Potpourri & the Fifteenth Week in Sicily

Whenever I make a promise I like to keep it, and since last week I said I was going to present you the last two concerts at Sant Antonio Basilica, here I go now. I would like to persuade you that classical, sacred and symphonic music are attributes that fully characterize the Italian people, so I will add the whole religious, cultural and popular context that enabled me to enjoy so many street concerts and demonstrations organized on the occasion of The White Night (Notte Bianca) and in honor of Pope John Paul II `s first visit in Messina, 25 years ago.

Summer time brings along an atmosphere of joy and party, outdoors activities and ample traditional, cultural demonstrations involving all kinds of artists. I`ll start by telling you a few words about the fourth concert at Sant Antonio Basilica, memorable due to a special person seated in the first row of the church.

As I have already told you before, these concerts are dedicated to the new Pope Francesco. This week`s concert had as a special guest in the person of Stanislaw Dziwisz, cardinal of Krakow and Pope John Paul II`s personal secretary. Ersu Choir and the Sicilian Lyric Choir gave an exemplary interpretation (despite being overcome with emotions due to the cardinal`s presence) of Mozart`s Requiem Kv 626 in order to celebrate 25 years since the Pope`s visit to Messina. The concert for soloists, choir and piano for two filled the church fast. I am not surprised anymore about the quality of the concerts because I got used to the conductor`s style, Francesco Costa, who is extremely young but talented at the same time, and well known and appreciated in the Sicilian musical world. He is also responsible for the last interpretation, as impressive as the first, which ended the second edition of the Festival for Orchestra and Choir and was dedicated to Verdi, in celebration of 200 years since the great Italian composer was born. Which leads me up to a subject I have already mentioned, The White Night (Notte Bianca), a big festival that took place on the 15th of June. From 8 a.m. till 3 in the morning the town center was full of people, hustle and bustle, street artists, flower art, stalls with handmade goods, sweets, wine and cheesetasting and outdoor concerts in the little squares around Sant Antonio Basilica.

The week`s most remarkable events also took place in the basilica, of course, that is five concerts in a row that kept me almost still in the church for five hours! That`s what I call a musical present at the end of the week! You already know one of the five concerts, the one with music by Verdi, and then three more concerts, piano for two and violin, music by Brahms, Rossini, Bellini, Moskovsky and Gershwin, with sopranos and tenors that filled the basilica with their voices. I was very much impressed by an Immigrants` Choir that sang at the opening of the musical evening – I hadn`t listened live to this kind of music before: African rhythms, specific instruments, colorful costumes, and an extremely warm and joyful repertoire which got the whole audience singing. I`m sure you are familiar with The Lion Sleeps Tonight, a melody that was taken over by famous groups…

Between two concerts I crept outside, in the crowd, to get to see a little bit of the other demonstrations. There were artists walking on high stilts, mime artists and comedians who enlivened groups of onlookers, rousing applauses from parents and smiles from children. On the stages located in the neighboring squares there were dance and music shows for children and the young, also choir, gospel and jazz concerts with international stars, all unfolding at once. Suspense, people -their mouths agape in excitement – watching trapeze artists, acrobats, fire-eaters, juggleries, magic. As for the rest, there were musical impromptus, painting exhibitions, puppet shows, vintage car parades, guided tours in the church museums, open shops and boutiques, with cotton candy, dry fruits, sweets, ice cream and the customary… popcorn.

I stopped at the tasting stalls and was offered a slice of bread with ricotta which I accompanied with some red wine and a Sicilian muffin, to enjoy a complete menu. I couldn`t miss any of the other stalls, I tried different types of cheese, made of goat milk, with pepper, mozzarella, olives, bread. I skipped the meat part, since I`m not a fan of, but there was a wide variety of prosciutto, ham, salami and the sort, but in Sicilian way here.

So, I enjoyed a delicious dinner and a special atmosphere on Saturday night and, although there was one more concert at midnight, tiredness had a say in this (not to mention old age …) and I retired for a good sleep, leaving the noise behind but unable to ignore it completely since it was all happening right under my window.

On Sunday, after other street processions dedicated to Saint Antonio from Padova (with music pouring from the megaphones along the main boulevards) Maria, Laura and I feasted our eyes with the fireworks that officially put an end to a week full of laic and religious demonstrations.

This seems to be only the beginning, because the Sicilian summer abounds in activities, one more interesting than the other – speaking for myself, as a person who is interested in getting to see and know as much as possible about the surrounding world.

Goodbye until next week, my dearest, we will see where my next trip is going to take me, but remember… you are always with me.

Translated by prof. Irina Bicescu – Potpourri member

Potpourri & The Fourteenth Week in Sicily

What a pleasure to walk the streets and around the harbor at night, when the perfume of lime trees, glycine, jasmine and orange flowers is even more powerful than during the day… This was a week with important holidays in Messina, with a lot of people running for CESV or for the Town Hall elections. I didn`t take any trips at the weekend, but I attended a christening ceremony for the first time in Italy, in my friends Rosario and Iris` family where I lived extraordinary moments of emotional warmth and didn`t miss the chance to make new friends.

Words simply fail me when I want to describe what I feel when I walk the streets in the evening, the multitude of delightful smells and wonderful colors that keep me company to and from the harbor and in the Dom`s Square where two important processions were held this week: Vascelluzzo and Madonna della Lettera.

One of the main catholic religious demonstrations is Corpus Domini, which is celebrated in Italy in the second week after the Whitsuntide and evokes The Last Supper`s mass from Holy Thursday.

