#Sicilia (1): The M Family, The Godfather and #Corleone

What comes to your mind when you hear me say Sicily, the Mediterranean island at the toe of Italy?

Could it possibly be the notorious Mafia?

That was exactly what a friend said to me when I broadcasted that I was going to Sicily for a holiday. Why do you want to go to the Lair of the Mafia?

To humour him and to satisfy my curiosity, John and I drove to the village of Corleone one day in the 40 C July heat. You see, one of the first Hollywood films I ever saw in the late 1970s whilst still in China, was the Godfather. I still remember vividly the setting of Michael Corleone’s wedding in the stunning countryside of Sicily. Now that we were there, I wanted to check it out. Our resort was about an hour’s drive away.

The summer sun was beating down relentlessly, and en route we saw the rolling hills, mostly golden following the harvest of wheat, also due to heat. Sicily has one of the driest climates and July is especially arid. There were some green trees punctuating the fields but all around, were the magnificent golden views greeting our shaded eyes. I asked John to stop. For me it was never enough just to enjoy the views myself – I wanted to record some of the natural beauties I encountered and share them with my friends and followers on Social Media. A joy shared is doubled, I firmly believe that.

It was lunch time when we arrived, so first things first. We fouIMG_6027nd a place and ordered pizza in one of the small piazzas in town. There was an advert for the local wine with Corleone on it. I sat down, and somehow I imagined Al Pacino sitting there sipping a beer and eating his pizza, some decades ago. In Italy, it does not matter where, don’t you feel that you are going back in time? I do.

As we wait for our guided tour at the C.I.D.M.D (International Documentary Centre of Mafia and the No Mafia Movement), we walked up to a monastery atop a rocky outcrop at the edge of the village and enjoyed a panoramic view of this famous location. What surrounds Corleone was breathtaking, and it was also apparent why this place could operate so successfully for so many years, not just for the Mafia within Sicily and Italy, but as far as New York in America. The roads to the village are winding and difficult. Its isolation was useful.

Yes, I am familiar with the story of the Godfather, not just because I have seen the trilogy starring the likes of mega stars Marlon Brando and aforementioned Al Pacino, I had read the book by Mario Puzo. Yet the visit to CIDMA was an eye opener. There was no romanticised take on what the M families did, only horrifying facts and figures. How did it begin?

For centuries, Sicily was ruled by a long line of foreign invaders, including the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, French and Spanish. The residents of this island formed groups to protect themselves from the often-hostile occupying forces, as well as from other regional groups of Sicilians. These groups, which later became known as clans or families, developed their own system for justice and retribution, carrying out their actions in secret. By the 19th century, small private armies known as “mafie” took advantage of the frequently violent, chaotic conditions in Sicily and extorted protection money from landowners. From this history, the Sicilian Mafia emerged as a collection of criminal clans or families.
http://www.history.com/topics/origins-of-the-mafia

In the 1950s and afterwards, the Mafia flourished and its ever expanding criminal empire became a major player of international drug trafficking. Bribery and intimidation of officials, murdering those who dared to defy them and even innocent bystanders. There was a time when nobody could speak about them, and people in Corleone lived in fear for their lives.

Our guide led us into a room with a massive bookcase of court files, which recorded one of the biggest trials of mafia bosses in the late 1980s, the room also housed two busts of the judges who were subsequently assassinated by the Mafiosi, and a picture of a brave woman who first spoke openly about them in church, breaking the silence code which had sealed the mouths of residents, both within the M Families and outside.

Another room was filled with pictures taken by a courageous female journalist, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letizia_Battaglia, documenting the ferocious internal war of the Mafia, and its assault on civil society. Each picture in that room told a story, some heartbreaking (a Mother’s face after losing her son), and others bloody and harrowing (a lone body and a coffin next to him). The M families not only had a code of “honor”, but they sent messages to heighten the fear and terror.

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Time has moved on, as you can see from the establishment of the Centre, right in the heart of the Dragon’s Lair and the anti-Mafia movement. According to our guide, although the government crackdown of the M families was determined and successfully weakened them, they are still everywhere. The Mayor of Corleone was recently found to have M connections hence the seat of Mayor is currently empty. Although the village of Corleone is no longer that hotbed for breeding Godfathers and Professors (apparently all the M bosses had nicknames to suit their demeanours), some 80 % of Palermo shop owners still have to pay protection money, even in 2017.

Finally our guide said to us: we want the world to know that Corleone is not just a notorious place for Mafia, we have come a long way and the villagers now lead a normal life. Please spread the word.

Here I am, spreading the word. Visit Sicily and Corleone. Truly stunning island with an amazingly rich history, wonderful landscape and much more. I’ll share some of these beautiful experiences in my next blog, so do pop back in.

