Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day 57 Explaining Italians?

I write about this place as though it were Paradise. I know it's not. My young friend, Francesco Aprile, a writer and philosophy student, described it as "mean."  He says the government's right-wing policies; especially more and more cuts to education grants will cripple Italy. Many of the young people I've talked to sound hopeless.

Although I’m Italian born, I don’t always understand their behaviour. They’re not straightforward, not with foreigners and not with each other. I complained about this yesterday to the Accademia di Belle Arte di Lecce's, director Giacinto Leone. He told me a story that clarified things for me, a story told to him years ago that his entire outlook, and the way he dealt with his own people.

Here's the story: A bony fin slid into the palm of a fisherman while he emptied his nets. He went to the village doctor, who put an ointment on his hand, wrapped it in gauze and told him to come back in a week.  The doctor did this regularly for years, telling him each time that things were progressing as they should. For years, the fisherman paid the doctor in kind, giving him fish or cheese or whatever else he had that day.

The fisherman called thought the doctor a grande dottore.

After some 20 years, the doctor retired and his son took over the practice. When the fisherman came for his regular treatment, the junior doctor took one look at it and exclaimed, "But you have a fish bone caught in there." He immediately removed it and told the patient it would heal in no time.

But when the senior doctor heard about what his son had done, he despaired: "My son," he said, "what have you done? This is not the way to ensure you will continue to eat."

Giacinto Leone has had many jobs in his long career. He's an architect by training and inclination. He has taught. He has done administrative work in the private and public sectors. He's held public office. During the 60s, his activism forced corrupt politicians to give people housing, which they’d withheld in exchange for votes. He led a sit down of 500 families to the housing ministry office, which later earned him to elected office and an appointment as minister of housing for eight years.

Mr. Leone says that story about the fisherman explained a lot about what motivates his people. It has made him able to work with them. It has made him patient.

But you also have to be smart, he said, his mischievous eyes gleaming behind glasses, or risk everything blowing up in your face. When he marched at the head of those 500 families, he made sure the women, with babes in arms walked immediately behind him, and the more hot-headed men at the rear.

Giacinto Leone during an earlier visit to the Accademia

Here's most of the wildlife I've seen since coming to Puglia:

Seen during a visit to a working masseria...

Spied on one of my trips to Calimera...these buggers were hard to photograph, had to use stealth

Ran into an unexpected visit by Kujo during a passegiata around Martignano

Lovely Dog, who followed me home from a walk back from Calimera. Sweet creature.

Some guy breaking a wild stallion on Calimera old road?

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