Italia 2018 – Part 1 – San Michele

I’ve spent the last few days visiting with friends Luca, Gloria, and Enrico in San Michele, Italy – not too far from Bologna and Modena. The district, Reggio Emilia, is famous for Ferrari and Pavarotti and balsamic vinegar and parmesan cheese, among other things.

I first met Luca and Gloria rather serendipitously online in 1999 when I was working in Bosnia and ICQ was the online chat programme that was popular then. We have seen each other several times in several places over those 19 years. I first met Enrico when he was 3 months old. Now look at him!

It’s always wonderful to spend time with them and to have the opportunity to experience Italy with my Italian family. Gracie, amici.

Here are a few photos of my time there.

Centre of Modena. The reflection in the pool of water caught my eye.

I always enjoy a hike up the hill behind San Michele for a “divine” view of the surrounding countryside and the town below.

The historic covered bridge, an icon in Pavia, near Milano.

The courtyard of the Castello Visconteo in Pavia

Downtown San Michele. Not a metropolis.

I revel all week in Gloria’s cooking. This is a ricotta and chocolate cheesecake/pie. Delizioso.

Ontario summer fun

Can there be anything more fun than getting together with your cousins at a cottage in the summer?

* no fish or amphibians were (intentionally) harmed during the making of this video.  )Two of the frogs may have ended up a bit worse for wear with some over zealous squeezing.)

Photos -I had a very good Friday in Italy.

Enrico and Lilli  by the  Secchia River, San Michele, Italy.

Enrico and Lilli by the Secchia River, San Michele, Italy.




For the past 14 years I have been friends with Luca and Gloria Tracendi who live in San Michele, Italy.  We have met many times in Italy, Canada, Florida and Barcelona.  I rocked their son Enrico when he was three months old.  We met serendipitously on an internet chat site in the very early internet days in the late 1990’s when I was working in Bosnia and have chatted online every couple of weeks since then. Enrico is now almost 13 and as tall as his Dad.   I enjoy visiting them from time to time and they make me feel very much at home. I now know the neighbours and family.  What a delight to have them as friends.  This week I am visiting them again at their home in San Michele. Yesterday Enrico and the dog Lilli and I did some wandering by the river and the hills around the village, appropriately ending up at the top of a big hill where a crucifix overlooked the village below.


Visiting my Moiko family …

For the past 9 years, I have made a point of visiting the Moiko family who live just outside Nairobi on wonderful piece of land that has a panoramic view of the Ngong Hills. imageI have watched their family grow up and grow in size. Last January when I was at their home, Liz was pregnant and hoping that the baby would come along any day. Little (actually not so little) Charles was born in mid-February and so this past weekend was the first time that we were able to meet. He is a robust, happy, curious child that is well loved and cared for by the extended family that lives at the Moiko compound.

Sandra and CharlesSandra. a toddler when I first met her, is now a tall 10 year old in Class 6. She goes off to school, six days a week, taking the school bus at 6 am and not getting home until 7 pm. And then there is homework to do. African students spend many more hours acquiring their education than Canadian children do. Education is seen as an important responsibility and opportunity to get ahead.

Another tradition is to hike through the hills to a cliff above Kona Baridi where I soak up a spectacular view of the Rift Valley. There are two trees that I visit there every year and a few minutes spent sitting quietly listening to the wind and the birds and the j angle of distant cow bells is something that I look forward to am would not want to miss. This year I hiked up to the hill with Daniel, Stephen’s nephew who has matured into a responsible young man over the years I have been visiting.


imageThe four generations of this family all living in the compound – from Stephen’s elderly grandmother, Gogo, who still milks the cows to young Charles splashing in a bathtub in the sun in the yard, make me feel right at home. I am privileged to be part of this traditional but progressive and modern Maasai family.