Where’s Our Train?

It was a whirlwind of a day.   We finished up our workshop at San Patrignano yesterday and trained it into Bologna.  Laura, our AirBnB host, has a lovely little flat in the heart of Bologna that made for easy access to the sites here in Bologna as well as proximity to the train station.  That proximity prompted us to spend the day in Florence.

We headed out to the train station and purchased our tickets.  “Track 6”, they said.  So we waited by track 6 but no train arrived at the scheduled time.  We then noticed that our train number was no longer on the Departures board. Uh oh!  Sure enough, there was another track 6 and we had missed our train.  Once we exchanged our tickets and got a seat on the next train (a super fast train) we settled in for the trip.  It is such a small world that two Americans, on their honeymoon sat across from us.  Turns out they were from Warren County, NJ!  We told them all about our adventure at San Pa and they were genuinely impressed with San Pa’s success.

Upon our arrival at Florence, Kate and I hit the pavement and walked all over Florence – the Duomo, the Accademia Gallery, the Ponte Vecchio and everything in between.  We even ran into Noni – one of the participants at the San Pa workshop – near the Duomo.  We enjoyed some delicious gelati and some lovely pannini along the way.  The sights and sounds transported us to another dimension as we soaked it all in.

This is the final post from Italy.  The take away posts and reflections will come later.  Tomorrow … home.

 

Advertisements

Exhaustion Sets In

We finished up at San Patrignano today and took the train from Rimini to Bologna.  Honestly, I am exhausted from the week.

It was a very moving “ciao” with our companions – Alessandro, Laura, Kyra and Rachele.  We gave them little tokens of our appreciation and thank you notes for all they did for us during the week.  It is nothing short of a miracle how one can get to know another during the course of a week.  All it took was a little openness, a little humility, presence and a whole lot of love and WHAM! … friendships are born.  We promised we’d write and stay in touch and they were genuinely looking forward to building the friendship.  More will come later (it is after 11 pm here in Bologna).

I leave you with a photo essay of our farewell dinner and an evening in Bologna.  Buona notte!

Botticella

Day Three – The San Patrignano Experience

Sunday morning the group of us went on a field trip to the San Patrignano outpost of Botticella. Botticella is approximately 40 km from the main campus and is situated up in the mountains. The trip up there began with a stop at a coffee bar where we could get a good cup of coffee or tea. We grabbed a cup to go (the Italians call it “take away”) and back in the mini van we went.

Let me tell you, it is not easy with a take away to keep the coffee in the cup on the roads in Italy! Between the winding roads, the narrowness of the roads, the motorcyclists who believe the lines are merely recommendations, no shoulders and the bicyclists, Kate and I were fortunate that the drink ended up in our stomach and not in our lap! IMG_1260

The scenery along the way was majestic. Matteo and Arianna provided lots of backstory on the region and Botticella/San Pa along the way. Arianna works with the Executive Director of the facility, Monica, in the administrative offices. It was she who reviewed our applications and motivational letters so she knew a little about us already. We chatted throughout the day and by the afternoon we were able to find commonality in our stories and our lives. The same with Matteo.

IMG_1264

Arianna, Marco and Matteo

I have to say that one of the most gratifying parts of this experience has been the humanity piece. Not only are we making new friends in the participants of workshop but we are discovering new layers of ourselves during this process. Through the process of simple conversation we become vulnerable with people like Arianna, Rachele, Alessandro, and Tom. We can identify with their struggles, their fears, their emotions not only because we have been there but also because this is part of what it means to be human; we are all brothers and sisters trying find our way and helping each other along the way.

IMG_1258

Upon our arrival we were greeted by the director, Marco. He explained the admission process in general and the role of Botticella in that process in particular. Basically, Botticella is a testing ground. When a person applies for admission they are interviewed at least once. If the administration is unsure of depth of the commitment of the applicant they will accept them on a preliminary basis and send them to Botticella. Marco explained that the applicant is “put to the test” – the lines on the bedspread must be perfectly straight or they must remake the bed, there must be nothing on the floor of the bedroom or they must re-clean it, the table settings must be perfectly spaced and aligned or they must re-do it, etc. They do this to make sure the applicant understands what is expected of them in San Pa over the next 3-4 years.

