Kathy: May 7, 2004

A week ago Monday morning we arrived back to Sicily after 10 days on the continent of Italy visiting too many places in too short a time. We both felt the pull to be back in Montedoro - desiring - no craving - some time to rest, reflect, read, sleep and be back in the rhythm of this place. To reach here quickly we decided to take an overnight ferry from Napoli to Palermo. As I lay on my bottom bunk bed enthralled by the feeling of the boat as it glided over the waves. It felt comforting and I imagined myself a child in a cradle being rocked. However, I was also surprised that despite this pleasant feeling it was hard to sleep. I lay awake thinking about my grandmother's journey to America on a boat for not just one night, but probably a month of nights, with two small children and herself only a child of 20 years old. I thought about this journey and what was on her mind. Then I remembered a dream I had in the early eighties when I first started to work with immigrant communities in upstate New York. In the dream I found a diary written by my grandparents telling about their lives in Sicily and all the details of their journey complete with their hopes and fears. As I read I was overcome with joy for having found this precious gift. And in the morning when I awoke my joy turned to sadness when I realized that it would never happen. The migrants I was working with at the time were Haitian and they had many stories about their journeys at sea- stories of desperation and overwhelming will to survive despite the seasickness, hunger and in some cases capcized boats. These stories connected somehow to the untold story of my grandmother's journey, which is finally getting some context and detail. I felt her that night on the ferry as I read a book about migration and the conditions under which people choose to emigrate from Sicily. The history of Sicily tells their story - nothing happens without a historical context. Having found the birth records for 3 of my four grandparents I now know for certain the work of their parents - farmers and miners.

At the end of the 19th century rural people were losing hope for change. The political power of the wealthy was too entrenched and established for them to have faith that things would improve for their generation. Each generation before them had rebelled against the latifundia system that kept the majority of the land in the hands of a few rich gentry as all the others worked as sharecroppers and day laborers on their land. There were only two alternatives for this life of constant debt and hunger - mining and emigration. Some felt lucky to get the backbreaking, dangerous work in the sulfur mines that surrounded their towns. This feudal agricultural system was dependent on a population of unskilled uneducated workers. The landowners feared emigration of these workers and produced a myriad of media propaganda filled with predictions about the downfall of the Sicilian family if men emigrated. Their lies went unheeded as people by the thousands left and through their hard work in the mines in Pennsylvania and Alabama improved the conditions of the families that were left behind. In some cases women stayed with the children and used the money sent back to buy land that the owners were now selling because they had no workers. In my grandparents' experience they both left - maybe not with the hope of returning as others did. Many people who left only saw the U.S. as a place to earn quick money and return to their beloved country and community, richer and with the resources and attitude that no longer made them subservient to the landowners. Many women refused to join their husbands and stubbornly remained where it was familiar. There are stories of men sending tickets back for their wives and children that went unused. My grandfather went to the U.S. first - probably with other male relatives and sent for my grandmother and my uncle Tony and uncle Louie, who were just babies. She chose to leave, as did other members of her family and for as long as she lived never returned to her homeland.

The stories I am reading while surrounded by the images and the community outside my window tell my grandparents untold story. Living here has made me also understand how very different everyday life is here and what an incredible adjustment they must have had to make when they entered the U.S. The seasonal cycles of planting, harvesting, and sacred festivals was replaced with a more linear, routine of repetitive work in mines and factories. The daily rhythm also took on a different tone - no longer early morning activity followed by a long mid-day break for a big meal, reposo (rest), and passeggiata (walk). Most of all, the focus on people - their interactions, their spontaneity, their willingness to be with you in the moment, not at some later scheduled date. Every visitor from the U.S. to our home here has sensed this attitude most of all, and commented on how different it is. It is a focus on each other, on telling of stories, on checking in with each other to see how they are and taking the time to listen and really be interested. As I am writing these words I am looking out on the walkway between the church, and a little park. There is a group of six men who have been walking this 30-yard stretch - first in one direction and then like synchronized swimmers coming to the end turning around and walking the other way. Some of them are talking and gastrulating while walking, others are listening - hands behind their backs. These same men might meet each day for passeggiata and hear the stories - content to be in each other's presence. As we walk around the village - doing the customary "buon giorno" and "buona sera" to each person who passes by I realize what a simple but grand thing it is to notice and acknowledge each other - to reinforce the importance of each person exchanging in this gesture the idea that we matter. I vow to carry on this practice when I return and walk through my neighborhood during my mid-day passegiata. I think grandma and grandpa would approve.

