Takako Horaguchi and Giovanni di Italia
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Once in Parma and at the home of Aldo and Mariela Cerasino in the suburb of Corcangano I had to stop completely and catch up on my missing sleep. In a day or so I began to emerge again and started making calls of greeting.
A year ago I dropped into a Sushi Restaurant that had just opened on Piazza Garibaldi. A year later it is out of business. Mostly I was attracted by the sushi Chefette with her tall hat and her slender Japanese features. I thought that she might make a good drawing but as it turned out Maria was not so photogenic and useful as her friend Takako Horaguchi. Takako had first come to Italy to study opera at the Parma Conservatory and from what I can tell, fairly accomplished at hitting high C’s. She loves to sing Puccini and has been in several opera performances since her graduation two years ago.
I took her photo (you can see the drawing at www.tonyhedrickart. com). Anyhow, as promised, I mailed it to her and she seemed to be thrilled with the outcome so she found my email and wrote thanking me for going to all of the trouble and asked when I would return to Parma next. I thought, at first, that I would be here in the spring of 2009 but this was not to be the case as Jeanne (my wife) discovered cancer and of course I am not the kind of guy who would drop her off at the door of the chemo center and then catch a plane to Italy. I spent another six months being with Jeanne at home so this delayed my return.
When I told Takako that I would be delayed and the reason she was sympathetic and said that when did finally show up, I should call and she would have me for pranza (lunch). Did I tell you that she is also a chef of some accomplishment? I did reach her and after about ten text messages later I managed to get to her apartment today.
I was met by her Sardenian husband Giovanni on the street, in front of the Black and White Discotec just across the street from their apartment on Via Zambiotti. We walked across to their place and, though a little awkward at first, I was relieved to discover that Giovanni spoke English fairly well having studied pediatric dentistry in New York City for three years some twenty years earlier. He was happy to use it again but this left poor Takako a little out of the conversation so every so often he would stop to explain the missing parts of the various stories. We alternated between English and Italian. They were impressed. I was impressed that they were impressed.
When I say “dentist” in American it conjures the idea of a certain lifestyle. People might expect a big home and a professional air about this. However, this was not the case. In Europe Doctors and Dentists are not treated with the same sense of demagoguery as they are in America and Canada. In fact, most doctors employed by the state may make even less than a typical small business man. Giovanni di Italia was not dripping in wealth. The apartment was very modest as were the accompanying surroundings. Even still, they went all out to serve me the nicest meal possible. She started me off with RISOTTO (the real thing) unlike the one I make and call risotto, each individual rice kernel had not been turned to porridge but stood on its own two feet, as it should. After lazily plodding through every bite, out came the Prima, roasted potatoes, green beans and this fantastic chicken with a wonderful mushroom sauce. I exhausted my gastronomic vocabulary in Italian (this may be my best Italian) and finally ran out of complimentary things to say.
The conversation did turn toward spiritual things as they wanted know what it is that I teach. Once they were convinced that I actually did know what I was talking about they gave me full run of the table. Of course, Giovanni did not wish to look uninformed so he did challenge my perspective on several occasions but at the end gave in to the idea that religion is only about one thing, control, power and dominance but authentic Christianity is the opposite. Jesus was not top down, He was bottom up so from this I clearly communicated the real Jesus and Giovanni seemed to like what he heard. I told my story of how I came to Christ, how he is interested in both our hearts and our heads. I explained how being sacramentalized and catechized is not the same as being evangelized. One must be converted (born-again for lack of a better term). I managed to get all of this done in two hours “Gloria di Dio!!!”
Giovanni continued to insist that Takako could not understand what we were talking about but I noticed on two occasions she mentioned her contact with evangelical Christians in Japan. She knew the word Evangelical and more than once interrupted to ask what we were talking about. I can tell you that Takako is more interested than Giovanni thought. I promise that when I send her New Testaments in Italian and Japanese, she will devour every word. Let me explain this to the reader. Takako introduced me to her friends as her Uncle (Zio) Tony. Both she and Giovanni are far from family and have no friends (or so they say) in this entire city of 120,000 people. Through the kindness of a portrait and emailing I have earned the right to be their friend. I am certain of one thing if I am certain of anything. Evangelism in Italy and Europe, in general will only happen through carefully built and cultivated, one on one relationships. People must trust you before they will trust what you say.
The door to their hearts has been cracked open and when they have their little girl in two weeks time, I will be on their doorstep with the cutest present you have ever seen. Next, I introduce Aldo and Mariela who will take them another step.