A Travellerspoint blog

Farewell to the Sicilian lifestyle

(somewhat sad to have to leave)

Just moments ago, I was electrocuted. (My universal adapter failed me!) As I was pulling the plug out of the wall, a surge of electricity ran through my index finger and spread up my entire arm, which is now sore and achy. The bad thing is, it was my writing hand, the left one. The good thing is, this may be the start of my super-heroship! Maybe I'll start out small, like powering a toaster, a microwave, an iron. Next I'll power my car and soon entire cities will come to me to power their citizens! Ok just kidding...but seriously, it hurts!

My last day here is fast approaching. Today I'm taking two finals, which I find it really hard to care about since I've graduated already and don't need the credit. Afterwards I'll celebrate with my two remaining roommates (the trouble-maker having left for her flight in Palermo at 1:30) and tomorrow I'll spend my last day swimming at the beach, walking through Ortigia one last time, attending the farewell dinner and going out on the town.

I feel anxious about coming back home. Everytime I think about it, my heart races. I can’t figure out if it’s merely the trek getting to Louisville (which totals four flights) or having to adjust back to American life. I didn’t experience culture shock here, just a little old-fashioned home sickness. I’m excited to see everyone but I wish I had more time to hop around a little. I wish I could have gone to Germany or Greece or Spain. But I suppose I’ll just have to come back some other time.

Posted by sarabee 03:51 Comments (0)

Would you like some more wine with that political attack?

Last night’s dinner was like no other meal I’ve had. It was Tara’s farewell dinner. Today she’s en route to Budapest and intends on spending the rest of August and September meandering through the European hinterland, at least until she runs out of money. To say goodbye, my three roommates (Malissa from Virginia Beach, Mallory and Jessica both of whom are from Texas), Dan from Illinois, Ariana from L.A., Christy from Michigan, Tara from Ireland and I went to a little restaurant down a narrow alley that, according to Mallory, “has amazing lasagna.”

We sat down and the evening started out just fine. Wine was passed around along with sesame seed bread and we ordered our meals. Sometime after our food came, Malissa mentioned to me that Christy also didn’t eat meat. I said to Christy, “Oh really? What’s you’re reason for not eating meat?” and she replied, looking in the opposite direction of me, “There’s too many reasons to talk about it.” I was just trying to make small talk but with a response like that I decided I didn’t care much to inquire further and replied, “OK.” And began slicing my pizza.

Later, somehow she got on the topic of Texas and she had nothing good to say about the state. According to Christy, the state is comprised of two things: cowboys and white trash. Jessica and Mallory heard this and Jessica asked, “Do you hate all Texans?” and Christy said most confidently, “Yes.” After Ariana made Christy aware of the Texans at the table, she still remained firm in her opinion that she hates Texas and all Texans. I was flabbergasted and turned to Jessica and exclaimed, “Oh my gosh!” I simply couldn’t believe someone would be so rude and ignorant. I was on the verge of asking how she felt about Kentuckians, only because I’m sure she would feel Kentucky is teeming with white trash. But being that is was Tara’s farewell dinner, I didn’t think it appropriate to provoke further tension.

Stemming from that conversation, the new topic was republicans vs. democrats. The table was mostly democrat, with the exception of Tara, who is Irish and Dan, a republican. Suddenly a political debate broke out. I stayed out of the debate as best I could and since I was in the exact middle of the table, I looked to one end and then to the other listening as both sides went back and forth with rebuttal after rebuttal. Although incredibly tense, it was entertaining.

This lead to thoughts on global warming. Big mistake. According to Dan, it wouldn’t be a problem to lose the polar bears; after all, “nobody misses the one at the top of the food chain.” Several of us attempted to argue how the extinction of one species is detrimental to an entire ecosystem but it was really no use. Dan is not one to back down from his argument, a characteristic of his that was made clear during our weekend trip. The topic was squashed soon thereafter as some expressed that global warming and politics are not good dinner topics.

By this point, I was finished attempting to be friendly to Christy. She had stated that she hated American students that come to Europe because they're loud and drink too much and embarass the United States. Everyone sitting at the table were students and except for one, all were from America. What audacity. She had put a premature end to another conversation I started with her and she had also insulted my friends from Texas so I really wanted nothing to do with her other than to give a well-deserved punch to the face. I was talking with Ariana about going to Israel and Christy asked if I was part of that ‘birthright thing.’ She asked me if I ever felt unsafe being in Israel and I told her that I never felt unsafe. I told her that it was really quite peaceful in most places and she was skeptical. So I told her that television really portrays Israel to be much worse than it actually is; it’s not bad everywhere. To this she huffed and puffed and said that she didn’t believe what I said and I tried to assure her that the violence is going on in the Gaza Strip and that we didn’t go there on our trip. It really bothered me that she asked for my opinion and then dismissed it as invalid. Don’t ask me what I think only to indicate that what I say is of no worth; she hadn’t even been to Israel before and I have. I never use the B-word because I really don’t like it but this girl was a bitch. Plain and simple. (Sorry family, especially you Mom!)