On this occasion Vascelluzzo procession starts from the Dom`s Square in Messina. Vascelluzzo is a three-mast ship, about three meters long, with wooden interior coated in a light handmade silver covering. The procession is connected with the tradition of this ship which reached hunger-stricken Messina during Charles the 1st of Anjou`s siege (May-September 1282). The inhabitants asked for Madonna della Lettera`s (i.e. Virgin Mary`s) help, worshipped as the town`s spiritual patron saint. The ship filled with food is thought of as a miracle put on Lady Mary. The tradition says that the ship managed to reach the town untouched by the royal naval blockade thus saving the people of Messina.

The second procession, dedicated to Madonna della Lettera, who blessed the town and its dwellers, is celebrated on the 3rd of June, in Messina only. The procession starts from the Dom Cathedral with Mary`s silver statue being carried around town. There are a lot of associations and brotherhoods that participate in both processions. The members wear representative outfits with specific signs on and accompany the two statuettes, singing along with the priests and the other people taking part, and finally returning to the Cathedral.

As I`m not into politics, I won`t say much about the elections, I just want to point out that the streets teemed with demonstrations, speeches and such events, which I have not studied closely but I simply could not avoid noticing. And since CESV is soon having their own elections, we busied ourselves with the candidacies of the aspirants to the posts of president, vice president and committee director, and we also filled in and forwarded the forms called 5×1000, cinque per mille (5%, which is the Romanian equivalent of the 2% form) that the associations deposit for the benefit of CESV.

This week I replaced the trips I used to go on with family events, but I have no regrets because I participated in another christening ceremony, that of a beautiful 2-year old boy this time, Antonio, with Italian and Cuban “roots”. His father, Rosario, is Italian and his mother, Iris, is Cuban and they also have two daughters: Yaris, 11 years, who has a wonderful voice and is a member of both her school and the national choir, and Elida, a talkative little girl, with four front teeth missing, who took to me from the very first moment. I met Rosario by chance, about two months ago, in the confectionery where he works, and there I was, taking part in such an important event with their whole family. At 11 a.m. I attended the christening ceremony in the church, and then I spent all day with friends having lunch, and then dinner and the cake up until around midnight. The atmosphere was extremely warm and friendly, I found acceptance with them very easily and I felt like home… The delicious food was cooked by the three mothers and one of Rosario`s fellow workers. I ate cozze, a kind of fried oysters, which was a first for me, anelli di calamari, and other traditional Sicilian and Cuban dainties, caponata (eggplants with sweet-sour tomato sauce and a little sugar), cheese muffins with sunflower seeds, mini hamburgers, prosciutto and cheese balls, fish and oregano pasta and strawberry cake with Bavarese cream. But I`d better stop here, for your sake ….

As a conclusion, I had a lot to do this week too, I enjoyed every minute of it, every new experience, trip, family reunion, friends and beautiful surprises. Next time I am going to talk to you about the last two concerts at Sant Antonio Basilica and whatever I may find, to keep you posted and…. out of breath, I hope.

See you next week, my dearest!

Translated by prof. Irina Bicescu – Potpourri member

Potpourri & The Thirteenth Week in Sicily

The 13th week was packed with administrative and editorial activities at CESV, cultural and intercultural activities around Sicily`s gorgeous towns and of course, family reunions and dinner in Molochio, where the team grew bigger with little Giulia. And, to keep the promise I made you last week, I attached the You Tube links for the wonderful concert at Sant Antonio Basilica, together with other cultural activities I participated in, and a short recording of the Sunday religious service in Maria dello Spirito Santo, the church where I go every day. I hope you will enjoy all of these, an attempt of mine to share with you everything I experience here.

So, as one can see, I keep on writing articles every week and I am working on an editorial project on a larger scale, but I have decided not to tell you more about it at this stage. I do hope it will be something big, useful and new, with intercultural marks and a lot of soul in each and every page, and…. that`s it, I won`t let you in on it anymore. As to the administrative part, well, the third important meeting is going to take place at the end of June and there are preceding activities galore. Endless letters, e-mails, phone calls… and we are not even close to the 29th.

I take the most of my free time visiting as many places recommended by my friends as I can. You already know the meaning of 5 o`clock, and I don`t mean the 5 o`clock tea, I`m talking about my cell phone ringing at the break of dawn to get me going to Cefalu this time. I travelled by train and I didn`t regret it, since I had the chance to admire the most beautiful landscapes on the sea shore. And this because the train, by comparison to the bus that takes the highway (far from the sea shore), crosses all small villages you get thus the chance to see and obviously, lining the shore, where you can admire the rocks and the Aeolian Islands that can be easily distinguished in the distance. After two hours of travelling and taking lots of pictures through the train window, I got off at one of the most attractive areas in Sicily and one of the best touristic towns on the island, with Greek, Roman, Arabian and Norman origins visible in the numerous vestiges and buildings. The old, historical part of the town looks like a compact mass of houses on a gentle slope climbing to the immense cathedral (The Dome) that towers the landscape. In the background lies Rocca (270 m), a steep slant that I climbed to reach the mediaeval Castle and the ruins of some megalithic structures and the Byzantine wall on top of the rocks; the panorama it offers is almost incredible – not only can you see the town and the quay, but also the whole coast on both sides of the mountain. I roamed the town far and wide, then I climbed down to the harbor and the beach, where I enjoyed a spinach and ricotta pie and a pizza Marguerita – the traditional pizza with cheese and tomatoes, absolutely delicious, both of them (do not take it the wrong way, I didn`t mean to whet your appetite…). In the evening, I got on the train, exhausted and with a mind to get some rest, but to no avail. The sea shore and the Aeolian Islands were lit by a splendid sunset, with incredible colors, and this woke me up completely. I managed to steal some pictures, an eloquent reminder of this divine travel that still lingers in my mind now, when I am writing these lines.

