Trip 38 / Entry 29 / Oreste…

…our chauffeur, cultural informer and guide

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

IMG_3120

IMG_3110He drove like a mad man to the sea front tourist city of Polignano a Mare . By eleven in the morning we were there. The crystal clear sky, moderate temperature and cool sea breeze was perfect and wonderful for my (our) first visit to this region. Before we walked along the cliffs looking down three hundred meters to the sea, we stopped for a photo at the monument honoring the famous singer of “O’ Solo Mio” from this city, Domenico Modugno . While taking turns and snapping away at different combinations another family of three walked up waiting their turn.

IMG_3124My choleric personality jumped into action. “Posso faccio vostri foti?” (May I make your photograph?). They were thrilled and in English asked where I was from and what I was doing in Italy. While Jeanne, Mary and Oreste quietly waited, in less than ten minutes I presented to this young businessman and his wife, the gospel with exchanges of hugs and email addresses all around. Jeanne observed from a distance and said that they really emotionally connected with me and the gospel. I eagerly wait for an email and more conversation.

At around one we had a nice lunch and then hopped in the car while our Mario Andretti drove us at breakneck speed to Albero Bello. Oreste has no idea why the town bears this name since the town is not internationally known for trees.

Trip 38 / Entry 28 / Supper at Oreste’s and Mary’s

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

I warned Jeanne. I supposed that Mary would be ready to wow us with food and she did. Though it was after eight-thirty before we climbed another four flights to their apartment we were invited to sit down and having a “po cena d’sera” (a little evening meal). The afternoon meal is usually the biggest so when the “apperitivi” of “mozerella fresca, pane, olivi, salumi” and “picolo biscotti orrechiette” was put before us, I happily gobbled away. Mary didn’t join us and I could still hear banging away in the kitchen. Occasionally, I IMG_3134would look at my watch and try to guess when she might join us. This she did in about twenty minutes bearing a massive skillet of spaghetti immersed in a concoction I had never seen before in my life. Oreste proudly told us it was, “la specialita di Maria!” Our eyes bulged as we were handed large portions but once we took the first bite we continued to spoon away until every morsel was drug from the bottom of the pan.

Mary jumped up and ran to the kitchen and brought three more items to the table. Oh, no! We had only had the primi and now for seconda of something that I cannot describe as meatloaf though it was made in a similar way. It was far more delicate and crusted all around with toasty bread crumbs. When sliced. There was an interior of prochiutto and mozerella. I could taste the hint of onion, celery and so forth so it was flavored similar to a meatloaf. Then a “contorni” of peas and onion as well as oven roasted potatoes flavored with garlic and rosemary.

At ten we stumbled onto the street and made our way to our beds.

Trip 38 / Entry 27 / Martina Franca

Tuesday to Friday, June 3-6, 2014

IMG_3125

We did make it to Fisano about forty minutes from Bari. Coming to meet us were Maria and Oreste. After more traffic and time than expected they did arrive. After introducing Jeanne we jammed our luggage into their little blue car and drove the thirty minutes to hotel,

IMG_3174The Rococco, which looked fabulous on the internet but sorry to say, did not show off so good in real time. Upon arrival, I was unprofessionally informed by an unsmiling, youthful attendant who appeared to me as though he just came from his bed that we were not booked to stay in the hotel but in an apartment a short distance away. We all toted bags and followed him like ducklings to what he proposed to be “tuo centri metri” (200 meters – it was not). Then once there he opened the door to a stair case of five flights with no elevator. With huffing and puffing, up we went but once there, we had lots of nice space for seventy-five euro a night (with no prima colazioni – breakfast). Nevertheless, it was private, breezy and clean. We would spend three nights and except for the climb several times a day and two occasions when there was no hot water which they finally remedied on the last day, we had a good stay. Yes, we celebrated our forty-eighth anniversary in this little apartment.

Trip 38 / Entry 27 / While on the Train

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Useful Information… Buyer be warned.

Quietly seated in our “Reserved” seats and on our way from Ancona to Bari the conductor came by to look at our tickets and discovered that the date was wrong. This was not my fault, of course, as the ticket master in Foglino put in the wrong date. But, in true, Italian style, it is never Trenitalia’s fault. It could not be possible! It is always the customer who is made responsible for not checking the date. They are the professionals but it is our business to check the ticket to be sure we are traveling on the right day. Would you like to know how much this little fiasco cost me? How about two times 81.50 Euro (163 euro) or nearly two hundred American dollars? The fine in each case was fifty euro. On top of this, we must purchase new tickets. Though it was all their fault, it doesn’t matter.  We must pay because is the way it works in Italia. They like to remind you that you are not in America. You are in Italy. Needless to say, I was not happy in the least.