The following topic was one I need not explain except that it dealt with differing opinions between the only male at the table vs. the females (headed by Ariana, a very outspoken, forthright person) on the topic of a certain part of the male anatomy and whether or not it is considered an erogenous zone. In the end, it was made obvious Dan’s inexperience with women and I felt quite terrible for him because I know he must have been embarrassed.

Walking away from the restaurant, I was in step with Tara and the rest of the group was walking staggered either in front of us or behind. She said to me that she was amazed at the conversations that were had and I agreed, saying that I had never been to a dinner quite like that before. I have never been in such an awkward, tense gathering of what is supposed to be a fun night out. However, I laughed nearly as much as I was taken aback throughout the meal so all in all, it wasn’t a bad dinner. Just a bizarre one.

Posted by sarabee 03:20 Archived in Italy Tagged food Comments (1)

Under the Tuscan Sun!

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It was as if I was in some romantic movie. Golden hills of sunflowers. An occasional rustic villa surrounded by hay fields and vineyards. Medieval castles at the peak of forested mountains. It was picturesque in every scene I laid my eyes on.

Our driver, Fabio, met us at Roma Termini (the train station in Rome) and drove us out of the city and into the country, up narrow, twisting roads to our first destination Orvieto, where we viewed the Duomo (nearly every city has a Duomo, or domed church) and the church of St. Mary. We had only a short visit there and then we were off to Assisi – you may have heard of St. Francis of Assisi? On Bardstown road there is a church with that name and I think there may even be a school attached to it. The complex that the basilica was on was an enormous monastery. We saw monks walking around but to our dismay, never heard their chants. (I love to hear Gregorian chant.) The basement of the basilica held the tomb of St. Francis and above that was a small chapel (but small is a relative term; it was actually a very large church by American standards) and above that was the larger church. The whole church was decorated in frescoes displaying bible stories and portraits of saints, martyrs and prophets. Mallory was thrilled to be there because she has studied St. Francis extensively; it was dream come true for her!

Everyone was in good spirits during the trip and we giggled like little kids the entire car ride. I’m sure Fabio probably was growing annoyed with us because we couldn’t stop being silly.

The next morning we headed to Siena to view the Duomo, Bapistry and a few other places. We climbed up a very narrow staircase to view the entire city from the Facciatone or the big façade of the church. It was incredible. Dan was uncomfortable being so high up. So we went back down. Inside the Duomo, I was partially awe-struck by the degree to which I felt dwarfed by the monumental architecture; but I also partially felt disgusted at how ornate the church was. Although beautiful and breath-taking, I couldn’t help but think about how much everything must have cost and how that money could have been given to a better cause, such as feeding the hungry or clothing the poor. It made me angry to see where the priorities of the Catholic Church were.

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We stopped by a few medieval towns to eat and shop for souvenirs. I found an Italian leather purse/backpack that I knew I wanted the moment I saw it. It was 36 euro but it was totally worth it! On the drive back to the train station to leave, I found myself with eyes wide open, even though I was very tired from our hurried trip. It was as if I wanted to remember everything. I wanted to absorb every hill, every house. I wanted to soak up every morsel of Tuscan and Umbrian life. It was some place I’ll make it back to someday, I’m sure.

We ended our trip with Fabio back in Rome, right where we had met him. There was only 40 minutes until the train departed for Siracusa so we needed to hurry to purchase tickets (something that should have been done the day before when we arrived). We stood in line for more than 20 minutes and by the time it was our turn to get tickets, the train was sold out. We could either buy tickets for the next train at 11:30 but we’d have to make a connection on the very toe of Italy (the layover would be 6 hours!) or we could stay in Rome overnight and get on the 11 am train but we’d have to stand…for 11 hours! We decided to take the layover route.

