September 15th, 2008
Heathrow Airport – London
Sitting in the plane (Delta Airlines) leaving Heathrow and arriving at JFK.
This is it! The time has come but before, I must admit that this trip wasn’t exactly what I had intended but perhaps it was exactly what I needed. Only time will be able to answer that but, for now, I will write down what I had expected from the trip and what I have realized along the way. But before I even do that there are a couple of things I need to state. Firstly, there were many things that I wanted to do while I was in London but did not get around to doing it. This was partly due to the fact that I wasn’t alone and therefore had to be compromising constantly. The other reason was that my U.K. guidebook was left in Montreal by Mel (Craig’s wife). Although I did not get a chance to see these places I would like to state them, in order to remind myself if ever I make it back here. I wanted to visit either Cambridge or Oxford University since it has always been a dream of mine to have studied at these historical schools (the same has been for the Ivy League schools in the U.S. when I visited Boston [Harvard & MIT] in 2002/03). I have been trying to get a hold of Accountants-Without-Borders, by email, but without very much luck. When I got a hold of them on Friday they told me that the person I needed to speak to was not in the office and that they would only return on Monday at 9am. Since I was leaving Monday morning and I need to resort to calling from home (which I could have done a while ago). The next thing I wanted to do was visit the College of Arms to see the genealogy chart of the Royal Family and witness for myself that they are descendants of King David. Hopefully, Nick will be able to do that for me today since the government building was closed over the weekend and opens only at 10am. I also wanted to visit the monument commemorating General Wolfe and his victory over Quebec. It was something I thought of doing when I attended St. Jean Baptist 400th anniversary celebrations this past year in Quebec City. I also wanted to be present at the Speaker’s Corner at Hyde Park on Sunday and participate in some form of political discussion … stopped to eat … perhaps with respect to Israel and Palestine. In the end, I opted for the more relaxed approach to the city and I think it did its thing. Out of all the cities that I have visited perhaps Milan and London would be the two that I would be most interested in working in one day (if my career still involved financial markets and institutions). Ramallah was interesting and so was Tel-Aviv but I couldn’t see a reason why I would need to spend more time there than vacationing.
The last thing I wanted to mention before I began my final discourse was the dream I had Saturday night – just before I woke-up. Although it has been some time since I’ve had it, I can still remember the emotions I physically felt while I slept I don’t remember how I got to this point but I recall that it was a cloudy / grey day and my dad, my grandfather, my uncle and I were playing Italian cards in our neighbourhood on some type of picnic table – something that would have surely occurred if they grandfather and uncle were still living at most probably at a family picnic or meal for a holiday or someone’s birthday. My dad was sitting diagonally from where I was sitting while my uncle sat to the right to me and my grandfather was sitting in front me. From our seating arrangements, it was understood that my dad and I were partners and that we were playing against my uncle and grandfather. My uncle did not say much nor did I give him that much importance in the dream. It seemed like he was still living in the dream. The focus was on my grandfather.
He did not say a word to me. He didn’t even look at me in the eyes. It seemed like he was there playing alone but amongst us. As if I was watching a movie real. I remember telling myself, “So that’s how my grandfather used to play cards.” Playing cards was something I used to do mostly with my dad and my grandmother. I believe I only played with him once but used to watch him, my dad and uncle play for hours. I was too young and inexperienced to play at their level.
After noticing how my grandfather was playing, my dad turned to me and stated, with a matter-of-fact tone in his voice, “Now you know how your grandfather used to play cards.” Which brings me to the final stage of this entry: what did I expect from this trip before I left and what have I taken from it now that I find myself at the end of it.
While remaining on the theme of my dream, one of the major reasons I scheduled Italy into it all was to see where my Italian side was from and to extend my family tree. More precisely, get to know the family I always had but never knew about. I expected to fall in love with the country and concoct plans on how I would be able to move there and work. What I found instead was a country that was rude and filled with tourists – everywhere I turned. I decided that I needed to come back, sooner rather than later, in order to experience it MY WAY (and not have to preoccupy with what others want or are comfortable with). Italy brought me to Rome and the Vatican where perhaps arguably two of the most influential empires in history are located: the Roman and Christian Empires. Before I left on the trip, I was eager to visit these historical sites that I have read so much about throughout my life. From my history classes to my time with the Church, Rome has been like a Mecca for me: a pilgrimage of religions, cultural and historical importance. I found all of this in Rome and the Vatican but the context, ‘landscape’ and foundation of the pilgrimage shifted, from what it used to be, once I actually arrived there.