If you think that was it for this week, you couldn`t be more mistaken. The next day I left for Molochio, in Calabria, where Maria, Laura and newly-born Giulia were waiting for me. I had lunch with Rosalba (the eldest sister and Giulia`s mom) and her family, with Marie Jean, the sisters’ mother, who had come from Corsica especially for the event. According to the Italian custom, we visited all the relatives and partied for two more days, with 10-12 people sitting at a table relishing the tastiest dishes, not to mention the famous Italian ice cream – or the kilos piling up…

And since all good things must come to an end, we returned home only to find yet another holiday waiting for me –but this can wait until next week.

Now let me share with you the links I promised, but, mind you, the material (except for the first, the Sunday concert, Misa Criolla, at Sant Antonio Basilica) is recorded with my cell phone, so the quality might not be what you expect… I advise you to listen even if is not comparable with the live version, all the more you have pictures from the concert.

Next is a part of the Sunday service at Maria dello Spirito Santo, then Ritmo live Group in an open air concert in People’ Square, Messina, and the last, a guitar concert I grasp in a pub while walking one evening in Dom Square, Messina.





Translated by prof. Irina Bicescu – Potpourri member

Potpourri & The Twelfth Week in Sicily

Do you know that there is Heaven on Earth too? If you do, then you are blessed, if you don`t, I`m telling you there is. This week I experienced Heaven in two ways here: first, culturally, with Spanish guitar sounds, live rhythm, sopranos and tenors and then, naturally, among the panoramas that join the land and the sea, on exotic little islands, amid rocks and colorful boats.

Do you remember the concerts I told you about last weeks, those held in Sant Antonio Basilica? This weekend they played the third concert out of the five of this season and this one has been the most spectacular so far. I literally felt chills down on my spine … The show was made of several exceptional interpretations, combining classical music, Spanish guitar, live rhythms, choir and percussion. Ersu Choir and Orchestra in collaboration with the Sicilian Lyric Choir and Ritmo live Multiethnic Orchestra, all conducted by Francesco Costa, filled the church with people, with Argentinian, Brazilian, classical and exotic rhythms of sacred music, force and energy.

The special guests were soprano Giovanna Collica and guitarist Agatino Scuderi and a young tenor, Dave Monaco, who interpreted Misa Criolla, an exquisite synthesis of folk, popular and sacred music (the formula which combines Hispano-American musical themes and tradition with those of the religious mass is simply unique!), composed by the Argentinian Ariel Ramirez for soloists, choir and orchestra – an expression of a purely folk musical form characterized by the presence of typical  Latino-American instruments and rhythms.

I`m telling you in earnest that I had never before listened to such mixture, it is absolutely   fantastic and the interpretation was exemplary, but everybody knows that the Italian are widely known as great musicians, to say the least…. And surprise! For those who haven`t heard yet, guitarist Agatino Scuderi also played in Romania with various orchestras from Craiova, Bacau, Ploiesti, Targu  Mures.

And obviously, since I am a little nosy I managed to talk to them eventually and I hope I will soon have the recording of the concert to post it on “You tube” for you to have the opportunity to enjoy the same experience as I did – even if the acoustics is rather different live….

I had a second divine revelation when I visited Giardini –Naxos and Bella Island, two touristic resorts near Messina. I guess you remember my old saying “and I woke up at 5 a.m., again”, which has been my habit of late each and every Saturday. Well, at dawn I left for (Giardini-) Naxos, the oldest Greek colony, made of sedimentary lava, where today can be seen the remains of the antique settlement. It was too early for a visit in the archaeological park so I walked on the quay and reached Taormina Cape, a high terrace from where one can admire the whole resort, and then climbed down on the other side of the mountain toward Bella Island, a beautiful oasis turned into a natural reserve and which is also known as the Mediterranean Pearl. I traveled the whole distance between the resorts on foot, but it was worth every minute of it. I crossed the cold water to see the Island, with two panorama spots arranged for tourists to admire the boat bay and the Taormina Cape, and I walked alongside dozens of other tourists, through the stone galleries and luxuriant vegetation which clad the little oasis.

So, I`m now going to let you enjoy these beautiful pictures, which I chose among the hundreds I took and which I would like to show them to you one day, hoping that next week I will be able to show you more dream-like places from wonderful Sicily.

Translated by prof. Irina Bicescu – Potpourri member

Potpourri & The Eleventh Week in Sicily

This was a week full of joy and… fishermen`s stuff… Joyful because I spent it together with “the red noses” from Messina VIP Association, a group of clowns who do volunteer work in hospitals and who are supervised by my colleague and friend from CESV, Mari Angela. And with fishermen`s stuff because I visited Scylla, a fishermen`s town in Calabria where I enjoyed a lot of moments of relaxation on the sea shore.

Messina VIP Association (Viviamo in Positivo – Let`s live in a positive way) is another CESV volunteer association whose president is Mari Angela Filocamo, my friend and colleague at CESV. It was set up in 2004 and is part of VIP Italy, a federation that brings together and coordinates 53 VIP volunteer associations from Italy and San Marino Republic.

VIP Messina is made up of volunteers of all ages, missionaries of happiness clad in funny clown costumes, who want to bring a smile on the faces of those hospitalized at the pediatric, hematology and plastic surgery wards in Messina Papardo Hospital and other hospitals, centers, old people`s homes and even in other countries where people with different social, physical or psychological problems are taken care of. “The Red Noses” – as the members of the association are called – enter the hospital every Sunday to bring joy into the hurt souls of both children and adults; they use a method called “clown therapy”, a therapy of love that uses tricks, magic games, improvisation. The Red Noses also organize meetings with students in order to raise awareness regarding the importance and benefits of volunteering and social involvement.

