Here are the reflections written by our good friends Peg and Paul Gefell and sent to us on their return to the states. They were here March 12 - 21.
time spent in Sicily was too short! Peter & Kathy's home in Montadoro
is perfect for viewing the town and outlying compagna and beyond. From
their third floor windows the vista is breath taking. The people of Montadoro
are so welcoming. It was great to be able to go down to the little wood-fired
bakery for FRESH bread and meet the baker & his wife. He arrives at
the bakery every morning at 4:00 to fire up the ovens. The price of bread
is so cheap, they refused any tip. Produce is purchased from a smiling
Angelo and his dad Giuseppe - They also shared their own fresh eggs, the
freshest I've ever had. We were also welcomed by Kathy's aunt Josephine
to share her home and wonderful meal. We played a Sicilian card game at
her kitchen table and later in the week processed with her in the neighboring
town in celebration of St. Joseph's Day. She gifted me a sicilian apron
& herbs! We strolled through the village and outlying countryside
where the silence was distracting. It washed over me. It is spring and
the multi-colored wildflowers are blooming everywhere. Lemon trees are
full of fruit and the almond trees have just dropped their blossoms.
Kathy: April 8, 2004
has been a while since I have written. A lot has happened. We went to
Morocco for a week Casablanca and Marrakech. It was a profound
and enchanting experience. However, it felt like precious time that should
be spent here. As the days tick away and our time to leave approaches
now that we have reached the half way point I find myself concerned that
we wont have had enough time here. Our trip to Morocco was scheduled
because as U.S. citizens we are only able to live in Italy for three months
on a tourist visa. Anything longer would have required a different kind
of visa, which we were unable to get at the Italian Consulate in the U.S.
before we left. We had all the necessary paperwork minus a rental agreement,
which is required. So leaving Italy for a while allowed us to reenter
and be on a tourist visa again for another 3 months. Since Italy is a
part of the European union traveling within Europe wouldnt have
constituted leaving. We needed to leave the continent of Europe. After
the experience I think now that maybe it was fortuitous that this happened,
and that we needed to leave the continent opening up the opportunity
to go to North Africa and bear witness to the myriad of ways that Sicily
has incorporated Arab culture deep within its soul. I know now that isnt
just the complexion or the hair color, nor is it just the calls of the
vendors on our streets who sound like Arab immans calling the faithful
to prayer. It is something also about the hospitality, the graciousness
of the people, the clusters of men sitting at cafes together, the veiled
women, the architecture, the pottery
.. And of course the food -
we ate a lot of olives, lemons, oranges, couscous and tagine, fish and
vegetables prepared in limitless ways. We return here with a new understanding
about how a culture folds into another remains a part of it, bringing
the best of worlds together and creating something new and unique.
particular combination of people on this island of Sicily have given it
its special quality. However, it isnt just the combination alone
it is also the way that these cultures came together. This to me
as an interculturalist is where my curiosity comes alive there
is so much to know in so little time. How did they merge cultures? How
did those who were dominated survive and what cultural behaviors were
born out of this survival? What did the dominating groups bring
how was it imposed on others? What did the people do to appease their
dominators and what did they do covertly to subvert them? How were languages
and religions imposed and incorporated with the prior religion? What of
today can we call thriving cultural strategies versus survival strategies?
How do a people create and maintain an identity within constant change?
What skill did it give the emigrants who were the immigrants in what is
now the Sicilian diaspora U.S., Canada, Argentina, Belgium, France,
Australia, Venezuela, England
The books that I am amassing here gifts from the U.S. and here, as well as purchases in the English language section of the bookstores have provided some of the answers. Through each persons perspective I understand pieces of the puzzle more clearly. The history tells a lot and I am grateful to people like Giuseppe di Lampedusa, Leonardo Sciascia, Jerre Mangione, Danilo Dolci and Giovanni Verga combined with the more recent womens voices of Theresa Maggio, Mary Taylor Simeti, Maria Laurino and Laura Reeder. The music also gives clues and a CD by two singers from nearby Sutera, Fratelli Mangcuso, have touched me deeply reminding me that my feelings are important in the process of learning. That to understand truly I need both my head and my heart engaged. A few weeks ago, I put their CD on and sat and listened as I read the accompanying words in English. I felt like the notes and poetic words were the keys that unlocked something that I can only describe now as ancestral memory. Through the power of their voices I heard my grandparents and their peasans calling to me. It was a mystical experience and I wept as I wrote these words:
So this week we are surrounded by family from the U.S. Carly, my daughter, Gina, my niece and my sister Angela and Steve. It is so wonderful sharing this place with them uncovering our past together - knowing their filters are shaped in a similar way to mine. My niece Gina who has been making friends with people from Morocco, has observed the similarities in the cultures and has shared that there maybe something historic about this attraction - by understanding others she is understanding herself and her cultural history better. She met a Moroccan woman here and spoke some Arabic with her which immediately connected them. Gina and Carly were invited to her house for couscous.
Angela has been putting a lot of thought into the identity question I posed and has written a wonderful piece which is on the home page. She also has been renewing her friendship with Pina Saia and they have shared their common love of crochetting and other hand crafts.
Carly is feeling a sense of possession on the knowledge of her culture and is wondering about how others in cultures that she studies feel about her having the opportunity to know about their cultures as an outsider.
This week we are participating in the Easter and Holy week celebrations in Montedoro. We will share our experience at a later time.
Leon Cato: April 20, 2004
Kathy and Peter