So what have we been doing:
During April I took time from writing on the web page as I lived in the moment with my friends and family, who made the long trip here to share this place with us. First our good friend Eduardo Gonzalez and his friend Leon Cato came to visit for only 3 short days (see Leon's comments above). We spent our time eating good food and taking long walks in the campagna. I think they were ready for the tranquility of this place after traipsing through Italy for 2 weeks. Then my family arrived. The six of us - Carly, Gina, Angela, Steve, Peter and I lived together in our apartment - acting as a team for meal preparation and clean up. (Mom would have been proud). Our highlights while on the island together were visiting relatives, participating in the Pasqua celebrations in Montedoro and meeting new people. We also spent time traveling around and Carly, Gina, Peter and I took a short trip to Vulguanera, Enna and Caltigrone before meeting up with Angela and Steve in Taormina. Gina loved Vulguanera where she researched her father's family and saw lots of people who looked like her dad. In Enna we staged and videotaped the reenactment of the kidnap of Persephone, Demeter's daughter, by Pluto on the temple of Demeter. Gina was the cameraperson, Carly was Persephone, I was Demeter and Peter was Pluto and Zeus. We did two versions, one as the myth was told and another the way it would have worked had women been empowered.
We all stopped for a night in Santo Stefano on our way to the continent of Italy. That is the town of my father's father and after much confusion we found his birth record and those of all of his family members. It was confusing at first because the man that helped us thought that it was Francesca not Francesco and that my grandfather was a girl. This came to light because there was a second child named Francesco which could only happen if the first child dies and I knew that couldn't be because my grandfather lived long enough to have fathered 8 children. The man continued to argue with me and then he went to get another book that told the real story - there was a Francesca who died and when another girl was born and she then became the second Francesca - so the mystery was solved. We also met a man, whose last name is Noto. He was a delightful person and wonderful potter (Carly spent some bucks in his shop). Anyway, he would like to locate family in the U.S. - He had a cousin who was named Peter Noto and he emigrated to the U.S. around the same time as grandpa. He had old photos of his cousin in Rochester. After a night in a great hotel on the sea we parted from Angela and Steve when they went back to Palermo to visit friends and then fly to Rome to meet up with us again. Carly, Gina, Peter and I drove straight to the Amalfi Coast where we stayed for two nights in a very small hotel in Atrani. Then onto Rome where we walked in the rain, went to the Vatican, and best of all participated in a small peace demonstration and a very big African-European concert. One of Carly's friends from Montedoro took the train down to meet us and spend one last day with Carly and Gina. Gina and I didn't feel well so we took every chance we could to sit in cafes and drink coffee or tea. On one of Gina's stops she met a man who definitely wanted to stay in touch with her. We gathered all the luggage together on a rainy Sunday morning and sadly said goodbye to Carly and Gina. Angela, Steve Peter and I departed for Assisi that day and stayed in a very nice country inn. Assisi was our favorite place, quiet and peaceful as we imagine St. Francis was. It was special for Peter, being a naturalist - the austerity and love of nature that St. Francis possessed was a great connection for him.

Then onto Venice in our very little car - a Renault Clio - a real challenge for Steve and Peter who are both over 6 feet tall. The good news was that in Venice we couldn't use a car - so we gathered together all our luggage and trekked to the hotel - only we went in the wrong direction for almost a half an hour. We finally found our way - tired and strained from all the lugging. To our surprise we all liked Venice - peaceful without cars and a sense of calm with water all around. We did all the favorite tourist things - fed pigeons in St. Mark's Square, rode in a Gondola, and bought Murano glass. One of my favorite things was a Vivaldi Concerto - they performed the Four Seasons in a very old building. Then we went to Florence, visited the Uffizi and then back to Rome in time to have a good dinner by the Pantheon, and then Angela and Steve departed. Tired and ready to go home we wearily did one last trek to the Vatican to see the Sistine Chapel and then saw an Opera. The next day we left early for Pompeii and then to Napoli where we took an overnight ferry back to Sicily. We happily ate our picnic of wine, cheese and bread as we waved good-bye to Italy, knowing in the morning we would be back in our beloved Sicily.
Con carino,


