Jaza's World Trip

Conrad the Sicilian

Conrad is — as far as I could tell — the owner of Agricasale, the campsite where I stayed tonight. Conrad's a very nice guy: not only does he speak good Spanish (he too has travelled extensively in Latin America) and some English / French (as well as Italian); not only did he insist I join him for dinner in the dining hall; but he also refused to charge me for my night's camping! Conrad greeted me when I arrived at the site this evening — stressed and worn out as I was, and in the pitch dark — and was happy to have me as the sole guest of the place for the evening.

Conrad is also quite a strange and unique fellow. He has a weird (possibly retarded, also possibly illegal-immigrant) Romanian serving-boy called Nicolas (the caretaker of the site), who waits on him hand-and-foot. He claims to be an engineer, and he's constantly on the phone to his clients and colleagues. And what's more, he follows nothing but the strictest Italian protocols of a formal, three-course dinner, even when dining virtually alone.

After I finished setting up and pitching my tent this evening (in the nice, flat grassy area especially designed for campers), I went into the massive dining hall that the place has. I was planning to just do my usual camping thing for the night: that is, to whip up some rice 'n' vegies on the gas cooker, and to have a quick and simple dinner in the tent. Instead, I lounged in the dining room's comfortable chairs, I enjoyed some local entertainment from the room's massive TV projector, and I cooked up my dinner in the room's formidable wood fireplace.

Conrad's "muchacho" (i.e. helper-boy), Nicolas, cooked up a great 3-course dinner — to which I added my humble but well-received contribution of rice 'n' vegies. We had an appetiser of bread with olive oil (apparently fresh oil — made earlier today), followed by a first course of hot tomato pasta, a second course of juicy steak, and an accompaniment of fruity Sicilian red wine. They set the table with a dazzling array of no less than 3 knives, 3 forks, 3 plates, and 2 glasses for each person: I had no idea what to do with all of that cutlery and crockery (especially compared with my frugal camping standards, in that regard); but I tried to follow their example, and to use a different set for each course.

It was good fun, hanging out with Conrad this evening. He struck me as a "true blue Sicilian" — tough and traditional, yet also friendly and hospitable — and while I wasn't sure exactly what to expect from him, I didn't do anything that got on his bad side. He said that he has family, but that they live in a town a little distance away from here, and that he has to be here tonight for business reasons (he tried explaining it, but I couldn't understand).

After dinner, I realised how silly I'd been in cooking up my humble little contribution over the dining room's fireplace, with my crappy little camping saucepan. I followed Nicolas around a corner, to find the site's expansive and well-stocked kitchen, complete with pots and pans and gas stoves. There I'd been, slaving over getting the damn stuff to cook in a fireplace, when I could have been doing it all in a proper kitchen! Anyway — at least I did the washing-up properly, in the kitchen, with running water and soap (for a change).