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Warm Welcome to My Writing Website, Again!

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I am back!

Six years of constantly creating contents, posting and reaching out is a hard habit to break. Since I shut down my author blog a few months ago, I’ve missed sharing my weekly musings and reflections upon life, and most of all, I’ve missed that connection with my worldwide readers. I’ve also come to a point when I need to add words, sentences,  paragraphs and pages to the book I had promised myself and a small number of fans, who seem very keen to follow my literary journey.

I have a confession to make:  I’m writing again, not just working on my W.I.P, but also in the course of reviving this site, which I abandoned in 2011 for a more advanced and personalised website. Over 400 blog posts with pictures and music videos were shared for your enjoyment and mine. Some of them, I hope, have stayed in your heart and mind. They have certainly given me great pleasure in the creative process.

Thank you for visiting and do pop in from time to time for regular updates on my various adventures and journey as an Indie author.

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The Land of Hope (Journey to the West) – Book Review & Blog Tour With Author JJ Collins

I am trying a new tool here by sharing an excellent review of my book – Take a look at a short excerpt:

Why you should read this book – J.J.Collins gives his opinion

Junying Kirk has not only written a wonderful book, she has managed to base it on the massively under reported and dreadful issue of “Human Trafficking.” Junying manages to artfully and with a creative brilliance and flair, to tackle a great moral and economic issue of our times within her new book “The Land of Hope.”

Human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like practices are complex crimes and a major violation of human rights. Globally, human trafficking is one of the biggest sources of income for organised crime and causes untold damage to millions of lives.

I hope you will be as inspired to learn more about this crucial modern day issue and read Junying Kirk’s excellent book.

 

 

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Announcement

In 2011, http://www.junyiingkirk.com was set up. It has been terminated in 2017.

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Traveling the World, My Dream, My Passion


If you are my friends, if you are my colleagues, if you have read my books, or if you happen to come across my Facebook page or bump into me in a souvenir shop in Tenerife or Gran Canaria, you’d know that I have an itchy feet and enjoy visiting exotic and fabulous new places. It has always been my dream to see the world – I don’t know when that dream began but I know that it will never end.

When I was growing up, I could not venture very far, due the many practical constraints I faced. Then I got a lucky break. My life in the past three decades has taken me far and wide. Based in the UK, at the corner of Europe, my grand dream of seeing the world is no longer a young girl’s wishful thinking, it has become reality!

Naturally, I have left footprints in every part of Great Britain. There won’t be a tourist place I have not visited on this island, be it Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales or England, from the top of Scottish highlands, to the English Channel. It’s quite possible that I have beat a great majority of native English people in a travel competition as to the number of places I’ve visited, and I’m very proud of this fact.

My desire to explore has taken me to best parts of Europe. Of the 50 European countries I can count about half of that in my sojourn, although some of these countries I have been to more than once. A country like Italy has so many beautiful cities and areas that one single visit just would not do justice. There was beautiful countryside studded with wonderful gems like Siena and Florence in Tuscany, historical Rome, film-settings like Venice, the Lakes in the north of Italy, not to mention the leaning Tower of Pisa and the sunny island of Sardinia floating in an azure sea between Italy and France.

There were numerous adventures to Greek islands, and top of my list are Santorini, Zante, Kefalonia and many more. Ranking high on my list of top destinations  are also the Spanish Canaries off the Africa coast, and the garden paradise of Madeira in the Atlantic. Then if sandy beaches are too hot to handle, there are very cool places, like the Swiss and Austrian Alps for skiing, or Paris and Prague for immersion in art and culture. The Europeans are spoilt for choice and quite a lot of them don’t even know it or appreciate it.

In Asia, my exploits remain limited, but I have been to many wonderful locations in China, and I love Malaysia and Singapore, for different reasons. There are quite a few countries in my bucket list.

Despite the tedium and testing of long haul, I visited Australia and totally fell in love with it, the climate, the people, the food, the wild life, just to name a few attractions. New Zealand is one of the dreams yet to be realised.

I have to say that USA has some of my favourite places on earth. Yosemite is right there, as well as San Francisco, Oregon, Chicago, Indiana and Seattle. It’s such a massive country and I wish I was young enough to take a ‘gap’ year so I could play Columbus and ‘discover’ America all over again!

Two Continents remain virgin territory to me, which are South America and Africa. So I think there is a need for me to try harder and travel further. My diary is filling up nicely as I write this.

Finally, this is just a short introduction to a series of my travel logs. I would love to share with my readers of all the beautiful places I’ve been to and the happy memories of each and every place. There will be pictures, videos from many of these travels, and I am going to take you with me. Come, fly with me, and enjoy these virtual tours with JunyingKirk Airlines :-).

