PHOTOS
GETTING THERE
PREPARATION FOR TRIP
INFORMATION ON SICILY
BOOK REVIEWS
CALENDAR
HOMEPAGE

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.

Our 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.
We visited ancient Greek ruins of Selinunte, the medieval town of Erice where, from the castle's ledge the expansive vista holds you all day if you have the time, the Mediterranean coast, and picnicked at the temple of Dimeter. Cooking Sicilian back at the apartment with friends Alesandro, Daniela, and MIchelangelo was great fun. They were so generous. Alesandro brought his own olive oil - in Sicily folks often press their own! And Salvatore, a school teacher from the next town was another generous, interesting & welcoming friend of Kathy & Peter who enriched our visit with an authentic Sicilian perspective and great pizza!

Since returning to Rochester I have mentioned our Sicilian trip to many people and I am amazed that so many have their roots in Sicily. I have encouraged everyone to make the journey to Sicily. Transitioning to USA time, pace continues. That mid-day break,
which usually included a glass or two of red wine and a little nap, is sorely missed. And, of course, it was wonderful to be able to spend time with our good friends Peter & Kathy. We'll welcome them back home to Rochester in June.

Kathy: April 8, 2004

It 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 won’t 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 wouldn’t 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 isn’t 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.

The particular combination of people on this island of Sicily have given it its special quality. However, it isn’t 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 women’s 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 what is it that I am unearthing – what have I awaken by this visit here. Today it is an ancestral memory - something deep and old. Something that I may have felt transmitted from my grandmother to my mother and on to me – something without words. Something that calls to me to put words to it - words that we can hold onto in order to understand our lives, our families, our country, and our world. What are these words – how can they be conveyed when they start with a feeling and seem so wordless. My grandparents call to me every time I walk somewhere and experience the beauty of these hills, the birds overhead and the flowers at my feet.
They call to me when I sense the strength of the people the survivors of thousands of years of domination, constant change and integration retaining a sense of joy, hope, caring, hospitality and love of life. They call to me whenever I feel judgments about my intelligence because I don’t know what is being said around me and they are saying – “Yes, this is how we were judged. We brought with us knowledge so deep and old and yet we were only seen as the poor, disheveled people after a long voyage – confused, disoriented, made fun of and exploited, called names like wop and guinea. We found the same people getting rich off or our backbreaking work in the mines – now it was coal instead of sulfur, but none-the-less we died under the earth – we lost our sons and no one cared or even knew.”

I crave information – the history of the mines and miners, the words of the poets, the songs of the old women – where do I find my truth? Is it the look of the emaciated naked boys who worked in the mines now staring at me from the page in a book documenting their use as the Carusi’s – their bodies used as beasts of burden descending and ascending over and over – their backs aching under the weight. I need to understand their existence in order to understand mine.

Here are a few of the words from the songs that inspired me to write this:

SONG
Where this illness is born
Life of mine
This Joy
This sorrow
That accompanies this tune
And so searches for some company
Where does thie melody originate
From which land does it come
Oh, far off path
Who kept it captive
From pain, from memory , from evil.
Where does it go
What does it desire
To sing joyfully or with nostalgia?
Flying, it hurts it wings
And hurts also my song.

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
Sorry it’s taken so long to write, but you know how it is readjusting to hectic NY life. I have been taking my re-entry day by day and have let my stressors back into my life on MY schedule. Anyhow, I am feeling a little caught up but I must mention that even if I don’t catch up on everything right away- who cares? We are way too stressed out here and visiting Italy reminded me of how needlessly stressed we Americans more specifically New Yorkers - allow ourselves to get. My trip to Italy certainly helped me put things in perspective. Probably more than any other trip that I have taken. I believe that it is a combination of the severe stress that I was experiencing right before my trip and the fact that Italians are way more relaxed.
I want to formally thank you both for your hospitality. I truly enjoyed the short time that we spent together. I only wish that the stay would have been longer. Kathy, it was great finally meeting you after all this time. I knew that we would click! My fondest memory of the entire trip are of you, Peter, Ed and myself going for a walk, eating til our bellies were full and taking siestas! I have been trying to institute the whole antipasti, wine, sleep regime over here but so far it hasn’t been received very well. Oh well, I’ll just take my own little siestas! I must say that after traveling around the more touristy cities in Italy, Sicily was a great way to wind down the trip. The combination of food, people and overall warmth are all worthy of the accolades that seem to permeate any discussion about the island. I have finished most of the olives that I brought back but am taking my time with the wine J I have tons of pictures and when I am finished sorting through them I will send them over. Can you please send me your mailing address there?

Well, again, thanks for the wonderful hospitality and I hope that everything is going well. See you back in the States!
Take care,
Leon