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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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Making art with Steph and Rachele

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

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Enjoying WeFree Days