Thanks for being my travel companion and please leave a comment if you have enjoyed the trip. If you like, share your travel experience and list your very own top attractions here as well.

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Strategic Thinking in Building Author Platform and Finding an Audience

Three months ago I ranted about my confusion and dilemma when confronting head-on all the social media options out here to help an indie, self-publisher author to market her work and reach her potential fans/readers (A New Author’s Reflection and Dilemma in Promoting Books (https://junyingkirk.wordpress.com/2011/03/). Now still relatively new on the scene but with two full length novels on Amazon Kindle, and a contribution to a short story collection, I feel I am on more solid ground and no longer as disorientated and overwhelmed. The newly acquired confidence partly comes from picking my way through the giant maze of options, hence a massive learning curve, partly derived from the generous support of fellow writers I’ve come to know, respect and learn from.

Through Facebook and Twitter I’ve met many individuals who are in a similar position to myself.   For the last few years since I opened my Facebook account, my circle of friends had remained around 30 with whom I had maintained regular contact and face to face interactions at some stage of my life, now three months after my ‘status’ changed from a normal human being to a ‘published author’, the numbers of my Facebook friends have doubled many times over, and will continue to grow no doubt. These new faces are, guess who? … all published authors of one form or another. While some have been in the game for ever, others are just starting out or have yet to publish their debut novels. If back in March I was pushed into the water trying not to sink in the oceans of writers, in June I have learnt to do the basic doggy-paddle and take a much needed breath above water.

I enjoyed being a member of GoodReads, where I was just a regular reader for a couple of months before I realised that I could actually have an author’s page there with details of my books on. It was a wonderful place for book lovers to share their enthusiasm and passion for literature and movies. I have made the acquaintance of quite a few avid readers who have similar tastes to mine, and I was glad to be able to write reviews on the books I truly loved.

The important lessons I have learnt from my readings and navigating my way through these networks have been: I need to know who and where my audience are and what they can get from me? Based on this premise, I am in the middle of building my unique author platform with the grand plan of reaching millions of my readers/fans out there on this planet Earth. Well, maybe not quite in its millions, as that sounds a bit ambitious and perhaps grandiose. But at least a few years down the road, I hope that I would have reached more than just my family and Facebook friends :-).

Thanks for checking in and do leave a comment if you have learnt anything useful from this week’s blog.

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My Favourite Films

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog on The Changing Face and Place of Films, when I promised to share with my readers my best loved films, so here is the moment of truth.

As a long-term film fan of many different genres and from different eras and countries, it is not an easy task to give a full list of those truly wonderful and unforgettable films I have watched in my life, but I shall make an attempt to give you a flavor of the kind of films that have made a lasting impact in my memory.

For starters, these are the top five films I’ve named on my Facebook: Escape to Victory, Spartacus, The Sound of Music, Life Is Beautiful and American Beauty. I watched the first three films while still in China many years ago, and I remember them so clearly.

Escape to Victory was set in the Second World War. It was not so much the amazing football, including the legendary Pele, it was the spirit and the message from the film that moved me and make it memorable. It also had a wonderful cast. I loved Spartacus for the same reason. I love strong heros who, no matter what their origin, stand up and fight for freedom. Similar films that appeal to me include Braveheart, Schindler’s list, Saving Private Ryan, The Pianist,The Great Escape and Life is Beautiful.

Apart from good war films, I am a huge fan of action blockbusters, such as The Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, Mission Impossible, Jason Bourne, Terminators and X-men. I am always up  for a treat. There are few things better than going to cinema with a friend on a night out, or simply sitting on my sofa and taking a ride in those amazing James Bond cars.

You would think that I am a war-like action hero-worship movie freak if you’ve read this far, but I do like a lot of other films, which are lighted-hearted and great fun. Not only good musicals like The Sound Of Music, The Wizard of Oz and Chicago are wonderfully entertaining, I also enjoy some well-written, well-acted rom-coms. Off the top of my head, these include The 40 Year Old Virgin, some Charlie Chaplin comedies, and more recently Meet The Fockers.

Having said that, if given a mindless silly fun or a more gritty realistic take on life, I’ll probably go for the latter. I don’t care too much for horror or supernatural, but a violent and bloody dose of reality does not put me off.

Some of my favorite films were adapted from my favorite books. For example, Jane Eyre and its many versions over the years. Wuthering Heights is another, and Atonement, Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, and many more.

I have not listed any Chinese films here, or low-budget British or foreign languages films, but I’d love to know what films you love and why. Thank you for stopping by my blog.

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