First 36 hours have been hectic. Dulles went smoothly, only to be ‘serverd’ by the curtest, wearied, sullen stewardesses I have ever encountered. Tea and coffee were not offered, but thrust. They were all exceedingly unsatisfied with their positions it seemed. To make matters just a bit more disappointing, Stranger than Fiction played, a fovrite of mine, only to find that my seat’s headphone plug in only had the jazz channel.
We got off the air only a half hour late, which put me in risk for my connection in Madrid. We landed, sat on the run way for awhile, then got of to find ourselves in a one mile long terminal, and the only way to the next gate was at the opposite end. Then I found out that passports were checked upon entering the EU, a 10 minute line. Then another security check. Then it was time for my flight to take off.
I ran to the gate only to get the next possible flight, thinking I had already missed the last call. I saw the plane still connected to the tunnel, asked if they were still boarding, and ‘flew’ on board, to watch the stewardess on the plane give the classic hand-wave-across-the-throat maneuver to signal no more late passengers. I had just eeked on.
Some more incremental sleep on the flight into Rome, as well as glancing over the IVAW material, got me though the last aerial leg of my trip. Once on the ground, when in Rome (hahaha), I fumbled over how to use the phone, nervous about missing my contact in Italy. I finally figured it out and was out of the airport in just over an hour. The train ride to Naples (Napoli) was filled with advice on Italy and discussions about the current political climate and how it parallels the US. The Italian countryside was gorgeous, at least what I saw of it between my bobbing eyelids and breaks in the foliage.
The streets of Naples were reminiscent of the Israeli hustle and bustle amoungst European landscape. It was everything I imagined it to be. It even had the hopeless folk huddled around the center square. It was somehow grounding to be reminded that poverty is not just in Camden or Philly, but all over the world. It made me feel real to see it half way around the world for some reason.
We arrived at the first venue early; I shadowed my host, Phillip, as he mingled and made introductions. I was totally in the dark about what was expected of me (well, somewhat…), but the tiredness kept my nerves from getting the best of me. We watched an Italian movie similar to Loose Change, about the data suggesting that 9/11 was not what it seemed. During the course of the move, I received translation from one of Phillip’s English students (I felt very important).
After the screening, I was introduced and spoke intermittently (I had to remember to pause for translation) on Bush’s rise to power and the close-knit relationship he nurtured between faith and politics, and how religious language was used to justify the war in Iraq. I commented that to speak against the President was often tantamount to heresy and that dissent was condemned suddenly as unpatriotic. Nods filled the room, apparently there was discontent among the audience about the Pope’s similar use of faith as a political or civic means.
Later, many of us went to a local Arabic restaurant for pita and falafel. I spoke with two of them more in depth on my experience in Iraq and the ramifications that had toward my spirituality. Their demeanor was similar to the ‘peaceniks’ in the US; dreads, anti-Bush, capitalism and globalization. I felt right at home in an Arabic café speaking a foreign language discussing issues that we all felt were relevant globally as well as locally. Too bad it is so much harder to find stateside. We had a great time in the little hole in the wall place, definitely something I will not soon forget.
I have a deep admiration for the local architecture and surroundings. People dart around on Vespas and drive with more recklessness than I would like to imagine. The air smells like carbon and salt water. On the way to the place Phil and I would stay, a fight broke out on the bus, nearly coming to blows over something shouted in Sri Lankan (apparently there is a large population here in Naples). We have to leave tomorrow morning to get to Bologna in the north, but I wish we had more time here in this beach town…