Peter: May 7, 2004

When we arrived in Sicily in December there were only a few flowers, hardy plants that could withstand early morning frosts. The asphodel cheered us with its showy white blossoms, often beaded with dew, and we have been amazed that we can still see some in flower three months later. Cold as January was, within a week after we arrived, large purple orchids began to open along the roadsides. At a small roadside park near Monte Camerata, I discovered an orchid in a genus completely new for me. It attracted my attention with the velvety looking lip on its blossoms, punctuated by a glistening central patch. This is a characteristic of the Ophrys orchids. You can see pictures of two different Ophrys orchids shown on the flower page. These two orchids appeared in a gravelly roadside flat that caught my attention one day as I was on an afternoon jog. As the weeks passed, this flat sported a gorgeous display of new orchids in the Orchis genus. At one point, the whole area was pink with the blossoms of over 100 plants in bloom.

Just before the almond trees blossomed, we came upon a hillside of intense pink, a field of Fedia, a low growing herb in the valerian family. Crouching down for a photo, I was swept away by intense perfume, as sweet as honey, flowing from the flowers which, combined with the blue sky and pink hillside, made me leap up with a whoop of joy over the beauty of our mother earth. I hope you will revel in the beauty of the other flowers pictured, the brilliant orange of the calendula, the delicate blue of the anemone, and the sweeping red of the poppy field. For me, I’ll never forget the mystery of the giant fennel, Ferula, beaded with dew, and silhouetted against the rising sun on a foggy morning. Just below its robust stalk, waved dozens of dew-studded heads of the Dasypyrum grass. It’s so good to be here in Sicily!

Kathy: May 17, 2004

This morning when I was cooking breakfast – I had a passing worry. It was about an old superstition that my mother passed on to me. She used to get very agitated if one of us spilled oil in our home. One time she shared that her mother believed in this superstition and that grandpa Attaldo died right after a significant amount of oil was spilled in their home. Although I don’t believe in this superstition, I did learn how to worry about all kinds of things from my mother that she had instinctively learned from her mother. They both had a lot to worry about. I now believe that it was more likely that grandpa died too young of pneumonia. because of the years of work in mines probably weakened his lungs. I guess they had more to fear from the corrupt system of exploitation that used people like my grandfather as beasts of burden to haul sulphur here and then coal in the U.S. I am sickened whenever I see the old photos of the children and men who worked in these mines under these unsafe conditions while the mining companies got rich. There is a great story in our family about how my grandmother insisted that they move from Pennsylvania where my grandfather was working in the mines, to New York because she didn’t want her sons dying in the mines.
Mothers and worry seem to go together and the day before mother’s day my daughter also gave me cause for worry. During the night she called me from the emergency room in mid Manhattan to say that her arm was numb and that she had a mysterious bug bite on her shoulder that caused it. NO superstition was needed for me to worry – when we arrived in Sicily we had heard about a man from Serradifalco who had died of a bug bite – rare but possible here. I shared this with my daughter and she remembered the story from when she was here just two weeks ago – about the length of time it takes for the symptoms to appear. It was a hard day as we waited for word of whether the prescribed antibiotic helped relieve the swelling. A friend here came right over and we had coffee and she comforted me although later she confessed that she was really worried too since the man that died had been her good friend. We then went to visit her cousin who lives in the town and found another face that told the story of mothers throughout the centuries – her 24 year-old son had recently been diagnosed with cancer. Although I didn’t understand all the words spoken between my friend and her cousin I knew the meaning by looking at their faces. So appropriate to be with these women the day before mother’s day, worrying about my daughter feeling connected to mothers everywhere – my other friend in town who just the day before cried about her anorexic daughter, my grandmother who worried so much about protecting her 13 children after her husband’s death that she wound up in an asylum, and my mother who worried about the state of the world and how its dysfunction could effect her daughters, and now the mothers of Iraq and the U.S. who are at the mercy of governments who put their children’s lives in danger. I salute mothers and know that their caring and nurturing is sacred and that their voices of wisdom about the world need a place at the tables of power.
We had a wonderful time with my cousin Sammy and his wife Linda. They were here for a little less than a week. We went to Siracusa and Canicatti as our big trips. They got into the spirit of this place and were most happy walking around Montedoro. This week my friend Phyllis is here and we are leaving today for our big trip to Stromboli to see the volcano. We are stopping in Noto at the flower festival on the way. There will soon be some beautiful pictures from both of these places. Happy Spring!
Love, Kathy