Botticella is also the starting point for a new program dealing with gambling addiction. The gambling problem in Italy is growing exponentially – particularly with online gambling and lottery scratch-offs. The gambling program is the same structure as the drug program at San Pa with a few exceptions; there is more psychotherapy involved in the program and the program is condensed over an 18 month period rather than 3+ years.

IMG_1263

Marco was most gracious host and quite entertaining while being very informative. He asked about the English word for “Bullwinkle” as he made antlers using his hands. He brought out a large set of deer antlers, held them up to his head and proclaimed “Big Bambi”. He thought his English was “terrifying”. “When I try to speak the English I sound like I have a mouth full of potatoes.”

WeFree Days

Monday we continued our tour of the grounds and learned more about the philosophy behind the San Pa program.  Yesterday was spent hanging out with the kids and the teens during WeFree celebration at San Pa.

IMG_1277

We toured the kennels on Monday.  One of San Pa’s social enterprises is training therapy dogs.  They also take in retired police dogs and strays. They have about 140 dogs on the premises and the crew spends their days socializing with the dogs, training them and making them feel loved and welcome.

Before San Pa was San Pa, it was a vineyard.  After its transition to a community, San Pa retained the vineyards as one of its social enterprises.  The wine produced by San Pa is renowned and has won several awards.  The process is quite extensive.  In August it is typically slow for several sectors in the community because most of Italy goes on Holiday or “vacanza” for the month.  IMG_1299Thus, most of San Pa’s outside customers are closed and that translates to down-time for many departments at San Pa.  For those residents who find themselves with slow work during that time they often help harvest the grapes in the vineyards.  Thus begins the elaborate process of crushing the grapes, removing impurities and fermenting in oak barrels in a climate-controlled cellar.  When ready, the wines are bottled, corked, labeled and shipped throughout the world.  IMG_1291

IMG_1292

We passed by the stables where the cows (used for producing milk for the cheese made at San Pa) and the pigs (used for meat and sausage sold to the public or used to feed the residents) but did not have the time for a tour.  Neither did we have the opportunity to view the equine sector where the horses are used for therapy, breeding and show. Perhaps on another day.

Tuesday was a big day at San Pa – WeFree Days 2017.  WeFree Days is a two-day event designed to be both educational and fun for teens across Italy.  Over 3,000 students attended the festivities!  There were dance performances, theater, music, art and crafting events for the students.  For the adults there was a public forum with speakers from a variety of disciplines to discuss ideas and issues surrounding drugs, educational systems and prevention.  The students had a wonderful time and really appreciated the interaction of the San Pa residents discussing their stories with drugs and the dangers of addiction.  It was quite moving! IMG_20171010_084147099_HDR

IMG_20171010_083716782

As I have mentioned earlier, one of the most rewarding parts of this workshop is the opportunity to be present with the residents.  I have spent countless hours having conversations with many residents – Dylan, Tom, Scott, Mark, Edo, Gustavo – to name a few.  We’ve shared some laughs, sure, but we’ve also shared our stories.  I’ve answered many questions about my journey in recovery, told my history and shared what I’ve learned during the process.  The value of human connection, empathy and fellowship cannot be underestimated.  We all struggle with the same challenges, we all share in the same joys.

IMG_20171010_084258591

Making art with Steph and Rachele

We are family, regardless of the language barriers, because love overcomes all obstacles.

IMG_1315

Enjoying WeFree Days

 

Day Two – San Patrignano Experience

Out first full day at San Pa began with breakfast. The breakfast is rather unusual. It consists of day-old bread that you can dip into marmalade, orzo ( a liquid consisting of barley extract and milk) and espresso. From there our companion/guide, Alessandro, gave a quick history of San Patrignano, which began about 50 years ago with one struggling addict being welcomed into the home of Vincenzo Muccioli and culminating in a community covering over 300 acres, several locations and housing 1,400 people today. Over the years there were lots of mistakes, trials and errors and revisions to the program but core beliefs of the program remain the same. The senior residents supervise and shadow the newer members – showing them the ropes, teaching them about the community and guiding them in what is expected of them in the community. Sometimes that guidance is gentle and sometimes it is tough – the community, as in life, requires the members to live up to their responsibilities.

