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(By Laura Murgia)

Arkoi, Dodecanese | June 1, 2016 – Afternoon forwarded, take a bath in the sea in the Strait Ormos Bay, lazily when the sun begins to set. Mediterranea shares the harbor with another vessel, while a Gin Fizz 11 meters, with two men on board, arrives and settles between us. We follow a little distracted their operation anchorage, and just as casually greet them, as good manners require the navy to do. 

Then we decide to get off the ground and after a quick walk we take what at first sight seems the entry in a lush garden, but in reality it reveals a homely tavern. After a relaxing aperitif with meze, fresh white house wine along with the inevitable beer, we choose to stop for dinner. Evidently our neighbors boat, those anchor a few hours before, should have done the same path, and for the second time in the afternoon, we find ourselves side by side, this time table. Including a glass of wine and an exchange of views – which immediately is valuable – we find that François is a geologist who loves the sea even more of its rocks and Vincent is a psychiatrist who, after having traveled and sailed far and wide, has chose today to engage deeply in the social, devoting himself in particular to the recovery of the homeless and the reception of migrants. And when it’s clear who we are, Vincent mentions several times the name of Franco Basaglia and the revolutionary principles introduced by them in the 70’s, telling us that its therapeutic approach to mental distress was inspired precisely by the Italian psychiatrist. François and Vincent have chosen to live in Marseilles – which with proud they define the only town in France non-french – and the reason that prompted them to do so is the same that guides our journey in the Mediterranean: the meeting of cultures, ethnicities, languages, different religions and in that town has long since found its own stable equilibrium. Not everyone thinks the same way, though. Noticing when a table comes the rumor to the contrary by an english middle-aged man who hopes in the “Yes” to Brexit the referendum of June 23, disagreeing on immigrants, Muslims and the role of the European Union. But that’s okay, the exchange of opinions is always, and everywhere, constructive. It’s night, we come back on board, dating for a coffee together on the next morning. The day after, François and Vincent reveal other details on their lives, but above all, once on board the Mediterranea, they are fascinated, appreciating the space and livability, and are interested in our journey, and about it they continue to ask questions. The morning is not enough to say everything, so we decide to meet again for dinner, and again aboard Mediterranea. Here the talk deepen, take folds congenial to us, we talk of the time to be subtracted from job to dedicate it to himself and to others, but also of desires and dreams yet to be realized, the family, the children, the sea and its people. We talk a lot, of course, of Greece and the Mediterranean sea. It’s clear that, without the need to use too many words, a strong bond connect people who have met only a few hours before, but who recognized immediately, and evening runs away nicely. With the words, we return back to Marseille and Vincent describes in detail his professional project that has also become a life plan, from when, a few years ago, along with some volunteers identified and renovated a disused building in the heart of the town to create a center where homeless, alcoholics, mentally ill and disadvantaged and, more generally, those in need, they could find suitable welcome, medical care and attention, to start their trip of reintegration or integration into society. Assuming – already experienced in North America with the similar initiative Housing First – that recovery arises, first, from the return to such people towards a normal life, a home, a family, in relationships, in short, an identity. An idea born on the sly, but also a bet with himself, which proved so disruptive to capture the press attention Liberation, 2013 and part of the political world, until the then Health Minister Roselyn Bachelot, in 2009 visits to space and, convinced of the importance of the work, decides to allocate funds to one significant figure. The center designed by Vincent is identified as a pilot project to Reference to replicate similar around France, while in the meantime the first you went to add a second building – this time in the best conditions – increasing the capacity to accommodate people who came in the town. The squat is not the only activity of Vincent, who reveals a volcano of ideas, speaking of the many other projects they are working – dealing recently also and especially of migrant emergency – some already initiated still more to accomplish, both on the ground that for sea. And the sea there also reports that François is considering its own future imagining aboard a boat and not indoors in an office, as skipper or as a guest is all yet to be decided. But then it would not be the first time for him, accustomed to brave twists and radicals, as when, at age 36, he decided to reinvent himself by enrolling at university to become, in fact, a geologist. Greet “the Marseilles”, as now, joking with them, we nicknamed them, knowing that in some way between the Mediterranean and Marseille, one of the ports of the coming years, the bond has already begun. Au revoir and see you soon François and Vincent.