So cold, so cold

It’s been really really cold all the time. Until today.

Up until today, I had felt a little duped by this whole Mediterranean promise. Where were all the pleasant Italian moments basking in the long rays of sunshine? So it’s wintertime, but at least a coffee on the terrace during a mild january sunset? I had my first one today…. I shouldn’t complain though, all the sweeter for the waiting.
Especially after a blizzard shutdown the freeway on sunday and everybody had a little freakout.  (They stopped the entire 3 lanes of traffic and I waited for an hour for one, count him one, policeman to ask me if I was carrying chains on board.  Give me liberty or give me death!) 

The hard dirt that is everywhere in the village is now muddy and ubiquitous.  I’ve prepared some fruit trees for planting.  Cherries, apricots, mandarins!  so there’s promise of spring!  I’m ready! 

I’ve discovered a little side road that goes out to the river that runs behind my house about  a kilometer off.  Today I took a little gaggle of the village children on an ‘english walk’ to the river, theoretically conversing exclusively in english.   We sang the ‘you smell like a monkey’ version of the birthday song and crushed melting ice with our muddy boots.  good times.

Quaker meeting in Bologna

It’s been really chaotic lately in my life with the hustle of the family all around. I found a moment of much needed stillness this morning at the Bologna worship group that Marisa Johnson of the FWCC helped me get in touch with.

It was a familiar little circle of older gentleman gathered in “the Peace School” in Bologna. Like most thing’s these days, I don’t really catch all the details of the introductions or summaries of most experiences but charge into them as they come. I gathered that the 4 gentlemen are associated with the university (oldest in Europe) and have a leftish bent. An Italian translation of Thich Nhat Han involving something to do with leaving our bodies may have been involved

Anyway, I leave my body often here. When everyone is talking at once around me or I’m tired and sick or I don’t find the topic of conversation very interesting it’s amazingly possible to turn off my brain. Wind it down. It can be a little disconcerting when this happens all the time but I absolutely need it as a kind of defense sometimes.

It’s strange to enjoy the sound of my thoughts in silence though. Usually when my mind races in meeting I try to shut it off, but today it felt fine to have a little moment surrounded by others where I could just do my thing. I actually appreciated the fact it was only 45 minutes too

New Life

The rosy tint is wearing a little.  As Federica and I drove to her Operation Dove Office this morning, across the freezing landscape of fruit trees and suburban traffic circles, we talked about how we’re feeling.  She’s struggling with her sense of responsibility for her work in Palestine, as well as the tug of her biological family’s farm plus the added stress of the Village family’s needs.  I’m struggling to form complete sentences and get a sense of natural beauty here and there.

And now I’m sick. We’re both sick.  It’s pretty clear in circumstances where we’re not 100% that our patience for fitting into the family system wears thin.  On the one hand, it’s really heartening to know that both she and I are on the same page about not feeling particularly “nesty”  On the other, we’re not exactly sure what else to do. We both don’t really have income.  In any event, in the next week or so we’re schedued to do some traveling.  Let’s see how that goes.

My Family members

Sergio-Father- Sorta gruff, straightforward type.  Does not like it when we speak Italian around him.  Valid point.  I know where he stands. Curious, playful side.  From  Venuto, the Venecian provence.

Elena-Mother- Motherly, a midwife for “troubled pregnancies” technically I think but spends a good deal of time at home. Curious but somewhat detached.  Clearly tired by parenting yet contained about it yet clearl tired.  Paradoxical.  Good english vocab and pronunciation.

Martina- Civil servant in our house.  19-20ish?  Quiet, does a lot of cleaning, cooking, ironing.  poor dear.

Anna-family’s oldest girl. 17 Outspoken but clearly not really an envelope pusher.

wow, it feels wierd to be “telling” on all of them.

Lazzaro-16-17ish  Slightly indoor kid, historical origins in India.  Has sweet looking motorcycle (50cc) and equally intimidating needling

Paola- 15-16ish.  Very 16yo girl.