IMG_1186

Our guides – Alessandro, Laura, Kyra and Rachele

We toured some of the vocational training departments – sectors with our guides (in the photo is Alessandro, Laura, Kyra and Rachele). Every resident is assigned to one sector when they arrive and there they will remain throughout their stay (with a few exceptions). The program has always prided itself on the belief that putting in a good day’s work is essential to developing self-respect, self-confidence and feeling part of a community. Developing life and job skills is a critical component of the long-term sobriety success of successful graduates of its program.

IMG_1189

The first sector we visited was Graphics. There the residents maintain the website, post on various platforms for social media, prepare and modify various media for the internet. In addition, they also design and print various brochures, posters, business communications, etc. for San Pa and outside clients.

The next sector was the fabric sector. In this sector the residents manufacture various styles of fabrics from natural and recycled material. The material is used to create clothing, blankets, scarves and bags. The items are then sold by San Pa to raise funds for operations or are delivered to outside designers as prototypes for future orders. The quality of the finished products was incredible! IMG_1190

The decorations sector was next on the list. There they make special order, hand stenciled wallpaper; they produce work for a number of world-renowned architects who ask for custom made wallpaper for their clientele. The process as explained to us was painstaking but produced some magnificent works of art in the guise of wallpaper. Some of the wallpaper was designed and printed to look like ornate wood paneling; this was achieved using a long process that begins with different earthen materials and sponging techniques to simulate the wood grain. Within the same sector Kyra talked to us about how they use leather, eco-leather and other materials to design and manufacture bags, purses and stuffed toys. The craftsmanship was second to none. IMG_1194

We made a quick stop in the woodworking department. There they specialize in re-purposing old wine casks and using them for a variety of products ranging from furniture to cutting boards. They also make and repair all wood items used in the community.

Lastly we toured the lavanderia – the laundry. Laura took great pride in explaining the system in doing laundry and dry cleaning not only for every table cloth and uniform but also for all the residents. From collection to washing to drying to folding and returning clean items to 1400 residents and various sectors is an enormous task, as you can imagine. IMG_1200

After lunch we were given the afternoon off and we all headed off to the nearby principality of San Marino. The views from this tiny, mountain-top kingdom were breath-taking as was the ancient stone walls of the castle. After sightseeing we paused for some refreshments and managed to call our loved ones back home.

We have been interacting with a host of the residents here – Scott, Rachele, Ivan, Azzura, Tom, Christian – just to name a few. All of our interactions have been very positive. Everyone has been very pleasant and accommodating. Their stories are similar to the ones we hear at home – drugs ravaged their lives, ruined relationships and led them to the brink of destruction; they have learned to deal with life without avoiding the difficult spots, appreciate what San Pa has done for them and are a little nervous about facing the big world when it is time for them to leave. IMG_1226IMG_1208

Day One – San Patrignano Experience

As much as you expect a transatlantic trip to be a grueling experience, you are nevertheless surprised at how much sitting in a cramped plane for hours can take out of you. We arrived in Bologna exhausted and feeling pretty grimy but anxious to get to the final destination in Rimini. The last leg of the trip would require a bus trip (about 2 hours) from the airport to downtown Rimini.

IMG_1175

A quick aside about that bus trip. The bus driver spoke almost no English but a few passengers seemed to have some English. He must have been driving buses for some time because he had no problem maneuvering that big bus in traffic and through narrow streets. I must admit that sometimes he came within inches of cars, abutments or people but there were no incidents or fatalities along the way. He was quite comical on the highway too; he was periodically cursing out some slow moving vehicle and leaning on the horn quite often. His choice in music, however, was the crowning moment. We were expecting some Italian music but instead were treated to Johnny Paycheck, Elvis, Ringo Starr and Charlie Pride. Kate and I had a good chuckle about that.