In order to better explain this, I will need to refer to the first leg of my journey: the Middle East. This trip was quite important for me for a number of reasons. On a more superficial level, I was always intrigued by this area of the world especially with Arabia. In addition, I wanted to better acquaint myself with the area, its history, its culture and its politics. This definitely included the witnessing of a country that is not ruled by Judeo-Christian beliefs but something else – in this case, Islamic traditions. Futhermore, the ability (or inability) to coexist in various cultural situations was important as well. This is one of the main reasons for those two legs has been the study of historical and contemporary investigations of struggles, revolutions and occupations. This ‘investigation’ actually began June 24th, 2008 when Sacha and I went to Quebec City to witness the 400th anniversary of the founding of Tadoussac settlement on the Plains of Abraham (the location where General Wolfe [English Army] defeated Montcalm [French Army] … watching Helen Hunt movie that I read about in the paper in England (“Then She Found Me”) … The event marks the historical struggle between these two cultures with each other and with respect to the Aboriginal people across Canada up to the period that affected my life: the culmination to the Quiet Revolution and its aftermath. Born in 1980, I was introduced to a city, a province, a nation, a people and a country with Pierre Elliot Trudeau and René Lévesque as my strict biological father and my loving step-father, respectively.
I am a child of the Canadian Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms but I am also Québécois. But who are my parents? Who were they? Who are they now? What’s my family’s coat of arms? Is it time to change it? These questions have brought me to investigate other struggles. It sent me to Israel to more about the interlaced history of the region. To learn about its ‘Apartheid Walls’, PLO corruption, suicide bombings, co-existence, etc. I then went to the Republic of Ireland and visited places that illustrated the pains of the Irish people throughout history and made parallels with what is currently occurring in Israel (especially after visiting Northern Ireland and the Catholic and Protestant neighbourhoods separated by ‘Walls of Peace’), as well as, what has happened in Quebec, since the Quiet Revolution and in Scotland since 1998. All of these struggles involve some form or other of violent resistance against their oppressors. Was it necessary? My belief is that of oppressors do not listen to words or arguments or even any form of logic besides the logic of interests. When interests, whatever they may be, are no longer sustainable then they will relinquish their hold.
From Israel, I went to Rome where I was able to close a significant part of that discussion. In Israel, I learned about the Roman reign in the Holy Land. Herod’s Palaces, Beth Lehem, Jerusalem, Masada, the burning of the Second Temple, etc. I saw what methods the Romans used for their conquests in Judea and their abuse of the Jewish people and, upon arriving into Rome, everything the Jewish slaves created that we now see as Roman (or Italian): the Colosseo, the Roman Forum, etc. As previously mentioned with respect to the pyramids in Egypt, what are we admiring? Has anything changed today? I think it is important that I re-write the quote that I took from the Colosseo Museum (August 31st, 2008 11h00ish),
“(The Romans) great robbers of the world, after all the lands have been diminished by their devastation (they) are exploiting the sea, greedy if the enemy is rich, arrogant if he is poor. They cannot get enough of either the East or the West; they alone desire to possess with equal madness the richness and the misery of nations. Under the false name of empire they pass off robbery, murder and pillage: and when they have achieved desolation, they call it peace.”
Tacitus, Agricola, 30, 4
But, are there benefits to occupation? Of course there are ‘exchanges’ of ideas (most of the time they are coerced) but this can happen peacefully and in a self-determining manner. The reason I ask this question is because while in Rome, I heard many tour guides and tourists make reference to the benefits of the Roman Empire. The belief that the, “Romans brought culture, architecture, ‘republicanism’, ‘democracy’, order, laws, etc” to an otherwise ‘ignorant’ Europe and known world at the time, along with, “If it wasn’t for them these things would not have existed” (or it would have taken longer than it already did). I do not believe that benefits cannot be measured in isolation and must incorporate the costs of being occupied which differ from case-to-case. I’m almost ready to say that I don’t believe that there is a case where the ‘benefits’ of occupation outweigh the imposed act itself but would need to look into history to be certain. One thing for certain is that there’s a thread of cases where I can no longer negate the facts illustrating that their reign’s costs of occupation outweigh their benefits throughout history. And that’s the reign of Christianity and the Catholic Church.