Simone-14- Good guy, shy but with creative and theatrical side.  We do english lessons.

Mima-10- Foster child with Morrocan roots.  Sweet but a little out of place.  She’s given the shaft a lot by the teens.

Diego-3- little shit.  just a normal 3 yo.

Bruno-rat dog

Il Villaggio della Gioia

So much so say… so much going on.  I’ve arrived in Italy and moved into the “Joy Village”  Il Villagio is a project of Fede’s community, a progressive catholic association called Pope John XXIII.  They have all kinds of projects all over the world, from a puppet theater troupe for deaf-mute people in Chile to the Operazione Colomba peace corps to this here Villagio. I’m learning a lot about it really fast, but some of the things I find most interesting so far include:

1.  Bobby McFerrin was a major supporter of this project and organized a big fundraising concert in Milan to help make the final push for the completion of the fund drive.  It had been 10 years since the original idea had begun. Don’t worry, be happy.

2.  It’s very much a work in progress. I live in one of 3 houses filled with 3 very large families in one compound in the outskirts of the city of Forli, Emilia Romagna.  My family, the last to arrive here, only moved into this house in October.  The idea of the Villagio is that these families will serve as core supporters of other families struggling to raise their kids (for whatever reason).  Some of these struggling families may be offered the chance to live here by the Italian social services system and will therefore be able to stay with their kids while getting direct support from one of the core families.  At present, there are only a few families sort of doing this because it’s so new.  The few I’ve met are single dads and they don’t even have custody of their kids all the time so they’re here always but the kids cycle in.  The houses are big ( 2500-3500 ft2) and there’s a couple of apartments in them for families.  (or single hangers on figuring out their life paths.  booyah. ) in the future, a whole other block of apartments will be built nearby.  There’s still construction materials and muddy yard all around.

3. The location is definitely “Italian suburbia”  But I’m impressed by how cool that seems.  We have a field of grapes out back, a horse farm across the road, fruit orchards of some kind on one side and a wierd funky ass scraggly fruit/grape/? lot out front.  I’m been working on refacing some of the walls with this dude Enrico in the bitter cold the last few days and I’ve seen wild rabbits (BIG!), a pheasent, an acrobatic flight show over the airport not far away, Bruno (the one [semi] domesticated animal in il villagio) and and and and….. a whole lot of Italians of all ages wandering between houses, smoking, running around.. etc.  It’s great.

4.  My host father, Sergio, is a stay-at home dad and runs the community “bodega” in this area.  Donations from grocery stores of pull date foods, clothes from drop boxes and confiscated body products from the airport(!) all come to my garage to be distributed to members of the community and those they serve. As I sorted withered vegetables my mind wandered back to fond memories of sorting dumpster produce with the anarchists in NC.  Ah, those were the days. My host mom, Elena, runs the “Difficult Maternity”  program for the community.  There’s 7 kids and I’ll talk about them some other time.

5. I found a natural food store, bought new pants, and helped deliver baby goats born at Federica’s farm in the last few days.  Filling my time and getting shit done.  yeah.

Bare legs and aftershocks

It’s been beautiful in Olympia.  Splitting wood behind Rohan’s house, I could almost pretend that the drama had blown over with the clouds.  It was not so.  But I am more comfortable admitting my struggle is personal, individual, inexplicable. And the sunburn left over from yesterday’s sail with my lovely cousin beside me in the cockpit could not be diminished.

The weird nieghbor who communicates mostly through a system of grunts and constantly wears a leather cowboy hat and jacket passed by the boat today with the familiar tops and shorts on the bottom.  Jacket and hat untouched.  I’m really really curious about what his boat looks like.

I also probably would not have worried about a earthquake in Italy 6 months ago.  Now I do.  I’m checking the maps and feeling silly for it. What does it matter whether I know the people being hurt around the world? What difference could it make?  Am I really obligated to tell the Greek women on the phone intending to play Rachel in a play that I actually have absolutely no relation to the Corries? Am I?