Not a Normal Country by Geoff Andrews brings out the uniqueness of the Italian situation. Published in 2005, reading today the subtitle Italy after Berlusconi, one can only chuckle.
But the title can be adapted to Casa Cares. Not a normal guesthouse. Of course every guest facility is unique: setting, history, organization, size, level of comfort, cost, amenities. And certainly it is useful to avoid saying one facility is across the board better than another, but Casa Cares, one can say, is not a normal guesthouse.
One aspect of our situation is that the size of 60 beds permits us a good amount of movement and turnover but not so much traffic that we cannot get to know our guests. Living in the countryside without the attractions/distractions of a city also assures us of more personal contact with our guests than is possible in many hotels.
A glance at the guests of just the current weeks underlines the diversity of those who pass through our doors. USA church seminar on work with their minorities in Muslim countries; Swiss confirmands; German church family retreat; reunion of persons who were children or volunteers in Casa Cares Children’s Home (1962-1975); bicyclists from Germany, France and Switzerland; USA university seminar on Counseling and Guidance; 4 refugees, 1 each from Togo and Senegal, 2 from Bangladesh. Certainly not boring here!
This last group will stay about a month, as long as we have rooms available. They came in response to a request of the Tuscan authorities who have been charged with finding temporary (?) housing for many of the boat people who have arrived in Sicily from Libya. It is not easy for the authorities but of course harder for the refugees themselves. An introductory meeting among them and our staff was essential and informative for all. We have committed to be helpful as long as long as possible, but obviously it is not an easy task for anybody involved. Our staff has been excellent in opening their minds and their arms.
In the meantime we push to finish the theater and the garden is blooming. This is one of the prettiest times of the year. It reminds me of the English woman who, after a tour of the property, asked, “You mean the church just lets you live here?”