Our ride back eventually resulted in hysterical laughter, which covered up our desire to weep at our conditions. We started off the night in a very cramped cabin: the three of us, (for Erin took a separate train back to Naples, where she lives with her mother) plus a couple and their two small children. Each cabin has a total of 6 seats, three seats facing each other; having just 5 bodies in one cabin is uncomfortable enough. Seven is almost unbearable. We searched for another cabin and found one in the next car down. Dan was concerned that the cars could disconnect and go off in different directions. But we reassured him, what are the chances that our number 8 car would disconnect from the number 7, where we found an empty cabin? The decision was made and so we packed up and went to the number 7 car.

We straightened out all of the seats (which laid out like lazy boy chairs, though not nearly as comfortable) and made a bed of sorts in which the three of us could lay. It was gross and dirty but we were tired. So we attempted to sleep. The cabin window was down, which was nice at first because it was pretty stuffy. But soon, the air got really cold and we began to shiver. I pulled out a long scarf I bought in Siena and it was so long it covered me from head to toe and was just wide enough to cover me from arm to arm. Dan created a blanket of t-shirts to cover him and Mallory did the same. But it was not enough to keep us from being terribly cold. Meanwhile, since we were traveling through tunnels often, the noise was incredibly loud. And it was startling each time we went into a new tunnel so I couldn’t sleep. Mallory attempted to shut the window several times but it wouldn’t lock into place and kept falling back down – which also made a really startling noise when it fell. At one point, I got up too and tried to shut it with her with no luck. She took a look at me, with my long scarf-blanket and took a look at Dan with his shirt-blanket and we began to laugh at how ridiculous the situation was. NOTE: bring a pillow and blanket when you’re going to be on a train for 12 hours!

When we arrived in Villa San Giovanni train station to make our connection, we hopped off the number 7 car and looked behind us. All of the other cars (1-6) were missing. Gone. Left at some previous stop and on their way to some other destination. We looked at Dan and laughed. If we had gone any further, to any other train car, we would have waken up in some other city and then we would have needed to buy another ticket to get home and we would have spent another undetermined amount of hours getting to Siracusa. We got lucky.

Finally after a long layover spent in a coffee shop and a long train ride with strangers, we made it back to Siracusa. I was happy to ‘home.’

Posted by sarabee 05:12 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Weekend getaway

Hello everyone. FYI, I'm travelling to Tuscany tonight. If all goes accordingly (we have yet to buy our train tickets) we're taking a train to Rome and being picked up by a man named Monti who will be taking us to different spots in Tuscany. I think we're heading to Assisi first and from there, it's up in the air.

Four of us are going, Mallory, Dan, Erin and I. And we are returning either Saturday night or Sunday morning. I can't wait!!

So once I return, I'll post a blog of our adventures and of course, more pictures! This week I haven't done much except lots of schoolwork. I had two presentations on tuesday which went very well and a midterm in one of my classes. Yesterday was spent writing a 2000-word paper that I finished just before going out to celebrate Mallory's birthday. So I have nothing left to do this week but enjoy seeing the sights!!

Ciao, I better go pack!

Posted by sarabee 01:55 Comments (0)

We have black boogers

Last evening, we hiked uphill for an hour to get a view of Mt Etna erupting. It’s been erupting for the better part of two months and we got to see lava spewing from one of its vents (well really, from the safe distance we were standing, the ‘spewing’ wasn’t visible but we did see it flowing down the mountain). Apart from the strenuous hike resulting in a burning desire within me to throw up, it was absolutely phenomenal. On the drive up the mountain, black slabs of rock surrounded us on all sides and but the ground was so fertile that trees and shrubs filled the landscape. We also saw ‘volcano babies’ that Mt Etna had created in past years – little hills that resembled volcanoes in shape. It was beautiful, almost heavenly, and although I had left my camera in the trunk of the bus with my bag, my roommate fortunately took pictures of the scenery.

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Once on top of one of the peaks, we took lots of pictures and some celebrated their success of the climb with beer and wine (but not too much beer and wine since we still had to climb down). And though the ascent was difficult for all the obvious reasons, the descent was difficult because we were in complete darkness. Some brought flashlights and we alerted each other of surprise drops, roots popping up from the soil and slippery spots (the terrain was volcanic ash that was dusty and slick). We all experienced a slight tumble or two but it was really fun to help one another and overcome the fear of toppling down the mountain.

The morale on the bus after this experience was a great one. We each felt accomplished and perhaps closer to each other. Soon after, the bus became silent as fatigue caught up with us.

PS: After being in the Smokies back home, the mountains of Israel and after this excursion, I’ve confirmed that one of my favorite places to be is in mountains. I don’t exactly know why but I absolutely love it and I’ve decided my next venture should be to the Rocky Mountains.

Posted by sarabee 07:59 Comments (1)

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