Petra: First month in Italy

They say that good things take time. In this case, the start of my ESC project M.A.R.E was delayed for a hundred days due to the general Covid chaos. Although I over-romanticize my daily life, local and global problems always bring me back to reality. Especially those related to my profession – nature and environmental protection. Until we complete formal education, life flows linearly and leaves us too little choice to live the way we want on Mondays. After 20 years, the education system spits us out of a tight and rigid but secure embrace that promises a better future once it lets us go. Since I graduated in Environmental Science two years ago, I am trying to figure out the answer to the question of what I want to do every Monday. I like being a biology teacher who is being asked hard questions by the children. Despite that realization, I decided to go to Italy and do my voluntary service for 9 months. In my first post, I will try to illustrate what my workday looks like and why it is so easy to feel happy here. Italians are similar to the Balkan people in many ways, but a breakfast consisting of 2 biscuits and coffee seems funny to me. Luckily, this time I’m not living with Italians so I don’t have to listen to their comments on my, unacceptable salty breakfast. 😀

Our workplace is the protected marine area Area Marina Protetta Punta Campanella, in the southern region of Campania, which takes half an hour of drive and then we have to cross the saddle to reach the bay of Ieranto. Halfway through, we stop by a retired park ranger, S., whose coffee with lemon even I, a coffee hater, like to drink. S. speaks pure Neapolitan, which has as much to do with Italian as Slovenian with Croatian. So every tenth word is clear to me, me and other volunteers nod to the man and smile. Yes, he makes coffee with lemon which is a trademark of our peninsula and in a daily walk you can pick up a couple of them from the road. Terraced lemon and olive groves have marked the landscape for centuries, and the finest neighbors’ tomatoes grow on the volcanic soil. Gardener P., on the other hand, speaks Italian and cultivates hectares of olive groves with a view of the island of Capri.

After coffee, we descend into the bay and the working days, for now, are reduced to kayaking and talking to visitors who come to the bay by authorized and unauthorized boats. The bay is protected primarily because of the vast meadows of Posidonia, a sea plant that grows on the seabed, and for ten years they have been trying to save it from destruction by providing boat owners with an alternative mooring in other zones of protected area. Posidonia is also present in the Adriatic Sea and is strictly protected. The park’s policy is clear, if visitors do not understand the value of the area, they will be reluctant to accept the rules and restrictions, so the park devotes a lot of time to educate and inform visitors. If the day is calm, I visit sea caves, snorkel and more or less successfully, I try to remember Invertebrates from my second year of college, save giant wasps from drowning, or just float on the surface of the sea along with seagulls. Another important part of the job is collecting floating debris; plastic wrap, bottles, corks, balloons. Things that we have used for less than ten minutes become ingredient of a salty plastic soup.

The seemingly tasty prey for birds, fish, and other marine organisms eventually ends up in our plate as well. However, sometimes you can also learn from the objects that seem to be just trash. How to learn marine invertebrates from an old shoe? Have a look at the photo below!

Ciao from Italy!

Petra

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