At some point Italians will have to cease excusing their incompetence and join the real world. If I sold you a table and it had a broken leg, whose fault would it be? When it comes to business, Italy remains in the dark ages and has no collective sense of “The Customer is King.”

Trip 38 / Entry 26 / The Manns’ and Cliffords’

 Citta di Castello

Sunday to Tuesday, June 1 and 2, 2014

IMG_3085

We had previously arranged for missionaries who live in Umbria, Luke and Dawn Mann of Citta di Castello to bring a car and then drive us with them to their village for a day before going to Puglia in the “heel of the boot.” We just wanted to hang out with them, do a little sightseeing and get better acquainted with ministry partners, Peter and Marsha Clifford who have a missionary guest house in the village.

IMG_3057Having nearly socialized ourselves to death, we decided to take a late start on Monday when the Mann’s came to get us and take us for a visit to several medieval and walled, mountain villages over the border in Tuscany. It was a beautiful drive and the cool breeze made the direct, bright sun tolerable. We visited the first and then went back to Citta to lunch with the Cliffords. Of course, lunch here takes far more time than it does in any other part of the world so it was three hours later that we drove out to another village called…Cesena.

IMG_3058The night was topped off at their apartment before being picked on Tuesday morning at Hotel Umbria for our eight hour train ride to Foglino to Ancona, from Ancona to Bari and finally from Bari to Fasano and then by car to Martina Franca.

Trip 38 / Entry 25 / The Partners

Saturday, June 1, 2014

IMG_3016CROP

 

The afternoon was reserved for updates from our ministry partners. Four, (one from as far away as Norway, and another from Florida), provided ministry updates on how they partner with ACCI. In actual fact ACCI has as many as thirteen contracted ministry partner organizations in a variety of locations. Two of the most important are New Life Literature of Sri Lanka and Bethany International Missions of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Trip 38 / Entry 24 / The ACCI Gathering

Thursday to Sunday, May 28-June 1, 2014

Group Crop

IMG_3035Sometime last year I suggested that we have a get together in Italy. Mostly, I thought this would consist of about a dozen Italian workers and some of our staff members. Well, before I got this out of my mouth, Ann had it on the griddle. Within three months Ann had assembled a team of Dawn Mann and Francesco Abortivi in Italy working with her on the idea. Soon, along with about seventy others, board members, missionaries, and ministry partners,  I had an invitation to three days at Spiaggi Romea on the Adriatic coast south of Venice and near Rimmini .  Not much later I was hearing of a large number of takers so in the end we had forty-eight adults and twenty-three children registered.

Sunday morning closing service

Sunday morning closing service

IMG_2962In all, over the weekend, we had representatives from eleven nations in attendance.  On Saturday we had another twenty ministry partners in attendance. Many of these people I had not yet met so it was fun to see how much the work had grown since beginning in 2000, some fourteen years earlier. Besides the Canadian contingent where this all began, we had attendees from Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Norway, Slovenia, The United Kingdom, and The United States. In several respects, this was beyond my expectation! First of all, I never expected that ACCI would grow to this size and international influence.  Secondly, I never suspected that people would be this committed to the mission and future of ACCI that they would go to such trouble and expense to come together in this way.

IMG_2988 IMG_2989 IMG_2990 IMG_2991

It was obvious to all that there was a tremendous supernatural affection that each member had for the others. From the first minute of acquaintance all seem to feel an affinity and shared purpose to advance the cause of Christ together. There was an authentic collegiality from the first day that only grew as the days went by.

If I died right now… it would have been more than enough.

IMG_2979

Spiaggia Romea is a beautiful resort with everything one can imagine to do. Yet, the spectacular recreational options didn’t seem to attract people. Mostly, I found people in small groups huddled around tables, getting acquainted or visiting with those they already knew.

IMG_2974The meetings were filled with engaging personal and field reports followed by guided prayer where we were able to supportively gather around our fellow workers. There were amazing words of personal encouragement and lots of tears – the kind of tears that left all feeling refreshed and filled with joy. I am not allowed to share the details and anyway, it would all just take too long but the most important thing is that our hearts were knitted together in love.

