Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A great day out

Last week I told you we were going down to Abruzzo to see one of the writers that is involved with La D’s virtual writers’ group,

The criteria to be a member is that you have to be living in a country other than your birth country and that you write in English. It is very successful with quite a number on the waiting list.

The person we went too see, Paola,  is in fact Italian, but writes in English and lives, at the moment, in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She has never lived in Italy. She was born in East Africa. Quite a person.

She and a few others get together for a week near a small town called Abbateggio in the north of the Majella National Park which is in the region of Abruzzo. The group take over a whole B&B place, They teach each other things. For instance, one of them gives Yoga lessons, another does creative writing, etc.. La D’s contact teaches Italian. This is all mixed in with some personal repose, trip to the beach, maybe a visit to a vineyard, local restaurants. It sounds as though it could be a very relaxing and interesting time.

We made good time, despite driving through a torrential downpour for a few minutes and arrived in time for a coffee. Fantastic place. The views are quite spectacular. We were introduced to those that where there, and then a delicious bowl or two of soup that a couple of them had made. It also turned out that Paola’s husband came from Belfast and as I did all my schooling there, I was quizzed about which school I went to Methody (Methodist College Belfast to give it its full title). Her husband went to Methody’s traditional rival school Inst (Royal Belfast Academical Institution). Then we got onto the schools’ cup (rugby) but it turned out that he was two years younger than me so it was unlikely that we tried to knock seven bells out of each other on the pitch, sorry, played rugby against each other. Anyway, Methody leads the cup stats with 32 wins to Inst's 29. Oh yes.

 Afterwards we went into Abbateggio itself. We parked up and then went walking into the centro storico (the historical centre). Paola’s parents moved there from Rome in 1947. Her dad was the appointed GP for the town. The commune helped with his transportation issues by lending him a mule!! If he were late at a baby delivery, he often kipped down in the same bed as the mum and new babe to get some essential ZZZs. We went past the house where they had lived and where Paola’s brother and sister were born. The house looked as though it was once quite grand, but now would require a total restoration. The population has reduced from 2500 pop to 450 pop over the last few decades. Desperate.

As were were walking down a street, Paola suddenly opened a door to a building and called out to someone. A few minutes later we were sitting in a tiny front room/kitchen listening to a lady talking about her family. When we asked her age, she replied that she was 98 and 5 months!

After we said our goodbyes and went for a bit more a walkabout, Paola did the same thing to another house and again we were ushered in and offered refreshments. This lady was one of the children that Paola’s father had brought into the world. It was really most interesting. We were treated to the tae of how she and her husband met and all sorts of family history.

We asked Paola how she had come to know people and things about Abbateggio when she only visited the place once a year, and then not until recently. She wasn’t even born there.

The town has very interesting mayor (sindaco). He wanted to try and make contact with all living diaspora of the town, and their offspring, because he was trying to reach out to people who knew the town and wanted more interest to be shown in what it, and he, were doing to promote it. He made the effort to trace as many people as he could and wrote to them asking them to make contact. He also gave them a vote they could use the for the town elections.  He even found out that were 200 ex-Abbateggions in Belgium. He also wrote to them and invited them to a re-union with some current townsfolk in Brussels. He then flew up to Belgium with some of the towns people to meet up with the ex-pats. Just over 100 came to the meeting. I personally think that is a huge success.

Anyway, this was all a few years ago and Paola was so amazed at the effort being made that she came to Abbateggio and started making contacts with people who had known her parents and her siblings. She then started her annual bash. Her parents come often now and stay at the same B&B.
And yes, she did vote at the town elections.

Great day. Thank you Paola.

Ciao, mantenere la fede

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