This Sunday, on the 19th of May, VIP organizations celebrated Red Noses National Day, the ninth edition. The volunteer clowns met their supporters in the main squares all over Italy and promoted positive thinking, clown therapy and volunteer work. We put up our tents and “ammunition” in the central square in Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto.

I would like to tell you from the very beginning that it was a very long but beautiful day: I woke up at 5 a.m. to get there in time and be able to have everything ready before the start of the activity, and I got home only at 11 p.m. It was a day full of play, laughter and good mood, but at the same time, for the clowns and for me (I took lots of pictures in an attempt to catch the most representative images and moments) that meant work, dedication, responsibility and implication. Twenty volunteer clowns from Messina VIP prepared the event in the smallest detail, helped by their families and friends – who understand and respect their mission and, most important, have been supporting them for more than ten years. They make their own costumes and the props they need for the activities themselves, also the publicity materials and the prizes they offer to the children. Everything is handmade since most of the clowns are talented (they help with decorating, tailoring, etc.) and Dali, the painter, adjusts where needed. More than that, everything is offered with great love, thing that can be seen in minute detail.

Being a volunteer clown is no easy matter – as some might think. There are strict rules here and training sessions are needed in order to be ready to wear the clown`s costume. I understood this on Sunday, during the activity, watching the clowns at work and seeing how the public appreciated them and how successful they were. Many of the people who came during the morning joined us in the afternoon and in the evening too but what impressed me the most was that there were present many former patients whom the clowns had brought so much joy in their suffering days and who now came to look for their saviors and salute their work once again.

We let the show begin at 10 a.m., after two hours of preparations, and the square filled at once with children, parents and grandparents who were glad to put on a red nose and play alongside us and the children. I am mentioning this to emphasize the different mentality of the Italian people, but I am not doing it a critical or malicious manner; I just know that, back in Romania, adults would not be so receptive in this case. On the other hand, this was precisely what made that Sunday unforgettable: the young and the old playing together and having fun. In order to enter the clowns` magic world, you were given a clown card and a red nose which enabled you to join in five games: “darts” with balls, caresses chair, wishing well, face painting, circles throwing, the cube games and more than that, you could sing, dance, have fun at the puppets theatre and choose a souvenir made by the clowns. There was not a moment`s break until 9.30 a.m., when the red noses day officially ended with the launching of VIP paper lamps – which rose into the air despite the wind, to everyone`s delight.

The conclusion of this day lies in the kids `exuberance and their parents `enthusiasm as well as in the clowns `work: a roaring success! Flawless, professional organization, without any incident, no technical glitches, no tiredness, just sheer joy, coming from the heart.

A big round of applause for VIP Messina and sweet kisses for all the volunteer clowns I was honored (to say the least…) to meet and support. And if you too want to know them better, here is where you can find them:




As to the fishermen side of the week, this is called Scylla, a touristic resort locality in Calabria, on the other side of Messina Straits, the traditional site of the sea monster Scylla in Greek mythology. They say it is one of the most beautiful towns characteristic of Italy, stretching along the “Violet Coast” (this being the color of the sea at certain times during the day). It is a dream place, situated on a headland that separates the locality in two (actually three) parts: on one side, there is the resort with the beach, umbrellas and restaurants, on the other side, not visible from the beach, is the fishermen`s village and the harbor, where the houses are older, with narrow streets, water smell and a lot of little colorful boats “parked” between the houses. The third part actually stretches on the slope on the entire cape that sticks out into the sea, with Ruffo Castle, the central element on the edge of the rock, dominating the whole panorama. Having wandered for about four hours and taken 250 photos, I finally made my abode on the beach to enjoy a lemon granita and wind down in a chaise longue, admiring the special color of the sea and the light house on the other side of Messina Straits.

I have known what travel tastes like for a long time, but Sicily fascinates me a great deal because there are treasures in every corner of the island, thing that is normal for the people living there but for a foreigner like me, they are natural wonders which man seasoned with an architecture that never ceases to amaze you and which makes you want to see more and more…

 Translated by prof. Irina Bicescu – Potpourri member

Potpourri & The Tenth Week in Sicily

My holidays are gone and now I am back to business! This week we cleaned up the beach in Messina and I traveled to Terrasini – Palermo Province, for Active Citizenship and Volunteering project. By the end of the week I went for the urban trekking (archeological visit) in Messina, to find the hidden treasures, full of history.

Right before the final stage of the project, promoted by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, together with the regional associations of volunteering (and CESV as well), taking place in Terrasini, a small town on the sea about 30 km away from Palermo, I participated in another activity aiming to clean an area on Messina beach. The protagonists were the students from the Nautical High School, who accompanied us in Terrasini as well. The activity aimed to raise young people awareness on the necessity of active implication in social issues and the importance of volunteering. For a few hours, the students, together with  their teachers and official representatives, cleaned up the beach and learnt what responsibility and respect for the environment means, as well as team work and mature behavior to everything surrounding us.

In Terrasini, there was organized a Regional Campus called Spaccadinanza, I Republicca dei Raggazi  where the team was made up of 150 participants, with students and volunteers from the other regions involved in the project (Patti, Corleone, Marsala, Palermo and Catania). For two days, everyone was caught in the activities aimed to a specific thematic area: environmental and legal issues, land, rights and legal issues, culture and inter generational relations, sustainability and life styles, in order to enliven the spirit of community in young people and to develop a non-individualistic life style to feel part of the community. These young people challenged their imagination creating various materials and cards, and a youth city, a city of the future, where people are involved, are responsible and actively participate in the community life. Their ideas were great! In the end, they destroyed everything they worked for the entire afternoon and reconstructed all from the start (to reinforce the idea of active citizenship). Also, each school prepared a short movie on the active citizenship and participation, with social messages on responsibility, road safety and alcohol consumption, all of them being very well made! The week-end was entertained by a rapper called Othelloman, who made everyone dance, joke, and be responsible and mature at the same time. In between, I managed to admire and enjoy the view to the mountain collapsing in the sea, with the fine sand on the beach, the crystal clear water and the most beautiful sunrise and sunset seen from the highest terrace of the hotel.

