John Coyne’s vivid portrait of Menorca compels me to write about my home on Menorca’s big sister, Mallorca.  First the question asked by all, “How or why did you buy a house in Mallorca?”  Blame it on the Peace Corps.

My father’s family were Italian immigrants and I studied Italian in college in order to reply that I spoke the language when challenged about my Italian “Heritage.”  In fact I have always considered  that I took after my mother’s family in physical appearance and they were Germans who had settled in Virginia before the Revolution.  But when I explained that Cecchini is Italian everyone asked if I spoke the language, so my studies in college.

The “Italian” connection gave me an interest in the country.  Our Peace Corps group to Ethiopia, the first, flew from New York City to Rome for a brief stay where one sniff of the air enhanced by fascination. We also stopped in Athens for another sniff of Mediterranean air. 

I wound up as a PCV teaching in a high school in Asmara which is now the capital of Eritrea.  This was not entirely the luck of the draw.  It seems the Peace Corps staff in Ethiopia sent everyone who’s name ended in a vowel to Eritrea assuming we spoke some Italian which was useful since the province still retained a sizable Italian speaking population.  In fact, Asmara had all the look of a southern Italian town with a wide boulevard, on which I lived, cutting through the middle of the city lined with sidewalk cafes.  For all intents and purposes the physical appearance of the town was Italian but the population was mainly Ethiopian or, as I would soon learn, Eritrean. 

Another aspect of Italian influence was the group of Italian teachers I met by accident one night when some of us wandered into a party for them in the middle of the town. In essence they were Italy’s “Peace Corps” since most of their students were Eritreans, not Italians. 

But I had actually asked to go to Asmara.   Why, because one of my uncles who spent World War II flying bombers planes from North Africa to bomb Italy into submission said he had gone there with his plane to be repaired at a former Italian air base.  He whispered one word to me when I told him I was off to Ethiopia, “Asmara.”

So there I was living and teaching in what was essentially the Mediterranean transplanted to Africa.  To cap it off I became the school’s soccer coach, I was training players in Italy’s most revered sport. 

More to come.