Monday, July 26, 2010

Mount Sinai

Our trip to L’Aquila, was typically OM. We were the last team to leave—after our van was conscripted to transport several other teams back and forth to the train station or airport. Eight teams scattered through Italy; the ninth, ours, paced the lobby, read, drew, chatted, packed art supplies, laid by the pool, or ordered more cappuccino. At noon, we ordered the obligatory pizza, feeling that if we never eat another slice of pizza, we would be cool with that.

At about 4 in the afternoon, about six hours from our estimated time of departure, our field leaders sounded the signal, and we loaded the van. A team heading to the north of Italy were just pulling out of the parking lot; we waved them off with a shout, and then climbed into ours, after a cup of water.

At the edge of the parking lot, the van stalled. “A problem with the carburetor,” our driver shrugged, and restarted the van. We made it to the exit ramp—and stalled. Another restart, and we made it onto the highway—and stalled. We laid hands on the van from wherever we sat, and started again. This time we made it a few miles. By now we had bonded with our van, dubbing it ‘Federico.’ Our driver was a peach of a phlegmatic, just chuckling and shaking his head as he patiently restarted and restarted and restarted….ignoring the less patient drivers and honking horns that whizzed around us. And so we made our herky jerky way up into the mountains, to our lodging place in Isola della Gran Sasso, just past L’Aquila. A ten-kilometer tunnel was our final pass, emptying us out at the foot of the Gran Sasso.

“Welcome to Mount Sinai!” greeted the pastor of the church with which we would work. We exited the van in awe. Indeed it did seem to be Mount Sinai, as we craned our necks up and up to the top of the mountain, which was shrouded in a dark cloud, and wondered to what we had come.

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