Thursday, August 22, 2013

My Week At The Shanti


And so it has been a week since I landed in Italy. To be totally and completely honest, I don't really know where to begin to explain the situation I'm in. The Shanti House is unlike anything I've ever experienced before. I slap myself everyday to make sure I'm not dreaming... because dude -- I feel like I'm in a movie! Think: Wanderlust.

Let me break it down for you...


I am in the Shanti House, a B&B, in Borzonasca, Italy, because of Help Exchange. An organization that helps travelers get free accommodations in exchange for a few hours of labor. I've mentioned this as part of my big plan to save money while traveling the world, on one of my earlier posts. The Shanti House is my first experience as a helper. Basically, what I do, along with 2 other helpers, is change and wash the sheets, wash dishes, tidy up, clean the bathroom, plus a few other odd jobs here and there. The way I see it is - it's like I'm just taking care of my own house.


... is owned and operated by Martina and Franco... cutest and coolest couple you'll ever meet. This place is very rustic, very homely, and *so not your typical B&B. Since The Shanti is located 22km away from the city, and hundreds of meters above sea level, the guests basically vacation at the Shanti to STAY at the Shanti. It has a very "family-like" atmosphere... everyone eats together and drinks together and smokes together.... We are in each other's faces all the time, that it's hard not to become familiar with one another, and become friends.


The Shanti House has a resident cook called Pippo. He doesn't speak a lick of English and you wouldn't see him without a cigarette in his mouth or his hand, but he is probably one of the best authentic Italian cooks in Italy. He cooks everyday, using ingredients from The Shanti's own garden --- and they are the freshest, most delicious vegetables EVER. Sometimes the guests provide lunch or dinner for everyone too, but mostly it's Pippo's meals we enjoy. The food here is SO good. Sooooo good.
I am ruined for life.


Majority of the guests of Shanti are Italians from Milan. In fact, a lot of them are friends, and have been going to Shanti for 10 years. Every now and then, you'll get a random French guy, Spanish girl, German couple... One of my fellow helpers is from Holland, another from Indonesia. Apart from that, all Italians.
I find Italians very beautiful. The women, especially, in my opinion have gorgeous faces and amazing bodies. Which is sooo unfair because they practically eat pasta, bread and cheese everyday! They're all incredibly nice too. Always trying to speak in English as best as they could, complimenting me on the 0.2% Italian that I know... They are amazing!


OK. This is what makes Shanti extra special for me. The music. For some reason, the Shanti House is a hub for incredibly talented musicians. Famous percussionists, guitarists, drummers, singers, you name it, can all be found hanging out at the Shanti House.  Every single day is like a free concert, with each of the musicians sharing their love and passion for their music. I'm so glad I brought my ukulele, because playing with these guys is my favorite part of my day! They even have a music room, complete with a drum set, keyboards and amplifiers, and some of the guys use it for band practice.
I cannot express the joy I feel hearing the beautiful melodies of an acoustic guitar as I sweep the bedroom floors... It is pure bliss. :)


I hit the jackpot. For my first ever Help Exchange experience, this is going to be almost impossible to beat. For really good and reasonable work, I get fed, and I sleep here for free... but not once have I ever felt like a worker here... I feel more like one of the guests. I eat like a queen everyday... sampling the BEST of Italian cuisine... sure I've basically gained the weight of a 5 year old child, but it's totally worth it. I'm in Italy! I'm allowed to eat pasta everyday!
I've had the pleasure of getting to know, and jamming, with some of the best musicians in the world -- and that is something I will treasure forever...
But most of all, I've had the privilege of being in the company of the most beautiful, fun, and amazing Italians... whom in the short period of time I've been here, have taught me so much about the beauty of their country, language, and culture. I know it's only been a week, but I'm in love with all of them.
What can I say? I'm easy... ;)