IMG_1185

We arrived in Rimini and were enthusiastically greeted by Matteo, our driver, who took us to the San Patrignano compound. We met other participants for the workshop – Stephanie (a Californian who now calls UK her home), Tatiana (a Canadian who hails from Croatia and speaks a little Italian), Sonia (a Californian in the process of building and establishing a San Pa model community in Napa/Sonoma) and Don (a Canadian who is in the process of starting up a community based solution to addiction). We expect there will be more participants but we have not met them yet. We met our respective “guides” for our stay (Alessandro, Kyra, Rachele and Laura) here at San Pa and we got settled into our respective “cassettas” or cabins for the length of our stay. We will get together later for dinner with the staff and administration and get to know each other better.

IMG_1188

A hot shower and a hot meal and good conversation never felt so good.

Recollections of My Mom – Part 2

“We were living in a 3 room apartment when Phil was born so his crib was in the bedroom with us.  In the morning he’d awaken early and lay there and watch us and if we stirred in our sleep, he would react by standing up in his crib and letting us know he knew it was time for the day to begin.  Sometimes I’d awaken and through a slit in my eyes glance over to the crib and see him eyeballing us and so I’d pretend to be asleep a while longer.  Seems I always needed my sleep and enough sleep was not enough sleep!”

Mom is styling

Mom styling it on Adams Place

“We moved upstairs to a 4 room apartment and from there we could see trees and the roofs of houses and we would sit by the window and watch the birds and at times, the squirrels.  At times we’d sit there and watch the rain and recite the poem, ‘It’s raining, it’s pouring, the old man is snoring …’ You would recite pronounce it something like, “A rainen, a pouring, the old man a’yoring. He went to bed and bumped his head and couldn’t get up in the morgan.”

Long after Mom has passed she continues to be a blessing in my life.  These stories, these glimpses into viewing the world through her eyes, are such an amazing gift to me and my siblings.  Unbeknownst to her recording these stories and thoughts opens a window into her world from 50+ years ago – her dreams, her struggles, her hopes.  Thanks Mom.

 

Recollections of My Mom – Part 1

“Philip was up every 3 hours day and night wanting to be fed.  This being my first child, I was influenced to some degree by the stories I’d heard and knew he had to burp well after feeding or else he could vomit as he slept and that could be disastrous.  Phil would feed a little and then fall asleep and I’d have to awaken him to be sure he burped and then feed him some more, because he had taken so little.  Well, it ended that each feeding took and hour and a half and we finally finished that round of feed, sleep, burp; feed, sleep, burp; feed sleep burp; and we’d both get to sleep, only to turn over for the 1 1/2 hours and be awakened for the next session.  Needless to say, I am not sure who was more tired, he or I.   Some early pictures would reveal that he was doing quite well, but his father and I were walking around like zombies from lack of sleep!  Pat would take the 2 o’clock feeding so that I would have a longer stretch of sleep but it soon took its toll on both of us, although from the weight noted above [5 lbs. 10 ozs. at birth and 8 lbs 15.5 ozs at 3 weeks old], Phil did quite well.”

Mom at Uncle Jack's House

Mom as a young teen at Uncle Jack’s house

Mom’s Musings – 12/30/63 and 12/31/63

“Saw Steven in the afternoon – He drank 4 ozs. of formula – looks like Philip only he has a rounder face and fatter cheeks.  Spoke to Philip on the phone; he kept repeating ‘paint a wall’ and ‘wagon’.”

 

“Did not see Steven until 5:30 this evening.  Very blue and lonely all day.  Steven drank 2 ozs.; keeps rolling eyes to top of head. Spoke to Philip at Grandpa ‘B’ house. Told me daddy went to the store.”

 

One thing I have to note is how blessed I am that my mother took the time to write down  her thoughts and how intriguing it is to catch a glimpse into her thoughts, emotions, and her world.

Mom’s Musings – 12/29/63

“Dec. 29 – This day was somewhat of a nightmare but thank God I came through the afternoon crisis.  Pat, Mom and Dad, Margaret and Pat’s mom came to see me in evening.  Too bad Ann will be going home tomorrow. Could use moral support.”

Brothers

 

While rummaging through some boxes I ran across some journals/notes written by my mom.  I’ll be posting some of them periodically and perhaps jotting down some of my thoughts.  This first post describes the day by brother, Steven, was born.