I’ve never been in a place that makes my skin crawl and my heart happy all at the same time.
Sicily is a beautiful place and one of my favorite things was just walking around the tight streets looking at all of the windows with flower and plants growing around them. However, of the main reasons our program traveled to Sicily, was to learn about the migrants in the area.
Coming into this program, I didn’t know much at all about all the migrants traveling to Europe. I just thought that this rise of immigrants and refugees to the area was causing a burden to the EU. While I honestly still don’t know much, I sadly came to realize that Europe doesn’t have it all together any more than the U.S. Instead, political power, the influence of money, and oppression operates to control every part of the world (fun stuff, right?!). The migrants that I met this past week were mainly boys (one girl and I believe 13 boys). These young boys (14 years of age to early 20s) came alone to a country they don’t know the language of because they were told they would receive 20 euro a day just for coming to Europe.
While I am still very confused with all the details on how these boys arrived in Sicily without their consent, what strikes me the most is how much a person can be under-appreciated, forgotten, or devalued. And while I struggle with being in a new area, trying to make new friends, being away from my family, living on a budget, and trying to communicate with people who don’t speak my language, these boys are struggling with all these things in ways I can’t even imagine or comprehend. I came to realize that while my problems are still problems, I can get out of them, and I am in control. These boys are not in control of their situation, and they can’t just facetime their parents when they get homesick.
While the US has acknowledged the problem of racism in its country, I was surprised to learn that Italy has not done so, and has a large outsider vs. insider mentality that prevents people of other races or ethnicities to be given equal opportunities of jobs or entrance into the community. It’s a problem the U.S faces too, but this was hard to process as we met intelligent and eager boys who were being disadvantaged by the city.
While I left Sicily more than I week ago, I have had a difficult time summing up my experience and, more importantly, my response to the experience. While my hope and prayer is that the world will begin to correct these wrongdoings, I know that requires true commitment to change.
In addition to visiting Sicily, we actually started out our trip in Malta. It was a good introduction because many people on the island speak English. Also, for many of us, it helped to contrast between getting a typical tourist experience, and then traveling to Sicily and understanding the value of an insider’s perspective.
Some random observations about Malta:
-In Malta it was quite easy to communicate because the people speak both English and Maltese.
-Something I thought was interesting was although it is a tiny little island, it has over 365 churches and both abortion and divorce are illegal. At the same time though, with heavy tourism to the island, Malta is known as a party destination so it was interesting to observe the dynamic and impact heavy tourism has on the island
-Malta also has Megalithic temples which are the “oldest free-standing stone structures” in the world (older than Stonehenge and the pyramids of Egypt!).
-Probably one the strangest things was that they drive on the left side of the road. So as a roundabout fan, it wigged me out going the opposite way through them.