Eduardo: May 17, 2004

Then there is Sicily. What can I say of Sicily other than it was the perfect punctuation to a whirlwind tour of Italy -- an exclamation point to be exact. Wow! What people! What food! What landscape! I couldn‚t have asked for a better way to wind down our trip than the Montedoro. I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with you and Peter and sharing in your everyday life. Sleeping in a bit was terrific ą breakfast was the perfect mix of Sicilian treats - coffee, fresh bread, fresh fruits and great conversations!!! Our trip to market is one that gets highlighted every time I recount my trip to Italy. You two have certainly become a centerpiece of life in the town› in a very respectful and honoring way of course. As I write, I am giggling about the fact that when I explained to the older Sicilian women at the market that, „no parle bene il Italiano,‰ they just proceeded to speak even faster in Italian thinking that I actually spoke Italian. They really wanted us to know that they have family in the states. I felt so incredibly welcomed in your town. Then there was our hike up the hill and walk along the rolling hills ą what a treat. Coming back to find anti-pasto, drink some terrific wine, and take a mid-afternoon nap remains a fond memory of our visit. Then there‚s Josepina ą what a powerful and sweet woman. I loved that she asked me about my locks and that I invited her to touch them. I was actually surprised at how much of what she was saying I understood› maybe it was the wine. Our late night visit to Maria Rosa and her husband was quite the nightcap. I don‚t regret for a minute having had that great cup of coffee at her house despite the fact that I didn‚t get much sleep later on that night as a result. Then there was our rushed trip into Caltanisetta (at least rushed for Leon and Peter). I got great pastries, wonderful gelato, got rid of my mother's friend's coins, bought coffee beans, lots of bottles of Nero D'avola sicilian wine (enough to enable me to relive my Italy experience for at least five weeks after I got back). You and I are so much alike, as Peter and Leon stressed over the time, we casually explored the pastry shop, the coffee shop and the supermarket. The ride to Palermo was another memorable experience -- particularly stopping for gas and being asked for my autograph. I should have milked it for at enough to get a good latte. I was disappointed to find the shop that Leon and I discovered with the araccina balls closed -- did you ever get to it?

I don't know if Leon told you, but we almost missed our flight out of Palermo to Rome. We were detained by customs officials who took our passports and boarding passes and disappeared for about 20 minutes. They never told us why we were stopped, but something tells me it was not b/c were both tall. I had this hunch all along that it was because we're both right-handed. But I didn't want to to pull the right-hand card w/out having sufficient proof to substantiate my claim, so I just let it slide. In the end, the customs officials wound up calling the gate and instructing them to hold the plane for us. Needless to say, when we finally joined our Italian/Sicilian flying buddies on the plane, the looks on their faces didn't make me feel warm and fuzzy all over.

Well I guess this was a really long, drawn-out overview and reflection on my whirlwind tour to Italy and Sicily. It was my first trip to Europe and it will certainly be the most memorable. I so thank you for having invited me to share in a piece of your history and story. I also appreciate you and Peter for having welcomed Leon. He really enjoyed the trip and meeting both of you. Thanks for being who you are wherever you go and wherever you are. It was wonderful sharing in your new community and feeling so welcomed. Grazie, Grazie!!!


Kathy: May 31, 2004
Last week we went to the Zingaro Nature Reserve on the northern peninsula west of Palermo. It is a park that hugs the coast and is lined with remote beaches and cliffs overlooking the Tyrrhenian sea. After spending a day on a beach - sunning, reading and snorkeling, we returned to our campsite outside of the reserve for a good night's sleep. However, around 1:00 a.m., I was awoken by a dream. It was so powerful that I couldn't stay asleep. In the dream I was with my sister Sandra in the house where we grew up on Bauer Street in Rochester. We both were talking about how much we missed my mother, who died 10 years ago this month. Just then I looked out the door through the front porch and saw her walking by the house. I said to Sandra, "Oh look there is mom," and I ran out to call to her. She came in the door with grandma and her sister, my aunt Jenny. I wanted so badly to ask her questions about what it was like for her, but before I could she said to me, "so have you fixed up your room yet?" I responded, "yes, I made dad paint it." She said, "that is good, you should make him do that." She looked so very real and it was the first time in the 10 years since her death that I have dreamed about her talking to me. In the past in dreams she is present in the background. I woke up Peter, we talked about it and it took a while before I could get back to sleep - I was filled with melancholy.

