Literary Las Vegas: Karen Haid

Obtaining a work visa and a job in Italy seemed almost impossible to Las Vegas resident Karen Haid until a small private school in Calabria hired her on.

Calabria is an area she said is deemed unfit by a majority of Italians. But she was desperate. The armchair travel book “Welcome to Calabria” rose from her four years working and traveling in the area most thought an American woman was unfit for.

“How could an American survive in such a place?” she asked. “Often with great difficulty, but by quickly learning from the locals not to hesitate when presented with an opportunity to smell the roses or the pasta sauce.”

Haid said her book embraces daily life, culture, history, the arts, food and society “in this beautiful, yet difficult region.”

Visit calabriatheotheritaly.com.

Excerpt:

Is everyone staring or is it just my imagination? I felt as though I had been dropped into a world where mothers never told their children it was impolite to stare.

Walking down the street, I had never seen so many heads turn. Had I all of a sudden become beautiful or was this merely part of small town living? Old men were the worst. They would stop in their tracks at a distance of a few feet or a few meters, depending on the strength of their prescription eyewear, mouth agape, as if stunned by my presence. Only their eyes followed my movements as I approached. Then as I passed, first the head, then the shoulders, hips, and finally they had to shuffle their feet 180 degrees to complete the ritual.

Initially, I thought this behavior was due to their having lost any inhibitions they may have once had, but then I realized that they were just doing what they had always done, what their fathers had done, and their grandfathers — old men occupying benches in the piazza, loitering in front of bars and standing in bars; middle-aged men positioning themselves in front of businesses, in stores, in bars; young men and boys hanging out in the piazza, in pizzerias, on soccer fields, in discotheques, in bars.

Calabria is full of males in groups chiacchierando — chatting. And the women? They’re at home cooking, at least the older ones.

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