On Sunday, I went back to Messina for urban trekking. The activity called Vie di Pietra (Stone Road) was created as a passeggiata archeologica (archeological stroll) and it was organized by Legambiente Messina Association, Pres. Danielle Ialacqua, in partnership with experts in Messina. I had four guides, prof. Gabriella Tigano, prof. Elvira D’Amico, prof. Maria Ravesi, and prof. Pippo Martino, who presented us places of special interest, which aren’t yet „visible” to the tourists nor to the residents of city. It’s been the perfect time to see what tourists don’t know to look for and to take advantage of information received from experts. For about four hours, I wandered around the city with other 50 people and I have seen artifacts and archeological sites, dating from prehistory, Greek, Roman and Medieval era, some of them being hard to reach as they were located on private properties or could not be seen but only by invited groups. Their initiative was commendable and it isn’t the only one because they organize such visits outside Messina as well, where there are places of historical interest, which they want to make more known, and to rebuild them with European funds or help from the authorities, to introduce them in the touristic maps and to make them more valued. It’s been a really nice activity and I actually showed my willingness to participate in other guided visits in order to better understand the history of these places which adopted me for a few months.

Translated by Oana Zlatovici – Potpourri member studying in Sweden

Potpourri & The Ninth Week in Sicily

As I was telling you, last week I had a lovely Easter holiday visiting a few wonderful places around Messina and Calabria, including Reggio Calabria- the chief residence in the province, so to name it.

It was actually a pretty busy week: I traveled to Catania – the city of the great composer Vincenzo Bellini; then to Milazzo, a really beautiful town surrounded by walls, closed to Messina; then I went to Taormina, the pearl of Sicily and to Reggio Calabria.

Catania is located on the east coast of Sicily, very close to the Mount Etna, the tallest active volcano in Europe. Catania is the second largest city in Sicily, a metropolitan area well known for its baroque architecture and great urban design (the Baroque city centre of Catania is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as part of the late baroque cities from Val de Noto), despite its seismic history with the violent volcanic eruption in 1669 and the catastrophic earthquake in 1693.

The city has a history of 2700 years dominated by various cultures (Greek colony, followed by the Roman colony, enjoying a long glowing period continued in the Byzantine, Arabic and then Norman era) having a rich trade center, mainly because of its port. Situated close to the active volcano Etna, Catania has been destroyed many times by eruptions, being a city where you can find a variety of landscapes and architectures, and many abandoned houses, especially in the mountains.

I have visited Bellini theatre – the European temple of music, Dome Square, where the Norman Cathedral is located (there is the tomb of the composer Vincenzo Bellini), the Elephant Fountain, symbol of the city, and the entrance to the elegant Etnea, the main shopping street. Afterwards, I went to Stesicoro Square, the true old city center where the ruins of the Roman Amphitheatre can be seen even today. I’ve seen Ursino Castle, built as one of the royal castles of Frederik II, King of Sicily; I also saw Biscari Palace and the Benedictine monasteries; I went to many churches with beautiful architecture, and obviously the fish and food market, located just below Piazza del Duomo, a lively and colorful place with many people, especially tourists. The fish market is the busiest and most exotic in Sicily and it is said that here you can find the best fish in the world.

Returning closer to Messina, the northern area of the city extending along with the cities close to the sea, one can admire the beautiful specific architecture, where you can see holiday houses and boats on the beach, as well as the lakes from the little but pretty village Ganzirri, where the mussels are cultivated. The northernmost place is called Torre Faro, a fishing village, which tourists might not consider visiting if they don’t know what to go and look for. The north-eastern and most narrow place found in Sicily is called Peloro Cape, symbolically marked by a lighthouse seen from many places around Messina; it is also the place where the Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas meet. The view is wonderful, especially if you see it from the Calabrian shore. A walk on the beach, a Sicilian coffee and a cake with pistachio pasta, some fresh air, and a calm atmosphere… are the ingredients to a wonderful morning of May! And that is because I spend my afternoon in Milazzo, a great medieval town, with a great history behind due to its location on the map (the place of many battles and naval confrontations between the Carthaginians and Romans). It is also the departure point to the Aeolian Islands. Here is where I wandered around on the streets full of flowers and beautiful houses, where I admired the seafront and the harbor, where I admired various churches, monuments and I went to the castle from where you can have a breathtaking view. Strategically placed on a hilltop, with panoramic views to the harbor and the Aeolian Islands, the castle was drowned into activities for the Day of the Arts, where artists and students were preparing their workshops for photography, painting, ceramics, music, and theater. The sun was setting very slowly and the lights were turned up, and as we reached the harbor to take the bus back home, the sunshine was intertwining with the lights in the harbor and the palm leaves…, and the silence got straight to my soul, making me stop for a moment and realize all these beautiful things that I have seen and felt.

A new day, another destination, same 5 o’clock in the morning waking up to take the bus…But no matter what, it’s worth it! This time we went to Taormina, the tourists’ favorite destination and Hollywood stars’ favorite place for shooting movies. Obviously, prices match. But as they say, it’s the pearl of Sicily, the place of many cultural events and the city where Goethe lived for a little while to write Italian Journey in 1787, often discussed by intellectuals, artists and the patronage from the north of Europe. Ever since, the city has been one of the privileged places for the Grand Tour. It’s such an amazing place! Its landscapes and urban architecture is extremely unique and well maintained, and the city is located on a hilltop from where one can see the water, the cliffs, the bays, and the exotic beaches. I climbed to the highest point in the city of Castelmola, from where I could admire the wonderful panorama of mount Etna; and if it were only that, but on my way back to Taormina I walked through many, many flowers and their strong scent. Then the steps took me to the Greek Theatre – symbol of Taormina, which is carved in rock, with a view onto the immense citrus orchards, the Ionian Sea and mount Etna in the background. One of the most spectacular panoramas on the island.