The path from Israel to Rome was important for many reasons (as can be read) but one that stood out from the others was religious in nature (at least before I left Montreal. This can be seen in the email that I sent Father Frank Leo before I left and discussion we had together one day before I left). It has been a little over 10 years that I left the Catholic Church. Mostly spurred by the death of my grandfather and then the passing of my uncle (as well as, at least according to me, some inexplicable historical events) and causing my religious and spiritual life to separate and become almost non-existent for some time. My morality suffered as well since it was almost exclusively attached to Christianity – and I was questioning everything. I began to search for my spirituality in other religions and religious traditions but it was during my South American trip where I made my greatest advancements and it was throughout this trip where I realized it. It was reading, “The Art of Happiness” and taking notes on the various topics that the Dalai Lama touched home and applied to my life that it dawned on me when I came across this quote, in reference to secular ethics,
“… although I personally believe that our human nature is fundamentally gentle and compassionate, I feel it is not enough that this is our underlying nature; we must also develop an appreciation and awareness of that fact. And changing how we perceive ourselves, through learning and understanding, can have a very real impact on how we interact with others and how we conduct our daily lives.”
My ethics, even before I began to be committed to the Church, was always based on a concept of compassion, love and understanding for your neighbour and humanity in general (I wrote about this in more detail in an earlier entry). After visiting Jerusalem with every sense that I possess, I concluded that religion is where I should take my influences from but personalize its traditions to my perspective. This realization became the basis of my moral code (with jottings all over my journal) and, what one day will be my construction of the New Jerusalem Man (as I initially labeled it) or some other name I will up with. Although it will still take some time before I am comfortable with the vision, I know that the journey should be truly breath-taking.
September 15th, 2008
Sitting in the Gate 23 section of JFK airport waiting for my 13h45 flight to Montreal to board
I am getting closer to home and my stomach was experiencing the butterflies for some reason. This return seems different from the others. It seems like a never left. That’s probably because I spent the last three weeks with friends so I guess that made it seem like I never left. Come to think of it, throughout this whole trip (the whole six weeks) I was constantly surrounded by people I knew. In Israel I met up with Danny Brown, Jesse Rosenfeld, Cristina Zoghbi, Inbal Permont and the Zoghbi brothers (Nader Zoghbi being the one who got married). In Italy, I met with my family but before then, I began my trip by meeting Nick and then Carlo and Marco in Rome (and Abruzzo). This was followed by Nick and I meeting Vince in Dublin where we then headed off together to meet Joseph, Craig, Mel and Nicole in Doolin, Ireland (Craig and Mel being the couple that got married). Once in London, I met up with an old friend (from Vanier College) named Sarah and met up with Andrew. I was supposed to have met two other friends but I mixed up the locations and therefore, was unable to. What does this all mean? Well, I believe that I have begun to understand the importance of relationships (intimate and not) and believe that they can fulfill individuals in ways that individuals cannot do alone and that are vital in one’s growth as a person and as a member of society. Before I left, I was enthusiastic for encountering some old friends but now in different environments, friends that I met in my last trip to South America but now in their home countries and my current friends (that are also old). Getting to see them all in completely different landscapes was captivating but, I forgot to incorporate one thing. That thing was the reality that my trip was only six weeks this time around and my desire to see and do the most amounts of things possible has diminished. Knowing what I know now, I am not sure I would have done everything exactly the same again. I would have taken a couple of days alone in Italy to wander and I would have met up with Adriana in Nice. But overall, it was a pleasant challenge. And I say this because although I have known most of the people I’ve mentioned for quite some time, you never really know someone 100% (but when you find those things out). This is evident in a quote by the author of, “The Art of Happiness”,
“If what we seek in life is happiness and intimacy is an important ingredient of a happier life, then it clearly makes sense to conduct our lives on the basis of a model of intimacy that includes as many forms of connection with others as possible. The Dalai Lama’s model of intimacy is based on a willingness to open ourselves to many others, to family, friends, and even strangers, forming genuine and deep bonds based on our common humanity.”
