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Italians visit area to exchange ideas

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A number of Fort Frances residents gathered last Thursday evening at the home of Michael Bird to welcome a group of Italians here on an exchange.

“The way of life is very different for many reasons,” said Italian resident Umberto Massafra. “Everything is larger than in Italy. There is lots of space and this reflects in your way of thinking.”

Massafra, a physician, is one of five Italians visiting Minnesota and Northwestern Ontario as part of the Rotary Club’s annual international business exchange.

“Travel is good for my English, to overall improve my English, but also for learning,” said the 25-year-old Massafra, who specializes in aromathology.

“For example, I was in the Duluth clinic and spoke about medicine. We had an exchange of opinions,” he noted.

Massafra hinted he may one day consider moving to the U.S. or Canada.

“In general, I like U.S.A. because it is easier to find a job. You can make more money and the houses are big,” he said.

Alessandro Troiano, 32, will not forget about Italy as readily. Troiano is a civil engineer and while he also appreciates the spaciousness of North America, he would not discuss the specific differences between each country.

“I’ll wait until the end of my trip to draw my conclusions,” he reasoned.

But Troiano did admit that unemployment is a serious problem in Italy. “It is very difficult to find a job, there’s about 20 percent unemployment in the south of Italy,” he said.

The group—which also includes 26-year-old Antonella Tedsco (a painter and farmer), Pietro Carriere (a farmer and olive oil trader), and team leader Tommasso Gasparri (a 53-year-old economist)—arrived in Minnesota on April 28, and have been going from household to household across the state and into Rainy River District.

From visiting Rotary members, meeting others in their field of expertise, and going horseback riding, they have five weeks to experience as much of the North American lifestyle as possible.

“Living with the people in the country it’s not like you’re a tourist, you’re learning interesting things about the people,” said former Rotarian Ken Wickstrom, who participated in a similar exchange to the Philippines a few years ago.

Rotary International co-ordinates a number of exchanges worldwide, including a number of residents from the local Rotary district who have visited areas such as the Philippines and Sweden.

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