The next morning I was taking down our tent after dropping Peter by one of the trails in the reserve so that he could spend the morning hiking. I was getting lost in the Zen-like routine of organizing many small objects that would again have a home in our car, when all of a sudden out of nowhere, an old man who worked for the campsite and whom I had met the day before, appeared. Since I was on the ground folding the tent, his presence startled me at first. He looked at me questioningly and asked, “why are you leaving on such a beautiful day, especially with the weekend approaching.” I quickly refocused my attention and said in my limited Italian, that yes, it was beautiful, but I needed to return to the town where we are living because the next day I had an appointment to look at family records. As he heard me explain about my grandparents, and my desire to learn, he looked at me and said in Italian, “they left because they were hungry.” As tears were filling his eyes he went on to say that it is so important to remember our parents and grandparents. After that he spoke to me without words, only with his watery eyes and then sadly walked away. I was stunned. Since I first came here in 1989, I have asked myself the question, “why did they leave and never return.” Then I remembered the dream from the night before – my mother, grandmother and aunt standing before me as clear as if they were alive. Hungry - what do I, a now middle class woman living in the richest country in the world, really understand about hunger? I remember once having a Haitian farmworker in one of my ESL classes appear thinner each week because he had fallen off of a ladder some weeks before while working and could no longer harvest apples. He was starving, and too proud to ask for help. I have been close to hungry people, but my generation has had the privilege of not knowing really what this means. Reading about Sicily at the turn of the century when my grandparents left was about hunger. Yesterday when talking to a 94 year-old woman in Montedoro, I heard descriptions of how small the land was that they had (if any) and that it wasn’t enough to live on. I also recall a recent conversation with a woman friend, close to my age, which recounted through her tears the years following the war when she and her family went hungry and her bothers needed to steal bread. In Jerry Mangione’s book, Mount Allegro, he talks about the importance of bread to Sicilians:

“Bread was eaten with every course, except with such other flour products such as spaghetti and pastry. My relatives, like all Sicilians had a deep-seated reverence for bread, and they transferred it to their children to such an extent that none of us even to this day , can eat food without bread and not feel guilty…..Aside from its traditional association with the body of Christ, bread to my relatives was a daily reminder fo the hardships they and their ancestors had endured to survive, a symbol of man’s humbaleness. The regarded bread as some God-bequeathed friend who would keep their bodies and souls together when nothing else would. And when times were bad, they said to each other, ‘as long as God grans us a piece of bread, we shall get along.’”

My daughter called me for advice the other day. She is working with children of immigrants in NYC, and she has organized her students to go to senior citizen homes to talk to them about supporting legislation that would help these students to go to college with government assistance. She had called to set up a visit in one of the centers where mostly elderly Italian Americans live. My daughter recounted the conversation and how the woman whom she spoke to told her not to come because these new immigrants didn’t have papers the way they (Italian Americans) did when they came. And that they didn’t want these students getting any government support because in the long run it may affect the benefits they (the Italian senior citizens) were getting from the government. In all of my work on intercultural relations, I think the most meaningful and mysterious thing that I have learned is that people who have experienced oppression in their past, often turn into oppressors towards members of other groups. I know how hard it was for Italians when they arrived – I have written about this many times in the other reflection pages, and yet – no, maybe because of these experiences – people now treat others the way they were treated. Jerre Mangione in the same book describes the way Italians in Rochester were treated when they came. He said they lived in boxes at first and weren’t even able to buy food in the markets. It took a protest to finally get stores to agree to sell things to them. The children and grandchildren of these immigrants may carry this fear of loss and desperation, believing that it is the problem of the new immigrants that now makes them insecure.

