To be clear, and Animator is an entertainer usually seasonal, in hotels and resorts worldwide. I always preferred being called entertainer but have had to resort to wearing a t-shirt labelled ‘I am animator‘ classic Foreign English jokes aside, I had an amazing summer in my Italian Animation episode.
When I flew to Venice with my €50 euro budget in 2009 with no Italian language, I had no idea what was in store for me. I’d gone there to ‘find work‘ and learn some of the lingo too. My Italian friend, Riccardo, who I’d met in Honduras had said I could live with him for a bit, after a random phone call from me wondering what he was up to that summer. He was going to move to Lignano Sabbiadoro ‘Cool, I’ll go too’ I thought…
The next thing I know, I’m in Italy, jobless, skint and no idea how to speak the language. Oops. I move in to Riccardo’s place -there were quite a few of us there, maybe 6. But people were coming and going all the time I never really knew… I had to start adjusting to the lifestyle. These guys were ‘highly animated’ and at the beginning I didn’t understand a word of what was going on, there was a lot of raised voices though, needless to say I did understand the gist of the daily arguments between Riccardo and his fiery girlfriend Clarissa.
So as money was pretty tight I had to roam the streets straight away and ask for jobs. Not only is this soul destroying anyway, but try asking for a job in Italy– in English or Spanish! Lignano was perfect place for me to learn Italian- there were no British people there whatsoever, it’s a tourist location catering for Italians, Germans and Austrians, so my English and Spanish language skills were seemingly not useful in the slightest. I was getting blown out everywhere.
So after walking around for about a week, asking in ice cream parlours, pizzerias, whatever I could, a friend I’d made accompanied me to some hotels to ask in those too.
After 10 days and now borrowing money from Riccardo – Jackpot! One hotel said I can come back later in the afternoon as they were looking for someone in the Animation team.
Enzo, my supervisor to-be, spoke Spanish too. Perfect, I could finally communicate with someone other than Riccardo (who also spoke Spanish) Enzo told me all too briskly it was a hard job, not everyone can do it, if I’m lucky enough to get the work I’ll have to prove myself, he needed a fitness animator, in charge of aqua gym and stretching/yoga among many other duties we’ll go into later. Ah the joys of working for Italians…
Obviously I told him I was perfect for the job and I would come in the next day for my trial…
Animation is hard. Especially when you first start. Especially if you have no idea of what to expect. Especially if you don’t understand what’s going on, and definitely when you have to dance in front of a room full of children to dances you don’t know…
Deary me, I struggled, but I got through my trial and got the job. I focused on what I would be getting out of this, I’d be learning to teach aqua aerobics and stretching, dancing in the evenings (we worked 7 evenings a week) so I could keep fit, and in my spare time at work, ‘public relations’ making sure the guests were happy by chatting to them. So I got to practise Italian all day (as part of my job) and I got free food and accommodation! Right from the word go my classes had to be in Italian, and communicating across a busy pool with loud music in a new language definitely leads to some laughs… With that in mind I struggled through those first few weeks and moved out of the crazy house into another crazier one. Seven of us in a three bedroom place. Obviously the boss got the largest room to himself. He did need his space after all… 🙂
It took a while for my body to adjust with all the exercise but not as long as it took to adjust to the Italian way of working. The bosses were demanding and at times completely unreasonable. Hours were so long and we lived like sardines in our house nearby and a lot of our spare time was taken up with rehearsals for our dancing shows. I negotiated my pay as a first time animator I managed to get it up from €300 a month to €500. It turned out even with this terrible wage I was getting more than some of the others on my team (who I didn’t mention that to) Ouch. But more importantly, I knew this experience was going to help me get my contract on the cruise ship I wanted so much and I’ll be able to negotiate a fair chunk of the language by the end of the summer. Working in animation is notorious for taking advantage of young people’s desires for working away experiences.
Animation includes dancing in shows in the evenings, dressing up like a clown and dancing 7 nights a week for the children plus more activities. Tournaments, dancing in the water, volleyball, speaking on the microphone across the pool, rehearsing in the middle of the day under the sun were some of the usual delights. Our work budgets were next to nothing, our boss was stingy with uniforms and equipment for our jobs, most of what I did was a blag, especially when I was in mini-club for a day, I basically had to ‘amuse the kids for a good few hours.’ Children really help to teach you a language. They don’t mind explaining and I never felt stupid asking the kids to explain to me what things meant. Bonus…
We were in a team of about 20 animators over two resorts, I didn’t hang out much with work pals after work because I got the coolest bike ever, Andrea, and made great friends with Maria the lifeguard from my pool, who later got fired because we spoke too much. Also Riccardo and some of my old housemates meant that I had a social activity every night after I finished work at 11pm, resulting in very, very little sleep, as I was up at 8:30am but heaps of fun!
Maria got her next lifeguard job on the beach, always handy for us to check out all the lovely Italian men, and take advantage of all the ‘free’ activities, such as paddle boats, wind surfing and the canoes. Until that all fatal moment towards the end of the summer, when I damaged my rotatory cuff trying to make a 360° turn in the speeding canoe. Maria’s idea.
After 4 days of not being able to raise my arm or work properly under the severe annoyance of my boss, I went for X-rays at the hospital. From there I was put into a sling and although I didn’t mention to my boss that it was an accident in fact self-inflicted, he wanted to sack me anyway. I was useless to him. He didn’t mind telling me that either. Haha! Being the end of the summer I couldn’t care less, I was loving my job but it was coming to the end of the summer, so I packed my bags that night and me and Maria drove the 2 hour drive to her family’s house, where her parents would soon discover I was going to be staying for the next month…
Another blessing staying with Maria and her family while my arm got better and a great rest after the long, hard days working in animation. They live in the most traditional beautiful Italian house in a tiny village surrounded by vineyards and fields. We ate amazing food and by now I was able to grasp a fair amount of the language to observe this cool Italian family.
We always found things to do, Maria ‘borrowed’ the keys from the local priest to climb the bell tower and cover the lights with shiny coloured paper, and there were secret lakes and long bike rides, hiking the mountains through Italy to Austria, wine tasting, grape stealing and Maria’s family’s 60th wedding anniversary party, where I got to watch male opera singing live- it made my eyes water, there was an amazing medieval festival in the next village for a whole weekend of fun and I also took a trip to Bologna and Venezia.
By the end of the Summer I finally got my interview I wanted for the Cruise Ships back in the UK so after an extra-ordinary episode in Bella Italia I flew back to England.. I was really sad to leave Italy but had enjoyed a wonderful summer there. Love Italy.
I’ve moved house! Evolve and Express is now located at a different domain. Check it out!