Trip 38 / Entry 23 / Spiaggia Romea

Thursday to Sunday, May 28 to June 2, 2014

Southeast of Bologna on the Adriatica

Mariela came for us at 11:30 and we packed ourselves into the car with her and her daughter Rebecca for the two and half hour ride toward the Adriatic sea coast.

IMG_2981

IMG_2975We drove into the gateway of this spectacular resort, got registered and went to our rooms to settle in. Before registering we began to get the bad news, there has been a spotty train strike with one of the couples having to come by taxi from Bologna 250 Euro away ($325 USD).  That wasn’t the worst news, another couple while in the IMG_2977Bologna train station, had their bags taken with their passports and money. Surprisingly, both situations were soon rectified. In fifteen years here in Italy, I have never heard of the police returning anything that was stolen or lost. Yet, they got it all back in tact within an hour. No one knows exactly how but we were thrilled to say the least!!! This is a miracle akin to Moses crossing the Red Sea.

IMG_2948

IMG_2993Then as for the other couple forced to pay 250 Euro for a taxi ride? Imagine? There were special donations made to The Gathering and this allowed the leadership team to reimburse those who were out because of the train strike. All in all, it didn’t turn out as bad as might be expected.

Trip 38 / Entry 23 / The Hinrich’s Team

Wednesday, May 27, 2014

Parma, Italy

IMG_2921

With unpredictable jet lag, we were reluctant to schedule a meet up with Ann, Luke and Wendy but by noon we were feeling up to the challenge of taking a pizza lunch with them at La Duchessa in Piazza Garibaldi.

Of course, we have done this before so it was a bit of a reunion. We chatted over pizza and prochiutto and melone  (an in season must) and then went our separate ways.

The rest of the day was spent finding me a pair of sandals and re-arranging our gear for the travel to Spiaggi Romeo some three hours away. Later in the evening I took Jeanne to Pollo Oro (Gold Chicken). This name makes almost no sense at all since there is almost nothing chicken on the menu. Their most memorable items are tomato and olive based stew with coniglio (rabbit) and torta fritta (prochuitto, ham and salami’s stuck between pieces of light deep – fat fried bread). The weather was ideal – a perfect evening and with almost no room for gelato we, nevertheless choked down a single scoop of Nocchiola each on our way back to our room and bed.

Trip 38 / Entry 22 / Collecting Jeanne

Tuesday to Thursday, May 26 – 28, 2014                            

Milan and Parma

IMG_2918

On Monday morning I flew from Alesund to Copanhagen and then to Milano then went to The *Best Hotel (*in name only). It is a suitable 2-Star if you only want a bed and a shower. If I had thought of it, it would have made more sense to stay at an airport hotel rather than shuttle all of the way into the city then back out again in the morning laden with baggage. It cost me twelve Euro but I left my bags in the train station while I went back out to pick up Jeanne who had traveled all night from Charlotte with the Haley family.

We made the connection and then took the shuttle back down to the central train station in Milano, and then went directly to Parma and or Bed and Breakfast at Ducale where I always stay. Giovanni was thrilled to see us and gave us a nice room on the breezy side of the hotel.

Hostaria da Beppe

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

IMG_2910 cropAfter a short rest, Jeanne felt awake enough in the evening to go for amazing risotto at da Beppe just behind our hotel. I have written about Beppe before when last October I ate there for the first time (scroll back). I told her that she just had to do this once before she died. Beppe does everything (EVERYTHING) himself. Parmeseani turn their noses up because Beppe is from Napoli but foreigners have discovered him.  Seated across from us were three tourists from England and within an hour there were at least sixteen others. In one group alone there were ten people to feed all at once.

I think there is an unspoken rule you should know about. If you eat at Beppe’s Hostaria, you must just relax. He washes every dish, sets every table up, then delivers the “liste” and takes your order. Then he goes behind the door which is posted with a clear sign “ENTRATA VIETATO” (Entrance Forbidden). There a mystery takes place. Somehow from his menu of thirty or more risotti and other items, he turns out plate after plate and delivers them to the table with lightning speed. Oh yes, and somehow he serves up the right wine with flair.

Jeanne admitted to being impressed. After devouring his specialty (ham hock – for the specialty “ossobuco di vitello da Beppe”) and a small, but perfectly grilled steak we stumbled back to our hotel three blocks  away. For more information on what people have to say, see Trip Adviser.