The last but not least city visited was Reggio Calabria, where I had Maria as my guide. Maria is my Calabrian colleague and friend. We crossed by Metromare ferry and after 35 minutes we stepped off in the Calabrian harbor. The waterfront is long, with plenty of palm trees and old houses; water is clear and full of fish and jellyfish. Here I also visited the Dome Cathedral (the main cathedral) and the castle, which is unfortunately under construction, so I had admired it from the outside. Happy with that too! I wandered around the streets and scents of traditional goodies. I was already tired enough to keep the same rhythm from the beginning of the week so I preferred to walk and admire the people, the places, to taste the ice cream and granita, enjoy the sun and the holiday.

The week ended up with the Easter Holiday, spending it calmly in a church, then in a quick shopping at the market, and then with Maria and Laura, cooking fish and asparagus salad, zucchini and eggplant, tasting red wine right from the producers and instead of sweetbread, I had some ricotta pie and dried fruits, all of them being really yummy! Truth is, the atmosphere wasn’t the same like home, and it cannot be as long as I am the only one who celebrates Easter, but my friends respected my tradition as much as I respected theirs. The important thing is what you feel religiously, because for me, even if the service at the church was Catholic, it was extremly important because I could pray as I knew and as I learnt and did my entire life at home.

 Translated by Oana Zlatovici – Potpourri member studying in Sweden

Daruri pentru copii la Biblioteca de weekend din Serbesti

Colindatorii cu jucarii
Colindatorii cu jucarii

Vă mai aduceți aminte, dragilor, de Biblioteca privată de weekend din Șerbești? Cea pe care a prezentat-o Doina Stratton-Andrieș, fondatoarea și coordonatoarea acestui frumos proiect, la întâlnirea pe care am avut-o pe 29 noiembrie la Direcția Judeţeană pentru Sport şi Tineret? Vă mai aduceți aminte că la acea întâlnire au fost oameni de bine care au promis că o vor susține?

Am îndemnat atunci pe cei prezenți să se implice, să lege parteneriate și colaborări, să susțină demersul Doinei după posibilități. Dintre cele 40 de persoane, tineri și adulți, de la instituții publice, Ong-uri și mass-media care au ascultat povestea Doinei, Carmen Dobre, președintele Asociației Educatoarelor din România – Filiala Vrancea, și-a manifestat interesul și dorința de a susține biblioteca Doinei cu o donație de carte și jucării prin implicarea membrelor din asociație.

„Dăruiește o carte și o jucărie pentru un zâmbet” este numele campaniei de donație pe care Carmen Dobre a inițiat-o în rândul celor aproximativ 200 de membri ai asociației pentru a strânge cărți și jucării. Timp de 2 săptămâni , de pe 2 până pe 15 decembrie când s-a încheiat campania, s-au adunat câteva sute de jucării și cărți noi.


Bucuria darului nu se măsoară cu modernitatea, ci cu sufletul celui care dăruiește și primește

Sâmbătă, pe 21 decembrie, câțiva reprezentanți ai AEDR împreună cu membri ai Asociației Potpourri, care a susținut campania, au plecat încărcați către Biblioteca de la Șerbești unde Doina adunase pitici de grădiniță ce așteptau nerăbdători „darurile Moșului”. Atmosfera a fost așa cum ne-am așteptat, caldă, simplă, încărcată de emoție, bucurie și nelipsita modestie care se păstrează din fericire în comunitățile rurale. Cred că a fost mai mult un cadou pentru noi, să-i vedem pe toți cum se bucură de daruri, cuminte, în liniște… Am pus toate jucăriile în mijlocul bibliotecii și le-am spus să își aleagă ei ce doresc, că e mai bine așa. Erau timizi, nu îndrăzneau să se apropie și cu toate îndemnurile noastre, parcă le era rușine. Au luat câte o jucărie și vroiau să se ridice, dar i-am oprit și le-am spus că toate sunt pentru ei. Să îndrăznească și să ia câte vor, și pentru frații mai mici sau mai mari de acasă sau pentru alți prieteni și copii din vecini. Și abia atunci au început să se comporte ca orice copil care se uită la toate jucăriile, răstoarnă plasa, alege ce își dorește. I-am privit câteva minute bune cum se bucură de lucruri simple. Cadourile nu au fost „moderne”, au fost cărți și jucării de pluș, dar fericirea pe care am văzut-o pe chipul lor ne-a confirmat că nu asta a contat…

La final ne-au mulțumit cum au știut ei mai bine, cu colinde. Zece suflete de copil, cel mai mic, de 6 ani, cu papion negru „de la sora mea” și cel mai mare de 12 ani, au cântat cu mâinile adunate pe genunchi, cu ochii radiind de inocență și bucurie ca să ne dăruiască și ei ceva pentru că și noi le-am adus daruri. Am cântat și noi cu ei, adunați în cămăruța mică a lui Simion Ghinea, în jurul sobei unde Doina făcuse focul ca să le fie cald. „Acum ei rămân aici să pregătească colindele pentru Crăciun pe care o să le cântăm în biserică. Se trezesc la 5 dimineața pentru că la noi slujba începe la 6.30 că apoi oamenii stau fiecare în familie, la masă. Cum spuneți pentru cadouri?”

