The vendemmia is one of the most unglamorous jobs I have ever held. To harvest the grapes I have to completely strip myself of anything I consider feminine. A green hat covers my head to protect my scalp from the sun. I wear old T-shirts that are now stained with purple grape splotches; the bottoms of my black pants or ripped jeans are stuffed into my black boots to protect my legs from weeds, overgrown bushes and other creatures that crawl on the vines. I wear gloves but I still have blisters on my right hand from the pruning shears that are used to cut il grappolo (grape bunch) from the vine.
We are required to work four hours before taking a one-hour lunch break, and another four hours after the lunch break. No other breaks are allowed. If I have to go to the bathroom, tuff. The field is my toilet. Luckily I haven’t had to do that. But my colleagues are constantly going among the weeds. A turned back is considered privacy. I try not to avoid seeing them urinate, but at times I catch a glance of a stream.
By the end of the day, I am sticky with grape goo and sweat. My arms and face, the only uncovered parts of my body are a magnet for thorns, seeds, pieces of grass and insects, including mosquitoes.
Because one has to carry the grapes that they pick up and down the rows, which are usually on a slant, the work requires physical strength. It is highly demanding on the body that by the end of the day I could care less how I look. I just want to splash water on my face, hands and arms and sit in peace.
The weather has been sunny and about 28 degrees Celsius everyday. The heat at times makes it almost unbearable to work. The others aren’t bothered as much by the sun as I am. This is not the first time they have worked on a farm. And also they have told me that it is worst to work in the rain because the mud makes your feet weigh 10 pounds each.
I am not embarrassed to say that I don’t even wash my hair at the end of the day. What’s the point. I don’t go anywhere and I haven’t done anything but eat and sleep. The only thing that reminds me of who I am is my tube of Lancôme lip gloss that I carry in the pouch fastened around my waist.