Now I have to ask myself how does all of this connect – my dream, the old man’s answer, my daughter’s experience? In dreams, rooms in a house have always represented for me parts of myself, or others. My mother had said something about fixing up my room with my father’s help – hmmmm. Could it be that in the dream my father represented the attitude expressed by the woman on the phone? What is my role with other Italian Americans and what needs to be done? I think one thing is to help us all to remember why people leave their beloved countries, and come at great risk to earn a living and feed themselves and their children. How in only 3 generations some of us have forgotten and therefore can’t understand what it is like for others who come for the same reasons. Having “papers” does not change the reason for coming – it is only the way that governments have kept us separated from each other – the earlier immigrants from the current immigrants. Through the smoke screen of legal status we can no longer connect with those whose hands do the work that others won’t do, much like the Sicilian hands that chiseled the coal and picked the fruits and vegetables in the past. They are not different from us, they are us. The only difference is that when my grandparents came, our government gave legal status to the immigrants whose work they also needed. We have come from hungry people – people with compassion and “intelligence of the heart” (an apt description for people in Montedoro used this week by a Monttoresi woman who now lives in France). We need to look beyond and back through our privilege and know that like the immigrants of today, we didn’t need to be in competition for limited funds when others were making billions of dollars off our labor. The old man was right, we have to remember - if for no other reason than to make us each more human. When we walk around Montedoro, the thing that is most magical is the people with their big hearts, friendly smiles, welcoming gestures, warm embraces and genuine concern for our well-being. In six short months I can honestly say that I found something in that– and then again maybe we find what we are looking for.

I wonder sometimes why the question of why my grandparents left here is an important one for me. Then I realize that everything I do and everything I am is because they made this decision. Everything I see here has meaning. I was gazing this morning at an old photo of a family on a painted Sicilian horse-drawn cart – commonly used at the turn of the century. At first I was interested in it in a kind of abstract way, the way we might view a painting, and then I realized that it wasn’t separate from me, that it wasn’t abstract, but real and connected to my past as I wondered about what my grandparents and their family members - the Ferdinandos, Salvatrices, Calogeras, Vincenzos, Marias, Michaelangelos, Pietros, Genivives looked like riding in just such a cart. Every encounter, every event, every food, every piece of art – they all have meaning for who I am and how I now choose to live my life.


Kathy: June 2, 2004
Today is a “festa” day in Italy. It is the day set aside for celebrating the Republica. According to some people it is not significant since they mistrust Berlusconi who established that this day would be a holiday only 2 years ago. It is also the feast day of Padre Pio, a very important Sicilian man. We will participate in some of the events, particularly because I was encouraged to attend by these two elderly women who live on either end of our street. They always welcome me with big smiles and animated talking – all in Sicilian, most of which I don’t understand, but in their presence my understanding seems irrelevant. Their meaning goes beyond words – their holding on of my arm as we speak, or their enthusiastic words tell me enough. I nod and exclaim where I think I should, and pick up enough meaning from the words that sound Italian to get the overall gist of things (I think). This happened just the other night when I met up with them during a candlelight procession on May 31 in honor of Mary and the ending of her special month. During the month of May there have been women meeting in homes to sing and pray to Mary. I had been visiting my cousin Pina who just returned from a trip to Torino, when I went out to see about the procession. I stood on a side street with my video camera recording the magnificence of the scene as they processed through the otherwise silent and dimly lit streets of the town with their candles. Then they spotted me – my two fast talking Sicilian neighbors, and before you know it I was processing arm and arm between them as they talked endlessly and simultaneously to me between songs. This was when I first learned about the “festa” events of today. They shared and I heard something about mangare (eat) and Centro Sociale (the Social Center). I also heard solo undici Euros (which I think means that the meal costs only 11 Euros). I will check it out and see how much I really did understand. This confusion happens often here especially because even though our Italian continues to improve, our Sicilian is almost nil. Thanks to my niece, Gina, I now have some Sicilian-English dictionaries and I use them for occasional words, but for the most part – it is a whole different language with sounds and pronunciations that conjure up the Sicilian Arab past.

