by Maria Ruiz
Maria often shares stories with us about Santa Barbara history, her travel all over the world, her dogs, and life.
Palermo is known as a violent city run by the Italian mafia. Several days before, all the papers in Italy were filled with stories about an anti-Mafia lawyer shot down in the streets of Palermo. Several innocent bystanders had been killed in the gunfight. Now we were driving in a strange large city during rush hour (or what we took to be rush hour) and looking for a way to get to an RV park listed in our book of trailer parks. We finally found a couple of street names and were on the way.
We passed by an empty lot where garbage and car parts had been dumped. The address on the front was the one on the park list. We drove down a couple of blocks and returned. True enough, the RV park was now an empty lot. For all we knew, a few bodies might have been buried there.
It was beginning to get dark and we were stuck in a big city without a place to park for the night. “Let’s find the highway and see if we can find something down the road,” Ted said.
I agreed and, using the map, we found our way out of town and soon were driving down a nice road toward the unknown. Suddenly I saw a sign on a fence: RV Park & Restaurante.
There it was, a big, well-lighted RV park and a restaurant covered with Christmas lights and lots of people. It didn’t take long to get settled and eating a wonderful Italian dinner.
The next morning, after a good night’s sleep, we continued on to see Sicily. We spent Christmas in another park where many families were enjoying the holiday.
For the next week, we toured the island and planned to be leaving in another two days. We drove, looking for another park, through another strange city. We found it and discovered the gates were locked. There was a box outside the park from which we could call the landowners. I tried to explain in my broken Spanish and English that we wanted to spend the night.
Someone from the office showed up and let us into one of the nicest parks we had used. We pulled in and settled down. It was New Year’s Eve and we thought that maybe there would be some sort of celebration that night. Night was settling in and I was busy fixing our supper. Someone knocked on the door and I opened it to see a woman standing there with something in her hands. “I’m Mrs. Olivera and I want to give you this for New Year’s Eve.”
She handed me a couple of small purple radicchio heads. She explained that she grew these especially for the holidays. Another lady was standing behind her and moved up to hand me a small loaf of nut bread. She didn’t speak any English but beamed from ear to ear as I shook her hand and thanked her. “I wish I had something I could give in return.”
Mrs. Olivera said, “Do you have any white sugar? We can’t buy that here.”
“Of course. Let me get some for you.” I quickly poured sugar into a couple of small bags and tied them shut. The two women had come in and were looking around our RV. When I handed them the sugar, they were as happy as I was to use their gifts for our New Yea’s Eve dinner. They left, turning often to wave at me and shout out thanks.
If this was any preview of the following year, 2003, it was going to be a very good one.