Tuesday, February 9, 2010

February 6, 2010: Puddle of Eloquent Decay

February 6, 2010 Saturday (Dieter). Can it be? Do we really have to use the services of gondolas this day? Did it really rain that much last night? They did warn us of the flooding of St. Mark’s square. Actually the picture is from a few years ago, which is typically of Venice, with the floods covering most of Venice. We noted the various shop doors with their flood proof walkways and the waterlines on various buildings and structures witnessing to the high waters. Today was a day of waiting. Following breakfast, we headed off to the square to take in the opening festivities of Carnival. We were pleasantly surprised at how calm and reserved the Italian people are. Although the crowds were growing, the ability to walk around the square was more of a quiet Sunday stroll then the typical boisterous North American hype of crowds anticipating the opening of ceremonies. Karannina, Alexander and Sandra soon found masks that reflecting their desires. Alexander with a dark smiling face of a joker with images of music and Venice on the cheeks, representing his jovial spirit that often has a song; Karannina with a blue butterfly with feathers reflecting her free spirit, desiring to make the most of everything, but in a flowing way; Sandra with a bright green, reflecting her positive spirit that is encouraging throughout our trip; and me, well, I couldn’t find one that reflected the joy and contentment that was being suppressed within my spirit by the stresses of work that seem to still linger. The square was full of various dressed individuals, from simple tattoos on faces to the incredibly brilliantly robed individuals gaining the attention of crowds, all wanting a peak or a photo. The celebration team were busily adjusting the lighting and sound systems, adding the last minute details to the lion decorated in vegetables, the stage crew ensuring a sturdy podium for the actors, and cotton candy makers, the jugglers… what colour, what excitement as the crowds waited in grand anticipation for the gates to open. Standing near the security guards, I overheard the FAQ (frequently asked questions) of when the show would start. At 1200. Within minutes the gates opened, the crowds flooded in, and we experienced colour, music, and the basic introductions of the day’s events. We were encouraged to come back for 1700 for the grand opening. So we headed back, head a relaxing afternoon in our apartment and then back with food supplies to the square, faithfully just before 1700 to ensure a good view. After what seemed like hours, the show started at 2021. It seemed that the stage crew, the actors, and the directors were not sure of where things were to go, who was to stand where, and of course, where was the handheld mic. With all the details settled, the gate opened once again and we ran to centre stage, standing right next to the steps leading to the 6 foot platform stage. Then the drama unfolded. The Italian paparazzi (aggressive photographers) ran the stage and were order off to allow views for all. All 44 of them ended up at the foot of the steps next to us, pushing the somewhat disappointed crowd back (notice that the crowd was not irate, what one would typically expected in NA). Then time was made for the local factory workers to provide a short drama protesting the closure of one of their local factories. We anticipated a theme of anger and resentment against the local politicians for the recent closure, but to our surprise, and I mean SURPRISE, three handsome men came onto the stage and began to rip off their clothes to “Baby got some hot stuff” music. Sandra and I looked at each other, somewhat concerned with our “innocent” children right at the front of the stage, taking it all it and with no where for us to retreat to as there were throngs of people behind us with no room to spare, or even escape to. But thankfully, they kept their briefs on and used their hard hats to spare their finer details. After the seemly peaceful, yet grandiose workers’ rally, the Italian paparazzi completed their tasks and left the stage. Crowd control – who can spot the American in a European crowd? Almost everyone could. Two American young adult men, slightly inebriated, began pushing their way to the front of the stage, injuring people along the way. The crowd became quite vocal, and within minutes security came in a forced the two individuals out of the square and to waiting police. Next, the planned drama of the evening. However, the actors had no way of getting to the stage; they were blocked by the large crowd. So police were called in and forced a walkway through the crowd from the back of the square to the stage (interesting that no request was made from the stage to ask people to move back one step, it was all done by force, pushing and whistling with a number of police). The show was off, the actors, although all in Italian, kept us spell-bound by their exaggerated expressions. We laughed and gave the drama group a standing ovation. Well, I guess we could not really sit down. After over 3 hours of standing at the stage front, with our legs screaming for oxygen, we followed the crowd back out of the square and down the waterfront. Thousands of people were lining up for the water taxis to take them back to mainland and to the various hotels scattered throughout Venice. We arrive to our apartment to find in incredibly cold. The heater no longer worked. Lawrencia, our host, apologetically attempted to find ways to correct the situation, but ended up very angry (to the appliance) and promised us a new place in the morning. We made some more pizza with the supplies we had and snuggled under layers of blankets to keep warm.

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