Thursday, February 25, 2010


When one thinks of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and preservation - normally one thinks of ancient ruins like Stonehenge, the Acropolis in Athens or natural wonders like the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. Afterall, the purpose of UNESCO is to encourage the protection and preservation of items of such cultural or natural significance that these items are not simply part of a single nation's culture ... instead are considered as belonging to humanity as a whole. UNESCO has designated Sicilian Puppet Theatre as part of humanity's "oral and intangible heritage" and has devised a plan to save it from extinction.
Pupi means puppets ...but these are the small marionettes that are commong in the States and most of western Europe. No - these things are about three or four feet tall and can weigh between 100 and 150 pounds. or The modern tradition that can still be seen in Sicily originated in the early 19th century but the history of Pupi theatre can be traced to at least the 1400s. Puppets and marionettes were a popular form of entertainment throughout Medieval Europe for all classes of people and it is probable that the earliest performances involved local history and folklore.
In Sicily, puppet theatre uses wooden marionettes on strings and metal wires instead of hand puppets made of cloth. Sicilian marionettes vary in size depending upon the locality. Catania are nearly twice the size of those used in Palermo and the closely related puppet tradition of Naples uses marionettes that are a meter tall. Sicilian Puppet Theatre: Famous Characters Many of the characters portrayed in the Opera dei Pupi come straight from the history of Southern Italy. Heroes of the Norman Conquest such as Roger (Ruggiero) and Tancred (Tancredi) do battle with the Saracens or vie for a maiden's hand. Other characters like Godfrey (Goffredo) and Reynald (Rinaldo) are fictional characters whose origins are based upon real-life participants in the Crusades. The most popular character is arguably Orlando, the Sicilian version of Charlemagne's (Carlo Magno) nephew Roland and the most common marionette sold in gift shops. The villains of the Opera dei Pupi are more fanciful and besides the Saracens who once ruled Sicily, are based more in legend than in fact. Agricane is one such villain who is identified as the King of Mongolia and fights Orlando for the love of a princess. Another foe of the hero Orlando is Alcina, a sorceress. Argante is a powerful Saracen warrior that battles Tancredi in a fight to the death at the walls of Jerusalem. Whether good or evil, the characters and their deeds are all much larger than life, the equivalent to today's fictional super heroes. Subject matter of the Opera dei Pupi is derived from various periods of Sicilian history, works of literature, folklore and comedy. Performances that pit the Norman knights against the Saracens are taken from Sicily's turbulent history, with various liberties taken for the sake of art. Plays which feature Orlando and Carlo Magno are the famous Song of Roland (Chanson de Roland).
Opera dei Pupi also covers subjects from classical Greece and Rome such as Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. Religious and Biblical performances can include tales from the Old Testament, including the tale of the Exodus. The dialogue of Sicilian Puppet Theatre is usually improvised, even if the plot remains the same. Therefore the skill of the performer is not only displayed in the actions of the marionettes, but also in the clever improvisation of the dialogue. A major component of the Opera dei Pupi is the violence: swordfights, jousts and battles with monsters or sorceresses. When a hero slashes with his sword, limbs can fall from the villain. In some performances the wounds actually bleed, the blood being made from beet juice.
Much of Sicily's history has been violent and over the centuries it has imprinted itself in this most traditional form of entertainment. Sicilian Puppet Theatre: Preserving the Tradition Sadly, the popularity of Sicilian Puppet Theatre began to decline sharply during the middle of the 20th century. With the advent of more modern forms of entertainment, many family-run puppet companies had to close, selling off their props to collectors. Today there is no shortage of shops in Sicily selling replica puppets for the tourist market, but actual puppet theatres have been in serious decline.
The theatre we went to has been around for several decades and is a family run theatre. Afterwars, we met the grandfather, father and mother, kids and even grandkids who all worked to put out each play.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


It's artichoke season here - vendors are everywhere selling fresh from local fields. Twenty-five artichokes for 6 euro (about $8.50 in US dollars).
I love springtime here.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Fond memories....

a building in Manama - the wind-vanes between the two towers generate enough energy for the building, the parking lot and many buildings nearby...
...while wandering through the souq....
camel near the Tree of Life...
...the Khamis supposed to date to the late 600's C.E. - believed to be the first mosque built in Bahrain
saw this sign when trying to find the Tree of Life...
The rug merchant I liked to visit ... a LOT!

I really enjoyed my time in Bahrain....

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Pentagon Channel (it's one of the Armed Forces TV channels over here in Europe) had a story tonight about a comic strip centered around a young military couple and the trials (or maybe I should say) the circus that life becomes as a military family.

I laughed and I cried reading the comics ... lots of memories here.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

45 Lessons of Life

Most of the lessons I agree with ...but not all. Sure do like the pictures though,

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Our neighbor is working on his house again ...covering the walls with plaster, adding the balcony railings and tiles on the roof - all sorts of stuff. Previously Indy had her own verion of kitty-TV since a lot of birds had built nests on the top floor ... protected from the wind and rain, yet all the windows-to-be provided easy access to the outside. Don't know how soon the top floor will be closed in ...still lots of work to do on the may be a while .... traditionally Sicilians would build or improve their homes only as they saved up the money to do so ...
...looking in a window-to-be to the inside of the room...

...under the window-to-be, you can see sunlight coming through the cracks around the brick...later that day, plaster had been put on both sides of this wall ....nope, no insulation whatsoever ... here can be pretty, but the inside temperatures vary along with the outside temperatures ...


We had a potluck after caseworker training today at the Navy Marine Corps Relief Office here .... welcome in the new volunteers, say farewell to the ones who are leaving ...I won the "Guess the Number of Kisses" ....isn't it pretty?
And in the mail, the spices and giftcard I was awarded in Jenn's ( giftaway got here ....

Yup...all in all...a very good day!

Sunday, February 7, 2010


DH and I are sort-planning, sorta-dreaming about doing a round-the-world trip when we get done working here. We figure we can explore a lot of Europe while we are here (we go for mostly the cheap places to stay, it's a place to sleep and get clean...only splurge occassionally for a nice place as a treat ...just our way)...we like spending time just wandering around and watching/doing as the locals do. We want to be able to spend several weeks to several months at a time getting more that a surface visit. has lots of ideas we are adding to our list (we are still at the gathering info and "where do we want to go" ideas) of his links is "Less Than a Shoestring" ( and one of her's that I fell in love with today (though she has LOTS I enjoy) is "Life Lessons of a Military Wife" (

Got some things to do around the apartment ...want to finish the afghan I am making for our landlords today so I can take it down with the rent check tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


It was snowing in Belpasso when we left for work this morning ...not a lot, definitely not sticking....but it was definitely snowing. Took Indy out on the balcony so she could see the snow -- thought maybe she'd investigate "those funny white fluffy things" that were drifting down (mostly large flakes were falling) ... but she decided it was way too cold out there for her little kitty toes and quickly retreated back into the kitchen.

Will have to tease our landlords tonight -- Giovanni and Carmela say that it never rains in Belpasso ...always sunny and warm .... wonder how snow fits in.

As you can imagine ... Etna is just covered with snow...even the lowest slopes have quite a bit of snow.

No, I didn't take this picture -no where near this skilled.