Mulțumimmmmmmm…….! Cel mai simplu cuvânt a fost spus însă din toată inima, la fel de timid dar sincer ca și acele priviri calde pe care în final le-au ridicat din pământ. Nu poți să nu-i săruți pe fiecare în parte, să-i îmbrățișezi și să le promiți că te întorci, să le mai aduci câte ceva, măcar din când în când. Un moment emoționant pentru toți, are te face pe tine ca adult să vrei să fii mai bun, să ajuți mai mult, să prețuiești mai presus de orice un zâmbet, simplitatea, inocența.

În febra cotidiană uităm de sensul vieții și al existenței, facem lucrurile „de etichetă”, că e la modă, că trebuie făcut că dă bine, că face toată lumea. Dacă lipsește însă sentimentul, autenticitatea gestului, dorința interioară de a face o faptă bună, atunci la ce bun tot spectacolul?

Darurile adevărate le-am primit noi, adulții care am pretins că ducem daruri la copii. La fel și lecția de simplitate, inocență și căldură sufletească. Și cum dar din dar se face rai, urăm în prag de sărbători tuturor care ne citesc acum, pe lângă tradiționalele Crăciun fericit! și La Mulți Ani!, să aibă parte de la Moș de aceleași daruri, că sunt mai trainice și nu se irosesc odată cu trecerea timpului sau modei.


N.B. Ca să vă reîmprospătez amintirile vă prezint contextul în care s-a desfășurat întâlnirea cu Doina: proiectul Conservarea şi promovarea valorilor tradiţionale locale: iniţiative publice şi private”,acel duplex de activităţi educative pentru tineri derulate de către Direcţia Judeţeană pentru Sport şi Tineret în parteneriat cu Asociaţia Potpourri şi caresusţine iniţiativele rurale publice şi private ce conservă şi promovează memoria locală. Prima activitate a duplexului, desfăşurată în octombrie, a avut-o ca invitată pe Drăguţa Miloiu, bibliotecar şi curator al Muzeului Etnografic de la Paltin – de sub tutela Primăriei Paltin iar cea de-a doua, din 29 noiembrie, pe Doina Stratton-Andrieș cu a ei Bibliotecă de weekend.

Ne alegem jucarii
Ne alegem jucarii
Colindam iarna...
Colindam iarna…
Mosii de la AEDR si Potpourri
Mosii de la AEDR si Potpourri
Biblioteca de weekend iarna...
Biblioteca de weekend iarna…

Invitatie la Biblioteca privata de weekend Serbesti

Mama Doinei prezentand Muzeul
Mama Doinei prezentand Muzeul

Cine afirmă că nimic pe lumea aceasta nu se face doar din pasiune, fără câștig material, se înșeală. Cine afirmă că sentimentul înrădăcinării și a dragostei față de locurile natale și valorile tradiționale a dispărut în vâltoarea migrației și globalizării, se înșeală. Doina Stratton – Andrieș și familia ei sunt dovada vie că mai există încă OAMENI care se dăruiesc celor din jur necondiționat și dezinteresat. Biblioteca de weekend din Șerbești este colțul de rai care strigă din toate cărțile, florile, copacii, fructele, sufletele satului că SE POATE, acolo unde este voință și dăruire.

La un capăt de uliță, în spatele bisericii din sat, se deschid oricărui călător avid de liniște și simplitate porțile vechi ale casei care adăpostește modest, dar cu sfințenie, un colț de tradiție și memorie locală. La intrare te primesc mereu cu un zâmbet larg și cald Doina, Mike, Ona și Dani. Sunt familia Sttraton – Andrieș din satul Șerbești, comuna Vidra, aparent o familie ca oricare alta, dar care din 2008 a muncit cu sârg, pe banii proprii, pentru a îndeplini o ultimă dorință a unchiului Doinei, publicistul Simion Ghinea. Dorința este astăzi vizibilă și palpabilă și chiar mai mult. A devenit centrul spiritual al satului unde, cu mic cu mare, se adună copii, părinți și bunici din partea locului să se bucure de atenția și dragostea cu care Doina și familia ei îi înconjoară.

Biblioteca de weekend este rezultatul eforturilor Doinei, a soțului Mike și a celor doi copii, Ona și Dani. Este un proiect unic în judeţul Vrancea, o formulă complexă şi originală, bibliotecă – muzeul satului – casă memorială, şi reprezintă un omagiu adus publicistului Simion Ghinea, unchiul Doinei.

Încet încet biblioteca adevenit loc de educaţie non-formală, dar şi loc de socializare şi recreere, pentru copiii cu posibilităţi reduse din sat cât şi pentru adulţi. Recunoscând munca familiei Stratton și beneficiile pentru întreaga comunitate, oamenii din sat i s-au alăturat și cu timpul, și alții, din alte părți ale județului. De la deschiderea bibliotecii până în prezent numeroase persoane – rude, prieteni, cunoştinţe sau persoane străine care au agreat această idee – au donat cărţi, obiecte pentru muzeu şi bibliotecă, iar unii au devenit ei înşişi voluntari.

Țin să le mulțumesc din suflet tuturor care ne-au susținut! Nu am reușit niciodată să fac acest lucru în public, dar vreau ca toți să știe că fără ei nu reușeam și că îi prețuim pentru tot ajutorul lor. Acestea sunt cuvintele Doinei de ieri, de la întâlnirea pe care am avut-o în cadrul duplexului de activități educative non-formale ce are ca scop promovarea valorilor tradiţionale locale prin inițiative publice și private.

La prezentarea Doinei au dat curs invitației noastre aproape 40 de persoane, tineri și adulți, de la instituții publice, Ong-uri și mass-media. Țin să îi enumăr pentru că dorim să le mulțumim atât pentru interes, curiozitate și….participare activă. Pentru că după ce Doina le-a arătat imagini și un film despre bibliotecă și activitățile pe care le desfășoară, au urmat discuții intense, constructive, apreciative, cu urmări pozitive.

