September 3: fly with the AI group to Italy to continue the meeting at Camaldoli
We’re at Camaldoli now. It was a bit of a whirlwind yesterday. We all met at 5:45 AM outside the guesthouse at Nütschau, Prior Johannes and another monk meeting us with flasks of coffee, and each of us with our little takeaway bag of breakfast foods. We were driven in two vans to Hamburg, where we took our first flight to Munich, and there transferred to a flight, on Air Dolomiti, to Bologna. There Petra had rented a van and the seven us piled in and began the three hours plus drive to Camaldoli. Petra’s idea for our lunch was to stop at a supermercato and buy provisions for a picnic along the way, which we did about a half an hour into the journey. Seeing the seven of us run around the store, each grabbing something that he or she wanted was extremely funny. Sr. Mariangela wanted buffalo mozzarella, Manel wanted olives and Coca-Cola, I wanted grapes, and lemon for my salad. There were two large bottles of red wine and three loaves of the big round bread known as cembelle, three kinds of cheese, yogurt, cucumbers, big beautiful tomatoes, oil, bananas, cabbage, fruit juice and, for some reason, a large bag of peanuts (unsalted). We also had to buy a knife, napkins, bowls, spoons, etc. By the end I am not sure that it was any less expensive than panini at the Autogrill would have been, but it was a lot more fun. I had forgotten about the trip over the Mandrioli Pass from Emilia Romana to Tuscany. Luckily, we had another stop and a bathroom break in between, but I was getting a little green in the gills from Johannes’ driving on those curvy mountain roads. I was teasing him about a German driving in Italy, but he was very much in control. We wound up getting here minutes before Mass began (the Feast, for us, of St. Gregory the Great). Jeremias and I were able to greet a few monks as we walked in, but mostly we all just stayed at the back of the crowded church, masked and semi-socially distanced, most of our group standing. Then after Mass a madhouse of trying to say hello to everyone, introduce the group, then we talk to the woman at the front desk and get our keys, herded into a delicious dinner before going to our rooms, and then unloading the van and finding our rooms. I got sidelined almost immediately by the novice here named Federico, with whom I have had a lot of online contact via email and Zoom but had never met face to face, and we wound up walking and talking for about an hour before I finally got to my room well after 10, set my things in order and crashed, big time.
One rather humorous and typically Italian thing: the three other members of the support team at Nütschau worked for hours with us individually helping us fill out all the necessary forms online to enter Italy during these Covid times. And it was a labyrinth of details, back and forth form one site to another, flight numbers, temporary addresses, permanent addresses, vaccination proofs, etc. and in the end a sheaf of documents to carry with us to present to the Italian authorities. The only thing is we walked into Italy without anyone checking any of our documents including our passports.
The last day at Nütschau was very intense. Besides two or three more dance (I lost count) we actually did case studied that day. What would a safe space encounter actually look like if we were to host one? They had six prepared for us: one form each of the countries represented: Spain, Nigeria, India, Germany, China and the US. It all suddenly became very real when they told me who my team was: a social scientist and AI tech from the Rand Corporation in Santa Monica and a research fellow at, of all places, Arizona State University in Tempe, where I actually studied. And the hypothetical situation was immigration, centered in San Jose. The host country had to discuss the background and then the group had to come up with a list of the who the stakeholders were (who would need to be involved in the dialogue) and what kinds of exercises would facilitate creating the environment for a Safe Space.
I am staying on the third floor of the foresteria (first time staying here), a nice quiet room, but there is no phone signal nor WiFi so I may be a bit incommunicado for the next days. I am not sure if I am moving the monastery after this meeting finishes tomorrow. Today is our day to discuss Bede Griffiths. After her visit with Thomas and I at New Camaldoli Petra became convinced that he is an important voice to be in the background of our work moving forward. Of course I am excited about that, and she and I discussed it on the plane yesterday comparing notes from Thomas’ Essential Writings. Jeremias and I want to drive the whole group of the Sacro Eremo and find a place to meet up there, where it is quieter and less crowded. (The foresteria seems to be chock full.) This is our last working day. Tomorrow we will celebrate Eucharist together and the others will head out to the four winds.
Love and prayers.