sadness. Most of the places we want to travel to are associated with a distinctive way of being: an implicit personality. In New York, it might be confidence and modernity; in Amsterdam, the dignity of daily life; in Melbourne, a welcome directness and warmth. It’s a range of human virtues that draw us to places, but we’re normally only permitted to encounter these via their external, cultural expressions. We don’t really want to shop or see pictures; we want to talk.
Yet we remain - painfully - outsiders. We pass a big family celebration at a long table on a cafe terrace. Someone is singing a song everyone knows the words to. We scan the properties for sale in the windows of estate agents. We observe people after work catching trains and buses home to areas we know nothing of. We’re continually noticing interesting faces, styles of clothing, the gestures friends use when they greet one another. In the evening, we hear the sounds of a party filtering down from a brightly-lit third floor flat. We may have explored every painting this country made in the eighteenth century and become experts at the late medieval style of its temples, but we’re only scratching the surface of its being. The genius loci - the spirit of the place - is eluding us. We want to know what it would be like - if only for a few days - to join in and belong; and to try out for ourselves the nicest aspects of the attitudes and point of view of the people who live here. 
In the travel industry of the future, we’ll regard booking a local friend as no different from booking a hotel room or a flight: just another essential, normal part of organising a successful trip. 
Until then, we must develop our skills at courageously going up to strangers and sharing a thought on the weather or the state of local politics. Or else we must remain in our shy lonely cocoon, but can at least grow able to interpret our melancholy feelings as symptoms of an industry-wide failure, not a personal curse.

Photography ... Drawing with Light

I took this photograph and, when I looked at it in Photoshop, there was nothing I needed to do to it.

It made me think about the etymology of the word photography ... 
'It was created from the Greek roots φωτός (phōtos), genitive of φῶς (phōs), "light" and γραφή (graphé) "representation by means of lines" or "drawing", together meaning "drawing with light".

I am learning to read the light here.  To know where to go at what hour.  And if I get right, then the ordinary becomes extraordinary ... by virtue of the light.

Street Art, Genova

It is your duty in life to save your dream.

Amedeo Modigliani.
 

Every day here, I wander these ancient streets at some point. 

And every day, I see something extraordinary.

I love this photograph.  I love the art, and then I love way the tyre track has moved the chalk down and out of the confines of the original drawing.

And that's the other thing about life here in Genova.  It's never just ordinary.  It's never just street art, or light.. 

VIVIAN MAIER EXHIBITION, PALAZZO DUCALE, GENOVA

You know when you just happen to be in the right place at the right time ...?

That happened today.  I have been losing in Genova's centro storico.  The ancient heart of this complicated and beautiful city.

I love to walk down through the cool, narrow alleyways called caruggi ... down to the port and pop out into the light.  Just for a little bit, before heading back into the caruggi to climb the hill, heading for one of the oldest parts of the city.  It's been more than 2,000 years since people began living there.

These days, I'm searching for seats in the shade ... places to sit and write this book I've been writing forever.  

But today, when I arrived back in the light of Piazza Matteotti, I noticed they were hanging the exhibition poster ... for the Vivian Maier Exhibition.

I couldn't resist attempting to capture it.  I think, perhaps, she might have enjoyed this photograph.

VM1.jpg

This Genovese Life of Mine ...

I'm finding my feet here, slowly but surely ... and learning so much along the way.

Summer is approaching at speed.  Yesterday was our first really hot day.  And this morning, I was up early and out wandering with my camera, as my early morning appointment was cancelled.

I am learning, much as I would like to be 'normal' and that as much as it sometimes pains me not to be ... I'm not missing possessions, the responsibility of a home, and the people in it.  I am learning to walk alone and enjoy the feeling of it.

That said, I have the best flatmates ever.  There's no exaggeration in this statement.  They make me laugh most days.  They are kind, they are wise, and I adore them.  I feel so very fortunate to be here, in this place, with Paolo & Fabio.

They have a terrace and, last night after a long day, I slipped out here for dinner alone.  The Swallows are back, and they were filling the warm evening air with the sound of their happy squealing, as they flew overhead while I read and ate.

It's not always easy here but I love it.  The city makes me happy, in some small way, every single day.  I'm so glad I risked it.  I was terrified when I moved here but felt I had nothing left to lose ... and it seems, if this quiet happiness is anything to go by, I had everything to gain.  I just didn't realise.

But I must work.  Just to let you know, all is good here in this beautiful Ligurian city called Genova, and with that New Zealand woman called Di.

I Have A Plan For My Book ...

I have finally begun work on that Genova book I've been working on for years ...  but with a plan.  And with deadlines.

I am a photographer and a writer but I am not gifted in the area of organising something as complex as this book I've been circling. 

A good friend of mine came to stay at the weekend ... Sunday morning, Leah sat me down, and made me stay there.  She questioned me, regarding my idea of the book, and then guided me through the next few weeks.  When she left, I had a folder containing a schedule and a plan for the book.

Of course ... being me I have already side-tracked a little, as I search through the thousands of photographs I have taken of Genova, I'm realising just how many images I haven't quite taken through the digital equivalent of the darkroom process.

I don't do much to them, most of the time, but I do like to go over each image.

And so I am discovering that, back in September last year, I went wandering after the rain and found the image there at the top of this post.

And there was this .. just patiently waiting from that time I was down in Porto Antico and the light was exquisite.