Italy is a place I feel strangely at home, and out of place at the same time.
My parents and their parents are all Italian, and we are all Italian as far back as I know. After my grandparents left Italy, my mother and father both spent their lives from early childhood, in Australia.
As children they were ridiculed for being ‘wogs’, and did not want the same for their children. They did their best to bring my brother, sister and I up as Australian as possible. I am, as a product of growing up in Australia, Australian.
Their first step in protecting us from ridicule was not to speak Italian at home. I do not know how to speak or understand Italian very well. I can get by when I am there, order dinner, get around, but I can not have a decent conversation. Why don’t I learn? I’m lazy. I like to learn by practical application; therefore I would benefit if I lived in Italy. Who knows, one day I may do. Do I hold a grudge against my parents for not talking Italian to me? No. Like they have always done, they did what they thought was best for me.
After my recent trip to Sicily, I have reflected long and hard and decided to write down a few thoughts pertaining to such trips to the motherland. They are in regards to peoples attitudes in the countries I have lived and loved. My place of birth Australia and my place of residence the UK. Peoples attitudes regarding something I have always struggled against, and struggled to understand. Racism.
Many white people here in England call themselves English. This is true, as are many black and coloured Englishmen. The truth behind it is that the white English are as much 100% English as the Sicilians are 100% Italian. Many times invaded and many times the invaders over the centuries, they are inevitably a massive mix of different breeds. Australians technically have no claim to the land, and are one of the most diverse cultures in the world. Even if they are Australian from generations back, they are still technically English, Irish or Scottish. Then we once again return to the story of invading forces.
Therefore, as their racism can not technically be blood related, it must run a little deeper. I guess it stems from social problems and insecurity. From a need to belong, much like one needs a religion. Even so, their attitudes towards someone like me remain negative. Much the same as back home in Australia.
So where do I belong?
This question lays deep inside me, and wells up after visits to Italy. It was especially strong this time after the trip to Sicily. My mother’s mother and father are still with us, and my grandmother still speaks very little English. She is Sicilian. The Italian I have grown up with is the Sicilian dialect. The food she cooks and I love so much is from the region. Feelings of belonging were stronger in Sicily than when I visited Rome, Venice or even Vieste, where my grandfather is from.
But Sicily is not where I belong.
I am Italian by history. I look Italian. I love her food and her coffee, and her love of the family. And as I discovered, I even drive Italian.
As far as the Italians are concerned, I am not Italian. I can not speak the language, and that is just the start of it. I do not have their attitude. I do not have their demeanour. I am not Italian.
I do not love soccer. I can appreciate it as a sport. But I love and have always played Australian Rules football and cricket. I grew up with meat pies and sausage rolls, fish and chips and steamed dim sims in soy sauce.
The Cronulla riots. They are still telling us to go home?
So where do I belong?
I have not been home for nearly five years. The last time we returned, it was a whirlwind visit for my sisters wedding. Eight days. I felt at home. I look very much forward to returning for a longer visit this December.
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
For me, that is where I am from. Therefore does that not make me an Australian?
Some people do not think so. So where am I supposed to go?
I am not Italian, so I can not go there. They will not let me stay. I only have an Australian passport. The BNP seem hell bent on kicking us all out even though the country would fall to pieces if we left, but they want us out none the less.
I love London. I have been here for six years and it has now become a part of me. Nearly half of my adult life has been here in London. I could stay or i could go right now, regardless, London, and life in the United Kingdom, is now a part of me.
So where do I belong?
I belong on planet earth. This is my globe. And it is yours.
If you do not like me being on your supposed part of this planet, then that is your problem my friend, not mine.
I am not generalising. I know most people are good at heart and accepting of others. Unfortunately the bad apples always spoil the bunch.
This is a piece of me I give to you, as my love for travel grows ever more. The more people and places I visit, the wonderful friendly faces and genuine people you meet along the way always touches me. Thanks to you all for being a part of my travels and helping me accept more diverse cultures and people into my life too.