This is not a cliché.

February 2015

01 February 2015

Living out of a suitcase

The silence, and then the roar, like the stunningly loud noise of a landslide crashing down. The emotion and then the distress of seeing something so immense. Not oppression, but maybe a protective feeling of being enclosed, of vast colossi that silently observe the goings on of life, without being overly concerned about the history taking place all around them. And so, while the bus climbs upward, curve after curve, I look out the window at the green of the fields that then disappears to be replaced by snow.
“I learn so many things, both from the guests and from the people around me. Life stories that whole books would not be able to contain, all different, all mad, all strange, none empty. I tuck them away in my suitcase.”
It is December 2013 and I am seeing the Dolomites for the first time. A mountain dominates Corvara, the Sassongher. Far away, wrapped in clouds. Above all, solitary. On the other side, there is Col Alt. It is less steep, and more gentle, in its own way. The first thing that comes to mind is snow. But maybe one forgets the curves: to get to Corvara, there are curves that climb up, curves that clamber, curves that manoeuvre like a caterpillar navigating a leaf. They swing smooth and harsh and wild and precarious. They are the first contact with the Dolomites.
Corvara is cold and I can feel the altitude. My breath is short and I feel slightly dulled. I look for the Hotel La Perla. I am carrying a huge suitcase.
The suitcase. We are those guys who live out of a suitcase. They call us all kinds of things: my friends back home call it ‘seasonal’, my mother says ‘you only work during bits of the year’.  No one, however, fully grasps the choice to 'live out of a suitcase'. I have always wanted to work in hospitality and I have always wanted this job. I packed my suitcase, I filled it up and every time some part of the year passes by, my suitcase gets a little bit fuller. 
The mountains. The mountains and their strange presence. I look around and see summits, covered with tufts of snow. They are as beautiful as life itself, they seem hard and rough, like life itself. I hear the people talking. I don't understand what they are saying. It is strange to hear a language and not understand any of it. The Ladino language is fascinating, it has its history, its life, and it is studied and used every day here in the valleys. It is identity, life, culture. I have tucked it away with the other things in my suitcase.
I meet many different people at work. Many of them are partners in the adventure of this strange job of hospitality. I am not talking about tourism though. I work in hospitality, I welcome people when they arrive, I take care of them, I make sure that they are truly well. For me, they are not just tourists. I learn so many things, both from the guests and from the people around me. Life stories that whole books would not be able to contain, all different, all mad, all strange, none empty. I tuck them away in my suitcase.
The Dolomites often scare me, because I feel like they have a soul. They seem alive, not just stone, and I now understand the respect and pride felt by those who live here to be ‘Ladino’.
Because if the sea belongs to many and the land to everyone, few can boast this relationship with such difficult and beautiful nature, few can boast this visceral attachment to a world that is so unique and so infectious. 
Corvara welcomed me as if to a new home, me with my suitcase full of bits of years gone by. La Perla is a story about life, about a family that welcomes not only guests, but also an immense family of collaborators. There are almost one hundred of us, and we each have a suitcase. We make friendships, people fall in love, get married and have children. There are friends and friends who are like brothers. Each of us with a suitcase in our room. Each of us giving a piece of ourselves to the others. 
One year later, my suitcase is always fuller and I still has so much room.

Valerio Cabiddu