During one of the phone conversations with my dad while I was away, he told me that he heard someone say that, “there are no strangers in Ireland – only friends you haven’t met yet”. I find that this can be true for the world as long as we open ourselves to others as the Dalai Lama states. In reference to more ‘intimate’ relationship (i.e marriages) his approach to building a strong relationship is by basing the relationship on, “the qualities of affection, compassion, and mutual respect as human beings. Basing a relationship on these qualities enables us to achieve a deep and meaningful bond not only with our lover or spouse but also with friends, acquaintances or strangers – virtually any human beings. It opens up unlimited possibilities and opportunities for connection.”
The quote reminds me of a journal entry from South America where I defined love as the emotional response to understanding one’s significant other. Although it was much more elaborate than that, it sounded quite similar to the aforementioned quote. The quote as well as the two weddings has helped me come to terms with my intimate life. It has assured me that I am on the right track when it comes to understanding and love. What I need to do is improve on my ability to understand ‘understanding’ even when I am tired and stressed! The weddings, along with, all those romantic touristy places like Venezia, Firenze and Cinque Terre have cleansed my heart and it seems to be ready to be used again. Only time will tell but I do feel my blood warming up.
As I approach the end of the journey, and the journal entry for that matter, I would like to go back to the beginning of this entry where I spoke about my grandfather and the dream I had. I believe my grandfather symbolizes the trip especially my time with my family in Italy. It represents my aggressive research in where I came from. The fact that my grandmother and dad’s stories of the old country will now have a background. The fact that I can understand and somewhat relate. I saw where my grandfather was born and met someone else who used to play with him when they were kids. I saw the house where my great grandmother and her sisters were born. I saw the port where my grandfather, as well as, my father and grandmother (the first time around) left for ‘America’: Santa Lucia port in Napoli (by boat passing by Genova, Italy and then Lisboa, Portugal and arriving finally in Halifax, Canada – 53 days later). I believe it will bring me closer to my dad and grandmother because I am the only one in the family, who can understand because I have seen it, breathed it and for one lunch, ate it!
And here’s the part that I wanted to write and bury in the cemetery in Pietracatella (where I am from in Italy) in front of my great grandfather but the words weren’t coming to me. I want to take the time now to greet my kin and our ancestors (the reason I have been keeping a detailed account all along). I have taken the time to document my thoughts so that you can get a chance, if you so desire, to get to know who I was (as I was) and from my very own pen (by then, no one will be using pens. Search it and you’ll find out what they were on your own).
So, welcome to the family (if I haven’t done so already in person). I have spent quite some time mapping out the family tree but please feel free to research for yourself and add to my findings. You’ll discover that it is quite exciting and I just began scratching the surface. If you’re wondering what I had in mind at this moment when it came to my life plans and goals … well … I have some idea. I discovered on this journey that Canada is a wonderful country at the turn of the 21st century. Great opportunities and very well respected around the world. As I traveled, my passport and I have been greeted with nothing less than the utmost respect for our country and its citizens. Unfortunately, I have noticed that the underlying fabric that makes us stand out in the world is being dyed a different tone. I feel that I need to assist in whichever way possible at the moment.
As for future travels, it has become clearer and clearer as the weeks went by that my next stop is Canada. It is time that I pause learning about the world’s history, culture and geography when traveling and begin focusing on my own country. And yes, I think for the first time in my life I can actually say that, “I am Canadian” without feeling that I am relinquishing the fact that I am Italian, Venezuelan, Spanish, Trinidadian, African and especially Québécois, as well. I believe a Canadian identity is being formed in me and once I can define it, I will make sure to share it with others.
This is not a good-bye but a, “A té luogo” (Brazilian for, “Until later”). I’m certain we will speak again very soon. Take care and remember that your family, past and present, have only the best in their hearts for you.
Anthony Luciano Di Carlo Aché
PS: Ithaca here I am!