Why am I here?

Learning about proper customer behavior at a local farmers market in Trieste

If I am honest, I must admit that I have some trepidation about what awaits me in the month ahead.  I have returned to Trieste now for the fourth time since my first visit in July 2017.  I have ensconced myself in an apartment, bought my groceries, purchased my bus pass and explored my little neighborhood in the città vecchia (old city).  I am here on my own dime.  I could use this spot as a launching pad to explore Italy, Slovenia, Austria – -all sorts of places that are easily accessible by train.  (And I will do a little of that before I leave).  However, instead, I have signed up to be a volunteer anywhere in the community where I can learn more about how the system of community care operates under the auspices of the Dipartimento di Salute Mentale.  

I have been studying Italian since last May, in preparation.  There is nothing more humbling that to be reduced from the articulate, opinionated person I am to an American who is struggling to speak in the present tense, searching desperately for the correct verb.  (The verb andare, which means “to go” is conjugated in the first person as io vado, as in “Io vado al ristorante.”  Imperfect verbs are a beast!)  So, I am living this existential life in the present tense – there is no future and no past, as far as I am concerned — and praying (truly) that this sensation that I have rocks in my mouth will dissipate soon.

I have been assigned to a community nonprofit, Luna e L’Altra, which is described as an organization which serves women.  Yesterday, I met the woman who heads the organization, Tea Giorgi, who, demonstrating,  the accoglienza I so admire, took time out of her Saturday to spend a couple hours introducing me to the  città vecchia (she lives here too).  She showed me the ATM, introduced me to people in the local library, and pointed out good places for coffee or food which are not too expensive!  We went to the small outdoor market, and as I observed the custom here, I noticed that one does not grab and bag and start picking out what to buy.  Instead, you tell the attendant what you want, and she will bag your fruits and vegetables.  So glad I saw that demonstrated!

So why am I here? 

I am here to challenge all my senses in order to be open to a different way to see people.  At a meeting two weeks ago, I was asked, “why would anything that happens in Trieste be relevant to what happens in Los Angeles?”  It was a fair question.  I’m not sure I provided the best answer at that moment.

But here is my answer after thinking about this more:  It is not about the city we are in.  It is not about the laws or the culture or the politics that set the context for how people living with mental illness are treated.  I am drawn to the “sameness” of the human condition, no matter where we live on earth.  I give credit to Dr. Jonathan Sherin, the head of the LA County Department of Mental Health, who has eloquently reduced this to a simple meme, “all people want someplace to live, someone to love, and something to do.”    With respect to how we care for our friends, families and those who, by virtue of their mental illness and poverty, are relegated to anonymity in our society, America has something to learn from Trieste. I have 28 more days to get closer to understanding what I can bring home with me.

11 thoughts on “Why am I here?”

  1. Have a safe trip! I will wait for you , we will have a” capo in b “( I’m sure you learnt what it is 😜) together when you come back!
    My daughter just graduated and she will leave again for UC Irvine in August for a year … so we can reciprocate our learning of each other ‘s language!
    Scilla

    1. Capo in b! Yes, I felt like a Triestino ordering one! Now I am back at home with our silly big cups of coffee in the morning. Congratulations to your daughter. Yes – so glad to have this connection. Keep following the blog and I will meet you in September.

  2. Welcome Kerry in my town ! I read about your research on Facebook and it’s really interesting that my small Trieste could help the big LA.
    Excuse my English, I have a big group of friends ( American ) in Orange County and sometime they are positively shocked by our social net, it makes really the difference in our quality of life ; for instance city council provides some help for my Mom who is semi paralyzed after a stroke .
    A big “ in bocca al lupo” for your work here in Trieste , now I can be proud of my home town
    Scilla

    1. Scilla, are you from Trieste! You should be quite proud. That is lovely, and it is so interesting to read your comment because “in bocca al lupo” is the last thing my Italian tutor said to me before I left for Italy in February. It feels like it means something like the mouth of the wolf…so I’m still trying to figure out why it means good luck!

      1. Hi Kerry,
        You are right: in bocca al lupo means good luck! I knew that is because mother wolf carries her puppies in her jaws safely, so now I google it and they said it’s due to an ancient way of saying good luck between hunters and that’s why you should answer to the wishing: “ crepi il lupo”!
        However I’m enjoying to follow your blog : I ‘m learning a lot new things about my town that I didn’t know.
        I work in a pharmacy downtown ( piazza S.Giovanni) so if you need or want to speak a little English and meet me I would be happy to help with your Italian and so I could practice.
        Scilla

        1. Scilla – today I leave 🙁 But I am coming back in September. Vorrei practicare il mio italiano con ti. Quando tornerò, ti visiterò e avremo il caffè! Arriverderci. Kerry

  3. Kerry!!!! Only you could put into action the unique combination of curiousity, courage and conviction to embark on this endeavor. While it seems classic “Kerry,” I can’t help but think “divine inspiration” placed you in Italy.

    Take note of experiences that generate negative emotions, that are unsettling and uncomfortable, that trigger your stress response system. When I’ve practiced openmindedness and acceptance, such experiences have of contributed to a more expansive Tracy. Perhaps the same holds true for you.

    I’m praying for Kerry the student in Itay, and look forward to the return of Kerry the teacher, the messenger, the “chosen” mental health agent of change.

  4. Kerry,
    What a wonderful way to imprint in the community! “Rocks in your mouth.. ” may they smooth out soon. May all the spirit & health you need be with you each day!

  5. What an adventure!! Truly admire your dedication to your job and community. Will love to hear more about your month in Italy

  6. Rock on, Kerry! I am so proud to know you and impressed with your willingness to dive into this adventure. God bless your being, learning, and doing. Thanks for bringing us along for the vicarious ride!

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