Consiliul Județean al Elevilor, în frunte cu noul președinte Codrin Bostan, a ocupat cele mai multe scaune cu tineri de la colegiile Unirea, Cuza, Pedagogic, Economic, Edmond Nicolau și Ion Mincu. Mediul Ong a fost prezent cu Asociațiile: Pe Aripile Cunoașterii, Change your lifesyle for you, Renato, Alberio din Suraia și Asociația Educatoarelor din România – Filiala Vrancea. Din mediul public, singurii participanți care au dat curs invitației noastre au fost directorul Casei de Cultură din Focșani și reprezentantul Inspectoratului de Poliție Vrancea. Nu în ultimul rând, din cadrul mass-media, Ziarul de Vrancea și ziarul Adevărul, redactorul-șef Silvia Vrânceanu lansând provocarea tinerilor de a scrie despre acest eveniment, articol care va fi publicat în Ziarul de Vrancea.

Carmen Dobre, președintele Asociației Educatoarelor din România – Filiala Vrancea, și-a manifestat interesul și dorința de a susține biblioteca Doinei cu o donație de carte și jucării prin implicarea membrelor din asociație.

De fapt, acesta a fost și scopul întâlnirii de ieri, de a cunoște mai bine Biblioteca Doinei, de a lega colaborări și parteneriate pentru activități care se pot desfășura în grădina generoasă a familiei Stratton, de a face din Biblioteca de weekend un punct de oprire pe traseul turistic al Vrancei pentru oaspeți deosebiți, delegații, turiști care ar dori să guste din autenticitatea locurilor și oamenilor pe care însăși Vrancea îi cunoaște și îi promovează din păcate prea puțin…

Îndemnul nostru…încercați să cunoașteți mai bine valorile și oamenii valoroși din jurul vostru și cu toții să-i punem în valoare așa cum se cuvine. Poarta familiei Stratton este întotdeauna deschisă, este suficient să bateți în ea și se va deschide…oricui.

N.B. Conservarea şi promovarea valorilor tradiţionale locale: iniţiative publice şi privateeste un duplex de activităţi educative pentru tineri derulate de către Direcţia Judeţeană pentru Sport şi Tineret în parteneriat cu Asociaţia Potpourri şi care susţine iniţiativele rurale publice şi private ce conservă şi promovează memoria locală. Prima activitate a duplexului, desfăşurată în octombrie, a avut-o ca invitată pe Drăguţa Miloiu, bibliotecar şi curator al Muzeului Etnografic de la Paltin – de sub tutela Primăriei Paltin.

Ana, As. Potpourri (stanga) si Doina
Ana, As. Potpourri (stanga) si Doina
Doina Stratton-Andries
Doina Stratton-Andries
Despre Biblioteca de weekend
Despre Biblioteca de weekend


Potpourri si Biblioteca privata de Weekend Serbesti

Serbesti, Vidra
Serbesti, Vidra

Duplexul de activităţi educative non-formale pentru tineri, care promovează valorile tradiţionale locale, continuă cu  Biblioteca privată de Weekend – Şerbeşti, Vidra. Invitată la discuţii este Doina Stratton-Andrieş, fondator şi coordonator al bibliotecii. Activitatea este iniţiată de către Asociaţia Potpourri în parteneriat cu Direcţia Judeţeană pentru Sport şi Tineret.

Conservarea şi promovarea valorilor tradiţionale locale: iniţiative publice şi privateeste un duplex de activităţi educative pentru tineri derulate de către Direcţia Judeţeană pentru Sport şi Tineret în parteneriat cu Asociaţia Potpourri şi care susţine iniţiativele rurale publice şi private ce conservă şi promovează memoria locală.

Întâlnirea va avea loc joi, 28 noiembrie, la sediul DJST, de la ora 14.30, când Doina Stratton – Andrieş va prezenta materiale multimedia ce conţin informaţii despre Biblioteca de weekend Şerbeşti.

Scopul activităţii este de a informa tinerii şi comunitatea despre existenţa în judeţul nostru a unei altfel de iniţiative, private de această dată, care promovează personalităţi vrâncene şi valori tradiţionale prin munca şi devotament, şi de a stimula interesul comunităţii în a susţine astfel de acte care aduc plus valoare tuturor.

La discuţii sunt invitaţi tineri din licee, şcoli postliceale din Focşani, reprezentanţi ai instituţiilor de cultură şi educaţie, dar şi membri ONG-urilor locale şi adulţii interesaţi. Întâlnirea este interactivă, non-formală şi se va desfăşura la sediul DJTS.

N.B. Prima activitate a duplexului, desfăşurată în octombrie, a avut-o ca invitată pe Drăguţa Miloiu, bibliotecar şi curator al Muzeului Etnografic de la Paltin – de sub tutela Primăriei Paltin iar cei prezenţi au fost plăcut surprinşi de ce au auzit şi au văzut.

Serbesti, Vidra
Serbesti, Vidra

„Biblioteca de weekend din Şerbeşti s-a născut prin munca şi devotamentul familiei Stratton şi este unică în judeţul Vrancea. Este concepută într-o formulă unică de bibliotecă – muzeul satului – casă memorială şi derulează şi o serie de activităţi educative şi recreative pentru copiii din comunitate. Este un imperativ să cunoaştem şi să sprijinim astfel de iniţiative care au efecte benefice asupra comunităţii. Suntem siguri că cei ce vor participa vor avea o surpriză plăcută şi vor fi încurajaţi să viziteze şi acest colţ de rai.” (Anamaria Cătănoiu, preş As. Potpourri)