Saturday, February 15, 2014

One Week Down, Eleven to Go!

Our first week was a like a luge ride down the Pellice Valley, and into the lives of our 10 students and the OM Italy staff.  We landed with all luggage (only one slightly damaged) one hour ahead of schedule, which gave us time to get ourselves sorted out in one coherent pile, the luggage casualty rectified, with cameras clicking away.  Our drivers arrived as scheduled, and we easily talked them into a roadside coffee stop.  

The drive up the valley was dreary--not the winter wonderland of my last entrance into the province.  A rainy day, with little snow in sight, lulled us all to sleep or a jet lag stupor.  A safer drive perhaps, but uninspiring--perhaps my first lesson of the Pellice.  

The 3-hr. ride up the valley filled increasingly with memories as we approached Bobbio: Luserna, with its chocolate factory, Torre Pellice, where we had spent time in coffee shops, pizzerias, at the market, and where most of the OM Italy team lives.  Villar Pellice, the tiny land of in between, with its great exiting switchback that gave us our first glimpse of Bobbio.  I noted the new sign at the turn to Forterocca, and we pulled into a joyous welcome by those we hadn't seen in two years.  It was good to be 'home.'  

We awoke from our first night's sleep to the winter wonderland we missed on arrival--snow everywhere, swirling non-stop for a full day!  The photographer's delight--the shutterbugs were out for hours.  I'm delighted to have Fritz Liedtke, a professional photographer, and his family with us.  I'm learning lots from Fritz already.

First days were spent scrambling to set up office space, teaching rooms, a chapel, music and art studios and housekeeping, everything taking twice as long as normal because of jet lag.  A couple of all-day meetings, grueling as they were, finalized our orientation schedule, and brought our Italian teammates up to speed.  But we did not neglect the daily walks out and about in the village--two of us reconnecting with the dear ones we had connected with last time.  

Jane, who with her husband Robbie run the local trattoria, had tears in her eyes as we walked in for Sunday dinner.  She proceeded to serve up one of her incredible meals, soup to nuts--or rather, breadsticks to vegan orange/hazelnut homemade cake.  Oh my...the food revolution has even reached Bobbio Pellice.  As our group returned home, Mat and I lingered to chat with her, catching up on news and hugs.   

Next stop: Cafe Fontana, where Silvano moved wordlessly across the cafe to crunch me in a big bear hug as I entered, Bill and Teri Drake in tow.  We ordered up his signature hot chocolate, the one where the spoon stands up straight, and chatted about life in the past two years.  He told us how slow business was, the exodus of the young from the village, the dwindling population.  It would be sad to think of Silvano losing his business.  We promised to do our best to shore up sales! 

And in the midst of all this, our students began or two at a time, jetlagged and excited, and the energy levels rose.  The Italian kitchen crew work seemingly non-stop to keep us more than fed, indulging vegetarian, vegan, and "Gluteen-free" options.  God bless 'em.  

Orientation began Wednesday, and has begun to crack us open, each to the other, and set the stage for "Living Together Beautifully," as we embark on living together in cross-cultural closeness for the next 90 days.  We've taken the students on several Waldensian history tours, to set the spiritual/historical context of the school, and invited in Pastor Gregorio of the Bobbio church to talk to us about the current state of the Waldensian church.  

In less than an hour,  an open house begins; we've been setting up, and I'm loving seeing the artwork from our first school emerge from the nooks and crannies of the building, and/or homes of those who bought the pieces two years ago.  

We've  invited the community in to meet us again, or for the first time, and enjoy performances and artwork.  A saxophonist is rehearsing next door.  Three have gone to Silvano's for coffee.  One leader is preparing her comments, another is hanging artwork still.  We have no idea if 5, 50, or all 500 of Bobbio's inhabitants will turn out, but we expect a crowd.  

Gotta go!  



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