We have had some very funny experiences with language misunderstandings. Many of our guests have had the chance to witness these interactions complete with animated talking and assumptions that have resulted in major miscommunication. One time as our friends, Carol Sue and Wally looked on, a vendor in Sciacca, proceeded to tell Peter and me a very long story. We nodded and laughed at all the right parts and when we walked away and they asked us what he had said, Peter and I had completely different versions. We tried to piece together our understandings, but I thought he was talking about fish ice cream and Peter thought it was about fish and then we thought maybe it was about iced fish…. Well that is how it goes sometimes and we can’t help but laugh after the fact at how hard it is to communicate. One time when my family was here – Carly, Gina, Angela and Steve, and it was late at night in a hotel in Santo Stefano and a man who worked there was trying to communicate with Peter about our bags, our car, our room, our key, and Peter was trying to communicate back and it was getting more confusing and there was more gesturing, that I lost it. I burst out laughing and couldn’t stop for about an hour. I think it was the accumulation of many such experiences that I was venting.

One time when my cousin Sam and his wife Linda were visiting we had another such exchange in a restaurant. It was a late night after having driven through fog and rain on back roads coming back from Siracusa when we stopped to eat in Caltanisetta. It was a very hospitable restaurant and they just kept bringing more food to the table. At the end of the meal the 4 of us looked at the 2 plates of partially eaten cheeses and said that we hoped that it wouldn’t go to waste. They were great cheeses and we were just too full to eat another bite. So, we think, American style, to tell the waiter to package it up and we will take it home – more for the not wanting to see it wasted than needing cheese at home. Well, the waiter and the manager have a discussion about our request and the waiter disappears into the kitchen as we sit content in knowing that in a minute he will appear with a container for the cheese so that it won’t go to waste. A short time after, he reappeared with a neatly wrapped package of new cheese in hand as the half eaten plates remained on our table. We politely thanked them for the gift of the cheese package (they didn’t charge us) and paid our bill and left.

The day our friend, Phyllis arrived, we stopped at our favorite restaurant in Palermo on our way home. On the way to the restaurant, we picked up some pastries at a Pastacceria to bring back to our house after the restaurant. So we walked into the restaurant and placed the ribboned package of cannolli’s, fruit tarts and cream puffs on a chair at our table. After our dinner we thought that we were telling the waiter to bring us a box for our leftover pizza, but instead he brought a rolly cart where he carefully took our sweets package and with great ceremony opened it up and presented sweets to each of us from the package. He did this with glee as we sat embarrassed to have them think that we brought our own sweets to eat in their restaurant. We politely thank him and ate away.
We are pondering many things these days as we prepare ourselves for our departure in a few weeks. We now feel we have split souls as we look forward and back at the same time – lucky to feel at home in two communities.

This week we look forward to my niece, Laura and her husband E.J.’s visit with us. We hope to be spending more time here and less traveling, since we have seen most of the places that we had on our list. Last week with our friend Phyllis we went to a flower festival in Noto, stayed on the islands of Panarea and Stromboli, did a brief stop in Tyndaris to see the Black Madonna, went through Santo Stefano again, discovered the great food of the Agriturismo Restaurants, hiked in the Madonie Mountains and spent a day in Polizzi Generosa. Phyllis painted many beautiful watercolor pictures of all these areas. As we approach summer we are discovering BEACHES! There are plenty of them and they are beautiful.

We keep meeting new people in the village and last night I interviewed a woman with a 5th grade education who is a prolific author of fiction and non-fiction books about people in Montedoro. Today, I went to a compagna and met a man who makes wonderful wine, he also knew our family well and told great stories about them from the past. I will put some stories together for my next entry. Two good things have also happened recently, our good friend Giuseppe Divita is back from Spain and we have become good friends with a woman, Salva Montione, from Montedoro who now lives in France. She has been here for 3 weeks with her husband Ettienne. Our conversations are usually in 4 languages since her husband only speaks French, most people we meet speak just speak Sicilian and/or Italian, we speak English and some Italian and Salva speaks all four. I think she must go home exhausted. She has been helping me to understand some of the stories, beliefs, practices, nicknames and recipes from the past. I have so appreciated having her here and being a good friend. I met Salva through here Cousin Nicolo Faccia, who also is a font of knowledge about Montedoro. He now lives in Milan, and also came for a visit. He is a poet and has shared many poems with me through the internet since he returned to Milan. With his permission I will include some of them on our website in the future.

Hope all is well with everyone who reads this site and I thank you for taking the time to share this experience with us.