Friday, October 29, 2010

Surfing a Tuscan Couch

The kindness of complete strangers was demonstrated yet again when Gabriele, a local Tuscan accepted us into him home for four nights through the Couch Surfing Project. His couch in this case, was a queen size bed in his upstairs attic with a private bathroom and overlooking the neighbouring vineyard. It is always a strange feeling venturing into the home of someone you’ve never met before knowing you will be staying for a few days. Amongst couch surfers though, there is a common understanding which facilitates an instant connection. 

With our love for photography growing every day, it wasn’t long until we were completely engrossed in Gabriele’s plans to travel as a Photographic Journalist. He was working for Italy’s top news magazine and in just over a week he was embarking on a 12 month world tour, all expenses paid by the company. The purpose… search out unique couch surfing experiences and to produce a weekly article for the news magazine. He would spend 10 weeks at a time away, to surf other people’s couch, then return home for 2 weeks to host travelers. Inspired and a little bit jealous, we continued to inquire about his profession as he showed us some of his work and published photographic books. Creative portraits are his specialty and we were so impressed by his innovative ability to tell an individual’s story in a single photograph. We were a little taken a back when Gabriele asked our permission to include us in his project and requested that he take some portrait pics of us. What a privilege to be a part of this very exciting venture!

Over a home cooked meal with his adorable girlfriend Elisa, Gabriele continued to share about his photo journalism and his interest to uncover hidden issues through his work. We were struck by two particular stories, one about U.S. army women who during their service, became victims of rape. The other, documented the enormous amount of waste from the technological world that is sent to India where all circuit boards are stripped of their copper using acid. This acid is then dumped into the public waterways, the same ones that supply drinking and washing water to many villages. It was truly inspiring to see how creatively Gabriele is bringing these issues to light. 

We were invited to Gabriele’s farewell party at a restaurant tucked away in the mountains with about thirty of his Tuscan friends. Like old mates, we were immediately welcomed with open arms despite most people’s limited English. Of course we made use of that universal language that can be spoken (or acted out) by all! After a lavish menu and quite a few drinks later, the limited English was mostly used to teach us some ‘inappropriate’ Italian words! The night rolled on with air guitar, makeshift band and dancing to the DJ in the restaurant’s back room. It was such a sweet night and we felt so honoured to be there when we had only just walked into Gabriele’s life a couple of days before.

 The partay!

Who's the best air guitarist?

Those of us left at the end of the night - a very bad self portrait

What makes it even harder to leave a place on the road is when you have a connection with someone and you’ve had an unforgettable time in their company. Gabriele and Elisa had so much going on in their lives, but they chose to open up their home and make us a part of it. It really challenges me to think about that now…..about how willing I have been to open up my life to others in the midst of my busyness. I hope in the future we can be a generous with our time as these guys were with us. 

Us with Gabriele & Elisa


Gwen Pittaway said...

it's amazing how you can just connect with total strangers, we should have a bit more trust in people and open our hearts more, glad you had a great time with them.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much!!! I hope to see you again!

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