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Monday, 3 November 2008

A Visit to the Travellers

A seminarian at Orthfully Catholic has a report on a visit to a community (encampment?) of Travellers.
I believe these are the people I heard referred to, and about whom I was warned in Ireland, as "Tinkers."
The hatred and fear of "the other" is a universal sin, isn't it?
My town has something ugly simmering in it just now.
And of course, hardly a trip to the "big city" goes by without advice to avoid places that I know from experience are no more dangerous than many others that don't have the "stigma" of being populated by more recent immigrant groups.
And really, what are my own fears of gang-related crime in certain locales, certain locations? can I be sure that they are rational, and not racist, or classist, or dislike-of-baggy-pantsist?
On the other hand, sheer common sense makes one wary and observant in certain times and places and situations.... where to draw the line.
You don't pay for the unsolicited services of a roof or driveway repairman who just happened to be in the neighborhood with macadam or shingles left over from another job he just finished "don the block...."
In Naples, to use one story I've heard over and over... can you NOT catch the baby?

It wasn't what I expected at all. I was expecting large families living in tiny caravans but in actual fact each family has built a makeshift house and has a few caravans parked outside, so they live in the house but sleep in the caravans. New mothers also have a caravan each in order to bond with the babies.
Sister told me all sorts of scary stories so I was very nervous at first but really enjoyed the experience when I discovered it was no different to visiting ordinary homes. The women were very hospitable. The men were a little suspicious, they are very protective of their property (which includes their women and children). However, when they saw me with Sister they assumed I was a priest and apologised.
They are in great need of prayers. They are hated by the local community and ignored by the local councils. The local school is populated entirely by travellers because the locals won't send their children there. They go over to Ireland every Christmas and the locals go and destroy their site. The road leading up to the site is treacherous but the council won't repair it because they are travellers.

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